PLANNING A SAFARI
Planning a good safari means that you will need to decide on the following:
- Where do you want to go,
- What do you want to do there,
- When do you want to go,
- How much time do you have, and
- How much do you want to spend?
WHERE TO GO?
While there are many, many options of where to go in South Africa there are two ‘big’ destinations; Kruger National Park and Cape Town.
For the first time visitor it is worthwhile including both of these on your tour.
Visiting Kruger Park generally follows a predictable course as the main activity is going on game drives in search of the Big Five. The other significant part of the safari is experiencing one of the range of superb safari lodges either in the Park or on its borders.
This said there are a number of side-shows and places to visit in the dramatic Drakensberg Mountains and the region just to the west of the Park which will add variety to your safari if you have the time. There is an old gold mining town with period buildings or a day drive through the mountains that takes in the Blyde River Canyon, various waterfalls and magnificent views over the Kruger Park. You can go on an elephant ride, visit a chimpanzee sanctuary, traverse through the forest tree tops on a sky-way, ride horses or have a day of ‘extreme’ activities among the many options.
Cape Town on the other hand is not about any one particular experience although going up Table Mountain is a ‘must’ if the Table Cloth clouds allow.
There is a huge choice of things to do in Cape Town apart from just chilling out. These range from the rush of shark diving or helicopter flips to the relaxed ambiance of a wine tour. Go to our Cape Town Day Tours page to get an idea.
Depending on the time you have available you may need to fly between Kruger / Johannesburg and Cape Town but if you are not under too much pressure you can do a road tour that includes both and this will also take in other interesting and remarkable regions of the country. It is worth while considering flying into Johannesburg and departing directly out of South Africa from Cape Town if you go with this option.
If you have been to South Africa before, you may want to vary your tour to include some unusual experiences like visiting the stark expanses of the arid Karoo or the magnificent Namaqualand region when millions of desert plants come into flower in August?
There are more than 30 national or private parks scattered around the country and while not all of them have the Big Five they each have something unique to offer.
As well as a huge selection of these typical African safaris involving wildlife, bush lodges and ethnic cultures there is an enormous range of places to visit that include the more usual activities such as; golf, health spa’s, sailing, deep sea fishing, helicopter rides, quad biking, ballooning, diving, horse riding, battlefield tours, cycling, fly fishing, wine tours, art galleries, museums, and much, much more.
There is also the opportunity to go to one of the neighbouring countries as part of your visit and while this web site does not include all this information yet we can send you some options. Please use our Contact Us so we can forward you more information.
In Botswana the Okavango Delta, Makgadikgadi Pans and the Chobe National Parks are spectacular. Namibia is principally desert and offers some of the most stark and dramatic landscapes imaginable. The arid Etosha National Park is one of the prime destinations along with the ancient sand dunes of Sossusvlei. The Victoria Falls lies on the mighty Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe and the Mozambique coast has idyllic beaches and tropical islands to offer.
WHAT TO DO?
Apart from the obvious attractions at the main destinations there are many activities to choose from. Here are some of the most common choices:
Big Five Game Viewing
South Africa is probably the only country where you have a good chance to see the Big Five on a short trip (Lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo). While all countries have many or all of these animals they may be widely dispersed and seeing them at one destination is likely to be difficult. The scarcity of rhino through poaching and the nocturnal behaviour of leopard are the main reasons.
GENERAL GAME VIEWING & BIRDING
Generally, game viewing safaris take place within the countries National Parks or in private game reserves and concessions. There is no shortage of really top quality game viewing in South Africa even though you won`t necessarily find the Big Five at all locations. There are about 150 species of mammal and 500 species of bird in the region. Specialised birding tours can be arranged on request.
LUXURY SAFARI LODGES
These are generally situated within private game reserves or on private property often on the periphery of national parks. There are also a few lodges actually situated within the parks on concession land. The choice is huge and there are various levels of luxury available depending on your budget. The really luxurious lodges are almost reason in themselves for visiting!
AFRICAN CULTURAL EXPERIENCES
There is almost always some local cultural display at all major tourist destinations. It may be visiting a tribal village or a display of rituals, local dress or dancing.
There are so many places to see over and above the major sites that you either need to know about them in advance or enquire when you are in the area and organize a local tour. If you already know of something specific that you want to do then note it in the `comments` section of the Enquire/Book page and we will see if/how we can include it in your safari.
EXTREME ADVENTURES & OUTDOOR SPORTS
South Africa has a huge range of extreme adventures and sports on offer including Bungee, Scuba, Snorkeling, Rafting, Canoeing, Kayaking, Quad biking, Hiking, Horse riding, Climbing, Abseiling, Skydiving, Paragliding, Hang gliding, Micro lighting, Ballooning, Cycling, Mountain Biking, Waterskiing, Surfing, Jet Skiing, Sailing, Cage Diving with Sharks, Whale Watching, Elephant Back Safaris, Fly Fishing, Coarse Fishing, If the activity you want to do is not listed here please enquire.
