South Africa is best known for its beautiful landscapes, amazing wineries, spectacular beaches, a diversity of wildlife, cosmopolitan cities and its lively people. Covering an area of about 1700 miles this beautiful country is home to more than 57 million people and you could spend months and months exploring amazing South Africa. This is among the largest countries found on the African continent and offers a very large number of activities to do and places to visit while on Safari. Below you have highlighted some of the top things to do when in South Africa
- Visit Addo Elephant National Park
This amazing National Park is considered to be one of the best places to visit in the country especially if you are organizing a family Safari and it also is located in a malaria free area. This is the third largest game park in the country and it is situated within the southern part of South Africa near Port Elizabeth and a couple of hours drive from the well known garden Route.
- Enjoying Wine tasting in the cape wine lands
The wine lands region is located close to Cape Town with several vineyards and wineries. Thanks to the amazing climate of South Africa, grapes grow well here and today South Africa produces a variety of award-winning sparkling wines, red and white wines. it’s alleged that the wine industry in this country goes back to the 17th century and looking at the small area of Stellenbosch alone has more than 150 wineries and yet when you explore further to Franschhoek there are more than 50 vineyards. during your tour you will get an opportunity to taste the wine and if you wish you can spend a night or two as there is very good range of accommodation.
- Visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park
This remarkable wetland Park is among the UNESCO world heritage sites and offers so much to its visitors despite the fact that it is not among the less famously known tourist sites in South Africa. it offers beautiful white sand beaches, breathtaking scenery and unique landscapes with different types of wildlife to see as well as amazing opportunities for diving. This is one of the best places to see crocodiles and hippos while in South Africa. Large numbers of baboons, rhinos, elephants, wildebeests, zebras and buffalos can be seen here.
- See the amazing African penguins
A few kilometers from Cape Town is the Boulders penguin colony where you will find many thousands of African penguins. Sadly these are considered as an endangered species because of human activities such as destruction of their habitat pollution as well as oil spilling that have affected their survival. During your visit you will begin at the boulders visitor center and walk along the raised broad walkway which will give you an up-close encounter with the penguins. As a caution, despite their beauty don’t mistake them to be pets, remember they are wild animals so keep your distance.
- Explore Pilanesberg National Park
Pilanesberg National Park is located about 2 hours drive from the city of Johannesburg and it is among the easy to accessible wildlife destinations in the country. This game park is found within a crater of an extinct volcano and there is a man-made lake that serves as a drinking hole to a large number of different animals making it easy to see species like lions, rhinos, leopards and elephants during your visit. Because of its small size this park can be visited during your day tours in South Africa
- Hike the spectacular Drankensberg Mountain
The highest mountain ranges in South Africa are found within Drankensberg region close to the eastern coast and it comprises of green rough peaks, deep valleys and Sandy-Stone cliffs. Different types of walks or hikes can be enjoyed on this mountain range varying from the casual walks to the very challenging hikes that can take several days. Among the popular routes followed on this mountain ranges include the rainbow Gorge route, the Chain Ladders Hike, the Giants cap trail, the cathedral peak and ploughman’s cup.
- Hluhluwe National Park
The Hluhluwe National Park is a list visited Safari destination as compared to other Superior game parks like the Kruger but offers a very amazing experience especially for those with limited Safari time while visiting South Africa. The park offers a very rewarding experience considering that it is home to a great diversity of wildlife including the big five animals. this destination is better recommended for people exploring Durban area.
- Visit Robben Island
Until 1996, Ruben Island found four miles off Cape Town’s coast served as a maximum detention prison where many politicians were imprisoned during the times of the apartheid. It is here that legendary Nelson Mandela spent 18 years imprisoned. Today this prison is listed among the UNESCO world heritage sites and it’s among the most significant cultural sites found in South Africa. You will find that majority of the local guides at this site were formally prisoners here and they will be able to give you an insight of how life behind the bars during the apartheid time was like on this island. During your tour you will also see the cell in which Nelson Mandela was being held during your tour, you will have a bus ride to see the quarry where prisoners including Nelson Mandela forcefully worked as well as the graveyard where the prisoners were buried.
