South Africa Safari
A destination guide to Safaris in South Africa, hotels, accommodation, attractions and activities.
South Africa lies at the southern end of Africa; it ranks the 25th biggest country in the world covering an area of 1,219,090 sq km. It is bordered by Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the North, Mozambique and Swaziland to the Northeast, its coastline stretches along the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic; it also surrounds the kingdom of Lesotho. Pretoria is South Africa’s capital city and the country’s political center with a population n of 1,619,438. Other main cities are Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Durban, and Port Elizabeth among others. South Africa’s total population is 55.91 million (2016). Most ethnic groups in the country are Bantu speakers; languages mainly spoken are English, Afrikaans, Zulu, and Xhosa among others and the country’s currency used is the Rand.
The climate of South Africa is not the same in all areas, it varies; the interior plateau receives temperate climate, the southwestern corner of the country receives Mediterranean climate and some areas in the Northwest receive desert climate. Generally most parts of the country have cool nights and warm, sunny days. The same way the climate of South Africa varies, also is its topography; it’s covered with the great Karoo plateau, water bodies, mountains and rocky hills.
South Africa is endowed with different tourist attractions, starting with the diverse ecosystems such as beautiful beaches in the Western Cape, the beautiful coastline which gives opportunity to view the sunrise and also a lot of activities such as climbing, hiking, golfing and others, the big game in Kruger National Park which is the country’s main inland safari destination, rocky cliffs at Cape of Good Hope, the Table Mountain, lagoons and forests along the Garden route, cities with great day and night life such as Cape Town. Don’t miss out on a lot chances are available for those in for casual dining and shopping, meanwhile find out the history of South Africa and how Mandela impacted on its change, this involves how he fought for the country’s freedom from the colonialists. Also find out different cultures in the country since South Africa is mixed with cultures and different ethnic groups.
With that below are the different tourist attractions in South Africa.
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is located in the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo in the Northeastern part of South Africa, and other parts of the park in Zimbabwe and Mozambique; it ranks among the best game reserves in Africa covering an area of 19, 485 sq km. the park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere and was established in 1898 with the aim of protecting wildlife and by 1926 it became South Africa’s first national park. The park has around 9 gates which allow entrance and access to different camps. Kruger National Park is famously known for its amazing wildlife or game viewing opportunities it provides to the visitors, it is home to different species; 147 mammals, 114 reptiles, 507 birds including the Kori Bustard, Ground hornbill, Pel’s Fshing and Martial Eagle, 34 amphibians, 49 fish, and 336 trees like the baobabs, Mopane, knob thorn, and fever tree. There are different wild animals to see such as the big five: buffaloes, rhinos, lions, elephants and leopards. Also look out for Cultural/ Natural features in the Park such as the Jock of the Bushveld Route, Stevenson Hamilton Memorial Library, Albasini Ruins, and Letaba Elephant Museum
Enjoy activities like Game drives, guided walks, bird watching, back packing trails, wilderness trails, mountain biking, and Golf. The park can be accessed by road either under a tour company or self drives. Also it can be accessed by air where by most visitors fly from Johannesburg to the Kruger international airport, Skukuza Airport among others. Lodging facilities in the park include camps, bungalows, safari tents, cottages, guest houses, huts and luxury lodges.
The Table Mountain is among the world’s most popular natural icons with a flat top standing at 3560ft high. Its flat top is where it derives the name Table Mountain; it overlooks the city of Cape Town in South Africa. The major activity done by tourists on this mountain is hiking whereby it gives the opportunity to have great spectacular views of the city and nearby areas. This mountain is home to a lot of flora and fauna and it is one of the major features that make up the Table Mountain National Park.
Table Mountain National park has is rich and diverse with animals and plants and any time spent in this area is not put to waste it’s just well spent. There are various activities to do here; Hiking (visitors are advised to wear comfortable hiking shoes, and carry hats, cameras, sun glasses and enough water), do scenic drives along the Signal hill, guided nature walks in the park, relax at the Boulders beach in the Cape Town area. There are available accommodation facilities since the par I just near the Cape Town city, visitors can spend a night in places like the Orange Kloof tented camp, Overseers cottage, and Silvermine tented camp (luxury tented camp).
