The 10 Best Adventure Travel Experiences in Southern Africa
Why do we travel? Why do we get off our couches, pack our bags, leave our homes and fling ourselves to the far corners of the world? Writers and philosophers have been thinking about this for centuries. One of the big reasons is that we want to see something, and feel something, different. And if it’s that sense of excitement feeling you’re after, then adventure travel is for you.
Nothing can spike the heart rate like a close encounter on foot with a member of the Big Five or sleeping in the African wilderness while listening to a yapping hyena close by. Here’s the other thing: if it’s adventure travel you’re after, then a trip to Africa is what you want.
Here is our pick of the top 10 best experiences of that breathtaking variety, you’ll find on this magnificent continent.
1. Scenic Desert Dunes Helicopter Flight
Head to the skies, with the doors removed, for a spectacular flight over the Namib Sea Sand (declared a natural World Heritage Site). You’ll soar over the Bird Sanctuary, past the lagoon and salt fields, through the Kuiseb River Basin – where there’s a chance to spot animal life – and alongside the coast until you reach the famous Sandwich Harbour.
2. Plettenberg Ocean Safari
This ecological adventure starts with an exciting launch from Central Beach, then whisks you across the ocean where you may encounter bottlenose dolphins, the rare Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and some shark species. In season, you may spot Bryde’s whales, southern right whales, humpback whales and common dolphins. Around the Robberg Peninsula, the ocean gets even wilder, with additional sightings of whales and dolphin pods on offer.
3. Kayak & Lilo Storms River Gorge
Known as ‘The Most Beautiful Adventure In South Africa’, this three-hour adventure is all about river exploration. You’ll make your way up the Storms River Gorge in a kayak, exploring the long, quiet pools and deep caves – surrounded by ancient indigenous forests – as you paddle. You’ll also venture into a section of the river that can’t be reached by boat on your inflatable lilo.
4. Tsitsikamma Snorkelling Adventure
Explore the breathtaking reefs of the Storms River Mouth, together with an expert guide, as you snorkel in this Indian Ocean wonderland. You’ll marvel at the medley of colours of the flourishing marine species beneath the surface, chase fish over the reefs and spot rays on the bed of the ocean – then come to the surface and marvel at the forest and mountain views from the ocean.
5. Lion Sands Treehouses
One of the iconic safari experiences, Lion Sands in Kruger National Park, South Africa offers you the chance to spend the night in a luxury treehouse. The expanse of the stars and night sounds of the bush will linger in your memory for a long time to come. This is ideal for the hopeless romantic or adventure-seeking family, looking to reconnect with mother nature. Pack an overnight bag and set off to experience the ultimate bush bedroom. You’ll be dropped off by your guide, left with an emergency radio and served dinner as the sun sets over the plains and sounds of the bushveld soothe your soul.
6. Kosi Bay Multi-Day Hike
This unforgettable expedition features hiking, snorkelling and turtles in a sub-tropical paradise in South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal province. Most of the exploring of this diverse conservancy is on foot, where four interconnected lakes and an estuary open out into the warm Indian Ocean.
7. Shamwari Explorer Camp
The fact that this guided walking safari adventure is malaria-free means that it’s ideal for families. Taking a back-to-basics approach, this experience harks back to a bygone era, when exploration, adventure and getting up close and personal with nature were the defining spirit of a safari. Your home for the night is a tented bush camp, located on a plateau set amongst the only basalt and granite extrusions on Shamwari and makes for a truly magical setting.
8. The Makgadikgadi Salt Pan Sleepout
Extraordinary in every way, this experience will see you sleep under the stars on the vast Makgadikgadi Salt Pan, where endless horizons and an enormous night sky play host to a stunning starry spectacle. Here, with a dedicated guide by your side, you’ll find peace, stillness, fireside meals, adventure stories and a life-enriching night under a blanket of stars. For the ultimate arrival, journey to the pans by helicopter on a 30-minute flight.
9. My Beautiful Home Bicycle Ride
On this well-plotted and carefully planned cycle route through villages and rural homes in the Matopos, you will pedal along village paths that connect typical traditional African homesteads. Using materials that nature provides, the locals have built themselves beautiful, styled and decorated huts – by hand. This is home, a haven where children are raised, meals are prepared, and proud residents will share their culture and home fires with you – a place where the warm heart and soul of Zimbabwe burn bright.
10. A Fat Bike Desert Tour
Experience the breathtaking scenery of the oldest desert in the world in an ecological and sustainable way by riding up along the top of dunes in your specially modified Fat Bike. This Namibian tour will see you enjoy vast views of desert, sea and land – and is for both the scenic appreciator and adrenaline-seeking adventurer. This thrilling, scenic desert trip is around 13 kilometres long and includes cycling from Swakopmund town centre, along the dry Swakop riverbed and up and down the dunes.
Africa has no shortage of adventure experiences and we know all of the best ones. If you’re ready to start planning your adventure trip to Southern Africa, get in touch with one of our expert travel curators today and we’ll help you create your adventure trip of a lifetime.
We’re based in Southern Africa and have first-hand knowledge of the experiences that await our travellers.
All the experiences and destinations we recommend support their communities and environment.
Our goal is to connect curious-minded travellers to the essence of the place they’re visiting.
We specialise in showing our travellers how to discover unique, locally-infused experiences.
Our bespoke journeys feature stylish, owner-run properties in exceptional locations.
Our consultants are widely travelled and vastly experienced, with expert knowledge of Southern Africa.