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This summer, I had the most amazing and unforgettable experience; one that I hope everyone in their lifetime will be able to have. From historically rich culture, to wildlife, to beautiful cities and delicious foods, South Africa is a country I encourage everyone to put on their bucket lists.

I have put together a collection of five things I recommend you must do if you ever visit South Africa, in hopes that you will hurry and plan that trip!

  1. Visit a Safari
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The first thing that comes to mind when you think of South Africa is wildlife. The country is known for the many species of animals both large and small, many of which can only be found there. My family and I stayed at the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve, where we followed a simple schedule of a morning safari, breakfast, an afternoon safari, lunch, an evening safari and then dinner. During our three day stay at Sabi Sabi, we were able to see the “Big 5” - the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopard, as well as many others. We were also encouraged to try new foods that we wouldn’t normally eat, such as zebra and warthog. Our tour guide for the three days named Sheldon, quickly fit in with our family, and we were absolutely intrigued by how much he knew about every animal we saw in the bush. To be able to see the animals in their natural habitats and learn how they hunt for food as well as defend themselves, as opposed to animals contained in a zoo, is such a humbling and unique experience. It’s like National Geographic … in real life.

2. Shark Cage Diving

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After spending three days at Sabi Sabi, we flew to Cape Town and spent about six more days exploring the city, during which we found ourselves preparing to go shark cage diving; also a must-do activity in South Africa. However, it’s an experience which needs a lot of mental preparing for; not because you’re going to be less than five feet away from a great white shark, but because it’s very, very, very, cold. We were put on a boat with about twenty other people and we took a ten minute boat ride to the diving location. Wetsuits were passed out to all guests; they were about 7 mm thick and supposed to keep you warm in the water, but in my opinion, they did nothing. Eight people were put in the cage at a time, the water was constantly being mixed with chum, and a decoy in the shape of a seal was attached to a string and thrown out into the water to attract the sharks around the cage. The feeling of seeing a great white shark that close is indescribable. For me, it was a bittersweet experience, I ended up getting seas sick and throwing up on the way back while freezing cold. However, it was a once in a lifetime experience that I would never want to take back.

3. Robben Island

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Another activity that is essential to do if you visit South Africa is to visit Robben Island; where Nelson Mandela went to prison for many years after being arrested for the actions he took towards trying to end the Apartheid system. On the tour of Robben Island you can visit the very cell in which Nelson Mandela was kept for many years of his life, before becoming the first black President of South Africa. The tour of Robben Island and the history of the people who were arrested is emotionally intriguing. It shows how people of color were treated during Apartheid and how far the country has come since Apartheid ended. However, it also brings awareness that racism is still an issue under the surface of South African society as well as many other places around the world. First, we took a 45 minute ferry to the island, and were given a tour of the prison as well as told details of how badly the prisoners were treated. This is an important place to visit, as Nelson Mandela is a significant historical figure, and it was very interesting to see what he fought through in order to bring freedom to his people and make a positive change in his country as well as a positive impact on history. The tour groups for Robben Island are fairly big, however, the experience is worth the crowd.

4. Wine Tasting

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While in Cape Town, we also went wine tasting; we visited three beautiful vineyards in the city and had an amazing lunch. The drinking age in South Africa is 18, so being the youngest, and coming from Jamaica, I was very happy about it. This is definitely a must-do, the beautiful scenery and luxurious atmosphere is nothing short of breathtaking.

5. Old Biscuit Mill

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Old Biscuit Mill is a food market that opens every Saturday; people from all around the city with a passion for cooking set up their stands in the market, and people from all around the city with a passion for eating, like my family and myself, can explore the market for hours enjoying numerous kind of foods. One Saturday morning, for breakfast, we went to Old Biscuit Mill; which consisted of every kind of food we could possibly think of. It is amazing to know that people with roots from all around the world are committed to join together every Saturday just to be able share their culture with other people. The food was exceptional and it was a very culturally exciting experience; a definite must-do.

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In addition to these five must-dos, some other notable places we visited were Table Mountain, one of the Seven Wonders of Nature, as well as Boulder’s Beach, which is home to hundreds of adorable penguins.

Travelling to South Africa was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I wish I could share it with everyone. If you ever decide to travel to South Africa, make sure to do these five must-dos, and I promise your experience will be nothing less than amazing.

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