- Explore the West Coast national park
West Coast National Park is among the commonly visited game parks in South Africa especially in the warm season when the number of tourists is really high. it offers very beautiful beaches amazing hiking trails different wildlife a beautiful coastline uncivil wildflowers for persons interested in seeing the colorful flowers in this park you are recommended to visit during the spring time the transfer from August to September however expect large number of tourists at that time
- Visit the apartheid museum to learn about the horrific apartheid
The horrific apartheid cast darkness over South Africa from back in the 1940s until the 1990s. This is a history worth learning about when you visit today. in the apartheid museum founded in Johannesburg which will give you a great insight of the history and legacy of the apartheid. This museum is found on a site that was previously a political prison so during your visit you will get an opportunity to see some of the prison cells and even learn about the different politicians that were imprisoned there unjustly
- Explore the city of Durban
Durban is one of the major cities in South Africa and one of the most fascinating things you can do while here is to enjoy the beautiful beaches as it offers several miles of the golden coastline. you can visit the Durban botanical gardens as well as that was Ushaka Marine world. In addition, this is a good place to base especially if you are visiting isimangaliso national Park and Hluhluwe game reserve for day trips.
- Enjoy surfing adventure on Jeffrey’s Bay
South Africa is special in its own way because it’s boarded by two huge water masses that include the Indian Ocean as well as the Atlantic Ocean. These two offer top notch surfing opportunities, And Jeffrey’s Bay found on the south coast close to Port Elizabeth is the best destination to enjoy a surfing adventure. it experiences huge waves plus several breaks offering the ideal surfing conditions
- Visit Namaqua National Park and Namaqualand
These two sites are considered to be among the hidden treasures in South Africa with very few people ever talking about them. In springtime the distant valleys transform into a magical wildflower Paradise and the entire area is covered in a vivid carpet of wildflowers that attracts holidaymakers from different parts of the world. This please can best be visited from August to September especially by people who wish to have an off-the-beaten-path experience.
- Visit Cape Town
Cape Town is the oldest settlement within South Africa established back in the 1652 and it’s for that reason that it is called the Mother City. It prides in a blend of cultures that include the African influence and European influence with a fusion of both modern and the tradition ways of life. The town offers museums, local markets, several restaurants with fine cuisines and a great diversity of shops. this is one of the must visit places while in South Africa.
- Kruger National Park
this is the most popular as well as one of the frequently visited tourist sites in South Africa it is not only the largest national park in the country but the oldest as well covering about 20,000 square kilometers in size. Ideally this park can best be visited on a two to three day game drive adventure. Kruger National Park is home to a very large number of different animals and it is best visited for its big 5 animals which includes the Cape buffalo, lion, rhino, leopard and elephant. It offers a number of amazing safari accommodation ranging from budget to luxury facilities.
- Stand at Africa’s most southern point on the continent
Cape Agulhas is the most southern point on the entire African continent and it’s at this point that the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet. The two large water masses crash against each other at this point offering a very much remarkable experience to be standing at the southernmost point of the African continent
- Explore the Garden Route
The garden route is it among the most spectacular places to see during your visit in South Africa. It stretches for more than 200 kilometers between Storms River and Mossel Bay and it is among the most scenic routes in the whole world. For you to best enjoy it, you will be required to spare a number of days of your safari to explore and see its amazing features. Among the highlights found within the garden road is Storms River as well as Tsitsikamma National Park.
- Visit the valley of desolation
The spectacular valley of desolation is an unbelievable geological phenomenon found in Graaff-Reinet. It is comprised of vertical cliffs and free-standing columns that are towering several hundreds of meters high. It is a very breathtaking site and a good place to watch the African sunset.
- Explore Soweto a town great history to South Africa
Soweto the southwestern township of the city of Johannesburg is most popular for its amazing contribution during the fight against apartheid. When you visit you will get a chance to experience the lively street life of these people and even get an insight of the disturbing political history of this place especially during the apartheid era.
