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South Africa

Accessible, year-round adventure in one of Africa’s most diverse nations
Overview

South Africa is one of the most dependable places on earth to see the Big Five—but safaris here are just the beginning. This huge, accessible country offers an amazing diversity of landscapes and year-round activities—from lush coastlines to rugged interior mountains, from wine tasting and whale watching to sophisticated urban living.

You’ll never run out of things to do in South Africa; the only challenge is deciding where to start.

In the northeast, Kruger National Park rivals any place on the continent for wildlife watching, with superb big-cat spotting and above-average chances of seeing a rhino. Several adjoining reserves, such as Sabi Sand, provide prime habitat for the Big Five and shelter a host of vulnerable and endangered bird species. For another take on South Africa’s wild beauty, go fly-fishing, ride horses, or discover the world’s largest collection of San rock art among the wide-open spaces, rocky rivers, and lofty pinnacles of the Drakensberg Mountains.

Entirely different pleasures await along South Africa’s colorful coastline. Dolphins and southern right whales frolic in the waters off Hermanus, and African penguins waddle along the sands at Cape Point. The spectacularly verdant Garden Route, caressed by one of the world’s mildest climates, encompasses Indian Ocean beaches, sparkling coastal lagoons, and ruggedly beautiful mountains, all made accessible by a network of parks, marine reserves, and scenic walking paths.

Heading inland, discover South Africa’s amazing diversity of plant life at Kirstenbosch, one of the world’s finest botanical gardens; or spend an afternoon wine tasting in the Cape Winelands, where tidy vineyards fringed with roses are interspersed with picturesque Cape Dutch architecture in colonial villages like Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.

Urban attractions round out the South African experience. Cape Town lures travelers with cutting-edge urban design and a burgeoning foodie scene, while culturally vibrant Johannesburg offers fascinating perspectives on South Africa’s history, from the Apartheid Museum to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site.

Read more about South Africa

Country Highlights & Attractions

  • Track the Big Five in Kruger National Park
  • Meander along the Garden Route’s gorgeous mountain-backed coastline
  • Sample wines and explore historic villages in the Cape Winelands
  • Whale-watch off Hermanus and visit penguins on the Cape Peninsula
  • Discover the Drakensberg’s wild landscapes and ancient San rock art
  • Experience the urban allure of Cape Town and Johannesburg
Wildlife

Wildlife in South Africa

South Africa’s spectacular mix of shoreline, mountains, and savanna harbors a unique mix of land- and ocean-dwelling creatures. Nowhere else will you find lions and elephants, whales and penguins in such close proximity. It also remains one of the best places on the continent to spot the “Big Five.”

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African Penguin

Africa’s only penguin, found at Boulders Beach near Cape Town, is guaranteed to delight—but don’t let their cuteness lure you in too close, or they’ll remind you to keep your distance with a nasty bite!

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Cheetah

The thrill of the chase is palpable as you watch a prowling band of cheetahs take down an antelope for dinner. Able to accelerate from zero to 60 in seconds, this famous cat is the world’s fastest land animal.

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Giraffe

A journey of giraffe on the run is one of Africa’s most beautiful sights. These tall and graceful giants are found in most South African parks.

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Rhinoceros

The white rhinoceros—a square-lipped, grazing relative of the black rhino—gathers in groups of up to a dozen on the grassy plains it prefers. It’s an honor to see this animal that desperately needs our protection.

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Southern Right Whale

From May to December, walk the coastal paths near Hermanus for magical views of southern right whales and their recently birthed calves in the coves below.

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Sunbird

The beautiful southern double-collared sunbird —Africa’s version of the hummingbird—feeds on the ample supply of nectar at Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens.

Country Facts

Namukelekile—Welcome to South Africa, the vibrant country where the land and its people are diverse, fascinating, and welcoming. The “Rainbow Nation,” well known for its struggle for freedom, is defined by a vast geography of high plateau, mountain ranges, veld plains, and 1,800 miles of coastline along the Atlantic and Indian oceans. In addition to the Kruger’s “big five,” the country’s many ecosystems support numerous species from whales and giraffes to meerkats and myriad birds.

The Republic of South Africa gained full independence from Great Britain in 1961 but maintained its old colonial system of apartheid until the early 1990s, when the country’s first universal elections (open to people of all races) led to Nelson Mandela becoming president. Today, South Africa is a parliamentary democratic republic, with general elections every five years. The country’s legislative capital and seat of Parliament is Cape Town, while the administrative capital is Pretoria.

Language & People

South Africa is a multilingual country with 11 officially recognized languages, whose native speakers break down as follows: isiZulu 23 percent, isiXhosa 16 percent, Afrikaans 14 percent, English 10 percent, Sepedi 9 percent, Setswana 8 percent, Sesotho 8 percent, Xitsonga 5 percent, Siswati 3 percent, Tshivenda 2 percent, and isiNdebele 2 percent. Conveniently, English is commonly spoken throughout the country.

