When is the best time to visit South Africa?
South Africa is a fabulous all year-round destination so when you visit depends on what you would like to do. The best time for game watching, for instance, is early spring (August to October). The southern right whales can be seen off the coasts from about mid-June to the end of October, and the humpback whales from August to December.
The diving is generally best from April to September, and so is the surfing, but these activities are by no means limited to these periods. Flowers are at their best in August and September. River rafting is better at the end of winter in the Cape; and in summer (late November to February) in KwaZulu-Natal.
In Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, activities are not quite as time-dependent but spring and autumn are best for hiking since summer can be very hot. If you want to lounge on the beaches, midsummer is the best time to do so, though bear in mind that everyone else will be there too. The beaches of KwaZulu-Natal are warm and sunny, even in midwinter.
When are your peak seasons?
Many of the best areas to visit can be quite busy in peak season. For example, the coast tends to be a bit crowded around Christmas and New Year, when all the schools are on holiday, the universities are out and many local people take their annual leave. So, if you’re looking for peace and quiet – this is not the time to visit.
Another major peak is over Easter – when the schools are also on holiday and, once again, many people take their leave so they can spend holidays with their children. A major advantage of travelling out of peak season, of course, is availability of special out of season deals.
Can South Africa guarantee winter sun?
Yes! South Africa experiences one of the highest numbers of “sunshine hours” per year of any country worldwide.
What are the most popular choices of activity or itinerary, and why?
First-time visitors generally spend a short stay in Johannesburg and Pretoria, Gauteng, where they can visit the world famous African township of Soweto and experience a truly cosmopolitan culture, bustling with an urban rhythm that can be found in the nightclubs, theatres, restaurants and people. Then they will head for the bush regions, such as the Kruger National Park, for a wildlife experience, and probably spend some time in the Western Cape, more specifically Cape Town and the fantastic Garden Route.
How reliable is the infrastructure in South Africa?
The infrastructure is very reliable and of a world class. The road network is superb and well maintained. In recent years major toll roads have opened, making driving long distance even easier. Accommodation establishments in South Africa are world class, so whether you require accommodation in a hotel, guesthouse or lodge, your needs will be satisfied.
Does South Africa have big cities with modern amenities?
Yes, South Africa offers the 3rd safest drinking water in the world, good cell phone service and even an occasional Starbucks.
How easy is it to meet and mix with South Africans from all communities?
Very easy indeed. Most South Africans speak English, so it is easy to converse with people wherever you go. South Africans are generally open, friendly people who enjoy welcoming visitors.
What about mobile phones and phoning home?
South Africa’s mobile phone operators utilize the GSM system so if your phone is GSM compatible, set up international roaming with your service provider before you leave home. Alternatively, you can rent a phone at the airport on arrival, and use a “pay-as-you-go” (which means exactly what it says) card during your stay. Alternatively, some US carriers will allow you to use a South Africa SIM card, which you can purchase, in any airport in South Africa.
Are there modern banks?
You can use Visa, Mastercard and American Express almost everywhere, and bank by ATM or online. There’s a sophisticated financial sector, abreast of all the latest technological trends.
How far will my money go?
A long, long way. With the exchange rate in your favor, you’ll find South Africa a very inexpensive destination.
And the animals?
The animals alone are reason to visit. One of the world’s first wildlife conservation areas was South Africa’s Kruger Park, more than a century old. Today it is just one part of a single broad conservation area that spans private and public game parks, and even stretches across national borders into neighboring Mozambique and Zimbabwe. South Africa is also a bird watcher’s paradise.
Will I see the big five?
Maybe. Many reserves have all the big five – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo – but it’s not that easy to see them all, particularly leopard. Leopards are nocturnal, secretive and well camouflaged, but there are some reserves where they are easily spotted. Keep in mind there are other exciting animals to see, hippo, wild dogs, monkeys and springbok just to name a few.
What is the difference between the National Parks and the Private Reserves?
The national parks are administered by South African National Parks, which ensures a standardized level of accommodation and facilities.
Park fees are kept to a minimum to enable as many people as possible to enjoy the wonderful natural heritage. The game watching in the private parks is quite often of an equal standard to that of the national parks, but the accommodation is usually far more luxurious, and the service very attentive. Of course, this level of luxury comes at a price, but the private lodges are a good choice if you would like to be pampered.
Where can I see game in a malaria-free area?
The Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, the Northern Cape, parts of the Northwest Province and the Waterberg area of Limpopo province are free of malaria.