If you wrote a list of all the things you wanted to do or see on holiday, we can bet that South Africa ticks most of those boxes. Whether it's relaxing on a beach, going on a photographic wildlife safari, immersing yourself in rich culture and worldly history, road tripping through breathtaking scenery, or taking to the countryside, one award-winning glass of wine at a time - South Africa has it all, and more...
Home to the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas, where the warm Indian Ocean meets the cool Atlantic Ocean, South Africa is a country of extraordinary natural beauty. Being in such a unique position, the country offers a diversity unrivalled to anywhere else on earth including topography, climate, wildlife, culture and its people.
Flying into one of the country's international airports (Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban) will set you up in the perfect position to explore the country's many highlights. With so much on offer all year-round, why would you ever want to leave? And with one of our Travel Experts guiding you towards your ultimate adventure, you'll be asking yourself that same question as soon as you step off the plane.
The options are endless: combine an indulgent foodie getaway in the Cape Winelands with a Big 5 safari experience in the Kruger National Park. Experience the fast-paced energy of Johannesburg's urban jungle and then move on to the beaches, bushveld, and historic battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal. Or simply top off a relaxing seaside holiday on the gorgeous Garden Route with a malaria-free safari in the Eastern Cape. Whether you like it mellow or wild, a South African holiday guarantees you the all-rounded African experience you’ve always dreamed of.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting South Africa
Look up at any map of the world and nine times out of ten the African continent is in the middle of the page. South Africa is located right at the bottom of this big chunk of land and is 1 233 404 km² (766 401 miles²) in size and is edged on three sides by nearly 3 000 km (1 864 miles) of coastline, with the Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
The country is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and also encloses two independent countries, the kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland.
Getting to South Africa might not seem to be an easy feat; but remember Mae West when she so accurately declared 'I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.'
It is very likely that you will need to make at least one transit stop along the way to get to one of the country's international airports; and depending on where you will be flying from, your dedication to this long-haul journey will be rewarded in tenfold with an unforgettable adventure on the cards. It’s a long-haul from Europe (10 to 12 hours), Asia (12 to 17 hours) and the United States (up to 15 hours or even more).
With over 70 international airlines now flying into South Africa, you have your options open to choose which carrier to bring you over. Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) operates the major airports and is responsible for approximately 200 000 landings and around 24-million passengers every year. So if you find yourself researching flights into South Africa, here are the three major airports to keep in mind (in order of most frequently used):
The rumours and tabloids are true, South Africa does have crime. There is also a list of areas within the country of South Africa which should be avoided. In this case, "South Africa" can be replaced with any other developing country where a sizable portion of the population is living in rural areas where poverty is high, there is a lack of basic amenities as well as poor educational development in the country, all of which contribute to an increase in criminal activity.
We are not trying to diminish the extent to which the crime rates have been rated in South Africa. What we are trying to say is that crime is found all over the world and in most major cities; but with the right advice, guidance and direction you are able to avoid letting the news or social media scare you away from visiting this one-of-a-kind destination. This is a large reason why it is so beneficial to book your holiday with us, the authority on African travel.
Based in Cape Town (Western Cape Province), one of the country's major travel "hubs" and iconic destinations, we are able to give our clients first-hand, on the ground travel advice, safety recommendations and local tips while booking the best itinerary possible - why? Because we are the locals! And we look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful home.
Any time! Of course, if you are planning on combining a few areas within the country, where weather patterns vary, there are a few things to keep in mind when planning the best time to travel here.
South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, so it is summer here when it’s winter in Europe and North America (November to February), which makes it the ideal destination for anyone wanting to escape the cold weather.
Average temperatures in summer, ranging from a minimum of 19°C (66.2°F) to a maximum of 29°C (84.2°F), and in winter, range from 6°C (42.8°F) to 23°C (73.4°F) - so it can get quite chilly at night, but nothing like the northern hemisphere winters.
If you’re planning a safari, there are two weather patterns to keep in mind. The Cape peninsula in the South has a Mediterranean climate and so it is hot and dry in summer (Oct – May) and the wet and cold in winter (June – Sept) - however, you can still experience some of the most beautiful days during a South African winter! The rest of South Africa, including the safari destinations, has an African rainfall where it is dry and hot in winter with cool mornings and evenings, and a summer rainfall (in the form of thundershowers in some areas) where the bush turns into lush greenery!
This said, winter is generally the best time to visit Kruger for safari, but you ideally want to find the "sweet spot" to combine some time on safari for the best wildlife opportunities, but also in other areas where you can catch some sun rays by the beach...
A winter beach holiday along the KwaZulu-Natal coast is ideal as average temperatures hover around the 26°C (79°F) mark, and the summers are characterised by high humidity!
Cape Town’s best seasons are spring, summer and autumn (between September and May). In spring, southern right whales visit the coastline and the flowers are in bloom. Autumn offers a respite from the summer heat and the vineyards of the Cape Winelands are starting to change colour.
Go on safari! South Africa is home to the Big 5, namely the buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino. It's also home to a host of other animals, bird and plant species. To see the Big 5, your best bet is to head for the Greater Kruger National Park (particularly to the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve), the malaria-fee Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West Province, private lodges or parks in northern KwaZulu-Natal (famous for its rhino population), as well as the private game reserves around the Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape.
