What to see in South Africa and best time to go

Jan 30th, 2007, 07:25 PM
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What to see in South Africa and best time to go

Hello all,

I am starting to think about a possible trip to South Africa. I was thinking Kruger, Victoria Falls, and then seeing some cities in South Africa, such as Cape Town.

What would be the top 5-10 sites/places to see in S. Africa and what would be the best time for them?

We went to Kenya and Tanzania in june-july 2006 and LOVED it.

africatravel is offline  
Jan 30th, 2007, 07:49 PM
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In SA itself? game viewing-wise any of the lodges in the Sabi Sands area adjoining the Kruger park.......

Others can provide you more info on Cape Town etc etc.,
Jan 30th, 2007, 08:51 PM
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Victoria Falls isn't in South Africa, it's Zambia/Zimbabwe and quite an expense to fly there from Joburg and or Capetown
matnikstym is offline  
Jan 31st, 2007, 04:14 AM
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You'll love SA, it's a wonderful country! I keep going back there even though there are so many other places in Africa I'd like to visit.

The best time to go to SA depends on what your focus is. There are effectively two major weather zones in SA -- the Western Cape (Cape Town, Winelands, Garden Route) and the rest of the country, including the Sabi Sands / Kruger area. The Western Cape has a Mediterranean climate with winter rain (though generally only afternoon thundershowers) and summer sun, whereas the rest of the country gets summer rain and winter sun. So if your emphasis is on game-viewing, the best time to go is in the winter when it's dry and sunny -- July - September are pretty much ideal, and October is also very nice if a bit dusty at times. However, the Cape will be rainy during that period. If your focus is the Cape, the best time to go is April or early May, during the autumn when there are warm days, crisp nights, and the leaves in the winelands are so colourful.

For your safari, I'd second Hari's recommendation of the Sabi Sands -- this private area to the west of Kruger has the best game-viewing in South Africa, especially for close encounters with big cats. The Sabi Sands is divided into private reserves of varying size, each with a few safari lodges. The major advantages of being in the Sabi Sands as opposed to Kruger are: professional rangers and trackers who will spot things you never would have seen; the ability to go off-road in search of wildlife (key for getting close to big cats); night drives (many of the most interesting animals are primarily active at night); and a more exclusive, private experience (fewer vehicles).

Mala Mala, Singita, and Londolozi are the three largest private reserves in the Sabi Sands, and have received very good reviews from people on this board. I've stayed at all three and they have superb game-viewing. Mala Mala is the best for hard-core game-viewing -- the rangers are excellent and they put game-viewing above all else. Londoz is particularly known for its leopards and offers a well-rounded bush experience. Singita is by far the most luxurious option.




I'd recommend at least three and ideally four or five days in the Sabi Sands.

If you'd like to spend more time on safari in a contrasting environment, I'd recommend either Phinda in KwaZuluNatal or Pafuri in the far north of Kruger National Park. Phinda is much greener and wetter and includes actvities such as rhino tracking, scuba safaris, and observing endangered sea turtles. Pafuri is on the opposite end of the spectrum -- much drier, and quite close to the Makuleke ruins for a more cultural experience.



Following your safari (or before it -- it's up to you) you could take in the Western Cape. It would be easy to spend an entire week in Cape Town, as there's so much to see and do. In addition to the city itself, there's Cape Point; Simonstown (where you can see penguins -- be sure to stand upwind!); Table Mountain; Robben Island, to name only a few areas you may wish to visit.

If you enjoy food and wine, a few days in the Winelands is a must -- the restaurants are fabulous and the area is lovely, with rolling hills covered with vines and dotted with white Cape Dutch manor houses. When I'm in the Winelands I prefer to stay in Franschhoek as many of the best restaurants are located in this little town, and it's about midway between the two other major winelands towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl. I'd recommend at least one night (ideally 2 or 3) for the Winelands.

You could then drive from Franschhoek down along the coast to the Garden Route, stopping over in Hermanus for whale watching (excellent in June and July) or Gaansbaai for cage diving with white sharks. I haven't done the latter but it sounds like it would be a lot of fun. If you didn't want to drive the Garden Route (or didn't have time) you could visit Hermanus and Gaansbaai as an all-day trip from Cape Town -- though if you want to do the shark diving I'd recommend staying overnight in case you don't get lucky on the first day you're there.

A slow meander along the Garden Route could take 5-7 days. I prefer to stop in one town and base myself there, doing day trips by car. My favourite is Knysna because of the Featherbed Nature Reserve, where you can go abseiling off the heads. Definitely do the treetops tour in Tsitsikamma if you drive the Garden Route.

Hope this gives you some ideas. Have fun planning your trip!

jasher is offline  
Jan 31st, 2007, 04:17 AM
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Sorry, forgot to mention Vic Falls. As Dennis points out, you'll need to fly to Zambia or Zimbabwe to see the falls, which can add quite a bit to the expense of your trip. Most people fly out of Joburg. IMO it's a lot of expense and time just to see the falls -- if you really want to include them you may want to consider doing your safari in Botswana, Zambia, or Zimbabwe as this will make the logistics a bit simpler and will mean that you're not spending a lot of money just for a night or two at the falls.

jasher is offline  
Jan 31st, 2007, 09:32 AM
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As mentioned, Victoria Falls combines more logically with Zambia or Botswana to save time and money.

