It is one of the world’s top destinations for intrepid travellers to discover everything they are looking for … and more. With over 21 National Parks, eight World Heritage Sites, 3,500 kms of pristine coastline, a phenomenal climate and amazing adventures ranging from shark diving to surfing, historic battlefield trails to wine tasting, South Africa is guaranteed to provide you with an unforgettable journey of a lifetime.
Fabulous activities abound – whether it’s city sightseeing in Cape Town, visiting award winning vineyards, seeing the exquisite Fynbos – the world’s richest floral kingdom, whale watching off Hermanus, diving and surfing, exploring peaceful coastal towns of The Garden Route, hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains or exploring the Zulu battlefields – these activities alone would fill a whole trip.
But then, South Africa is also the perfect place to go on safari for its world famous Kruger National Park and the adjacent Private reserves are all hot spots for the famed Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) as well as the Big 7 of (cheetah and African wild dog). So there really is arguably no better place to start your safari experience. In addition the weak Rand, makes South Africa an eminently affordable destination to take the family on a self-drive holiday.
South Africa is one of the world’s top destinations for the intrepid traveller. With over 21 National Parks, eight World Heritage Sites, 3,500 kilometres of pristine coastline, a phenomenal climate and amazing adventures ranging from shark diving to surfing, historic trails to wine tasting, South Africa is guaranteed to provide you with the unforgettable journey of a lifetime.
South Africa is a country where you can visit any type of terrain you wish, from beautiful sandy beaches to mountainous regions. There’s more to the country than the famous Cape Town. Hiking is quite common in the peaks and valleys of Drakensburg; Kruger National Park is a perfect place to take a safari and see the Big 5, whilst whale watching can be engaged in on the Southern Coast.
Since the demise of apartheid, international tourist arrivals have surged, making tourism one of the fastest growing sectors. The tourism industry is well established and prides itself in being a pioneer and leader in responsible tourism.
A well-known fact about South Africa is that since 1994 it has enjoyed democratic government, the apartheid policies of the past overthrown. Its national symbols include the Blue Crane as National bird, Springbok as National animal and the Protea is the National Flower.
South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors and a stock exchange that is the 16th largest in the world.
Population: Estimates by the National Statistical Agency of South Africa mid year 2013: 52,981,991. Ethnic Groups: black African 79.2%, white 8.9%, colored 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5%, other 0.5% (2011 est.) Source: CIA World FactBook
Capital: Pretoria (administrative capital); Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital) Administrative Divisions: 9 provinces, namely Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West, Western Cape
Religion: Protestant 36.6%, Catholic 7.1%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, None 15.1% 2001 Census – Source CIA World FactBook
Languages: IsiZulu (official) 22.7%, IsiXhosa (official) 16%, Afrikaans (official) 13.5%, English (official) 9.6%, Sepedi (official) 9.1%, Setswana (official) 8%, Sesotho (official) 7.6%, Xitsonga (official) 4.5%, siSwati (official) 2.5%, Tshivenda (official) 2.4%, isiNdebele (official) 2.1%, sign language 0.5%, other 1.6% (2011 est.) Source: CIA World FactBook
Time Zone: GMT +2 hours
Country Dialling Code: +27
Currency: Rand (ZAR) The Rand comes in a range of coins (R1 = 100 cents) and note denominations of R10, R50, R100.
Electricity: The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz. With a few exceptions (in deep rural areas) electricity is available almost everywhere.
Situated at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa has a landmass of 1,233,404 km² edged on 3 sides by nearly 3000 km of coastline washed by the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic. It is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and also wraps itself around two independent countries, the Lesotho and Swaziland.
Although most of the country is classified as semi-arid, it has considerable variation in climate as well as topography.
A central plateau covers the largest part of the country dominating the topography. To the east is the Great Escarpment, known as the Drakensberg Mountains. This range forms the longest continuous topographical feature in South Africa. Between the escarpment and the sea there is little genuine coastal plain, with exceptions in northern KwaZulu-Natal, where it reaches 80 km in width, and in parts of Western Cape.
The central plateau is at its highest in the east where its edge varies in altitude between 2,000 m and 3,300 m. forming the steep escarpment of the Drakensberg Mountains where the land drops sharply to the coastal plain. At its highest point the Drakensberg form the boundary in between Lesotho and Kwa Zula Natal. To the west the central plateau drops to 600 m in the sandy Kalahari.
The mountainous escarpment continues southwestward, dividing Lesotho from the Eastern Cape province. At lesser altitudes of 1600 to 2600 metres, it runs westward across Eastern province. The range continues westward and the mountains then become known by a wide variety of local names.
South of this range sits the Lower Karoo, a wide plain at some 600-800m above sea level where fertile soils have enabled agriculture and viniculture to thrive. South of this valley, running parallel to the coastline, is a series of mountain ranges of between 1000 to 2500 m altitude. These are the Cape Fold Mountains including the Hottentots Holland Mountains as well as the famous Table Mountain.
