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South Africa Safari Tours & Holidays

4.6/5  –  589 South Africa Reviews

South Africa is one of the world’s most varied destinations. From the classic safari country of Kruger National Park to the stately ‘mother city’ of Cape Town; from the snow-sprinkled heights of the Drakensberg to the parched red dunescapes of the Kalahari; from the gorgeous Winelands around Stellenbosch to the paradisiacal beaches of the Garden Route – South Africa is a true all-rounder that attracts more than its fair share of repeat visitors. It is also the most affordable and well-equipped of African safari destinations, particularly well-suited to family holidays, to those seeking a malaria-free holiday, to dedicated foodies and wine-lovers, and for combining a foray into Big Five country with a beach holiday and/or city break.

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8 Questions About South Africa Safaris

Answered by Philip Briggs

When is the best time to visit South Africa?

“There is no bad time to take a South African holiday. But certain parts of the country are far better at specific times of year. If a safari will be the main event of your South African tour, most of the country’s key parks and reserves are at their best in the southern hemisphere winter months of April to September, when daytime temperatures are cooler, the bush is less dense allowing for better visibility, and wildlife tends to congregate around limited water sources. For beach lovers, by contrast, the main coastal resorts are at their best in the southern hemisphere summer (November to March). Special interest groups such as bird watchers and photographers may also prefer to undertake a safari in summer, when resident bird populations are boosted by large numbers of migrants birds, and the clear sky and greener countryside make for a more photogenic backdrop.”

More about South Africa's best time to visit 1

Why visit South Africa, and what are the major attractions?

“Variety is the keynote of South African holidays. The country boasts one of the continent’s finest safari destinations in the form of Kruger National Park and adjacent private reserves, while other key Big Five safari reserves include Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and malaria-free Madikwe and Pilanesberg. Safaris aside, South Africa is renowned for its fantastic beaches, limitless hiking opportunities, wonderful outdoor climate and good-value dining and wining scene. The main focus of non-safari sightseeing is Cape Town, which is gracefully perched below Table Mountain on a scenic stretch of Atlantic coastline, close to the whale-watching hub of Hermanus and the historical winelands around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.”

2

What does a South Africa safari cost?

“South African safari prices will depend greatly on the level of comfort you expect. At one extreme, self-drive camping safaris in somewhere like Kruger might work out at under US$100 for a couple per day. At the other extreme, all-inclusive safari packages at one of the country’s more exclusive private safari lodges might be 10 or 20 times more expensive. A good compromise between comfort and cost is a safari using the well-run rest camps that can be found throughout Kruger and in many other key national parks and provincial reserves. Accommodation aside, extras such as food, wine and other drinks are very cheap by international standards.”

Factors influencing the cost of a safari 3

How is the wildlife viewing in South Africa?

“Excellent. Kruger Park and neighboring private reserves host large populations of all the Big Five, and rank among the top African safari destinations when it comes to spotting black and white rhino, as well as leopard, cheetah and African wild dog. All these safari favorites are also likely to be encountered in the malaria-free Madikwe and Pilanesberg game reserves, as well as in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and the various small private reserves of the Eastern Cape. Outside of the major Big Five reserves, many parts of the country are still home to a variety of antelope, monkeys and small predators, all of which might be encountered by hikers and ramblers. Bird watching is consistently excellent throughout the country, while locally conspicuous marine wildlife includes penguins, whales and giant turtles.”

4

How safe is South Africa for tourists?

“Crime is a genuine issue in the larger cities, especially Johannesburg, but not so much in the game reserves, smaller towns and beach resorts that form the focal points of most South Africa safari trips. Follow local advice about safety, avoid walking around cities at night, and you should be fine. Malaria is absent from most parts of the country, the one major exception being Kruger Park and immediate environs, but even here the risk is far lower than in most other African safari destinations. Madikwe and Pilanesberg are Africa’s premier malaria-free safari destinations. Many reserves in South Africa offer guided walking safaris in areas inhabited by potentially dangerous animals such as elephant, black rhino and lion, but the risk of an incident is minimal provided that you listen to your guide at all times, and treat wildlife with respect. Possibly the biggest risk to life and limb in South Africa is a car accident, so self-drivers should adopt a more defensive and cautious approach than they might at home.”

