South Africa is known for many things.
It has a fascinating history, which has led to a culture unlike any other in the world.
Despite how gentrified such urban destinations as Cape Town have become, it’s also easy to get away from it all and enjoy uninterrupted time in the wild.
South Africa has also gained a reputation as paradise for adrenaline junkies. According to Virtuoso’s 2017 Luxe Report, South Africa is the top adventure travel destination on the planet.
Therefore, if your idea of a holiday involves lots of thrills, here are 12 of the most adventurous things to do in South Africa.
1. Go bungee jumping
Although you can do it just about anywhere, bungee jumping in South Africa has become a very popular pastime among people who like to feel their hearts pounding as hard as possible.
It’s not difficult to see why (unless you’re afraid of heights). The most popular destination for bungee jumping in South Africa is Bloukrans Bridge. It’s the highest commercial bridge bungee jumping spot in the entire world at 216 meters (709 feet)!
There are other world-class places to go bungee jumping in South Africa, too.
No matter where you do it, though, you’ll certainly get an adrenaline rush.
2. Forget the zoos – go on a safari
While South Africa has great zoos, if you like an adventure, you really should head out on safari. This will give you the opportunity to get much closer to antelope, hyenas, lions, baboons, elephants and much more! Even though there will be guides there to keep you safe, you can expect that your heartbeat will still spike the first time you get up close to an actual lion or cheetah!
Safari guides are also extremely knowledgeable about the natural surroundings they take you through. You’ll have every opportunity to ask questions and hear incredible stories from men and women who have spent their entire lives around these exotic animals.
There are plenty of affordable safari options, so don’t assume you’ll have to take out a second mortgage for an unforgettable experience.
A safari can take a few hours or several days, and if you’re coming to South Africa purely for adventures out in nature, there are many options for luxury or budget travelers. Just remember, the longer you stay, the more likely you’ll be to see your favorite animals.
Otherwise, even spending an afternoon in the wilderness is still a lot of fun and can definitely get your blood pumping.
3. Hit the rapids by going whitewater rafting
While we can’t claim that this is the greatest water-related thrill on our list of adventurous things to do in South Africa (wait until you see number 12), there’s no doubt that racing down the rapids in a raft deserves a spot on the list.
Just like with safaris, you can plan your entire South African stay around this adventure. You can book a camping, hiking, and rafting holiday.
South Africa has some of the best rivers for whitewater rafting in the entire world, with options for beginners and the more experienced paddlers alike. Some popular waterways for this kind of rafting include:
Again, these are just some of the many rivers available. It’s safe to say that no matter where your adventures in South Africa take you, there will more than likely be some kind of waterway close by for rafting.
Aside from the obvious thrill, the great part about rafting in South Africa is the unbelievable scenery that will surround you the entire time.
While you’ll obviously want to pay close attention when you’re bouncing through the rapids, you’ll have plenty of time to look around at the mountains, vegetation, and even wildlife on either side of the river.
4. Hit the trails on a mountain bike
The land-equivalent of whitewater rafting in South Africa is mountain biking. Similarly, there is no lack of trails for you to pedal down.
Though there are a few to consider, your best bet for an adventurous mountain bike ride in South Africa would probably involve one of the following trails:
- Giba Blue Trail
- Tokai Forest
- Red Barn
- Impala Ranch MTB Trails
- Clearwater Trail System
- B Spot
- Northern Farms
There is nothing like racing through the South African wilderness. It’s a great mix of exercise and excitement as you pass brand new landscapes for the first time.
If you’re new to mountain biking or don’t have your own bike to bring, don’t worry. Plenty of novices come to South Africa without a ton of experience but still have an amazing adventure on the trails.
5. Take in a bird’s eye view by jumping out of a plane
When it comes to feeling like your heart is going to explode, the old standby of simply jumping out of a plane is hard to beat. If bungee jumping bores, then sign up to go skydiving in South Africa.
Although we have said this before, the view you’ll get of this incredible country from more than 1,000 meters in the air is worth whatever you may be feeling in your stomach at the moment.
You can’t go wrong with Skydive Cape Town, but there are a number of other companies to choose from depending on where your travels take you.
6. Climb Table Mountain
Of course, you might prefer extreme activities in the opposite direction.
If jumping out of a plane seems too simple, consider pushing your physical limits by climbing the iconic Table Mountain.
Although Africa is known for Kilimanjaro, South Africa’s Table Mountain – located in Cape Town – is renowned for its beauty. No matter where you are in the city, you can see this giant looming.
Depending on how much of an adventure you want, there are a number of ways to get up Table Mountain. Without a doubt, the easiest way is to simply take the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway to the top.
You’ll want to book your tickets online (it can take an hour to do so in person), but the ascent is worth it either way. The cable car will give you an amazing panoramic view of Cape Town.
On the other hand, you can hike to the summit, too. There are a number of paths you could take, but Smuts Track is probably the easiest. It starts from inside the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
Although you’ll need to pay an entrance fee, it’s worth it. The gardens are considered the most beautiful in all of Africa and some would even put it above any in the entire world.
In any case, getting from the garden entrance to the beginning of the trail is the easy part. The hike is going to be a physical one, so you’ll want to make sure you’re in decent shape beforehand.
You also need to pack plenty of water and some food. From the gardens to the top and back will most likely take you at least eight hours. This is not something you’ll want to do on an empty stomach.
Make sure you plan for weather conditions, as well. Even if you plan on making your trek during the warmer months, the weather can turn quite cold as you climb. You should take a backpack with layers of clothing options.
Climbing Table Mountain will reward you with incredible views and an excuse to enjoy a nice big meal when you get back to your accommodations in Cape Town.
7. Take a River “Cruise”
A river cruise?
Why would that make our list of the most adventurous things to do in South Africa?
