WELCOME TO SOUTH AFRICA
“I believe that South Africa is the most beautiful place on earth. Admittedly, I am biased, but when you combine the natural beauty of sunny South Africa with the friendliness and cultural diversity of our people, and the fact that the region is a haven for Africa’s most splendid wildlife, then I think even the most scrupulous critic would agree that we have been blessed with a truly wonderful land.
I would like to extend a personal invitation to you to come and see for yourself, the splendour of South Africa. I know that my people will be delighted to welcome you and I think you will be enchanted by their warmth and hospitality. I am equally sure that you will enjoy our culture, our cuisine and the warmth of our people.”
WELCOME TO SOUTH AFRICA
Each of South Africa’s nine provinces offers important attractions whether you be a casual visitor, shutter bug, history buff, bird watcher, museum-goer, beach-comber, sports fan, wildlife seeker or casino crawler, South Africa has to be one of the premier tourist destinations in the world, especially in the wake of the sharp depreciation of the rand. Visitors spending hard currency, especially the US Dollar and the British Pound, find first-class restaurants and hotels downright affordable. In short, almost any pursuit of interest to the tourist is available and at reasonable prices.
Tourism as an industry is well advanced in South Africa and South African Tourism, a government body, is the key body for promoting tourism. The organization works closely with the private sector to make South Africa better known as an exceptional destination for business and tourism. The number of overseas visitors coming to South Africa each year is growing, especially from the key markets of UK, US, Germany, France and the Netherlands. The number of cruise ships visiting Cape Town and Durban has increased substantially as has the use of time shares in South Africa. South Africa has the attractions and the infrastructure to support that kind of growth.
The country’s advanced infrastructure makes it easy for the visitors to design their own programmes. Roads, telephones, bus service, railroads, airlines and communications are modern and reliable. One can rent a car and drive from one side of the country to the other on good roads. Or take the luxurious Blue Train or Rovos Rail.
Potential investors and businessmen and women can only be impressed by how inexpensive it is to do business here. In terms of office space, homes and other costs of doing business, South Africa is the fifth least expensive place in the world and the second least expensive in Africa. Not only inexpensive, the standards are exceptionally high. Shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants, hotels, resorts, and sports facilities are all modern, clean and five-star. For those who want to eschew the big hotels, quaint bed and breakfasts places in the cities and off the beaten track are readily available.
The Kruger Park, about the size of Israel, is one of the largest game reserves in the world. Good, clean facilities and good roads make the search for the Big Five – lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo and elephant – a pleasant as well as an exciting venture. For those who prefer a little more comfort, there are many up-market and luxurious private reserves where one can see an abundance of wildlife in natural settings. Some are within a short drive of the bigger cities.
South Africa is more than wildlife and modern shopping malls. For the sport minded, it offers some of the best golf courses in the world (at prices that in US$ terms seem ridiculously low). Football is a national passion as are cricket and rugby. And at almost any time of the year there is an international match in progress in one of those sports. There are hiking trails along the coast and in the mountains, beautiful beaches, horse riding, camping grounds and venues for many other sports like jogging and tennis or sailing.
South Africa has a fascinating history that can be captured at its many battlefields and museums. Music and the arts thrive. One can find classical music or township jazz, ballet or Zulu dancing. Concert halls and theatres in the major cities offer a great variety of local and international artists, year round.
With over 30 years in guiding, travel planning, corporate events, team building, incentive travel, luxury travel and all other types of travel we can help you plan a journey to remember.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA
CAPE TOWN & THE CAPE WINELANDS
A brief history of the Cape
Early settlers and maverick explorers landed in the Cape in 1652 and exclaimed that this southernmost region of South Africa must be the “fairest cape of them all”. They were not exaggerating. The imposing Table Mountain must have been a sight to behold as their ships landed at the foot of the mountain. Originally intended as a refreshment port for the Dutch East India Company, settlers couldn’t help but expand their reach in this pristine and natural resource-rich region of South Africa.
The old Cape was home to a variety of native cultures; the Khoisan and the San bushmen. Tragically, European settlers pushed these ethnic groups further out of the Cape as they began expanding. Later, there was conflict between the British and Dutch settlers, who later formed their own group called the Afrikaaners, with a unique language (an offshoot of Dutch) and a culture all their own. Eventually, most of the Afrikaaners were forced out of the Cape by the British. Much later, Indian, Indonesian and Madagascan people were brought from their country to the Cape as slaves.
Despite this rather turbulent fight for power and control in the Cape, as well as the marginalisation of indigenous people, today Cape Town is as varied in language and culture, as it is open to everyone.
Cape Town remains one of the most beautiful cities in the world. One only needs to fly over the area to marvel at the variety of landscapes. Very few places in the world can brag of a coastline as stunning as the Cape’s.
Kayaking off the coast of Simon's Town | Credit: Kayak Cape Town
The Cape Winelands
The fertile lands of Cape Town’s surrounds took the early settler Simon Van De Stel only a few years before he began planting vineyards in what is now known as Constantia. Further inland, the stunning areas of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek were seen as the ideal topographical region for further wine plantations. Today, South Africa is one of the finest producers of wine in the world.
