There are some experiences you can have anywhere – sitting on a beach, zip lining, and so on. However, there are some experiences that can only be had in certain places, and South Africa is no exception. Below, I’ve listed five quintessential experiences that can only be done in South Africa, or can best be done in South Africa. You should look into checking them off your bucket list on your next visit!
1) Take the Blue Train from Cape Town to Johannesburg
Probably the ultimate luxury experience you can have in South Africa is the Blue Train. It travels overnight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and it is probably the most lavish form of transportation on the entire continent. You can dine with fine china and spend the night in a sleeper car, and wake up the next day in a new city.
2) Go Shark Diving
Since the release of the movie Jaws, great white sharks have terrified people. Despite causing fewer fatalities than lightening strikes, most peoples’ fear of sharks is deep-seated. In South Africa, you can get in a cage and have a firsthand experience with one of the largest predators in the world. I’ve done it and was as close as a meter away from the open mouth of a great white!
3) Go on a Photo Safari
Africa is ground zero for charismatic megafauna on Earth. Here you can see some of the largest and best-known creatures on the planet. Lions, elephants, water buffalo and rhinos are some of the Big 5 most people can see on a photo safari, but there are plenty of other animals too, including many species of antelope, giraffes and zebras.
4) See the Big Hole
South Africa is the diamond mining capital of the world. What is an industrial operation today began in the 19th century as prospectors digging with picks and shovels. The evidence of their handiwork can be seen in the town of Kimberly, headquarters of the DeBeers Diamond Cartel and home of the world’s largest hand dug pit: The Big Hole. A large hole in the ground is surprisingly fascinating, and while at the Big Hole you can also learn about the history of diamond mining in South Africa.
5) Visit a Township
Originally a result of Apartheid, townships were created as black South Africans were not allowed to live in cities. Over time, they have evolved into cities in their own right with their own culture and feel. My photography tour this year will be visiting the Soweto township outside of Johannesburg to meet the people and learn about the history of Soweto.
Photo by J. Ross.