Conservation has long been at the heart of South Africa and a powerful motor to its economy, and the national parks, safari lodges, hiking trails and boat tours in the country are some of the most established and sophisticated that you’ll find on the continent of Africa – or anywhere else for that matter.

Read below to find out a bit more about the many wild journeys the country has to offer.

Safari drives at Kruger

Perched on the northeastern shoulder of South Africa on the border of Mozambique is one of the world’s most celebrated national parks, Kruger, which traces its origins back to 1898 and is amongst the largest game reserves on the African continent. For those looking to come into close contact with the Big 5 – that is: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffaloes – there’s a high concentration of these animals in Kruger.

However, wildlife is by no means limited to the largest. You’ll also come across an abundance of eagles, vultures and storks, not to mention smaller mammals which survive and thrive in the national park’s many gorgeous and varied natural ecosystems. For one of the world’s best safaris, look no further than Kruger National Park.

Bird’s the word

Bird nerds rejoice. South Africa supports some of the most fascinating avian wildlife and has been a choice destination with ornithologists for many moons. When people think of penguins, they often relegate them to the icy plains of Antarctica, but South Africa has bragging rights to what is likely planet earth’s most frequented penguin colony. Just a stone’s throw away from Cape Town you’ll find Boulders Beach, which was settled by a colony of endangered African penguins in 1983 and has proliferated abundantly due to conservation efforts.

Otherwise, those looking to encounter as many different species of birds as possible will be rewarded as they vary from the pelagic (or sea) birds of the cape to the waterfowl of De Hoop to the raptors of Kariega. This being larger-than-life South Africa, it claims the superlative of hosting the largest living bird, the ostrich. Males can reach nine feet tall and 280 pounds. Not exactly feather light.

Ocean’s eleven

While we’re on the subject of large animals, South Africa has one of the few coastlines where travellers can experience the Marine Big Five: whales, dolphins, seals, sharks and penguins. With such a broad expanse of seashore, there are plenty of places from which to disembark into the deep blue sea. Gqeberha offers incredible coastal boat tours in which guests often sight Bryde's whales, Minke whales, southern right whales and humpbacks, as well as bottlenose, common and humpback dolphins.

The Great African Sea Forest, which played host to Oscar-winning documentary My Octopus Teacher, is a forest of bamboo kelp that stretches from Cape Town to Namibia, spanning over 1000 kilometres. And, for thrill seekers, you can get up close and personal with one of the world’s apex predators on a great white shark tour or even cage diving.