Aside from its rich history and natural beauty, the Cape Winelands draw local and international foodies to historic wine estates to sample world-class wines and food under shady oak trees, and rolling lawns.
What to do in Cape Town
Hike the iconic Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, or take the cable car to the top of the mountain. The best time to do this is during the warm summer, where sunsets are simply majestic from the vantage point of the mountain. Abseiling down the steep slopes of the mountain is also available for experienced climbers.
Paraglide off Signal Hill. A fun and scenic experience.
Take a short boat trip to Robben Island from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. This remote and desolate island was once used as a fortified and isolated prison for those who fought for freedom during Apartheid. In fact, it was where the late Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years before the abolishment of Apartheid.
Explore Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, a flowery piece of paradise just outside the city bowl. During the summer months, Kirstenbosch hosts a variety of local and international musicians. Pack a picnic and enjoy live music on rolling green lawns.
Take a trip along the Cape Peninsula. The astonishing amount of unique flora found nowhere else on the planet will delight, as well as the crystal clear bays that are a joy to discover and are relatively untouched. The small seaside town of Kalk Bay offers quirky shops, and your pick of restaurants lining the street. A wonderful way to spend a Sunday. For the adventurous and active traveller, you can hire a kayak from Simon’s Town, and explore the Atlantic waters of the surrounds.
Snorkel or scuba dive with Cape fur seals off Duiker Island.
Visit Boulders Beach where you can swim with African penguins.
Relax on the beaches of Clifton. Here, powder-white sand meets azure water. Surfing, sunbathing and sundowners are the norm here.
Hop on a yacht at the V&A Waterfront during summer for a sundowner cruise that will take you along the coast and moors off the famous Clifton Beach.
Join a cooking tour in the suburb of Bo-Kaap on the slopes of the city bowl. Here you can participate in cooking classes that will educate you on food that represents the Cape Malay population’s unique cuisine.
Further north along the West Coast, Langebaan lagoon is a popular vacation spot for locals. The shallow, aquamarine waters of the lagoon are great for swimming, picnicing on the beach and watersports. In the springtime, the coast bursts into a showery display of purple, orange, yellow and white daisies. A truly magical experience.
What to do in the Cape Winelands
Take a full day tour of the world-class wine estates that dot the area in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Enjoy wine tasting, local produce and fine dining and picturesque surrounds.
Hop on an open-air wine tram that will take you to boutique wine estates. A guide will enchant you with the rich history of the area.
Stroll the tree-lined streets of Stellenbosch where cosy cafes serve fresh, homemade bread and expertly brewed coffee. In the evenings, the town comes alive with students from the University of Stellenbosch making their way out for a fun-filled night on the town.
History buffs will enjoy the Stellenbosch Village Museum which showcases how the early Dutch settlers lived and worked during the 1700s. Built in 1709, this is the oldest Cape Dutch building in the area. You’ll be met with guides in age-old dress, ready to tell the story of the fascinating way of life in Stellenbosch.
The Stellenbosch Toy and Miniature Museum is a great place for kids. Antique toys, dolls, teddies and miniature car collections are on display.
The annual Stellenbosch Wine Festival is held in late February each year and offers a multitude of wines from large estates and smaller more boutique producers. Music and people come together for this popular social gathering.
Best time to visit Cape Town & the Winelands
A trip to Cape Town and surrounds is best enjoyed during the warm and sunny summer months.
OCTOBER to MARCH
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Central Kruger is home to the largest impala, buffalo, kudu, giraffe, wildebeest, waterbuck, sable and zebra populations in the park, which are drawn to the region’s fertile soils and many trees, including the knobthorn and the marula and its edible fruit. These grazers, in turn, attract nearly half of the park’s lion population and many of its leopards, cheetahs and hyenas. Elephants and black rhino may be spotted, and a wide array of bird species can be seen all over, especially in the basalt plains.
Credit: The Outpost
Private reserves and concessions
Scattered along the unfenced western boundary of the world-renowned Kruger National Park, private game reserves combine with the Kruger to establish one of the world’s largest game reserves. This incredible destination offers visitors excellent Big Five game viewing opportunities and an array of luxury safari accommodation complete with world-class cuisine, relaxing spas and private pools. Visitors can look forward to fascinating night-drive safaris, guided nature walks, and open-top safari adventures. Some of these prestigious private reserves include: Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, Thornybush Private Game Reserve, and Timbavati Private Game Reserve, to name a few.
What to experience in Kruger National Park
Walking safaris. Join a professional guide as you trek the bushveld looking for wildlife. This experience is truly fantastic, and allows you to see all the little things not visible from a safari vehicle. Pack long socks, a hat and sunblock.
Game drives in private reserves take place twice a day, in the early morning and late afternoon, when wildlife are most active.
Star beds. Some lodges offer open-roofed “star-bed” experiences, where you can observe the celestial bodies that glitter above you. Perfect for honeymooners who want some alone time.
