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A Backpacking Itinerary to Explore Undiscovered South Africa

Written by Milly Whitehead on 03 / 05 / 2022

Gap Year Advice

We have been told by those in the know that a 'gap year in South Africa' is ‘rocking and trending' all over google - who would have thought it … South Africa giving Asia and South America a run for their money.

So, ever helpful and keen to see what all the hype is about we have done our research and looked beyond the tourist highlights of South Africa to find some hidden gems, which strung together will give the intrepid backpacker a fantastic, off the grid itinerary.

You won’t regret heading off the beaten track in South Africa, frankly it's the only way go...

Lesotho (pronounced ‘Lee-Soo-Too’)

A mere 6-hour drive south from Johannesburg, this secluded ‘mountain kingdom’, landlocked by the surround South African plains, is most definitely an underrated travel destination.

Most of the mountainous villages are only reachable on foot, by air or horseback, and so pony trekking on the famed Basotho pony is a definite must-do activity for the full ‘Lee-Soo-Too’ experience.

Whilst there:

Make sure you head to the Sani Pass, at 9500 ft above sea level for the tremendous views and to meet the friendly Basotho people. But most of all enjoy a taste of the local Maluti larger in the highest pub in Africa - the Sani Mountain Lodge, perched at the top overlooking its kingdom. Heaven.

Find out more -

Garden Route

This refers to the South African coast line between Plettenberg Bay in the east and Mossel Bay in the west - a 300km stretch dotted with excellent beaches, inland lagoons, lakes, rolling hills and eventually the mountains of the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma ranges that divide the Garden Route from the arid Little Karoo.

Whilst there:

The ancient indigenous forests that line the coast from Wilderness to Knysna offer adventure trails and hiking, bird watching, canoeing on the rivers, sliding through the tree canopy or simply taking an easy walk through the forest to gasp at the size of a yellow wood trees that are over 600 years old.

With such a diverse range of things to do in this renowned region, it’s not surprising that the scope of accommodation comes up trumps. The downside is the high volume of people in the most popular towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, so book early and don't miss out.

For more information ->

Langebaan Lagoon

North of Capetown, is the quaint town of Langebaan sitting in between the coast and the incredible Langebaan Lagoon. 17km of white sandy beaches and clear water, the salt water lagoon acts as the focal point of South Africa's West Coast National Park.

Whilst there:

Protected against the elements, the mild conditions of the lagoon make it a popular spot for sailing, kite surfing, kayaking and fishing. When’s best to visit? Depends on your interests: the most popular time is August to September, known as the ‘spring flower season’, simply because of the beautiful array of heavenly flowers; If you’re a keen whale spotter, then October to November is your time.

Augrabies Falls

Traditionally referred to as ‘Ankoerebis’ (‘The Place of Big Noise’) by the original Khoisan people, the 60m high falls located on the Orange River in the Augrabies National Park offers nothing less. Something you could only understand by visiting the high wall of tumbling water first-hand.

Whilst there:

Trek up to Moon Rock for the panoramic view. Walk along the trails through the national park to seek out the bird and wildlife. The best time to go i.e. when the hurl of water is the loudest, is during winter (March – October).

Your South African Itinerary in a Nut Shell:

Fly to Joburg - bus to Lesotho - followed by the garden Route. Reach Capetown - spend a few days seeing the highlights - then bus up to the Langebaan Lagoon - get stuck into conservation and community volunteering project- then up to Augrabies Falls - Back to Cape Town to fly home or beyond. Simples.

If you need help piecing something like this together around South Africa - just get in touch, happy to help.

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Reducing plastic in our oceans, protecting turtles and saving the rhino is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

All experiences include a mix of projects and adventures, travelling with a team and, of course, are risk assessed.

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