What’s on your ‘perfect holiday’ checklist? Beautiful beaches, incredible wildlife, stunning views, world-class food? If your answer is “all of the above”, then we know a place that has it all, and more besides. Here are our Top 10 reasons to visit South Africa, from Big Five sightings to scenic drives, wine tasting and cultural tours.
Iconic African wildlife
If you dream of a Big Five safari, head to world-famous Kruger National Park or private Eastern Cape reserves like Kariega for an Out of Africa style experience, complete with 4×4 game drives and luxe tented camps. Other wildlife experiences include getting up close with meerkats in Oudtshoorn and water safaris to see hippos and crocodiles from Thanda Safari Lodge. Along the coast, take eco-boat trips from Plettenberg Bay to witness everything from penguins and sharks to whales, dolphins and seals.
South Africa offers everything from mountain-shadowed cities and forested national parks to wave-worn beaches, parched savannahs and dramatic peaks. Tour the rugged Cape Peninsula to glimpse the penguin-spotted coastline, passing the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range. Further north, the Drakensberg peaks are carved with rivers and waterfalls, home to vineyards and caves decorated with San rock art. The Panorama Route along Blyde River Canyon is known as one of the world’s most scenic drives for its unique rock formations and Mars-like scenery.
Adventure-filled road trips
South Africa is an ideal self-drive destination, offering good road conditions and left-hand drives. If you relish a road trip, embark upon the Garden Route, which will take you from the bright lights of Cape Town up the east coast. Stop for stargazing in Oudtshoorn and whale watching in Hermanus, continuing along the beach-studded Cape to Knysna for sunset lagoon cruises. Plettenberg Bay marks the end of the route for many, with hikes on the Robberg Peninsula.
World-famous food and wine
Foodies and wine connoisseurs will love South Africa. Some of the world’s finest wines are produced in the Cape Winelands, where you can tour chic vineyards in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek by bike, vintage tram or even on a VIP helicopter trip. Enjoy cellar tours and tasting sessions at estates like Mont Rochelle, owned by Virgin boss Richard Branson. Pair your wine with artisanal food at family-run eateries in Stellenbosch and delve into South Africa’s diverse cuisine, tasting Indian flavours at Durban’s Oyster Box and Cape Malay and Afrikaans dishes on a Cape Town food tour.
Adrenaline-pumping tours abound in South Africa, from boat trips to cycling tours and 4×4 game drives. Take to the skies for aerial views over Cape Town on a helicopter tour or don a retro leather jacket and goggles to whizz down the peninsula in a 1950s vintage sidecar. Guided hikes will take you up mighty Table Mountain and allow you to approach wildlife on foot at reserves like Shamwari, where you’ll spot insects and animal tracks. More adventure activities include microlight flights over Garonga Reserve and sunset cruises from Cape Town.
South Africa offers the ultimate family holiday, with wildlife encounters on malaria-free reserves and sun-soaked beach time. There’s no jet lag thanks to the two-hour time difference (just one in the British summer time) and English is widely spoken. South Africa’s best seasons also align with the UK school holidays, with sunshine and blue skies. To top it off, you’ll enjoy family-friendly accommodation throughout South Africa with kids’ clubs, children’s menus and tailored safari drives at lodges like Hog Hollow and Tinga.
Discover South Africa’s astounding history as you tour the country. The Cradle of Humankind is a highlight, littered with limestone caves where fossils of the world’s oldest humans have been found. In the KwaZulu-Natal region, you can visit battlefields where the Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu wars played out and relive key conflicts like Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. No visit to South Africa would be complete without learning about apartheid; take a stirring trip to Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum or Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned.
Diverse cultural experiences
The Rainbow Nation offers a range of cultural experiences, including respectful visits to rural villages. Learn about Zulu culture on a trip to Hambrook Village, where you’ll meet the residents and learn about their daily life and traditions, with music, drumming and war dance displays, as well as meetings with the village healer. You can also take city tours with a Capetonian and visit Soweto on a bike tour, where you’ll connect with locals in the beating heart of this sprawling township.
When it comes to accommodation, South Africa has it all, from modern hotels to seaside retreats and secluded safari lodges. Picture luxury safari tents like those at Thakadu River Camp and private villas with sparkling bay views at The Plettenberg. You can even sleep under the stars in a four-poster bed overlooking a waterhole. For something a bit different, take a train journey on vintage Rovos Rail, which has 1920s-style dining cars and lavish sleeper suites.
Ways to give back while you travel
There are multiple ways to give back when you travel in South Africa. Stay in eco-friendly resorts like Fugitives’ Drift Lodge, where the cost of your stay includes a donation to an educational foundation for local children. Take part in wildlife conservation with visits to rhino anti-poaching units at Kariega and join the team at Thanda Safari Lodge to help with game counts and translocating animals. At Shamwari, you’ll meet rescued animals at their Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and the famous Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Laura, who's travelled extensively in South Africa. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - ex banker who can show you the hottest foodie spots in Cape Town, the award-winning young sommelier who can introduce you to Stellenbosch's finest wines and the walking safari ranger who can guide you to the best game.
Freephone an expert 01306 744 656