Gaze out over Cape Town from iconic Table Mountain, catch a glimpse of a majestic lion then take an emotional tour through historic battlefields – holidays in South Africa are one of a kind
A holiday in South Africa is the taste of a plum-tinged red from the vines of a world-class winery, or your first sight of a leopard slinking silently through the grass on a game drive at dawn. It’s a place to experience the kind of wonders you’d never expect to find in one country: whale-watching from your hotel room in Hermanus, internationally famous wineries in the Cape Winelands, vintage train journeys and safaris where you can take a walk on the wild side with Africa’s Big Five in Kruger National Park. We’ve been to South Africa and we know it well. We can tell you where to find the best afternoon tea in Cape Town, the most postcard-worthy picnic spots in the Winelands and where you can sleep in a treehouse on safari. Get in touch with us and we can help you plan your ultimate South Africa holiday.
South Africa’s seasons are the reverse of ours in the UK as it lies in the Southern Hemisphere. The most popular time to visit South Africa is in December and January, which are its main summer holiday months when temperatures average at around 21⁰C and there are 11 hours of sunshine per day. The best time to visit Kruger National Park is between May and September when the days are cool and wildlife are easier to spot in the shorter grass. For whale watching, visit between June and December. The shoulder seasons around April and October are also great times to visit South Africa for good weather and wildlife viewing with fewer crowds than you’ll find at the height of summer. From the beginning of July to the end of September, you can expect cold conditions in most of the country and rain in the Western Cape. Travelling with children – important information South Africa has exceptionally strict entry requirements for travelling with children under the age of 18. We strongly recommend checking online or with your Personal Travel Expert to ensure you have the required documents in order to travel
South Africa holiday highlights
Cape Town, where most travellers start their South Africa holiday, is a city that embraces its heritage and stunning surrounds. Check in to your hotel and head straight out to explore once you land – a rare luxury for somewhere so far flung. It’s where the jetlag-free, two-hour time difference is a bonus. Classic hotels serve up afternoon tea and simple indulgences like eating good food, drinking fine wine and taking leisurely strolls along the Victoria & Alfred waterfront are kept sacred, although a modern age is just around the corner with Africa’s largest contemporary art museum, the Zeitz MOCAA. There are unreal city views that melt into the ocean from Table Mountain – we recommend walking up if you’re up to it and rewarding yourself with a cable car ride down (pre-booking is advised). Just an hour inland, go wine tasting in the picture-postcard Winelands where kitchens produce flavoursome food worthy of each pairing. In game reserves like the famous Kruger National Park, a Big Five safari welcomes you into the fold of the bushveld and its mesmerising wildlife. Early starts are alleviated by hot coffee and biscuits as you venture into the wild by 4x4 in search of both predators and prey and at night, you’ll gather under the stars at a boma for hearty food by the bonfire. This is the ultimate country for city, wine and safari – and it’s still vast enough to have hidden, off-the-beaten-track places to discover like KwaZulu-Natal.
Where is South Africa?
South Africa is at the southernmost tip of Africa. Its southern half has a coastline of over 1700 miles and is where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet. South Africa shares its northern borders with several African countries so you can easily create multi-centre holiday to combine a safari in Kruger National Park in the north-east with a trip to Victoria Falls, or a self-drive on the Garden Route with a beach escape on Mauritius or the Seychelles with direct flights from Johannesburg.
The most convenient way to get around South Africa is by driving. South Africans drive on the left-hand side and roads are generally well-maintained and signposted in English. Driving also means you’ll be able to reach smaller towns and combine the best sightseeing spots of the Western Cape such as Hermanus for whale watching and beautiful coastal drives on the Cape Peninsula. If you’re not driving or want to combine the popular Western Cape with stops in other regions, there are regular domestic flights between Cape Town, Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, Durban and Johannesburg. Kruger National Park is well connected with three airports and many game reserves have their own airstrips for convenient access and shorter transfer times.
