Browsing through South Africa tour packages
and yet undecided about the places you need to visit? This guide should be of help.
It is not just South Africa’s turbulent history that has been a turning point in world politics, or its pluralistic society home to a multi-ethnic community, the southern-most country in Africa is besides everything a breathtaking landscape silhouetted against the Kalahari dunes, white sandy beaches, meteor-crashing desert skies, flat mountain tops, sprawling vineyards, scraggy bushlands and a dense wilderness where some truly exotic flora and fauna thrive. A veritable safari capital of the world that houses the famous African Big Five, South Africa’s wealth of national parks and luxurious game reserves make it relevant to the contemporary traveller who sees himself setting out into its jungles in an open 4X4 to spot big game in their habitat.
South Africa’s astounding wildlife
Easily the continent’s best safari getaway that is home to the famed African Big Five (buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant and rhino), South Africa is a patchwork of parks and reserves that warrant a plush stay in the heart of the wilderness. Make sure you include a stay at one such gaming lodge when looking for South Africa packages
. Here’s a list of the country’s most iconic safari destinations.
Kruger National Park:
Spread out over 2 million hectares, Kruger is larger than Israel and hands-down the most visited national park in the country. Self-drive is a popular way of exploring the park bringing in hordes of wildlife enthusiasts for game safaris. Aside from the Big Five, the Kruger wilderness is also home to the Little Five (leopard tortoise, buffalo weaver, rhino beetle, elephant shrew and ant lion). Some popular ways of exploring the national park other than game drives are elephant-back safari, foot safaris and bush walks. Kruger is known for its luxurious game reserves such as Sabi Sands, Buhala and Timbavati.
Pilanesberg National Park:
Fringing a volcanic caldera, the whole of Pilanesberg’s 55,000 hectares are malaria-free. Punctuated by craggy bushes, lush valleys and open skies, the human settlement here has been over a thousand years old. When on a safari amid its cape chestnut and camel thorn wilderness, keep a radar for springbok, hippo, crocodile, zebra, giraffe, brown hyena, cheetah aside from the Big Five. You have the choice of settling for a day hike, a hot-air balloon ride or a pre-sunrise game drive and explore its multiple watering holes, volcanic rocks formations, wildlife hideouts and camps. Against the Mankwe Dam, the park’s greatest source of water, Pilanesberg looks absolutely stunning. Buffalo Thorn Lodge, Ivory Tree Game Lodge, Tambuti Lodge are some of its finest game reserves bringing out the best of the African wilderness.
Addo Elephant National Park:
A part of the Sundays River Valley located in the Eastern Cape, Addo is only an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth. As the name suggests, the park is home to an enviable population of the African elephant, a specie that is facing the threat of extinction. Addo is also home to the African Big Seven (leopard, lion, buffalo, rhino, elephant, the southern right whale and the great white shark). To look up the world’s largest colony of African penguins, you can head to St. Croix and the Bird Islands both of which are a part of the national park. Horse trails and safari drives around sunrise and sunset are the preferred ways of exploring the park and watching the elephants come for a drink to the watering holes. Narina Bush Camp, Camp Matyholweni Rest Camp are among the accommodation options available in Addo.
South Africa for the outdoorsy tribe
A South Africa tour
is incomplete without going on an outdoor adventure and experiencing its ever-changing landscape. Those with a penchant for rock climbing should head to the jagged peaks of Cederberg and the ones who crave for the surf, there is no better place than the coast of Eastern Cape. Whether it is rappelling down Cape Town’s landmark Table Mountain or bungee jumping from Bloukrans Bridge on the Garden Route, you are sure to get the much-needed dose of adrenaline here. But for those seeking a milder form of outdoor adventure, hiking is you calling. What with plenty of multi-day treks being planned through national parks, bushland hikes in the Karoo semi-desert, and overnight hikes to the snow-covered Drakensberg peak. Bird watchers and panorama seekers should head to the Tsitsikamma National Park located in Southern Cape in the heart of the Garden Route. Behold its rocky shoreline, the distant mountains, quiet valleys and plunging gorges. A Marine Protected Area, it is no wonder that the coastlines support a thriving population of cormorants, Giant Kingfishers, Kelp Gulls and African Black Oystercatchers. Jungle walks, canopy tours, waterfall ziplining, segue ride are some of the popular ways of exploring Tsitsikamma.