This is a place that shouldn’t miss out on your itinerary; unlike other islands whose attraction is the beautiful beaches and palm trees, Robben Island’s attraction is in the riches of it History. It is an island in Table Bay located about 6.9 km west of Bloubergstrand in Cape Town. It is not a very big island as it covers an area of 5.07 sq km, 1.9 km wide and 3.3 km long from North to South. Robben Island is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is a place that was used in most cases as a prison between the 17th and 20th centuries, it is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for the 17 years of his 27 years he was imprisoned, it’s a place with rich history about the prisoners who have been put behind bars, those that escaped those that finished their sentence among others and the buildings are of the late 20th century architectural setting. Also other South African Presidents like Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma have spent some time there.
The island can be accessed by the ferry, where by the time ferry leaves is scheduled, approximately two hours can be spent touring the island; this involves the guided drives on the island and the visit to the prison.
Addo Elephant National Park
This Park is one of the 19 national parks in South Africa and it is located near Port Elizabeth. It has diverse wildlife; this makes it home to over 550 elephants, hyenas, black rhinos, zebras, antelopes, lions, and leopards. The park is also endowed with various species of plants that also give it a spectacular look. Visitors can engage in activities such as hiking, marine eco-tours, Game drives, 4×4 Trails, and Horse riding. Different facilities are available in the park such as the restaurants, swimming pool and the accommodation types including the ranging from camps like Narina Bush Camp, and Addo Rest Camp among others to luxury lodges.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Kirstenbosch is South Africa’s most famous Botanical Garden in Africa and the world at large; it lies on around 36 hectares and it is endowed with beauty and various cape floras. This Botanical garden is located at the eastern slopes of the Table Mountain in Cape Town. It was founded in 1913 mainly to preserve South Africa’s unique flora, plants grown are mainly indigenous to South Africa especially those from the winter rainfall region. Apart from the walks in the gardens visitors have a great time escpecially during summer in the months between December and March; the can do picnics, get entertainment from the musical sunset concerts among other things. There are craft markets opposite Kirstenbosch for those in for African crafts, and the visitors’ information centre where a lot of information can be obtained from.
You can get to Kirstenbosch by road from Cape Town which is about 13 km away.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Also called the V&A Waterfront is located on the Atlantic shoreline, Table Mountain, Table Bay Harbor, and the City of Cape Town, in Cape Town. V&A Waterfront was named after Greta Britain’s Queen Victoria and the youngest son Alfred. This place receives very many visitors throughout the year; major people that visit are of all ages both the local families and tourists. V&A is a very interesting place as it provides a lot and it’s up to the visitor to choose what he/she wants starting with the shopping outlets, fine dining, curio shops, and live entertainment from concerts, workshops and puppet shows. Other things to see are the Ocean aquariums, markets and museums. It is really a great an unforgettable experience gained while at V&A.
Tsitsikamma National Park
Tsitsikamma is a Khoi word meaning ‘place of abundant water’ it is a protected area of the Garden Route National park on the Southern coast of South Africa. Tsitsikamma is endowed with deep gorges, rivers, local vegetation and its home to encumber of small animals like the bush pigs. The major unique thing about this is the Big Tree, it is to mainly the nature lovers whereby they can’t miss out on visiting this tree; it is said that has existed for around 800 years, it stands 36.6m high, to reach this tree it takes around a 10 minute walk through the cool forest. Some routes are challenging but still visitors can penetrate through.
Engage in activities like Kayaking, swimming, hiking, and nature walks among others. Visitors can spend a night at any lodge of their choice such as Oyster Bay Lodge, Tsitsikamma Lodge & Spa, Tsitsikamma on Sea Luxury Lodge, and Tranquility Lodge among others.
