There truly is something for everyone going on safari to South Africa. Born of a turbulent past, this newly reinvented nation is a popular tourist destination, offering world-famous game reserves, heritage sites, and sophisticated cities. The mix of old-world colonialism, African tribes, and migrant workers has enriched this country with flavor and character. English, Dutch, German and Indian influences are evident in the architecture, language, clothing, and spices.
South African safari has some of the world’s best game parks with diverse animals and ecosystems that lend itself to excellent game-viewing. In addition to Big 5 game viewing, you may even see endangered species, like the rhino and cheetah. The private game concessions monitor the number of vehicles allowed on special game sightings, so they won’t be tarnished by a mass of noisy vehicles. Sightings can be less controlled in other game parks throughout Africa, making safaris feel busy and commercialized.
With so much to see and do, a South African safari is an experience that appeals to a range of people. There are properties that cater mostly to adults, small and romantic lodges for honeymooners, and other properties that are better suited for families. The well-established infrastructure of the country makes it convenient to travel from a secluded reserve to a bustling metropolis, easily, providing guests with a varied South African experience.
Luxury & Private South Africa Safaris
- Cape Winelands offers much more than wine tastings; enjoy amazing scenery, active elements, family focused olive oil or chocolate tastings and fantastic galleries! There is something for everyone in this stunning region
- If you have a passion for culture and art, don’t write off Johannesburg as just an entry or exit point. There is plenty to do and see for a day or two.
- Take advantage of the great flight routes within South Africa. You can be in Cape Town one day, safari the next and the beach right after!
Is South Africa the right destination for you?
South Africa has a safer, less rustic feel to it than other safari destinations. If you are concerned about going on safari, or may require additional comfort and assistance, then a South African safari is a tamer, safer option. You’ll predominantly find lodges with solid walls and windows as well as air-conditioning and heat for added comfort. Phone and internet accessibility are consistently good throughout the country, and you won’t be in truly remote areas, like in Zambia or Botswana.
The cities are big and bold with shopping, culture, and entertainment to suit the most discerning travelers. Upmarket game lodges are well-run and luxury and service levels can be confidently guaranteed. South Africa is great for combining city and bush, along with beach, and adventure activities so you don’t have to commit. The list is endless!
Family travel is popular and many properties have specific child-friendly amenities to ensure the kids enjoy their holiday as much as their parents. Malaria-free reserves are a good option when traveling with small kids, such as Madikwe and the Waterberg.
If you’re looking for a unique conservation experience, some South African Safaris offer access to rhino notching experiences alongside veterinarians and conservation staff.
Best time to visit South Africa
- Although South Africa is a year-round destination, the best game viewing in greater Kruger is between April and November
- The winter months (June to August) can be very cold so our favorite months to recommend travel are South Africa’s fall and spring (April to June and September to November).
- Cape Town is best from September to April but gets very busy over December and January.
- The wildflowers of the Cape Floral Kingdom are at their peak from August-September.
- Head to Hermanus for the best land-based whale watching between June-November.
How much should I budget for a safari to South Africa?
As with any country, costs can run the gamut. City hotels may vary in price from $100 per person per night for 3/4-star properties, to $400 per person per night for the top hotels in Cape Town such as The Silo or Ellerman House.
4-star game lodges will also vary in price from $450 per person per night to over $700 or even $1800 at the 5-star+ Singita properties. A good rule of thumb for a 4-star trip is an average of $600 per person per night and $1000+ for five star experiences. Hotels may offer special rates in off season periods or long-stay discounts, depending on where you are going.
Our favorite areas in South Africa
- The most popular, and for good reason, combination is Cape Town and Kruger National Park and its surrounding private reserves
- Cape Town is a world class city, often compared to San Francisco, with stunning views and amazing surrounding areas including the Winelands and Cape Peninsula
- There are many other areas we love such as Phinda in the KwaZulu Natal, the Waterberg, Kwandwe in the Eastern Cape and Madikwe. All of these areas offer contrasting landscapes and eco-systems to Kruger/Sabi Sands. Creating a full South African itinerary with multiple safari stops is easily doable.
What to know before going to South Africa?
- South Africa: Luxury & Private Safaris: The “knock” against safari in South Africa is that you won’t feel as though you’re somewhere truly remote. However, this is compensated for by a sense of security and comfort – communications are good and you are never too far from civilization with all the creature comforts and pampering to make you fee like you are on vacation.
- South Africa: Culture: Although cultural experiences are available, they aren’t as prevalent on safari as they are in other destinations like Kenya or Tanzania. Instead, Cape Town or Johannesburg’s townships offer a startling glance at the effects of apartheid on modern life.
- South Africa: Wild: South Africa has many beautiful beaches, but it is not the right destination if you are eager for a week lying in the sun and being looked after. The Kwa-Zulu Natal Coastline’s beaches are wild – more for fishing and diving than playing in the waves. The Cape beaches have icy waters which only keen surfers are bold enough to enter. The beaches along the Garden Route are quite popular with locals and are a nice spot to stop off during a road trip toward the Eastern Cape, but as far as beaches go, you won’t find anything too different from California.
What to do in South Africa?
Nowhere does luxury lodging better than South Africa. If your idea of vacation is being pampered, this is the place for you. You’ll have a harder time finding classic tented camps but it’s absolutely possible. We particularly like Hillsnek in the Amakhala Game Reserve and Tanda Tula in the greater Kruger. If you have your heart set on a night in a luxury tree-house, there’s that option too!
Regardless of your destination, properties in South Africa are connected by a comprehensive and well-maintained road network meaning it’s the ideal place for a road trip. The drive along the Cape Peninsula and out to the Eastern Cape is one of the most scenically beautiful road trips on Earth.
If you’re someone who isn’t committed to a week or ten days all on safari, South Africa offers the option to (easily) do it all. From rugby games to paddle boarding, surfing to museums, historical sites to art galleries, whales to wildflowers, and world class food and wine.
Wildlife in South Africa
- South Africa is the proud home to a wide variety of game from the majestic elephant to the smallest dung beetle.
- In many of the South African Safari game parks you will be able to see the Big 5 (leopard, lion, rhino, elephant and buffalo) in addition to the cheetah, wild dog, hippo, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, hyena, antelope, buck, warthog, crocodile, monitor lizard, duiker, civet, baboon, and other monkey.
- Also to be seen are the civet, serval, kudu, impala, waterbuck, bat-eared fox, jackal, and mongoose.