South Africa tours

Best tours in South Africa

South Africa tours provide you with many adventure stories. From spotting wildlife to hiking opportunities, there’s plenty to keep you going in South Africa.

  1. Discover the history of Robben Island
  2. Enjoy finding animals at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
  3. Explore Mapungubwe Hill
  4. Hike the Klipspringer trail
  5. Enjoy the beautiful scenery of Lesotho

The Rainbow Nation is home to some fantastic experiences. There are plenty of tours to suit every type of traveller, from history tours or horse riding adventures.

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Discover the history of Robben Island

Robben Island is notorious as the prison where Nelson Mandela served the first 18 years of the life sentence he received at the Rivonia Trial of 1963–4. This little kidney-shaped island 11km (7 miles) off the shores of Green Point was named by the Dutch for the seal (rob) colony they encountered here. It has a grim history: this was where Jan van Riebeeck kept rebellious Khoikhoi leaders captive. Today, South Africa’s own Alcatraz has been turned into a Unesco World Heritage Site, national monument and museum, which can be visited only on one of the several official guided tours that leave from the V&A Waterfront’s Nelson Mandela Gateway daily. Up to four hours in duration, the tours include a 30-minute boat ride each way, a coach tour of the island (visiting the quarry where prisoners served hard labour), and a walking tour of the prison and Mandela’s old cell, guided by a former prisoner. Dolphins often accompany the boat to the island, and once there African penguins - which recolonised the island in 1983 after an absence of 180 years - are more likely to be seen than the seals from which the name “Robben” derives.

Best for: History

Top tip: Note that there is a statue of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.

2. Enjoy finding animals at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The remote, immense and utterly absorbing Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was created in 1999 when South Africa’s 9,600-sq-km (3,750-sq-mile) Kalahari Gemsbok National Park merged with its larger but less-accessible cross-border counterpart, the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. Characterised by red sand dunes interspersed with sandy river beds, Kgalagadi is strikingly similar to Australia’s Simpson Desert, but with a more varied fauna. You can also find all three of Africa’s large felines, as well as an impressive selection of smaller predators such as black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, cape fox, caracal, and yellow mongoose. Taking yourself on a tour here is one of the most rewarding experiences in South Africa.

Best for: Seeing nature

Top tip: Looking for a safari experience? Kruger National Park is also one of Africa’s most compelling destinations for this.

3. Explore Mapungubwe Hill

Proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 2003, the flat top of Mapungubwe Hill served as the royal capital in the 13th century, when some 5,000 people lived there, and it formed the predecessor to the impressive stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe to the north. Many interesting artefacts have been discovered here, among them tens of thousands of glass, gold and copper beads, and an iconic pair of gold-plate rhino sculptures, now displayed in an on-site museum. Guided visits to the hill leave daily from the park headquarters, and a network of internal roads offers great views over the Limpopo and the surrounding baobab-studded hills, as well as the opportunity to see large mammals such as elephant, kudu and klip-springer, as well as numerous birds. Looking for South Africa holiday packages? We’ve got you sorted!

Best for: Keen trekkers

Top tip: Make sure to pack plenty of water and your camera!

4. Hike the Klipspringer trail

The popular three-day Klipspringer Hiking Trail (40km/23 miles) is almost always booked solid during school holidays, and it closes during the extreme heat of summer. Night drives and black rhino tours to otherwise inaccessible parts of the park can be booked at the rest camp - as can white water rafting excursions along an 8km (5-mile) long stretch of river with five sets of Grade II–III rapids.

Best for: Hiking

Top tip: If you’re looking for alternative ways to enjoy the outdoors, head to Camps Bay which is an excellent surf spot.

5. Enjoy the beautiful scenery of Lesotho

Lesotho, a tiny mountain kingdom is an adventurer’s dream. Saw-tooth ridges and deep, precipitous valleys glittering with tumbling rivers and falls; mud-and-thatch villages where herders watch over their flocks - it’s an African Switzerland, on African time. Trekking centres organise tours for horse riders through breathtakingly beautiful mountain scenery, in accommodation ranging from hotels to village huts. Here, conditions are fairly basic, but perfectly adequate once you get used to no running water, no flush toilets and no electricity. The other way to get around Lesotho is by four-wheel-drive vehicle, either on a self-drive basis or on a guided trip with a tour operator. See Lesotho organises hiking treks.

Best for: Breath-taking scenery

Top tip: For more incredible landscapes, head to Augrabies Falls National park

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