Mountainous areas for hiking, breathtaking scenery, nature reserves and national parks, great beaches for surfing and fishing … so many things to do when you decide to fly to a safari in South Africa. However, for a successful stay, it is necessary to organize well.
What should you think of before going to South Africa?
The places to discover are not lacking in this huge country. The first thing to do is to define the itinerary (s) with the places to be visited, according to the duration of the stay. This will allow, among other things, to choose and book the flight that will take you to the South African airport closest to the sites where the safari will take place. Apart from the Christmas period, the average price of a plane ticket to South Africa is 750 euros, sometimes less when there are promotions.
Like Canadian and Swiss citizens, EU citizens including France are exempt from VISA to enter and stay in South Africa for less than three months. By presenting a valid passport upon arrival on South African soil, a 90-day residence permit will be issued. In terms of accommodation, there is a wide choice whether on site or online, and reservations are only needed in high season (December-March), as South Africans and foreign tourists storm all resorts.
In addition, there is no serious health risk, and a safari in South Africa does not require a compulsory vaccination unless you return from a trip to Africa or South America. In which case, a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever will be claimed. In addition, as a preventive measure, it is recommended to be up to date in his vaccinations (hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, typhoid, rabies), and to take a treatment against malaria, especially if we plan to spend in the north-east of the country.
Safaris South Africa
If the safari is the chosen program, we can be sure to find places and sites suitable for independent travelers and groups. It is even possible to go on safaris by car, motorbike, on foot, elephant …
· On-reserve activities
Unforgettable encounters with the wild animals of Kruger Park
Kruger Park has an impressive faunistic diversity, so that in 2001 the park was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The famous Big Five (lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhinoceros) are present in large numbers.
The reserve is a must for anyone who wants to observe and photograph these majestic specimens that live in freedom, while enjoying the pleasures of the Kruger safari park in South Africa. This is the place par excellence to see the animal kingdom, its way of life, its food chains and its curiosities …
Here are two of our tours through the famous Kruger Park!
The Blyde River Canyon and its plethora of activities
Located to the west of the Kruger, the Blyde River Canyon, with more than 700 meters deep, is the third largest canyon in the world. Its cliffs are covered with lush vegetation where many primates have taken up residence.
The small islands along the water create a landscape of exceptional beauty. Several high places like the rocky peak Three Rondavels, can allow to have a panoramic view on the gorge and its enchanting environment. Between hiking, rafting or canyoning, activities to try at Blyde River Canyon are not lacking.
The Sun City and the Pilanesberg reserve
Those who love gambling will not hesitate to drive to Sun City (two and a half hours by car from Johannesburg), the “Mini Las Vegas” of South Africa. But the real point of interest of this site is its artificial jungle sheltering an exotic flora (3000 species of plants and trees from around the globe) and which lends itself perfectly to safari-discovery.
And a stone’s throw away is the Pilanesberg reserve with its volcanic landscapes and fascinating biodiversity. The opportunity to go for a drive in the heart of the savannah hunting rhinoceros, try the balloon safari or take part in a guided walk to give an original side to the excursion.
The Kgalagadi Transboundary Park
South Africa, Namibia and Botswana meet in the desert territory of Kalahari, where the Kgalagadi Transfrontalier Park was created, a merger of the parks of the South African Kalahari Gemsbok National Park with the Batswana National Park Gemsbok. It is characterized by an environment of red and white sand and thorny bushes.
The park occupies a third of the desert and is a giant playground for lovers of motorcycle safaris. Among the discoveries to be made in this vast territory under extreme conditions, thousands of mammals (cheetahs, lions, hyenas, jackals, wildebeest, oryx, springbok, eland, hartebeest …), several species of reptiles and abundant birdlife.
Other nature parks worth a visit
Less known to the general public and therefore spared from mass tourism, the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Protected Reserve – the oldest reserve on the African continent – is located 280 km north of the city of Durban, in KwaZulu Natal province. However, it is a region offering a kaleidoscope of landscapes between hills and savannas as far as the eye can see, and where evolves an impressive diversity of animal species. This is where the probability of coming face to face with the southern white rhinoceros is highest.
With some 300 km of tracks and roads, Hluhluwe Umfolozi is the perfect place to go for a sensational safari, whether with your own car or an agency.
In any case, we can not do without a local guide, especially if we plan to access the estuary of Santa Lucia, this aquatic world with crocodiles, rhinos and birds, a World Heritage Site. UNESCO.
And if you are passionate about pachyderms, you must go to Cape Oriental where a national park dedicated to elephants has existed since 1931. Located 72 km from Port Elizabeth, the Addo Elephant Park occupies a plot of 180000 ha. Although it is possible to observe elephants in another reserve in South Africa, nothing beats an immersion in this place where 600 elephants cohabit and move freely. The peculiarity of this park is the range of formulas, suitable for everyone for the safari: 4×4, ferry, horse or walk.
· Differences between private and public parks:
Opting for a stay in a private reserve on a safari in South Africa is first and foremost relying on a few privileges. These establishments offer high-end accommodation, distinctive services, calm because very few cars in circulation, fine restaurants and related activities. Obviously, all of this comes at a cost and these reservations are more for people with a large budget.
Public reserves are less exclusive, with the advantages and disadvantages: tours, activities and accommodation are affordable. Which explains the crowded car parks and the crush. It goes without saying that housing, even if it is clean and well maintained, also remains modest, just like the food served in the restaurants.
