My name is Matt Bouch and I’m a landscape photographer from South Africa. I was lucky enough to grow up in Cape Town, surrounded by beautiful mountains and coastline. Although in all honesty, apart from surfing, I wasn’t the most outdoorsy person in my younger teenage years.
After my studies, I moved to Johannesburg for work. Somewhere along the line I picked up a camera and started photographing the gritty, urban environments of Johannesburg. It was a trip to the Drakensberg mountains that made me realize just how much nature inspires me.
This inspiration motivated me to sell my shares in a production company I co-founded and pursue a lifestyle in which I could spend a lot more time outdoors. These days I split my time between work as a freelance creative director and as a landscape photographer. Feel free to follow along as I capture beautiful South African landscapes at @mattbouchphotography.
South Africa – A Diverse and Beautiful Land
Outside of casual holidays, I have been traveling in South Africa with intent for about the last five years. It’s a big place, and though I have traveled to almost all of the major locations, it would take more than one lifetime to properly explore it all. My passion and attention is focused on the mountainous regions of the country, most notably the Drakensberg.
I think South Africa’s charm comes from its diversity: we really do have it all. From endless beaches that surround the country, to game reserves with lion, elephant, rhino, leopard, buffalo (and more), to towering mountain peaks and vast deserts – there is something for everyone to enjoy. South Africa offers up variety unlike many other places on earth.
Four Must-See Regions in South Africa
I recommend four must-see regions if you plan on traveling through South Africa. Firstly, the west coast from Cape Town up to Namibia: it’s rugged and raw. Secondly, the Karoo: a vast and otherworldly, desert-like environment. Then Transkei: a place where it feels like time moves slower. And of course, the Drakensberg in all their mighty splendour. That said, don’t discount the more well-known places like Kruger National Park.
How to Best Travel through South Africa
The best way to see these amazing regions is with your own car. Rent a 4×4 so you can get off the beaten path. And be sure to equip yourself with camping gear. From there, start in Cape Town and work your way up either coastline or straight up the centre. In fact, any direction you travel will be an adventure. Drive slowly, don’t rush, be sensible and don’t be frightened to explore. I would avoid public transport, as it’s rather unreliable.
I try to camp as much as possible but there are fantastic B&Bs throughout the country. Camping inside any SANParks, Cape Nature or Ezemvelo Wildlife Reserve is a good guarantee for a quality location. You have to try: Mahai at Royal Natal in the Drakensberg, Grootvadersbosch in the Western Cape, Mdumbi in the Transkei or Monk’s Cowl also in the Drakensberg.
Favorite Memory from the Rainbow Nation
I have so many fond memories from traveling through South Africa but some of my most remarkable moments have been nights spent on top of the Drakensberg mountains. There is a sense of pure wildness that you feel when camp up there. You are exposed to nature in a raw, primal sense.
Really, there is no trip to these mountains that is not spectacular. I suggest spending a night camped above Tugela Falls in summer, watching as the summer rains fill the rivers and cause the falls to explode over the edge of a seemingly endless cliff. You can lie in your tent and hear them thunder.
Need to Know Before you Go
If I could share just one bit of advice for visitors to South Africa, it would be to not try and see the whole country in a single trip. Choose a region that best suits your style of travel (beaches, wildlife, mountains, etc.) and plan your trip around that. You will have a far richer experience by spending more time in a smaller region than you will by racing across the country.
I would also recommend hiring local guides to show you around. The rates of professional guides are incredibly reasonable and you will learn so much from the experience. And if you are ever in doubt, ask. We are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet and we are always happy to help.