This blog post was updated on May 1, 2020.
Blessed with amazing natural beauty, from Table Mountain to the Cango Caves and vast national parks full of wild animals, South Africa is absolutely alluring to those who want to be close to nature. But is that it? We think not. The country can also give you some unique experiences you won’t have anywhere else. Here are just 7 uniquely lekker (awesome) South African experiences you can enjoy when you visit.
Dive in with the Great Whites in Gansbaai
Sure there’s a number of places around the world where you can go down in a shark cage to be rattled and jostled about by these amazing and fearsome looking creatures, but in Gansbaai, known as “Shark Alley,” you’re guaranteed to come face to face with the largest concentration of Great Whites in the world — chew on that.
Swing off the Orlando Towers in Soweto
Soweto’s Orlando Towers are a pair of cooling towers of a decommissioned coal plant. You can bungee, base jump, or swing from a pathway between the two iconic towers for a small price. One tower is used for advertising while the other is South Africa’s largest mural, which makes it an even more of a special thing to do.
Scream for the Springboks at Ellis Park
South Africa is a sporty nation that prides itself in the game of rugby, having won two world championships in their history. Catch a game at Ellis Park, the spiritual home of South African rugby (featured in the movie Invictus). You’ll get to soak in all the beer and bone-crunching action that goes along with watching the Springboks (the national rugby team – named after a South African antelope) scrum down at this iconic venue. Go Bokke!
Ride an Ostrich at Oudtshoorn
Safari Ostrich Park in Oudtshoorn is known as “the ostrich capital of the world.” While you can watch these flightless birds flock about in large groups in their natural habitat, stand on an ostrich egg (because they’re amazingly strong), and watch chicks hatch, don’t forget that the true thrill is to try and ride one of these big, bad birds – you better not fall off or you’ll feel like you’ve got a good snotklap (a smack so hard you get mucus out your nose)!
Go behind bars with Mandela at Robben Island
Visit the old jail cell that imprisoned freedom fighter and former president Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island where he was imprisoned for 18 years for his anti-apartheid activities. Not many places give you the opportunity to see and feel how Mandela would have passed his time in jail. It’s a unique place that’s almost spiritual to all South Africans and is nothing short of inspiring.
Dig into some bunny chow in Durban
Before you ask, no — there’s no rabbit involved in this dish. Bunny chow is fast food from Durban – a loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with curried mutton (goat), chicken, or lamb. You can get a quarter, half, or full, so make sure you order a “half lamb” if that’s what you want. Also, to have the true experience of a bunny chow, you must eat like the locals – without utensils.
Have a bit of a jol (party) with the locals in Jo’burg
South Africa is known as “The Rainbow Nation,” and for a very good reason. Cities like Johannesburg epitomize the country’s rich blend of African (including Zulu, Xhosa, and Basotho), Afrikaner (of Dutch, German, or Huguenot descent), and Indian influences. Pop in to Soweto to learn about another unique culture that was the breeding ground for the fight against apartheid. Wherever you go you’re sure to meet chilled out folks, who will be happy to invite you for a braai (South African barbecue) shared over a few cold dops (alcoholic beverages).
Do you know of any other uniquely South African experiences? Do you plan on visiting South Africa? What do you want to do and see? Let us know in the comments!
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