Food & drink
Meat plays a big part in South African cuisine: there’s biltong (a thick beef jerky), bobotie (a Cape Malay dish reminiscent to moussaka) and bunny chow (hollowed-out bread filled with curry). You might also find delicacies such as springbok and ostrich on the menu, while seafood is popular on the coast like in Knysna, which is famous for its annual oyster festival. Braais (South African barbecues) take advantage of the sizzling weather in the summer months and on safari, lodges typically have a boma, an outdoor dining space with a bonfire where safari goers can share stories over dinner. For dessert or something sweet to go with your coffee, there’s melktart, vanilla custard tart, and koeksister, fried and glazed twists of dough. Food and drink is good value in South Africa because of the favourable exchange rate – all the more reason to sample plenty of the signature pinotages. The standard of wine is excellent and cheaper than in the UK. Amarula, a sweet and creamy liqueur, is another popular South African export, and for non-alcoholic refreshment there’s rooibos (red bush) tea. Food is a highlight in Cape Town, where locals and visitors flock to favourite haunts for Sunday brunches and afternoon tea.
Shopping in South Africa can be exceptionally good value thanks to the favourable exchange rates of the pound against the South African rand. Wine is particularly worth indulging in as you can get a very good bottle of wine for around £5 and you can ship a box of your favourite back home if the shipping cost works out reasonably enough. Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is the go-to spot for shopping with plenty of souvenir options from high-end South Africa designer shops to local boutique stalls for handcrafted jewellery and textiles.
The Complete Dubai Tour Planned by Experts
- Big Five safaris (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant) in Kruger, KwaZulu-Natal, the malaria-free Eastern Cape and Madikwe
- Self-drive adventures with left-hand-side driving and glorious landscapes along the Garden Route
- Excellent dining and spellbinding sights in one-of-a-kind Cape Town
- Vineyard estate stays and the Franschhoek Wine Tram in the Cape Winelands
- A rich variety of colonial residences, boutique hotels and luxury safari lodges
Resorts & hotels in South Africa
Combine South Africa’s picturesque landscapes with island retreats, spectacular wildlife viewing or a Middle East stopover.South Africa’s easy driving routes and top game reserves make it an unmissable long-haul destination. But sharing a border with other wildlife-rich nations, plus easy airline access to world-class beaches and cities beyond, makes it easy to combine with a range of other countries on a multi-centre holiday. For an unforgettable African safari experience, you may fancy adding a trip to neighbouring Botswana, home of the impressive Okavango Delta. You could also cross the border to explore Zambia and Zimbabwe’s wetlands and National Parks, and the away-from-it-all beaches of Mozambique are just a short flight away. Two popular island choices for a multi-centre escape with South Africa are Mauritius and The Seychelles. Unspoilt beaches and thrilling watersports are particular highlights, and these islands are superb options for an exotic honeymoon. You could also break up your journey with a short stay in Arabia. From spectacular architecture in Oman, to the lavishness of Qatar or the UAE, the Middle East has lots of increasingly popular stopover destinations. Whichever combination you opt for, and however you want to unwind, we’ll tailor your multi-trip experience in a way that works best for you.
Our guide to the best activities and attractions in South Africa
There is so much to do in South Africa that one of the trickiest things about a holiday here is deciding how to see it all. On the coasts, marine tours mean you’ll be with experts for the best chances of spotting whales or dolphins in the wild. You can even get up close to a shark if you’re feeling daring enough. Whether it’s a walking tour with a local in the know or a popular excursion worth booking in advance like the Franschhoek Wine Tram, we have a selection of activities that can be pre-booked by your Personal Travel Expert so you can make the most of your holiday.
Apartheid Museum, Newtown & Maboneng Private Tour
Learn about the some of the most important aspects of South African history and culture on this private Johannesburg tour. Visit the Apartheid Museum to learn about the rise and fall of the segregation in South Africa. After lunch, you’ll get to explore Johannesburg’s inner city area of Newtown, known for its graffiti art, and up-and-coming Maboneng where there’s plenty of music, art galleries and dining options. Your local tour guide will be able to introduce you to local residents who you can chat to and hear all about what living in Johannesburg is like. Included/Excluded:Includes: Private Newtown and Maboneng tour, guided Apartheid Museum tour, lunch, 2 x non-alcoholic beverages, 2 x water and transfers.
Canopy Tour, Tsitsikamma
Glide among the treetops in this 30-metre-high zip line tour of Tsitsikamma National Park. Enjoy unrivalled views as you make your way along ten treetop platforms with guides who’ll teach you about the protected forest – one which is populated by giant Outeniqua yellowwood trees up to 700 years old. On your wired flight, you might even be able get a closer look at the park’s brightly coloured birdlife, including the Narina trogon and Knysna loerie. (Ages seven and over).