If ticking the Big Five list is not up your alley, but you are still interested in experiencing South Africa's wildlife, why not find out the more rare sightings such as gemsbok, aardvark, pangolin to Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra. Grab a front-row seat in the iconic luxury Tswalu Kalahari Reserve where you can experience some of the most unbeliveable sightings with a backdrop of the red Kalahari sands.
Arm yourself with binoculars, a good field guide, or even a dedicated bird field guide, and take to the bush. Your encounter with wildlife big and small will count as among the most thrilling and memorable experiences of your life!
Soak up the sun! South Africa has some of the most beautiful, pristine beaches in the world, and Cape Town’s famous beaches, such as Clifton and Muizenberg, along with Durban’s glorious beaches are extremely popular.
If you take yourself off to the Eastern Cape’s aptly named Wild Coast, or northern Zululand’s remote coast, you could well find yourself all alone with just surf, sand and sea to keep you company.
There are Blue Flag beaches, family-friendly beaches, beaches with African penguins, and beaches where you can watch whales breach and blow. And, of course, beaches where you can dive, snorkel, waterski, kayak, canoe or indulge in almost any water-based activity, not forgetting the ever-popular penguin beaches: Boulders Beach & Stony Point.
Yes of course! South Africa has some of the most scenic driving routes in the world, and what better way to road trip than to do it at your own pace. Being based in Cape Town, with most of our Travel Experts having grown up in South Africa – coming from all over the country – we are equipped to share all the ins and the outs of driving around South Africa for the ultimate itinerary.
One of the most popular self-driving routes in South Africa is the well-known Garden Route and can be done in reverse depending where your starting point will be. If you plan to fly into Cape Town, consider spending a few nights here first acclimatising before hiring a car and heading up the coast for the perfect summer holiday!
This route takes visitors east along the coast from Cape Town, past spectacular coastal scenery and through indigenous forests surrounding the beautiful town of Knysna. A road trip like this can be for the family, a group of friends, or even the newlywed couple looking to spend some time exploring this beautiful piece of the world. With a long to-do list of stops along the way and activities to try such as adrenaline-pumping bungee jumping off the 3rd highest drop in the world, diving with great white sharks, a visit to a variety of animal sanctuaries or a picturesque boat ride; you could even end your road trip with a few nights on safari at one of the many private, malaria-free, game reserves along the way.
South Africa is a mecca for self-drive enthusiasts. Although distances can be daunting, the roads are well signposted, the majority are well maintained and the scenery is spectacular! If you are visiting a national park, you may wish to hire an SUV for comfort and to give you height advantage when game viewing. Self-service roads inside National Parks can get bumpy, so a good height clearing vehicle is highly recommended.
The friendliest bunch you will ever meet! Stemming off the community principle of "Ubuntu", which means "I am because of you", South Africa's people are an enormous part of the country's heart and soul - which you can feel when you immerse yourself in the country's culture.
South Africa comes from a rich and fascinating history. Rising from the ashes of Apartheid and growing into the democratic republic that it is today, South Africa and her people have shown how a country as diverse as she is can come together and hold so much pride for its people. Although we still have far to go, one thing is for sure, South Africans are resilient and strong and are thriving as a unified country.
The last census showed a population of just above 59-million people, of varying origins, cultures, languages and religions; and if you really want to impress your South African peers, here is a list of the country's 11 official languages, namely:
-English (most widely understood)
While you are visiting South Africa, be sure to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest freedom icons in modern history, such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Mahatma Gandhi, among many others. There are numerous museums and sites of interest located around Johannesburg and in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. While you’re about it, spend time in Soweto or a city township; visit a Zulu cultural village; admire the intricate beadwork, metal neck rings and unique geometric mural art of the Ndebele people or enjoy the hospitality of a South African farm. South African rock art is among the best in the world and easily accessible, especially in the Drakensberg.
Accommodation: South Africa is renowned for its excellent tourist infrastructure and wide range of accommodation, from luxury game lodges and five-star hotels to friendly country houses, small hotels, B&Bs, and camping and self-catering establishments. We look forward to assisting you with your planning.
Communications: South Africa has a well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone providers (MTN, Vodacom, Cell C) offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas, most hotels and some safari destinations. So that you can stay connected while you are disconnecting.
Water: In urban areas, tap water is usually of high quality and safe. It’s quite safe to have ice in drinks and to eat salads. However, when travelling to remote rural areas and the bush, you should drink bottled or purified water. Most properties will provide bottled or purified water using reverse osmosis water purification technology. South Africa is a water-scarce country so please always be conscious to save water wherever possible.
The rules of the road: South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road and all speed limits are in kilometres per hour (so practise converting those miles)! You may use a valid driver’s licence issued in your own country as long as it has a photograph, the signature of the holder and is in English. If in another language, it’s best to obtain an international driving licence before you leave home.
Cash vs Card: South Africa's currency is the Rand (Abbreviation = ZAR). Credit card payments are widely accepted for payments in shops, hotels and lodges although it is better to have cash for tipping and for informal purchases from markets etc. American Express and Diner’s Club is not accepted everywhere and so it would be better to travel with either Visa or Mastercard.