Things to do in South Africa in August
April 30, 2013 2:48 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I will be in South Africa for around three weeks in August, and would love suggestions for things to do.

My dad recently moved to Johannesburg, so we will be based there, but will have access to a car and other transport to go pretty much wherever we want. We're just starting to plan the trip, so although we know we would like to go to a game preserve for a few days, go to Cape Town, and maybe visit the garden route, we're very open to suggestions. What is the one thing we shouldn't miss? Bonus points for small, out-of-the-way experiences, but we're definitely interested in everything.

Side question - we also have the option to go in December, but have been told that's it's much more crowded then with vacationers, and also that the game preserves are not as good because the animals are typically sleeping because of the heat and are harder to see. Any opinions on which would be better, August or December?
posted by odayoday to Travel & Transportation around South Africa (8 answers total)
My boyfriend asked me to add that he's interested in shark cage diving and/or shark breaching tours.
posted by odayoday at 3:03 PM on April 30, 2013

Hi! I live in Cape Town -- I don't have lots to say about Joburg, but I'm happy to help with questions on this side of the Cape. Feel free to MeMail me if this would be at all helpful.
posted by mrfuga0 at 3:49 PM on April 30, 2013

Thanks so much, Mrfuga0! I think we're still early enough in the process that we don't have specific questions, but I will definitely hit you up for info as we go along!
posted by odayoday at 5:06 PM on April 30, 2013

I think August is great - I've been there several times in August and it's usually been beautiful.

I think that Plettenberg Bay is unmissable. Driving up the Garden Route is pretty amazing, but I'd personally prefer to spend most of that time in the Cape Town area. There are amazing day trips like Table Mountain, taking the train to Fish Hoek, Boulder's Beach, Cape Point, Stellenbosch, National Art Museum...there are just so many amazing places to go. And stay at Cape Town Backpackers.'s my favourite hostel in the world.

I know people will suggest Kruger, but I prefer the day trips to the drive-through wildlife parks along the Garden Route. If you dive, I suggest Aliwal Shoal outside of Durban - it's far enough north that it's warmer and there are fewer sharks, but there's tons of different other sea life. Also, on the border of Lesotho is a great little hostel called The Siding, and you can sleep in the train Queen Victoria travelled on when she visited ZA.

I spent as little time in Joburg as possible. As a woman travelling on her own, I didn't feel all that safe. YMMV.

Feel free to memail me if you have more specific questions. I love South Africa intensely.
posted by guster4lovers at 5:18 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Picnic in the vineyards at Buitenverwachting near Cape Town.
Breakfast at the Plettenberg hotel in plettenberg bay.
Spending a few days tasting wines near Franschoek.
posted by Riton at 7:19 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in to say that all the above suggestions are excellent, but they are in no way close to Joburg. They'd be lots and lots of driving.
posted by mrfuga0 at 7:42 AM on May 1, 2013

If you're based in Johannesburg there's always the option to do the drive down to Durban, which takes about 5 hours (as opposed to the 18 hours non-stop it takes to Cape Town). There will be plenty of places to stay in Umhlanga which is just north of Durban.

If you want to make the journey more leisurely you can stay overnight in any of country guest houses in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands along the way.

Durban is also pretty much Shark Town, RSA and while they don't breach like they do here in CT, the Natal Sharks Board offer trips out where they check the various nets around Durban and they also do dissections.
posted by PenDevil at 3:31 AM on May 6, 2013

I did the shark diving in Gaansbaai (few hours drive from CT) and highly recommend White Shark Projects. Most of the best CT stuff has been mentioned already, but I'll n'th Franschoek (if you go there take the cellar tour at Cabriere and volunteer to be one of the people to help the dude open a sparkling wine with a sabre), Table Mountain, Fish Hoek, etc. - just drive a lot of the little coastal towns south of the city and around the point. If you happen to be there on a good surf day, definitely check out the epic waves in Kommetjie, just north of the Point Park on the Atlantic side.

Kruger is worth the drive (its a beautiful drive on great roads) and time investment. I highly recommend staying in one of the resorts in the private reserve at the southern tip of the park - you don't have to compete with loads of tourists that way, and you get off the tarmac road and into the real bush. Also the guides are fantastic. Camp Shonga is my recommendation and is the place to go looking for cheap deals. And if you've already driven all that way, you might think about popping a couple more hours across the border and spending a day or two exploring Maputo (Mozambique's capital).

Joburg is meh, compounded with crime. There's the big malls, and decent enough nightlife around them. The must-dos are the Apartheid Museum (I think its one of the best designed museums in the world), and a tour of SoWeTo. Go with Imbizo tours and ask for Mandy as you're guide. She'll take you out to a local bar there and help you understand why the local scene there is actually pretty chill (you may find yourself back there on your own, even). Melville is the best area for a chill (or fratty) night out at the bars, Sandton has the jazz music, and Rivonia has the dancing.

Pretoria's a pretty town to drive around but pretty much the only things to do there are see the government buildings, the 2 malls (1 big, 1 small), and the Voortrekker museum (ZA's version of America's pioneers). There's a lion park about 30 minutes outside Joburg if you want to go see some guys throw slabs of cow off the back of a pickup to a bunch of fat lions, or play with a lion cub.

Have fun...
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:30 AM on August 5, 2013

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