Cape Peninsula Tour, Cape Town
Dipping in and out of the waves, strolling around town and preening on the sand – the penguins at Boulders Beach are a charming sight. During this Cape Peninsula tour, you’ll experience some of the most spectacular views in the world during a drive along the Atlantic Coast. Pass through the fishing village of Hout Bay, where you can take an optional boat trip to Duiker Island to see Cape Fur seals, and visit Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.Duration: Full day (approx. 8-9 hours)Start time:9am (collection time 8-8.50am)End time:5-6pmIncluded/Excluded:Includes: Return transfers to City, Sea Point and Camps Bay hotels. Excludes: Food and drink, boat trip to Duiker Island and ticket to Boulders Beach penguins.Max. group size:40Other information:Departs daily. Conducted with dual-language commentary in German and English on selected days.
Cape Town scenic helicopter tour
Experience the breathtaking beauty of Cape Town from above with the towering form of Table Mountain looming above the city and the tiny speck of Robben Island just visible. Head out from the Atlantico via Hout Bay and Chapman’s Peak and over the lagoon-laced beauty of Noordhoek beach. From here, you’ll continue out over Sun Valley to the pretty False Bay coastline, following it along to the fishing villages of Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay. Duration:Up to 30 minutes.
Close Encounter Whale Tour, Plettenberg Bay
Enjoy a breakfast and commence on a venture to get up close and personal to some of the most majestic beings in the animal kingdom. This tour runs between June and November, giving you more chance to see humpback and southern right whales who both visit around these months, alongside the resident Bryde’s whale. (Wildlife sightings cannot be guaranteed.)
Cradle of Humankind Private Tour
Step back to the beginning of mankind at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, where over 40% of the world’s known human ancestor fossils have been found. Visit the Maropeng Visitor Centre, which was designed to capture the four elements – earth, fire water and air – and is where you’ll go on an underground boat ride to retrace the evolution of our planet. Continue to the Sterkfontein Caves, a site where fossils including ‘Mrs Ples’ and ‘Little Foot’ have been found, giving us vital information about our ancestors and helping us piece together the story of where we came from.
Dolphin Marine Eco Tour, Plettenberg Bay
Take a trip around the bay to try and spot various marine wildlife along South Africa’s Garden Route. Wildlife you might spot includes bottlenose and humpback dolphins; Bryde’s, southern right and humpback whales and a Cape fur seal colony. Tour runs January-May. (Wildlife sightings cannot be guaranteed.)Duration:2 hours
Foodies on Foot, Stellenbosch
Experience a taste of historic Stellenbosch on a walking tour and learn about this famous Cape Winelands town with a knowledgeable guide, while sampling signature culinary offerings including South African delicacy beef biltong, artisanal chocolate and wine pairings.Duration:3½ hours
Franschhoek Wine Tram
This is the quintessential way to experience the famous Franschhoek wineries. Hop on and off this nostalgic tram on the popular Blue Route and enjoy sensational views as you stop at some of Franschhoek’s award-winning wineries. Each vineyard offers a selection of experiences including wine, cheese and chocolate tastings, cellar tours and picnics (pre-booking required). Duration:6 hours
Great White Shark Cage Diving
Come face-to-face with one of nature’s most magnificent creatures during a shark cage dive in the open ocean. Head out on a catamaran in Gansbaai, the ‘great white shark capital of the world', with White Shark Project’s passionate team who are as dedicated to giving you an epic experience as they are to the welfare of these complex predators – all dives are carried out ethically. An experienced dive master will guide you through your dive and a marine biologist is on board to answer any questions. All equipment is provided as well as breakfast, snacks and a post-dive soup to warm you up. Duration: Full day (approx. 11 hours)Start time:6amEnd time:5pmIncluded/Excluded:Includes: Lunch and transport.Max. group size:40Transport details:MinibusWhat to take:Suntan lotion, hat, sunglasses, warm jacket, swimming costume, towel and comfortable shoes. Sea-sickness tablets are also advisable.Other information:Departs daily. Voucher required. Operator will reconfirm the day before.
