Overview – South Africa

Philip Briggs
Expert
By Philip Briggs

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

Philip lives in South Africa and is the author 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.

South Africa is one of Africa’s great wildlife destinations. And vast Kruger National Park is one of the continent's iconic attractions – part of a network of fine protected areas that have an exceptional abundance of animals (the Big Five are readily seen). For outdoor adventure, the sweeping Blyde River Canyon is the third largest on the planet, and soaring rocky peaks such as the Drakensberg, punch into the sky. Cape Town and other cities hum with a modern urban beat, and are fringed by white-sand beaches.

Rates (USD) $134 to $614 pp/day
Best Time to Go May to September (All parks)
High Season Oct to Mar (Usually not very crowded)
Size 1,221,037km² / 471,445mi²

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

South Africa Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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. Two rare animals that are a rare treat to see are the black wildebeest and wild dog.

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.

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South Africa Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
Wonderful Wildlife without Wilderness
4/5

It’s extremely difficult to write an impartial review of the safari experience in your homeland. But I’ll give it a shot… From a purely wildlife viewing perspective, I would rank the country amongst the best in Africa. After-all there...

Latest User Review
One of the best experiences in my life!
5/5

The 3-day tour was amazing! We have seen all the big 5 and much more than that, our incredible tour Guide Liese, explained to us all the details and gave us a lot of information about the animals. At nights we have eaten some delicious food...