A traveller's guide to South Africa

Where you should go, what you should see and how you should do it


SOUTH Africa is one of the most diverse places in the world, making it the perfect place for backpackers. During your trip you can expect to see hippos bathing in the Limpopo River, penguins chilling out on the Cape along with lions, crocodiles, zebras, buffaloes and rhinos in the incredible Kruger National Park.

The place is perfect for driving, hiking or mountain biking across. Add that to the dazzling night-life of Cape Town and incredible ocean excursions in Gansbaai and you’ll soon discover why South Africa is such as popular traveller destination.

Over 150 backpacker accommodations, offering incredibly cheap rates, make South Africa the perfect place to travel on a budget. South Africa has superb transport between and in the major cities, with the backpacker’s dream – the Baz Bus. A brilliant service for hostel-to-hostel drop-offs, you’ll get to know it well.

While in South Africa, make sure you join the 20 million people that have taken the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway experience. The five-minute ascent to the summit gives visitors spectacular panoramic views of Cape Town, the ocean and neighbouring peaks.

Once at the top you’ll be surprised how much room you have to explore the viewing platforms and walk along paths, over one thousand meters above the city below. Interestingly, Table Mountain is in the running to become of the New7 Wonders of Nature, so that’s one other reason to experience the incredible sight.

If it’s something a bit livelier you’re after check out Cape Town’s world famous Long Street. Not only is it a great way to meet and hang out with fellow backpackers, Long Street always has things going on.

The 3.8-kilometre strip is packed with bars, pubs, clubs and shops to keep you and other travellers busy as you wander round. Plus, the food there is fantastic. You’ll find a superb mix of cafés and restaurants offering delicious traditional African and Indian dishes to delight the taste buds.

Don’t forget to stray off on to the many side streets, which are packed with entertaining things to see and do, including the world-renowned Greenmarket Square, a fantastic place to pick up souvenirs that you won’t find anywhere else on your travels.

Two hours from Cape Town is the fishing village of Gansbaai, where those brave enough can swim with great white sharks. The excursion to the beautiful Geyser and Dyer islands lasts approximately four and a half hours and includes a light pre trip meal.

On the boat, refreshments are served and you can take in the scenery from the boat’s viewing deck. Then it’s time for the dive of your life. You’ll be in the ocean with just a cage separating you from a great white shark. The experience is open seven days a week.

Back on land, the Tsitsikamma indigenous rainforest lies between the sea and the Tsitsikamma Mountains. The mild year-round climate allows you to take full advantage of a range of outdoor activities. The Canopy Tour is a must for travellers.

It was the first of its kind in Africa and lets you enjoy your surroundings 30meters above the forest floor, giving you an unbeatable view. The tour lasts between two and three hours, which is great value for money for such an unforgettable experience. Professional guides provide interesting facts throughout the tour too.

If you’re not one for heights – don’t worry – go on the Tsitsikamma Woodcutters Journey instead. From the safety of a specially designed vehicle, you’ll journey down the old Storms River pass, down to the water whilst taking in the spectacular rainforest environment.

If you’re still after more excitement, take a trip down the river for some Black Water Tubing. This is a hugely popular way to see the forest from the river and make some friends with other travelers at the same time. But you will get wet so don’t forget your towel!

Finally, you can’t travel around South Africa without seeing the world’s highest bungee bridge. The Bloukrans Bungee attracts thousands of adrenaline junkies from all over the world (including Prince Harry). The bridge is 216 meters (709 feet) above the Bloukrans River and is open 365 days a year, during all weather conditions, so there’s little excuse not to visit.

If you’re not keen on doing a jump yourself, make sure you sign up for the bridge walk instead. The surrounding views are superb and you’ll be invited to watch others (more daring than yourself) do the world’s highest bungee jump.