- Visit the Twelve Apostles Mountain Ranges
There are twelve (12) outstanding sandstone cliffs which make the twelve apostle mountain rain a very spectacular site and one of the major land marks in South Africa. The mountain ranges stretches from the Table Mountain, over Camps Bay to Llandudno and Hout Bay
Frequently asked questions on South Africa
The questions below are among the commonly asked by holidaymakers visiting South Africa. They have been carefully answered with the intention of guiding you as you plan for your visit to this amazing country.
Do I need a visa to go to South Africa?
All foreign visitors going to South Africa are required to have a passport valid for a minimum of six months from the duration of their intended stay. it is also recommended that you have two blank consecutive pages within your passport.
- Important information for people traveling with minors into South Africa
In case you are a guardian or parent traveling with any minor (that is anyone of 18 years of age or below, you are required to have a certificate or letter that is certified as consent from the non accompanying guardian or parent. The department of home affairs in South Africa recently released a number of important amendments
- Immigration guidelines related to children below the age of 18 years in South Africa
All persons traveling with minors will be necessitated to show to the immigration officials of South Africa a long form birth certificate that shows the two birth parents of the child so as to be allowed to take a child into the country. Other guidelines apply to a child who will be traveling and accompanied with just a single birth parent. Nonetheless you are recommended to make a comprehensive research on the website of the department of home affairs to get all the necessary information required.
Is it safe to travel to South Africa?
Generally South Africa is considered to be a safe destination however you are advised to take extra care especially when moving in the large cities. You are recommend to always move with your travel guide to guarantee your safety and enable proper guidance as you explore the different cities. Do not expose your valuables items like laptop, cell phone or wallets while moving because most of South Africa’s large towns are similar to any major towns in the world with incidences of petty theft.
Can I drive while in South Africa?
To be able to drive in South Africa you will be require to have an international driver’s license and in this country they drive on the left-hand-side of the road. The speed limit is 60 kilometers per hour especially within the busy areas and then when you move to the highways or the freeways it can be up to 120 km per hour. It is mandatory that all occupants within the car wear their safety seat belts at all times. Persons having a passport from the United States will not need an international driver’s license to be able to rent or even drive in South Africa. People coming from other countries are recommended to check with their respective embassies about the different requirements of what it takes to drive in South Africa.
While driving you are not allowed to use your cell phone as this can get you a traffic ticket. fueling or gas filling up stations are found in most parts of the country with unleaded fuel easily available .majority of the gas stations work 24 hours a day making the service easily available. These only accept cash payment and not credit cards so remember to have some cash on you when driving
What is the local currency used in South Africa?
The South African rand (ZAR) also denoted as R is the local currency used in South Africa
Are credit cards used in South Africa?
Yes MasterCard and Visa are widely used and accepted across most parts of South Africa. American Express as well as Diners club is not commonly used.
Where can I change my money to the local currency in South Africa?
To exchange foreign currency you can visit the Bureaux de change or the local banks. In addition majority of the major cities across the country have ATMs meaning that it is easy for you to access your money.
Can I visit South Africa with a dietary need/ requirement?
majority of the dietary needs or requirements are catered for in South Africa however you are advised to inform your tour operator and the hotel(s) you be staying at in advance. For those going on game drives or visiting the remote national parks this is a very important aspect to remember keeping in mind that the Safari lodges and game reserves / national parks are situated within remote areas so prior engagements will be needed. In addition you should also remember to inform them of any allergies to any foods say peanut, gluten or lactose.
Is English spoken in South Africa?
Yes English is widely used across most parts of the country. in fact when you visit the large cities you will realize that English is used by all government officials, for commerce and trade, in banking and within the hospitality industry. In addition all the road signs are clearly marked in English and all official forms have been documented in English. When you get to your hotels or lodges the stuff will be communicating in very fluent English. On the other hand there are 11 officially used local languages in South Africa
Can I do my laundry in South Africa?