It is the largest city in South Africa and the Capital of Gauteng province. Amazingly it’s not among the country’s three capital cities, it is located in the mineral-rich Witwatersrand hills hence it’s the centre of large-scale diamond and gold trade. It is sometimes called names like Jozi or Joburg, it was established in 1779 after they discovered Gold.
Johannesburg has a lot to offer to visitors: such as the Nelson Mandela Square, the Lion Park, Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary, the Apartheid Museum which has different information concerning the beginning and the end of the Apartheid regime, the Satyagraha House (this was Mahatma Gandhi’s South African base). Other areas to visit are the cultural places like the Absa Museum (banking and money museum), Adler Museum of the history of medicine; also shopping opportunities are available such as the African Craft market, Abafazi African Style, Art Africa Collectible. While in Johannesburg enjoy events like Adrienne Hersch Challenge, Andy Warhol Unscreened, the Capsule Festival, have a great time out in night at Babylon Bar, and Cool Runnings club among others. Visitors can also eat out in some restaurants around such as Allora, Annic’s Deli, Assaggi, Beirut Restaurant, Bayleaf & Sage among others. To all visitors whether on business, in need of relaxation or in for a cultural encounter; Johannesburg is just ready to give you all you need!
The Boulders Beach is a protected beach located in the Cape Peninsular near Simon’s Town in False Bay, South Africa. The beach is made up of granite boulders of which it’s where it obtained the name; it also forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. It is an amazing place with white sand and home to over 3000 African Penguins and other birds, also whales and dolphins can be spotted. While here you and your children will have a great time having a close up with the penguins, also relax and unwind while at the beach with it great ambiance and spectacular views. Lodging options are available since this beach can be visited while on a trip in Table Mountain National Park, or use a hotel of your choice near the Beach Penguin Colony.
Cradle of Humankind
The Cradle of Humankind is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site seated on 47,000 hectares; it is located approximately 50 km northwest of Johannesburg in Gauteng Province. It is home of about 40% of the world’s human fossils, it is also a home to different animals, plants and birds, most of them are endangered species.
The Cradle of Humankind gives visitors opportunity to learn and have information about bones, stones, an wine, also there is a chance of having a wedding in this area, eating out in nearby areas and also finding more amazing wildlife.
The Big Hole
The Big Hole was also known as the Kimberly mine or Open mine is a hand dug excavation site and this makes it the world’s largest hand dug pit, it was mined to about 800 meters years ago. It had a lot of diamond and was closed in 1914. It is now a tourist attraction, whereby it is filled with water in form of a carter. Have a great time here by enjoying the spectacular views, and getting more information about the mine. Get refreshments from the bar; also visit the museum that is near the mine. It is also a wonderful time spent here.
The Drankensberg a 200 km long range of mountains and is one of the oldest mountains in the world. Drankensberg’s most magnificent largest section ends in Kwa-Zulu Natal province. It consists of a big number of hiking routes, forests, waterfalls, and beautiful cliffs. Visitors also have chance of observing various flora and fauna while here. It is also home to around 48 mammal species, 290 bird species, and also attractive and extraordinary plants. More adventure activities are available such as river rafting, abseiling, and rock climbing. You can also choose to have a Helicopter ride to tour the whole area since it’s what most people opt for.
Best time to visit South Africa
May to September when the northern areas are experiencing the cool winter is considered the best time to visit the country and also enjoy views of the Big five animals. However from November to February it is generally raining with warm temperatures ranging from 22°C to 33°C making it an ideal time for bird watching.
When you visit Cape Town it experiences the summer months from November to February when it is conducive with temperatures ranging from 22°C to 26°C and it is generally hot and dry. Those interested in watching the whales at the Cape can visit between the month of July and November.
