There’s nowhere quite like South Africa, a country defined by its rich culture and magnificent landscapes. Venture to the southernmost tip of Africa where the Indian and Pacific oceans meet, bike through centuries-old vineyards while sipping on the finest wine, and track the Big Five in some of Africa’s top private game reserves. It’s easy to understand why a luxury safari and South Africa go hand-in-hand.
South African Rand
Step into the animal kingdom of South Africa
South Africa, the microcosm of the wonders of Africa, is teeming with rich cultures and legendary wildlife set among some of the most dramatic and beautiful landscapes on the continent.
The country’s political instability and a brutally oppressive past under apartheid rule have not gone unnoticed, but the election of 1994 signaled a new beginning for South Africa. When you venture through this flourishing travel destination, you will realise how far the country has come in recent years.
Instead of brushing their history under the rug, South Africa has transformed its dark past into museums scattered throughout the nation dedicated to telling the story of its struggle for freedom and road to democracy under the behest of young activists like Nelson Mandela. While it may not be lighthearted, a visit to these museums is an invaluable experience and helps you understand and appreciate the fabric of this beautiful country.
South Africa’s array of scenery, stunning landscapes and top safari lodges make it the ideal destination for an activity-packed outdoor adventure. Spot wildlife on a game drive with top-rated guides, surf off the coast of the Eastern Cape, rock climb the rugged cliffs of Cederberg, hike into the misty peaks of the Drakensberg and spend a night in a cave. And, if you’re one to push it to the limits, go diving with great white sharks off the coast of Cape Town.
Wherever you go or whatever you decide to do in this incredibly diverse country, expect an outstanding wildlife, cultural and travel experience like no other. South Africa has it all.
Where to explore
Cape Town & The Winelands
Fondly known as the Mother City, Cape Town is a true coastal metropolis steeped in history and vibrancy, encompassing the iconic Table Mountain, centuries-old architecture, modern design and a buzzing nightlife with phenomenal food and wine. If you’re after a thrill, head 100 miles south-west of Cape Town to the unspoilt coastline of Gansbaai, the best place in the world to get up-close-and-personal with the ocean’s top predator: the great white shark. If shark cage diving isn’t your thing, venture outside of the city to the vineyards of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch and sip on the best wine the continent has to offer.
The Garden Route
This beautiful stretch of coastline is an absolute must-see on any South African safari experience. The Garden Route is a 300 km stretch of the south-western coast of South Africa which extends from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape where Tsitsikamma National Park is located.
Along the journey, you can bungy jump off the Bloukrans Bridge (the highest in Africa), visit Addo Elephant Park (third-largest park in the country) and check out the spectacular sight of the Map of Africa near Kaaimans River Bridge, where the flow of the river has shaped a piece of land, lush with forest and mountains, resembling the African continent.
A slight detour off the route but worth it: head to Cape Agulhas to stand at the most southern tip of Africa where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.
Kruger National Park
A highlight on all safari-goers’ itineraries, this stretch of the country contains some of the most luxurious and modern safari lodges in South Africa. A region known for its lions, be prepared for up-close sightings of these big cats along with other iconic species such as elephant, leopard, rhino, cheetah, buffalo, giraffe, hippo and zebra.
Please note: Kruger is one of the most accessible parks in Africa, resulting in the park becoming overcrowded at times. If you’re after a more exclusive experience, consider heading to world renowned Sabi Sand – considered to be the richest land of wilderness on the continent.
The Great Karoo
The soul of South Africa, the Karoo (a Bushman word meaning ‘dry place’) is a vast, ancient seabed located near the Eastern Cape. A land that’s been home to the large dinosaur reptile bradysaurus, which thrived here over 250 million years ago, the footsteps of Africa’s first people, the Bushmen and the passage of millions of springbok on their migrations across the plains. Some may not appreciate the stark beauty of this desert land, but it’s a place full of wonders for those who do.
The place of the Zulu Kingdom and the land of the sugar cane and bananas, KwaZulu-Natal (known by locals as KZN) gives you a taste of local heritage and authentic African highlights. Home to the sub-tropical coastline of Durban and to The Battlefields Region where 63 battles took place during the 19th century between the Zulus, British and Boers, KZN may be overshadowed by the rest of South Africa. In our opinion, it’s a destination in its own right. Spot the Big Five in the continent’s oldest national reserve, Hluhluwe or head to the less explored region of Elephant Coast where you can track turtles and fish, scuba dive and enjoy a horse ride along the incredible stretch of coastline.
The spectacular Drakensberg Mountain Range, located in KwaZulu-Natal is the highest in South Africa and offers a wealth of activities within its incredible basalt landscape and towering sandstone cliffs. Home to the largest collection of San paintings in the world and endemic plants, the Drakensberg is a dream come true for every hiking enthusiast. Visitors can enjoy guided walks, fly fishing, rock climbing, extreme mountain biking and finish off their day with a swim in the crystal clear (and chilly) rivers.
Madikwe Game Reserve
In complete contrast to the better-known Kruger National Park in so many ways. Madikwe is run as a private enterprise, showing as some might say, the possibility of the private sector to successfully manage wilderness areas such as these. In addition to the excellent game viewing, the truly excellent standards of lodging and the logistical simplicity of arrival, Madikwe is in a position to boast being completely free of malaria.
The best time to visit South Africa
For wildlife viewing, visit Kruger and the other wildlife parks during the dry season between May and September. During the high season (October to March) and the holiday period in December, it can become overcrowded and more expensive but private parks can still offer you an exclusive experience.