South Africa is an extremely diversified country. With nine provinces, it offers visitors a multitude of activities and experiences in which to thoroughly enjoy what the country has to offer. South Africa has it all, including a diverse culture, wildlife, beaches, mountains, adventure sports, food and wine, you will definitely be spoilt for choice.
Here are some of the Do’s and Don’t's of South Africa. Of course, there are many more do’s than I could list, but here are a selection of the ones I thought were well worth mentioning.
DO visit the iconic sites of South Africa
South Africa has a vast array of astonishing places to visit throughout the country. In Cape Town, the number one feature is Table Mountain and Robben Island. Both of these popular landmarks are a definite must see. Obviously one can see Table Mountain from quite a distance, however, the best way to see and experience it is at the summit. The quickest way to reach the top of Table Mountain is by cable car (for a more active alternative one can also hike up), and once there you will view some of the most spectacular scenery of the peninsula. From here one can see the famous Robben Island where former president, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned during the apartheid era.
In Gauteng, a tour of Soweto is highly recommended, as well as visiting the Cradle of Mankind, one of the eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa. It is widely recognised as the place from which all of humankind originated.
DO live the adventure that is South Africa
South Africa is packed full of exciting activities that will get your blood pumping and raise your adrenaline. A great example of such activity is bungee jumping from the highest commercial bungee jump in the world, the Bloukrans bridge (216m), situated in the Garden Route along the east coast. If you want some more action, then head down the road to Tsitsikamma where you can experience a unique wilderness adventure traversing through the indigenous rainforest from one tree platform to the next on zip-lines, 30 meters above the forest floor!
Want some more adventure? Then how about abseiling off Table Mountain, skydiving over Pretoria, kiteboarding along the beautiful coastlines, quad biking through the winelands, and white water rafting on the Orange River.
For those who could do with a little less action, there is hot air ballooning over beautiful landscapes throughout South Africa, the most popular being in Magaliesberg (near Johannesburg) and over the Drakensberg and Natal Midlands (KwaZulu Natal).
I have to mention that there is one particular activity which comes highly recommended and should not be missed, and that is shark-cage diving! Some of the best sites to ‘swim’ with great white sharks is in Hermanus and Gansbaai, just a two hours drive up the east coast from Cape Town – definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
DO get up close and personal with the wildlife
South Africa is famously known for its countless game reserves and offers a few close encounters with some well recognised animals. In the Kruger National Park (Limpopo) there are companies that offer walking safaris through the bush. These walks are a great way to experience the wildlife without the noise of Jeeps and other cars, it is a real intimate experience of wildlife at its best.
In the Greater Addo region of the Eastern Cape, one can view wildlife from the back of an African elephant. These walks give on the opportunity to interact, feed and observe the elephants in their natural habitat.
In the heart of the Cape winelands, Spier Wine Estate offers visitors a chance to engage with the majestic cheetah. This experience forms part of the Cheetah Outreach program which aims to inform and educate visitors about the cheetah, to raise awareness of its plight and promote their campaign for its survival.
DON'T feed the baboons
Do not take this warning lightly - the feeding of these large primates is strictly prohibited. Baboons are opportunistic eaters, and will go to great lengths to find food (especially if it is the type of food we eat). There is a particularly large population of baboons in the southern most region of the Western Cape, which includes the areas of the Table Mountain National Park and Cape Point.
Baboons like to ‘hang around’ the main coastal road that leads to Cape Point (and also at Cape Point), knowing that there is a good chance that they will get fed by tourists (who do not heed the warning signs).
Unfortunately, when it comes to food, these animals can become very vicious under extreme circumstances. They have even been seen testing car doors to check if they are locked or not in order to search the car for food. If you happen to see baboons while driving, the best and most convenient way to view them would be from your car, with the windows closed (if they are very close). Other than that, one may view them out of the car from a distance.
There are people that are constantly monitoring the baboons that frequent tourist spots such as Cape Point. Their aim is to keep the baboons away from people and prevent any unnecessary contact.
It all boils down to a matter of safety – there is no reason to be scared of these animals, and you can happily view them from your car or tour bus. But for the sake of keeping safe (and the peace for that matter) just don’t feed them and definitely do not try to touch them.
DON'T go walking or hiking alone in isolated or quiet areas
Unfortunately there have been cases of people being mugged while walking alone on isolated beaches, on hiking trails, or anywhere off the beaten path. There have been reports of hikers and tourists being attacked on Table Mountain. So be cautious when in the quieter parts of the park, especially early in the morning or late in the day before the park closes.
There is also a chance that one could get lost when hiking in the mountains, so make sure that you either go with a qualified, well-informed hiker, or with a group. Safety in numbers is key.
DON'T forget to wear sunscreen during the summer months
The African sun can be pretty brutal to those visiting from cooler climates. With an average of 2500 hours of sunlight per year, it is definitely recommended to wear sunscreen and a hat whenever you are outside during the hot summer months (typically from mid-November to March), even if it is cloudy, and especially when swimming.
In addition, the glare from the sun can get quite strong, so wearing sunglasses is also advised. The worst thing that could happen is to be on a fabulous holiday in South Africa... with a sunburn - ouch, not fun at all.