South Africa is known for its natural beauty and breath-taking tourist locations. For travel photographers, it’s quite literally a paradise! With so many photogenic South African places to choose from, it’s hard to decide where to begin. These are the top 15 destinations for travel photographers, curated by Africa Media.
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1. Boulders Beach, Western Cape
Firstly, Boulders Beach and its penguins. This beach is located in Simonstown, Cape Town. It is home to one of the most popular African penguin colonies on the continent. The swimming site has several large boulders in and around the shallows, giving the beach its name. It’s inside the Table Mountain National Park, so there is an entry fee. However, it’s worth it. Imagine taking a dip among these beautiful endangered creatures, and being able to photograph them!
2. The Valley of Desolation, Eastern Cape
Located in the Camdeboo National Park near Graaff-Reinet, this mountaintop lookout point captures the essence of the Great Karoo region. From the top, you can see hundreds of kilometres of flat, desolate valley. Also, this is one of our wildlife photographers and travel journalists’ favourite sunset spots.
3. God’s Window, Mpumalanga
This lookout point is part of the famous Panorama Route region. It sits 900m above a massive ravine filled with indigenous Lowveld forest, waterfalls, canyons and rock formations. The view has inspired many photographers, artists and writers. This is why it’s one of the most photogenic South African places in the northern half of the country.
4. Blyde River Canyon, Mpumalanga
Also situated in the same region as God’s Window, this natural marvel deserves a mention of its own. This canyon is known for its distinctive cylindrical Bourke’s Luck Potholes, formed by centuries of water swirls. It is considered one of the biggest natural canyons in the world.
5. Table Mountain, Western Cape
The iconic flat-top mountain in the Mother City, name one of the 7 New Natural Wonders of the World in 2011. This mountain has beautiful seascapes and city views of Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean. You can photograph them by taking the aerial cableway or one of the hiking trails to the top. In addition, Table Mountain’s silhouette, viewed from Blouberg Beach, also makes for a beautiful photograph.
6. Namaqualand, Northern Cape
Another one of the most photogenic South African places. This area is widely known for its abundant flowers in the springtime. Spring is also the best season to travel to this region, in order to catch the best weather and capture the radiant colours of the famous wildflowers.
7. Route 62, Western Cape
A scenic (and shorter) alternative to the N2 highway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. The road winds through the Breede Valley region and stretches through to Montagu, the Klein Karoo region and then the Garden Route. There are countless small towns and local countryside stops to explore along this track. A taste of the Western Cape on one stretch of road. This route is perfect for shooting some culture and street photographs. Scenic towns to visit: Robertson, Montagu, Barrydale, De Rust, Ladismith and Oudtshoorn.
8. Golden Gate National Park, Free State
Part of the Drakensberg range and close to the popular little crafty town, Clarens. This park is most splendid during sunrise and sunset. Hike the Brandwag peak to get the best landscape shots, or wait at the bottom for the golden hour to light up the regal sandstone cliffs.
9. The Cederberg, Western Cape
A historic and rugged region of mountainous terrain. This is where they cultivate SA’s world-famous rooibos tea. There are various outdoor activities available here: hiking and mountain climbing, rock pool swimming, camping and more. The large, twisted rock formations inside the mountains on the Wolfberg trail are exceptionally beautiful to photograph.
10. Hole in the Wall, Eastern Cape
Located in Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast, this site can only be reached on foot. The Wild Coast hiking trail isn’t marked very clearly, but if you follow the curve of this beautiful stretch of Eastern Cape coastline, you’ll find it. The Hole in the Wall is a popular spot for photographers and Instagrammers. The hole was formed by centuries seawater crashing against the rocks, and the legendary site also has a beach and lagoon that is lovely to swim in.
11. Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven and Earth) Valley, Western Cape
This wine route starts in the coastal town of Hermanus, famous for its Whale Festival in the springtime. The road carries on for 35km through several spectacular wine farms towards Caledon. You can stop at each farm stall or winery, or just stop next to the road to photograph the rolling green hills and valleys of the Overberg region.
12. De Hoop, Western Cape
The coastal Whale Trail is known as one of the most beautiful trails in the country. The nature reserve is a paradise for birders, cyclists, hikers and whale watchers. It contains a 19km vlei or wetland that classifies as a Ramsar site (a wetland of international importance). The natural beauty of this area is any travel and nature photographer’s dream.
13. Royal Natal National Park, KwaZulu-Natal
This is a picturesque portion of the huge Drakensberg mountain range. The most prominent feature here is the Drakensberg Amphitheater, which is a 5km long and 1.2km high rock wall that also contains the second largest waterfall in the world, the Tugela Falls. On top of the Amphitheater is the Mont-aux-Sources peak, where the Orange river starts and runs all the way to the Atlantic ocean in the west.
14. Bo-Kaap, Cape Town (Western Cape)
The colourful neighbourhood at the foot of Table Mountain was recently named a National Heritage Site. In the early history of South Africa, the houses were the homes of Cape Malay slaves. Now, it is a cultural symbol of diversity and the “rainbow nation” status of the country. A perfect site for some impressive street photography.
15. The Garden Route, Western Cape
This route stretches from Mossel Bay on the southern coast to Storms River. The region also includes the lush indigenous forests of the Tsitsikamma National Park (where the Otter Trail begins). In fact, the entire area along the N2 highway is characterised by green forests, lakes, quaint towns and beautiful beaches.
Have you photographed any of these locations yet? Let us know!
Blogger Profile - Rouxne van der Westhuizen
Rouxne has an Honours degree in journalism and media studies. She specialises in wildlife conservation writing, travel journalism and blogging.