What might be a better question to ask is, not what can you do in South Africa, but what can’t you do in South Africa. From adrenalin junkies to gastronomers, from safari seekers to shopaholics, South Africa has so much to offer for absolutely every type of traveler.
With almost 20 national parks accounting for 3% of South Africa’s entire landmass, there is more than enough safari opportunity to be had. Yet, while Kruger National Park is arguably the most famous park of the entire continent and offers some of the finest game viewing available, this is only a single side of a multi-faceted, multiply fascinating country.
South Africa harbors spectacular diversity. The dramatic Cape coastline gives way to rolling hills and mountain ranges, deep river gorges, lush grasslands and finally the arid Kalahari. To explore South Africa is to travel through different climates, diverse landscapes and disparate experiences.
South Africa has a wonderfully extensive diversity of accommodation options, from pristine contemporary hotels to magically intimate tented camps. But despite this variety, all hold one thing in common: absolute excellence. South African safari accommodation isn’t dissimilar to that of Kenya and Tanzania, but it is created and managed impeccably well. Added to this, many of our preferred venues are situated within private game reserves, giving you a wonderful sense of exclusivity.
Though the international airport is in Johannesburg, to the north of the country, Cape Town is where many of our guests begin their itinerary. As you might expect from a major capital city, it offers a wide array of accommodations, some of our favorites taking in the wide coastal vistas and unfettered views of the majestic Table Mountain.
Wine is not the only attraction of the Cape Winelands. Lodges and villas are scattered throughout the region, all of impeccable standard and many featuring world-class restaurants. Though numerous contemporary hotels and villas have arisen, the influence of colonial Africa abounds, and many venues evoke the decadence of the 1900s and earlier, or draw upon European heritage, with classic English, German and Dutch design featuring prominently.
One of the defining factors of South Africa’s safari accommodation is that many of your options reside within private game reserves. Several also border the public national parks, Kruger in particular, able to enjoy the solitude of one and the greater area and animal numbers of the other. Expect traditionally-influenced luxury lodges crafted impeccably well with no attention to detail spared.
If you are searching for something different, two options are quite simply unmissable. The Green Kalahari, a more verdant corner of the greater Kalahari Desert, combines rich red sands with grass and shrubland, home to some fascinating wildlife rarely seen elsewhere. Another private game reserve, this destination offers pure escapism upon spectacular landscapes.
The second option is to sleep under the stars in one of South Africa’s renowned treehouses. Several private lodges include these wonderfully romantic treehouse bedrooms that allow you to experience the wonderful nocturnal sounds of the veldt in absolute safety and comfort.
BEST TIME: May – Sep. This is the dry season, though optimal game viewing is available throughout the year.
CLIMATE: LOW: 39-70ºF (4-25ºC) Jun – Jul / HIGH: 68-90ºF (20-33ºC) Dec – Mar
SEASONS: DRY: May – Sep / WET: Oct – April
BEST FOR: Everyone. Particularly good for more luxurious and culinary vacations
South Africa is a hugely varied country, in the animals you might find in different regions, in its climate variances from north to south, in its landscapes and even in the seasons in which you should best experience it. Though your Travel Designer is sure to craft the perfect trip for you to take full advantage of South Africa, it is worth first considering exactly what you wish to experience. This will largely determine when might be the best time to visit and, of course, which regions might provide the best opportunities.
This will largely be determined by what you wish to experience. If wildlife is your primary quarry, then three to five days would suffice when combined with other countries. However, the variance of experience warrants 10 to 14 days if you are looking for a wealth of activities, sights and locations.
With the cosmopolitan excitement of Cape Town, the lush rolling hills and cuisine of the Cape Winelands, the abundance of fauna within Kruger and surrounding game reserves and the uniqueness of the Kalahari region, your extended vacation could easily be contained within South Africa.
Again, this is dependent on the experiences you wish to enjoy. For game viewing, May to September is the optimal window for Kruger National Park to the northeast of South Africa. This is the dry season, the climate is far more pleasant and animals are in abundance.