South Africa’s population of 48 million encompasses a great diversity of ethnic groups and subgroups, each with its own unique traditions and customs. The African majority (about 40 million people) consists of four broad groups: the Nguni, comprising the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, and Swazi people; the Sotho-Tswana; the Tsonga; and the Venda. A large proportion of South Africans (about 80 percent) identify themselves as Christian.

Food & Drink

South African cuisine is extremely varied, reflecting the nation’s great cultural diversity. Almost all types of food can be found, from French and Italian to African and Indian to fusion. Excellent South African wines and African lager-style beers are also widely appreciated.

Weather & Elements

South Africa is an ideal year-round destination. The climate is temperate with considerable variation by region. Winter months (June to September) in the Kruger region have little rainfall, with temperatures ranging from 60° to 75° F; during the same period, the Western Cape and Cape Town receive some rain, with temperatures ranging from 50° to 65° F. Summer months (December and January) are extremely hot in the Kalahari Desert, but pleasant, warm, and sunny in the Western Cape region.

The best months for viewing mammals are June to August; for newborn animals, September and October; and for the famous southern right whales in Hermanus, July to November.

Entry Requirements & Visas

U.S. citizens: Passports are required, must be valid for at least 30 days beyond the dates of travel, and must contain at least one clean (unstamped) page at the time entry is sought. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days.

Important note if traveling with children under the age of 18: as of June 1, 2015, the South African government requires parents or guardians to produce an unabridged birth certificate reflecting details of both parents, as well as a valid passport per child. This applies even if both parents are traveling with their child. If the child is traveling with a guardian, this adult is required to produce affidavits and copies of passports from both parents giving permission for their child to travel. For the most up-to-date information, including entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens, see www.saembassy.org.

Currency

South Africa uses the rand (ZAR). As of November 2014, $1 US = 1 ZAR. For up-to-date exchange rates, see www.oanda.com.

Most large hotels and stores accept U.S. dollars. Credit cards are accepted at some hotels and at restaurants and stores in larger towns. ATMs and major banks are also only available in larger towns. Travelers are allowed to enter South Africa with ZAR 5,000 per person plus an unlimited amount in foreign currency.

Immunizations & Health

No immunizations are required to enter South Africa, with the important exception that proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for all travelers over one year of age if traveling from or transiting through a country with risk of yellow fever transmission; this requirement applies regardless of the amount of time spent in the transit country, and includes travelers arriving from the following countries with low potential for yellow fever exposure: Sao Tomé and Principe, Somalia, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Malaria medication, hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations are also generally recommended for all travelers. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: www.cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.

Electricity

Alternating current of 220V/230V and 50Hz is used in South Africa. Plugs are typically Type M and have three round prongs.

Phone & Internet

South Africa country code: +27
International access code calling out of South Africa: 00

  • Cell-phone coverage throughout South Africa is extensive, but cannot be guaranteed at all times, especially in remote areas.
  • Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages, but may be less reliable elsewhere.

For more information about South Africa, see the national tourism board website: www.southafrica.net.

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Guides
Alan Thomas

Alan Thomas

Alan is a Cape Town native who studied a B.Com after finishing school and 2 years in the army. A runner and cyclist, Alan has cycled the Karakoram Highway from Islamabad to Kashgar as well as from Lhasa to Kathmandu via Everest base camp. Having travelled extensively in Europe, Asia, Southern Africa and Australasia to rid himself of wanderlust, he returned to his beloved Table Mountain and the Mother City. Tour guiding seemed a natural progression and for the last 5 years he has concentrated on taking guests around South Africa. When he is not guiding he is a fulltime toy for his little daughters.

Leonard Hoerikwagga hiking tour

Leonard McMillan

Leonard has fantastic experience leading hiking trips on Table Mountain having worked for Table Mountain National Parks for last four years. Having grown up on the Cape Flats in an impoverished environment, it was a life changing for him to participate in a school hike and then later be selected for the Hoerikwaggo guiding programme. He enjoys working in a more personalised environment where clients become friends and will go the extra mile for guests to provide that unforgettable personal service.

Erica Vink

Born in the North Western Cape on a Karoo sheep farm, Erica is an outgoing and energetic guide. She feels that it is a privilege to share the vibrancy and beauty of South Africa with guests and is both passionate and optimistic about the future of her country. Erica is fluent in English, Afrikaans, and German and received her education at the University of Stellenbosch. Her professional experience has ranged widely, from working in the wine lands in Stellenbosch to the medical industry, with many other roles in tourism in between. She is an active member of a local hiking club, a passionate advocate for sustainable tourism, and a volunteer mountain guide for Table Mountain National Park. When not guiding, she enjoys spending time with her spouse and two sons.

