13 Astounding Photos Of South Africa

Sometimes when I travel, places surprise me.

It’s hard not to have expectations about a destination, and every now and then, those expectations are utterly blown away by either the beauty, the people, or the experiences you find when you finally get out and explore. In the case of South Africa, a recent road trip across the Western Cape completely blindsided me with its beauty. As someone who has road tripped extensively across the American West, the Western Cape of South Africa was like compressing the American West into an area the size of Iowa. From rows of vineyards beneath jagged spires to the fog-lined beaches of the coast, and cascading waterfalls through lush rainforests to the painted colors of the desert, South Africa offers an ever-changing landscape which is different with each bend in the road.

While it could take me years to compile all of the footage snapped while road tripping across South Africa, here are 13 astounding panoramas of South Africa taken around the Western Cape.

Cango Caves, Oudtshoorn

1 Cango Caves
Located about 30 minutes outside of Oudtshoorn, the Cango Caves stretch for over 2.5 miles and offer gaping, subterranean chambers. You can either take adventure tours through the caves to shimmy thorough exceptionally narrow openings, or take a leisurely one-hour guided tour which navigates the illuminated chambers.

Franschoek, Cape Winelands

Franschhoek South Africa

In a word, Franschhoek is stunning. In all honesty, I can say that this is one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever been in. Rows of vineyards stretch out beneath mountains which mimic the Austrian Alps, and between the vineyards are pastures and farmland dotted by horses and wineries. What’s better, the wine tram visits over a dozen wineries on two different routes around town, so you can sip on South Africa’s finest wine and not need to worry about driving.

Goukamma Beach, Garden Route

Goukamma Beach Garden Route South Africa

Empty beaches are one thing I didn’t expect to find in South Africa. Instead, we found miles of them; everywhere we went there were empty stretches of shoreline without so much as a footprint in sight. Here on the Garden Route, a short dirt road leads to Goukamma Beach and this deserted stretch of sand.

Supertubes, Jeffrey’s Bay

Supertubes Jefrreys Bay South Africa

Yes, Jeffrey’s Bay is actually in the Eastern Cape, but it’s just over the border from the Western Cape so it’s being included in this roundup. Supertubes is considered to be one of the best waves in the world, and it’s the site of the professional surfing event which takes place here each July. In this photo, the sun rises over a section of Supertubes on a day with head-high surf, and surfers were already making their way into the lineup as the photo was being taken.

Knysna Heads, Knysna

Knysna Heads Garden Route South Africa

The town of Knysna is one of the more populated sections of the Garden Route, but much like other places in South Africa, it isn’t hard to find a place where you can have the landscape all to yourself. Here, at Knysna Heads, a short 15-minute drive from the Knysna waterfront reveals a tempestuous scene where the Indian Ocean goes crashing into the African shoreline with a beautiful, powerful fury. Visiting at sunrise allows the light to illuminate the coastal cliffs, and the ocean’s energy is on full display at this rugged section of the coast.

Robberg Peninsula, Plettenberg Bay

Robberg Peninsula Plettenberg Bay South Africa

One thing I wasn’t expecting find in South Africa were white sand beaches and turquoise water pulled straight from the pages of Australia. At the Robberg Peninsula, however, this blindingly-white sand spit protruding out into the sea provided yet another empty shoreline for strolling. Fur seals frolicked in the turquoise water and sea birds cruised overhead, and it was another corner of the Western Cape which was shockingly devoid of people.

Swartberg Pass, Klein Karoo

Swartberg Pass South Africa

There are only 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa, and the Swartberg Pass is one of them. Located in the “Klein Karoo” region in the dry, desert interior, the mountains which make up the Swartberg Pass are the tallest in the Western Cape. Climbing on the unpaved road offers views of the surrounding Karoo and inland landscape, and the canyons on the northern slope of the pass are geologist’s hidden heaven.

