Travel to South Africa and Discover a Wild and Wonderful Destination

Written by Linda Milks

April 30, 2024
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Travel to South Africa is about more than seeing wild game. Read on for what to expect when traveling to wild and wonderful South Africa. 

Anyone traveling to South Africa hopes to see The Big Five on safari, but South Africa is also awe-inspiring in many other ways.

Most travelers fly to Cape Town, the “Mother City,” which gets its name from being the birthplace of South Africa’s civilization. The city is beautiful and culturally rich. The steep backdrop of the mountains, especially Lion’s Head and Table Mountain, greets you with a feeling of the mountains being smack dab in your face.

Travel to South Africa to see Lion's Head Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

Lion’s Head Mountain looms large over Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Wirestock via iStock by Getty Images

This is about my journey, along with friends, to South Africa and what I found wild and wonderful in this land, nicknamed the “Rainbow Nation.” The name represents the country’s diversity with the world’s most varied population and culture.

Traveling the Garden Route

As we left Cape Town, we traveled along the Garden Route, which lies along the southern tip of Africa from the Western Cape to Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The name comes from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation, estuaries, and lakes along the coast. The vastness that enveloped me enthralled me. That feeling of vastness had just begun.

The small village of Hermanus offers views of Southern Right whales at certain times of the year as you look over the water stretching from the warm Indian Ocean to its merger with the cold Atlantic. This provides a perfect spot for diverse sea life.

The whale watching town of Hermanus, South Africa

The whale-watching town of Hermanus, South Africa. Photo by THP Creative via iStock by Getty Images

On the ground outside our well-appointed hotel, Windsor Hotel (home to a fabulous breakfast), I snapped photos of several Cape Rock Hyrax. This furry round creature munched on the grass and burrowed into its hiding place along the shore.

Rock hyrax warms up in the sunlight on the rocks of the Cape of Good Hope

Rock hyrax warms up in the sunlight on the rocks in South Africa. Photo by silentstock639 via iStock by Getty Images

Pinnacle Point and Mossel Bay

A hike up a trail at Pinnacle Point, a promontory just south of Mossel Bay, allowed me to gaze in amazement at swimmers brave enough to glide between the rocky surface of the Indian Ocean in what looks like Olympic swim lanes, with rocks as the guides.

Just below where I stood was Pinnacle Point Caves, showcasing the Point of Human Origins Cave, dating back to as much as 160,000 years ago and the beginning of human behavior of homo sapiens.

Swimmers in the Indian Ocean Mossel Bay

Swimmers in the Indian Ocean. Photo by Linda Milks

I continued my journey to Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bungee jump in Africa. Did I jump? No way, but I witnessed a mother and son dive headfirst into the jaw of the canyon 708 feet below.

Bloukrans bunjee jumping bridge is an arch bridge located near Nature's Valley and Knysna in Garden route in western cape South Africa

Bloukrans Bridge is known for its bunjee jumping. Photo by Shams via iStock by Getty Images

I chose the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour ziplining platform with its 10 platforms. Our guides’ humor distracted us from freaking out and looking down at the canyon below as each of us glided through the air to the platforms.

The Arid Karoo and Langkloof Valley

The next day, I traveled inland, heading north and west through the Langkloof Valley to the arid Karoo. The town of Oudtshoorn, the Ostrich Capital of the World, awaited me. Ostriches are found exclusively in Africa. I hopped on a covered wagon at Safari Ostrich Farm. The wagon slowly advanced alongside the Cape ostriches as they meandered near the wagon, looking for treats. I was told most ostriches live in either enclosed sanctuaries or on ostrich farms.

Male and female ostrich at Safari Ostrich Farm. Photo by Linda Milks

Male and female ostrich at Safari Ostrich Farm. Photo by Linda Milks

Interestingly, male ostriches are black with a white tip, and females are a drab brown. The males sit on the eggs at night, where they are more easily camouflaged, while the females sit on the eggs during the day. It’s a cooperative effort. Another fun fact is that ostriches have a knee under their wing and a thumb and finger on the edge of the wing. What we would consider a knee is an ankle, so they walk on tiptoes like a ballerina.

After the ostriches scarfed down the treats, I headed inside for a hot ostrich steak meal. It didn’t taste like chicken. It was a red meat like beef steak. While I wouldn’t say I like meeting whom I’m eating, I grew up on a farm, so the concept isn’t new.

Cango Caves, One of the Seven Wonders of South Africa

My next adventure led to the Cango Caves, which are enormous and awe-inspiring. These caves are a wonder world sculpted by nature and one of South Africa’s Seven Wonders.

Inside Cango Cave

Inside Cango Cave. Photo by Linda Milks

When I stepped inside and journeyed down into the caverns, the sheer size and varying colors made my journey magical. At one point, my guide turned off all the lighting to let me feel what it was like for the first explorers journeying inside these caves.

These caves were formed roughly 20 million years ago. The stalactites and stalagmites create rooms and layers of color reminiscent of hanging crystal lanterns. The guide told me the caves were inhabited in the Early Stone Age.

The Long Awaited Kruger National Park

To get to the much anticipated Kruger National Park, our group flew to Johannesburg, the “City of Gold,” and from there, we boarded a bus for a very long drive to the park. Rain pelted down on the road and limited our access to all the routes in the park. As we traveled, we heard about an African saying, “The British drive on the left side of the road. The South Africans drive on the road that is left.” Wow, was that true as the bus swerved to the right side of the road and then back to the left side to find a solid surface.