Yes South Africa hotels and lodges offer laundry services at a very friendly price. Therefore you are advised to consult at the concierge desk of your accommodation facility.
Is there luggage restriction in South Africa when going on Safari?
Well luggage restrictions differ from one airline or aircraft to another therefore always check with your travel agent regarding the luggage weight restriction. The thumbs rule however is not to pack anything that you want to see again or that you consider very valuable to you personally. You are recommended to carry with you at all times all personal items like medication, passport, eyeglasses, laptops, cell phones, camera, sunglasses, jewelry ,wallet and camera
Majority of the airlines used internally offer a luggage restriction of up to 20 kg a person. it is better to use soft bugs than those with wheels or a rigid frame as a number of them may not be able to fit within the smaller aircraft. In case you have additional luggage above the stipulated weights you can easily patches additionally additional weight I must aircraft give a maximum 70 kilograms. Persons who are above 100 kilogram body weight can also purchase additional weight as the aircraft overs a maximum of 70kg of purchase able weight per person
Can I take a camera on my Safari to South Africa?
Yes cameras are highly recommended as this country is also known as a photographer’s Paradise. However we recommend that you carry with you all your camera chargers, several memory cards and additional spare battery to avoid any disappointments during your trip.
You can also carry a pair of binoculars especially if you are going on a bird watching tour. As you plan for your camera equipment and lenses don’t forget to bring a waterproof bag to protect it from dust or in case it rains.
What is the electric current used in South Africa?
South Africa’s electrical appliances run on 220 volts. The outlets are a 3 pin with a 15 amp plug. Majority of the hotels and lodges offer adapters but as a general rule we recommend that all visitors come with their personal adapters. In case you bringing equipment for hairstyling such as flat irons or hair dryers we recommend that you bring dual voltage gadgets and don’t forget to change or adjust the voltage once in South Africa or else you stand the chance of losing them.
What is the time zone for South Africa?
The local time GMT + 2
Are there tipping guidelines when on Safari in South Africa?
Tipping is looked at as a way of appreciating one’s good service to you for that reason how much and who you tip surely depends on you. below we have offered you just a few guidelines to help you estimate how much to tip.
Airport transfer driver: US $3 per person
Your guide or driver on a city tour: US $5 to US $7 per person on half day tours and for full day tours US $10 to US $12
Your Safari guide or ranger guide at your lodge: US $10 each guest per day
Trackers at the lodge: US $5 per person per day
Staff at your lodge or hotel: US $5 per guest each day
Porters: US $3 per movement per person
Restaurant Staff: 10% of your bill which is customarily deducted.
Is tap water safe for drinking in South Africa?
No, please do not drink tap water you are highly advise always to drink bottled water despite the fact that in most parts of the country the tap water is safe for bathing as well as brushing your teeth.
What vaccines do I need when visiting South Africa?
There are no particular formal vaccines needed to enter South Africa however in case you plan to visit an area that is infested with malaria you are highly advised to take serious precautions especially when visiting in the summer months. Visit your physician before traveling and share with them your travel plans so that they can recommend to you any necessary medication that you will need as well as an anti-malarial prophylaxis. Ensure that all your medication is well labeled and done forget to carry a copy of the prescription with you.
How to avoid malaria in South Africa?
Malaria can be avoided through the following simple ways
- Always take your anti malarial drugs as prescribed by your doctor
- Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants as well as use an insect repellent to guard yourself against insect and mosquito bites
- Always sleep under a mosquito net over your bed or in an air-conditioned room
Yellow fever in South Africa
It is a requirement by the South African government the all people traveling from countries having a risk of yellow fever should present evidence of a yellow fever vaccine. people who are traveling from the USA when not be required for this proof however you are advised to visit the corresponding websites to find out more on which countries needs proof of a yellow fever vaccination
People who has contraindications and cannot be vaccinated against the yellow fever should have a waiver letter from an authorized travel physician that properly states the reason why. Persons who are unable to present a medical waiver or a valid certificate for yellow fever vaccination risk being denied entry into the country, or you will be forced into quarantine until your travelers certificate becomes valid.
