South Africa is geographically and scenically diverse and a nation of more than 47 million people of varied origins, cultures, languages and beliefs. It is an ideal family safari destination with outstanding wildlife experiences for all ages. It also boasts luxury safari holidays and beach holidays for honeymooning couples, adventurers, those wanting respite from their busy lives, or those chasing their dream African holiday tour. Johannesburg and Cape Town are the launching pads for holidays to South Africa with various flights available from the world’s airlines. So whether you fly into Johannesburg or Cape Town, you will enjoy South Africa’s natural treasures, the hospitality of its people and its affordability.
From spectacular Cape Town, the culinary capital of the country Franschhoek and the Cape Winelands and the scenic Garden route drive to African safaris in the famous Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve or Madikwe Reserve not to mention the thrill of a cross-country rail journey on one of the most luxurious trains in the world.
The second largest exporter of fruit in the world, South Africa also has the longest wine route. Kruger National Park supports the greatest variety of wildlife species on the African continent and it is home to the world’s smallest succulent plants (less than 0.3 inches) and the largest (baobab tree). South Africa has deserts, mountains, escarpments, plateaus, grasslands, bush, wetlands and subtropical forests.
Cape Town & surrounds
Undeniably one of the world’s most beautiful and cosmopolitan cities in the world, Cape Town has something for everyone. Imagine exploring endless beaches, a vibrant Waterfront, dynamic Greenmarket Square and creative city centre not to mention historically significant landmarks like Robben Island. This spectacular city retains a strong colonial character with its beautiful buildings and manicured gardens nestled under the glory of its iconic Table Mountain, an impressive natural wonder that rises more than 3,500 feet above the city. The Cape Malay quarter, Bo-Kaap features colourful houses and historically significant landmarks and the District Six museum. Another must do is a scenic Cape Peninsula drive (self drive or tour) where you’ll savour stunning scenery from oceans to mountains and vineyards.
Kruger & Private Reserves
The Greater Kruger is home to the famous Kruger National Park and surrounding private reserves which together offer an immense variety of game, from the Big Five through to thousands of herds of antelope, smaller game and abundant bird life. Here you can expect authentic bush camps through to uber luxury lodges and spas providing safari experiences for young and old, solo travellers, families, couples or groups of friends. The Kruger National Park itself is the largest game reserve in South Africa and one of the world’s biggest wildlife sanctuaries. It is approximately the same size as Israel or Wales and covers 20,720 square kilometres and is located in one of the most ecologically heterogeneous regions of Southern Africa, the vastly shifting landscapes of the park connect expanses of grassy planes, traverse thorny woodland thickets that encircle rugged koppies, and culminate in the imposing Lebombo Mountains of the east
Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Adjacent to the Kruger National Park, this fantastic private reserve is actually made up of various private game reserves such as MalaMala Game Reserve, Lion Sands Reserve, Savanna Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Singita Game Reserve, Ulusaba Private Game Reserve and Nottens Game Reserve. There is everything from affordable owner run bush camps to uber luxurious lodges and the highlight of a safari holiday here is guaranteed to be unforgettable.
Situated east of Cape Town, the Winelands are nestled amongst the mountains and form a myriad of fertile green valleys with historic towns and villages not to mention fantastic wines, wineries and restaurants. It is here you will get the opportunity to test the theory that food and wine really are concentrated messengers of a country’s culture. The Winelands encompass several regions each with their own wine routes. The most famous town is Stellenbosch, synonymous because it has the oldest wine route in the country. Franschhoek, the ‘French corner’ is the most beautiful wine valley perhaps in the world. It also boasts a rich history and vibrant village atmosphere with a long street that bustles day and night with cafes, restaurants, artist studios and boutique shops. Lesser known yet equally rewarding towns include Wellington and Paarl.