Bush meals. Prepare to be pampered with breakfast, lunch or dinner in the middle of the veld. You’ll be served by a personal butler.
Stretching over more than two million hectares, the Kruger National Park is one of the world’s largest game reserves and a truly remarkable destination. Owing to its exceptional size, visitors are able to experience fantastic diversity – from changing scenery and ecosystems to an impressive array of animals, plant life and birdlife. The park is home to over 130 mammals and over 500 bird species. Visitors can look forward to learning about the area’s prehistoric past, enjoying a host of accommodation options, and viewing the abundant wildlife including the famed Big Five. The sheer density of wildlife makes Kruger National Park an unforgettable and potentially life-changing experience. This is truly the safari capital of South Africa!
Most locals opt for a self-drive journey into the park, where accommodation ranges from mid- to budget self-catering cottages. For the more discerning, there are a multitude of private reserves and concessions that share unfenced borders with the main park. Accommodation here is sheer luxury, with award-winning lodges, majestic views and highly personalised safari activities.
Although located close to the Indian Ocean, northern Kruger experiences high levels of aridity because of the Limpopo high pressure system. Covered in a blanket of shrub mopane, the low-lying northern Kruger area is dissected by the Olifants and Letaba rivers and other, smaller rivers that are more like large pools of water. The addition of reservoirs has allowed for the presence of hippos and water birds. These areas of water have created lush river corridors, adding to the ecological diversity of the area and attracting various animals and birds, including waterbuck, bushbuck, kudu, nyala, buffalo, lion, leopard, hyena and half of Kruger’s elephants.
The southern area of South Africa’s most famous game reserve is separated from lush farmland by the Crocodile River, a popular spot for lazy crocs, playful hippos and thirsty animals. The game viewing area is known as the ‘Southern Circle’ and is renowned for its rhinos and lions, of which there are different prides with definitive hunting techniques and behaviours. Also found here, near the Hippo Pool, are ancient San rock paintings.
THE GARDEN ROUTE
Credit: Morukuru House
Hailed as one of South Africa’s most beautiful coastlines, the Garden Route stretches for 200 kilometres, beginning just outside Cape Town, and ending loosely before the Eastern Cape town of Port Elizabeth. It traverses through rocky coastal towns, river mouths, shady forests and popular seaside towns.
Whether you are seeking pristine, uncrowded white-sand beaches, world-class golf courses, ancient forests, top-notch surf spots, extraordinary nature reserves, excellent hiking opportunities or exhilarating outdoor adventures such as bungee jumping or ziplining, the Garden Route has it all.
For the road trippers, the Garden Route is ideal for a family or romantic getaway. Hop in a rental and discover why this stretch of South Africa is so famous. The roads are easily navigated, well-designed and offers views of the Western Cape that cannot be beat.
Gansbaai is shark-cage diving central. Known for its rich marine life, a stop over here is a must. Here you’ll meet the world’s rarest ocean creatures, but the highlight is arguably shark cage diving. Meet the ocean’s most ferocious fish from the safety of a cage. This is a great way to understand a little bit more about this elusive and often misunderstood master of the sea.
Sandwiched between the towering Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean, Knysna is known as the ‘Garden of Eden’. It is surrounded by world-renowned forests, lovely lagoons and pristine beaches. Visitors can look forward to an array of markets offering delicious food and organic locally-made goods, explore the town’s picturesque waterfront and quaint streets, adventure through the lush forest, skip over streams and catch a glimpse of the multicoloured Knysna Loerie, take a ferry trip to the famed Knysna Heads and sample the local oysters. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of exciting activities including: surfing, swimming, yachting, jet skiing, boating, fishing, and golfing. Join locals from far and wide at the annual Knysna Oyster Festival, a celebration of the fresh bounty of South Africa’s ocean.
A visit to the Garden route is not complete without a bungy jumping experience at the Bloukrans Bridge. Known as the highest commercial jump in the world, it takes a lot of guts to plunge over the bridge into the awaiting abyss. For those who prefer not to jump, there is a skybridge below, where the courageous can walk over the gaping valley below and stunning views.
The seaside town of Hermanus is a wonderful summer vacation spot for Cape Townians who prefer to holiday closer to the city. It is, however, equally as visited during winter and spring, when the annual Hermanus Whale Festival takes place. As the only ecomarine festival in South Africa, this event raises awareness of South Africa’s treasured marine life, and the need to preserve our giant marine visitors.
Hermanus is known as the best land-based whale watching spots in the world; simply because you can easily see Southern rights and humpbacks right from the shores of the harbour. There is even a dedicated whale crier, a guide who indicates to the public where you can see the whales up close, using a horn made from dried kelp.
Credit: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Land-based whale watching is not the only way to observe whales; there are plenty of tour operators that offer sea excursions, as well as helicopter rides over the ocean. It is important to choose a tour operator that has a valid license, or one that belongs to a local marine conservation organisation. Some operators promise that feeding, touching and swimming with whales is possible. This is an unlawful practise, so report any suspicious operators that offer these unethical encounters.