Table Mountain, Cape Town

Table Mountain Cape Town South Africa

Table Mountain isn’t exactly a secret, as thousands of visitors ride the cable car for the sweeping view of Cape Town. The crowds aside, the view from the top is legitimately stunning and is a must when visiting Cape Town. Mornings are best for ascending the mountain since the winds are light and calm, and clear days offer panoramic views of the entire Cape Town coastline.

Tsitsikamma National Park

Tsitsikamma National Park South Africa Waterfall Hike

Even at home where I live in Hawaii, there is something about a waterfall tumbling directly into the ocean that is inescapable in its beauty. In the case of the “Waterfall Hike” in Tsitsikamma National Park, a two-hour trek along the undeveloped shoreline brings you to a waterfall and a tea-colored pool which gently spills into the surging sea. As with most of the other places we discovered, somehow we had this coastal panorama entirely to ourselves.

Tsitsikamma National Park

 Tsitsikkama National Park South Africa

Sometimes the ocean is so powerful in its beauty you can’t help but stop and take a photo. Here on the trail of the Waterfall Hike in Tsitsikamma National Park, there are no shortages of opportunities to photograph the thundering sea.

Wilderness Beach, Garden Route

Wilderness Beach Garden Route South Africa

Set right off the highway of the famous Garden Route, this beach in Wilderness is just a short stroll from town and is one of the longest on this stretch of coastline. Grab a coffee or cold drink in the nearby village of Wilderness, and then head to the beach for a long stroll down the open, sandy shoreline.

Waterfront, Cape Town

Cape Town Waterfront

Perhaps more so than any other place in Cape Town, the Waterfront buzzes with non-stop activity from buskers to fishermen to tourists. This is the place to catch free entertainment or capture photos looking back towards Table Mountain, and the fine restaurants lining the waterfront offer dishes pulled straight from the sea. Or, if fine dining is outside the budget, settle on some fish and chips and a locally brewed beer in a pub just yards from the water.

Mandela’s Jail Cell, Robben Island

Robben Island South AfricaFinally, this is the rec yard at the Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was held. For 18 years, the man who would be President was jailed in the cell which is the 4th window from the left. His acclaimed book, Long Walk to Freedom, was hidden in the bush on the far side of the yard while being written from inside the jail. The photo itself is only moderately stunning (seeing as it’s the inside of a jail), but the degree of history which took place in this yard makes it a powerful and reflective experience.

These, of course, are just a handful of photos of South Africa which were snapped on an iPhone while traveling, but they are a window into the unfathomable beauty of South Africa’s Western Cape. Around every turn, and every bend, there is seemingly a new landscape which surpasses the previous, and the beauty found on a South Africa road trip just might end up surprising you as well.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Suki F June 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Oh god! Those are all really stunning!

Amanda C. @ UnrestingSea August 11, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Wow, these are phenomenal landscapes! I especially like Knysna Heads. I could print that and put it on my wall. 🙂

admin August 15, 2014 at 10:02 am

South Africa blew me away with its beauty…and this was just the Western Cape!

Jane Travel Geek August 25, 2014 at 12:44 am

South Africa is a magic place and you are lucky to have been able to experience its beauty and mystery. I look forward to the year in my calendar where in my vacation months I will be able to write Africa.

admin August 25, 2014 at 2:39 am

Thanks Jane, and yes, it’s truly a spectacular place. Best of luck on your African journey!

Fabiana January 29, 2015 at 6:26 pm

These are all so gorgeous! I can’t choose a favorite.

Ryan Castle April 19, 2015 at 6:18 pm

As a Cape Toanian living in Hawaii, Thank you for reminding me how beautiful my home town is. Let me know if you’re looking to find a decent lobster braai on Oahu.

admin May 5, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Aloha Ryan, thanks for checking out the page, and yes—the Western Cape is a gorgeous area that surprised me at every turn. Do you ever make it over to Maui? I was raised over there and still spend part of the year there. Hope you’re enjoying life on Oahu, and thanks for being in touch.

Joseph Kiely | travelscapism.com October 7, 2015 at 9:39 am

OH – Love this, never know what to do with my panoramas! – Helps that yours are from South Africa which is HIGH on my bucket list. COll post, great idea – Joseph.

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