Our South Africa Wishlist

We’ve been living in Portugal for less than three months and my thoughts are already turning to travel. Canada, the USA, Japan, there are so many places I’d love to explore. Perhaps top of the list is delving into a continent we’ve barely touched: Africa. What better place to start than with a South Africa wishlist packed with wildlife, cosmopolitan cities and diverse history?

Pretty sunset at the Lion Park

Our dream South Africa holiday

London appears to be one of the cheapest European hubs for flights to South Africa, be it Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban. After touching down in the Rainbow Nation, we’d hire a car to do some serious road tripping like we did in New Zealand, Australia and the USA. So, here’s our travel wishlist, from safaris to coastal drives and city-sightseeing.

Cape Town

I’m itching to visit Cape Town, South Africa’s second-largest city, which has been listed as one of the most multicultural in the world. I’d love to ride the cable car up to Table Mountain for spectacular views from the 1,085-metre-high summit. We could even head up to the Twelve Apostles’ mountain range for some hiking. Then there’s the African Penguins on nearby Boulders Beach and perhaps a visit to the Kirstenbosch botanical garden.

South Africa - Cape Town - Camps Bay

Back in the city, we’d explore the bustling Victoria and Albert waterfront and try out some vegan restaurants, as I’ve heard that the city is South Africa’s vegan capital. Of course, we couldn’t visit Cape Town without taking a tour of UNESCO-listed Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was kept for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned during apartheid.

South African wildlife

We were lucky enough to take a safari in Kenya many years ago and it was one of our top travel experiences, so we’d love to do the same in South Africa. The country boasts 19 national parks and hundreds of reserves teeming with wildlife, including Africa’s Big Five: the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. We’d take either a self-drive or organised safari in one these top spots:

Letsatsi again

  • Kruger National Park – the most famous in South Africa, this UNESCO park covers two million hectares of protected land. Kruger is known for its high density of wild animals, including the Big Five, as well as stunning landscapes. The great road network and lodges make Kruger a possible option for a self-drive safari.
  • Addo Elephant National Park – set on South Africa’s Garden Route this conservation park is home to over 600 elephants. You can also spot everything from antelopes to warthogs. In recent years, Cape Buffalo, lions and hyenas have been reintroduced to Addo.
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – lies in the Kalahari Desert and straddles Botswana, so you can cross freely between the two countries when visiting. The vast red dunes and iconic African flora and fauna make an incredible backdrop for wildlife spotting. I’d love to see the seasonal antelope and wildebeest migrations, as well as the Black-Maned Kalahari Lions, which have a beautiful dark mane and golden body.
  • Pilanesberg National Park and Game Reserve – is located in an extinct volcanic crater just three hours’ drive from Johannesburg. Hills circle the reserve, which is filled with grasslands, lakes and rock formations, home to over 10,000 large mammals including the Big Five. Pilanesberg has a particularly diverse environment since it’s a transition zone between the arid Kalahari and wet Lowveld.


The Garden Route

The 300-kilometre Garden Route is billed as South Africa’s top road trip and can take around three days, starting from Port Elizabeth and ending in Mossel Bay. The coastal road runs along the south west of the country through Garden Route National Park, hence the name. I imagine it would be similar to the Great Ocean Road in Australia or California’s Pacific Coast Highway.

Tablecloth Fog - R44 Coastal Road / Garden Route - South Africa

The Garden Route is packed with stunning lagoons, forests, mountains and beaches lapped by the Indian Ocean. We’d stop off along the way to do some hiking, take a boat trip on the Knysna Lagoon, go on a whale watching trip from Hermanus (if we visited between May to December) and tour the 20-million-year-old Congo Caves.

KwaZulu-Natal region

The KwaZulu-Natal region in South Africa sounds fascinating. The east-coast province is renowned for its mix of diverse cultures, boasting 11 different languages and districts.  Its name is a blend of the isiZulu language, meaning ‘place of the Zulu people’ and Natal, which comes from a Portuguese explorer who named the area ‘Terra de Natalia’. You can explore some of the region’s history by driving the Battlefields Route.

The sombre Drakensbergs

KwaZulu-Natal also offers more beautiful treasures and rich wildlife, such as the uMkhuze Game Reserve and iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The towering basalt Drakensberg mountains are in a UNESCO-listed park perfect for hiking, we could also snorkel in Sodwana Bay National Park to see marine life, including turtles. Our urban highlight of the region would likely be Indian-influenced Durban, which has become a trendy port town.

Have you been to South Africa? Any recommendations?

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 09:21h, 14 December Reply

    South Africa is top of my wish list, so it is yes please to all of the above. Particularly this time of the year when the weather is so gloomy here in the UK, sunny SA is very apealing indeed. I hope you will make it there soon😄

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:26h, 14 December Reply

      Yes – we would love to escape there, hopefully in 2019! Looks like it’s a popular wish-list destination 🙂

  • Kate Green
    Posted at 15:54h, 14 December Reply

    Great ideas. We spent a couple of months there last year. Best part was flying to Port Elizabeth and renting a car. Few days in Addo Elephant park (saw loads of animals and no anti-malaria required) the two weeks driving garden route to CT. Stop in Wilderness for a couple of days for great hikes. Gorgeous little town. Have fun.

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:28h, 14 December Reply

      Thanks Kate. Sounds like you had an awesome trip, we really love the idea of Addo, especially if you don’t need to take anti-malarial tablets, as I know these can be expensive. We’d definitely drive the Garden Route – thanks for the stop-off tips!

  • Steve Berger
    Posted at 20:08h, 15 December Reply

    You’ll love South Africa. You can drive yourself all around Kruger. Having a 4 wheel drive is helpful. No need to go with a company. We saw the big 5 and much more our 1st day! We stayed both in and out of the park and enjoyed our accomodations outside more. The southeast end had the most wildlife and we stayed at Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge just outside the park and drove in each day. Absolutely fantastic lodge. We bought a yearly parks pass because it saved us money with all the park visits we did. When you head south from Capetown you can drive down one coast and back up the other. The views are magnificent. So much history to see and the Apartheid museum is great. Definitely one of our favorite countries.

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:37h, 16 December Reply

      Thanks for all the tips Steve! We’ve already been researching flight prices 🙂 Amazing that you managed to see the Big 5 so quickly, we’re definitely interested in a self-drive safari. Interesting to hear about the parks pass, I hadn’t read about that yet. We’re really keen to learn more about the history too, so the museum sounds perfect.

  • Kristen
    Posted at 08:25h, 23 December Reply

    Our South Africa trip was the best one we’ve ever taken. If you have any specific questions I’m more than happy to answer — I also have tons of posts with itineraries and tips on my blog!

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:34h, 23 December Reply

      Hi Kristen, thanks for that, I’ll take a look through your blog for inspiration!

  • Patti
    Posted at 14:37h, 04 January Reply

    Amy – check out Frank’s blog (BBQBoy.net) about South Africa. He’s got some great posts.

    • Amy
      Posted at 17:40h, 04 January Reply

      Will do Patti – thanks for the recommendation!

  • Olivia
    Posted at 09:22h, 18 February Reply

    Addo Elephant Park is a not to be missed experience on the beautiful Eastern Cape. The setting is beautiful and the animals roam freely around this vast national park. Several options for staying on and close to the Park. Thoroughly recommended.

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:43h, 25 February Reply

      Hi Olivia, thanks for that info, we’re definitely going to Addo, our trip is booked for July. Exciting!

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