10 lesser-known gems to visit in South Africa

Posted on 11 September 2023 By Jordyn Johnson

South Africa has well-known gems that everyone wants to visit. However, other attractions aren’t as popular for the sole reason that many people don’t know about them.

You’ll want to add these ten lesser-known gems in South Africa to your bucket list once you’ve read about them.

1. Riemvasmaak Hot Springs, Northern Cape

lesser known gems

Picture: Robynne Baudin

Between jaw-dropping rock formations and arid landscapes, laze around in Riemvasmaak’s hot springs. If you don’t go during the holiday season, you might be the only one to enjoy the area’s landscape, warm water, incredible birdlife, and solitude. Remember to look for the image of Africa that the rocks create while you’re there.

2. Waterfall Bluff, Eastern Cape

Picture: Getaway Gallery

Waterfall Bluff in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape, is a popular hiking destination and is known for its spectacular scenery. The water flows from the cliffs directly into the ocean, making it a unique natural feature that drives many people to complete the hike. Hikers often start at Mbotyi River Mouth and walk a scenic path through lush forests along the Wild Coast.

3. Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve, Limpopo

This nature reserve has a diverse ecosystem with clear streams and waterfalls, indigenous forests, and unique plant and animal life. The reserve is one of the lesser-known gems that form part of the Drakensberg Mountain region and has breathtaking panoramic views. With numerous trails, hikers of all fitness levels can enjoy walks through the nature reserve, and twitchers delight in spotting various birds, including vultures, eagles, and other raptors.

4. Lady Grey, Eastern Cape

lesser known gems

Picture: Getaway Gallery

The idyllic town of Lady Grey is rich in history, with beautiful mountain surroundings and numerous outdoor activities. The town is located in the foothills of the Drakensberg in the Eastern Cape and borders the Free State and Lesotho. It was named after Sir George Grey’s wife, Lady Eliza Georgina Grey, and was founded in 1857. You can go hiking, mountain biking, birding, and trout fishing, among other activities available in the area.

5. Fransmanshoek, Western Cape

Picture: Jordyn Johnson

The Fransmanshoek Conservancy is three kilometers outside Vleesbaai (35 km from Mossel Bay). This peninsula is home to a 6.9 km trail that takes you along the coastline, where chances of seeing dolphins, whales, and sometimes seals are high. The conservancy is aimed at preserving the 14 km stretch.

6. Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu Natal

Ndumo Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal borders Mozambique and is part of the Maputaland region. Its rich biodiversity encompasses sand forests, open savannahs, wetlands, riverine forests, and woodlands. Ndumo has a rich birdlife and offers visitors a chance to see big game like elephants, buffalo, white rhinos, crocodiles, and hippos.

7. Chrissiesmeer Wetland Park, Mpumalanga

lesser known gems

Picture: Getaway Gallery

Isimangaliso Wetland Park isn’t South Africa’s only wetland. Chrissismeer Wetland Park in Mpumalanga is another of the lesser-known gems that offers a peaceful getaway among wetlands, over 270 freshwater lakes, and diverse birdlife. It is known as South Africa’s ‘Lake District,’ and its wetlands support the local biodiversity.

8. False Bay Park

Picture: Jordyn Johnson

False Bay in KwaZulu Natal forms part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and is one of the oldest geological areas. It’s known for its corals, fossil marine animals, and a wide variety of animals and plant species. Enjoy a trip to False Bay for a braai on the shores, some birdwatching, or even a night or two of camping.

READ: When in the wild: An ANEW Hotel and Resorts Hluhluwe trip

9. Cypress Cave, KwaZulu Natal

lesser known gems

Picture: Jordyn Johnson

This eight-kilometre out-and-back hike in the southern Drakensberg takes you to a glorious waterfall to enjoy wild swimming. The trail begins with a descent ascent but flattens out after about 1.5 kilometres. The path is also a little overgrown but relatively easy to make out. If you’re in the mood for an overnight hike, the cave sleep sleeps about six people, although I’ve been told the waterfall can sound quite loud in the silence of the night.

10. Barberton’s Makhonjwa Mountains

Picture: Getaway Gallery

The Makhonjwa Mountains, or the Barberton Greenstone Belt, are a range of mountains found in Mpumalanga. With some of the world’s oldest exposed rocks dating back over 3 billion years, it is known for its geological significance. The mountains offer scenic hiking opportunities that take visitors over the rugged terrain.

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ALSO READ: The southern Drakensberg: your next hiking destination

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