We know that South Africa is a tourist haven with a variety of spots that are globally renowned, such as the Kruger National Park, Table Mountain, God’s Window and more. With so much on offer, some spots are gems but are often not as well known for adventure, leisure, entertainment, nature and history. Read on to find out more about some of these gems.
Debengeni Falls, Limpopo
Surrounded by the dense forests of Magoebaskloof, Debengeni Falls (Debengi meaning ‘place of pots’ in Sesotho) is a lush spot for a picnic or to cool off – particularly if you hike the Magoebaskloof trails.
For eco enthusiasts, there is an expansive array of birdlife and more than 40 species of indigenous trees that surround the Debengeni Falls.
Cautionary note: There are no lifeguards on duty and the floor of the crystal pools can be a bit slippery.
Phiphidi Falls, Limpopo
Phiphidi Falls is considered a sacred site for the Venda people. The Ramunangi clan, acknowledged as the traditional custodians of Phiphidi Waterfall, use the site to communicate with ancestral water spirits who inhabit the area.
The river, waterfalls and surrounding forest are all considered sacred by the Venda people, with LanwaDzongolo (the rock above the waterfall) and Guvhukuvhu (the pool below) being particularly sacred. The waterfall forms part of the Savannah biome biosphere, which is home to a variety of plant and animal species.
Unfortunately over the years, the site has been tampered with due to developments without consultation with the Ramunangi clan. If you visit the site, it is advisable to contact local guides and travel companies who work with the Ramunangi people to ensure that the site is treated with the respect it deserves and remains a place of purity and retains its authenticity.
Echo Caves, border of Limpopo and Mpumalanga
Declared a national monument, Echo Caves offers adventure, history, geology and much more all in one. The cave contains several speleothem structures (speleothem is a geological formation caused by mineral deposits over time) of which some are hollow stalactites which when hammered create echoes that ring throughout the cave.
There are a variety of chambers to explore, including Madonna, Elephant, Crocodile and Crystal.
Shangana Cultural Village, Mpumalanga
Nestled between the Blyde River Canyon and the Kruger National Park, guests have the opportunity to experience the traditional Shangaan way of life.
Surrounded by forests and grasslands, there is something for everyone, from nature, culture, history and dining (can include special traditional cuisine such as crocodile and mopani worms). There is also a marketplace where visitors can peruse and purchase handmade goods from local craftspeople.
Dinosaur Tours, Free State
Situated in the picturesque town of Clarens, the Dinosaur Tours is a journey of exploration of a bygone era. With numerous fossil sightings coupled with informative geological history talks, this is an adventure suited to all ages.
Naude’s Neck Pass, Eastern Cape
Naude’s Neck Pass is one of the highest mountain roads in SA, offering stellar scenic views. It’s definitely a drive off the beaten track so to speak, with gravel roads that provide a variety of bends. Cautionary note: it is a challenging drive and extra care is required in wet conditions.
Blindekloof Trail, Eastern Cape
The Blindekloof Trail (about 16km), near Kariega (previously known as Uitenhage) cuts through forest, streams and pools – a perfect day for outdoor adventurers.
Magersfontein Battlefield, Northern Cape
For history buffs a trip to the Magersfontein Battlefield about 30km from Kimberly is a treat. A battle took place in December 1899, during the Second South African War between the Boers and the British where the Boers claimed victory. Visitors can undertake tours of the battlefield in addition to visiting the museum, which contains a variety of historical artifacts and multi-media displays.
Mzamba Fossils and Petrified Forest, KwaZulu-Natal
The incredible Petrified Forest has great hikes among the trees, which were washed downriver and deposited in the area millions of years ago. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the forest which includes viewing the Mzamba fossils, a series of marine fossil beds exposed along the prominent reefs near the Mzamba River.
South Coast Shipwrecks, KwaZulu-Natal
With its extensive yet treacherous coastline, the waters off the KZN South Coast are home to many shipwrecks with shoreline museums sharing the fates of these intrepid travellers. Visitors can peruse the ancient relics at the Port Shepstone Maritime Museum or take a stroll around the Sao Joao Portuguese Monument in Port Edward, which tells the tales of the 1552 Sao Joao shipwreck. Other shipwrecks divers can explore include the Uni XII in Pennington, the Nevonia 1934 in Umzumbe, the Nightingale 1933 in Palm Beach, the Ivy 1876 in Glenmore, and the Sao Bento 154 in Port Edward.
Weza Forest, KwaZulu-Natal
Inland within the forestry plantation is the iconic Ingeli Mountain, at the foot of which is the beautiful Weza Forest nature reserve – also known as Ingeli Forest. Visitors can either enjoy a scenic walk, birding or go biking along the trails, looking out for baboons, Vervet and Samango monkeys and tree dassies.