To be safe, you are highly recommended to visit your health provider at least four to six weeks prior to your travel in order to maximize the benefit of immunization and allow enough time for the vaccine to take proper effect
What to pack on a safari in South Africa?
as the principal guidelines for anyone going on a safari in any part of the world it is important that you pack light; refrain yourself from packing too much
Wash and wear comfortable clothing are highly recommended for your Safari adventure
In case you plan on visiting the urban cities such as Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town you could throw in some clothing that is a bit formal especially for the evening dinners
for the game drive and adventures in the national parks you are advised to park neutral colored clothing like khaki, Gray, brown or stone.
Carry a warm sweater especially when going on the early morning and evening game drives since it is normally very cold especially in the winter time, and then as the day progresses and the sun comes out you can layer down.
Clothing for Safari
Lightweight blouses or shirts preferably with long sleeves to protect against insect bites and the sun
Safari trousers or jeans
Comfortable walking shoes preferably with ankle support
A hat with a wide brim and having an under chin tie to refrain it from flying away during windy conditions
A lightweight waterproof jacket
Flip flops for moving around your lodge and during the warm day time
Things to pack for the winter season: persons visiting during this time are recommended to pack:
A warm scarf
A warm jacket that is windproof
A Polo neck shirt
Essential equipment for your Safari
A pair of sunglasses
A camera with its lenses, spare batteries and spare memory cards
A small umbrella that can easily be carried around
Travel alarm clock
A flashlight with extra batteries
A small backpack to carry personal items
Charges for your electrical such as cell phones camera, laptop and iPads
A USB cable with several ports
Several Ziploc bags to protect your delicate equipment like cameras from dust or rain
What to include in your personal first aid kit box
Small Kleenex packets
A sunscreen having high SPF factor
Itchy spray to use in case of bug bites
A heartburn relief and insect repellent
When is the best time to visit South Africa?
South Africa is considered to be an all-year-round destination. When we talk about the best time to visit the country, it will all depend on what part of the country you wish to visit as well as your particular interests. Looking at Cape Town for instance it is warm with dry weather in the summer months that run from November to February however the best time to watch whales in South Africa is from September to October. In case you are interested rather in game watching the cooler winter months from May to September offer excellent conditions. In this article, we give you a guide on each season and what activities can best be done when.
Generally South Africa can be considered a dry Sunny country but when it becomes cold you will surely feel it. The mid-winter within the southern hemisphere starts in June and July with temperatures dropping sometimes to as low as zero degrees. When visiting places like Johannesburg be prepared for a minimum temperature of 4 degrees Centigrade, Durban an average of 11 degrees Centigrade and in Cape Town 7 degrees Centigrade. On the other hand, Mid-Summer which begins in December to the end of January is warm and very favorable and most of the country takes it’s a new year’s holiday and many of the inland resorts and coastal areas are filled up with holidaymakers. It is very important for any holiday makeup planning a safari to South Africa to take into account the different climatic zones experienced in the different parts of the country.
The Garden Route Coastal belt as well as Cape Town experience a warm mild but unpredictable summer but during the winter days it can turn out to be extremely cold and the rain can fall at any time. In these areas The Kwazu Natal which is more subtropical experiences warm winters whereas the city of Johannesburg and Pretoria are found on a high plateau and experience almost a perfect climate. The summer days are normally interrupted with thunder showers whereas the winters are characterized with very cold nights.
The rainy season in South Africa
Well in South Africa the rainy season varies basing on the location and the rain falls at any time throughout the year especially in the capes. The western cape and Cape Town receive rainfall from June to the month of August. The northern area receives rain from November to February whereas the dry season comes in from May to October which is actually a good time to have your Safari in South Africa.
To answer the question of the best month to visit South Africa it will depend on whether you are going east or west. The western part of the country is perfect during the summer months from November to April whereas the Eastern part can best be visited during the cooler months that run from May to October. Your interests or activities you are going to engage in on your safari also highly determine the time you will be visiting the country.
