Highlights from South Africa

Written by: Monica Stott

Highlights from South Africa

5 of the biggest and best things to do in South Africa

Monica has just returned from a whistle-stop tour around South Africa, proving that you can see so much of this diverse country in just one week. She began by taking in the stylish city sights in Cape Town, wildlife spotting in Kruger National Park and ended the trip by exploring the townships of Soweto.

Here are the highlights from Monica’s trip to South Africa.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is the one of the most iconic landmarks in South Africa, sitting like a protective older brother overlooking the city of Cape Town. You can see the mountain from every corner of the city and it provides the perfect backdrop for any photo opportunity.

To reach the peak of Table Mountain you can either don your hiking boots and trek up or hop in a cable car and admire the scenery as you zip to the top. I opted for the revolving cable car and was blown away by the incredible views as well as the incredible winds.

Shark Cage Diving

Great White Shark cage diving in South Africa

When I was told that I would be diving with Great White Sharks I think I actually laughed. Nobody would be stupid enough to jump into shark infested waters out of choice, right? Wrong.

Shark cage diving

Shark cage diving with Great White Projects was actually a much calmer and enjoyable experience than I ever thought possible. Within the safety of a cage you feel perfectly secure and after 10 minutes I was even brave enough to push my face to the front of the cage to get a closer view of the shark. The sharks gather around as soon as you enter the water and are lured towards the boat with bait. They don’t stick around for long but a brief glimpse of these powerful creatures leaves you buzzing for days.

Safari in Kruger National Park

Lions in Kruger National Park

As soon as we drove into the Greater Kruger National Park in our 4×4 I felt like I was stepping inside a David Attenbourgh documentary. We visited Thornbush Private Game Reserve and within an hour had seen four out of the Big Five. Elephants clustered together with their families as they munched on leaves and plants. Buffalos soaked up the sun’s hot rays as they bathed in watering holes while rhinos lurked dangerously in the distance. We watched lions laze in the shade with swollen bellies full from their latest kill. It wasn’t until we entered the main national park that we managed to see the elusive leopard but this beautiful animal was well worth the wait.

Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

Blyde River Canyon is the third biggest canyon in the world, standing at an impressive 16 miles long and 762 metres deep. The word ‘blyde’ means ‘happy’ in Dutch and this is exactly how you feel when standing at the top of the canyon and looking over the lush green cliffs, the Three Rondavels and the river running below.

This is also the perfect spot to break up the long drive between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg.

Cycling in Soweto, Johannesburg


Soweto, an abbreviation for South Western Townships, is a huge urban area of Jo’burg with five million inhabitants. A township is an area where ‘non-white’ residents were segregated and forced to live. There are still massive communities living here and the townships form a huge part of the South African culture and history. Parts of Soweto are clean and tidy but a lot of the township is in need of repair with basic infrastructure and poor sewerage, little water and a sporadic electrical supply.

It was really interesting to see how millions of people in South Africa really live. As a tourist it can be easy to block out the truth and only visit the popular hotspots designed for tourists. Seeing the township emphasised the fact that there is still a class barrier that follows the old racial lines, despite the fact that we’ve been told  for years that there is hope and promise for the people of Soweto.

Visiting a Shebeen in Soweto

Whilst in Soweto I took a cycle tour through the different areas, through the houses and to Nelson Mandela’s old home. We akso visited a ‘shebeen’ which was once an illegal bar. They’re no longer illegal but they continue to thrive within the community. They’re small shacks built with corrugated iron where homebrewed beer is served. They have no windows so outsiders and the police couldn’t see alcohol being served and it would be served in a traditional ceremony style to cover up the fact they were just having a few drinks.

About the Author: Monica Stott

Monica Stott

Monica is the social media specialist and content writer for gapyear.com. She’s a Twitter addict, travel blogger, iphoneographer and all-round travelaholic. She took an extended gap year after uni, spending eight months in South East Asia and over a year travelling and working in Australia. She worked on a diving island and drove all the way around the coast of Australia in a rusty old campervan. Her favourite destination is Thailand where she spent two months scuba diving, practising yoga, parting during full moons, half moons, quarter moons, black moons (any excuse for a party) and eating far too much Thai red curry.

Check out these top South Africa experiences


Ghana Volunteering with Gapforce

from £1500

28 - 84 days


Take this vital opportunity to impact your knowledge in helping teach subjects like Maths, English, Science, History and foreign languages...

South Africa Adventure with Gapforce

from £2200

28 days

South Africa

Your adventure starts in the Mother City – Cape Town then it's on to road trips and conservation reserves! An...

Africa Explorer with Gapforce

from £2,200

28 - 56 days

Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland

Combine wildlife and community volunteering with culture and adventure in the Rainbow nation, South Africa!

Southern Explorer Cape Town to Victoria Falls

from £1685

35 days

South Africa, Zimbabwe

Experience stunning scenery, vibrant cities and abundant wildlife on this overland journey from Cape Town to Victoria Falls.

South Africa and Lesotho Cape Town to Johannesburg

from £795

17 days

South Africa

Witness first-hand all that is fantastic about South Africa - stunning beaches, dense forests and abundant marine and bush wildlife.

Gorillas, Gameparks and Zanzibar Nairobi to Dar es Salaam

from £1285

33 days

Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda

From the opportunity to trek to the majestic Gorillas to the wildlife on offer in the Maasai Mara, Serengeti and...

Deserts and Game Parks Victoria Falls to Cape Town

from £745

22 days

Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe

Experience the incredible diversity of Southern Africa, try your hand at white water rafting & bungy jumping at Victoria Falls...

Savanna Dawn Nairobi to Victoria Falls

from £1145

34 days

Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe

Get up close to the amazing wildlife in the Serengeti National park, chill out on the white sandy beaches of...

Law & Human Rights Internships in Cape Town

from £790

21 - 168 days

South Africa

Cape Town is a fantastic destination for an international internship - a vibrant and bustling city with business, medical and...

Journalism & Public Relations Internships

from £920

28 - 168 days

South Africa

Cape Town is a fantastic destination for an international internship - a vibrant and bustling city with diverse business and...

Find more South Africa travel inspiration

[contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact form 1"]