Wine, a South African tradition
For wine lovers, the region of Cape Town is dotted with large and smaller vineyards that together, constitute a jewel of South African gastronomy. Dozens of wineries make the region famous, to name only Paarl, Hermanus, Elgin, Worcester or Stellenbosch. And it would be a shame to miss if we have the chance to do a road trip in South Africa. The legendary wine route consists of a series of stages with the program: visit vineyards, educational walks to discover the art of processing grapes and occasionally tastings of the best wines.
The most famous and first ever wine route of South Africa is Stellenbosch. Created in 1971, it is located fifty kilometers from the city of Cape Town and includes 17 wine properties. Today, it is one of the most attractive centers of the country, with areas that serve as both hotel and restaurant, but also buildings dating from the 17-18th century.
The Franschoek road (which means “the corner of the French” in Afrikaans dialect), is just an hour and a half by car from Cape Town and opens onto a typical French Provence setting. Moreover, the domains are mostly French names. Mont Rochelle, La Bri, Chamonix, Pleasure of Merle or Petite and Grande Provence, are some examples.
To really enjoy the procession, several days are usually required. And if the duration of the trip does not allow, the peninsula of Cape Town which hosts several famous vineyards including the famous Klein Constantia, producer of the wine of Constance very appreciated of the royal courts in the 18th century. On motorbikes and in cars, the adventure on the wine route immerses the traveler in an authentic culture, against a backdrop of mesmerizing landscapes.
To see and do during a safari in South Africa
Nelson Mandela’s country is not reduced to a giant zoo. Africa has a lot to offer adventurers who like to combine driving pleasures, unsuspected discoveries and new experiences.
Cape Town Exploration
Between Cape Town and the sea, the city of Cape Town enjoys a magnificent setting. It counts especially among the most tourist localities in the world. Cape Town is divided into several neighborhoods that each have their own particularity. In Cape Town intramuros or in its surroundings, the leisure and activities to try are numerous.
For hikers, the mountains around the city are real open-air amusement parks. You can enjoy a little expedition leading to Table Mountain or Lion’s Head. These two mounds offer breathtaking views of the city, the Cape of Good Hope and the Indian Ocean.
As the ocean is so ubiquitous in South Africa, it would be a shame to deprive oneself of it. Surf lovers will be perfectly satisfied. Landudno, Sea Beach and Glen Beach are beaches near the city where you can surf and relax. However, to tame the best waves, it is recommended to go about twenty kilometers away, to Muizenberg, or further north, to Bloubergstrand.
Sports enthusiasts, for their part, can be active in cycling. The bike is as convenient as it is pleasant to walk around the city and its surroundings. It’s a completely different experience from the bike or the car, but it can only delight, especially if you take the road to the Cape of Good Hope, the coastal roads or the wine region.
And to take a step back, renting kayaks in the Sea Point area is a great idea. Sailing along the coast and enjoying a breathtaking view of the mountains (Signal Hill and Table Mountain) the houses by the water. Between July and November, the lucky ones sometimes see whales off the coast.
And Cape Town also offers unusual recreation, such as “sharkdiving” or diving in a cage with sharks, and “skydiving” (parachute jump). Count at least 115 euros for this type of activity, especially if they include the options “videos” or “photo and video”.
Watch the whales
The safari in South Africa is one of the rare opportunities to observe these cetaceans. Of course, you will have to go to certain parts of the country to do that. If it is possible to see all around the Cape Peninsula and along the south coast, towards Cape Agulhas, it is essentially Hermanus, a seaside resort established in the province of Western Cape, that we can see them more closely and in number.
Sometimes they come closer to the shores, offering a show combining grace and majesty, just a few meters away. The ideal season for watching these large marine mammals is from June to November. There are two ways to contemplate the whale show here. The cheapest way is to stay on the coast. Especially since the whales, curious in nature, like to venture there. The second option, a little more expensive, is to board a boat to see them off.
Activities for the family
South Africa safaris are suitable for both adults and toddlers, as long as programs are chosen to suit the interests and ages of both. Safaris on the reserves, meeting with the Knysna elephants, visiting the Sun City amusement park, swimming at the Montangu hot spring, visiting one of the Oudtshoorn ostrich farms, hiking in the mountainous massifs of the country … We are spoiled for choice.
The Garden Route, known as South African Eden, is also a dream destination. It is intended for lovers of adventure and wide open spaces. It is an unusual destination and a fantastic route. Between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, South Africa’s Eden stretches 250 kilometers of coastline. It is home to small villages of farmers and fishermen, still preserved beaches as well as primitive forests. With the temperate climate, it is possible to enjoy the place at any time of the year. Moreover, the activities that take place there are suitable for all generations: elderly people, a group or a young couple, families with children …
The township, Soweto, located in southwestern Africa, is known for its history. It houses the first residence of Nelson Mandela where a museum and many places and monuments are dedicated to him.
South African culinary art
Viticulture is not the only branch of gastronomy in which South Africa excels. South African cuisine is colorful and resolutely rich in flavors. And the special, but no less appetizing taste of traditional dishes can be savored as well in the restaurants and the tables of hosts, as the starred restaurants of the villages and cities of the country.
The sausage boerewors, tripe, morogo, biltong … are all typical dishes that attract gourmets in South Africa. The most popular is the Braai, the traditional Afrikaner-style grilling of different kinds of meat: game, pork, lamb, chicken … It is also found in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana.
It goes without saying that the omnipresence of traditional tables does not exclude Asian, Indian and European brands. It is quite possible to find specialties all over the place, including safari reserves and parks. And on the drinks side, South Africa produces some of the world’s most famous beers in addition to wine!