My first view of the animals was through raindrops on the windshield. Still, I enjoyed seeing the masses of animals in a natural environment. Kruger National Park stretches over 12,000 miles, around the size of the state of New Jersey.

I focused on finding the Big 5—lions, leopards, black rhinos, elephants, and water buffalo. Rushing water flowed through the pastures along both sides of the bus.

Gazelles, kudu, antelopes, and zebras crossed the road. Zebras were everywhere, nonchalantly wandering in front of the bus. I saw wild boars, and whooping shouts arose as we saw herds of elephants. Two lions lounged on the warm pavement, stopping traffic in both directions.

Plains zebra in Kruger National park, South Africa

Plains zebra in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo by Utopia_88 via iStock by Getty Images

I love wild dogs with their brown and black spotted coats, and I saw them, along with some hyenas, devouring an animal. Alongside the bus, I spotted a Cape buffalo that looked placid enough. The guide told us these are some of the most vicious animals. They look like they are grazing, and the next moment, they charge with that full set of horns coming at you.

Water Buffalo in South Africa's Kruger National Park. Photo by Matthew Gibbs via iStock by Getty Images

Water Buffalo in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Photo by Matthew Gibbs via iStock by Getty Images

Off to the other side, giraffes elegantly loped, showing off their gracefulness, their coats so perfectly marked that they looked like giant painted toys.

South African Giraffe (Giraffa giraffa giraffa) or Cape giraffe walking on the savanna with a blue sky with clouds in Kruger National Park in South Africa

Giraffes in Kruger National Park. Photo by Henk Bogaard via iStock by Getty Images

A Stay in a Rondavel at Timbavati Safari Lodge

If you want a more rustic adventure for your trip, stay at Timbavati Safari Lodge, approximately 20 minutes from Kruger National Park. The Rondavels (round stucco buildings) are individual huts painted white with brightly colored Ndebele traditional artwork set among deciduous trees and along unlit dirt pathways.

Rondavels at Timbavati Lodge

Rondavels Hand painted with traditional Ndebele artwork. We saw some zebras and wild boars wandering through the camp the first night. Photo by Linda Milks

The lodge showcased an open-air bar with lounge furniture, a pool table, and an outdoor pool. Meals were served either buffet style or tableside in a separate dining hall. One afternoon, zebras galloped across the grassy area as we sat outside. One morning, a rascal of a monkey scampered into the hall, grabbed a couple of biscuits, and rushed to a nearby tree to savor his treat.

Naughty monkey with a biscuit. Photo by Linda Milks

Naughty monkey with a biscuit. Photo by Linda Milks

Blyde River Canyon Natural Reserve on the Panorama Route

While looking for the wild side of South Africa, I experienced Bourke’s Luck Potholes, part of Blyde River Canyon Natural Reserve. The potholes are a geological marvel caused by millions of years of erosion, forming cylindrical potholes of intricate patterns and colors where the Blyde and Treur Rivers meet. Bridges and viewing platforms let me see this marvel of white, yellow, and dark brown eddies far below.

Along this route, known as the Panorama Route, I checked out the Blyde River Canyon, the third-largest canyon in the world and the greenest one with its subtropical vegetation.

Bourke's Luck Potholes in Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. Photo by Linda Milks

While traveling along this route, I saw the Three Rondavels—three giant rock formations reminiscent of native hut structures. The day I saw these three sisters, they were shrouded with fog, creating a mystical feeling.

Three Rondavels and the Blyde River Canyon near Mpumalanga. Photo by Linda Milks

Three Rondavels and the Blyde River Canyon near Mpumalanga. Photo by Linda Milks

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When You Travel to South Africa

Amazing, awe-inspiring, grand, lush, and awash in natural beauty can best describe my thoughts and emotions about South Africa. South Africa offers a land of ridges, mountains, deeply incised valleys, and sprawling plateaus. The sheer number of natural resources in South Africa astounded me—gold, diamonds, fertile soil, perfect crop weather, natural land formations, and water. And, of course, Kruger National Park, with its wild animals roaming free in their natural habitat, will stay with me forever. South Africa is truly wild and wonderful. We invite you to explore Wander With Wonder for more of our favorite travel experiences across Africa.

Written by Linda Milks

Whether the story is very local to her wine region or about international locations with unique tidbits about that area’s local points of interest, having fun and enjoying new experiences is what Linda is all about. She believes travel She believes traveling exposes us to other cultures which grows understanding, tolerance and acceptance. Linda enjoys engaging locals when she travels and exploring how they live. She has found there is beauty in the commonplace as well as the exotic. Linda served on the IFWTWA Board (International Food, Wine & Travel Association) as Media Trips Chair and Treasurer. In the past, she has served as the Vice President, Chair of the Annual Conference in 2019, and as the chair for the pre- and post-trip committee for the Annual Conference for 2022. She is an active member of the Wine Review Council, a group that reviews local, national, and international wines. She has recently become a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance, an international travel organization with headquarters in England. In the past, she has been a guest writer for Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels with its focus on a group of small boutique hotels. Linda lives in Temecula, California, and is allowed to share her home with her sassy dog, Bella. She enjoys the proximity to lots of wineries very close to her home.

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