Tourist Attractions of the Western Cape
Tourist Attractions of South Africa
South Africa is a vast and extremely fascinating country that packs a powerful tourist punch. Few countries can match it for variety and diversity in attractions, activities and cultural groups. From art and history to food and wine, wildlife and nature, nightlife, shopping and even places of worship – there is so much on offer to attract, entice and entertain.
The Western Cape with its mountains and oceans offers scenery that has inspired thousands of descriptions. It has great beaches, World Heritage sites, romantic winelands and museums that celebrate a rich cultural heritage. You can’t talk about a trip to Cape Town without discussing the fabulous cuisine and shopping options that draw tourists time and time again.
Gauteng’s brash exterior belies its depth, uncovered at numerous cultural and historical attractions. Places like Constitution Hill, the Apartheid Museum and Soweto feature alongside chi-chi restaurants, funky galleries, shopping malls and fascinating visits to the Cradle of Humankind, where all our stories began.
In Mpumalanga you’ll find a host of nature-related attractions, arts and crafts outlets, country towns, cultural villages and stupendous scenery along the well-known Panorama route. Of course one of the major attractions is the world-famous Kruger National Park.
Limpopo shares this wildlife sanctuary - the size of a small country - and has many of its own nature reserves. It also boasts the fascinating Mapungubwe, where once an ancient kingdom developed a field of influence that spread beyond the continent. Intriguing groups such as the Venda and the Balobedu still practise culturally-rich traditions in the far north of this region.
The North West is all about Sun City, and the Pilanesberg and Madikwe Game Reserves, but don’t forget the mampoer farms and the idiosyncrasies of the Marico, the cultural mélange at Lesedi on the shores of the Hartebeespoort Dam or the little town of Taung where the famous skull of the same name was discovered. From the Margaret Roberts Herbal Farm (De Wildt) to Sol Plaaitje’s house in Mafikeng, there’s much to explore.
Immense skies and enormous spaces characterise the Northern Cape, along with attractions such as the Big Hole in Kimberley, the Loeriesfontein Windmill Museum and the myths and legends as taught by the ancient San. The Augrabies Falls National Park, the Ais/Ais Richtersveld National Park and the Riemvasmaak community all offer interesting experiences and insights.
KwaZulu-Natal has its own brand of uniqueness when it comes to tourist attractions. Here you can visit a Hare Krishna temple in Durban, pay your respects at the Battlefields in the Midlands, come face to face with Zulu culture and celebrate some of the finest beaches along the Indian Ocean coastline. Sunny year-round, the province has great places to shop, eat, and discover.
The Eastern Cape is a place of rich heritage and struggle sites. Here historic monuments find their place alongside fun aquariums and beachside establishments. Malaria-free game sanctuaries and numerous nature reserves thrill adventure-seekers and nature-lovers.
Small towns and homegrown hospitality are the distinctive attributes of the Free State. Visit the Basotho Cultural Village on the way to the spectacular Golden Gate National Park, visit the Choet Visser Rugby Museum in Bloemfontein or the Fertility Caves (outside Clarens). Make your way to the fun galleries of Clarens, feast visually on the sandstone sights of Ficksburg and drink in the fascinating history of the provincial capital, Bloemfontein.
Wherever you go around the country, you’re bound to find a fun attraction, a moving museum, a great place to enjoy the local vibes. Enjoy surfing the Nightjar site for the best attractions on offer in each of the provinces.
Articles & Blogs
Clanwilliam Cedar Tree Planting Ceremony3:32pm 17 Jun
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat (Bushmans Kloof), in association with The TreadRight Foundation, CapeNature and the local Heuningvlei community, once again pulled out all the stops to host the 16th Annual Clanwilliam Cedar Tree Planting Ceremony.
At the event held on 19 May 2018, 380 trees were planted in the rural village of Heuningvlei. Around 200 conservationists, school children and families from all over the Western Cape, joined this unique conservation initiative aimed at preserving the endangered Clanwilliam Cedar Tree (Widdringtonia...
Linger Longer9:55pm 1 May
Words Fiona McIntosh, pics Shaen Adey
A Cape bulbul hops along the balcony rail eyeing me as I lie in bed. It’s clearly an admonishment. The sky is pink, there’s no wind. I should be up to experience daybreak. But I feel disinclined to rush. I’ve been appreciating the dawn chorus and the crash of the breaking waves from my comfy bed. There’s an uninterrupted view through the open flaps of my tent across coastal thicket to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s been a long time since I slept so soundly.
I’m staying at Slangkop tented camp in Kommetjie, in one of six tented dwellings hidden in...
Quenching Thirst in Kammanassie9:55pm 24 Apr
CapeNature’s Kammanassie Nature Reserve(KNR) in the Klein Karoo, between Uniondale and Oudtshoorn have been very concerned about the possibility of animals dying of thirst. Fountains, rivers and streams have dried up due to the severe drought caused inter alia by climate change.
