South Africa attracts holidaymakers for lots of different reasons. For some, it’s the chance to explore countless vineyards; for others, it’s to hit the beach and catch some serious sun. And for me? Personally, it’s the wildlife that enchants me the most. If you’re considering taking a break here this year, read on for my top travel tips.
When to travel
One of the burning questions when organising a holiday is ‘When is the best time to travel?’. Luckily, South Africa’s pretty much a year-round destination, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to give any thought to when you book for.
For instance, school holidays play a huge part in establishing peak times here (which I suppose is true of a lot of destinations, but trust me, it’s a big deal here). Generally speaking, the Christmas period – which is during the South African summer – and Easter are pretty packed. So, if you’re averse to crowds, you might be best off travelling at another time.
Now, while the cities tend to be very busy during the school holidays, it’s the winter period (June to September in South Africa) that gets the most hectic in the national parks. Why? Well, this is the time when the most water is available, which means the animals come up to sup from shared pools – a fact that makes them much easier to spot at this time of year.
In terms of getting a good overall balance between enjoying some nice weather and avoiding the crowds, spring – which is mid-September to November – and April and May (autumn) are decent times to visit pretty much anywhere in the country.
Handy hints for first-time safari-goers
If you’ve decided that you want to go on your first safari this year, let me recommend a trip to Kruger National Park. Now, South Africa is hardly short of national parks and wildlife reserves, but Kruger is the ultimate destination – hence why I think it’s such a good place for experiencing your first safari.
A word of warning, though – while fantastic and beautiful, Kruger tends to get pretty busy. There is scope for spreading out and finding quieter corners, but it is worth bearing in mind that you’re unlikely to feel like you’re venturing into an undiscovered wilderness.
As I mentioned briefly above, the best time for safaris here is between June and December, so time your visit for this period if you can. A lot of wildlife spotting takes place very early in the morning and, as it can actually get quite cold at that time of day and at this point in the year, it’s worth layering up to keep warm – you can then shed a few layers when it heats up later on.
Attractions not to miss in Cape Town
Cape Town is, arguably, South Africa’s most exciting city and definitely one of its top destinations. So, if you can either base yourself here or at least spend a day or so exploring its attractions, you’ll really add something to your holiday.
There is just so much to see in Cape Town that it’s hard to narrow it down, but, in my opinion, Table Mountain, Boulders Beach and Robben Island really shouldn’t be missed. You can ascend to the top of Table Mountain, which forms the city’s backdrop, in just five minutes with the Cableway – and be rewarded with 360-degree views.
Robben Island, meanwhile, is a fantastic living museum that tells you about some of the most important points in the country’s history. Perhaps even more interestingly, it was once where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.
Lastly, Boulders Beach is a great place to relax and catch some sun. My favourite thing about it, though, is that you can also see African penguins here!