South Africa Travel Guide
South Africa Travel
Not only is South Africa the most popular tourist destination in all of Africa, but it is also an enchanted land tied close to our heart. As soon as you arrive in the “Rainbow Nation,” the glory and innate beauty of the country will immediately illuminate why we hold such fervor for our South Africa tours. There is a dazzling range of attractions for all to enjoy; from elegant wine estates and thrilling wildlife reserves to pristine beaches and astonishing cities, luxury travel in South Africa showcases the best of what this enthralling country has to offer.
Luxury Travel in South Africa
Cape Town is a great example, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful metropolitan areas in the world, it lies like a celestial child, snug between the majestic Table Mountain and neighboring Table Bay. The rest of the Western Cape also provides wonderful stops on your luxury South Africa vacation. Known for lovely beaches and the chance to see whales and dolphins throughout the summer, the Western Cape is a highlight of most South Africa tours and a must-see for first-time visitors to the country.
Private South Africa Tours
In the northern part of the country however, private luxury travel to South Africa is completely redefined; safaris in Kruger National Park and the Madikwe Game Reserve are some of the best in Africa and provide Edens alive with the Big Five and more. These lodges are renowned, boasting the finest accommodations for luxury travel in South Africa, and their combination of intimate game viewing and expert personal guides will leave you feeling transcendent. Senzorna’s South Africa private luxury tours are unrivaled in knowledge and personalization; our presence and first-hand expertise make us the only choice for your South African journey.
Move over Big Five, the smaller wildlife residents matter, too! Kick back and observe a family of meerkats go about their day at Tswalu Kalahari Desert--a hilarious and charming experience.
Stoll the Victoria and Albert Waterfront in Cape Town and stop in the stylish restaurant, galleries, and cafés.
Take a day trip to the Wine land towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek in southwestern South Africa, for tours of Dutch colonial architecture and some of the world’s best wineries.
For whale watching, visit the picturesque seaside town of Hermanus, considered one of the best on-land whale-watching sites in the world.
Visit gentle giants at Addo Elephant Park in the eastern cape, or search for rhinos at the Hluhluwe-Umfulozi Game Reserve.
South Africa is an incredible destination in so many ways – it is the kind of destination that will touch all of your senses in a myriad of ways, and once all is said and done you probably won’t be the same again. Our incredible diversity is a key attraction – from the deserts of the Kgalagadi to the lush green forests of Tsitsikamma to the unspoiled beaches of the Wild Coast to the vibrant nightlife of Cape Town – we do have it all.
South Africa is mercurial, one moment you’ll be exploring the origins of ancient man, the next you’re cage-diving with Great White Sharks and the next you’re drinking traditional beer in a lively township shebeen. South Africa is a destination where you can experience it all, more.
As a people, we are known for our humanity – we may have come from a past filled with separation and struggle but our future is one of unity and possibility. In true African spirit, we understand the value of a warm South African welcome, and we can’t wait to welcome you to our Rainbow Nation – in 11 official languages.
There are nine spectacular provinces for you to explore – nine incredibly diverse parts of the country that will open up your sense of possibility in ways you never thought possible. Oh, and by the way – we do have a sensational climate (with over 300 days of sunshine per year in some parts). We are also extremely proud of our superb infrastructure – excellent roads, a great variety of accommodation options, and world-class service.
South Africa truly is a ground-breaking destination for explorers and adventurers who want to experience life in all its fullness. We’re a destination that allows you to scratch below the surface and experience endless possibilities and walk away richer for having been here.
Picking the best time to visit South Africa is not a task easily accomplished. After all, this is a country famous for its sunshine and relatively warm winters.
Perhaps it’s wise to consider what it is you wish to do and see, along with the South African tourism seasons. For example, if you are an avid twitcher, the country is on the flight path of birds from the north in mid-October – November. If it’s the floral carpet spread of the Cape flower season that you wish to catch, visit the area when the winter rains are over at the first sign of spring, namely August and September. If you are going on a game safari, the best time is July through September, when the visibility is best and it’s a birthing season.
