The Best Way to See South Africa: With a Camera

A climber overlooks the clouds from Table Mountain.
A climber overlooks the clouds from Table Mountain.Luca Deravignone / Getty Images

In the Northern Cape province, just a short flight from Johannesburg, you’ll find a host of otherworldly rocks, animals, and some of the wildest vistas in the world. In short, it’s a photographer’s dream. The area is large and the roads sometimes confusing, so we suggest you get a guide like Jaco Powell from Cape Fox Tours & Photography to lead the way. Powell put together a worthy landscape and wildlife photography itinerary that worked its way down the western edge of the Northern Cape from north to south, starting with Augraibies Falls National Park and ending in Cape Town.

The park has a lodge, cabin,s and a restaurant, where we lunched on a shaded porch while dassies (an African rodent) moved monkey-like through the trees. Wildlife photography is a big draw here. The next stop, at Naries Namakwa Retreat, a 3,000-hectare farm in the Spectacular Mountains closer to the coast, you have the chance to see Oryx, springbok, a variety of birds such as jackal buzzards and red-eyed bulbuls, and, if you’re lucky, a leopard.

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At Namakwa National Park, we stopped at Bushman’s Kloof, famous for guided wildlife walks offering the chance to photograph Aardwolf, African Wildcat, Bat Eared Fox, Cape Fox, African Lynx, Mountain Zebra, Porcupine, and more exotic creatures. Private game reserves such as this one area great way to see these creatures up close in a natural setting without tourist crowds.

Our tour ended in Cape Town, a bustling city wedged between mountains and sea. We suggest skipping the night life and taking advantage of the city’s natural setting by exploring Table Mountain National Park. The mountain is a massive sandstone and quartzite escarpment that made for a welcome sight to those sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, often in desperate need of provisions. The easiest route to its top, Plattklip Gorge trail, is essentially a narrow stone staircase that takes a few switchbacks but mostly shoots straight up the mountain. The India-Venster route involves some rock scrambling and even though there are chains in the trickiest parts, this trail has seen its share of accidents. The Cape’s weather changes in an instant, from warm sun one minute to chilly rain the next, so plan accordingly. A rain shower can even turn parts of the rocky trail into waterfalls. But our climb was rewarded with panoramic views of Cape Town, Table Bay, and the ocean beyond.

[More information: Cape Fox Photography & Tours offers dozens of itineraries and customizes them depending on your preferences. Cost is roughly $350 per person per day for two, including guide, transportation, lodging, meals, and entrance fees.]

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