Destinations

South Africa

Africa's southern jewel

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South Africa

We can't say enough about South Africa – the country simply has it all. Exquisite beaches and vibrant cities (including Cape Town, a strong contender for the most beautiful city on the planet), wildlife parks and reserves, arid deserts, colourful cultures and a human history dating back millions of years. The only problem you may have is choosing what to fit into your South Africa safari, but we have a few recommendations. Drive the famous Garden Route – the wind in your hair as you wind along the coastal roads, hike in the towering Drakensberg mountains, wildlife watch in the king of nature reserves, Kruger National Park, or sit back and let the wine do the talking in the world-famous Cape Winelands.


Why you'll love it

The sheer variety of experiences on offer in South Africa is overwhelming, and never has the phrase "there’s something for everyone" been more true. Explore the arid Karoo, where the night skies are enormous, or settle back and sip wine in the Cape Winelands while the kids tear around on mountain bikes!


Off the beaten track

The guide books will tell you about Cape Town and Kruger, but why not head up the Western Cape coastline to the quaint fishing village of Paternoster (a Timbuktu favourite!), hike through the Cederberg mountains and marvel at the spring flowers in Namaqualand?


Something to think about

There are lots of five-star, all-singing and definitely all-dancing safari lodges in South Africa. They are truly magnificent, but if you’re looking for somewhere more low-key and slightly off the beaten track, a safari in South Africa might not be right for you.

When to go

January

Season: Wet (Safari)
  • It is the wet season for safari, on average rain falls only a couple of times a week, leaving plenty of time to explore the various wilderness regions. In Cape Town the weather is consistent with plenty of sunshine and only a handful of rainy days.
  • It is the end of the birthing period in the Kruger National Park, with dense numbers of young impala, kudu, blue wildebeest and more, causing high excitement amongst the predators.
  • This is the ideal time to visit the Western Cape, for lounging on the beaches or soaking up the culture of the Winelands with a tasting or pairing.

February

Season: Wet (Safari)
  • This is the hottest month of the year in Cape Town, with little to no rain. The safari destinations of South Africa are experiencing relative humidity and considerable rainfall.
  • It is the end of the birthing period in the Kruger National Park, with dense numbers of young impala, kudu, blue wildebeest and more, causing a hive of excitement amongst the predators.
  • This is the ideal time to visit the Western Cape’s Winelands for a tasting, spectacular scenery and a culinary delight.
  • The Garden Route enjoys it's best weather at this time of the year, with sandy beaches, beautiful views and very few other tourists.

March

Season: Wet (Safari)
  • March is still hot and relatively dry across South Africa with Cape Town receiving less rain than the rest of the country.
  • This is a great time for wildlife photographers in the Kruger National Park region, with clear skies, low humidity and less dust. The wildlife and vegetation is at its most vibrant although relatively spread out.
  • This is the ideal time to visit the Western Cape’s Winelands for wine tasting, spectacular scenery and a culinary delight.
  • The Garden Route enjoys it's best weather at this time of the year, with sandy beaches, beautiful views and very few other tourists.

April

Season: Wet (Safari)
  • Temperatures in most of South Africa are cooling, with rainfall starting to dry up. Cape Town on the other hand is seeing the first of its rainfall usually in the form of occasional showers.
  • In the Kruger National Park it is the impala, wildebeest and warthog rutting (breeding) season, with males at their most impressive, fighting for the opportunity to mate.
  • In the Cape, wind has dropped, providing the perfect opportunity to hike Table Mountain, soak up some culture at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens or explore the historic Robin Island.
  • The Garden Route enjoys it's best weather at this time of the year, with sandy beaches, beautiful views and very few other tourists.

May

Season: Dry (Safari)
  • Expect some rain in Cape Town over the course of a lengthy stay, with the rest of South Africa experiencing the end of the transition period from wet summer to dry winter, offering moderate temperatures and little to no rain.
  • This is the start of the dry season in the Kruger National Park, with wildlife in its best condition after the season of plenty.
  • Beat the crowds by visiting the Cape in this month, weather can be poor but this is made up for with an incredible range of indoor activities including organic markets, rich cultural experiences and wine farm dining next to a roaring fire.

June

Season: Dry (Safari)
  • In Cape Town the wet season has arrived with almost half the days experiencing some rain. Across the rest of South Africa, temperatures are comfortable but have dropped considerably at night, with morning frost on occasion and rainfall drying up.
  • The Kruger National Park region is enjoying exceptional game viewing, with vegetation thinning and wildlife staying close to the permanent water sources.
  • Beat the crowds by visiting the Cape in this month, weather can be poor but this is made up for with an incredible range of indoor activities including organic markets, rich cultural experiences and wine farm dining next to a roaring fire.

