The 3 most underrated places in SA - according to South Africans’ road tripping their own country
by Julia Evans on May 13, 2021
When most people think of traveling South Africa, they think of going to the Kruger National Park, Cape Town or maybe road tripping the garden route. As one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, South Africa has a lot more to offer.
With limited travel options during the pandemic and a limited budget, two recent varsity graduates Tam and Matt, decided to road trip around their home country for three months.
“We put together what we could on an affordable budget, but we were completely blown away by how amazing South Africa actually is,” says Tam.
“We’ve seen mountains and said that’s just like Switzerland, we’ve seen cliffs and said oh that’s just like Ireland and river mouths and said that’s just like Thailand.
“I think we go to the same few places and we think we’ve seen South Africa. But there’s actually so many different things in our country, and it’s easy to get there and affordable and so beautiful.”
They say you should be a tourist in your own city, but how about in you own country?
With that said, here are three underrated and off the grid places Tam and Matt recommend:
1. Namaqua National Park (Northern Cape)
Forming part of the Succulent Karoo Biome in the Northern Cape, Namaqua National Park is one of the most off the grid vacations you can take. The park is famous for its wildflowers that blossom in spring, but you can also 4X4 the caracal eco route, enjoy snorkeling in the tidal pools, walk on the beach and birdwatch in the semi-desert terrain.
You can camp meters away from the Atlantic ocean – completely off the grid with no electricity, running water or ablutions (only an enviro-loo). You won’t see anyone else during your stay (or get in contact with them, as there’s only signal at the reception).
If camping isn’t your thing, you can stay in a secluded chalet at the Skilpad Rest Camp.
2. Mbotyi on the Wild Coast (Eastern Cape)
In the region of Pondoland on the Wild Coast, Mboyti boasts rugged hills, lush forests, cascading waterfalls and a tidal estuary that runs into the Indian ocean.
You can stay at Mbotyi River Lodge and fill your day by birdwatching in the indigenous forest of Ntsubane, visiting one of the world’s largest tea plantations (Magwa Tea Plantation), canoeing in the lagoon, mountain biking through forests and grasslands or hiking to the famous Waterfall Bluff, which falls directly into the sea.
This area is untouched by tourists and is one of Tam and Matt’s favourite locations out of the 7 500 km they’ve travelled so far, “the Transkei has honestly shocked us with its untouched natural beauty. Exploring these little villages has been so interesting - so different from a lot of the ‘commercial’ travelling we’ve done so far on this trip” via their Instagram @caravanwithoutaplan
3. Bruintjieskraal by the Baviaanskloof Wildnerness Area (Eastern Cape)
You can either camp along the banks of the Grootrivier (this one comes with ablutions and running water don’t worry) or you can stay in the comfortable Glencoe Self Catering Chalets at the base of the Kouga mountains.
No matter where you stay, you can explore the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area by hiking or mountain biking the Kouga mountains, swimming or fishing in the river, enjoying the wildlife or 4X4ing to the small and idyllic town of Patensie.
“It was magical,” says Tam, “just Matt and I and the river by ourselves, with no signal, just reading books and lying in the sun and swimming.”
Those are just three places in South Africa that you probably didn’t know about. While international travel is restricted, what better time is there to find out what other hidden gems your country has to offer?
“Everyone always wants to travel overseas and thinks the grass is greener on the other side,” says Tam. “But really, if you’ve said that then you haven’t gone traveling around your country. There’s so much to offer, so many beautiful things and untouched parts of the country that you can’t see anywhere else.”
All images are credited to Tam Adendorff and Matthew De Jager -
Follow them along on their adventures: Instagram @caravanwithoutaplan