Backpacking in South Africa on a Gap Year

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Why go?

A Gap Year in South Africa

Backpacking in South Africa is amazing. That's all you need to know.

You want more? Alright, fine. South Africa is a diverse, multi-cultural, and generally multi-awesome gap year destination. There's been a backpacking trail there for ages, but there still remains plenty to discover. It caters for both traditional gap years and more ambitious itineraries. So you can take your pick of seeing Africa's Big Five of elephants, lions, buffaloes, rhinos, and leopards; visiting lush green coastline as a beachbum or surfer; quality nightlife in Cape Town and Durban; barbeques and beers wherever you are in the country; oh, and let's not forget that South Africa is fanatical about sport.

Table Mountain, South Africa

The cities

The most popular starting points for a gap year in South Africa are Cape Town or Durban. The former sits in the shadow of iconic Table Mountain, and is well-known for beaches, surfing, vibrant nightlife, and its proximity to numerous natural parks and wonders. Durban has much of the above, coupling it with a toasty subtropical climate and adding theme parks, casinos, and sports stadiums galore.

Johannesburg is steeped in culture, boasting plentiful museums and galleries, and serves as a great waypoint on a trip to Kruger National Park. You can also visit picturesque Pretoria, or stop at Port Elizabeth on a trip along the Garden Route.

Zebras in South Africa

The scenery

One of the main reasons that travelling to South Africa is so popular is the opportunity to go on safari and see the Big Five. Kruger National Park is a huge game reserve that offers a massive range of opportunities to see wild animals, including elephants, lions, rhinos, zebra, and a ridiculous amount more. It's truly a visit you'll never forget.

Elsewhere there's Tsitsikamma National Park, a coastal reserve with deep forests and dramatic coastline that also offers extreme activities like bungee jumping, the otherworldly Paarl Mountain, the breathtaking Blyde River Canyon, or the barren desert mountainland of Richtersveld. South Africa really does have an embarrassment of natural riches.

Amazing scenery in South Africa

South Africa basically has everything you could want of a backpacking destination, so frankly we don't know what you're still doing here.


Get Wild in South Africa

The diversity of South Africa means you can set up for backpacking adventure pretty much any way you want. You can take your time and see it at your own pace, take part in organised tours to make sure you don't miss anything, make it a long stop on a wider gap year, or settle down and engage with rewarding volunteer opportunities. South Africa is your oyster.

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Advice on Backpacking in South Africa

Not sure what to do while you're in South Africa? We've got loads of stuff here to help you plan your trip, work out what you can and can't do and make sure your trip is as safe and fun as it possibly can be. There's information on local languages and some basic vocabulary that'll make your stay easier and much more enjoyable, or details on what currency you should take and even some key facts and famous people. There's a lot more to South African celebs than just Nelson Mandela!

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