July

Season: Dry (Safari)
  • Cape Town is experiencing the peak of its wet season with colder temperatures and a one in two chance of rain. Across the rest of South Africa, nights are cold and possibly frosty, day temperatures are comfortable with rainfall drying up.
  • The Kruger National Park region is enjoying exceptional game viewing, with vegetation thinning and wildlife staying close to the permanent water sources.
  • Best time of the year to visit Tswalu Kalahari in search of wildlife rarities like pangolin and aardvark or have an intimate encounter with the resident meerkat.
  • It is whale viewing season in the Western Cape, with these impressive animals migrate up the east coast of southern Africa.

August

Season: Dry (Safari)
  • Across most of South Africa the coldest night temperatures have passed, with the daylight hours warming considerably, rain is still very unlikely. In Cape Town it is still the wet season, with high chances of rainfall.
  • The Kruger National Park region is enjoying exceptional game viewing, with vegetation thinning and wildlife staying close to the permanent water sources.
  • Best time of the year to visit Tswalu Kalahari in search of wildlife rarities like pangolin and aardvark or have an intimate encounter with the resident meerkat.
  • It is whale viewing season in the Western Cape, with these impressive animals migrate up the east coast of southern Africa.
  • The beautiful wildflowers of the Western Capes Namaqua region are in bloom, providing a sea of colour in the countryside.

September

Season: Dry (Safari)
  • The best time to safari in South Africa, with warm daytime weather, low humidity and very little rain. Cape Town experiences a handful of rainy days as the wet season comes to an end.
  • Game viewing is ideal in the Kruger National Park region, the stunning Boer Bean trees are in flower with vegetation thin and wildlife congregating around the waterholes.
  • Best time of the year to visit Tswalu Kalahari in search of wildlife rarities like pangolin and aardvark or have an intimate encounter with the resident meerkat.
  • It is whale viewing season in the Western Cape, with these impressive animals migrate up the east coast of southern Africa.
  • The beautiful wildflowers of the Western Capes Namaqua region are in bloom, providing a sea of colour in the countryside.

October

Season: Dry (Safari)
  • Temperatures are relatively hot across most of South Africa, with a marked rise in the amount of rainfall, usually in the form of afternoon showers. Cape Town is the exception, with a drop in rainfall and mild temperatures.
  • As the first of the rains arrive in the Kruger region, life burst forth from everywhere with birds displaying breeding plumage and wildlife still being easily visible.
  • The perfect time to visit Cape Town, climb table mountain, visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens or explore the Winelands, beating the festive season crowds.

November

Season: Wet (Safari)
  • Although daytime temperatures can be hot and humid, there is no better time to go in search of the nesting loggerhead and leatherback turtles of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (St. Lucia wetlands park).
  • South Africa's temperatures are still hot and a little humid with the first showers of the wet season, it should be noted that in most cases rains are just passing afternoon showers. Cape Town is enjoying warm sunny days with little to no chance of rain.
  • This is the wet season in the Kruger National Park, expect short, dramatic afternoon showers with plenty of sunshine hours throughout the rest of the day to view lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo and if you are lucky leopard.
  • The perfect time to visit Cape Town, climb table mountain, visit kirstenbosch gardens or explore the winelands beating the festive season crowds.

December

Season: Wet (Safari)
  • South Africa is experiencing hot temperatures with relatively humidity and rain falling in the form of afternoon showers or occasional, dramatic storms. Cape Town is the exception with little to no rain.
  • A wonderful time of year in the Kruger National Park region, the morning glory and flame lilies are in flower with lots of young animals around, stirring the predators into a frenzy.
  • Summer is in full swing in Cape Town, if you don't mind the crowds there is no better time to relax on the beaches, explore coastal towns, climb Table Mountain or visit the Winelands.

Wildlife


South Africa is renowned for its incredible wildlife viewing, with high densities of game and an interesting combination of habitats, ranging from the unique desert conditions of the Kalahari to the depths of its ocean shores. The famed Kruger National Park produces some of the best Big Five viewing in Africa, with its northern reaches enjoying the country's best birding. The Madikwe Private Game Reserve is home to a healthy breeding population of wild dog and good numbers of cheetah. For something a little different, the exclusive Tswalu Kalahari produces totally unique sightings of pangolin, aardvark, black rhino and unique encounters with meerkat. The coastal town of Hermanus specialises in whale viewing and for the more adventurous, a chance to meet a great white shark.