The coastal town of Plettenberg Bay is a popular holiday destination. The Portuguese explorers called it the 'Beautiful Bay', and it’s easy to see why – Plettenberg Bay is a picturesque, charming town with endless pristine beaches, tranquil lagoons, clean rivers, indigenous forests and a dramatic rocky peninsula. Playground to the wealthy, beach mansions overlook the Indian Ocean, often dotted with luxury yachts, while leisure time is given over to polo and golf, among other things. However, all kinds of visitors will feel at peace here as simply swimming in the warm water on a safe beach is a great way to experience the beauty of Plettenberg Bay. The area becomes quite busy during the summer school holidays (December), so if you want to avoid the crowds, then ask us about when to go for a more intimate experience.
Tsitsikamma National Park
Tsitsikamma National Park is known for its ancient forest, pristine coastline and magnificent rivers. The Tsitsikamma National Park falls within the Garden Route National Park and encompasses a marine conservation belt which stretches five kilometres out into the ocean. It is home to diverse fauna and flora including over 9000 species of indigenous fynbos. Visitors can look forward to hiking to the Big Tree, an ancient yellowwood; and going on an exhilarating kayaking trip at Storms River Mouth, as well as a number of other activities including: cycling, swimming, zip lining, camping, snorkelling, diving, mountain biking, and sailing.
MADIKWE, PILANESBERG & SUN CITY
Located northwest of Johannesburg, the Pilanesberg Game Reserve lies inside a 1300 million-year-old extinct volcanic complex and offers a wide variety of beautiful landscapes featuring grasslands, wooded valleys and unique rock formations. Pilanesberg is home to a great diversity of plants and animals including the Big Five and over 360 species of bird. It has some great game drives for both day-trippers and visitors staying in the various camps. Those looking to mix a little glitz and glamour with their wildlife viewing, South Africa’s leading resort, Sun City, is only minutes away.
Madikwe Game Reserve
Bordering Botswana in South Africa’s North West Province, the lesser-known Madikwe Game Reserve is the fifth largest reserve in South Africa. It is home to a wild dog reserve, abundant wildlife including the world-renowned Big Five and over 300 bird species such as vulture, ostrich and the large kori bustard. The landscape is characterised by vast grasslands, woodlands, and the rugged Tshwene Tshwene hills sheltering a host of wildlife. Visitors can look forward to sunset drinks overlooking the Madikwe Dam, ample game viewing opportunities and a variety of accommodation options ranging from community lodges to luxury safari lodges in a malaria-free zone.
Credit: Madikwe Safari Lodge
Stretching along the border of the Pilanesberg National Park, in the North West Province, Sun City is internationally renowned as South Africa's premier holiday resort and offers a multitude of attractions and activities to keep all visitors entertained for days. With its combination of golfing, gaming and gambling, as well as world-class hotels, it is a mini Las Vegas in the African bush. It is also known as the only surf-and-safari destination within a two-hour drive of the landlocked city of Johannesburg. Visitors can choose from a range of wonderful accommodation options including the opulent ‘Palace of the Lost City’ or the elegant ‘Cascades’ or enjoy the endless rolling waves at the ‘Valley of Waves’.
Credit: Blyde River Canyon Lodge
Things to do
Microflights over the incredible landscape with its peaks and valleys
Abseiling down the craggy mountain face
4x4 quad bike tours
Plenty of museums and cultural centres where you can learn about this fascinating part of the country
Credit: Royal Hotel, Pilgrim's Rest
Connecting the Lowveld and the spectacular Drakensberg, sandwiched between the Kruger National Park and the Highlands Meander, the historical Panorama Route is a scenic road in the Mpumalanga Province. The route features sensational views of breathtaking natural wonders, fascinating rock formations, impressive waterfalls, scenic hiking trails, and a myriad of fauna and flora. The quaint little town of Graskop serves as the gateway to this wonderful route. Panorama’s undoubtable highlight is the verdant splendour of Blyde River Canyon, one of the world's largest green canyons featuring lush subtropical vegetation. Some other popular natural attractions along the route include: the spectacular Lisbon, Berlin, and Mac Mac Falls, Bourke's Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels and the astonishing God’s Window. Don’t miss the world-famous Kruger National Park and the picturesque gold rush town of Pilgrim's Rest, a historic living museum.
We recommend extending your Kruger National Park safari with a trip to this stunning spot, particularly if you’re the adventurous and active type of traveller.
ISIMANGALISO WETLAND PARK
Credit: Kosi Forest Lodge
iSimangaliso in Zulu, roughly translates to “something wonderful'', which is why you won’t be let down when you first glance at the amazing ecosystems of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Centred around the Lake St Lucia lagoon system, Isimangaliso was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 (the first in South Africa). The Park includes the lake, beaches, grasslands, dune forests and marine reserve. It is home to an exceptional biodiversity featuring over 500 bird species. It is the largest estuarine system in Africa and includes the southernmost extension of coral reefs.