Well, this “cruise” will bring you right by some South African local animals, which is sure to make your heart pound a bit.
While you’ll be safe in a pontoon boat, the waters around you will be inhabited by crocodiles and hippos.
Contact Heritage Tours and Safaris to learn about river cruises. These types of river cruises definitely require larger time investments, but when else are you going to see a hippo emerge from the water and open their giant jaws?
8. Kayak amongst some of the most dangerous animals in the world
Safety not your thing?
If the idea of having a whole pontoon boat to separate you from South Africa’s Most Wanted doesn’t appeal to you, you’ll love the opportunity to kayak amongst crocodiles and hippos. Just you, a tiny boat, and two of the scariest animals on the planet (among many, many others).
The St. Lucia Estuary is home to roughly 800 hippos, 1,200 crocodiles, and, oh yeah, countless species of sharks. This includes the notorious bull shark.
Nonetheless, tourists take kayaks into the water every single day. If you feel like doing the same, you can book your trip with St. Lucia Kayak Safaris. It’s incredibly affordable given the adventure that awaits.
Still, make sure you know what you’re in for. While locals will tell you it’s no big deal to paddle through these waters, every year, people go missing either because they were foolish enough to try going for a swim or simply got too close on foot.
Participants have even reported that your guide will give you a list of numbers to call if they go missing.
The wetlands that surround this waterway are teeming with life and while you should definitely take time to enjoy the scenery, you’ll need to keep your head on a swivel.
Something as innocent as bubbles ahead could mean a hippo is about to appear. That would be amazing to see and give you quite the adrenaline rush!
9. Visit the Cape of Storms and the graveyard of countless shipwrecks
With a name that sounds like it came from the mind of George R.R. Martin, the Cape of Storms definitely gets a spot on our list of most adventurous things to do in South Africa.
The hike to the old lighthouse that still holds vigil at the top of the Cape of Storms is nothing compared to the challenge of going up Table Mountain, but it’s still an adventure.
For one thing, the view to the bottom of the cliff should get your heart to skip a beat or two.
When the fog rolls in, it’s also not hard to imagine the hundreds upon hundreds of shipwrecks that occurred for centuries before the lighthouse was constructed in 1859.
One of those vessels that never made it past was the infamous Flying Dutchman, a ship that has inspired countless ghost stories throughout the Atlantic (you may know it from The Pirates of the Caribbean movies).
10. Take a tour of one of South Africa’s haunted houses
Speaking of the dearly departed, South Africa is actually very well known as a hotspot for the paranormal. You may get a chance to see some of the famous ghosts of South Africa if you visit places like:
- The Castle of Good Hope: A phantom is said to walk the battlements and a large black dog has been reported lunging at tourists only to disappear at the last second
- Tokai Manor House: Centuries ago, the owner of the house dared his son to ride his horse up its stairs. The resulting accident broke the boy’s neck and killed him. Legend has it that you can still hear the horse, especially on New Year’s Eve, the anniversary of the accident.
- Matjiesfontein Hotel: Over the years, it seems many guests have decided to make this beautiful hotel their permanent residence. Everyone from Boer War soldiers to the hotel’s original owner are said to have asked for an extremely late checkout.
The cool thing about these ghostly locations is, even if you don’t believe in the spirits said to haunt them, the buildings themselves are worth the trip and there is plenty to do in the surrounding areas to have a good time.
11. See – and maybe even ride – an Ostrich
Safari Ostrich Farm is located just outside Oudtshoorn. Countless ostriches make their home here, often travelling in packs of more than 100. So, although it’s located in the heart of Africa’s ostrich region, no competitor challenges its claim to being the ostrich capital of the world.
But enough about the farm itself. Yes, you read that correctly: you can ride an ostrich here. However, you have to weigh less than 60 kilograms (132 pounds). Anyone under 71 kilograms (156 pounds) can get a photo sitting on one, though.
Alright, you’ve almost made it through our entire list of the most adventurous things to do in South Africa.
We’ve covered a lot of ideas so far, many of which involved sharing space with local animals. However, none of them compares to the star of number 12. Without further ado, if you want an adventure in South Africa, you absolutely must…
12. Get in the water with a Great White Shark
Finally, capping off our list of adventurous things to do in South Africa is the granddaddy of them all.
There is absolutely nothing in the world like sharing the water with a two-ton, prehistoric fish that can easily stretch 4.5 meters (15 feet) and smiles with a mouthful of daggers.
Fortunately, you’ll be safe inside a steel cage designed to keep Jaws at bay.
There are only a handful of places on the planet where you can have this one-of-a-kind adrenaline rush, but South Africa’s coast is generally considered your best option for white shark cage diving.
To learn more about this truly incredible opportunity, check out the following services that will take you out into the Atlantic to meet the world’s most famous hunter:
Even if you can’t imagine ever getting close to a white shark, take some time to consider it before you plan out your vacation. There’s a reason we’re giving it the ultimate spot on our list of adventurous things to do in South Africa.
Sure, your heart will race, but you’ll never experience anything like it for the rest of your life.
For the love of a good adventure
If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this guide, then you’re clearly someone who loves a good adventure and enjoy fun things to do.
Still, one adventure you don’t want is an uncomfortable accommodation. Even the best-planned vacation can take a sour turn if you’re not happy with your hotel room.
So don’t leave this to chance. Search for the perfect self-catering accommodation in South Africa’s Western Cape province using Classic Villas.
For even more help planning the rest of your trip, you will also love the Luxury Traveler’s Guide to Cape Town and our Cape Town Itinerary Planning Guide. If you intend to spend time in Cape Town, these guides are a great help. It covers a lot of important details that would be easy to overlook.
Ready for an adventure? Then start planning a trip to South Africa: the adrenaline capital of the world.