Whether you live for warm, sunny days or prefer the cooler months of the year, you can’t deny that summertime provides the perfect conditions to spend your time in the great outdoors. From hiking and horse riding, to picnicking, bird viewing, or just lazing around in nature – the options are bountiful.
Here’s our round up of the South Africa’s coolest outdoor hotspots – where you can fill your lungs with fresh air, get your daily dose of vitamin D and soak up Mother Nature in all her glory.
The Johannesburg Zoo, Johannesburg
In the heart of Johannesburg’s Northern Suburbs lies almost 55 hectares of luscious leafy land – this is the home of the Joburg Zoo. Founded in 1904 with only 12 animals, the zoo today houses to more than 2000 animals from 320 different species and has a strong focus on the welfare and wellbeing of the animals. There are daily tours and activities where young and old can learn more about the animal kingdom. Those looking for a real outdoorsy adventure should try the zoo’s sunset or night tour or, even better, the Zoo Snooze where you can camp out overnight and get a front row view of what happens in the zoo when the sun goes down.
Entrance: R80 for adults and R50 for children and pensioners. Zoo Tours range from R85 to R105 per person (dependant on the tour).
Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, Johannesburg
This one is for those who love a little history with their outdoors adventures: the 150 hectares of land that make up Melville Koppies Nature Reserve dates back three billion years and is filled with some of South Africa’s fines indigenous fauna and flora. What makes this area so spectacular is that one can see remnants of the ridges that made up Johannesburg’s landscape before the discovery of gold in 1886, as well as interesting remains (including an iron furnace) from the Iron Age. Join a guide tour every Sunday (no booking required) or take a hike through the beautiful reserve’s central area (it’s access controlled and thus safe).
Entrance: R50 for adults and R20 for children.
Acrobranch Outdoor Activity Park, Pretoria
Calling all adrenalin junkies – Acrobranch in Pretoria North is where you can get your fix with a side of fresh air! Here you can take a one-hour to three-hour high-flying, exhilarating treetop obstacle course that consists of high ropes (Tarzan swings), ladders, tunnels, bridges and ends in an amazing 300m long zip line through a forest. Acrobranch also offers treetop obstacle courses for kids and for those of us who are a little less Tarzan and more Jane.
Entrance: From R100 (basic kiddies course) to R250 (three-hour course).
Groenkloof Nature Reserve, Pretoria
Just five kilometres south of Pretoria’s city centre lies one of South Africa’s most beautiful nature valleys. Founded in the early 1820s, Groenkloof Nature Reserve became Africa’s first game sanctuary aimed at protecting and conserving the land and animals from urbanisation of the surrounding areas. Today, one can explore the magnificent land on foot or bike (it’s renowned for its mountain biking track). Don’t forget to bring your binoculars for some game viewing along the way – you might get to see impala, kudu, blue wildebeest, ostrich, zebra, giraffe and red hartebeest.
Entrance: R38 for adults, R22 for pensioners, R22 for kids between seven and 17 and R11 for kids under six.
Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve
Here, 13 kilometres of nature walks, pleasant picnic sites and over 200 different bird species, plenty of bird watching opportunities await you. In fact, the 253 hectares of land on which you will find the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve is considered to be one of the finest coastal meets riverine forest, meets bush grassland areas in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Grab a map as well as a plant and animal list from the Field Ranger when you arrive and get exploring!
Entrance: R20 for adults and R10 for children.
The Japanese Gardens
This is one of Durban’s best-kept secrets, and the ideal place to get your Zen on. Offering more than eight hectares of garden which has been designed in traditional Japanese style, with ponds, arches, gazebos, bamboo and cobbled pathways stones providing a tranquillity to those who are keen to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The flowers have also been carefully selected so that there are always a few shrubs that are in bloom. Don’t forget to stop by the garden’s renowned Golden Frog Wishing Well and to, well, make a wish.
Entrance: Free to all.
Sacramento Hiking Trail
This coastal walk through the Schoenmakerskop-Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve is ideal for those who love land and sea sightseeing in equal parts: the eight-kilometre pathway features remarkable wild flowers, while dolphins can be seen frolicing in the ocean below. Be on the lookout for the bronze cannon at Schoenmakerskop – it points towards the site of the shipwrecked Sacramento, a Portuguese galleon that foundered in 1647 en route to Mozambique.
Entrance: Free to all.
Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve
If you ever fantasized about galloping on horseback on a stretch of golden beach, then Heavenly Stables can make this a reality – free of charge; all you need is a Nelson Mandela Bay pass. Rides are an hour long and take you along the unspoilt coastline of the Indian Ocean, where you can soak up the gorgeous view and some fresh ocean air.
Entrance: The Nelson Mandela Bay pass ranges from R300 (one day pass) to R800 (seven day pass) for adults and R200 (one day pass) to R500 (seven day pass) for children.
Stand Up Paddling, Cape Town
There’s no denying that Cape Town has so much to offer in terms of outdoor activities. But instead of going with the usual Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Kirstenbosch), why not try something a little different? What about Stand Up Paddling (SUP) through the glossy waters of the canal next to the Waterfront? Introductory lessons are provided and boards can be rented. From December to February, you can avoid the bustling Waterfront and rather pick up a board from Clifton 4th beach. Sun, sea and SUP’ing – now that’s a good day spent outdoors.
R150 per 30-minute rental and from R180 per 60-minute rental.
Oudekraal, Cape Town
Think you need to own a multimillion rand house on Clifton to be able to braai on the beach? Well, think again! Just a few kilometres down from Clifton and in the heart of the Table Mountain National Park lies the most glorious beach braai area: Oudekraal. It’s literally right next to the sea, and the perfect spot where one can laze under the sun, have a braai picnic, soak up the glorious view and take a dip in the ocean (for those who can brave the cold water).
Entrance: R30 for adults and R15 for children. Entrance is free for WILD Card and TMNP (Table Mountain National Park) My Green Card holders.
Stellenbosch Botanical Garden, Stellenbosch
Did you know that right in the heart of Stellenbosch’s historical epicentre lies one of South Africa’s most breath-taking botanical gardens (and South Africa’s oldest university botanical garden)? While the park is still used a place for research and training of students, many locals and visitors come here to sit back and relax, and soak up the vast array of indigenous and exotic greenery. The garden also features a small specialised nursery, a restaurant, as well as a visitor centre where one can pick up books, seeds and local plant products.
Entrance: Free to all.
*Entrance fees are correct at time of publishing.