Completely underestimated, Johannesburg is an outstanding and worthwhile destination for any South African safari holiday. This ‘City of Gold’ offers fantastic creative and cultural experiences with 40 art galleries, a host of cultural institutes and museums. Markets have become the in thing with everything from organic food markets to arts and crafts. The highlight is perhaps the moving Apartheid Museum and time spent in township Soweto.
Eastern Cape Reserves
The Eastern Cape boasts a stunning stretch of coastline, game rich national parks and private game reserves. This is the homeland of the Xhosa-speaking nation and birthplace of Nelson Mandela. It offers malaria free, big five safari holidays for all ages with accommodation ranging from family friendly camps to remote luxury retreats. The main areas for game viewing are Addo Elephant Park area, Grahamstown, Kenton on Sea and Cradock. There are some fantastic private reserves that include the well known and much loved Shamwari to lesser known yet equally rewarding Amakhala, Kariega, Kwandwe, Pumba and Blaauwbosch.
Garden Route & Route 62
A mix of ancient forests, secluded artists’ communities, craft centres, mountain hideaways and beach holidays the Garden route is a magnificent stretch of coastline. It also incorporates the inland Route 62 which is stunning plains, mountains and towns. Also famous for its hardy fynbos floral kingdom, its secluded little bays and chain of lakes offers a fascinating mix of ecosystems to explore.
Madikwe & Waterberg
An enchanting and little visited part of the country, Madikwe and surrounds offers big rewards for those who venture off the tourist track. Madikwe is 75,000 hectares of malaria free wilderness. Even more impressive, this relatively young (opened 1991) reserve boasts the big five, a healthy population of wild dog and cheetahs, often spotted hunting on the open grasslands thanks to the success of Operation Phoenix, one of the world’s largest wildlife translocation exercises in the world. The Waterberg is known as one of the country’s most pristine, scenic and wildlife rich areas with ancient mountains, a rich tapestry of biodiversity, rock art sites and rolling savannahs.
Some of South Africa’s best beaches can be found along the KwaZulu Natal coastline, Umhlanga Rocks, Ballito, Shaka’s Rock, Shelley Beach (on the North Coast), Uvongo and Margate (on the South coast) – to mention a few. Beaches are safe and boast brilliant surfing conditions. Popular holiday spot, Durban has spectacular beaches including Addington Beach, South and North beaches and Dairy beach. This region is more than a coastline, expect beautiful inland mountain ranges of the Drakensberg ideal for hiking, unspoilt game reserves for Big Five safaris including Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, home to big five and one of the best rhino conservation programs. 4×4 game drives and walking safaris are offered in this park, Mkuzi and Ndomo game reserves. This region is also home to a number of historic battlefields where some of South Africa’s most turbulent wars took place.
Big Five Safari
South Africa truly is synonymous with wildlife and nature. Your odds of seeing the famous ‘Big Five’ are high especially at Sabi Sands Game Reserve. The big five includes lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. With a myriad of other species and dramatic, unspoilt landscapes plus some malaria free regions, it is the first choice for many safari holiday seekers. Beyond just game drives in open sided 4x4s, the country now boasts some exceptional walking trails in wildlife areas, horse riding safaris and more.
South Africa hosts the largest marine migration in the world, the sardine migration which draws underwater crowds including thousands of sharks, dolphins and other predatory fish including whales. The migration occurs each year during June and July when huge shoals of sardines make their way north to the waters of KwaZulu Natal. Consider this ‘The Greatest Shoal on Earth’ and worthy of inclusion for the water wildlife enthusiasts.
South Africa is famous for its food and wine and with a diversity of cultures, the tastes are sure to stimulate the most advanced palette. Meat and seafood are specialties and restaurants are a plenty. Our favourite is exploring some of the exciting food markets on weekends around the country where samples are available allowing you to try before you buy! In Cape Town, don’t miss the Old Biscuit Mill. In Johannesburg, it’s the Food Market and in Sedgefield on the Garden Route, it’s Wild Oats Market. Next on our list is stopping off at fabulous farm stalls dotted around the country, especially on self drive South Africa holidays.
