Nothing says heritage quite like the magnificent landscapes of South Africa, which make you feel like you’re part of something grand. Why not tick a few of Mother Nature’s age-old wonders off your bucket list? Here are South Africa’s top seven natural wonders according to Wild.
The Orange River unleashes a mighty roar as it descends the 56-metre drop into the terracotta-coloured canyon at Augrabies Falls National Park. Its rock formations are home to families of dassie and the nests of Verreaux’s eagles, and unique flora scattered throughout the park make for breathtaking hikes.
When you find yourself close to the Namibian border and just shy of Upington, make sure you stop and stand on top of this incredible gorge. Better yet, book a romantic night at the gravity-defying Oranjekom Gorge Cottage.
On the plateau of Royal Natal National Park’s highest peak, you’ll find the source of the ribbon-like Tugela Falls — the world’s second-highest waterfall with a drop of 948m over five falls.
The area around the falls is a hiker’s paradise, with various trails ranging from average to strenuous. Choose the Sentinel Trail, follow the river upstream, or go the chain-ladders route (not for the faint at heart!). On the Amphitheatre Slackpacking Trail, you’ll spend three days and nights immersed in the majestic Drakensberg mountains.
For guided hikes, contact: Ezemvelo Central Reservations on +27 (0)33 845 1000, email [email protected]
Tree ferns, creepers, fungi, flowers, oh my! These, and more flora, lay covered under a canopy of trees that span 568 square kilometres on the Western Cape’s Garden Route.
The Knysna Forest is rich with birdlife and a variety of creatures; some, like the nearly-extinct Knysna Elephant, have an air of mystery. While ellies once roamed the forest in large herds, the last sighting was of a 45-year-old female called Oupoot photographed by camera traps in early 2019. Sadly, experts believe Oupoot might be the only elephant left in Knysna’s woods.
Walk in the footsteps of these gentle giants in the cool shadows of Garden Route National Park‘s yellowwood trees, then head for the beach or the equally-as-rewarding Tsitsikamma and Wilderness sections of the park.
Valley of Desolation
While desolation can sound quite eerie, the landscape of the Valley of Desolation is the furthest thing from it — the 120 metres of dolerite rising from its floor are the result of erosion and volcanic forces over more than 100 million years.
Situated in Camdeboo National Park (a stone’s throw from the little town of Graaff-Reinet), the valley is anything but ‘desolate’. The endangered Cape mountain zebra, kudu, buffalo and other animals, plus 220 recorded birdlife species, call this valley home.
It’s no wonder Table Mountain makes the cut on our list of natural wonders — the national park has the richest single floristic area on the planet!
At 260 million years, it’s one of the oldest mountains in the world (beating the likes of the Andes and Himalayas), so you could say this icon’s credentials make it a mountain worth admiring.
Get to the top via the cableway or exercise those leg muscles and hike one of its many routes for some of the best panoramic views in the world.
Regarded as a birding paradise, Langebaan Lagoon is self-sustaining, shaped by the ocean’s tide. It’s one of only three lagoons in the world that doesn’t have any fresh water flowing into it, yet the nutrient-rich waters are host to rich marine life.
Just 100km north of Cape Town in the West Coast National Park, this is the ideal destination for a relaxing day trip or weekend getaway. Its white dunes, unbounded waves and rare fynbos make it paradise for hikers, cyclists and nature lovers. Don’t miss a trip in spring, you’ll be treated to a colourful display of wildflowers on your drive.
Natural and man-made artwork is everywhere you look in the Drakensberg. With gigantic peaks and rolling hills, the dramatic mountain range makes it difficult to gauge where heavens and mountain meet.
The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a World Heritage site and protected transfrontier area, with dramatic sandstone and basaltic rock formations, and some of the largest water catchments for South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho. In Zulu, its name uKhahlamba means “Barrier of Spears” and the mountains form a semi-circular border between these two nations.
But look a little closer at its rocky walls and you’ll see the world’s largest gallery of San rock art — a national treasure. This indigenous group lived in the area for more than 4,000 years, during which time they painted upwards of 35,000 to 40,000 images.
Just two hours from Durban and four from Gauteng, ticking this place off your heritage bucket list is not only a must, but convenient as well.