South Africa Holiday
South Africa - A World in One Country
South Africa is a world in one country. Beaches, bushveld, mountains, semi-deserts, high rise cities, and sprawling neighbourhoods… Mzansi (as the locals call it) has something for everyone. You can go from a Big Five safari to seaside cocktails within just a few hours; from a traditional meal at a local shebeen to shopping on the high street in only a matter of minutes.
Consistently voted as one of the top destinations around the world, South Africa is home to three tourism juggernauts: Cape Town, the country’s Mother City melting pot and wine capital nestled in the shadow of Table Mountain; the Garden Route, a road-trip stretch of forested coastline; and the Kruger National Park, the gem in South Africa’s wildlife crown.
In between these popular destinations is a patchwork of lesser-known treasures. Explore the unspoiled Whale Coast, experience the wild Eastern Cape and discover the quirky heart of the country in the semi-desert flatlands of the Karoo.
And then there are the people. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was spot on when he nicknamed South Africa “the Rainbow Nation.” Indeed, it is a colourful country of diversity and contrast – in its cultures, landscapes, and languages. A visit here would not be complete without delving into South Africa’s history. Whether it’s a private tour of Robben Island or a Cape Malay food safari, you’ll discover that despite its heart-wrenching past, South Africa’s pride and positivity are forces of nature.
When to Go
Most visitors arrive during summer (November to March) when the weather ranges from warm to hot. The ideal season for wildlife viewing is between May and September when the weather is dry, and there’s a higher likelihood of seeing big game.
Experience the diversity and beauty of Cape Town, home to Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens and Robben Island.
Kruger is South Africa’s flagship wildlife reserve, offering superb safari experiences for families and couples.
Discover the sumptuous Cape Winelands, filled with lush green vineyards and award-winning dining venues.
Top Destinations in South Africa Holiday
The Kruger National Park takes centre stage as South Africa’s most famous and best-loved wildlife destination. With animals in the hundreds of thousands, from the Big Five to over 600 bird species, reptiles and even fish, a Kruger safari should be on everybody’s travel bucket list.
There’s something for every kind of traveller on a Kruger safari, whether it’s your first time or you’re a return visitor. Choose from luxury tented camps in private concessions or stylish safari lodges in adjacent reserves. In the park itself, the popular southern region is famous for its large rhino and lion populations. Central Kruger is the most game-rich area, abundant in plains game like giraffe and wildebeest. Naturally, these bring with them a healthy predator population. To the south, the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve shares a fence-free border with the Kruger. This park is famous for its variety of luxury lodge-style safari accommodation.
With a year-round sunny climate, you can enjoy a Kruger safari any time of the year. Popular activities include guided game drives and bush walks. No matter how you choose to experience the Kruger, it’s a destination you’ll want to return to again and again.
When to Go:
Summer and winter offer different Kruger safari experiences. The dry winter season between May and October is best for game-viewing. November through February, known as the “Green Season,” is the hottest and wettest time of the year. As a result, this is the best time to visit the Kruger for bird watching. However, the humid summer climate doesn’t suit everyone.
Travellers the world over consistently vote Cape Town as one of the globe’s top travel destinations, and with good reason. South Africa’s Mother City is a hotspot of culture, colour, cuisine, and wine. And all of this set at the foot of the iconic Table Mountain.
Cape Town’s abundant offerings are encircled by some of the most breathtaking scenery you could imagine. Here, fynbos-covered mountains meet not one, but two oceans in a clash of dramatic beauty while sun-ripened vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see. In the city itself, cafes and trendy eateries line the streets between boutiques, curio shops, and galleries.
Then there are the beaches. Along the Atlantic Seaboard, powder-white shores attract sun worshippers and people-watchers in droves, while the warmer Indian Ocean waters of False Bay are the preferred choice for families, surfers and swimmers.
Naturally, Table Mountain takes centre stage, flanked by Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak. You can’t come to Cape Town without visiting the summit of this flat-topped icon, whether by cable car or following one of the many hiking trails.
When to Go:
The Western Cape enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Most visitors holiday in Cape Town during the warm and dry summer months, with December to April a particularly busy season for travel. Winter, especially during July and August, is cold and wet.
Sprawled between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, the Garden Route in South Africa is a holiday paradise. Here, you can explore ancient forests, secluded beaches, hidden wine estates, and unique wildlife sanctuaries. It’s also one of the world’s greatest road trips, following 200 kilometres of winding tarmac from one picturesque town to the next.
Things to do in the Garden Route are varied. From bungee-jumping in Plettenberg Bay to treetop canopy tours in Tsitsikamma and lagoon cruises in the Featherbed Nature Reserve. Most visitors base themselves in Knysna, a foodie destination which languishes on a scenic lagoon. Plettenberg Bay, which is famous for its beaches, is another ideal base from which to launch your Garden Route explorations.
The nearby town of Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo is also worth visiting. While not officially part of the Garden Route, this quirky town is where to go to see incredible caves and geological formations plus some of the world’s biggest ostrich farms.
When to Go:
Garden Route holidays are rewarding any time of the year. Temperatures peak in the summer between November and April, but as this is a coastal climate, it can rain at any time, especially during June and July.
On departing Cape Town and heading just 40 minutes into the Cape Winelands, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’ve arrived in the scenic Bordeaux region of France. Vineyards stretch in all directions, the leaves either a crisp green or red tinged with yellow (depending on the season); and purple-tinged mountains frame the valleys.
