South Africa is a land of beauty, brimming with life, vibrancy and natural wildernesses. Born of a turbulent past, this newly reinvented nation is a popular tourist destination, offering world famous game reserves, heritage sites, and sophisticated cities. The mix of old-world colonialism, African tribes, and migrant workers has enriched this country with flavor and character. English, Dutch, German and Indian influences are evident in the architecture, language, clothing, and spices. A proud tribal history is reflected in art, music, food, and other cultural traditions.
South Africa has some of the world’s best game parks with diverse animals and ecosystems that lend itself to excellent game-viewing. In addition to Big 5 game viewing, you may even see endangered species, like the rhino and cheetah, which you won’t find in many other safari destinations. The private game concessions monitor the number of vehicles allowed on special game sightings, so they won’t be tarnished by a mass of noisy vehicles. Sightings can be less controlled in other game parks throughout Africa, making safaris feel busy and commercialized.
With so much to see and do, South Africa is a destination which appeals to a range of people. There are properties that cater mostly to adults, intimate and romantic lodges for honeymooners, and other properties that are better suited for families. The well-established infrastructure of the country makes it convenient to travel from a secluded reserve to a bustling metropolis, easily providing guests with a varied South African experience. There truly is something for everyone in South Africa!
South Africa offers world-renowned food and wine, safaris without the worry of Malaria, and presents levels of luxury to fit all budgets.
South Africa is a destination that embraces it large cities with shops, restaurants and various forms of entertainment juxtaposed against natural beauty and wildlife.
Although the game experience may not be as spectacular as a safari in Botswana or Kenya (particularly during the migration), South Africa provides the option of combining other aspects of a holiday unattainable in those destinations - and receive a higher degree of luxury and service.
The most popular combination is Cape Town and Kruger National Park and its surrounding private reserves, and for good reason. Cape Town is a world class city, often compared to San Francisco, with stunning views and amazing surrounding areas including the Winelands and Cape Peninsula. In Kruger you are almost guaranteed to see the Big 5. There are however many other areas we love such as Phinda, the Wateberg, and Madikwe.
South Africa has a safer, less rustic feel to it than other safari destinations. If you are concerned about going on safari, or may require additional comfort and assistance, then this is a tamer, safer option. Phone and internet accessibility are consistently good throughout the country, and you won’t be in truly remote areas, like in Zambia or Botswana.
The cities are big and bold with shopping, culture, and entertainment to suit the most discerning travelers. Upmarket game lodges are well-run and luxury and service levels can be confidently guaranteed. South Africa is great for combining city and bush, along with beach, adventure activities, and cultural experiences. The list is endless!
Family travel is popular and many properties have specific child-friendly amenities to ensure the kids enjoy their holiday as much as their parents. Malaria-free reserves are a good option when traveling with small kids, such as Madikwe and the Waterberg.
Johannesburg International Airport is a major hub and many regional and international destinations are accessed from here. This means that South Africa can easily be combined with other safari destinations, most conveniently other countries in Southern Africa (i.e. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Mozambique).
South Africa caters to all levels of travelers, from budget to super luxury, from a tent to a busy, sophisticated hotel. It is a massive country and there is something for everyone.
If you are looking for quaint, owner-run and remote properties on your visit, then South Africa may not be the right destination. Game lodges and hotels can be busy and even impersonal at times.
A South African safari means you forsake the remoteness experienced in other destinations. However, this is compensated for by a sense of security and safety – communications are good and you are never too far from civilization, which is comforting when you are away from home.
Although cultural experiences are available, this is more of a side-line aspect than in other destinations such as Kenya and Botswana, and when they are offered, they can be rather commercialized.
South Africa has many pretty beaches, but it is not the right destination if you are eager for a week lying in the sun and being looked after. The Kwa-Zulu Natal Coastline’s beaches are wild – more for fishing and turtles. The Cape beaches have icy waters which typically only the British visitors are brave enough to enter. Beach hotels are quite rare and even the prime ones in Cape Town are actually located across the road from the hotel.
Although South Africa is a year-round destination, the best game viewing is between April and October. As the winter months (June to August) can be very cold, we suggest you travel in South Africa’s fall and spring (April to June and September to October).
If you are going during the winter, pack warmly.
Cape Town is best from September to April but gets very busy over December and January. If you are hoping to see the wildflowers, you would need to go in August and September.
Hotels may offer special rates in off season periods, depending on where you are going.
South Africa is a year round destination and, provided you pack the right clothing for chilly winter nights (June to August) and hot summer days (December to February), you will be fine. There have been heavy rains in recent years between January and March but we can’t tell if this is an exception or a rule at this point.
Cape Town has a winter rainfall climate and can get cold and rainy between June and August.
Like any country, there is a range of price. City hotels may vary in price from $50 per person per night for 3-star properties, to $300 per person per night for the top hotels in Cape Town such as the Cape Grace or Ellerman House.
3-star game lodges vary in price from $250 per person per night to over $700 or even $1500 at Singita properties. A good rule of thumb for a 4-star trip is an average of $600 per person per night and $1000 for five star experiences.
South Africa does the luxury safari lodge like nowhere else. From the ultimate 5-star properties like Singita Ebony and Royal Malawane to a huge range of beautiful, stylish lodges at the 3 and 4-star level, South Africa has a safari lodge for every price point, all of which offer incredible Big 5 game-viewing.
Where South Africa struggles a bit in comparison to other countries is in providing the classic tented camp safari experience. However, if you have you heart set on South Africa and a tented camp, it is possible! We particularly like Hillsnek in the Amakhala Game Reserve and the Tented Camp in the Thanda Reserve.
Whether or not you stay in a lodge or a tented camp; in Kruger, Madikwe, or the Eastern Cape; properties in South Africa are connected by a comprehensive network of regional and inter-property flights, meaning you can explore the country with few long driving transfers. At the same time, South Africa’s solid infrastructure and excellent roads also mean that renting a car and exploring on your own for all or part of your trip is an easy option. Many people opt to explore the famous Garden Route or drive themselves out to the Cape Peninsula or to the Winelands. It is also possible to visit game reserves on a self-drive program. At properties like Kwandwe in the Eastern Cape, you leave your car at the gate of the reserve and spend your time in the park in a safari vehicle. We do not recommend self-drives in Kruger National Park both for safety reasons and for the quality of the game-viewing.
Lastly, South Africa is the perfect option for clients who want to add a few other activities in addition to game-viewing. Cape Town and Johannesburg offer everything from rugby games to paddle boarding, surfing to museums, historical sites to art galleries, and shopping to world class food and wine. No other country in Africa offers the range of activities that South Africa does.
South Africa is the proud home to a wide variety of game from the majestic elephant to the smallest dung beetle. In many of the game parks you will be able to see the Big 5 (leopard, lion, rhino, elephant and buffalo) in addition to the cheetah, wild dog, hippo, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, hyena, antelope, buck, warthog, crocodile, monitor lizard, duiker, civet, baboon, and other monkey. Also to be seen are the civet, serval, kudu, impala, waterbuck, bat-eared fox, jackal, and mongoos.
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