Among its attractions are the world's highest forested sand dunes, large numbers of nesting turtles, whales, dolphins, whale sharks and huge numbers of waterfowl including large breeding colonies of pelicans.
In recent years, buffalo and elephant have been reintroduced into the eastern shores of the lake. Further inland, Black rhino have been given a second chance at increasing their population. The 400 km2 uMkhuze Game Reserve is the safari hub of the area, and is a great alternative to a traditional Kruger National Park safari.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SOUTH AFRICA
Sunny South Africa experiences incredible weather for most of the year. While the summers can be relatively harsh, winter is a lot milder in most parts of the country compared to the Northern Hemisphere, making it the ideal destination to escape the cold north in winter.
South Africa’s weather differs from region to region. While Cape Town in the west experiences a more Mediterranean climate, the east coast and northern regions stand in total contrast weather-wise. Two seas merge along the coast of the country, the icy Atlantic and the temperate, warm Indian Ocean, which has a great impact on the weather in various parts of South Africa.
One of the things that makes South Africa markedly unique is the changing landscapes across all nine provinces, each with their own micro-climates. No matter what time of the year you visit the country, you’ll be sure to find the perfect places for an incredible experience. We’ll happily advise you on where to go to maximise your stay.
Discover South Africa's nine provinces
SOUTH AFRICA IN SUMMER
Oh glorious summer! This is the time of the year when tourists flock to the country, although the West Coast remains the most popular destination for balmy evenings and hot days during December, January and February.
The Western Cape and Cape Town can be scorching in summer and rather windy. However, this is the most popular tourist months, and locals from all over the country love to spend time here. It’s busy, but there are plenty of quiet retreats to visit, particularly in the surrounds of Cape Town.
Make the most of the wonderful weather by going on a trip to the Cape Winelands and visiting the world-class wine estates that dot the area. We recommend a vineyard wine tour, where you can taste South Africa’s excellent wines and spend time under shady hundred-year-old trees.
The Garden Route is also a favourite for Cape Townians who vacation here during the school holidays and enjoy a variety of beach activities. Hire a car and explore this beautiful part of the country.
Johannesburg and Gauteng experience thunderstorms and dramatic lightning during the summer months, but sunshine soon reappears. It’s not windy and the climate is enjoyable.
Credit: Derek Keats
Kruger National Park
This is the low season in the Kruger National Park, with plenty of rainfall that helps the region recover from the long, hot and dry winter. It’s much less busy, so intimate experiences in the various lodges and camps are possible, and much more affordable.
In terms of wildlife, lush foliage begins to appear, so animals are able to hide much more easily. This makes wildlife sightings more of a challenge, but with experienced trackers and guides, this need not deter you. Summer is a favourite for birders, and families will enjoy the plethora of sweet newborn animals.
As can be expected, Kwazulu-Natal is satisfying all-year round, but experiences steamy afternoon downpours quite often, closer to the border of Mozambique. January is Durban’s hottest month, so if you’re going to the beach, sunscreen is essential.
The Durban beaches become extremely busy, particularly around Christmas time, so talk to us about a more remote location if you’d like to escape the crowds. The best time to visit would be just after the school holidays, around early January.
Like Johannesburg, the Eastern Cape and Port Elizabeth are warm, although windy. There are occasional showers, followed by sunny weather. The Karoo remains very hot, with very little rainfall.
A great escape would be a safari in Addo Elephant National Park, as well as the popular Shamwari Game Reserve where the weather is mild and stable. Book way in advance.
Summer in the Northern Cape is scorching. Temperatures can reach 40°C, especially in the western and northern areas that border Namibia.
Further east, there are occasional damp storms, but they don’t last long.
AUTUMN IN SOUTH AFRICA
The autumn season during March, April and May is a fickle month in terms of the weather in South Africa, but it is rather beautiful, especially in the Western Cape. For some locals, this is the preferred time of year to vacation, when schools close for the Easter break.
The Western Cape slowly recovers from warm temperatures after the summer months.
Expect less crowds, although the Cape Town International Jazz Festival that takes place in March, causes a bit of congestion in the city centre. Local and international musicians come together to celebrate the jazz genre. Expect some big stars of the jazz world.
Beaches are still pleasant, as the wind starts dying down in autumn.
Weather in Gauteng and Johannesburg is fluid now, with the occasional cold snap, as summer and winter balance themselves out. Leaves begin to darken and the sight is lovely.
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park becomes more balanced as the rainy season comes to an end. Just as in the summer season, the foliage is still green, but begins to recede. Still considered part of the low season, you’ll get great deals on accommodation, but be warned, the Easter school holidays bring plenty of visitors on self-drive safaris.
April is roughly considered the start of the high season.
Kwazulu-Natal and Durban are fortunate in that the moderate and pleasant weather doesn’t generally differ too much when it comes to the seasons. Again, the Easter break can become rather busy, so plan ahead to avoid this is you prefer a quieter travel experience.