These are, however, the cooler months, and on the southern cape, it can become quite fresh. If it is the country’s south that appeals, November to January is pleasantly warm, with the humpback whale migration also concluding in mid to late December.
All your wishes, plus a little more. South Africa is renowned for exceptional, innovative, luxurious and highly professional accommodation. From the opulent hotels in the south to the divine safari lodges of the northeast, South African accommodation is invariably exceptional.
Tented camps are a little lacking, but the wonderful facilities and traditionally-inspired architecture of the lodges and villas more than compensates for the lack of canvas.
Visas are required, though are available free of charge upon arrival. Inoculations may be recommended and we suggest you contact your travel designer or a travel medicine specialist for advice.
International flights are convenient and accessible, with most flights arriving at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo airport. Internal flights and ground transport are then easily arranged to reach your destination.
Though many languages are spoken in South Africa, with Afrkiaans – a blended evolution of Dutch with a hint of German – as the country’s official language. However, English is widely spoken throughout South Africa and you should find little issue in communication wherever you travel.
The third wealthiest of Africa’s nations, South Africa offers a premium level in all it does, including accommodation, transportation, experiences and staffing. Guides are of exceptional standard, combining warm hospitality with deeply informative experience and professional service.
As mentioned numerously, South Africa is a culinary paradise. Wherever you go, whether on a food safari through the Stellenbosch or on an actual safari through the Kalahari or Kruger, you will be spoiled for choice. South Africans take great pride in this reputation and food of all kinds is crafted, prepared and served at an exceptional standard.
Wow, wow, wow!! We are back in LA now, recovering from jet lag and still in shock and awe regarding our experience. From the moment we landed in South Africa to the moment we touched down in LA, our experience was seamless and amazing.
- Amy Lundberg
We were thrilled with the trip. It was as good as or better than described at every turn. The prep, attention to detail, willingness to make changes and ensure we were ready and prepared was outstanding. Our Travel Designer was awesome!
- Betsy Robertson
Choosing a safari expert is never easy given the choice and lists upon lists of "top suppliers"....but we made the BEST choice for us....why....because above all, Rothschild listened ....really listened to what we wanted to experience.
- Dawn Jacobs
It was a well organized trip. It was easy to get around since we were guided through all of our itinerary. Everyone was pleasant and very helpful. This is an excellent way to travel. Rothschild Safari did very well and brought a fantastic African experience to us.
- George Kowalski
My trip was beyond AMAZING! I truly enjoyed every moment. The itinerary allowed me to experience a variety of different activities all of which I enjoyed! When I originally thought of going to Africa I was just thinking of safaris. This trip opened my eyes (and my family/friend's) to so much more Africa has to offer.
- Jackie Smith
Trip was PERFECT!! Every single detail was planned out and the accommodations and people were wonderful. This trip exceeded all of our wildest expectations. Every place we stayed was just lovely and each each camp had a different vibe, which was really neat. Everyone we worked with was outstanding.
On behalf of the Moravec’s and the Stone’s……thank you for arranging a trip of a lifetime. Every detail was accounted for and all the recommendations were perfect. It honestly could not have gone any better.
Meggan Woody and Kim Killick were extraordinary at crafting THE PERFECT safari for our family of 8. They both listened (actually 'read' my email) to EXACTLY what we wanted, within the budget that we needed, and miraculously pulled off miracles in obtaining the properties that we wanted!
Every aspect of my trip went according to plan and the plan Rothschild's help me to orchestrate was magnificent! I loved every lodge that I was blessed to be in! They were all very different yet all high end and very accommodating.
It was the most exciting, scenic, inspiring trip we've ever taken. To say it was a trip of a lifetime doesn't begin to capture our experience. Pam Langhoff and the Rothschild team did an outstanding job of helping us plan this trip.
Mary & Rob Johannigman (& family)