But the Cape Winelands are distinctly South African. Century-old Cape Dutch manor houses form part of many the estates, each bringing with them a heritage stretching back to the early 1600s when settlers first arrived in the Cape, plus unique experiences (wine-tasting cycling expeditions and leisurely tram tours anyone?) add to the ambience.
The Winelands are pegged by three main towns – Stellenbosch, famously a university-town and filled with pretty oak-lined avenues, Paarl, situated under the Paarl Rock mountain and well known for its robust, hearty red wines, and Franschhoek, the upmarket Huguenot village dotted with gorgeous vineyards, food and wine-tasting opportunities and a town square.
The Cape Winelands, however – even though they are filled to the brim with internationally award-winning estates and wines – are also well known for their excellent restaurants, spas, markets and gardens. Come to visit!
When to Go:
The Cape Winelands are worth a visit all year round. While the look of the vines may differ (green leaves in the height of summer, and red and yellow-tinged ones at the turn of the season), the wine-tasting, cuisine and spa treatments remain incredible. December through February is particularly hot though and can reach temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius.View
Take a walk on the wild side! South Africa’s ‘wild’ Eastern Cape is an untouched province of pristine beaches, scenic bush landscapes, and coastal dune forests. Among the exciting attractions is the Addo Elephant National Park, which boasts the densest elephant population in the world. It’s also the only reserve on earth with the distinction of being home to the Big Seven. Here you can see elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard, plus great white sharks and southern right whales!
There is something for everyone in the Eastern Cape. For travellers chasing adrenaline-fueled thrills, there’s tubing down the Storm’s River Gorge and skydiving in Grahamstown. Alternatively, take a leap from the world’s highest commercially operated bridge bungee at Bloukrans. Culture vultures will enjoy uncovering the province’s unique history, from the 1820 Settlers to the birth and life of Nelson Mandela. The Eastern Cape is home to several of South Africa’s most important persons in the fight against Apartheid, including Thabo Mbeki, Steve Biko, and Oliver Tambo.
When to Go:
Average temperatures in the Eastern Cape are moderate year-round. There are a few cold weeks in the winter (June through August). The hottest months are from January to March, when the humidity at the coast becomes uncomfortable, though far less so than other more tropical destinations.
Stretching along the Indian Ocean coastline in the Overberg against a spectacular mountainous backdrop, the Cape Whale Coast is made up of bays, coves, and river mouths. The area plays host to quaint farming towns, orchards, and vineyards. However, it’s the spectacular whale watching opportunities here that have earned the Whale Coast its name.
Hermanus enjoys its much-deserved reputation as the world’s best land-based whale-watching destination. Expect generous sightings during Whale Season, which runs from July until November (peaking in September). This is when migrating southern right whales take shelter in the warm waters of the Cape to mate and breed, entertaining onlookers with their breaching antics.
Other than whale watching, you can explore the area on long coastal drives and mountain hikes. Spend time in tranquil sandy bays, or stroll along rocky beaches. You also have the opportunity to visit the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas, and the nearby charming fishing village of Arniston.
When to Go:
For whale watching, visit during Whale Season, which runs from July until November (peaking in September). If you’re looking for a beach holiday, visit Hermanus between December and February, when the weather is sunny and warm.
Setting off on a game drive in Madikwe just before dusk is an invigorating experience. The bush comes alive, slowly but steadily: the haunting song of an African hoopoe fills the warm air and the quiet beat of velvet-soled feet hit the gravel road ahead. Suddenly a pack of wild dog shoot out onto the road in front of your safari vehicle, their white tails flying in the air, their tongues lolling. They’ve picked up a scent and somewhere in the distance, and anxious duiker disappears into the foliage.
A safari in Madikwe Game Reserve, situated in South Africa’s North West Province and just a few hours from Johannesburg, is exciting and filled with unique encounters. Wild dogs are just some of the rarer game, spotted more frequently in Madikwe than in almost any other reserve in the country. Home to the full Big Five as well as cheetah, there’s no wonder why Madikwe is fast becoming a popular safari destination of choice.
Plus, Madikwe is ideal for families. Notably within a malaria-free zone – the reserve falls within the greater Kalahari basin – Madikwe is home to a number of fantastic child-oriented safari lodges (think children on safari programmes, cooking with the chef and dedicated game drives).
The landscape is a mixture of grassland, forest and rocky hills, but the game viewing is superb. Combine a safari in Madikwe with a trip to Cape Town and a leisurely self-drive tour along the scenic Garden Route for the ultimate family adventure
When to Go
Madikwe is truly a year-round game-viewing destination and safaris can be enjoyed throughout the year. That said, there is a wetter season (December through February) and a typical dry season (May through October), the latter which is generally considered the best time for game viewing.
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Top Experiences in South Africa Holiday
Wake up and smell the coffee! Take a coffee tasting tour of Cape Town and discover the choicest brews in and around the Mother City.
Adventure is out there! From guided hikes to ziplining, kayaking and tubing, you will find your perfect adventure on the Storms River in the Garden Route.
Boschendal’s culinary focus is on contemporary farm-to-table dining using the finest local, seasonal and ethically-sourced ingredients. Expect a menu featuring fermented breads, slow-roasted brisket sourced from the farm’s herd of Angus cattle, house-smoked trout and more.
Discover the ultimate bush bedroom. The luxury treehouses at Lion Sands and Kapama are irresistably romantic. Count the shooting stars before drifting off to sleep beneath the Milky Way.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island for 27 years. See this legendary destination through the eyes of Madiba’s prison guard, Christo Brand on a private tour of the island.