Unique experiences in Southern Africa
> Southern Africa is an enticing tourism destination as it offers authentic experiences found nowhere else on earth. DANIELLA DI GASPERO rounds up some of the unique experiences.
1. Cruise to Knysna Heads
Featherbed Company gives visitors to the Garden Route a wonderful eco-experience on the Knysna Lagoon. Travellers begin the adventure with a cruise to the Knysna Heads in a ferry boat, followed by a 4×4 vehicle drive up to the Featherbed Private Nature Reserve. A guide will provide information on the history of the area including the fauna and flora. Travellers can also choose the optional guided 2,2km walk through the coastal forest and fynbos. The tour ends with an optional buffet lunch at the restaurant with tables situated among old milkwood trees.
2. Stargazing in Sutherland
Sutherland in the beautiful Karoo is one of a few locations in the world that is ideal for stargazing. This once-in-a-lifetime experience allows travellers to see the natural beauty of the stars and the remoteness of the landscape. The famous Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is located in Sutherland. SALT can be visited Monday-Saturday from 10h30-14h30 and tourists can book a guided tour at the visitor centre. For a more personal experience, guests can book a Stargazing Evening at ‘Sterland’, a privately owned establishment. The evening includes an indoor presentation explaining all the constellations.
3. Walk with Elephants
The Elephant Sanctuary provides an opportunity for people to interact with elephants up close.
There are three elephant sanctuaries across Southern Africa – at Hartbeespoort Dam, Plettenberg Bay and Hazyview. The Elephant Sanctuary in Hazyview started in 1999 with five elephants and has grown to a total of 12 African elephants.
Visitors can walk hand-in-trunk with the elephants and can experience an elephant-back ride or bare-back elephant ride. Visitors are guided through an unforgettable experience. The Elephant Sanctuary is open Monday-Sunday from 08h00-15h30.
4. Visiting a local community project
Avisit to one of the community projects such as T-Bag Designs in Hout Bay is an experience that visitors will never forget. Original T-Bag Designs makes ‘functional art’ out of recycled tea bags, which are ironed and painted.
Each artist creates small pieces of work such as stationery, fabric items and wooden items like boxes, trays and coasters. The project assists people from disadvantaged backgrounds and visitors can join a production tour to meet the artists from Monday to Thursday from 09h00-17h00 and on Friday from 09h00-16h30. Afterwards, visitors can shop and buy the ‘functional art’. The workshop can be visited by catching the City Sightseeing Cape Town hop-on hop-off bus.
5. Return to the place of origin
Maropeng, meaning ‘returning to the place of origin’ in Setswana, is the official visitor centre for the Cradle of Humankind and the Sterkfontein Caves. The Cradle of Humankind has received World Heritage Site status owing to the wealth of human ancestor fossils that have been discovered in the area.
Families and visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour that begins with an underground boat ride and ends with a fossil display that changes regularly. The facilities at Maropeng include a restaurant, a state-of-the-art conference centre and a boutique hotel. Maropeng is open every day from 09h00-17h00.
6. Canoe safari on the Zambezi
Difters Adventours, a division of Tourvest Destination Management, offers a 24-day Southern Circle Tour, which departs from Johannesburg and includes stops in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. During the trip, guests can enjoy a three-day canoe safari on the lower Zambezi and spend two nights camping along the banks of the river surrounded by the sights and sounds of the wildlife in the area.
7. Turtle season
Each year, from mid-October to December, magnificent Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles come ashore to lay their eggs along the beach in iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The turtles hatch from late December through to March. Guests visiting Wilderness Safaris’ Rocktail Camp get front-row seats to one of the world’s most fascinating spectacles and can enjoy a Turtle Drive led by an experienced guide, during which they may have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the tiny hatchlings making their way to the ocean for the first time. The remote northern KwaZulu Natal coastline represents one of the most important western Indian Ocean breeding sites for both the Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles.
8. The Extreme 19th
The Extreme 19th at Legend Golf and Safari Resort in the Entabeni Safari Conservatory, Limpopo Province, is the world’s longest and highest par 3.
Accessible only by helicopter, the tee is situated atop Hanglip Mountain with a 361-metre shot to the green, located 400 metres below the tee. Golfers staying at the resort can experience this incredibly unique hole along with the 18-hole Signature Golf Course. Iconic people who have experienced this extreme hole include Lewis Hamilton, Morgan Freeman, Frik du Preez, Naas Botha, Morne Steyn and South African golfing icon, Gary Player, who opened the Extreme 19th.
9. Kayaking with dolphins
Dolphin Adventures offers guided sea kayaking journeys from Central Beach to Plettenberg Bay.
Visitors will enjoy views of the Tsitsikamma Mountains and Robberg Nature Reserve, while gliding across the unique coastline, encountering marine life, such as dolphins, up close and personal. Visitors will be supplied with a kayak and will be in the company of an experienced guide. The tours depart at 06h00, 09h00, 12h00 and 15h00 in summer and at 10h00 and 14h00 in winter.
10. Guided walk and mokoro experience
Difters Adventours, a division of Tourvest Destination Management, offers a 16-day Botswana Tour into the Okavango Delta.
Guests spend three nights on an island in the Delta and go on several mokoro rides and guided game walks in the surrounding area. Completely removed from civilisation, guests explore this untouched wilderness in a way very few people get to do. – Southern Africa Tourism Update