The Kalahari Desert is located on the north-western part of the country. The eastern and southern coast of South Africa features green land. The two main rivers that flow are Limpopo and Orange.
South Africa is famous for its sunshine. It’s a relatively dry country (semi arid), with an average annual rainfall of about 464mm (compared to a world average of about 860mm). Whilst the Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, the rest of the country is generally a summer-rainfall region. Temperatures in South Africa tend to be lower than in other countries at similar latitudes – such as Australia – due mainly to greater elevation above sea level. On the interior plateau, the altitude – Johannesburg lies at 1 694 metres – keeps the average summer temperatures below 30°C. In winter, for the same reason, night- time temperatures can drop to freezing point, and lower in some places. South Africa’s coastal regions are therefore warmest in winter – subtropical along the east coast. There is, however, a striking contrast between temperatures on the country’s east and west coasts, due respectively to the warm Agulhas and cold Benguela Currents that sweep the coastlines.
Over much of South Africa, summer (mid-October to mid-February) is characterised by hot, sunny weather – often with afternoon thunderstorms that clear quickly, leaving a warm, earthy, uniquely African smell in the air. The Western Cape, with its Mediterranean climate, is the exception, getting its rain in winter.
Autumn in South Africa (mid-February to April) offers the best weather in some respects. Very little rain falls over the whole country, and it is warm but not too hot, getting colder as the season progresses. In Cape Town, autumn is fantastic, with hot sunny days and warm, balmy nights.
Winter in South Africa (May to July) is characterised in the higher-lying areas of the interior plateau by dry, sunny, crisp days and cold nights, sometimes with heavy frosts. It’s a good idea to bring warm clothes. The hot, humid KwaZulu-Natal coast, as well as the Lowveld (lower-lying areas) of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, offer fantastic winter weather with sunny, warmish days and virtually no wind or rain. The Western Cape gets most of its rain in winter, with quite a few days of cloudy, rainy weather. However, these are always interspersed with wonderful days to rival the best of a British summer. The high mountains of the Cape and the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal usually get snow in winter.
Nowhere in South Africa is spring (August to mid-October) more spectacular than in the Cape provinces. Here the grey winter is forgotten as thousands of small, otherwise insignificant plants cover the plains in an iridescent carpet of flowers. The journey to see the flowers of the Namaqualand in the Western and Northern Cape is an annual pilgrimage for many South Africans.
The 3 major international airports in South Africa are: O R Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg), Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport (Durban) as well as 90 regional airports including the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) in Nelspruit.
Passports & Visas
Visitors require a valid passport with a minimum of two blank visa pages (excluding endorsement pages) and validity of at least six months after their intended departure date. Visitors who do not comply with these requirements may be prevented from boarding their aircraft at their point of departure or risk deportation on arrival in South Africa.
Following an announcement at the World Health Assembly on 30 January 2015, South Africa’s Minister of Health confirmed that a yellow fever (YF) certificate is not now required by South African authorities from travellers between Zambia and South Africa, with effect from 31 January 2015.
For visa requirements, please contact your nearest South African Embassy.
Please note: For under 18’s travelling to and from South Africa
The new requirements, being introduced by the South African Department of Home Affairs, for additional documentation needed by persons under the age of 18 years for travel to and from South Africa was implemented on 01 June, 2015.
Applicable travellers will be asked to produce the required documentation at check-in for each flight.
For further information and assistance please contact: the South African Department of Home Affairs, 0800 60 11 90 (toll free from South Africa); or your local South African Embassy.
South Africa is well-known for its medical skill since Professor Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant in 1967. There are many world-class private hospitals and medical centres around the country, especially in the urban centres. Most of South Africa is malaria-free, but always check with the game reserves you are planning to visit and take precautions if necessary. Make sure you have the latest safety tips from the establishment where you will be staying and take common sense precautions as you would when travelling.
It is recommended that you consult with your GP or Practice Nurse at least 6 to 8 weeks in advance of travel.
All Travellers should be up to date on routine vaccinations while travelling to any destination, including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine and your yearly flu shot.
Some vaccines may also be required for travel.
Courses or boosters usually advised: Hepatitis A.
Other vaccines to consider: Cholera; Diphtheria; Hepatitis B; Rabies, Tetanus, Typhoid.
Yellow fever vaccination certificate required for travellers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travellers having transited more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
Malaria: When travelling to South Africa you should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria. You may need to take prescription medicine before, during and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans, such as where you are going, when you are travelling and if you are spending a lot of time outdoors or sleeping outside. Please consult your doctor.
Water – Tap water is potable. However, ensure that you take bottled water with you when travelling to remote rural areas and the bush.
Insurance – Visitors to South Africa are advised to take out a comprehensive medical insurance policy to cover them for emergencies.