Many farmers have been left with no other choice but to accept water from neighbouring farms to assist.
Amongst the animals in dire need is the precious herd of 42 Cape mountain zebras in the reserve. The small population in Kammanassie Nature Reserve is one of three relict Cape mountain zebra...
CapeNature Waterwise3:02pm 17 Apr
CapeNature is committed to using as little water as possible in all its existing tourism offerings. Over the last 5 years the Public institution implemented preventative measures on its reserves through innovative water saving technologies.
As guardians of the Western Cape’s precious natural resources, CapeNature focuses on developing nature-based recreational tourism products by leveraging natural assets in such a way that protected areas become sought after tourist destinations and balanced conservation spaces. CapeNature’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Razeena Omar says “The...
Hope for Hottentot Buttonquail6:36pm 17 Oct
By Dale Wright
It seems Agulhas National Park may be a stronghold for the enigmatic Hottentot buttonquail, an endangered species hardly ever seen by anyone.
The Hottentot buttonquail Turnix hottentottus is one of the least frequently recorded resident and breeding terrestrial birds in the country. Birders will likely know very well how difficult it is to find this species, which prefers skulking through the undergrowth rather than flitting around for all to see.
Hanging with Penguins3:03pm 25 Dec
Words Rebekah Funk, pic Eileen Vermeulen
Braying penguins lined the rocky crags in their hundreds, spilling over onto unfenced lands not yet contained within CapeNature’s newly inducted conservation reserve, Stony Point. They are all too happy to photobomb tourist selfies and strut confidently across “Do not pass” signs. Within 1,5 hours of Cape Town, near the Overberg coastal town of Betty’s Bay, you too can be at the largest breeding colony of African penguins in the world.
Amble along suspended boardwalks over penguin turf, take in the sights and smells of the sea, read the...
Cederberg Sojourn6:41pm 29 May
Words Magriet Kruger, pics Alessandro Bonora
There’s a tribe of people for whom the name Algeria calls up the very best memories. Swimming in the soft, clear water of the Rondegat River. Hiking in the burnt orange mountains with their fragrant fynbos and curious rock formations. Looking up at a velvet sky dusted with stars at night.
For years this paradise was the almost exclusive playground of campers. Now six modern and superbly comfortable cottages have been built a little uphill from the campsite. Conveniently close to the swimming hole and Algeria’s wonderful walks,...
Back to the Big Blue7:09pm 29 Mar
Words Renee Leeuwner and Ingrid Sinclair, Pics Jacques Marais
In December 2015, the Two Oceans Aquarium’s turtle rehab-and-release team along with a number of photographers, filmmakers and ocean ambassadors travelled south from Hout Bay to release 57 turtles, big and small, into the warmer waters of the ocean off Cape Point.
Two Oceans Aquarium Curator Maryke Musson, Senior Aquarists Kevin Spiby and Nicholas Nicolle, Aquarist Pinda Dlodlo, Digital Content Coordinator Ingrid...
Rising from the Ashes9:22pm 17 Nov
Words and pics Sean Privett
In March this year the Cape Peninsula was ablaze. Newspaper headlines read death, destruction and barren post-fire landscapes. Yet it is through fire that our amazing fynbos landscapes are revitalised, rejuvenated and explode back into life.
During the first week of March 2015 a huge wild-fire burnt across the southern Cape Peninsula. An area of some 5,000 hectares was burnt, stretching from the slopes of Muizenberg on the Indian Ocean side of the Peninsula across and down to the Atlantic coastline near Hout Bay. Immediately...
Rock Your Socks Off7:10pm 29 Sep
Words & pics Shaen Adey
Tomorrow 150 walkers will start their 53km hike to the annual Rocking the Daisies festival. Shaen Adey reflects on this journey, designed to highlight sustainable practices and reduce the festival’s carbon footprint.
There was a buzz of excitement in the air when I arrived at Blouberg, just north of Cape Town. And despite being double their average age, I soon fitted in with the happy youngsters. The dress sense was creative with skimpy clothing, flowers, balloons and a dab of face paint adding to the already sunny scene. We could...
Meerkats in the Mist8:03pm 2 Aug
Words Hilary Prendini Toffoli, pics Hetty Zantman
‘They might look cute but they’re vicious little creatures. Take no nonsense from nobody. Did you ever see the movie, Gremlins? That’s these chaps’
The British TV documentary series Meerkat Manor was a wildlife soap opera. A best seller. I loved it. The four series depicting the family life and tribal battles of a band of Kalahari meerkats ran over three years, won a host of awards, and entranced viewers in 160 countries.
At the heart of it was a meerkat family known as the Whiskers. It had...
