Think of South Africa and images of lions bathing in the sun surrounded by miles and miles of rugged red-sand landscape probably spring to mind – and why wouldn’t they when safaris at Kruger National Park are one of the most awe-inspiring and memorable trips you’ll ever have? There are options for those who want to rough it and those who want to bask in pure luxury, but really it’s the drives out to try to spot the ‘big five’ that makes South Africa the nature-lover’s destination of choice. You’ll never forget spotting elephants, lions, buffalo, leopards and rhinos in the wild (Kruger National Park).
At Boulders Beach near Cape Town, you’ll be kept company by…penguins. No, really. A breeding colony of African penguins make this tiny sheltered beach their home and are happy to waddle and swim with you. Just make sure you turn up early as they shut the gates as soon as the beach is full.
And, if penguins aren’t exciting enough for you, slip on your scuba gear and dive in to Sodwana Bay, on the east coast in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. There you can swim with ragged-tooth sharks! At certain times of the year, docile pregnant females mooch around the bay and are always curious about the scuba visitors (but not dangerously curious). Dolphins and rays will often join in for a diving experience unlike any other (divethebig5.co.za).
South Africa has an incredible history and is rich in ancient plant and animal fossils. Head to Cederberg mountains, on the Western Cape, 300km from Cape Town, and marvel at the beautifully preserved rock paintings by ancient bushmen. You can even stay at the five-star Bushmans Kloof lodge which puts on guided rock tours within its property (bushmanskloof.co.za).