Breathtaking South Africa is synonymous with sunshine and sandy beaches. The increasing influx of eco-tourists, adventurers, business travelers and sport lovers have gone a long way towards establishing South Africa as one of the hottest international destinations in recent years and has garnered award after award for best luxury accommodation - often featuring spas, conference centers, exclusive golf courses and a host of other accolades such as Best Holiday Destination in Africa and Best Scenery in the World.
Characterized by a tropical climate in the southeast, Mediterranean temperatures in the southwest and the hot, arid Karoo desert with its majestic open expanse and cool mountainous regions in between. South Africa with its rocky and sandy 3000km coastline, international cuisines, local wines, spectacular wildlife, historic and natural sites and booming cities with pulsating, sophisticated nightlife and a diverse cultural scene, is truly an awesome experience.
A mighty wooded mountain escarpment criss-crossed with hiking trails and over 500 game farms. Classic sights! The Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga and Kalahari Gemsbok Park are two of Africa’s greatest game reserves. It’s the extraordinary biodiversity, however and the Big 5 of the African wilderness - lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino; have drawn record numbers of visitors every year to what are some of the world’s best managed game and whale watching operations.
UNESCO has validated South Africa’s impressive biodiversity with a network of World Heritage Sites nationwide, including the 553 000-hectare Cape Floral Region, one of the richest plant areas in the world that showcases nearly a fifth of Africa’s native species of flora. Every province has traditionally offered national parks and botanical gardens, but the recent opening of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, opens up new horizons by sharing land and wildlife with Mozambique and Zambia.
The Western Cape and Eastern Cape with its spectacular Garden Route must rank as one of the most beautiful and striking sights in the world. Vast coastlines, luxurious accommodation and delicious seafood are readily available everywhere. The winelands are studded with literally hundreds of wineries as well as cheese, brandy, olive and fruit farms, some dating from Victorian times with majestic mountain landscapes and elegant Cape Dutch architecture.
Make time to head off the beaten track and explore the far reaches of the Limpopo Province with its sacred lakes; the Eastern Cape and its long, blond beaches, fringed with indigenous rainforests and Kwa-Zulu Natal with the majestic Drankensberg Mountains.
South Africa is an all year-round destination
The best time to go on safari is in the dry winter months (May to August) when the bush is thin and game viewing is easier and the temperatures are mild (maximum 20 to 23°C) while very little rainfall occurs in the north. For beach vacations the best time traveling to South Africa is in summer (November to March). These cooler months (May to November) are when the whales visit South Africa's shores to mate and calve in Walker Bay of the Whale Coast & Overberg.
Namaqualand, in the Northern Cape province, becomes a floral phenomenon in spring (mid-August to mid-October), when the desert-like terrain is transformed into a carpet of flowers, drawing thousands of visitors. The flower season depends on the annual rainfall in that region.
The southern regions of South Africa’s Peninsula and Garden Route are summer destinations, with low summer rainfall and temperatures reach 30°C or higher. The warm waters of KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape make for almost year-round swimming.
Air travel in South Africa is very easy and accessible as the country is the major hub for air travel to southern Africa with over 40 international airlines flying in to the country and aircraft landings from nearly 50 international destinations connecting Africa with all other continents.
There are three major international airports: Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg (OR Tambo International) and each of these cities offer a full range of upmarket luxurious accommodation to suit travellers. Johannesburg in particular is a travel hub and here you will find numerous luxury hotels.
OR Tambo International Airport: Africa's biggest travel hub, Johannesburg's main airport serves as a gateway to all South and Southern African destinations as well as East African ones and the Indian Ocean.
Cape Town International Airport: Fly direct to Cape Town or via Johannesburg for South Africa's Cape destinations - Cape Town, the Whale Route, Cape Winelands, Garden Route and the Eastern Cape.
King Shaka International Airport: Visitors to KwaZulu-Natal's game reserves, battlefields and Indian Ocean coast will land here via Johannesburg or Cape Town though there are direct flights via Dubai. A direct flight to Mauritius makes for a great KZN safari and beach holiday.
Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport: Linking the Kruger National Park and its private reserves with Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, a flight to Vilanculos on the Mozambique coast also means an easy Kruger/Bazaruto Archipelago itinerary.
Hoedspruit Airport: Fly into the Kruger's second airport from Johannesburg or Cape Town for easy access to the park's private reserves.
