southern africa bucket list

My Alternative Southern Africa Bucket List

Africa has so many amazingly beautiful places to visit. When I thought about a bucket list for Southern Africa, I wanted to make it realistic. Bucket lists, by definition, are basically wish lists. This list is probably not your typical bucket list, rather it’s a list of other lesser known, possibly less touristy places to visit in Southern Africa. So here is my alternative Southern Africa bucket list.

The Alternative Southern Africa Bucket List - Family Travel Blog

No. 1: Sani Pass

Click on the heading above to take you to Mountain Passes South Africa website where you can watch a video of the pass and you can see why they describe it as “the mother of all South African mountain passes. Statistically and in every sense, it out distances, out climbs, and outperforms all it’s competitors with consummate ease to have become the most iconic gravel pass in SA.”

We love road trips and gravel road driving. Having done Swartberg Pass last year, Sani Pass is definitely the No.1 Mountain Pass I would love to do as part of my Southern Africa bucket list travel experience! My husband did it last year on his BMW GS 1200 motorbike and in his words “sheer fear and determination are the only things that got us through it, never again!” I’m sure he means, never again on a motorbike, only in a 4×4.

Would I take the kids? Probably not.

Here’s a photo I took of Swartberg Pass last year:

Swartberg Pass, South Africa

No. 2: Blyde River Canyon, Mpumalanga, South Africa

Blyde River Canyon, South Africa
The Nature Reserves and National Parks of South Africa website says “The Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, South Africa, is the third-largest canyon in the world and has some of the most dramatic and overwhelmingly beautiful scenery in the country.

Check out this link to the Wikipedia page for more details on the canyon, and some awesome photos.

No. 3: Augrabies Falls, Northern Cape, South Africa. 

Augrabies Falls is a waterfall on the Orange River, in the Northern Cape.The falls is located in the Augrabies Falls National Park. The falls are around 183 ft high. During the floods in 1988 it was recorded that 7,800 cubic meters of water flowed over the falls every second. With all the rain we’ve had in South Africa this year, I’d love to see it now.

The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa, and forms part of the natural border between Namibia and South Africa, and Lesotho and South Africa. This photo is one I took in December last year of the Orange River flowing near Parys, in the Free State.

Orange River, Northern Cape, South Africa

Update: I did get to see the Augrabies Falls in December 2017 when we did a road trip to the Northern Cape! It was a spectacular sight and one that everyone who visits South Africa should see!

No. 4: Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe. 

Matopos Hills or Matobo is part of the Matobo National Parks, an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys commencing some 35 kilometres south of Bulawayo, southern Zimbabwe. The hills were formed over 2 billion years ago with granite being forced to the surface, this has eroded to produce smooth “whaleback dwalas” and broken kopjes, strewn with boulders and interspersed with thickets of vegetation. Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation, gave the area its name, meaning ‘Bald Heads’. (Source – Wikipedia)

The hills are located south of Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, Bulawayo. The area is rich in history and even has some rock face paintings done by the San people thousands of years ago.   I think I went there when I was a very young child, but I don’t remember. I would love to go back to see it all again and to share it with my girls. 

matopos hills zimbabwe

Update: I now live in the UK and took my daughters to Brimham Rocks and it reminded me so much of Matopos that I even used some of these photos above to compare. Take a look and see what you think?

No. 5: The Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery

ZEN is a conservation project, also known as Wild Is Life. The founder, Roxy Dankwerts, is an amazing woman who is running this elephant nursery in Zimbabwe. Please visit her website, it has all the details, information and links. You can follow the project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too.

In a nutshell, they rescue young elephants who have been orphaned, and her and her team hand-rear them and raise them as a herd with the aim of releasing them back into the wild eventually. Each little Ellie has its own page where you can read about their own personal circumstances and how they came to be at the orphanage, their progress, their care, and their quirks. It is at once heartbreaking and inspiring. There are also links there about how you can donate money to the orphanage to support this amazing cause. Visiting can only be done by appointment, they are not a zoo, it is a rehabilitation project. Going there for me would be amazing and humbling.

baby elephant, zimbabwe

guide book southern africa lonely planet

If you are planning a trip to Southern Africa and are looking for alternative places to visit, please do check out this amazing guide book to Southern Africa from Lonely Planet!

Their guides are comprehensive without being overwhelming, and I can personally vouch for this one in particular!

So there you have it. My alternative Southern Africa Bucket List – 5 destinations in South Africa & Zimbabwe to find and discover. How does it compare to your list?

visit southern africa


    1. Oh wow, thanks. That’s very kind of you. I’m hoping we go that way end of March, but as always will see how things are looking re borders and cops. ?

  1. Wowsers that’s a serious travel log/itinerary.The views and countryside look so vast it feels difficult to comprehend!A rugged trip of a lifetime.I’m too fat at the mo for any serious long haul hols (sweating like a pig in February) but once I shift it and the sprogs are up to it S.A is somewhere we would love to travel to xx #DreamTeam

    1. It’s difficult to comprehend the vastness of South Africa alone, nevermind Neighbouribg countries. It’s huge.

  2. Oh wow what an exciting list. I must say mountain driving especially on a gravel track would really really scare me! I have a weird phobia. An elephant nursery however sounds an amazing experience. I hope you make them and I look forward to reading about your trips ? Thanks for joining us at #familyfun xx

  3. Oh my word you have to make this come true! The elephant nursery sounds amazing – your girls would love to see that. My husband proposed to me at The Arc in Kenya overlooking the elephants watering hole – very special memories for me xx a lovely post with beautiful breathtaking photos. I look forward to reading your posts of your ventures! #FamilyFun

  4. Sani Pass sounds incredible – and I’m so envious of the wonderful places that you plan to visit! The elephant nursery sounds like a dream. We have a donkey sanctuary… but I don’t imagine that it will be quite so impressive!? 😉 Thanks so much for sharing with #DreamTeam and I hope that you get to tick off your wishlist soon! xx

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