The main cities have a range of half day or day tours within easy reach. See our Day Tours pages for Pretoria/Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
4 X 4 SAFARIS & SELF-DRIVE HOLIDAYS
There are numerous specialists who either take 4X4 tours themselves or hire vehicles for self drive safaris. South Africa has plenty of operators and it is possible to hire a vehicle in SA and journey to the neighbouring countries. Training is also available.
The East Coast is the best area for diving because the warm Mozambique current is more amenable to divers! There are a number of ship wrecks along the coastline which provide great dive sites. There are plenty of places to learn on the coast as well as in the main cities and these generally offer trips to the coast at their culmination.
Golf is huge in South Africa and there are many world class courses in the region. There are a selection of regional scheduled tours available, although tailor-made options can be arranged for golf groups. There are often courses within reach of the main tourist destinations and so these can be added on a tour where practical.
These are probably best if tailored specifically to your needs but you can take a scheduled safari if you prefer. These can be structured around all the main tourist destinations but we can also create you a completely unique experience.
HIKING, CAMPING & OUTDOORS
Well organized hiking trails exist in many parts of South Africa. Camping is very widely spread and most of the prime destinations have facilities either privately or through the National Parks. Most of these are well organized with good security and ablutions.
OFF-SHORE WATER ACTIVITIES
There is a wide range of sea based safaris on offer. From deep sea and shoreline fishing to scuba diving, snorkeling, whale and dolphin sighting, surfing, kayaking, sailing, power boating, jet skiing and more.
As well as off-shore fishing on both the cold western seaboard and the warm east coast there are plenty of places to fish for freshwater species such as trout, bass, yellow fish and bream. Fly-fishing safaris are popular both inland and off-shore.
You may have seen other activities in a book or on the internet that you would like to try. Please include your request or ideas on the electronic booking form (Enquire/Book) and we will see if we can set it up.
WHEN TO GO?
South Africa falls within the Southern Hemisphere and obviously winter and summer are at opposite times to the Northern Hemisphere. Ironically, the winter months and between-the-seasons are the best times to visit here for game viewing. The temperatures are more forgiving, the bush is dry and less dense making game viewing easier and the scarcity of water mean that the animals gather at the waterholes. The rains break in November and December after the intense heat of October. This period just before the rains can be the most dramatic time in the bush as the battle for survival throws the wildlife into a cauldron of confrontation. This said, the drama and raw power of a summer thunderstorm is also a spectacle to behold and the rejuvenation of life in these marginal areas is wonderfully uplifting, obviously,latitude, altitude, proximity to the sea and the deserts effect local weather and temperatures.
Unlike the rest of South Africa, Cape Town falls into the Mediterranean climatic condition and therefore has its rain in winter. The summers are hot and dry and the best time to visit is between December and April although a month either side is often all right.
See the Temperatures section on the South African Fact File page to get an indication of what to expect.
HOW MUCH DO YOU HAVE TO SPEND?
You will no doubt know what money you have at your disposal and the best way to find out what you can do is to look at some of the scheduled safari packages on our SA Safari page. Prices are seasonal to a degree and rise towards the year end although they do vary from operator to operator.
There are often great deals to be had during off-peak times and the reduced number of visitors can make for a better safari.
There are some absolutely stunning safari lodges at the prime locations but there is also a wide range of other types of accommodation to suit all budgets and even camping is available across much of the country. As a guide, lodges can range from as little as $US 100 pp/pn (per person per night sharing) up to $US 2000 pp/pn with much in-between. Hotels range from 5 star to boutique hotels, chain hotels and to motels and prices vary from $US 500 per person per night to $US 50 pp/pn. In South Africa there is also plenty of bed and breakfast accommodation of varying degrees of quality ranging from about $US 40 to $US 120 per night.
Bear in mind that much depends on exchange rates and these are based on a strong rand.
While distances are big in South Africa the roads are good and so one can get from north to south in a few days of solid driving. However, if time is an issue it is possible to take scheduled or private flights to many destinations around South Africa but it will obviously add to the cost.
When calculating your budget for your trip be aware of what is included in the price. Luxury lodges and safari camps tend to be all inclusive (including game drives) but with hotels for example, these are extras that need to be paid for separately.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE?
Most people have many too commitments in life to be able to travel open ended. What you manage to do is largely driven by time and budget.
Distances are big in South Africa so flying between destinations obviously cuts down on travel time. Having made the effort to come to Africa you should allow yourself a minimum of a week but 10 days to two weeks is definitely preferable.