Welcome to South Africa
A modern country of endless beauty and surprises
Welcome to South Africa, one of our all-time favourite countries on the African continent. There are few other countries like South Africa when it comes to breathtaking landscapes, iconic African scenery, amazing wildlife, cosmopolitan cities and an incredible food and wine scene. It’s a firm favourite among seekers of outstanding safari holidays, particularly first timers, and great exchange rates means it’s exceptional value for money.
Cape Town in the country’s southwest is a stylish and chic city with the monumental Table Mountain watching over it. Within an hour’s drive is the longest wine route in the world, the Cape Winelands. Here, South Africa holidaymakers can sample internationally acclaimed wines paired with world-class cuisine.
Take a scenic drive along the Garden Route, passing lush wilderness and gorgeous coastal towns on the journey east to Port Elizabeth. Heading further up along the coast will bring you to Natal, where the scenery transforms into a green and tropical oasis.
Moving inland, the landscape becomes more arid, with sparse open grasslands called the Highveld, before you reach the capital city of Pretoria and South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg.
The country also boasts deserts such as the Karoo and a portion of the Kalahari; mountains and plateaus; forest and fields of wildflowers; and, of course, unbelievable safari destinations. It’s possible to witness Africa’s extraordinary wildlife up-close in nature reserves and national parks in just about every province of South Africa, including the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve and the most famous Africa safari destination of them all, Kruger National Park.
Whether you’re looking for a city break, a beach holiday or a getaway in to the game-filled African bush, there’s so much to discover – and love – in this incredible country that’s closest to our hearts.
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South Africa at a glance
South Africa occupies the southern-most tip of Africa, neighbouring Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho. It’s more than 1.2 million square kilometres of jagged mountains, rolling plains, arid deserts, coastal fynbos (shrubland), national parks abundant with wildlife and beautiful beaches. The coastline stretches for more than 2,850 kilometres, with the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast and the Indian Ocean on the east and south coasts.
The earliest people to live in South Africa were the Khoi and San. The history of the country since then is both complex and troubling, involving the Portuguese, Dutch and British. There have been wars, concentration camps and, in 1948, the introduction of segregationist laws that later became known as apartheid (“separateness”). In 1961 the Union of South Africa gained independence from Britain and became the Republic of South Africa, but it wasn’t until 1994 – four years after Nelson Mandela was released from prison – that apartheid ended and the country held its first multi-racial elections. The African National Congress (ANC) won overwhelmingly and Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first Black president.
While memories of this troubled past remain, “post-apartheid” is the term used today to reflect and embrace the cultural diversity of a country now known as the Rainbow Nation. Communities from Africa, Europe and the Indian subcontinent live side-by-side with people from more than a dozen tribes, and you can see this diversity in everything from architecture and cuisine to language – there are no fewer than 11 official languages and many more unofficial dialects in this country of around 52 million people.
South Africa is a predominantly sunny country, with a pleasant and mild climate year-round. There are two main seasons: summer, which lasts from October to April (expect daytime temperatures ranging from 19C to 30C) and winter, which runs from May to September (with temperatures ranging from 15C to 23C). Travel possible at any time of the year, but because South Africa is so huge, the climate will vary from region to region.
Where you go will depend on what you want to see and do. Late spring is the time to go if admiring the country’s wildflowers is on your list, while late May to November is peak whale-watching time. Autumn is a great time to visit the Winelands and witness the scenery changing colours, while winter in Cape Town is the least-favourite time to visit for many people, because cold fronts move through brining rain and windy days. South Africa safari holidays are best experienced during the cooler months, from May to September, when animals can be easily spotted. The holiday high season runs from October to March.
Watch our South Africa video below.
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