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South Africa Travel Guide

South Africa Travel Guide

South Africa is one of Africa’s great wildlife destinations. Vast Kruger National Park has an abundance of animals and is one of the continent's iconic attractions. For outdoor adventure, the Blyde River Canyon is the third largest on the planet, and jagged peaks of the Drakensberg mountains, punch into the sky. Cape Town hums with an urban beat, and is fringed by white-sandy beaches.

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent and easily accessible wildlife viewing
  • Self-drive, package or custom safaris for any budget
  • A wide variety of habitats and scenery
  • Excellent service and a well-run tourist industry
  • Good infrastructure and shops
  • Less wilderness appeal and fenced parks
  • Popular parks can get crowded
  • High crime rate in cities

Wildlife

All the Big Five, as well as other large animals such as the giraffe, hippo and many antelope species, are easily spotted in South Africa’s extensive network of parks. This list includes the white rhino, although its black relative is much harder to track down. A common sight in the west of the country is the Cape Mountain zebra, while the leopard is particularly conspicuous in Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

More about the wildlife

South Africa is a prime wildlife destination. All main safari animals are easily seen. Kruger National Park offers excellent general wildlife viewing, and the KwaZulu-Natal parks are best to see rhino. In Sabi Sand, the main focus is on seeing the Big Five; it is famous for its habituated leopard.

Weather & Climate

South Africa’s popularity as a wildlife destination is partly due to its temperate climate, which prompts a lot of blue-sky days. The country’s winter (May to September) sees the sun shine a lot and temperatures hover around 25°C/77°F. Except in the early morning, that is, when the mercury plummets. Summer (October to April) sees rain mainly in the form of afternoon storms and the country heats up, particularly along the east coast and anywhere near the Kalahari.

Best Time to Visit

The Dry season (May to September) is the best time to visit most of South Africa’s parks, including Kruger. The weather is great, the animals obligingly wander around waterholes and alongside rivers, and to top it all off, it’s the low season. The Wet season (October to April) is a less-attractive proposition thanks to the fact that animals tend to disperse into the thick, rain-fed bush, and because of school holidays in December.

More about the best time to visit

The best time to visit South Africa’s parks is from May to September. This is the Dry season and animals congregate around waterholes and rivers. As this is winter, mornings and nights are cold. May and September are wonderful because it is less cold and, especially in September, the wildlife viewing is excellent.

Best Time May to September (All parks)

High Season October to March (Won't feel overly crowded, except for main camps in Kruger during school holidays)

Low Season April to September (This coincides with the best wildlife viewing months)

Best Weather April-May and September-October (Pleasant temperatures and afternoon storms rarely interfere with the safari)

Worst Weather June to August (Cold in the morning and at night)

May to September –Dry Season – Winter

  • Wildlife is easier to spot because there is less vegetation and animals gather around rivers and waterholes
  • There is little to no rain – the skies are clear with most days sunny and fewer mosquitos
  • This is the low season and parks are not crowded, except for Kruger during school holidays
  • It gets cold at night and in the mornings

October to April –Wet Season – Summer

  • After the first rains, the scenery turns green and all looks fresh
  • This is the best time for bird watching, and migratory birds are present
  • Rains are mostly short afternoon showers and seldom really interfere with your trip
  • Wildlife viewing can be quite slow since the bush is thicker and wildlife is more difficult to spot
  • It gets very hot in December, January and February, and parks get crowded during the main school holidays in December

Best Time to go to South Africa by Major Park

Most parks offer year-round wildlife viewing, but they are at their best during the Dry season when wildlife is easier to spot. Kgalagadi gets extremely hot during December to February and is best visited in cooler months.

Premier Parks & Reserves

  • Kruger - Classic safari
  • Sabi Sand - Classic safari, private reserve
  • Mala Mala - Classic safari, private reserve
  • Phinda - Classic safari, private reserve
  • Hluhluwe-Imfolozi - Classic safari
  • Kgalagadi - Classic safari

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