Need to know

Getting there

South Africa has four major international airports: Johannesburg (JNB), Cape Town (CPT), Durban (DUR), and Port Elizabeth (PLZ). In addition to these major hubs, there are various domestic airports and airfields connecting all major towns and safari destinations. Depending on your arrival time you may have to overnight before catching a connecting flight to your first safari camp/hotel.

International flights
We would recommend booking your flights online in order to get the best rates. If you need any help or advice please let us know.

Domestic flights and transfers
Connecting between all the locations on your trip may necessitate a variety of modes: light aircraft charters, domestic commercial flights and road transfers. Please review the inclusions and exclusions on your specific trip page for details. If you need help understanding the best flights to book, please let us know.

From the moment that you land in South Africa you will be greeted and assisted to your onward connections. You will be looked after from that point on until you are transferred back to the airport in time for your departure flight.

Health

Please consult your personal physician and/or a travel clinic preferably 6 weeks prior to your departure. Vaccine requirements vary based on your country of origin and your travel itinerary and your previous vaccination history. It is best to consult with your physician or the CDC website for guidelines.

Important vaccinations to consider and which may either be required or recommended are: Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A & B and Cholera, among others. Please always carry your "International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP)" (or "Yellow Card") with you.

Malaria
We advise that you consult a medical practitioner at least six weeks prior to travel, although malaria is not prevalent in South Africa. It does occur primarily in wildlife areas such as Kruger National Park and surrounds, KwaZulu Natal province and northern coastal regions. The highest risk time is October – May.

In addition to the recommendations of your travel clinic or physician, you may also consider the following proactive preventative measures:

● Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. Recommended repellents contain 20-35% DEET but it is a very virulent repellent, and should be used cautiously.
● Wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants at dawn and dusk.
● Use a mosquito net if your tent or room isn't screened or air-conditioned; and spray insecticide or burn a mosquito coil before going to bed.

You can also visit www.malaria.org.za for more information.

Yellow Fever
There is no risk of Yellow Fever in South Africa; however, vaccination is required for travellers who are arriving from, or have transited through, countries with risk of Yellow Fever transmission (e.g. Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda or elsewhere worldwide). This requirement can change unexpectedly, therefore, we recommend carrying a Yellow Fever card with you at all times.

Insurance
It is a condition of booking that you carry the correct comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover yourself, as well as any dependents/travelling companions for the duration of your trip. This insurance should include cover in respect of, but not limited to, the following eventualities:

Compulsory Insurance:
a. Emergency evacuation expenses
b. Medical expenses
c. Repatriation expenses

Recommended Insurance:
a. Cancellation or curtailment of trip
b. Damage/theft/loss of personal luggage, money and goods

Communication
South Africa country code: +27

Calling overseas from South Africa:
From a landline dial 00 followed by the country code plus area code and number.
e.g. USA: 00 1 910 795 1048

When calling from a cell phone dial + prefix followed by the country code plus area code and number. e.g. USA: + 1 910 795 1048

Cell Phone Service
Cell phone coverage is available nearly nationwide (few exceptions being remote safari locations). If you have an “unlocked” cellular phone, it is possible to obtain a “pay as you go” local SIM card, which is available at most major stores and airports in South Africa. Preferred carriers are MTN, Vodacom and Cell-C. You will need your passport and air ticket.

Visas

As a general precaution, we recommend you make several copies of your travel-related documents (passport, traveller’s cheques, credit cards, itinerary, airline tickets, insurance cover, visas, etc). Leave one set at home, and bring another set with you, and place it in a location separate from your originals.

Generally speaking, most nationalities do not require a visa to enter South Africa. Passports MUST be valid for at least six months from your departure from South Africa to home. There must be at least TWO (we recommend four) consecutive blank VISA pages in the passport (not endorsement pages). South Africa’s immigration control is very strict, and is known to deny entry to those not meeting the requirements.

Visa requirements change regularly and it is best to contact your local South African embassy regarding the most recent rules. Visa Central is also a good resource.

Travelling with children (under 18)
The new immigration rules introduced by South Africa in June 2015 relating to travelling with children remain in force. Parents travelling with children (under 18) will be asked to show the child’s full unabridged birth certificate. The full unabridged birth certificate should list the child’s details and both parents’ details. The abridged (short) birth certificate which only lists the child’s particulars won’t be accepted. The South African Department of Home Affairs are not accepting uncertified copies of birth certificates or copies of the parents/guardians identification.