For best time to visit game parks, including Kruger and Sabi Sands, here is a link.


Here's one more vote for a Sabi Sands stop. I chose Mala Mala for my first visit in June, along with Phinda. You can actually spend a week at Phinda, doing something different each day from scuba diving, to leopard tracking, to rhino tracking on foot, to village visits, etc.

Here are two websites with Top 10s. One is a Top 10 for South Africa and the other for Cape Town.



In Cape Town, you might wish to include:
Robben Island, with a ferry leaving from the city itself. The whole trip takes about 3 1/2 hours.

Whale trips are good July-Nov with Aug and Sept being best. Great White Shark viewing is good May to Oct with June to July being best.

Boulders Bay in Simonstown has penguins and you can even kayak with them.

Spier is a winery with a cheetah outreach program where you can visit with a young cheetah.

You can do an afternoon chimp habituation walk, similar to that with the gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda.

You can do a couple-hour trip to Kirstenbosch Gardens.

You can spend from a couple of hours to a couple of days in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.

(My first Cape Town visit includes these activities, except for the whales.)

I'm sure Table Mountain would be a great place to visit in Cape Town, too.

If you decide on SA and Vic Falls, I know there is an early morning Cape Town to Lusaka flight that stops in Johannesburg, so you could depart from there too. You'd get to Lusaka by about 1:00 pm.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 31st, 2007, 09:59 AM
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THANKS A LOT for all this information. I really appreciate it!
africatravel is offline  
Jan 31st, 2007, 10:00 AM
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Where can you do a chimp walk near Cape Town?
Patty is offline  
Jan 31st, 2007, 10:31 AM
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saving for future trip
ekscrunchy is offline  
Jan 31st, 2007, 05:19 PM
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Oops, sorry baboons. No chimps, just baboons.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 02:22 AM
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HI. I actually live in Johannesburg in Sunny South Africa and find it interesting to read the comments from other "tourists" who have been to South Africa. All the places they recommend you visit are tourist traps. They are hugely expesive - yes they are nice but there are just as many nice places at half the price. I think that most people who log onto this website are budget travellers. Therefore I think realistic places are not mentioned as Travel agents have booked all the other "tourists" onto expensive packages.

Here are MY recommendations. I am not a travel agent (infact I am a sales rep and I sell gift bags and ribbons...)

Pielansburg Game Reserve in the North West Province. This is the game reserve next to the huge entertainment venue - Sun City.

Pielansburg is much better than Kruger National Park for a number of reasons:
You do not need a "wild card" to enter the park. The fee to enter the park is the same for South Africans as it is for "tourists". It is also half the price of the entry fee of the Kruger Park.

Pielansburg is a maleria free area. Kruger park is not. Maleria tables cost money.

It is only two hours to get to Pielansburg from Johannesburg. Kruger Park is 5 hours from Johannesburg.

These are my tips for the day.

I look forward to helping others as so may people helped me when I booked my trip to Thailand.

Good luck.


Jenny - Johannesburg South Africa
SAJenny is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 02:52 AM
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I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree with the recommendation of Pilanesberg. IMO visiting Pilanesberg is more like visiting a 'safari park' in the UK than like being in the bush.

It's certainly true that it's less expensive than visiting a private game reserve or even Kruger National Park, but if you're paying a lot of money for the flight and coming a long way to experience the bush you'd get better value for money elsewhere.

If you do want to visit a malaria free reserve, there are reserves in the Eastern Cape which are malaria free, such as Kwandwe.

Just my .02 pence.

jasher is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 09:54 AM
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Can anyone tell me exactly where the baboon walks take place? I looked on their website but couldn't really tell (other than "close to Cape Town"). Thanks.
Patty is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 11:52 AM
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Here is the info I have received on the baboon walk.

The Baboon Walk departs from Glen Cairn. Take the Rikki Taxi which runs down the main road of Simons Town. They will drop you at the Baboon Matters Office, and bring you back. The drive is only 7 minutes from your the Sea Spray, where I'll be staying in Simons Town.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 5th, 2007, 10:07 AM
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Thanks, Lynn!
Patty is offline  
Feb 11th, 2007, 05:41 AM
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The Pilanesburg is an awesome property Julian, YOU will se bblack rhino, wild dog, brown hyena, plus myriad other plains game. you can enjoy some really rustic bush camps there too.

if you were after a five star lodge tshukudu is PRIME & if you wanted a more relaxed rustic, self drive experience their bush camps are exceptional value.

It is about as close to a wilderness experience as you can get without walking in.
mkhonzo is offline  
Feb 17th, 2007, 04:57 PM
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We've stayed a couple of times in rondavels in differnt areas of Kruger Park, and had a most exciting time getting up at dawn and travelling in our rental car by ourselves on back roads (with a good map) to find our own wild animals. Nothing can beat the thrill of being face to face with your own elephant, giraffe of buffalo etc. I was like a child at Christmas, waiting for the next morning! In these cabins, you have to self-cater, but there are restaurants at several camps.

Carrabella is offline  
Feb 19th, 2007, 12:28 AM
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Direct link to South African National Parks. www.sanparks.org
thebugsbittenme is offline  

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