Sally de Jager

Sally Petersen

Growing up on a sheep farm in South Africa, Sally was infused with a love of the land, and dreamed of sharing her travel experiences with others. After graduating, she spent a few years traveling and working throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. She was an “Adventurer of the Year” finalist after cycling from London to Cape Town to raise funds for Survival International. On returning to Cape Town, Sally pursued her dream career and became a qualified Nature and Tour Guide with the Dept. of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Sally’s passion for her country is infectious and her knowledge, astounding.

Vanessa Nixon

Vanessa got the travel bug from her grandfather, a retired pilot with many exciting African travel tales. To celebrate her 21st birthday, she drove through nine African countries, crossing rivers, mud, snow, sand, mountains, herds of elephants, and baobab forest. She spent the next three years guiding camping safaris all over southern Africa, earning the top credentials that led to her joining CW Safaris. Vanessa loves sharing her travel experiences, including her strong ties to the Kalahari and its Komani bushmen. She believes each safari has a life of its own with unique adventures.

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Dry Season

Grass is short, so it’s easy to spot wildlife that is concentrated near waterholes.

Temperate Season

Ideal Safari season – wildlife is easy to track, and the weather is temperate.

Rainy Season

Tropical downpours mean an ideal season for birding and photography.

Light Rains

Cooler weather & nighttime rains mean animals are more active during the day.

Western & Eastern Cape

Jan, Feb & Mar: Peak season for Cape Town and the Winelands. It tends to be hot and dry. Average high: 83 F. Average low: 60 F.

April, May & June: Temperatures cool down during this period and the rains begin to fall. Average high: 69F. Average low: 49F.

July, Aug & Sept: Cool temperatures with periods of rain are expected through July and into August. By September the temperatures warm and the rain ends, ideal for travel throughout South Africa. Average high: 64F. Average low: 46F.

Oct, Nov & Dec: The Cape is in bloom with spring flowers and new life after the winter rains. The weather is lovely and warm. Average high: 74F. Average low: 56F.

Kruger/Natal

Jan, Feb & Mar: The beginning of the year tends to bring the most rain to the area. By March, the weather is temperate and the wildlife is easy to track. Average high: 90 F. Average low: 70 F.

April, May & June: By May the rains are drying up in the Kruger, the grass is short and it is easy to spot wildlife concentrated near waterholes. Average high: 83F. Average low: 54F.

July, Aug & Sept: Dry winter weather, temperate days and cool nights, make this an ideal season for game viewing. Average high: 83F. Average low: 54F.

Oct, Nov & Dec: The Kruger continues to heat up as the light November rains build. Wildlife is active during the day with the cooler nights. Once the rains fall, baby animals will be bountiful. Average high: 90F. Average low: 66F.

Read more about The Best Time To Visit

6 South Africa Safaris

South Africa

Cape, Garden Route & Kruger 11 Days / 10 Nights

Activities: Active Safaris, The Big Five, Classic Game Drives, Cultural Visits, Urban ExplorationsExperience South Africa’s astounding variety, from Cape Town’s sophisticated pleasures to the Garden Route’s stunning coastlines and the pristine bushveld of Kruger National Park.

Read more Highlights & Departures
Safari From $6,498 USD per persontrip details

Highlights

  • Savor the sophisticated pleasures of Cape Town
  • Track the Big Five while on game drives in Sabi Sand Game Reserve
  • Stroll through dazzling displays of South Africa’s national flower, the protea, at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
  • Spot southern right whales and dolphins in the Indian Ocean waters off Hermanus
  • Taste fine South African wines and discover the charms of Cape Dutch architecture in the historic Cape Winelands

Departure Dates


May 25-Jun 4Sep 21-Oct 1

Also available as a Private departure - choose your own dates!

NEED HELP DECIDING?

We Speak Safari
Call 888-483-7696 | Request a Reservation  

South Africa

Cape & Kruger 9 Days / 8 Nights

Activities: The Big Five, Classic Game Drives, Cultural Visits, Urban ExplorationsUrban refinement meets wilderness excitement on this action-packed adventure, from the Southern Cape’s vineyards and city attractions to Kruger National Park’s wildlife-rich savannas.

Read more Highlights & Departures
Safari From $6,498 USD per persontrip details

Highlights

  • Explore Cape Town, from its cosmopolitan downtown to the scenic summit of Table Mountain
  • Sample the Southern Cape’s amazingly varied attractions: vineyards, beaches, botanical gardens, historic towns, penguin colonies, and more
  • Enjoy exclusive access to a private wildlife reserve adjoining Kruger National Park
  • Search for Africa’s iconic “big five” on dawn and dusk game drives
  • Spend comfortable evenings immersed in nature at your luxurious family-run lodge

Departure Dates


Make it your own! Private trips are just for you and your travel companions. Choose your preferred departure date and we handle all the details.