There are additional requirements if the child is travelling with only one parent, with neither biological parent, or unaccompanied. See this information sheet, this statement by the South African Department of Home Affairs and this leaflet produced by the South African Department of Home Affairs. School groups should use this consent form in addition to the documents referred to above. This special dispensation applies to all schools registered with the Department of Basic Education and its equivalent abroad.

We recommend referencing the website as requirements change regularly, or contact your nearest South African High Commission if you have any specific questions about your trip.

Money
The currency in South Africa is the South African Rand (ZAR). ATMs are widely available, please check with your bank for charges and advice when using international ATMs. VISA and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards, while American Express has limited to no coverage. It is advisable to have some cash for smaller shops and for tipping. IMPORTANT: When bringing foreign currency (e.g. USD, GBP, EUR) into the country, be sure to bring new format with no damage or marks.

What to pack

Climate
South Africa mostly enjoys a temperate climate with sunny, warm days. The winter season runs through from May to September. During this time the low-lying bush areas are dry, with wildlife gathering around the remaining water sources, making game viewing easier. The Western Cape is converse to the rest of the country and experiences winter rainfall and can get very cold in June and July whilst summer is dry and hot. The wet season around the rest of the country (also the summer season) enjoys temperatures up to 30°C. Desert temperatures can soar to 40°C. December to February are the wettest months and you can experience torrential afternoon rain.

Dress Code
Standard clothing is acceptable in the bigger towns and cities in South Africa and dependent on the climate. Comfortable beach wear is fine on the coast, just be sure to take sun cream because the sun gets very strong in the summer months.

When on safari, light layers of clothing in neutral safari colours of green, khaki and beige are the best items to bring with you, as well as a warmer jacket or fleece for the colder evenings. A hat is also a must have! Bright and dark colours like yellow, red and purple are discouraged, or sometimes not allowed (on a bush walk) if you are going on safari.

What to Pack
• Layers - long and short sleeve shirts and trousers
• A warm fleece or jumper
• A lightweight waterproof jacket
• Comfortable but sturdy shoes
• Flip-flops
• Swimming costume
• A hat or baseball cap
• Sunglasses
• Sunscreen – a must!
• Toiletries – most camps will provide shampoo, shower gel and soap
• A small torch
• Spare batteries, plug adaptors and charging equipment
• A good pair of Binoculars
• Books or a fully loaded Kindle / iPad for siesta time

Camera Equipment (for the enthusiasts)
• A telephoto lens (200/300mm)
• Flash and fast film (400 ASA) for night photography
• Lots of film (64,100,200,400 ASA) if you’re using an SLR cameras
• Spare memory cards for digital cameras
• Camera cleaning equipment and a good dust proof bag
• Bring spare batteries as although you may recharge your batteries at the camps, charging capacity can be limited

Most camps and lodges will have a small medical and first aid kit, but we recommend bringing your own supply of essentials - cough medicine, plasters, vitamins, aspirin and paracetamol, and anything else you use on a regular basis.

Luggage
Please check with your airlines for the specific luggage restrictions relevant to your flight schedule. Many international airlines have a baggage allowance of 20kgs or more per person and commercial airlines generally permit two (2) pieces of checked luggage per person. The carry-on bag must be of such dimensions and weight as set by the airlines.

Luggage Restrictions on Internal Flights
On safari, light aircraft flight luggage is strictly limited to one SOFT duffle bag and one small carry on. The combined weight must not exceed 20kgs/44lbs, unless otherwise noted in your personal itinerary.

Electricity
South Africa and surrounding countries use 220/230V, 50Hz AC, and sockets take mostly Type M (3 prong large round) and some Type C (2 prong narrow round). Most hotel rooms have sockets for 110V electric razors. It is best to bring an adapter/convertor combination.

Gratuities
Gratuities are not compulsory or expected; rather it is an reward for excellent service. If you are pleased with the service you receive, you are more than welcome to tip your guide or the staff. Tipping is usually done at the end of your stay. You may tip the staff individually, give the tip to the manager to distribute or do both. Tips can be made in South African Rands (ZAR), USD, GBP or EUR.

Gratuities suggestions:
Safari Camp lead guide: $10 - $15 per person per day
Transfer drivers (e.g. in cities or between airport and hotel/lodge): $2 per person per transfer
Porter: $1 per bag
Ranger or any “ancillary” guides on ad-hoc basis for a specific activity: $3 - $5 per person per activity
General Camp staff (put in a central box in each camp’s main area): $7 - $10 per person per day
Waitstaff in a city restaurant: 10%-15% (large group may incur automatic service charge, please check)

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