Constantiaberg Conflagration9:30am 11 Mar
Fires have ravaged Cape Town this last week, starting from Boyes Drive (where a cigarette tossed from a car apparently started the problem) and spreading with the help of the strong South Easterly winds to Clovelly, Noordhoek and Hout Bay through Muizenberg and Constantiaberg. This is a photograph taken on 3rd March after sunset, of the Constantiaberg conflagration. The Groot/Klein Constantia wine farms are on the right-hand side, the Tokai plantations in the middle and Zwaanswyk on the left. f/9, ISO-500, 10 sec exposure with a 24mm wide-angle lens and a tripod. The Cape Town...
Rare Red-footed Booby spotted on Lambert’s Bay Bird Island6:12pm 17 Feb
Lambert’s Bay Bird Island welcomed a rare visitor to its shores late last year when a Red-footed Booby was spotted on the island, largely inhabited by up to 17,000 Cape gannets.
The Red-footed Booby is usually restricted to the open ocean with a Pantropical distribution, meaning it occurs in a band between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn right around the earth.
CapeNature Ornithologist, Kevin Shaw, observed: “This is a very rare sighting in the Western Cape. It is possibly only the second recorded individual of this species ever...
Baboon! A Photo Essay9:55pm 22 Oct
Words & pics by Mama Nightjar
Lookout! Predator! (Above)
The wise old sentry sits atop his vantage point and cries his message to all who can hear.
Predator? Better check this out…
Keen to assert themselves in the pack, the younger, more adventurous baboons decide that this predator needs further inspection.
Advance the troops!
Feeling confident about their superior size and numbers, the baboons form up on their adversary...
The Land Before Time9:55pm 16 Oct
Words Jade Cooke, Pics Alfred Lor, Gallo/Getty images
Gondwana Game Reserve may be less than a decade old, but careful rehabilitation and conservation measures have sent this precious slice of the Garden Route back through the years to when hide and hair ruled the landscape.
‘Just ring for an escort if you come to dinner after dark,’ says Linda, who’s showing us around Gondwana’s Kwena Lodge. ‘A few weeks ago, we had lions sitting over there.’ She gestures to the long grass disturbingly close to the footpath.
‘Don’t we need an escort during the day...
Garden Route Roadtrip9:30am 9 Oct
Garden Route Roadtrip
It was the best season to travel the N2 east. Spring. Farm stalls and distant coastlines are too numerous to count on this stretch just before the Garden Route, but what caught my eye was simpler than that. Like an expertly made sandwich, the country is spread with greens and yellow and brown only shows itself now and again. Or a sea of greens with yellow sun reflecting off of it… except the land is still and the only waves are far-off blue mountains. The canola fields are mature during the first weeks of Spring and their bright yellow flowers...
Waddle you do for the African Penguin?9:55pm 7 Oct
Words Fiona McIntosh, pics Shaen Adey/SANParks/SANCCOB
Saturday 11 October is African Penguin Awareness Day - a day dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of the endangered African penguin. SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) and numerous other local and international organisations, zoos and aquariums throughout the world will join forces in an effort to save the only penguin species to occur naturally on the African continent.
The Simon’s Town Penguin Festival is a chance get up close and personal with the charismatic...
5 Fun Facts about Whale Watching in Cape Town6:30am 1 Oct
5 Fun Facts about Whale Watching in Cape Town
Alessandro Candotti for Cape Town Tourism
Did you know that there are whale songs in space? As whale season in Cape Town approaches its glorious whaling crescendo, we bring you 5 fun facts on whale watching here in our beloved Western Cape.
Ready! Set! Go!
The best places to watch whales from June to November along the Whale Route, which spans along the coastline passing Gordon’s Bay, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay en route to Hermanus....
If You Go Down to the Woods…10:31pm 28 Sep
Words & pics David Shreeve
If you go down to the woods… you’ll meet a couple so passionate about trees they bought a forest.
In this case, it was a 50-hectare spread of indigenous trees called Platbos, between the villages of Stanford and Gansbaai in the Western Cape’s Overberg. Melissa and Francois Krige were smitten.
Not many people know about Platbos. Somewhat isolated, it is surrounded by alien vegetation and farm land, but it contains 13 species of indigenous Afromontane and coastal forest trees like those found around Knysna (the Outeniqua forests have...
Stick Insects - Phasmatodea6:30am 31 Jul
Stick Insects - Phasmatodea
These little guys are quite common but remarkably well hidden, so the eagle-eyed will know them well but if you bumble through the brush like I do, you might only have seen one or two. Lucky me then, that he wandered right into the house - or perhaps was blown in, given the winds this year - and negated all his camouflage! These goggas - phasmatodea according to my sources - are fynbos and grass feeders. The males have beautiful wings but are not long distance flyers. Although they enjoy a patch of sunlight, they are nocturnal. Do...