Popular Routes – South Africa

Philip Briggs
Expert
By Philip Briggs

Philip lives in South Africa and is the author of many guidebooks to African destinations, including the Bradt and Insight guide to South Africa.

Philip lives in South Africa and is the author of many Africa guidebooks, including the Bradt and Insight guide to South Africa.

Philip is the author of many Africa guidebooks, including the Bradt and Insight guides to South Africa.

Philip is the author of the Bradt and Insight guides to South Africa.

Popular Routes in South Africa

Popular Routes Where Wildlife Viewing Is a Major Part of the Tour

With good roads and general infrastructure, South Africa is a popular self-drive destination. The circuits described below can be done as a self-drive package or you can book a comparable group or custom tour, in which case all transport will be arranged by your tour operator.

Kruger and Zululand (2 to 3 weeks)

After arriving at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), you head east to the Lowveld in the Mpumalanga province where the best wildlife parks are situated.

Destinations:

  • Kruger National Park (3 to 5 days) is South Africa’s largest and most famous park. Whether you stay in one of the private lodges within the park or choose the more budget-friendly self-drive option, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Mala Mala Game Reserve (2 to 4 days) is one of the private reserves bordering Kruger where the Big Five can be checked off on a single game drive. Mala Mala would be a great choice, but there are many other private reserves in the area offering the same standard of wildlife viewing and luxury accommodation.
  • Mkhuze Game Reserve (2 to 3 days) , in KwaZulu Natal province, is excellent for watching animals from a hide: this offers some of the best photo opportunities.
  • Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve (2 to 4 days) is a beautiful park with rolling hills, known for its rhino and nyala populations.
  • Durban (1 to 3 days) is a great place to end your trip with some shopping and time on the beach.


Popular add-ons:

  • Drakensberg for hiking in this beautiful mountain range on your way back from Durban to Johannesburg
  • Cape Town for visiting Africa’s most beautiful city and taking a cable car up Table Mountain
  • The Garden Route for whale-watching and scenic beauty

Cape and Coast (1.5 to 2.5 weeks)

After arriving at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), you take a connecting flight to Cape Town.

Destinations:

  • Cape Town (2 to 4 days) is one of the world’s most attractive cities with great city life and natural beauty. A highlight is a day trip to Cape Point and Boulders Beach, a nesting place for the African penguin.
  • The Garden Route (4 to 8 days) is one of South Africa’s most scenic regions within the endemic Fynbos zone. From June to December, you can stop off in Hermanus, the whale-watching town. De Hoop Nature Reserve is another great base for whale watching in a more pristine environment. Knysna and Wilderness are both quaint little towns surrounded by stunning scenery and wonderful beaches. Oyster sampling in Knysna and a canoe trip on the Touws River are both recommended. Next is Tsitsikamma National Park, a great place for walks along the rugged coastline.
  • Addo Elephant National Park (2 to 3 days) is home to the Big Five, but the elephant-viewing opportunities particularly are out of this world.
  • Oudtshoorn (1 to 3 days) is the ostrich capital of South Africa, and the base for a visit to the extensive Cango Caves.


Popular add-ons:

  • Winelands tour for wine sampling and culture
  • Cape Agulhas for standing on the spot where two oceans meet
  • The Otter trail for hiking the most popular coastal trail in South Africa; it's a five-day hike and runs through Tsitsikamma

The Atlantic Route (1.5 to 2.5 weeks)

After arriving at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), you can choose the less-obvious route west of the country. A long drive to Upington brings you to the Kalahari, South Africa’s desert.

Destinations:

  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (3 to 5 days) is a great park for seeing predators and dry-country adapted animals in a special setting.
  • Augrabies Falls National Park (2 to 3 days) is a scenic gem with a magnificent waterfall.
  • Namaqualand (3 to 5 days) is not to be missed from August to September, when the otherwise arid region transforms into a flowering desert.
  • Cape Town (2 to 4 days) is the perfect city to end your tour. After a long road trip along the arid west coast of the country, the shopping, wining and dining opportunities of this world-class city will astound you. There are lots of great outdoor activities available in and around the city as well.


Popular add-ons:

  • Winelands Tour for wine sampling and culture
  • The Garden Route for whale watching and scenic beauty

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