South Africa has much to offer the eager traveller on the lookout for a unique holiday getaway - from Knysna home of the rarest seahorse in the world to the beautiful wild horses that roam the plains around Kaapsehoop in Mpumalanga and the birders' paradise around the KwaZulu-Natal town of Richards Bay.
Here are some ways to make the most of your unique holiday experience in the country:
Explore the Western Cape beyond Cape Town
Book your flight to George Airport to see one of the most breathtaking views in South Africa along the Kaaimans River, situated in the aptly named region of Wilderness. This Garden Route destination is the perfect getaway for anyone looking for a stay in nature. The idyllic coastal spot makes for perfect beach time, and the mountainous surroundings make for great hikes, with views of the coastline and the national park nearby. If you’d like a more hands-on experience, consider a canoeing trip up the river or book a paragliding experience if an adrenaline rush is more up your alley.
The adventure doesn’t have to stop there. Close by is the famous coastal town of Knysna. Known in part for its culinary offerings like the annual Oyster Festival, it’s also home to the Knysna Elephant Park, which has been enchanting visitors for many years. There are various offerings available at this park, including nature walks, sundowners and breakfast walks, to name a few.
Take a trip to Bloemfontein
Lesser known among South Africans as a travel destination, Bloemfontein doesn’t receive enough props for the amazing tourist offerings it has. Known as the ‘city of roses’, it is a melting pot of cultural experiences waiting to be explored, with a wealth of animal adventures too. Most famous is the cheetah experience, situated less than 12 kilometres from the city. Home to cheetahs, lions and other big cats, animal lovers are welcome to join one of the tours organised by this sanctuary dedicated to saving wildlife. Can’t get enough of the big cats? Not too far away is the Bagamoya Wildlife Estate, which also houses other wildlife and has the option of overnight stays in self-catering chalets.
To tune into your cultural side, Bloemfontein has Naval Hill Planetarium, which was previously known as the Lamont Hussey Observatory and reopened in 2013 as the first digital planetarium in sub-Saharan Africa. To learn more about the city itself and the people who live there, visit the National Museum. Filled to the brim with collections of fossils and archaeological items, including a chronological display of Stone Age and Iron Age tools, it’s the perfect place to spend the day as a family. Last but not least, Bloem is also home to the Anglo Boer War Museum, which houses great material, artefacts and exhibits.
Explore South Africa’s Wild Coast
Hop on a flight from Cape Town to Mthatha if you are interested in exploring South Africa’s Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. The area stretches from East London in the south to the border of KwaZulu-Natal in the north. With a plethora of experiences available here, and at very attractive prices, you are best suited to stay for at least a week to take in everything. The scenic Coffee Bay is known for its serenity and unbeatable views of the coastline and has an amazing hiking trail that passes through Baby Hole and the Hlungwane Waterfall.
Port St. Johns also offers a wide variety of activities for every kind of traveller. Dolphin and whale-watching, bird-watching and canoe trails are on the list of things to do in the area. If you are more of a foodie, visit the acclaimed Moonshadow Restaurant at the Umzimvubu Retreat. They offer fine a la carte dining, with influences from French and Thai cuisine. For more relaxed dining, visit The Waterfront, a casual restaurant with traditional options like pizza, steaks and seafood.