South Africa travel guide, including map of South Africa, top South Africa travel experiences, tips for travel in South Africa, plus where to see whales and wil
South Africa's defining characteristic is its breath-taking diversity. As well as the Big 5 in Kruger (lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and rhinos), safari enthusiasts can spot hippo in the Limpopo River, whales off Hermanus and penguins at Boulder's Beach, Cape Town.
Like its wildlife, South Africa's landscapes vary dramatically from the heights of the Drakensberg mountains to the subtropical KwaZulu Natal coast, from the flowering Cape to the vast Karoo semi-desert in its heartland. And with an excellent network of highways, good public transport and clearly marked hiking trials, South Africa is one of the easiest countries to explore on the African continent.
South Africa also has a rich range of cultures and peoples – a fact often obscured by the Apartheid's attempt to categorise in black and white. With 11 official languages, it truly is the Rainbow Nation. So even if you've visited before, you'll have many more South Africas left to see.
Sleeping over in South Africa’s national parks is cheap and a great way to experience them early in the morning before the crowds arrive. A real gem is the self-guided Cape of Good Hope National Park Hiking Trail.
Most visitors to Cape Town pile into tourist buses and head straight to Cape Point’s funicular for the photo opportunities. Instead, go slow with the 33.8km two-day Cape of Good Hope Trail, with overnight accommodation in one of three basic cottages. You’ll be rewarded with a fragrant flower trail and secluded beaches on your way to the iconic Cape Point lighthouse.
Although generally pleasant and sunny, the best time to go varies by region. The Cape and the Garden Route have a Mediterranean climate. Summers (November to March) are warm and dry (24-27° C); winters (June to August) are mild and moist (7-18° C).
Nearly everywhere else in South Africa, summer sees the most rainfall, with the east wetter than west. If you are visiting subtropical KwaZulu-Natal it is best to avoid December, February and March, which are particularly humid.
Big-game viewing is best in winter, when the malaria threat is also reduced. Whales can be spotted off the west and south coasts from June to November. The flowers in the western Cape are spectacular in September.
If you spending New Year in the Cape don’t miss the colourful Kaapse Klopse (Cape Ministerial Carnival), which runs for a month from 2 January. South Africa’s oldest and biggest arts festival – the National Arts Festival – is held from late June to early July at Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape.
Cape Town (CPT) is 20km from the city. Johannesburg (JNB) is 25km from the city. Also Durban (DUR), Port Elizabeth (PLZ) and Bloemfontein (BFN).
South Africa’s major towns are served by an excellent internal air system. On popular routes, tickets can be only slightly more expensive than a bus ticket.
Travelling by train in South Africa is very slow – Johannesburg to Cape Town takes 29 hours. But overnighting can be glamorous on the famous Blue Train or equally luxurious routes offered by Rovos Rail. If you’re planning a long stay in South Africa, want the freedom of a car but can’t face the long drive between cities, consider using an intercity train which allows you to transport your car. Be warned, security can be an issue on some trains.
Buses and coaches are efficient and cheap. South Africa’s roads are perhaps the best maintained and connected on the continent. Car hire is widely available and a little cheaper than in Europe. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road. Potential hazards include other drivers, animals on the road in rural areas and car-jacking in urban places.
South Africa has a wide range, from backpacker hostels and B&Bs (Bed en Ontbyt in Afrikaans) through to upmarket safari lodges and 5-star hotels. Accommodation tends to be cheaper in South Africa than Western Europe and the USA but more expensive than the rest of the continent.
Self-catering cottages and apartments can be an affordable option. For decades the homes of poor black South African were hidden from tourists but since the end of the Apartheid, a number of township B&Bs have opened, giving you a different way to experience South Africa.
South Africans are great meat eaters with barbecue (braai) and stews being popular. Other dishes to look out for include Malay-influenced food in Cape Town (eg. bobotie) biltong (dried meat) boerewors (sausage) and game.
Surrounded by two oceans, South Africa is great for seafood. Look for the SASSI (Southern Africa Sustainable Seafood Intiative) sign in restaurants to ensure that the seafood is sustainably sourced.
Fruit and vegetables are of a high standard and though South Africa is a meat-loving society, most restaurants will have vegetarian options and most major towns will have at least one vegetarian restaurant. Mielie pap (maize porridge), eaten with stew, is the staple of most of the population. South Africa’s wines are superb, its beers unmemorable.
