Most people think first of Cape Town when imagining a trip to South Africa, and with good reason. Known for its festive culture, modern urban areas, and stunning natural beauty, it’s been called Africa’s tourism beacon, and is a popular destination for all kinds of people. The only problem with this is that it almost makes it easy to forget about the rest of the country around it! Because of this, just about any activity or attraction in South Africa, but not in Cape Town, could be called unexpected.

These are some of the ones you might really want to keep in mind.

1. Orange River Kayaking

Referred to as one of the purest adventure trails in southern Africa, the Orange River offers a mix of tranquil and exhilarating experiences. While you need a guide and an organized tour to go out on the river in a kayak, you can ultimately spend your time swimming, paddling with ease, and conquering Class V rapids, if you’re up to it. The surrounding scenery, largely through the Richtersveldt Desert, is breathtaking, and while this is not a river safari you may just see some interesting wildlife while you’re at it.

2. Drakensberg Hiking

Drakensberg essentially refers to a region of mountains in South Africa, and is a perfect example of the kind of place that often goes unmentioned as we focus on Cape Town, and even Johannesburg. It’s not an area made for the faint of heart, as some of the hiking trails are quite rough and the weather can occasionally be stormy. However, if you’re an experienced hiker (or you have a good guide) and the weather is good, it can be one of the most beautiful and rewarding places to hike in the world. As one backpacking guide put it, reaching the top is like mounting a throne above the entire world.

3. Sun City Golfing

Hidden away in Rustenburg, South Africa is a casino resort complex that ranks among the best in the world. It’s actually shocking how little publicity Sun City Resort seems to generate, but it’s a rather spectacular, if somewhat gaudy place. In addition to pools, luxurious hotels, casino floors, and more, however, the resort is perhaps best known for its two golf courses. Both were designed by the legendary pro Gary Player, and both give you a chance to enjoy some world-class golfing (and incredible natural surroundings) in the heart of South Africa.

4. Kruger National Park Safari

This is a slightly less obscure option, though again the cities in South Africa get the most attention. An African safari is an experience that is by definition unique to the continent – yet even so we tend to think of only a handful of countries (think Zambia, Tanzania, etc.) when considering the best safari options. As it happens, there are several wonderful game reserves and trekking areas in South Africa, with Kruger National Park being perhaps the most renowned of them. Here you’ll see the “Big 5” animals on a good day, and idyllic stretches of African wilderness.


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