NEED HELP DECIDING?

We Speak Safari
Call 888-483-7696 | Request a Reservation  

South Africa

Cape Town 5 Days / 4 Nights

Activities: Active Safaris, Cultural Visits, Urban ExplorationsExplore the varied attractions of Africa’s southern tip, splitting your time between cosmopolitan Cape Town and the surrounding beaches, vineyards, botanical gardens, and historic towns.

Read more Highlights & Departures
Safari From $2,298 USD per persontrip details

Highlights

  • Discover penguins, baboons, and stunning vistas along the Cape Peninsula’s rugged coastline
  • Immerse yourself in one of the world’s richest floral displays at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
  • Take a grand tour of historic Cape Town, South Africa’s most cosmopolitan city
  • Sample South African wines amidst the vine-clad hillsides of the Cape Winelands
  • Taste dishes from every corner of Africa and enjoy the infectious beat of djembe drumming at a festive 15-course farewell dinner

Departure Dates


Make it your own! Private trips are just for you and your travel companions. Choose your preferred departure date and we handle all the details.

NEED HELP DECIDING?

We Speak Safari
Call 888-483-7696 | Request a Reservation  

South Africa

Kruger National Park 5 Days / 4 Nights

Activities: Active Safaris, Classic Game DrivesFeel the excitement of South Africa’s most famous wildlife park, tracking animals on foot day and night, and sleeping in explorer-style comfort at the edge of the wilderness.

Read more Highlights & Departures
Safari From $2,498 USD per persontrip details

Highlights

  • Seek out Africa’s iconic big game animals on daily walking and driving safaris
  • Learn about bush culture and ecology from experienced guides
  • Enjoy rare glimpses of Kruger’s nocturnal wildlife, thanks to exclusive after-dark access to the park
  • Sleep on the threshold of the great African wilderness at your intimate, remote bush camp
  • Sip high tea overlooking the waterhole and savor late-afternoon sundowners under the brilliant glow of the South African sky

Departure Dates


Make it your own! Private trips are just for you and your travel companions. Choose your preferred departure date and we handle all the details.

NEED HELP DECIDING?

We Speak Safari
Call 888-483-7696 | Request a Reservation  

South Africa

Sabi Sands Game Reserve 5 Days / 4 Nights

Activities: The Big Five, Classic Game DrivesGet intimate with wild South Africa, tracking the Big Five on day and night game drives from a luxurious family-run lodge in a pristine private reserve.

Read more Highlights & Departures
Safari From $3,398 USD per persontrip details

Highlights

  • Track the Big Five on day and night game drives with expert game randers and Shangann trackers.
  • Stretch your legs and soak in the timeless energy of bushveld on a walking safari.
  • Take a tour of the schools, homes, community, and sport centers of the local Shangaan villages.
  • Sabi Sabi is a photographer’s dream. If you’ve always wanted to capture a picture worthy of National Geographic, this is your chance.

Departure Dates


Make it your own! Private trips are just for you and your travel companions. Choose your preferred departure date and we handle all the details.

NEED HELP DECIDING?

We Speak Safari
Call 888-483-7696 | Request a Reservation  

South Africa

Wild Reserves & the Coast 11 Days / 12 Nights

Activities: Active Safaris, The Big Five, Classic Game Drives, Cultural Visits, Urban Explorations, Boats and BeachesEnjoy an extravaganza of family fun, from game drives to ostrich rides, caving to whale watching, as you explore South Africa’s stunning Southern Cape.

Read more Highlights & Departures
Safari From $6,498 USD per persontrip details

Highlights

  • Meet the squawking giants of Oudtshoorn, the “Ostrich Capital of the World”
  • Surf, swim, hike, and whale-watch along the Garden Route coastline
  • Track big game – day and night, by foot and 4x4 – in a malaria-free zone
  • Explore the striking underground landscapes and limestone formations of Klein Karoo and Cango Caves
  • Discover family-friendly Cape Town: bask on the city’s palm-lined beaches, visit the planetarium and aquarium, or hop a cable car to the top of Table Mountain
  • Choose from countless other family adventures: caving, biking, canoeing, fishing, bungee jumping, horseback riding, surfing, paragliding, even wild meerkat tours!

Departure Dates


Make it your own! Private trips are just for you and your travel companions. Choose your preferred departure date and we handle all the details.

NEED HELP DECIDING?

We Speak Safari
Call 888-483-7696 | Request a Reservation  

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