With golden beaches, jagged mountains and national parks overflowing with wildlife, South Africa is the Africa you’ve always imagined. While memories of a troubled past stay, the republic is well on the way to regaining its throne as the holiday capital of Africa, visited by ten million people every year.
Topping a long list of attractions is the republic’s spectacular wildlife and natural scenery. National parks and nature reserves preserve an wonderful variety of landscapes -rolling plains, towering mountains, arid deserts, coastal fynbos (shrubland) and pure blue oceans – home to an wonderful variety of wildlife, from lions and elephants to great white sharks and playful penguins.
South Africa’s cities are no less varied. In the far south, lorded over by iconic Table Mountain, Cape Town is South Africa’s most obtainable gateway, with stunning beaches, vibrant, multicultural neighbourhoods, famous vineyards, a lively nightlife and fine dining to rival any European capital. You’ll discover a similarly cosmopolitan vibe in Johannesburg, the energetic capital, and in beachside Durban, where the hot sunshine is matched by the scorching curries cooked up by the South Asian community.
In between you can lose yourself for days on safari. The undisputed top spot for wildlife spotters is world-famous Kruger National Park, where the Large – lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and rhinos – are joined by hundreds of other African species.
If the landscape sounds diverse, wait until you meet the people. South Africa boasts 11 official languages and over a dozen tribes, living alongside communities from Africa, Europe and the Indian subcontinent – small wonder this is named the Rainbow Nation. This diversity is tangible all over the place, from the architecture and language to the nation’s spectacular cuisine.
Nevertheless, sizable inequality remains, still sharply marked out along racial lines. To understand modern South Africa, everyone ought to visit Johannesburg’s moving Apartheid Museum, and Robben Island jail, where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years. Or you could join a township tour in Soweto, which, like the remainder of your trip, you’ll always keep in mind.
Safari Holidays – The Kruger National Park is one of the most famous safari destinations in the world. With its network of National Park run guest houses and rest camps, it allows the visitor to self-drive around much of the park in their own cars on an excellent network of tarmac roads. Around the park in private concessions such as Sabi Sands, are many exclusive (and some very expensive) private lodges, that offer an unforgettable safari experience.
For those with children, or just passing through Johannesburg and looking for something a bit closer, there is the Pilanesberg. This National Park still offers the opportunity to see the Big 5 – Lions, leopards, rhino, elephants and Cape Buffalo, but also has the added bonus that it’s malaria free.
Another popular option is to stay at one of the Game Reserves located in the Cape Provinces, allowing them to be combined easily with Cape Town. These private reserves are fenced and cover many thousands of hectares, giving a true safari experience and with a high chance of good game-viewing. The Addo National Park in the Cape actually claims to offer the Big 7! – The usual 5 + whales and sharks.
Touring on the Garden Route – The Garden Route is the coastline of the Eastern and Western Cape Provinces, between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Rugged scenery, remote bays and beaches, lush lagoons and quaint towns combine to create a wonderful setting for a touring holiday.
Cape Town – Most people who visit South Africa want to explore the vibrant city of Cape Town. Its location is spectacular, with Table Mountain rising behind it, Dutch-style farmsteads mingling with modern houses on its slopes. A visit to its waterfront can be combined with a day trip to the Cape of Good Hope or the nearby wine estates of the Cape Winelands.
There is a huge choice of accommodation options from small guest-houses to luxury hotels. Wherever you stay, Cape Town is unlikely to disappoint.
Battlefield Tours – It’s increasingly popular to visit the Anglo Zulu War and Anglo Boer war battlefields in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. On these tours you will explore locations such as Roukes Drift, Isandlwana and Ladysmith. These can be experienced as either a self-drive adventure or as a guided tour.
When To Go
The climate of South Africa is temperate and generally pleasant. Classified as “semi-arid”, South Africa’s weather tends to be fairly mild, thanks to the influence of its vast ocean borders.
The best time to visit depends more on what you plan to do, rather than the weather. For example, the best time for viewing game is from August to October (spring time). Summer can be very hot in the lowveld and milder at higher altitudes, although rain and mist are likely in the mountains. Be aware that December and January (especially around the holidays) are peak season months and resorts and national parks book up well in advance so reservations are advised.
- Always keep valuables concealed in pockets or bags in the main cities.
- Choose a safari destination that is malaria free if travelling with children to avoid the need for Malaria tablets.
- Get to the Table Mountain cable car early to avoid the main rush. Watch out for weekend and holidays when the locals all go up as well!
– Game viewing in Kruger National Park
– Hiking in the Drakensburg Mountains
– Cage diving with the great white sharks
– A drive along the Garden Route
– Climb Table Mountain in Cape Town
– Sample the world-famous local wines