South African Bucket List – places to see and things to do before you kick the bucket!

By Ashworth Africa, March 3, 2016

Everyone has a bucket list – that list in your head that has all the things on it that you have to do before you, well.. kick the bucket! Most of us have been compiling the Big Bucket List from before we even knew that it had a name. There are a few things that pretty much everyone has on their list – such as seeing the Eiffel Tower; standing within the circle of Stonehenge; or taking your kids to Disney World. There are other things that you maybe haven’t heard of yet, but that should definitely be on your bucket list. In a country as diverse and beautiful as South Africa, there is an endless choice of spectacular things to see and do, and these are just a few of the most mind-blowing experiences that should be on your bucket list.

Wildflower Wonderland – the floral kingdom of the Western Cape, South Africa. Place it on your bucket list!

Every spring, Namaqualand, the semi-arid region that extends along the Cape’s West Coast, is transformed into a floral kingdom. The rains create blankets of red, pink, yellow, white, and purple wildflowers that cover the vast open plains of Namaqualand in August and September. With mountains in the background and fields of flowers before you, the region is vibrant, exquisite, and deeply romantic, and should be somewhere near the top of your bucket list. The Flower Route begins several hours north of Cape Town and includes the Richtersveld National Park; the Goegap Nature Reserve; and the Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve. The best floral scenery can be explored in the towns of Namaqualand, specifically Garies; Springbok; Kamieskroon; and Port Nolloth.

South African Safari

If you ignore everything else on your bucket list, make sure you don’t put aside your dream to go on a South African safari. The safari getaway is an epic adventure, characterised by living close to the wildest of animals and connecting with the natural world. The diverse vegetation and environments of South Africa supports a wide range of animals and birds, including the Big Five – lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo, and elephant. The best safari getaways will be in the national parks and private game reserves, of which the most well known is the Kruger National Park. Other top safari sites include Singita; Londolozi; Sabi Sabi; and Mala Mala Game Reserve, although there are many more. Accommodation ranges from the sublimely luxurious to the rustic and organic, and whichever you choose you will be experiencing an authentic African experience of the wild and natural world. The safari is an unparalleled experience that cannot be replicated by books, movies, or images, and is something you need to live to be changed by.

River Rafting on the Orange River

The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa, rising in the mountains of Lesotho and flowing westwards, cutting through the desert of the Richtersveld. The beautiful mountainous surroundings and lush banks make for the most scenic route for water sports and camping adventures. The combination of gently flowing water and fast rapids make the Orange River a favourite amongst river rafters, and there are many tour operators that offer safe and fun tours of the River.

Augrabies Falls and Kgalagadi

Augrabies Falls is in the Northern Cape, within the Augrabies Falls National Park. The powerful waterfall is a phenomenal 56 metres high, flowing into the Orange River. While the surrounding area makes for brilliant hiking and game drives, with zebra, gemsbok, and giraffe commonly seen, it is the Augrabies Falls that will take your breath away, and makes this worthy for your bucket list. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is the opposite of Augrabies as a desert destination. Red sand dunes, dry riverbeds, and little vegetation creates a landscape that is harsh but uniquely alluring, and allows for easy observation of the wild animals that have little to camouflage them. The animals have adapted to the Kalahari region, and there is an abundance of game, including lion, blue wildebeest, meerkat, and leopard.

The Mountains of the Drakensberg

The Northern and Central Drakensberg provide some of the best scenic views in South Africa, and should be on your bucket list for their beauty alone. The mountain ranges are largely in Lesotho and Kwa-Zulu Natal, and the valleys are a fort of tranquillity. Game-viewing parks and lodges are hidden within the mountains and are a seat of adventure activities. Mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, horse-riding, and cultural tours are some of the most popular, with the Drakensberg having an extensive selection of San rock art. Snowy peaks in the winter make for a romantic hideaway, and the crisp air will give you a clarity of mind and a sense of connection to these seemingly endless mountains.

Cape Town

If you pick only one African city to be on your bucket list, it should be Cape Town. This coastal city lies at the tip of South Africa along the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and is instantly recognisable by its views of the harbour and Table Mountain. The city is a hub of social and cultural activity, dazzling beaches, gardens, trendy restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife. Favourite spots include the trendy beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton; the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens; the view of the city from the top of Table Mountain and Signal Hill; the V&A Waterfront; Long Street; and Robben Island.

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