Diverse, exhilarating, spectacular, varied – South Africa is a gap year destination electric with possibility. It’s a vast, modern multicultural nation, in many ways as sophisticated and modern as any Western capital, but elsewhere as traditional as time itself. Then there’s the land itself: lush subtropics give way to deserts, savannah to scrubland, bushveldt to stunning coastlines. There’s extraordinary wildlife, including the world-renowned Kruger National Park. And there is, of course, the people and their history, the achievements of the post-apartheid regime, the struggles before that, and the ancient way of life beyond. If your interest lies in modern politics, South Africa should definitely be on your student travel shortlist.
For those looking for adventure travel, South Africa is waiting. In Kruger National Park, the magical Big Five of rhino, leopard, buffalo, elephant and lion are yours for the watching. On the coast at Hermanus, you can dive with great white sharks (cages provided). Then there’s the local sport of kloofing – abseiling into canyons – and if you want to head off the beaten track, there are the wide open spaces of the Karoo.
The sheer variety of South Africa makes it perfect for student travel, especially the hip urban centre of Cape Town, a modern and cosmopolitan world city that’s starting to spread its influence internationally, and that’s an exciting place to be. And there’s a wealth of history, from ancient tribal settlement to the recent troubles of apartheid, to explore, and for those after gentler pursuits, the winelands to tour.
In South Africa, there’s hands-on volunteer work for those who want to give something back. You can work with the amazing African wildlife on conservation projects, or support valuable and rewarding work with disadvantaged children. It’s a great way to turn a memorable trip into an unforgettable experience.