South Africa is a collage of multicultural cities and biodiverse landscapes of glorious sand beaches, mountainous coastline, highveld grasslands, vineyard-draped hills, and unique wildlife. Stay in luxury lodges in vast game reserves that are home to hundreds of species of birds and mammals, and offer the opportunity to spot some of the continent’s most charismatic species—cheetahs, lions, elephants, rhinos, and more. Climb Table Mountain above Cape Town, explore the underground caverns of Oudtshoorn, or spend some time surfing or sailing along the Southern Coast’s Garden Route. Enjoy excellent wines while perched over the ocean in Knysna, or go straight to the source and tour the scenic vineyards of the Winelands. In a country of dramatic and unique landscapes, driving dusty tracks through game reserves or along the sensational coastal road to Cape Point is an unforgettable part of the journey. Visit Robben Island and other museums like Johannesburg’s renowned Apartheid Museum, to glimpse crucial pieces of South Africa’s turbulent past and understand its modern multicultural identity—a vibrant blend of cultural heritage and an incredible array of artistic, musical, and culinary traditions.
Perched on the slopes below the flat-topped spectre of Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town is an electrifying city with chic architecture to compliment its idyllic natural setting. The city cascades downhill to meet the azure water of the Atlantic crashing into miles of craggy, boulder strewn coastline and incredible sand beaches, and extends up the verdant slopes of Table Mountain. Take the cable car up to the top of the mountain for panoramic views of the city and the sweeping coastline, or spend the day hiking or biking on the park’s many trails. Back in town, you will find a vivacious, multicultural melting-pot of traditions that burst into every element of society from distinctive neighborhood architecture to music and delicious cuisine. Shop designer boutiques and dine in style along the V&A Waterfront while looking out over the working harbor, stroll through the colorfully-painted Bo-Kaap neighborhood, or indulge in a craft cocktail on the airy oceanside patios of Camps Bay. Sunbathe, surf, climb, hike, bike, or drink and eat your way across this enthralling city.
Wrapped along the glittering blue waters of a tidal lagoon with swooping sandstone cliffs guarding its narrow mouth, Knysna is a chic and charming seaside town. Once a center for timber industries, the area now has the largest remaining indigenous forest in the country, and has become a destination for prime mountain biking and hiking. Take your pick of the many water activities along this warm stretch of Indian Ocean from snorkeling and surfing to sailing or whale watching. Knynsa’s central location on the Garden Route makes it the perfect base to explore nearby wildlife sanctuaries where you will find elephants, tour wine regions, visit other small towns, or even play a round of golf with ocean vistas.
Riding an economic boom in the second half of the 19th century that turned ostrich feathers into the height of fashion in Europe, Oudtshoorn became known as the ostrich capital of the world. Though ostrich feathers fell out of style a century ago, the city is still defined by the tradition of raising these immense birds for leather, their eggs, feathers, and meat—dried as biltong, and also prepared at restaurants. Situated in the sunny Klein Karoo region, nestled between coastal mountains and the Swartberg range, Oudtshoorn exudes small town charm, but caters to both upscale visitors and outdoor enthusiasts. The nearby Cango Caves, a subterranean network of limestone chambers formed over 20 million years ago, are a natural wonder. Further north of Oudtshoorn in the Groot Swartberg Nature Reserve, zigzagging up a sinuous gravel road, is Swartberg Pass—take your time on this road, there are incredible views every inch of the way.
Kruger National Park
One of the largest game reserves in Africa, Kruger National Park is home to an incredible array of mammals and hundreds of species of birds. The park stretches along the northeastern edge of South Africa’s border to join with Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park, and reaches all the way to touch the border of Zimbabwe in the north. Across the sixteen ecozones of the park, rivers support ribbons of greenery along their banks, picturesque granite hills rise from the scrubby vegetation and gnarled trees of the bushveld, acacia and mopane trees dot the horizon, and sweet tasting grasses entice grazing herds. Thousands of South Africa’s most iconic species live here, and the extensive network of roads winding through the park will bring you right alongside them. The majesty of the wildlife in Kruger means that it is a popular destination to visit, so make your plans well in advance.
Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Located on the southwestern corner of the world renowned Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands Game Reserve offers luxury lodging and unrivaled opportunities to see wildlife. Hunting has long been banned in this region, and there are no fences separating Sabi Sands from Kruger, so animals are able to travel unfettered across a vast tract of land. Beautiful lodges provide a relaxing base to enjoy exploring the area, and give you the chance to bask in the silence of the starry night sky. Seeing the Big Five—lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino—is just the beginning of your wildlife experience in this incredible wilderness, so get your camera and binoculars ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe)
Though it is truly just the beginning of another adventure, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Victoria Falls across the border in Zimbabwe. One of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, the Zambezi river plunges 350 feet in a roaring curtain of water almost a mile wide, making this the world’s largest waterfall. Surrounded by luxuriant foliage, the falls’ Tonga name translates as ‘the smoke that thunders,’ and true to its title, the spray from the falls typically jets 1,300 feet in the air above the narrow gorge and can be seen from miles away. A profound spectacle of immense natural power, Victoria Falls has even more in store for the truly adventurous—get an aerial view in a helicopter, peer over the edge from the Devil’s Pools, or bungee jump from the bridge spanning the gorge.