Wildflowers of South Africa
The country boasts one of the largest diversities of flowering species. Travel between August and September to witness the phenomenon of spring wild flowers in Namaqualand, the glorious fynbos flowers in Western Cape in September and October and the grassland flowers of the Drakensburg in November. Landscapes come alive with a carpet of colourful flowers and the best places to look for wildflowers are in the printing grasslands, preserved from overgrazing or disturbance. National parks and nature reserves are the best.
Two Wheels or Two Feet
Cycling and running are almost synonymous in South Africa with such diverse and challenging landscapes to conquer. There are stunning bike tours in Cape Town for leisure rider through to longer mountain biking trails in places like Route 62 and its Swartberg Pass to the Sani Pass on the South Africa-Lesotho border. For serious muscle strain and cycling enthusiasts, try the Cape Argus Cycle Tour, the world’s largest bicycle race with some 30,000 + participants attempting to conquer the Cape Peninsula during March. A month later is the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and moving up a notch, the Comrades Marathon, an 89 kilometre road race between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
World-renowned for wines, South Africa boasts multiple areas to explore by taste. The Cape Winelands is the most famous with towns like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Wellington on the map. There are wineries with open doors for tasting and onsite dining. In Franschhoek, we recommend taking the Wine Tram so you can avoid drink driving and enjoy a slower pace with informative stops along the way. Whatever village you’re in, just imagine sunset tastings against a backdrop of vineyard landscapes, mountains and access to international standard dining. The cultivation of grapes dates back to the 1600s and today, the wine industry is big business. We always recommend 2 nights at a minimum so you can savour a full day wine tasting and exploring.
Cape Town Touring
This bustling metropolis boasts a heady cultural mix, urban sophistication and spectacular scenery including Table Mountain and Chapman’s Peak – a world famous stretch of road with stunning views. There are a plethora of beautiful Cape Town beaches and creative hubs like Dewaterkant and Kloof Street. Don’t forget the fascinating history and heritage sites like Robben Island, The Company’s Garden, City Hall, Bo-Kaap, the original Muslim settlement and famed for its quaint, colourful houses and District Six, torn down during the Apartheid years. Another highlight is Greenmarket Square, created in 1696 and used as a space for ships to trade their wares, it is now a bustling marketplace.
We love More Quarters because of its relaxed, luxury self contained chic apartments at a fantastic price and bang in the heart of Cape Town’s cosmopolitan Kloof Street area. It is a home away from home and whilst self contained, breakfast is still included and had in the elegant dining room. There are 1 and 2 bedroom apartments all with spacious lounge and dining, ensuite bathrooms and fully equipped kitchens. Shared facilities include a cozy lounge, library, 24 hour concierge service and even a shower and bathroom for early arrivals. With complimentary shuttle services to the V&A Waterfront, you won’t need a car.
Established in 1996, The Cape Grace is the old dame of Cape Town’s 5 star hotels with an exceptional Victoria & Alfred Waterfront location, friendly staff, exceptional facilities and an outstanding array of accommodation styles to choose from. Every room offers old world charm and elegance with spacious bedrooms and ensuite bathrooms. The main area boasts a 15 metre outdoor heated pool and sun terrace, fine dining restaurant, whisky & wine bar, gift shop and onsite spa. Exclusive to guests for an additional fee, set sail on the privately owned luxury yacht, ‘Spirit of the Cape’.