Large shopping centres are to be found across the country’s cities and towns, where everything from giant chain stores to small speciality boutiques sell all you could possibly want. These haven’t forced out the smaller suburban high street shops, or the large flea markets found in all major centres. And, when shopkeepers don’t have shops, they take to the streets: hawkers and craftspeople ply their wares at traffic intersections, minibus taxi ranks, along major thoroughfares and on inner city pavements, selling everything from sweets and fruit to elaborate sculptures and home furnishings. Even as you move from the cities into the countryside, the selling doesn’t stop. South Africa’s rural areas are dotted with farm stalls, arts and crafts markets and more.
If you’re into shopping, South Africa offers so much choice your credit card could start steaming – especially with the country’s favourable exchange rate.
At craft centres and roadside stalls all over the country, you’ll find fantastic pots, wire sculptures, basketware, beadwork, embroidery and carvings.
Tipping in South Africa is widely practiced.
Game rangers often rely on tips for their income. It is recommended that guides are tipped R200 to R300 per family (couple) per day and Trackers are tipped R100 to R200 per family (couple) per day.
Camp Staff: R50 up per person per day
Most lodges have tipping advice and guidelines, so do feel free to ask them more about this.
On safari, the allowance on inter camp transfers or “lodge hops” is very strictly applied and for South Africa is as follows: 20kgs (44lbs) per person in a soft duffel-type bag, this includes hand baggage and camera equipment. There may be exceptions to these rules according to your camp destination. Travelling with a hard suitcase may result in extra charges or separate transportation. International flights usually have a maximum limit of 23kg (British Airways) but you should check with the airline of your choice.
In South African urban cultures, people typically wear Western clothing. However, these rules are redundant at safari camps, where dress is casual, although green, khaki and dust-brown cotton are best. Appropriate footwear such as walking boots are essential for safari outings.
Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark of South Africa and the best views of Cape Town are from ...read more
Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark of South Africa and the best views of Cape Town are from the Table Mountain Cableway, a unique and 87-year- old method of seeing the wonders of the city.
Kruger National Park is one of the largest and most popular game reserves in Africa. It’s high ...read more
Kruger National Park is one of the largest and most popular game reserves in Africa. It’s high concentrations of big game means that you are likely to see the Big5 or even the Big 7 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo, cheetah & African wild dog) during a 3 or 4 night stay.
The Garden Route is perfect for an easy self drive with attractions including seaside towns, ...read more
The Garden Route is perfect for an easy self drive with attractions including seaside towns, mountain passes and ancient indigenous forests. Makes for a perfect family holiday ending with a safari experience in the Eastern Cape.
Ideally you should spend two to three days exploring the Cape Winelands region. Apart from admiring ...read more
Ideally you should spend two to three days exploring the Cape Winelands region. Apart from admiring the stunning scenery you must of course sample the world-famous wines, eat the gourmet food and enjoy café-life in the small towns.
The scenic Drakensberg Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a highlight for adventure and ...read more
The scenic Drakensberg Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a highlight for adventure and outdoor activity lovers. Try hiking, horse trekking trips and 4×4 tours up the Sani Pass to the Roof of Africa.
The Cape Town & Winelands region is well known for its fine wines now its delicious cuisine. ...read more
The Cape Town & Winelands region is well known for its fine wines now its delicious cuisine. The Cape has a rich cultural heritage and that combined with the abundant fresh produce found along the shores and in the waters of the two oceans results in some outstanding restaurants catering for all tastes and budgets.
Take a Turtle Tour from St Lucia to see huge leatherback and loggerhead turtles laying eggs from ...read more
Take a Turtle Tour from St Lucia to see huge leatherback and loggerhead turtles laying eggs from November. Or, from January and March watch the turtle hatchlings emerge.
Hermanus in the Western Cape, just a 90 minute drive from Cape Town is arguably the best place on ...read more
Hermanus in the Western Cape, just a 90 minute drive from Cape Town is arguably the best place on earth for land based whale watching. Experience this June to November, with best months being September and October
Visit the battlefield sites of Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift and Spioenkop in the company of a ...read more
Visit the battlefield sites of Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift and Spioenkop in the company of a knowledgeable guide or learn more about Zulu culture whilst staying at Thanda Private Game Reserve.
World renowned Rovos Rail offers incredible journeys through South Africa. Its regular destinations ...read more
World renowned Rovos Rail offers incredible journeys through South Africa. Its regular destinations include Cape Town, Durban and Victoria Falls. This is a 5 star exclusive and unique way to experience the sights of South Africa.
South Africa has exceptional private game reserves, with a range of luxury lodges with guided off ...read more
South Africa has exceptional private game reserves, with a range of luxury lodges with guided off road game viewing and excellent hospitality. Big 5 or even Big 7 (cheetah and African wild dog) sightings are highly likely in these prolific wildlife reserves.
There is a good choice of malaria free reserves in South Africa where wildlife viewing is ...read more
There is a good choice of malaria free reserves in South Africa where wildlife viewing is consistently good year round. Eastern Cape, Madikwe and the Northern Cape are all perfect.
There is a wide variety of regions in South Africa that cover a wide array of safari experiences. Click on a region below to discover more about what is available within that area.