Another point you might want to take into account is the major South African holiday seasons when the schools close and families en-masse head for the coast. The busiest period of all falls between mid-December and early January, coinciding with the Festive Season. Mid-winter is another prime time when locals head for warmer climes. You’ll find the holiday crowds in destinations like Durban and Cape Town, but they do bring a lot of buzz in their wake.
If action and adventure are your things, several activities are at their best after the summer’s peak, such as diving, hiking, and surfing. You may also want to time your trip to include a major sporting or entertainment event – these generally take place out of season too. And don’t discount winter holidays either – the South African winter compares favorably with the European summer, and the tropical province of KwaZulu-Natal with its fine coastline will still offer a good beach holiday.
The best time to visit South Africa? Well, just about all year round.
A subtropical location and a high interior plateau are responsible for South Africa’s temperate conditions so appreciated by visitors.
South African temperatures, which are measured in centigrade, average a high of 28°C and a low of 8°C. Average annual rainfall is on the low side at under 500mm a year, making the country somewhat dry. Most of the rain falls in the Western Cape in the winter, differing from the rest of the country, which experiences summer rainfall. But on the plus side, the South African climate boasts more than its fair share of sunshine, recording an average of 8.5 hours a day.
South Africa’s climatic conditions generally range from the Mediterranean in the southwestern corner of the country to temperate in the interior plateau and subtropical in the northeast. A small region in the northwest has a desert climate.
Our relatively mild and short winters do not justify the expense of central heating in many buildings and homes, which may lead visitors to think the winter is colder than it is. The answer to this is dressing in layers.
Big 5 safaris
Big Five safaris in South Africa are a must-do for anyone fascinated by wildlife. Big Five refers to buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and the term comes from the animals considered most dangerous to hunt. Now the thrill comes from photographing them in their natural habitat.
Did you know?
It takes a few hours before you develop your ‘bush eyes’ and can spot wildlife.
The Big 5 – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino a,nd buffalo – abound in the park, and you see them by self-drive, guided drives o,r guided walks through the bushveld.
But remember, you are not in the middle of a National Geographic documentary. You may well see all Big 5, or not, although your chances are high. Drive slowly, stop at waterholes, listen for the warning calls of birds, watch when other vehicles stop, and always keep your eyes open.
Prepare to be awed. To see a leopard dozing in the bough of a tree, spotting a black rhino half-hidden in thick shrubs, finding a pride of lions in the shade after a kill, or watching a large herd of elephants or Cape buffalo move soundlessly across the road – these are all priceless moments.
Always remember that you’re dealing with wild animals and that you’re in their territory. There are rules of engagement relating to Big 5 safaris in South Africa. Read your guidebook carefully and heed the words of your ranger at all times.
Accommodation for Big 5 safaris in Mpumalanga are either within the Kruger National Park or on the neighboring private reserves such as Sabi Sand (which has the highest density of leopards in the world), Timbavati and Klaserie. Some lodges pride themselves on showing the Big 5 to guests in record time, and you’ll even walk away with a certificate.
Once you’ve done Big 5 activities in Mpumalanga, it’s time to ‘sweat the small stuff’ and learn about wondrous creatures like the dung beetle…
If you’re heading for one of the private reserves you can fly to Kruger Park International Airport (KPIA) in Mpumalanga and be picked up there. Or your lodge can arrange a charter flight from Johannesburg. Or hire a vehicle at KPIA and drive yourself in Kruger.
It’s best to hire a van or combi because you will have more legroom and you’ll sit up higher for the spotting game. Reserve well in advance.
Drive yourself in Kruger National Park, the roads are excellent. Arm yourself with a good map you can buy on arrival. If you stay at a private lodge you will be driven in an open-air game vehicle by your ranger.
There’s something delightful about every season. But late winter or early spring are particularly good. The grass is still low after winter, and water is concentrated in only a few places, making spotting easier. The other attraction is that it’s the birthing season in the bush, which is just starting to flush green after the first rains.
