South Africa is huge and diverse, and quite different from the other African countries we travel to. It offers world-class cities, outstanding wildlife safaris, breath-taking landscapes and activities, friendly hospitality - and sophisticated restaurants and bars serving some of the very best food and wine to be found anywhere in Africa. The best of South Africa can easily be combined into a two-week trip incorporating Cape Town and the neighbouring winelands, a safari in one of the private game reserves adjoining Kruger National Park, and a self-drive trip along the famous Garden Route. As an added bonus, much of the country is malaria-free. South Africa holidays are ideal for families with children of any ages.
South Africa Holidays: 5 top reasons to go
1. The wildlife! South Africa’s wildlife parks have a fabulous variety and density of African big game, and the safari experiences on offer are well-managed - some are even malaria free.
2. For outdoorsy people like us, South Africa’s mountains, seas, rivers and bush combine to offer a mouth-watering multi-activity holiday the like of which we haven’t found anywhere else.
3. South Africa’s infrastructure is advanced, making it a very easy place to get around – the internal flight network is good and self-drive is also a viable option. There is a vast range of accommodation at every level, from simple guesthouses and B&Bs right up to super-expensive world-class luxury suitable for the most discerning traveller. South Africa is therefore a fantastic introduction to Africa for first-time visitors.
5. The great value that the Rand is currently offering: you can get more holiday and more luxury now for your money than you could get a few years ago. What's not to like about that!
South Africa Holidays: When to Visit
The best time to visit South Africa depends on what you want to do and see when you get there; the climate changes considerably from east to west, north to south.
If you are heading to Cape Town or its surrounds, you will find a pleasant Mediterranean climate. As it doesn’t get ridiculously hot in the summer (November – March) but the winters are wet (May – September), the best time to visit South Africa if you are heading to this region is likely to be October – May.
The climate of the north east of the country, including the Kruger Park, adheres to the dry and rainy seasons of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Thus the best time to visit South Africa if you are heading to the north east would be during the cooler dry season (May – Sept) when the animals are easier to spot as they congregate around dwindling water holes.
South Africa: Getting Around
South Africa is the most well-connected country in Africa, both internally and internationally. Within South Africa you can find incredibly cheap local flights, interesting train journeys and excellent vehicles for hire. Reaching wildlife areas is straight-forward, as is connecting up your itinerary to experience a bit of everything.
We’re not big fans of Johannesburg although this is the main hub for international and internal connections. The airport is fine (we recommend the lounge upstairs), but in our view, the city has little to recommend it. We suggest getting in and out without a backward glance.
South Africa: Where to Stay
Ellerman House is one of the finest boutique hotels in Cape Town where the name of the game is privacy and attention to detail; use it as a base to explore the city.
12 Apostles is a 5 star boutique hotel on the outskirts of Cape Town which falls over itself to cater to guests’ every need. With a private cinema, spa, and whale-watching (seasonal) from the terrace, we don’t think they need to try too hard.
La Petite Ferme – one of the prettiest and friendliest accommodations and a great place for heading out to sample the culinary offerings of this Franschhoek region.
Whale Coast:Birkenhead House – sitting atop a cliff overlooking a lovely little beach in Hermanus, this luxury boutique hotel is a favourite, not only for whale watching; we love the surf action here and the laid-back feel of the place.
Kruger Park:Royal Malewane is one of our all-time favourites for a South African safari. The lodge is just beautiful as is the food, and we love to spend a few hours in the Bush Spa.
Singita does luxury brilliantly, and with just 6 suites Sweni is one of their finest lodges for exclusivity and privacy.
Sabi Sands:Again, we highly recommend Singita and their Sabi lodges, Boulders and Ebony, for a first class South African safari with all the bells and whistles. Londolozi also gets a massive thumbs up. The owner-run Chitwa Chitwa has a lovely little spa, along with private plunge pools, and ticks the eco-sensitivity box too.
Ulusaba – now we come to Richard Branson's property, and if there’s one thing he knows how to do well, it’s service. In a great location, Ulusaba has to be up there as one of the best family safari lodges in South Africa; the Kids Club ensures the kids are happy, and the spa and tennis court mean that parents have some great options for post game-drive activities.
If you're not sure on the difference between Kruger and the Sabi Sands, check out our blog here to find out everything you need to know.
Kalahari:Tswalu is off the beaten track, and not for first timers, but definitely up there with the best safari lodges in South Africa. This luxury lodge on the edge of the Kalahari lends itself brilliantly to the walking and horse-back safaris on offer, as well as educating and entertaining children due to its remote location and the family-driven ethos of its owners.
For a further insight into a South African holiday, take a look at our recent blog posts:
Kruger vs Sabi Sands
A Southern Africa Honeymooon
Children on Safari