South Africa Tours and Vacations

Things to Do in South Africa

South Africa is an incredible destination in so many ways – it is the kind of destination that will touch all of your senses in a myriad of ways, and once all is said and done you probably won’t be the same again. Our incredible diversity is a key attraction – from the deserts of the Kgalagadi to the lush green forests of Tsitsikamma to the unspoiled beaches of the Wild Coast to the vibrant nightlife of Cape Town – we really do have it all. South Africa is mercurial in nature, one moment you’ll be exploring the origins of ancient man, the next you’re cage-diving with Great White Sharks and the next you’re drinking traditional beer in a lively township shebeen. South Africa really is a destination where you can experience it all, more.

As a people, we are known for our humanity – we may have come from a past filled with separation and struggle but our future is one of unity and possibility. In true African spirit, we understand the value of a warm South African welcome, and we can’t wait to welcome you to our Rainbow Nation – in 11 official languages.

There are nine spectacular provinces for you to explore – nine incredible diverse parts of the country that will open up your sense of possibility in ways you never thought possible. Oh, and by the way – we do have a sensational climate (with over 300 days of sunshine per year in some parts). We are also extremely proud of our superb infrastructure – excellent roads, a great variety of accommodation options and world-class service.

South Africa truly is a ground-breaking destination for explorers and adventurers who want to experience life in all its fullness. We’re a destination that allows you to scratch below the surface and experience endless possibilities, and to walk away the richer for having been here.

Picking a best time to visit South Africa is not a task easily accomplished. After all, this is a country famous for its sunshine and relatively warm winters.

Perhaps it’s wise to consider what it is you wish to do and see, along with the South African tourism seasons. For example, if you are an avid twitcher, the country is on the flight path of birds from the north in mid-October – November. If it’s the floral carpet spread of the Cape flower season that you wish to catch, visit the area when the winter rains are over at the first sign of spring, namely August and September. If you are going on a game safari, the best time is July through September, when the visibility is best and it’s birthing season.

Another point you might want to take into account are the major South African holiday seasons, when the schools close and families en-masse head for the coast. The busiest period of all falls between mid- December and early January, coinciding with the Festive Season. Mid-winter is another prime time when locals head for warmer climes. You’ll find the holiday crowds in destinations like Durban and Cape Town, but they do bring a lot of buzz in their wake.

If action and adventure is your thing, a number of activities are at their best after the summer’s peak, such as diving, hiking and surfing. You may also want to time your trip to include a major sporting or entertainment event – these generally take place out of season too. And don’t discount winter holidays either – the South African winter compares favorably with the European summer, and the tropical province of KwaZulu-Natal with its fine coastline will still offer a good beach holiday.

The best time to visit South Africa? Well, just about all year round.

A subtropical location and a high interior plateau are responsible for South Africa’s temperate conditions so appreciated by visitors.

South African temperatures, which are measured in centigrade, average at high of 28°C and a low of 8°C. Average annual rainfall is on the low side at under 500mm a year, making the country somewhat dry. Most of the rain falls in the Western Cape in the winter, differing from the rest of the country, which experiences a summer rainfall. But on the plus side, the South African climate boasts more than its fair share of sunshine, recording an average of 8.5 hours a day.

South Africa’s climatic conditions generally range from Mediterranean in the south-western corner of the country to temperate in the interior plateau, and subtropical in the north-east. A small region in the north-west has a desert climate.

Our relatively mild and short winters do not justify the expense of central heating in many buildings and homes, which may lead visitors to think the winter is colder than it actually is. The answer to this is dressing in layers.

Things  to Do in South Africa

Big 5 safaris

Big Five safaris in South Africa are a must-do for anyone fascinated by wildlife. Big Five refers to buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino and the term comes from the animals considered most dangerous to hunt. Now the thrill comes from photographing them in their natural habitat.

Did you know?

It takes a few hours before you develop your ‘bush eyes’ and can spot wildlife.

The Big 5 – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo – abound in the park, and you see them by self-drive, guided drives or guided walks through the bushveld.

