South Africa Adventures
Why choose O.A.R.S. for a South Africa adventure?
South Africa is one of the most iconic adventure travel destinations in the world. Between the lush coastal landscapes and the harsh interior deserts, there is an incredible diversity of flora and fauna unlike anything you might imagine. In both rural villages and urban cities, you’ll find the friendly and welcoming locals, who are almost as diverse in culture and tradition as the landscape which they inhabit.
Our trip begins in the bustling city of Cape Town, which has been a hub for travelers since it was first explored by Europeans in the 1400s. East of Cape Town, we’ll paddle the Breede and Palmiet Rivers through the incredibly diverse fynbos ecosystem of the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. In the northern part of the country, we’ll find the Orange River and Augrabies Falls National River, where we’ll spend a few days exploring both the water and the desert landscape in search of some of South Africa’s most iconic wildlife, such as giraffes or the elusive Black Rhinoceros. Other notable adventures on this trip include a night safari, an easy hike to gaze at the tremendous Augrabies Falls, a hike up world-renowned Table Mountain, and a visit to the famous Humboldt penguin colony on the Cape Peninsula.
For more than 40 years, O.A.R.S. has provided exceptional adventures to travelers of all ages and abilities; our foremost goal is to create trips full of adventure and life-long memories. With our extensive travel experience, we take the guesswork and headaches out of international travel, thus allowing you to enjoy your vacation to its fullest extent. For our World Rivers series, we’ve partnered with long-time O.A.R.S. partner and co-founder of Sobek Expeditions, John Yost. John organized the first descents of many of the most renowned whitewater rivers of the world and he will personally escort all of our World Rivers adventures. Additionally, we believe it is a fundamental part of adventure-tourism to work with local guides while at the same time bringing our wealth of experience to the table. These local tour guides share their personal experiences as well as general information about the area and our like-minded partners in South Africa realize they are accountable to O.A.R.S. high standards, so you can rest assured you will be in be in good hands. We hope you can join us for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in South Africa.
South Africa—Land of Inspiring New Adventures
If you love experiencing a variety of cultures, then South Africa should be at the top of your list for travel destinations. South Africa’s great diversity is evidenced by the recognition of 11 official languages—more than any other country in the world. The majority of the multiethnic society is made of various indigenous cultures, supplemented by the numerous European and Asian descendants. Outside the cities, South Africa offers endless environments for exploration. The diverse ecosystems range from the temperate coast to the arid desert-like interior, with a variety of flora and fauna thriving in every corner.
Geography and Environment
South Africa is located at the southern-most end of the world’s largest continent. The country is surrounded by water on three sides, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east. These two great bodies of water mingle between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas, depending on the season, and create the strong storms for which this area is famous.
The coast of South Africa features a rugged landscape with rolling hills and tall mountains; the most famous is Table Mountain, which casts a shadow over Cape Town as it appears to rise straight out of the sea. Along the coast, the landscape is lush and green, largely due to the rivers which finally reach the sea and the generally temperate climate. A number of nature reserves have been formed to protect the exceptionally high wildlife diversity which is characteristic of this warm, wet climate.
In contrast, the South African interior features expansive scrubland which becomes increasingly drier and more desert-like as you approach the northern border with Namibia. The warm and dry climate of the interior creates a home for an entirely different type of wildlife; here, you’ll find the uniquely adapted and iconic wildlife of South Africa, from the tallest giraffes to the most vicious crocodiles.
Early History of South Africa
South Africa is one of the longest-inhabited locations on earth and is considered to be one of the most important sites for the evolution of the human species, with hominid fossils dating as far back as 2.5 million years. Over time, these early humans evolved into many of the different ethnic groups which inhabit the massive country.
Early indigenous groups included the San people in the interior of South Africa and the Khoikhoi people who settled along the coast; as these two groups intermarried, “Khoisan” groups became common. Around 2,500 years ago, the Bantu people began moving into South Africa and mingling with the Khoisan. Unfortunately, neither group had any written language, so very little is known about these interactions.
Colonization and Independence of South Africa
South Africa was first colonized by the Dutch in 1488, though a permanent settlement was not established until the 1600s. The settlement was located in what is now known as Cape Town, and while it traded with the native Khoisan people, the interactions were not often friendly. At the time, the settlement provided a much-needed layover for ships to resupply and allow sailors to recover from common ailments at sea such as scurvy. This strategically located port grew to become one of the most important hubs of trade for the Dutch East India Company.
In 1806, the British took over the colonial settlement in Cape Town. In the following years, the stratification of the settlement as a direct result of race became increasingly problematic; the tensions between three common groups of people—the British, the Boers and the Zulus—often resulted in violent confrontations, including a series of terrible wars between the English and the Boers.
Starting in 1910, South Africa slowly began to gain independence. Finally, in 1961, the country became officially recognized as the Republic of South Africa. Over time, the apartheid regime slowly dissolved as the many different ethnic groups in the country gained more equal footing; in 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black president of South Africa. Today, the country is gaining equal footing with the rest of the world as it becomes more developed and the economy strengthens.