If you’re keen on seeing all of the Big 5, give it at least 3 days. But remember, there are no guarantees in the wilderness.
Your camera, lightweight binoculars, hat a,nd sunblock. Even in the height of summer, take a jacket along for night drives. Try to dress predominantly in dull bush colors of khaki and olive green.
If you have kids, stay at one of Kruger’s bigger camps which have a pool, a shop ,a restaurant, and often nightly open-air video shows. Check with the private camps if they take kids – not all do.
Travel tips & Planning info
How to get here
If you’re heading for one of the private reserves you can fly to Kruger Park International Airport (KPIA) in Mpumalanga and be picked up there. Or your lodge can arrange a charter flight from Johannesburg. Or hire a vehicle at KPIA and drive yourself in Kruger. It’s best to hire a van or combi because you will have more legroom and you’ll sit up higher for spotting game. Reserve well in advance.
Tours to do
Game drives in your vehicle are fun, but nothing can beat a ranger’s practiced eye. Go on a drive or walk guided by a ranger. You will learn plenty, and see much more than you might have on your own.
How to get around
Drive yourself in Kruger National Park, the roads are excellent. Arm yourself with a good map you can buy on arrival. Or take a guided game drive. If you stay at a private lodge you will be driven in an open-air game vehicle by your ranger.
Length of stay
If you’re keen on seeing all of the Big Five, give it at least three days. But remember, there are no guarantees in the wilderness.
What to pack
Your camera, lightweight binoculars, hat, and sunblock. Even in the height of summer, take a jacket along for night drives. Try to dress predominantly in dull bush colors of khaki and olive green.
South Africa is renowned for offering a diverse range of travel experiences, making it an ideal destination for various types of travelers. Here are some of the prominent travel experiences that South Africa is best known for:
- Wildlife Safari: South Africa is famous for its incredible wildlife and safari opportunities. Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa, offers excellent chances to spot the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros). There are also many other private game reserves and national parks across the country where you can enjoy thrilling wildlife encounters.
- Cape Town and the Garden Route: Cape Town, located at the southwestern tip of South Africa, offers a mix of natural beauty, stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and historical sites. Table Mountain, Cape Point, Robben .Island, and the Cape Winelands are popular attractions. The Garden Route, stretching along the southern coast, is known for its breathtaking landscapes, charming towns, and outdoor activities like hiking, whale watching, and bungee jumping.
- Cultural and Historical Exploration: South Africa has a rich and diverse cultural heritage. In cities like Johannesburg and Durban, you can explore museums, galleries, and historical sites that delve into the country's history, including the apartheid era. Visit Soweto to learn about the struggle against apartheid and Nelson Mandela's former residence. You can also experience the vibrant local culture by attending music, dance, and food festivals.
- Adventure Sports: If you seek adventure, South Africa won't disappoint. The country offers thrilling activities like shark cage diving in Gansbaai, surfing in Jeffrey's Bay, bungee jumping from the Bloukrans Bridge, and diving with crocodiles at the Cango Wildlife Ranch. You can also enjoy hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains or exploring the caves at the Cradle of Humankind.
- Wine Tasting and Culinary Delights: South Africa's wine regions, such as Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, are renowned for producing excellent wines. Take a wine tour and indulge in tastings while enjoying the beautiful vineyard landscapes. The country also offers diverse culinary experiences, blending traditional African cuisine with influences from various cultures.
- Beaches and Coastal Beauty: South Africa boasts stunning coastal regions. From the beautiful beaches of Durban and the Wild Coast to the scenic shores of the Western Cape and the Garden Route, there are plenty of options for sunbathing, water sports, and relaxing by the ocean
Important Things to Know:
Passport Requirement: Yes
Visa Requirement: Yes. A visa will be issued for a visit for tourism or business purposes and is valid for a period of 90 days.
Best Time To Travel to This Destination: November to March.
This Destination is Best For: See above.
Is This a Family-Friendly Destination: Yes
Recommended Vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Malaria, Measles, Rabies, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Chickenpox (Varicella), Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis, Flu (influenza), Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), Polio and Shingles