What is South Africa Known For? (19 Things It’s Famous For)

South Africa is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It is a middle-income, emerging market with abundant natural resources and well-developed infrastructure. The country has a population of over 58 million people, with the majority living in urban areas. The official languages are English, Afrikaans, and isiZulu, and its major cities include Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban. South Africa has a long and complex history, marked by colonialization, apartheid, and efforts toward reconciliation and nation-building.

South Africa is known for its diverse culture, natural beauty, including the iconic Table Mountain, wildlife such as the Big Five, and rich history, including apartheid and Nelson Mandela’s role in ending it. It’s known for its wine industry, gold and diamond mining, and scenic coastal cities like Cape Town.

Cape Town Minstrel Carnival

The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known as the Cape Minstrels or Kaapse Klopse, is an annual festival held on January 2nd in Cape Town. The festival has its roots in the 19th century when Cape Town’s enslaved African communities would perform in the streets during the Christmas and New Year holidays. The tradition has evolved into a vibrant and colorful street parade featuring singing, dancing, and brass band music. Participants, known as minstrels, dress in brightly colored costumes, top hats, and painted faces and parade through the streets of Cape Town. 

Safari in Kruger National Park

Located in the northeast of South Africa, Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including the big five game animals (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros). During a safari, visitors can explore the park on guided game drives, either in an open-top vehicle or on foot. Early morning and late afternoon drives offer the best chances of seeing wildlife, as many animals are most active during these times. Visitors may also spot other animals, such as antelopes, zebras, giraffes, hyenas, and a variety of bird species.

Vineyards of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek

The vineyards of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are located in the Western Cape province of South Africa and are renowned for their breathtaking scenery and world-class wines. Stellenbosch, the second oldest town in South Africa, is surrounded by rolling hills dotted with vineyards. Franschhoek, meaning “French corner,” is a picturesque valley surrounded by vineyards and the Franschhoek Mountains. Both areas offer visitors a chance to sample some of South Africa’s finest wines, visit historic wine estates, and enjoy its breathtaking scenery. Wine tastings and tours are offered at many of the vineyards.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a world-renowned botanical garden located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. The garden covers an area of over 528 hectares and is home to a rich collection of South African plants, including many species found nowhere else in the world. Visitors can explore a variety of landscapes, from fynbos-covered hills to cultivated gardens and forests. The garden is particularly famous for its collection of proteas, South Africa’s national flower, and its large outdoor concert venue, the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts. 

Whale-Watching in Hermanus

Hermanus is a picturesque town located on the south coast of South Africa and is known for its excellent whale-watching opportunities. Every year, from June to December, Southern Right Whales migrate to the waters off the coast of Hermanus to mate and calve. Visitors can watch these magnificent creatures from the shore or join a whale-watching tour by boat. The best time for whale watching is from August to November when the whales are close to the shore and can be easily seen from the cliffs above the ocean.

Go Hiking on Table Mountain

Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain in Cape Town and one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The mountain is approximately 1,000 meters high and offers panoramic views of the city, the ocean, and the surrounding mountains. Table Mountain is a popular tourist destination, with visitors able to reach the summit by hiking or taking the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. The mountain is also part of Table Mountain National Park, which covers over 22,000 hectares and is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including several species of endemic fynbos vegetation.

World’s Second-Largest Man-Made Forest

Knysna Forest is a temperate coastal forest located in the Garden Route of South Africa. It covers an area of over 40,000 hectares and is home to a rich diversity of plant and animal life, including several species of indigenous trees and mammals, such as the Knysna Elephant and the Knysna Loerie. Knysna Forest is also famous for its two interlocking lakes, known as the Knysna Heads, which are surrounded by towering cliffs and offer stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding landscape. 

Cable Cars to the Top of Lions Head

Lions Head is a mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, one of the city’s most popular hiking destinations. The mountain is approximately 669 meters high and offers panoramic views of the city, the ocean, and the surrounding mountains. Lions Head is shaped like a lion’s head and is distinctive for its large, flat top and steep sides. The hike to the summit is relatively easy and takes about one to two hours to complete. Visitors may also take a cable car to relax and enjoy the view. 

Shark Dive in Gansbaai

Gansbaai is one of the world’s best places to see Great White Sharks, and the shark dive is conducted in a controlled and safe environment. Participants are taken out to sea on a boat and are then lowered into the water in a cage, surrounded by schools of fish that attract the sharks. The dive is an unforgettable experience and offers a unique opportunity to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. The dive is suitable for all levels of diving experience, and a trained professional is always on hand to ensure the safety of the participants. 