Jungle safari in a 4X4 or a hiking trail into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape lying on the border between Botswana and South Africa can give you a perspective on the Kalahari Desert. The seasonal migration of wildebeest, springbok, eland and red hartebeest are the biggest draw to this park. Count your blessings if you can spot the black-maned Kalahari lion in the wild.
South Africa for the history lover
South Africa holiday packages
typically include a visit to the museums in Johannesburg and Robben Island as they are intrinsic to the country’s character and identity. To get a sense of the workings of the South African society and trace its evolution, browse the relics from the Apartheid era. An evocative experience, a visit to these sites is not for the faint of the heart. Smaller townships such as Langa in Cape Town and Soweto in Johannesburg offer a deeper insight into the country’s cultural fabric where the locals look forward to a future filled with promise despite a tumultuous past. Add to it the fact that South Africa is home to some of the world’s oldest archaeological sites. The extensive fossils excavated from the caves in Gauteng Province gives it both ‘the Cradle of Humankind’ and UNESCO World Heritage status. There are enough fossil remains across the country to suggest that different hominid species lived in South Africa from around three million years ago.
South Africa’s stunning natural landscapes
Lapped by the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic Oceans and peppered by dramatic rock formations, South Africa has a unique topography. Whether it is the semi-deserts of Karoo and Kalahari, the dizzying heights of the Drakensberg peak or the sweeping Blyde River Canyon, for an explorer these natural rock formations and the scope of hikes and treks it offers is unparalleled. A city as urban as Cape Town too is hemmed in by the slopes of the Table Mountain that is home to some exotic indigenous flora. And while in Cape Town if whale watching is on your mind, take the country’s most scenic coastal routes to Hermanus and Cape Point. Add to it the Cape Winelands (Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Barrydale) for its lush carpet of vineyards, the ancient forests on the Garden Route, the looming peaks lining the stretch from Cederberg to Swartberg and the sunny beaches of the Indian Ocean. Make sure you round up Gordon’s Bay, a quaint little harbour town in the Western Cape, about 50 kilometre from Cape Town. Named after the Dutch explorer, Robert Jacob Gordon, Gordon Bay has a Bikini Beach extremely popular with the students of the University of Cape Town.
Best time to visit South Africa
While South Africa is an all-weather destination, you need to choose your season with care especially if you have wildlife viewing in mind. The South African weather is marked by two distinct seasons; the dry season and the rainy season. Within that the dry season picks up in June and goes on through October. Rain showers at this time are few and far between as the climate is typically cool and sunny. Pick the cooler months between May and September to head out for a game drive because the chances of spotting the Big Five are higher as they come out to graze. For a camping safari, this however, may not be the ideal time as the nights tend to get quite nippy. Cape Town, for instance, has a hot and dry summer between November and February. But for those interested in a coastal drive to Hermanus to watch the migration of the southern right whales, July to November is an ideal time. The northern part of South Africa receives rains between November and February, a time highly preferred by ardent birders. December is South Africa’s high season, frequent thunderstorms notwithstanding. Christmas holidays bring in crowds to its beaches from all over the world spiking up accommodation rates.
Getting to South Africa
From India there are ample flights to South Africa
with a journey time of roughly 11 hours. You can fly from either New Delhi or Mumbai to Johannesburg and Cape Town, both of which have international airports. Mumbai to Johannesburg is the fastest route and can take approximately 10 hours with a layover in Addis Ababa. Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines popularly serve this route. Among other airlines flying from Mumbai to Cape Town include Air Seychelles, British Airways
, Kenya Airways, Singapore Airlines
, South African Airways, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific and Air France.