Port Elizabeth Airport: Gateway to the Big 5 reserves of the Eastern Cape, PE serves as an ideal finishing point for travellers on a self-drive safari from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape via the Garden Route.
George Airport: Get straight into the heart of the Garden Route with a flight to George via Johannesburg or Cape Town.
Getting around South Africa is easy. Daily commercial flights link all its cities while private and chartered aircraft also crisscross the South African skies. Many of our recommended lodges have their own private airstrip.
Road transfers are conducted in modern and comfortable vehicles and, because of its sophisticated infrastructure, South Africa is ideal car-hire country. Suitable destinations for a self-drive holiday include Cape Town, the Cape Winelands, the Garden Route, kwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Many visitors to the Kruger National Park choose to drive there via the scenic Panorama Route but once at their safari accommodation will join other guests on the guided game drives.
All visitors to South Africa require a passport valid for six months from date of departure as well as at least one completely blank page in your passport, excluding the final page.
Visitors from the USA, most Commonwealth countries (including the UK and Australia), most Western European countries and Japan don't require visas but will be issued a free entry permit on arrival valid for up to 90 days. Visitors of nationalities other than those listed above will need to obtain a visa prior to travel from a South African embassy or consulate.
Please note that children under the age of 18 must be in possession of an unabridged birth certificate that contains both parents' full names, as well as their own passport. Children travelling with guardians must produce relevant documents - such as letters of permission from their parents or custody court orders - that shows they have permission to travel. You may not be allowed to enter or leave South Africa without the relevant documents.
For full details on visa requirements and processing times, visit the South African Department of Home Affairs website.
South Africa is situated on the most southerly point of Africa, with its east coast enjoying the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and the icy Atlantic Ocean lapping on its west coast stretching up to the border of Namibia.
South Africa's neighbours comprise of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in the northern regions and also surrounds the two tiny independent countries of Swaziland and Lesotho. Truly a land of contrast variety and awesome beauty, South Africa offers lush, subtropical coastlines with warm water in eastern KwaZulu Natal; an arid semi-desert in the Karoo and Northern Cape towards the west; the majestic mountains of the Drakensberg on the Lesotho border and the historic wine valleys of the Western Cape.
The interior plateau is home to the economic hub of Johannesburg, whereas the lowveld area to the north is dominated by The Kruger National Park which is surrounded by upmarket private game reserves and luxurious accommodation.
South Africa is made up of nine provinces, each with its own unique attractions.
Although the climate varies from region to region, it is generally mild and sunny throughout the year. KwaZulu Natal has a subtropical climate with high humidity in summer very mild winters.
Southern Gauteng region has hot summers with occasional thunderstorms and frosty winters, while the eastern part (the Lowveld) enjoys mild winters. The Cape interior and Free State have similar weather conditions with hot summers and frosty winter with occasional thunderstorms.
The Western Cape has a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and cold, wet winters.Health & Safety
South Africa is a safe destination and millions of visitors come to this country every year. In terms of personal safety, the same rules apply as to every international destination in the world. Keep your belongings close and guarded at all times, don’t go wandering about alone at night and, when in the cities, be on the alert for pickpockets.
It is advised you check with your tour operator or hotel concierge - they will know if there are any potentially unsafe areas along your travel route. It is wise to avoid deserted areas, particularly at night and if you are on a self-drive adventure then please ensure your car is locked at all times - park in well-lit, busy areas. Dress-down (i.e. don’t wear excessive jewellery) when exploring Africa’s diverse cities. Concealed travel wallets are recommended. Stopping for hitch hikers is not recommended. South Africa is a very warm and hospitable nation.
Some areas in South Africa are malaria-free and others are not. Make a note of your destination and ask your doctor whether you need to get anti-malaria medication. Also remember that it tends to get very hot in summer (with temperatures of over 30ºC or 86ºF). Consult your doctor or an immunisation centre about the relevant vaccination requirements for the countries to which you will be travelling. We do suggest you get a Yellow Fever vaccination, because it’s compulsory for most African countries. For extra safety while travelling African countries, we recommend vaccinations for typhoid, polio, tetanus, hepatitis, meningitis and cholera. Also with your passport, make a certified copy of your certificate. Refer to www.travelclinics.co.za for more medical advise.