Try a turtle tour in iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This is the only place in South Africa where Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles lay their eggs. Once laid, the eggs can take 80 days to hatch. The months of January to March are best if you want to see hundreds of baby turtles making their way to the sea to begin their watery journey to maturity.
In the Eastern Cape, this is a great time for a safari, in either Shamwari or the Addo Elephant National Park (pictured right). The weather can be chilly in the evenings, but mildly warm in the day.
The Karoo continues to experience high temperatures, and closer to Kwazulu-Natal, the climate is warm and mild. Port Elizabeth sees some rain, but the wind tends to die down a bit now.
The semi-desert and arid regions of the Northern Cape remain scorching, with thunderstorms continuing in the eastern region.
The western coast temperatures mimic those of summer, however, it is still a destination worth visiting as temperatures settle somewhat.
In the north it is still very hot, and white-water rafting along the Orange River is discouraged due to the low water levels.
Credit: Gondwana Collection
SOUTH AFRICA IN WINTER
While most people picture a year-round sunny South Africa, the truth is that temperatures during the winter months of June, July and August can reach rather low levels, including snowfall in the topographical extremes of low-lying areas like Sutherland in the Northern Cape, as well as the mountainous regions of the Western Cape and the Drakensberg in Kwazulu-Natal.
The Western Cape experiences plenty of rainfall during winter, as well as cold days and nights. However, clear and sunny days do occur often, and are extremely pleasant. The earth and winelands turn jewel green, a welcome sight after the dry summer and autumn months.
Winter is the low season for tourism in Cape Town and surrounds, which means that you can expect much lower prices during your holiday and fewer crowds than in the popular summer months.
Despite its low season status during the winter months, there are still fantastic experiences to be had. Do partake in whale-watching along the coast. The best place to observe these gentle giants is the seaside town of Hermanus. Whales are most active in this area between July and early November. Hermanus is arguable the best land-based whale-watching spot on the continent.
Johannesburg and the rest of Gauteng are pleasantly warm during the day, with little, if any, rainfall. The nights can be extremely cold, so do pack in warm clothing.
The region becomes dry during this time of the year, but it is still pleasant due to the sunny days.
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is best visited during winter. The area is very dry, making vegetation scarce and revealing all manner of wildlife, who expose themselves so that they can drink thirstily from waterholes.
Accommodation does fill up fast, whether you’re staying in a luxury lodge or a self-catering unit so it’s best to book your trip to Kruger National Park well in advance.
Nights and early mornings are very cold. Bring warm clothing for open-vehicle game drives, and don’t pass up a warm drink in the morning.
Credit: Tintswalo Lodge
Durban and the Kwazulu-Natal province is dry and can reach high temperatures in the day. Evenings are equally as enjoyable, with a slight drop in temperature.
We recommend beach holidays in this region during the South African winter. A noteworthy experience would be a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a stunning and untouched slice of heaven.
In contrast, the Drakensberg mountains are freezing. Snowfall poses a real safety risk to hikers, so avoid this active, adventure experience.
Even in winter, the Eastern Cape very rarely reaches extreme temperatures, although again, this depends largely on the varying topographical landscapes.
In the university centre of Grahamstown, June and July heralds the Grahamstown Arts Festival. Here, international students and visitors enjoy a celebration of local arts, including drama, crafts and artists. This eclectic event is for the art lovers and creatives.
The Northern Cape is hot during the day and chilly at night. Despite this, the town of Sutherland can reach temperatures of -6 °C and experiences snow during winter.
A popular experiences is white-river rafting on the Orange River, which serves as the border between Namibia and South Africa. The water levels are perfect for this activity and the weather is pleasant.
Credit: Lemala Wildwaters Lodge
SOUTH AFRICA IN SPRING
Spring in South Africa occurs roughly between the months of September, October and November. In general, the country remains quite chilly, but the green landscapes in wetter parts of the country bring birdsong, new life, and a plethora of flowers (most notably in Namaqualand and the West Coast), that pop up for their annual blanket display of gorgeous colours.
The Western Cape, experiences regular rainfall accompanied by milder temperatures in the day and cold nights. It’s the sort of time that one can experience all four seasons in a day.
Best to pack warm clothes, waterproof clothing and a couple of summery items, particularly for late October and November.
Johannesburg and greater Gauteng are quite warm in the day and very cold at night. Pack extra warm clothing for your evenings out.
In Pretoria, the streets lined with jacaranda trees bloom, creating an impressive exhibit of lilac flowers and a heady scent that makes it an enjoyable time of the year to visit.
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is fantastic in September and is arguably the best month to visit and is usually the busiest time of the year. The weather is warm during the day and cold at night. The dry weather turns the bush golden, and is the best time for wildlife sightings.
If you’re going on safari, then early morning and evening open-vehicle game drives will require warm clothing. We recommend packing in some gloves and a warm hat.
November is the start of the low season, so you can expect a drop in prices as the rainy season approaches.
Credit: Leopard Hills
Along the Indian Ocean coast of Kwazulu-Natal, and Durban in particular, the weather is warm and humid, and perfect for days on the beach before the crowded summers.