Places like the Garden Route can be visited from November to February when it’s warm however for those interested in watching the whales, you are advised to visit from September to October.
persons looking forward to enjoy bird watching tours in South Africa are advised to visit the northern region of the country from the month of November to February especially if you don’t mind some occasional rains.
Game viewing and game drive expeditions can best be done during the cooler winter months from May to September.
In summary, September is considered to be the best month to visit South Africa on a Safari. You can easily combine a number of tour activities in this month across most of the country for instance, besides seeing the different animals with their young ones you will be able to see the breaching whales
The winter season of South Africa
From December to January South Africa is experiencing its midsummer and during this time majority of the top tourist destinations are swarmed with high numbers of holidaymakers. In case you are going to Garden Route or Cape Town for instance you are advised to book your accommodation a couple of months earlier to avoid any disappointment.
December to February
The days are generally hot and dry making it the best time to visit the national parks and the coastal areas of South Africa. The challenge however of visiting during this time of year is that the cost of safaris is generally high and most of the accommodation is filled with tourists. Holidaymakers are advised to book their tours a couple of months in advance. Cape Town and the garden Route can also be easily explored during this time of the year since it’s warm and dry. In February the Mercury arises along the coast however there is an ocean breeze that blows along the coast that cools it off. Kwazulu-natal and Kruger National Park are also dry and can be easily visited during this time with occasional rain storms falling.
The springtime of South Africa
During this time schools are taking their Easter holiday and it is a very busy time for the tourist industry in South Africa which makes the overall cost of a safari very expensive. Majority of the accommodation facilities are filled up which makes the demand of accommodation very high.
March to May
In South Africa from March to May it is generally warm and sunny despite the fact that the Northern Cape receives occasional rain showers. March is a good time to enjoy a safari within Kruger National Park as the rivers are full and vegetation is lashing. The month of April is however drier making it easy for you to combine a wildlife safari with an adventure in Cape Town. from May the days are warm but the evenings and early morning are extremely cold
Summer time in South Africa
June to August is considered an appropriate time to visit especially if you are interested in game viewing. The month of July marks the beginning of the whale watching season despite the fact that the weather can be cool with occasional drizzles. The eastern and northern parts of the country remain warm and dry so Addo elephant National Park as well as Kruger National Park can be visited with great views of animals around the water holes.
Spring time starts in the month of August as many of the wild flowers start to blossom across the northern and western capes coloring the dusty arid landscape with vibrant colors. This month also marks the start of the sport season offering holiday makers an opportunity to watch international football, rugby and cricket games.
June to August
In the month of June the Western Cape and Cape Town become cooler with the nights becoming extremely cold but once the sun is out it is very pleasant although occasional light rain showers might be experienced.
The fall time in South Africa
The month of September and October are best for persons interested in watching whales as a number of migrant species from the Antarctica are arriving. The best places to see whales are Plettenberg Bay and Hermanus. In the month of September wildflowers are beautifully blooming and you can visiting namaqualand for the best views. During this time persons interested in the sports like cricket will get an opportunity to watch some live matches in the country
September to November
Generally the months of September and October are considered to be generally sunny and temperatures tend to increase as the year progresses. by November areas like Kwazul natal and Kruger National Park begin to receive rain especially in the early mornings offering very spectacular afternoons. it is during this time that persons interested in visiting the dry areas like Karoo whose heat is very unbearable should do so.
Best time for a game watching safari in South Africa
Game watching can best be done during the dry season that is in May to October. During this time the grass is thin and visibility is generally better. Water is generally scarce in the national parks meaning that most of the animals will be seem congested around the few remaining permanent water holes. During this time the temperatures are cooler as compared to the hot summer.
On the other hand the hotter summer months are considered a cheaper time to visit especially if you can bear with the hot temperatures there are fewer tours due to the unbearable weather conditions which in fact increases chances of getting discounted accommodation rates.