Holiday Guide to South Africa

Holiday Guide to South Africa

South Africa is a wonderful all-round holiday destination fusing a chance to go on safari with a host of other activities and attractions.

Nuts and Bolts

-Practicalities and plus points

Direct flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town from London (11-12 hours flying time).

Well-developed infrastructure allows a range of holiday combinations – different regions are reached using air, road and rail links.

Multi-country combinations are also possible  – combine Cape Town with Victoria Falls; Kruger with Mauritius etc etc

Very little time change (GMT+2) so no jet lag.

Good value for money with a favourable exchange rate (at time of writing – £1 to 23 ZAR)

Huge diversity of experiences – this makes South Africa ideal for tailor-made holidays based around your interests . Activities available including wildlife encounters, wineland tours, adventure activities, gourmet retreats, cultural and historical experiences, beach and/or wilderness stays, among others.

Range of accommodation and touring options, from self-catering and self-drive to spas/wellness and all-inclusive packages.

Strong offering for those seeking sophistication/luxury.


-When to go

The optimum time to visit the Eastern and Western Cape,  including Cape Town,  is October to April.

Wildlife viewing is available year-round although the optimum time,  particularly in the Greater Kruger and in the parks/reserves to the north is May to October. This is also an excellent time for the beaches of Mozambique and Mauritius.

October (and October half term holidays) is therefore a popular time to combine Kruger and Cape and so you should book in advance. October also offers the chance to see whales along the Cape coast.


-Where to go

A holiday to South Africa can take many different forms depending on what your interests are. You can hike and bike in the Drakensberg mountains, visit the battlefields,  enjoy a gourmet retreat in Constantia, wend your way along the Garden Route,  or combine a slice of safari with the city.  You can’t go wrong with a Kruger/Cape combo – 4 nights in each is the basis for a fabulous holiday!


Nitty Gritty

-Best regions for wildlife

Wherever you are in South Africa, there are opportunities to see wildlife – the question is what sort of wildlife are you interested in seeing? There are too many areas to mention, from the coast and fynbos to the plains and mountains,  but in summary, here are a few wildlife highlights:

For whales, fur seals, sharks, dolphins and African penguins (sometimes referred to as the ‘marine Big Five’) then the Cape Coast,  especially between July and November when the Southern Right whales come to calve in Walker Bay,  is a joy. The seaside town of Hermanus becomes a prime spot for shore-based whale watching while further east at Plettenberg you can head out in a boat in of search of multiple species. The famous ‘sardine run’ phenomenon takes place nearer Durban, May to July.

For safari it’s the northern region, accessed via the international gateway of Johannesburg which provides prime wildlife viewing opportunities. The vast Kruger National Park has a well-developed road network for self-drive, as well as rest-camp accommodation however it’s the exceptional privately owned game reserves including Sabi Sands, Thornybush and Timbavati where wildlife viewing takes on a new dimension with open vehicles, off roading,  night driving and walking possible – fabulous!

Further north is Limpopo, which provides access to big-game destination: Mashatu. Mashatu is actually in Botswana’s Tuli Block and not within South Africa at all, but it’s a superb place to safari, rivalling the Greater Kruger.

For a malaria-free reserve offering a top-notch safari experience and the chance to see the ‘Big Five’, then Madikwe is a good choice, while further south, families and first-time visitors looking for a taste of safari in combination with Cape Town can enjoy a fine safari in the malaria-free Eastern Cape – reserves include Kwande, Shamwari and Pumba. Although this region does not feel quite as wild, having been reclaimed from farmland over the decades, the reserves have made a significant contribution to conservation of threatened species including rhino. Wildlife viewing is reliable, with many animals habituated to the vehicles.

Talking of rhino, in the east, you’ll find KwaZulu Natal’s famous reserves of Hluhluwe Imfolozi – among South Africa’s oldest protected areas and right at the forefront of rhino conservation. iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the private reserve of Phinda are also notable in this region.

The Kalahari is home to the largest privately owned game reserve in South Africa: Tswalu Kalahari. Conservation efforts at Tswalu have seen the study and successful reintroduction of dozens of species, making it an incredibly rewarding (and very exclusive) wildlife destination.


-Romance & luxury

South Africa is wonderful for a honeymoon or luxury getaway – you can eat and drink like kings, stay in characterful boutique properties, explore one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and enjoy a superb range of activities from open-air concerts at wine estates, to the adventure of safari.

There are lots of wonderful cross-border combinations,  with flights routing via Johannesburg and Cape Town , so you can mix up the thrill of a Kruger safari with the idyllic beaches of Mauritius or Mozambique, or enjoy the cosmopolitan ‘Mother City’ of Cape Town with the thunder of Victoria Falls.


Families will find South Africa a very easy holiday destination which allows you to combine lots of different experiences at your own pace. Go on safari, walk Boulders beach and see the penguins, spy whales from the coast road, visit the Cape of Good Hope,  picnic at a wine estate, walk the wild beaches, ride the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, boat out to Robben Island, explore the V&A Waterfront  – there are so many brilliant things to do,  that 10 days on the Cape coast alone is very easy to fill.

Accommodation includes self-catering options, but there are also guesthouses, hotels and camps/lodges configured for families. Many places have pools. Food is really good, with plenty of choice.  Self-drive provides ultimate flexibility.


-Why you should book with a specialist

We don’t charge for advice so you have a lot to gain from consulting a specialist with genuine first-hand experience.  Since South Africa is such a vast and varied destination and most people have limited holiday time and budget , it’s better to get the details right. Our team will be able to answer your questions with confidence because we have travelled in the country extensively.

You won’t pay more through our network, than if booking direct, because our partners have access to special agent rates.

By booking a package with us you will benefit from financial protection (ATOL / ABTOT), and 24/7 support should anything go wrong.

By booking through us you’ll be supporting conservation charity Explorers Against Extinction at no additional cost to you.

(browse sample itineraries and a destination guide at our dedicated site, Real Africa)