There’s no place quite like South Africa. This country on the southernmost tip of Africa has long been a destination for those looking for the first forays of adventure into Africa. And while South Africa draws many visitors looking to experience its unique culture, take in its beautiful vistas, or learn its powerful history; the big appeal for many who travel there remains — the animals. South Africa is one of the few destinations that doesn’t require you to make enormous effort to see its unique wildlife up close — most are often just a car ride away from where you’re staying. And with the South African tourism industry’s leading efforts in sustainable travel, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your excursions are responsible.
Here are just five ways that you can up close and personal to animals in South Africa.
Kruger National Park, in the east of the country, is perhaps the most famous in South Africa – and in fact, it’s one of the largest game reserves on the continent, covering nearly 7,500 square miles. It stretches over six different ecosystems, meaning you’ll see a range of flora and fauna: nearly 2000 types of plants, 500 species of birds, 114 types of reptile and 147 species of mammals – the most in any African game reserve. Obviously the ‘Big Five’ – lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo and elephants – are all covered.
It’s more a question of what *don’t* you want to see on a boat tour in South Africa. You can get chartered trips to watch whales – humpback, bottlenose and various other types – dolphins and seals. And, if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view), you might catch some sharks as well.
Always wanted to dive with great white sharks? We’ll try not to question your sanity. The channel between Geyser and Dyer islands, near Gansbaai, is known as “Shark Alley” for a reason, so if you want to be scared out of your wits, that’s where you’ll need to go. A trip takes most of the day, although you’ll only be in the water with the beasts for about 30 minutes. If you’re not brave enough to go down with them, you can go on a trip to watch them swimming – and even breaching – instead.
On the Cape Peninsula, near the Cape of Good Hope, Boulders Beach is an ever-expanding colony of African penguins (they arrived in 1982). Although they’re in their natural habitat, you can get up close on wooden walkways across the beach – and you can even swim at the adjoining beaches as well. Due to cold Antarctic currents on the west coast, South Africa has a large colony of penguins.
The municipality of Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape province is famous for its ostrich population – so famous, in fact, that it gave rise to the term “ostrich boom” and is home to the largest population of the animals in the world. There are ostrich farms to visit, where you can watch them, pet them and, if you’re brave, take part in an “ostrich derby.”
Have you been to South Africa and had a personal encounter with its wild animals? Tell us about it in the comments below!