South Africa is a melting pot of destinations, attractions and experiences for tourists visiting the country from abroad. A definitive ‘bucket list’ cannot be put together, as SA is a country that can be visited multiple times, with different experiences each time.

Tourism Update has put together some ideas to jumpstart a journey to SA.

Bush adventures

Safaris are always one of the first experiences that tourists seek out when visiting South Africa, and there are a broad variety of safaris on offer – from exclusive stays in luxury private tented camps to day visitor trips into the various state-controlled national parks, says Judiet Barnes, General Manager of Kruger Shalati, a new initiative by the Thebe Tourism Group.

“Visit parks such as the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth; the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Kalahari which crosses from South Africa into Botswana; the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Park in northern KwaZulu Natal; and iSimangaliso Wetland Park a little further north on the KwaZulu Natal coast,” she suggests. “The largest and most well known, the Kruger National Park, draws thousands of people from across the globe, and it’s easily accessible from the country’s major cities.”

Esther Ruempol, Market Manager for Benelux at Tourvest DMC, says: “A sleep-out experience in a private game reserve is a must-do when in South Africa. Spending a night under the stars in a luxury tree house or sleep-out deck in the African bush is a unique experience.” Another add-on is seeing the Big 5 at Hluhluwe Game Park, says Nhlanhla Ngwenya, Communications Co-ordinator of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.

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Arts and culture

SA is rooted in its heritage, arts and culture. “It’s so different from the traditions of Western art found in the world’s great art galleries like the Prado and the Hermitage, that an experience of this sort is actually far more memorable,” says Barnes. From watching wood-carvers in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal, to viewing Ndebele art painted on the exteriors of the homes of the local people in these regions, tourists can also see baskets being produced in KwaZulu Natal at Fugitive's Drift, and weaving by the communities near Hluhluwe who work for Itala Weavers.

A taste for adventure

For adrenaline-junkies, SA has the fast and the furious, from mountain-climbing, white water rafting, and shark-cage diving, to bungee jumping and hiking. “Hiking up Table Mountain is a big bucket list item,” says Victoria Rodenacker, Market Manager for Spain, Portugal and South America at Tourvest DMC. “This is popular among some of the European markets, mainly due to the amazing views of Cape Town as well as the unique fauna and flora.”

Andrea Schaffner, Market Manager for North America at Tourvest DMC, adds: “Hiking the Otter Trail along the Tsitsikamma from the Storms River to Natures Valley, or bungee Jumping off the world’s highest commercial bridge in Bloukrans.

For the view

“I would absolutely recommend the Gorge Lift in Mpumalanga – beautiful views from above and below the canopies. Apart from taking in the spectacular scenery, visitors can also learn a lot about nature,” says Diane Jacobs, General Manager for Business Development & Contracting at Tourvest DMC.

Thandiwe Mathibela, Regional Public Relations and Communications Officer of SA Tourism, recommends Hole in the Wall in Coffee Bay – one of the most impressive landmarks along the entire SA coastline. The site dates back 260 million years, with local legend saying that it was once a landlocked lagoon with access to the sea blocked by a cliff.

Other gems

Schaffner suggests sipping champagne on a catamaran just off Camps Bay at sunset; hot air ballooning over the Magliesberg; taking a ride on the Franschhoek wine tram with a stop at the Duck Run in Vergenoegd; or taking in the beauty of the seasonal flowers in Namaqualand in the Northern Cape.

Ngwenya suggests meandering through the Drakensberg Mountains, which are a World Heritage Site and also hold the Mandela Capture Site – to which Mathibela adds that the Eastern Cape would be the perfect way to end off the Mandela centenary year, from the rolling hills and scattered villages of Qunu in the Eastern Cape, to the prison cells on Robben Island and Vilakazi Street in Soweto, Johannesburg.

Whatever the preference – safari, sea, culture, wine, sports and adventure, friendly locals, or scenery…South Africa has it all, and more.