A noteworthy experience would be a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a stunning and untouched slice of heaven that encompasses endless stretches of beaches, mangrove swamps and pretty forests.
The Eastern Cape and its biggest town, Port Elizabeth, straddle two very different regions. Weather combines both the Mediterranean Western Cape, and the humid province of Kwazulu-Natal. As can be expected then, the weather tends to mimic these provinces.
The central and northern areas remain moderate but very cold during the night.
The western Northern Cape bursts into bloom in spring, as millions of wildflowers carpet the earth.
A fantastic holiday experience is a road trip along the vibrant floral fields of Namaqualand. The days are warm, with some rainfall towards the west of the region.
Nearer to the Central Kalahari, the days are sunny and warm, although the nights can be icy.
The semi-arid Karoo towards the south of the province is dry and warm, especially as November approaches.
TRAVEL ADVICE FOR SOUTH AFRICA
IS SOUTH AFRICA SAFE?
In all honesty, crime in South Africa is a reality. Where poverty exists, crime is inevitable. However, crime is generally concentrated in big cities where populations are denser, as is the trend all over the world.
South Africans are typically friendly, helpful and caring people and crime against international visitors is extremely rare, with theft being the most common. In large cities, pick-pocketing is the only threat of crime but visible safety initiatives have been implemented to help curb crime. When staying safe, common sense rules.
Exercise caution when walking around the city, particularly if you are using an exposed ATM. It would be best to carry cash, rather than cards, as it would be very inconvenient if an international card is stolen. Leave your passport and important documents at your accommodation, preferably locked in a safe.
Don’t be flashy when it comes to valuables.
If you’re renting a vehicle, keep your windows rolled down at traffic lights and when you are not in the vehicle.
Tourists should familiarise themselves with where the local police station is situated.
Always tell a family member or friend where you are going, and with who.
Using an Uber is preferred. Avoid public trains and taxis.
Should anything happen, Incredible Experiences offer round-the-clock support, so report anything to us and we’ll gladly help.
VISAS FOR SOUTH AFRICA
You need to apply for a tourist or business visa if you are visiting the country for up-to, or less than 90 days. You will be required to fill out the BI-1756 Form, which you will find here. South African visas are generally easy to obtain.
To apply, visit a South African embassy or consulate, who will issue the visa. It is very important that you state the exact reason for visiting in writing and as clearly as possible, as bureaucratic mistakes can happen.
Visas are not issued at point of entry.
You need to provide financial statements to prove that you have the means to visit the country for the duration of your stay.
TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN
In order to prevent child trafficking and kidnapping of children, you must provide the following information prior to travelling with children under the age of 18 years:
Unabridged birth certificate
Proof of guardianship or custody of the child
If travelling unaccompanied, consent needs to be given in writing
Incredible Experiences will sort out the details of your application for a smoother process and advise you of whether you require a visa or not.
Visa fees are constantly changing, so speak to us about the costs involved.
United States citizens do not require a visa for travel up to 90 days.
SOUTH AFRICAN RAND AND EXPENSES
It is always best to make sure you have travel insurance (we provide this service) when travelling, in case of missed or cancelled flights, lost luggage and the like.
The South African currency is the rand and due to its low value, it makes it a favourable currency for most other countries. South Africa only accepts rands, except during safari trips where tourist activities, park fees and service tips are usually paid in US dollars.
International credit/debit cards can be used in the country, although it is recommended that you enter the country with some cash to make your life easier upon arrival. In more remote areas, this will also be particularly helpful.American Express, Visa and Mastercard are all accepted.
On safari, entry into national parks and private reserves or concessions require a small fee per person. This is to assist in wildlife protection, including anti-poaching initiatives as well as community projects. These fees are organised and included in your travel package.
TRAVELLING TO (AND IN) SOUTH AFRICA
The two busiest airports in South Africa are O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, and Cape Town International Airport. Most large cities have airports, but are usually for inter-province travel.
We include flights in our costing, and will organise all the details of these based on your bespoke itinerary. In addition, we can arrange valet parking, airport transfers and vehicle rentals.
South Africa’s public transport services are best avoided. Uber is your best bet, or a licensed taxi. South Africa has great road infrastructure, so renting a vehicle for travel is a great way to explore the country. Traffic congestion is a reality in large cities. Most locals prefer to use their own vehicles for travel which adds to the problem. Try to avoid peak hour traffic (08h00- 14h00 and 16h00-18h00).
VACCINATIONS & MALARIA IN SOUTH AFRICA
In order to protect yourself and the citizens of South Africa, it is recommended that you are vaccinated against diseases such as measles, chicken pox, mumps, tetanus, hepatitis, shingles, rabies and other common illnesses.
If you are travelling between African countries, please do get a yellow fever vaccination. In some countries like Zambia and Mozambique, proof of vaccination is required upon arrival at the airport. Speak to us about what medical requirements you may need.