5

How do I select a reliable South African tour operator?

“It’s worth doing a bit of research into operators before you book a South Africa tour. Look for reviews of any given operator on SafariBookings and possibly other online portals; the more reviews an operator has received, the more confident you can be of its reliability. If you have friends who have visited the country, or who live there, ask for word-of-mouth recommendations before booking any South African safari packages. Check out the company’s website too – as a rule its level of professionalism will reflect that of the company it represents. Once in South Africa, hotels and guesthouses can usually point you to tried-and-tested operators for day outings and other short local tours.”

6

What type of accommodation can I expect on a safari?

“South African safari accommodation ranges from no-frills campsites to exclusive upmarket lodges offering the last word in safari chic. In between these extremes, most national parks and provincial reserves have at least one well-run rest camp offering camping facilities and self-catering chalets (usually en suite but occasionally using shared ablutions). For those who don’t want to immerse themselves in the bush, a selection of midrange hotels can be found within easy driving distance of many national park and reserve entrance gates. Exclusive lodges are generally associated with private reserves and concessions that offer all-inclusive safari packages incorporating guided game drives and walks.”

7

What can I expect from South African safaris?

“Generally South Africa has a more developed feel than other African safari destinations. Most national parks and other reserves can be reached via good surfaced roads, which certainly isn’t the case in many other parts of Africa. Some, such as Kruger, actually have an internal network of surfaced roads, and it is the only major African safari destination where a 4WD would be a luxury rather than a necessity, and the most suitable one for self-drive safaris. Likewise, most national park rest camps are well equipped for self-caterers, and many have well-stocked grocery shops. Further, the wildlife in South Africa is as wild as it is in most parts of Africa, the standard of guiding is unusually high, and people on organized safaris can expect excellent close-up sightings of everything from the Big Five to smaller animals such as birds and lizards.”

8

South Africa Safari Reviews

4.6/5 589 Reviews
Expert
Emma Gregg  –  
United Kingdom UK

Emma is an award-winning travel writer for Rough Guides, National Geographic Traveller, Travel Africa magazine and The Independent.

Where Big Five safaris are big business, there’s a wealth of choice
5/5

Glorious images of elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and buffalo parading through pristine bush are central to South Africa’s popular image. So it comes as a surprise to some first-time visitors that, in reality, the proportion of this...

Full Review

Expert
Anthony Ham  –  
Australia AU

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

South Africa: World-class Safaris
5/5

South Africa is one of my favourite places to go on safari, with all the necessary ingredients for a wildlife experience that will begin your enduring love affair with the continent. Primary among these ingredients is the wildlife....

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William Hui  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Jun 17, 2019
Beautiful, serene, and a wonderful country
5/5

South Africa Safari was amazing. Kruger National Park was everything I had expected and so much more. The wildlife was, by far, the most surreal ting I have ever seen and witnessed in my life. It was such a privilege to be next to...

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John Conway  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Jun 13, 2019
Great Trip - would do it again!
5/5

Visited in early May for 4-5 days on Safari. Tresmania Lodge was fine, a bit rustic but enjoyable overall. Food was very good. Enjoyed the Monkeys and all the wildlife in the area. Guides were very good. Very little down time as we...

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Michele  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Jun 12, 2019
Incredible Safari in South Africa
5/5

As a family we took a 2 week trip to SA including 7 days of Safari. The entire trip was organized by Kerry of Pembury Tours. I cannot recommend her highly enough! Kerry created a memorable and magical trip for us. Her attention to...

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Linda  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Jun 8, 2019
Amazing!
5/5

We are just back from three weeks in South Africa (and a 3 day side trip to Zimbabwe). It was an absolutely amazing trip! We loved South Africa - it is absolutely gorgeous and the people couldn't have been nicer. They have the best...

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