Le Quartier Francais
Located at the top end of the village high street, this is one of our favourite accommodations in the Winelands. It offers a variety of room standards, all with lovely designed and decorated bedroom and ensuite bathrooms. Set amongst lush green gardens with a mountain view backdrop, the property also offers tranquility away from the main street vibe with a lovely swimming pool surrounded by gardens. There is a superb choice of dining options including world-famous and awarded Tasting Room Restaurant with the menu designed by executive chef Margot Janse. The Living Room onsite comprises of three lounging areas where guests can tuck into scrumptious all day grazing. Part of the Le Quartier family is the close by rustic farm style wine estate, Moreson with its fantastic Bread & Wine Vineyard Restaurant and the Miss Molly Charcuterie Bar. Unique offer here is the Private Guides available to guests. They help craft guests bespoke experiences of the wine valley region. Don’t think it’s too posh for children – it’s the best for kids with bread and pizza making, cooking classes and more on offer.
Franschhoek Country House & Villas
A touch of European luxury in the heart of Wineland country, sensational setting, stylish accommodation, super service and sumptuous food can be savoured at the Franschhoek Country House and Villas. Located at the end of the village’s main street, it has lovely mountain views, beautiful manicured gardens and exceptional accommodation styles and facilities. All with elegant decor, ensuite bathrooms and mountain or garden views you’ll enjoy this little Winelands accommodation. The estate also boasts two pools, spa treatments and an onsite restaurant, Monneaux.
Avondrood Guest House
This Cape Victorian farm style guest house is quietly tucked away just one block from the main attractions of Franschhoek. It is a beautiful property with spacious air conditioned bedrooms that open onto manicured gardens with mountain views. The owners are an absolute delight and you can be sure of warm hospitality, home made pastries and freshly brewed coffee during a leisurely breakfast on the terrace or indoors. Before or after your wine tasting, soak up the sun at the property’s pool and jacuzzi or enjoy a laze about in the garden or cozy lounge. With onsite parking, this is one of our favourites for self drive South Africa holidays.
De Zeekoe Guest Farm
Owner run and managed, this lovely place in the heart of Klein Karoo is just 10 kilometres outside Oudtshoorn. Set on 20000 hectares, it is a working farm between majestic Swartberg and Outeniqua Mountains. The restored 1800s homestead has beautiful rooms and suites with wide verandahs, shared lounge, dining area and swimming pool. We love this property for its unique sunrise wildlife adventure to the nearby habituated meerkat colony. It is an additional fee payable locally because it is weather dependent. You are close to Cango Caves and Ostrich Farms plus there are nearby hikes, horse riding, canoeing, biking and fishing opportunities.
Grootbos Nature Reserve
Set in picturesque mountain and sea landscape on the Cape South Coast, the architectural masterpiece of Forest Lodge and family friendly Garden Lodge offer exceptional relaxation and adventure within a private 2,500 hectare reserve. Forest Lodge sits in a 1,500 year old Milkwood Forest and offers extravagant and luxurious accommodation with free standing suites all with bedroom, ensuite, lounge and fireplace plus private sun deck and infinity pool. Garden Lodge is on a mountain slope with one and two bedroom suites. The main area has lounge, entertainment room, library, pool area and horse stables. Winning worldwide acclaim for conservation programs, Grootbos offers outstanding land based whale watching, archeological cave tours, beach picnics, flower safaris, birding and horseriding.
Beautifully positioned on the apex of Kanonkop Hill above Knysna, this is one of our favourite luxury retreats on the Garden Route. There are five suites all individually created with flair and character. Each one boasts spacious bedroom, ensuite bathroom, private decks overlooking gardens or lagoons and elegant main area with bar, dining room, lounge and swimming pool. In house activities include bikes, kayaks and a speed boat for water sports or sunset cruising. Just 2 kilometres from town, it’s ideal for self drivers looking for a touch of class along the way.
Another Garden Route classic, this five star country house hotel sits on a private 700 hectare estate 19 kilometres outside Plettenberg Bay. This is our pick for South Africa family holidays along the garden route with extensive family programmes, luxury suites with interleand rooms, three different dining options then shared sitting room with log fire, verandah, library, pool, sauna, steam room and therapy suite for treatments and massages. Activities include walking, hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, tennis, picnic on the estate, polo instruction and quad biking. It’s a country retreat moments from a world class beach.
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