Certain parts of South Africa carry a malaria risk. These regions include the Kruger National Park, some areas of Kwazulu-Natal, and areas bordering Botswana and Mozambique. The Northern, Western and Eastern Cape are malaria-free. Speak to your healthcare practitioner about which medications you should take to prevent contracting malaria. These are usually in the form of tablets that you will have to take a few weeks prior to travel and a few weeks afterwards, as malaria has a window period before symptoms appear.
Infection symptoms typically occur two weeks after being bitten and the symptoms can be mistaken for a common cold or the flu. Runny nose, body aches and pains, weakness, fatigue, headache and fever are usually experienced first.
In malaria-areas, your accommodation will provide you with mosquito nets. It is recommended that you bring along anti-mosquito balm sticks, especially if you are on a walking safari in the bush, as well as long-sleeved clothing and socks.
LANGUAGE AND CULTURE IN SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is not called the “Rainbow Nation” for nothing. It consists of so many different cultures, from traditional Africans, foreign nationals, Indian, Asian and Malay peoples, British and Dutch settlers, as well as mixed-heritage populations. One thing that all South African’s share though, is a unique culture that you’ll find nowhere else in the world.
As mentioned before, South Africans are incredibly friendly and unreserved. Greetings are appreciated, as well as a smile, handshake, or a pat on the back. You might find that some South Africans are not really concerned about personal space, which may surprise some visitors. Older people are treated with respect and are addressed as ‘Sir’, ‘Ma’m’, ‘Uncle’, ‘Aunty’, ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’. In business, higher positions are respected, and professionals enjoy having their position acknowledged. Rarely are initial meetings conducted on a first-name basis.
South African’s value humour and enjoy a good laugh. They are generally not conservative, and are hospitable hosts who will go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome. If you’re invited into a South African home, a small gift of chocolates, wine or a bouquet of flowers is the norm.
Due to such a robust population of ethnicities, languages vary from culture to culture. In fact, there are 11 official languages in the country. English is the most widely spoken in the tourism industry, but it is always a good thing to learn some local languages to use in business and amongst new acquaintances. A desire to learn more about South African culture is appreciated by all, but be warned, many find it humorous to teach visitors swear words, so check the internet before you try out newly learned vocabulary.
There are also many different religions in the country, although Christianity is most prevalent. Islam and traditional religions also feature prominently. South Africans are tolerant towards all religions and creeds and religious rights are protected in the Constitution.
Negative expressions towards religion, culture or ethnicity are not appreciated by South Africans, neither is rudeness.
MEDICAL INFORMATION & EMERGENCIES
Medical insurance is best taken out, unless you are covered by your health insurance scheme or medical aid.
South Africa has emergency services available in most cities and surrounds. Private hospitals and doctors are preferred, and have world-class facilities. It is not recommended that you go to a government hospital unless absolutely necessary. Over-the-counter medications are available at most pharmacies and retailers, but doctor’s prescriptions are necessary for other drugs.
The number to dial in police-related emergencies is 10111, and 10117 for emergency ambulance services.
EATING OUT IN SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa offers a robust selection of world-class restaurants and eateries. Its multi-cultural heritage means that you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to traditional meals. Do try to sample some African cuisine, as well as Durban curries and Cape Malay food. Most establishments serve western-style food, and you’ll find plenty of international fast food outlets such as KFC and McDonalds within close distance to your accommodation. Your eating out costs will be minimal (relative to where you go) and can range between $6 to $13 per person, excluding drinks. Local alcoholic drinks are much more affordable than international brands, but these too are readily available at restaurants and liquor stores. Please do try the local wines, which are of the best in the world.
It is commonplace to add 10-15% of the total bill for tipping servers, who will be grateful for the gesture. South African’s are known for their efficient and friendly service. Should you not receive the service you expect, always ask to speak to the manager and it will usually be resolved within minutes. South African’s appreciate criticism and positive feedback.
Meat features heavily in South African cuisine, and barbeques or "braais" are a popular social get together. There are, however, many restaurants that serve vegetarian and vegan options.
Most liquor stores are open on public holidays and Sundays, but this largely depends on the area you are staying in.
La Mouette Restaurant, Sea Point, Cape Town
FOOD & DRINK SAFETY IN SOUTH AFRICA
You can safely drink tap water in South Africa, which is considered one of the purest in the world, although it is better to drink bottled water in rural areas.
Following the recent drought in the Western Cape and in many areas of the country, please use water sparingly. Most malls and restaurants provide the option of using sanitiser instead of soap and water.
Food is safe to eat almost everywhere (and really good). Try to avoid eating from informal stalls, although food trucks, open-air markets and street foods are perfectly fine.
WHAT TO WEAR IN SOUTH AFRICA
South African dress is casual and laid back for the most part, although many favour international fashion and brands. Traditional attire is also popular among some populations.
In business, dress is more formal, with suits and a shirt favoured among professionals. Dressing well and grooming is highly appreciated and admired.
On safari, practical clothing is best. Do pack in a sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen. In addition, long socks and hiking boots come in handy when on a walking or hiking safari. Almost all lodges have a swimming pool so pack a bathing suit too.