A monthly guide on when to visit South Africa
When you are going to visit the Cape area, January is generally hot and dry which makes it a really good time to explore cape Town as well as the beautifully garden route. Kwazulu-natal and Kruger National Park at this time of the year are experiencing high temperatures with sunny days that are interrupted with rain storms. Some of the common festivals in this month include the annual celebration of the battle of Isandlwana as well as the battle of Rorke’s Drift.
This is the hottest month especially in Cape Town despite the fact that the coastal areas are generally experiencing a pleasant cool sea breeze. Many of the coastal hotels and resorts are busy with guests during this month so if interested in exploring South Africa’s coastal area you are advised to book accommodation several months earlier.
This is a popular holiday time in South Africa as many people are visiting since the Easter holiday break is around the corner. It is generally warm despite the fact that the northern part of the country is still receiving some rainfall. When your visit the national parks like Kruger since the rain would be coming at this time, the vegetation is generally thick and most rivers and other water sources are still flooded. The animals are dispersed across the park marking game viewing somewhat challenging
In the month of May, the western part of the country is experiencing warm and dry weather despite the fact that the evenings and early mornings are cold. It is a very good time to take a safari in South Africa
June is considered as mid-winter season and especially in the cape area the temperatures are cooler. There are occasional fires within the Winelands however when the sun comes out it is extremely beautiful
In South Africa the whale watching season begins in the month of July on the Western Cape. On plettenberg bay as well as Hermanus you can easily see the southern right whales which normally swim near the shores to give birth. At this time of the year it is generally cool with a characteristic drizzle along the cape while the eastern and northern parts of the country are experiencing drier and warmer temperatures making it a very good time for games viewing as most of the animals are around the fury waterhole.
In the month of August spring begins and the wild flowers begin to blossom throughout the northern and western cape. Visiting the Northern Cape will give you an opportunity to enjoy beautiful views of colorful flowers that cover the countryside as a beautiful carpet. At the start of this month the well-known known cable used in the Table Mountain is shutdown for the yearly maintenance works. on the other hand the KwaZulu-natal is experiencing warm temperatures and there are several activities to do in this month making it the best time to visit KwaZulu Natal.
In this month the western coast is still having beautiful flowers blooming and the temperatures are gradually rising across the country with the evenings and early mornings being very cold. At this time you can combine a safari to different parts of the country as the whales can easily be spotted close to the coast while most wild animals are giving birth.
In October the temperatures have warmed up throughout South Africa although the rains have not yet begun. Still this is a good time to combine a safari as the flowers are still blooming and the weather is pleasant.
Because the temperatures across the country have increased, the rains begin in areas like Kruger National Park and KwaZulu Natal. These normally come in the afternoon with thunderstorms that later clear the skies making it perfect for photography. While in the cape areas this is the final month to see Whales, and also other island countries can also be visited
Generally speaking, South Africa is very busy in December as its the festive season. Most accommodations and tours should be booked in advance as many tourists arrive to enjoy the charismas holiday. KwaZulu Natal and the north are experiencing some little rain while the cape is dry.
Where to stay in South Africa
To some people South Africa may be considered as an expensive country considering that the standards of living are generally high, however the country offers a variety of accommodation options that can serve all types of travelers irrespective of their budget. these range from backpacker lodges, hotels, country lodges, caravan parks and camping grounds, self-catering cottages, B&B guest houses as well as all inclusive hotels, resorts and lodges.
Irrespective of your accommodation choice that most important tip when looking for where to stay on a safari in South Africa is to always book your accommodation in advance especially if you are traveling during the peak safari season that includes the mid-summer Christmas holiday, the Easter season as well as the school break holiday that coincides with holiday season in Europe. During that time there is a very large number of holidaymakers in the country which puts high demand on accommodation leading to many properties nearly doubling their prices.
Below is an estimate of the costs of accommodation in South Africa
Luxury Lodges US$600 to US$1,000
Mid-range Hotels R800
Country Lodges R1,500 to R2,000
En-suite Guest houses R400 to R1,000
Camping Grounds R150 to R250
Backpacker Lodges R125 to R300