Knysna Oyster Cruise
Take a scenic cruise around Knysna and across its famous lagoon. Pass ‘The Heads’, a pair of cliffs that form a natural opening into the lagoon and out into the Indian Ocean. Learn about one of the world’s most decadent foods as you try some of the freshest oysters you can find. A famous delicacy in Knysna, you’ll taste both wild and cultivated oysters and, accompanied with some wine, it’s a luxurious way to experience the local cuisine. Duration:1½ hours
Meerkat Excursion, Oudtshoorn
Rise early to catch the start of a meerkat’s day on this morning excursion. As a clan (or a gang, or mob) of meerkats come out of their burrows to go about their daily activities, you’ll experience some time up-close to these endearing upright creatures with a knowledgeable guide to fill you in on the goings on. Endemic only to Southern Africa, this is a wonderful way to view these animals in their natural habitat.Duration:2-3 hours
Pretoria City Private Tour
See the key sites of Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, also known as ‘Jacaranda City’ after the blue flowering trees that line its streets. Start your half-day private tour at the Voortrekker Monument to find out about the history of the Afrikaner and enjoy the great city views from its vantage point. Next, visit the Kruger House Museum, the last home of President Paul Kruger, and the historic Church Square where you’ll see the Palace of Justice, where President Nelson Mandela was tried and charged with treason. End with a possible photo stop at the Union Buildings.
Newtown & Maboneng Private Tour
Explore two of Johannesburg’s most vibrant neighbourhoods in this full-day private tour. Begin in Newtown, where you’ll take a tour of the graffiti murals before lunch at a local restaurant. Afterwards, take a short walking tour of up-and-coming Maboneng where you’ll visit notable buildings like Art on Main and 12 Decades to view local artwork. Your local tour guide will be able to introduce you to local residents who you can chat to and hear all about what living in Johannesburg is like. Included/Excluded:Includes: Private Newtown and Maboneng tour, lunch, 2 x non-alcoholic beverages, 2 x water and transfers.
Sidecar tour of the city
Experience a tour of Cape Town like no other – in the sidecar of a decommissioned military bike. Strap in for a ride along the wondrous landscape of the Chapman's Peak Drive via the Atlantic Seaboard, where you'll pass by the scenic sights of Camps Bay, Hout Bay and the Constantia winelands in this unique adventure. Suitable for all ages, there are also longer sidecar tours available with the option to tailor-make your own two, four or eight-hour routes.Duration:2 hours
Walk to Freedom Tour
Experience the raw energy of the ‘Rainbow Nation’. You’ll explore the District Six Museum, which chronicles the quashing of this diverse community during the apartheid era, and Tsonga Environmental Gardens. Visit an informal spaza shop, a 'shebeen' (pub) and a hostel for a first-hand taste of township culture, before returning the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront for a ferry ride to Robben Island, a World Heritage Site where Nelson Mandela was once imprisoned.Duration:Full Day (approx. 7.5-10 hours)Start time:Collection from 8-8.30amIncluded/Excluded:Includes: Transport. Excludes: Food and drink.Max. group size:No maximumTransport details:MinibusOther information:Departs daily. Ferry ride depends on weather and ferry being in operation. Transfers to Camps Bay hotels available at extra cost.
Waterfront Sunset Cruise
Cape Town boasts one of the finest locations for spectacular sunsets that sink into the sea. Jump aboard a cruiser and sip a glass of bubbly as you take in views of Table Mountain and the city. Your boats – Spirit of Victoria and Esperance – will follow the wind out of the harbour and sail across the bay towards Milnerton Lighthouse. You’ll then return to Granger Bay in the lee of the mountain. A bar will be available for your convenience and a warm jacket is recommended.Duration:1½ hoursStart time:5pm-7pm depending on the time of yearIncluded/Excluded:Includes: Glass of sparkling wine and transport. Excludes: All other food and drink.Max. group size:Varies depending on vesselTransport details:Sail boatOther information:Departs daily (weather permitting). Voucher required. Please ask your hotel to re-confirm your attendance. Most staff speak English, Afrikaans and Xhosa.
Winelands tour from Cape Town
Gently twirl the wine in your glass, breathing in its fruity aroma during this tour through South Africa’s stunning rolling vineyards. On this full day exploring the beautiful Winelands region, you’ll visit Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, stopping in each for a taster of the superb wine. While at each estate, you’ll also hear a talk from an expert, offering a fascinating insight into the production of the grape and how this becomes wine.Duration:Full day (approx. 8-9 hours)Start time:9am (collection time 8-8.50am)End time:5-6pmIncluded/Excluded:Includes: Transport and wine tasting. Excludes: Food and drink.Max. group size:40Other information:Departs daily. Conducted in with dual-language commentary in German and English on selected days. Tour may run in reverse.