If you’ve been to South Africa before, you’ll understand why it’s often cited as one of the world’s most desirable destinations. First-time visitors fall in love with culture-rich Cape Town and wax lyrical of the Winelands and classic Big Five safaris – only a one hour time difference with the UK makes it even more appealing. Repeat visitors though can discover lesser-known areas from a fynbos-clad floral kingdom and ancient forest home to herds of rhino thanks to the work of sustainability pioneers. In Zululand, where the local communities are the heart and soul, you can discover, jaws agape, dramatic mountainous scenery echoing South Africa’s poignant history. While on the remote east coast lies an ecological paradise of long sandy beaches, rambling dunes, and pods of wild dolphins. In a country that delivers time and again here’s why you should return:
Food and wine is on another level
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, but South Africa’s food and wine is something to sing about and reason to revisit alone. South Africa being the master of farm-to-fork fare, think home-cured cheese, biodynamic vegetables, fresh oysters and generous, juicy cuts for the braai (BBQ). It’s no secret that the picturesque Winelands has turned heads for its independent winemakers, graceful estates and sleek tasting rooms where you can sip on sensational tipple to your heart’s content. The best bit? The current strong pound to rand conversion means you can feast like a king for a fraction of the price – one of our experts recently dined on steak and Sauvignon Blanc in a beautiful Franschhoek eatery for a staggering twenty pounds. Once you’re there you may never want to leave.
If you’ve already run rampage in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch’s wineries, Robertson should be next on the agenda. This still-secret country town sits on the longest wine route in the world, Route 62, and while you may have never heard of it, this charming area produces some of the country’s most refined sparkling wines in the rich limestone terroir. Nothing beats drinking world-class bubbly drenched in the golden afternoon light as the sun fades over the valley hills and rows of radiant vine.
KwaZulu-Natal, a sunshine state of mind
South Africa has a rep for good weather with sunshine found in different parts of the country all year round. KwaZulu-Natal, a remote region bursting with history, adventure and preserved local culture boasts enviable weather during the UK summer holidays. On our KwaZulu-Natal Safari and Wilderness Beach itinerary, you can enjoy safaris in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, known as South Africa’s rhino haven. Journey a little further and explore the marine-rich iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a far-flung paradise of long, untrammelled beaches from where you can snorkel in the reef, picnic in the dunes and go swimming with wild dolphins. Our Bush, Beach and Self-drive itinerary takes you into the heart of the Drakensberg mountains where titanic cliffs leave you awestruck. Here you can roam on horseback, mountain bike and on foot with a backdrop of blazing Natal bottlebrush trees and imposing rock sculptures. On its doorstep lie the historical battlefields that inspired the movie, Zulu, and where you can relive the spirit and drama. One of the biggest draws though is the Zulu culture prevalent in the local lodges and traditional neighbouring communities.
The Cape Floral Kingdom
Just a two-hour drive away from Cape Town, a pristine eco-paradise takes prime position in the Cape Floral Kingdom – a region of extreme diversity harbouring South Africa’s indigenous fynbos, 70 per cent of which you can find in this area alone generously cladding the coastal slopes. If sustainability is key for you when planning a holiday, this biodiverse hotspot has garnered significant accolades including a Florilegium exhibition of botanical illustrations that’s rated higher than the one at Kew Gardens.
Floral safaris in an open-air 4×4 delve you into the 35,000 hectares of botanical wilderness and enchanting milkwood forest with Tolkien-esque atmosphere. Highly knowledgeable guides keep you captivated whether teaching you the Latin names of its 900 plant species, about cross pollination or how controlled fires can fertilise the soil and bring to life new species of plant. At the coast around Hermanus and Gansbaai you can horse ride along the beach and inspect Stone Age caves. Offshore is just as bountiful with whale watching between June and November and safaris in search of the Marine Big 5 – sharks, whales, dolphins, penguins and seals – admired from the cliffs, on adventurous boat trips or on a scenic flight. Experience all this at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.
Far-out Madikwe Game Reserve
If you’ve ticked off South Africa’s Eastern Cape reserves, Madikwe Game Reserve in the north-east provides diverse, scenic landscapes and an extraordinary roster of game. Warm weather during May to December makes this a compelling destination for UK summer holidays. Due to its far-flung location and the fact the reserve does not permit day visitors, you won’t encounter the crowds that you might often find in better-known locations. Instead, a portfolio of private lodges offers exclusive-feeling safaris in search of the Big Five and other sought-after wildlife such as wild dog under imposing escarpments and undulating hills. The fact that it’s a malaria free zone is another plus. Discover Madikwe’s delights on our Blue Train and Big Safari itinerary
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Malcolm, who's travelled extensively in your chosen destination. 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 - guides who can give you genuine insights into local life and culture, chefs who can teach you how to rustle up the local cuisine and safari rangers who'll ensure you'll spot the best wildlife.
Freephone an expert 01306 744 656