Backpacking South Africa: Where to find the most stunning scenery

Gap Year in Southern Africa

Located on the southern tip of the Africa continent lies sun soaked sandy beaches; lush, craggy mountains; and remote, serene desert dunes – South Africa teems with diversity and offers astonishing opportunity for exploration and adventure.

Tips for a Gap Year in South AfricaBest things to do in South Africa


South Africa offers one of the finest safari destinations not only on the continent but in the world. Experience the idyllic and remote national parks and game reserves in an area home to all of Africa’s Big Five – Lion, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Rhino and Leopard. Whether you’re wanting to experience a remote and barren landscape or a lush, green savannah teaming with wildlife, you are guaranteed to find something to quell your adventurous side!

If you’re dead set on visiting a national park or game reserve, and, to be honest, if you’re visiting South Africa it should be at the top of your list of things to do, why not give something back whilst you are there. There’s perhaps only one thing better than visiting a game reserve, and that’s becoming part of the team and helping with a reserves extensive and vital conservation work. Here at Gapforce we run programs that offer you the chance to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty! Our unique Game Reserve Volunteering program takes you to a working private game reserve, where you live and work on site, actively helping with the effort to protect endangered species and reduce the human impact on the environment. For more information on this program, and ones like it, check out the program page linked above or contact the team on


South Africa’s varied landscape and ever-changing terrain means it is the perfect playground for outdoor adventures. From rock-climbing on the boulders of Cederberg; surfing the legendary right-hand break at Jeffrey’s Bay; abseiling from the summit of Table Mountain; swimming with sharks (albeit in a cage!) off the coast near Cape Town; or bungee jumping from Bloukrans Bridge at a height of 216 meters, South Africa has ample opportunity for high-octane adventurous activities. The only limitation is the duration of your trip!

History & Culture

Although famous for its stunning scenery and biodiversity, it would seem wrong to visit South Africa without exposing yourself to its vibrant culture and learning about its turbulent history. Visiting the countless museums in Johannesburg, such as those on Constitution Hill, will give you a unique insight into the often-fractious history of the country and eye-opening accounts of those who experienced it first-hand. Although not light-hearted, if you can plan a trip over to Robben Island you will visit one of the most historically significant locations in Africa, and maybe even the world.

When is the best time to visit South Africa?

South Africa is most certainly a year-round destination. Whatever the season, and whatever the weather, its diversity and size mean that you will always find somewhere that meets your needs. If you are looking to avoid the crowds, visit South Africa between May and September, the weather is slightly warmer, and the wildlife is out for all to see. Visiting during the peak season, November to March, brings bustling and lively cities but packed beaches and higher prices for safaris and accommodation.

In summary, and like with so many global travel destinations, there really is no bad time to visit South Africa. All you need to do is decide whether you want to experience the lively bustle of the cities and beaches or enjoy a safari and remote game reserve all to yourself. There’s no wrong answer!

Understanding the different regions of South Africa

Ranging from vibrant cities and the splashing together of two oceans, to vast, sandy deserts and vineyard clad mountains, the regions of South Africa are as disparate as they are beautiful. Visiting the colonial influenced Western Cape you’ll see its historic architecture, ancient woodland, vineyard covered valleys, sunny beaches and mountain passes. A visit to the more remote and often ignored Eastern Cape gives you a truly ‘African’ experience. Here you can still find traditional African villages whilst visiting an area that was affected by Apartheid perhaps more than anywhere else in South Africa. If you want to get off the beaten track, then heading east might be the way to go!

If you are planning a trip to explore the Eastern Cape, Gapforce runs a program a few hours north of Johannesburg in the Marakele National Park. Our Conservation Management Training Course lets you train as a field guide whist living and working in the remote and beautiful Eastern Cape. Successful graduates leave with a professional qualification authorised by the Field Guides Association of South Africa (FGASA) and valuable knowledge of the history, culture, plants, wildlife and geology of the Marakele National Park. For more information about this exciting new Gapforce training course, check out the program page or email us on

For advice on planning a trip to South Africa or if you would like to book a place on the trips we run in country, please get in touch with one of our team in the office.

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