Tap water is generally safe in South Africa’s cities. However, you should stick to purified water in rural areas. The worst health hazard you're likely to encounter is the sun.
Most of South Africa is malaria free, although there is a seasonal risk (October-May) in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Public hospitals are fairly well-equipped in most urban areas and private hospitals are of an excellent standard.
South Africa has had its fair share of crime but most travellers visit without incident. Limit the risk of being mugged or car-jacked by keeping valuables out of view, car doors locked and windows rolled-up. Also, bearing in mind the country’s high HIV rate, travellers should take precautions.
Plan your timing wisely and your wildlife experience could be enriched by the presence of tiny (and unbelievably cute) animal offspring... More
Bright, sunny and exuding a warm, cosy glow, these golden destinations are guaranteed to bring a little sunshine into your life... More
Uncover the best destinations to travel to in August, for warm weather, natural wonders, cultural highlights, once-in-a-lifetime wildlife watching experiences and longer-term trips... More
From rock-hewn cities to Welsh castles; mountaintop temples to island prisons, we celebrate the UNESCO-listed wonders that make the world a more cultured place... More
Filmmaker Karina's documentary BLUE is about the crisis in our oceans, and how to stop it. Here, she shares where she took her camera crew, and what they uncovered along the way... More
Whether you want to watch polar bears in the Arctic or penguins in Antarctica and every cultural, historical and wildlife highlight in between. Read on to discover the very best polar adventures... More
Famous for its jaw-dropping annual wildebeest migration, Serengeti National Park is the perfect place to see Africa’s wildlife superstars, and experience the continent’s most epic landscapes... More
From the cheetahs, lions and rhino of Ngorongoro, to more migrating wildbeest than you could ever imagine in Serengeti National Park, these are Tanzania's most wonderful wildlife spots... More
You may be worried about visiting the Great Barrier Reef, wondering if it's damaging the environment. Fortunately, a trip (and a few small gestures) can help rather than hinder, says Phoebe Smith... More
From sea turtles in Malaysia to dolphins in Madeira, there's a whole world of marine life you can swim with. So, strap on a snorkel or a scuba tank and dive into our top watery encounters… More
As news of the Great Barrier Reef’s demise seems to dominate the headlines, Wander Woman Phoebe Smith heads Down Under to meet the man who’s helping to bring it back… More
Having kids doesn't need to be the end of your travels. With tour operators wising up to the fact that families want more than beaches and theme parks, here are 9 fantastic family adventures... More
Often overlooked, South Korea offers a beguiling mix of ancient culture, futuristic cities, extraordinary nature, and one of the most exciting foodie scenes on the planet... More
Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park is wild, remote and little known – and while a tiny fraction of visitors find their way here, East Africa’s greatest secret may not remain hidden for much longer… More
These lush oases - located in Niger, Morocco, Oman and beyond - are a vital lifeline in the harsh deserts that surround them. They're also some of the most beautiful places on the planet... More
UNESCO has unveiled its new Biosphere Reserves for 2019. Including 12 stunning European sites, these biodiverse areas are now being properly recognised and preserved... More
Taking it easy can truly enhance your travel experience, in so many ways. Here are some of the very top trips for mellow, blissed-out journeys that allow you to take it all in at a much calmer pace... More
Epic landscapes. Abundant wildlife. And the chance to sleep under canvas with a blanket of starry skies. These Down Under safaris are like their African cousins, but with a distinctly Aussie twist... More
From century-old tea plantations to sugar-white sand beaches and colonial cities, these are the best things to do on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius... More
A new hotel in Mauritius is encouraging visitors to get out of their rooms and spend time with local artisans, fisherfolk and farmers, discovering a side to the honeymoon paradise that few witness… More
Wanderlust subscribers now receive a free £50 voucher valid on trips from a great selection of top tour operators
And the best bit is, this isn't a one-off offer, you get one every time you renew as well!
The £50 discount can be redeemed against one trip booking with one of our tour operator partners, by the expiry date printed on the voucher. The £50 can even be redeemed on top of any discounts our partners are already offering, ensuring Wanderlust subscribers get the best deal possible.
Simply quote your unique voucher code when booking to claim the discount. This offer is only available to Wanderlust subscribers.
UK subscribers automatically receive the voucher each year. Overseas subscribers receive it upon request.
From: £8970.00More …
From: £2115.00More …
Cox & Kings Travel
From: £2575.0000More …
From: £1305.00More …
Sign up today for free and be the first to get notified of new articles, new competitions, new events and more!