Africa is a land of staggering beauty and rich cultural heritage, but so much of it is still unstable and potentially deadly. Most of those troubles rest towards the north of the country, though – South Africa is a great place to see the continent where everything started and it will not disappoint. There is something about the land itself that speaks to you; it is a place of imagination and gorgeous vistas, and it is possible to get a real sense of history in this land of disparate terrain, from jungles and rainforests to mountains and desert.

In one day’s drive you can move from one extreme to another, and when you are dealing with South Africa it really is better to make sure you can drive yourself. Keeping a loose schedule is essential to really enjoy South Africa. Plan some high points, certainly, but to really get to know and see the country, nothing can beat the ability to instantly go where you want to. Remember that this is Africa though – when it comes to actually going into the reserves and forests, it is always best to make sure you are part of a guided tour.

One of the most beautiful drives is the route up the northeast coast from Port Elizabeth to Durban, and then north to Johannesburg. This route will expose you to the best that Africa has to offer, and from Johannesburg you can easily depart to your home country. Right outside of Port Elizabeth is the Addo Elephant National Park, and as you go northeast up Hwy. 2 there are dozens of nature reserves and nature areas – some run privately, some by South Africa and all worth consideration.

That is the one problem with driving yourself – there is the temptation to stop too often – and yet, it is usually worth doing that. As you go up the coast it is best to get off of Hwy. 2 and take some of the smaller highways that line the coast. It is impossible to truly describe a sunrise on the east coast of South Africa – little towns like Nkwenkwezi and Seafield are great places to stop.

In Seafield, the House Purfict@Kleinemonde gives one of the best sunrise views in the world but it is just one of many excellent rentals and hotels available along the coast. And that is the point – there really isn’t a bad place to go as you make your way around the coast. On this route, when you turn north at Durban one of the must see areas of South Africa isn’t actually South Africa – it is the free state of Lesotho, and is the home to some of the most diverse wildlife on earth in its deep, primordial jungles and forests.

If you like photography, you could easily spend a week here, but plan on at least a day and a tour or two – the sunset tours are magical in this mountainous, wild land. For a real adventure, drive the coast of Africa for an experience that an arranged vacation can’t compete with, and see South Africa the way it meant to be.

Author’s Bio:

j.Pinot is an experienced traveler and writer, and uses a car rental service whenever he is traveling away from home.