Explore the Zulu Kingdom

The cultural villages of the Zulu Kingdom offer a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the traditions and customs of the Zulu people. Visitors can witness traditional dances, the creation of pottery and beadwork, and the significance of traditional huts and clothing. The cultural villages also offer visitors the opportunity to try traditional Zulu food, such as umngqusho (a dish made from corn and beans) and ujeqe (steamed bread). The Zulu Kingdom is renowned for its hospitality, and visitors are welcomed with open arms and treated to a truly authentic experience.

Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is a unique and significant location for the study of human evolution. The site contains a network of underground caves and fossil-rich sites that have yielded some of the earliest evidence of human ancestry and habitation. The area is home to the Sterkfontein Caves, one of the most important paleo-anthropological sites in the world, where the famous hominid fossil, “Mrs. Ples,” was discovered. The Cradle of Humankind also features several museums and visitor centers that offer interactive exhibits and educational experiences for visitors of all ages.

The Cango Caves 

The Cango Caves are a series of limestone caves located in the Western Cape province of South Africa. The caves are known for their stunning formations of stalactites and stalagmites and are considered some of the finest examples of cave architecture in the world. The caves were discovered in the late 17th century and have become popular tourist destinations. Visitors can take guided tours of the caves, which take them through a series of chambers filled with intricate and breathtaking formations. 

Soweto Wine and Lifestyle Festival

The Soweto Wine and Lifestyle Festival is an annual event in the Soweto neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa. The festival is a celebration of South African wine, food, and culture and is one of the country’s largest and most popular wine events. The festival features a variety of events, including tastings, food stalls, and live music performances. Wine lovers and foodies alike will enjoy the chance to sample a wide selection of South African wines from some of the country’s top producers and delicious local cuisine. 

Bungee Jumping at Bloukrans Bridge

Bloukrans Bridge is a scenic arch bridge and the site of one of the world’s highest commercial bungee jumps, offering adrenaline seekers an unforgettable experience. The jump is 216 meters (709 feet) high, providing a breathtaking view of the surrounding scenery, including the Bloukrans River and the Tsitsikamma Forest. Participants are secured to a harness and jump from the edge of the bridge, experiencing a free fall before being safely caught by the bungee cords. The jump is a thrilling experience and is considered by many to be one of the best bungee jumps in the world. 

The Historical Village of Pilgrims Rest

Pilgrims Rest is a historic town in the Mpumalanga province, established in the late 19th century as a gold-mining community. Its original buildings have been preserved and restored, giving it a charming, nostalgic atmosphere. Visitors can explore the town’s many historic sites, including the Royal Hotel, which was built in 1898 and is one of the oldest surviving hotels in the country, and the gold digger’s cemetery, where many of the town’s original residents are buried. In addition to its rich history, Pilgrims Rest is surrounded by stunning scenery, including the majestic mountains of the Mpumalanga Drakensberg. 

The Robben Island Museum 

The Robben Island Museum is located on Robben Island, which has a rich and complex history, serving as a prison for political prisoners for over 400 years. Most notably, it was the site of Nelson Mandela’s incarceration for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned during apartheid. Today, the museum is a testament to South Africa’s tumultuous past and a symbol of hope for a better future. Visitors can take a ferry from the mainland to the island and take guided tours led by former political prisoners, who share their personal experiences and insights into the island’s history. 

The Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum is located in Johannesburg, South Africa, dedicated to educating visitors about the apartheid era and its aftermath. The museum features a variety of exhibits and interactive displays that chronicle the history of apartheid, from the early roots of segregation to the eventual downfall of the apartheid regime and the transition to a democratic South Africa. Visitors can see firsthand the impact of apartheid on the lives of South Africans, from the forced relocation of communities to the political trials and imprisonment of those who fought against the system.

Blyde River Canyon

The Blyde River Canyon is a breathtaking natural wonder in the Mpumalanga province. It is one of the largest canyons in the world and is often referred to as the “Green Canyon” due to its lush vegetation. The canyon is approximately 25 kilometers long and 800 meters deep, with towering cliffs and scenic views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors to the Blyde River Canyon can enjoy various activities, such as hiking, wildlife watching, and boating, as well as visiting the nearby Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Three Rondavels, three large rock formations that are a symbol of the canyon.

Tour of the Cape of Good Hope

The Cape of Good Hope is a headland located in the southwestern part of South Africa. It is widely considered the southernmost point of Africa and has long been a symbol of hope and exploration for sailors and adventurers. The cape is part of the Table Mountain National Park and offers a stunning natural landscape with rugged cliffs, rolling hills, and scenic beaches. One of the highlights of the Cape of Good Hope is the viewing platform at the southern tip, which provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding countryside.