But remember, you are not in the middle of a National Geographic documentary. You may well see all Big 5, you may well not, although your chances are high. Drive slowly, stop at waterholes, listen for the warning calls of birds, watch when other vehicles stop, and always keep your eyes open.

Prepare to be awed. To see a leopard dozing in the bough of a tree, spotting a black rhino half-hidden in thick shrubs, finding a pride of lions in the shade after a kill, or watching a large herd of elephants or Cape buffalo move soundlessly across the road – these are all priceless moments.

Always remember that you’re dealing with wild animals, and that you’re in their territory. There are rules of engagement relating to Big 5 safaris in South Africa. Read your guidebook carefully and heed the words of your ranger at all times.

Accommodation for Big 5 safaris in Mpumalanga are either within the Kruger National Park or on the neighboring private reserves such as Sabi Sand (which has the highest density of leopards in the world), Timbavati and Klaserie. Some lodges pride themselves on showing the Big 5 to guests in record time, and you’ll even walk away with a certificate.

Once you’ve done Big 5 activities in Mpumalanga, it’s time to ‘sweat the small stuff’ and learn about wondrous creatures like the dung beetle…

If you’re heading for one of the private reserves you can fly to Kruger Park International Airport (KPIA) in Mpumalanga and be picked up there. Or your lodge can arrange a charter flight from Johannesburg. Or hire a vehicle at KPIA and drive yourself in Kruger.

It’s best to hire a van or combi because you will have more leg room, and you’ll sit up higher for spotting game. Reserve well in advance.

Drive yourself in Kruger National Park, the roads are excellent. Arm yourself with a good map you can buy on arrival. If you stay at a private lodge you will be driven in an open-air game vehicle by your ranger.

There’s something delightful about every season. But late winter or early spring are particularly good. The grass is still low after winter, and water is concentrated in only a few places, making spotting easier. The other attraction is that it’s birthing season in the bush, which is just starting to flush green after the first rains.

If you’re keen on seeing all of the Big 5, give it at least 3 days. But remember, there are no guarantees in the wilderness.

Your camera, lightweight binoculars, hat and sunblock. Even in the height of summer, take a jacket along for night drives. Try to dress predominantly in dull bush colors of khaki and olive green.

If you have kids, stay at one of Kruger’s bigger camps which have a pool, a shop , a restaurant, and often nightly open-air video shows. Check with the private camps if they take kids – not all do.

Travel tips & Planning info

How to get here

If you’re heading for one of the private reserves you can fly to Kruger Park International Airport (KPIA) in Mpumalanga and be picked up there. Or your lodge can arrange a charter flight from Johannesburg. Or hire a vehicle at KPIA and drive yourself in Kruger. It’s best to hire a van or combi because you will have more leg room, and you’ll sit up higher for spotting game. Reserve well in advance.

Tours to do

Game drives in your own vehicle are fun, but nothing can beat a ranger’s practiced eye. Go on a drive or walk guided by a ranger. You will learn plenty, and see much more than you might have on your own.

How to get around

Drive yourself in Kruger National Park, the roads are excellent. Arm yourself with a good map you can buy on arrival. Or take a guided game drive. If you stay at a private lodge you will be driven in an open-air game vehicle by your ranger.

Length of stay

If you’re keen on seeing all of the Big Five, give it at least three days. But remember, there are no guarantees in the wilderness.

What to pack

Your camera, lightweight binoculars, hat and sunblock. Even in the height of summer, take a jacket along for night drives. Try to dress predominantly in dull bush colors of khaki and olive green.

Where to stay

If you have kids, stay at one of Kruger’s bigger camps which have a pool, a shop, a restaurant, and often nightly open-air video shows. Good tip: it’s always better to make a telephone booking than on line. Check with the private camps if they take kids – not all do.

Find Activities & Things to do

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Best Season:Year around
Popular Location: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Soweto, Pretoria

South Africa Tours and Vacations

South Africa Tours and Vacations
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