Where to go in South Africa
Where to go in South Africa
Our Guide on Where to Visit in South Africa
South Africa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa, with good reason. South Africa has a huge number of safari options, the country has 19 national parks and approximately 200 private reserves. The most famous reserve is The Kruger National Park and it is surrounded by private reserves which include the world-renowned Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. The second largest is Madikwe Game Reserve which is malaria-free with fantastic game viewings. For families, the Eastern Cape Reserves are a great option as they are malaria-free and easily accessible.
Most people will combine a safari with a wider itinerary including some of the other highlights of South Africa. The Western Cape area is home to Cape Town, Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Winelands. You can easily spend several nights in Cape Town exploring the area, learning about the history of South Africa, hiking up Table Mountain, going on a guided wine tasting day trip or just relaxing on the beach.
We highly recommend that our clients do a self drive up the Garden Route which is the stretch of coastline from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. Start in Cape Town and see its sights and then spend a week slowly driving up the coast enjoying the beaches, forest and rivers of the region. You will continue your drive to the Eastern Cape Game Reserves and spend several days on safari.
KwaZulu Natal is a province in the northeast of the country, right on the border with Mozambique. Here the warm Indian Ocean waters meet wild African sand beaches, there is also fantastic diving. The majestic Drakensberg Mountains are the perfect backdrop for hiking and there are the battlefields from the Zulu-British wars to explore.
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Best places to go in South Africa
South Africa has a huge number of safari options, the country has 700 publicly owned reserves and about 200 private reserves. South Africa also has a huge range of non-safari destinations to consider. Here is a summary of some of the best and most popular areas to visit.
Sabi Sands Private Reserve
The Sabi Sands is renowned as one of the best safari areas in Africa and for having some of the most luxurious lodges. The reserve is 65,000 hectares and shares an unfenced border with the main park, the animals migrate freely through the area. There is an exceptionally high concentration of wildlife in this reserve as well as astonishing biodiversity. This one of the few spots in Africa where leopard sightings are commonplace. It is a great destination for a first-time safari as you will see so much in a short period of time.
Timbavati Private Game Reserve
This private reserve is very similar to the Sabi Sands, it shares unfenced borders with the main Kruger Park and has excellent game viewing. You are less likely to see a leopard here but probably more likely to see a wild dog. The Timbavati is also home to the very rare white lion. The Timbavati is a quieter reserve with fewer vehicles, this does mean there are fewer guides to share animal sightings. The lodges here are much more affordable than the more famous Sabi Sands lodges and we think it offers fantastic value for money.
Madikwe Game Reserve
South Africa’s second-largest game reserve is a one-hour flight or five-hour drive from Johannesburg. The 75,000-hectare malaria-free reserve borders Botswana and is lush due to the Marico River and is home to the Big Five (Elephant, Rhino, Lion, Buffalo and Leopard) as well as being known for its Wild Dog and Cheetah sightings. It is a more remote and wild safari than most other reserves in South Africa. Madikwe has a range of luxury lodges catering to families and couples.
Eastern Cape Private Reserves
These reserves are easily accessible and malaria-free. The reserves are a 90-minute drive from Port Elizabeth Airport but many people will do a self-drive from Cape Town along the coast to the Eastern Cape Reserves. The area is made up of several private reserves, each reserve has its own lodges. This area is less ‘wild’ and more commercial but still offers a great safari experience. The Eastern Cape Reserves have the best weather between November and March which corresponds to the peak season for Cape Town and the beaches along the coast.
The Cape Winelands is about an hour from Cape Town and includes the areas of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. This area is the main wine-growing region in Africa and produces wines that are award-winning. The most famous of these areas is Franschhoek. The area was settled in 1688 by the French Huguenots fleeing persecution in Europe. The settlers brought with them their vines and winemaking skills. This beautiful village has been preserved in its original state and is surrounded by mountains and is home to some of the best restaurants and wine estates in the world.
Regularly voted the most beautiful city in the world, Cape Town is a must-see for many visitors! With the magnificent Table Mountain at its centre, flanked either side by the Indian and Atlantic Ocean, the natural scenery is breathtaking. When you add a vibrant culture, wine estates, world-class restaurants and history, there is something for everyone. There are so many tours and outdoor activities on offer, everything from cellar tours of a 400 year old wine estate to kayaking with penguins. You may decide you would rather just relax on the white sand beaches and enjoy the wine the area is famous for.
The Garden Route
The Garden Route is a stretch of coastline following the Indian Ocean along the east coast of South Africa. The official start of the route is the town of Mossel Bay, 400km along the coast from Cape Town. Many people will start from Cape Town and do an extended route. The area is known for the pristine white sand beaches of Plettenberg Bay and The Tsitsikamma National Park with its forests, mountains and rivers. The route ends at Port Elizabeth, this area is full of private game reserves and a wonderful end to the route.
The spectacular Drakensberg Mountains are the highest in Southern Africa and are over 1000km in length. The mountains are full of rivers, rock pools and waterfalls making this area popular for hiking but you can also explore on horse bike or bike. The area has 2,000-year-old San Bushman rock art and you can join guided tours to learn about the history of the San people. The areas surrounding the Drakensberg is home to the Zulu Tribe and there are lodges you can stay in to learn about the battles they fought as well as their culture.
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