It’s only fair that your money should work hard for you on holiday. Let’s be honest: there is nothing worse than standing in a queue, to hand over your cash, only to find that the attraction is over-hyped and underwhelming.
To save you money, we’ve put together a list of 15 South African attractions that are worth every cent. And three that are not…
15 Attractions that are Totally Worth It …
Cost: From R58 to R232 per adult (conservation fee)
Why it’s worth it: Immediate access to elephants makes this park a must. The added bonus is its accessibility from Port Elizabeth.
The watering hole at the main camp is fantastic if you’re prepared to wait for the herds to arrive for a drink.
Cost: From R80 per adult
Why it’s worth it: This thought-provoking, sometimes brutally honest, account of apartheid follows a well-structured, clear story line along a chronological route.
Regarded as the best place to learn about the country’s difficult history, the fact-filled visit is at once eye-opening and emotional.
Cost: From R40 to R160 per adult (conservation fee)
Why it’s worth it: There is nothing like the falls when the Orange River is in full flood, cascading 56 metres onto the rocks below. By comparison, the quiet of the park is almost deafening.
Go for more than a day for the walking paths, 4×4 routes, wild life, river rafting, mountain biking and diversity.
A surprisingly beautiful, underrated attraction.
Cost: From R30 per adult
Why it’s worth it: Blyde River Canyon (now known as Motlatse River Canyon) is best explored along a hiking route within the canyon, rather than a drive along the canyon’s edge.
The views of the canyon are indescribable.
Cost: From R125 per adult (with an additional R58 return for the funicular)
Why it’s worth it: Well worth it for the beauty of the reserve, the secluded bays of the beaches, and the views out over the tip of the peninsula from the lighthouse.
Allow a whole day and leave early as it is a drive from Cape Town.
You can walk instead of taking the funicular.
Cost: From R55 per adult
Why it’s worth it: The account of the life of prisoners on Constitution Hill is daunting. Coupled with the inspiring Constitutional Court, it makes for an exceptional outing.
And the view from the ‘hill’ is beautiful. A free guided tour happens every hour on the hour.
Cost: From R30 to R45 per adult
Why it’s worth it: Small, compact and highly interesting one cannot leave here untouched by the emotional account of the once multiracial area destroyed during apartheid, when its 60 000 inhabitants were forcibly removed.
Cost: entry fees average R40 per adult plus a vehicle entry charge, depending on which reserve you visit
The chance to view game, go on turtle tours, see whales, scuba dive, take a boat cruise or kayak the seas means planning ahead is imperative.
Superlative beauty and days of activity.
9. KHWA TTU
Cost: From R150 per adult for San guided tours
Why it’s worth it: If you really want to learn more about the San people and make a contribution to their community, this is the place to do so.
One of the projects is educating San in tourism so that they can make a positive impact on their communities.
Take the San guided tour, eat at the restaurant, cycle or walk, or stay overnight.
Cost: From R55 per adult
Why it’s worth it: These extensive gardens could easily occupy a whole day.
Add to that the Boomslang walkway, and a couple of good restaurants (we prefer the Kirstenbosch Tea Room at Gate 2).
The sheer wealth of flora and fauna makes it worth it, even if plants aren’t usually your thing.
11. MAROPENG / CRADLE OF HUMANKIND
Cost: From R120 per adult (Sterkfontein Caves is an additional R165/adult)
Why it’s worth it: Maropeng, the official visitor centre for The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, contains extensive, fascinating and interactive information, and the guided tour of the Sterkfontein caves, where you’ll see most of the fossils, is invigorating.
Cost: From R240 return per adult
Why it’s worth it: Rated as one of the most amazing tourist attractions the city has to offer, the views out over the bay from the top of the mountain are breathtaking.
The two wheelchair friendly cable cars, that revolve 360 degrees as they head up and down the mountain, take three to five minutes to reach the summit.
Once at the top there are hiking paths to explore.
13. THE BIG HOLE
Cost: From R90 per adult
Why it’s worth it: The largest hand-dug hole in the world is mindblowing – an impressive sight.
The visit includes a mine shaft ride and mine visit. Book ahead as tours leave on the hour every hour.
The replica old town is fascinating.
14. TSITSIKAMMA NATIONAL PARK (Stormsriver Mouth)
Cost: From R34 to R90 per adult
Why it’s worth it: The nominal conservation fee allows you entry into a coastal fairytale.
Dense indigenous forests, crashing waves against rocky shores and a myriad activities that include canopy tours, the suspension bridge, black water tubing, the Otter, Dolphin and Tsitsikamma trails, Nature’s Valley and the Big Tree.
Cost: From R168 to R199
Why it’s worth it: If you’re stuck in Durban on a rainy day then there is nothing quite like uShaka Marine World for keeping both you and the kids entertained.
The jury is out on the water slides and tube rides, but the dolphin show and aquarium are world-class.
3 ‘MEH’ ATTRACTIONS, BEST AVOIDED:
1. CANGO CAVES
Cost: From R100 to R150 per adult
Why it isn’t worth it: Overrated and underperformed, the tours have become more than a little jaded, and the facilities long in the tooth.
Rather spend your money on the Sterkfontein Caves.
Cost: From R165 per adult
Why it isn’t worth it: The theme park has had its day.
3. SUN CITY
Cost: From R60 per adult for the resort, R129 to R160 per adult for the Valley of Waves, R150 per adult for The Maze
Why it isn’t worth it: Someone on Tripadvisor aptly described it as: ‘unexciting, fake and overrated’. Say no more.