Although the nature of travel is changing amidst the global pandemic there are some things that remain the same. Phew! These Q&A's below may be helpful when planning your South African holiday.
Q) What time of the year should we visit?
A) South Africa is an all-year-round destination with each season offering unique perks. Of course many travelers opt to visit during the summer months (December to February) so they can escape the chilly northern winters. However, I would love you to consider visiting our beautiful country during the other seasons. Here are some reasons why this may be a good idea:
Our winters (June to August) are a lot milder in South Africa than most countries in the northern hemisphere and this is especially true for Kwazulu Natal. The warm Indian ocean waters still welcome swimmers on the east coast and there are some amazing seaside resorts worth visiting with plenty of activities on offer . This is also the season for the Sardine Run, which is considered one of the greatest spectacles on earth and takes place on the coastline of KwaZulu Natal (it's all about being in the right place at the right time!). For safari lovers, game viewing is awesome during the dry winter months as the bush is less dense and animals are out in search of watering holes. You will also find the game lodges are quieter and this means a more exclusive experience.
Spring (September to November), is an exciting time in the African bush as there are a lot of young animals around and this usually means super cute photographs. This time also marks the peak of the whale watching season in the seaside town of Hermanus (Western Cape), which is actually one of the best places in the world to view the Southern Right Whales. And, in Namaqualand, the wildflowers are blooming in full force during spring and this is another special sight that can be found in the Cape.
Autumn (March to April) is in many ways the season that gets the least attention but is probably one of the best times to visit! The days are fairly warm as summer is still burning off and the landscape is slowly transforming into those brilliant Autumn shades. In fact, one of the highlights of this season is visiting the picturesque wine valley of Franschhoek. The vegetation in the bush is a lot thicker after the summer rains and although the animals are a bit more difficult to spot you will still have an adventurous safari experience. Because of the cooler temperatures this is the ideal time to try out the Wilderness Trail
Q) How do we decide which places to visit? There are so many!
A) Good question. It is difficult to choose where to go in a limited amount of time as South Africa is overflowing with exceptionally beautiful destinations, hence many people find themselves returning. Our suggestion would be to break it down:
What are your interests? (Nature; Wildlife; Adventure; Culture; Food & Wine; City Life; Shopping; Wellness Retreats; etc)
Divide your trip up into sections that offer 2 or 3 days enjoying each experience. If you prefer not to be moving around, then choose a location that is likely to have a few of your favourite things in close proximity.
Do your research. Find out what others enjoyed most about their trip, be it people you know or via online sites and jot down some suggestions.
We love creating customized itineraries for guests as the collaboration leading up to the holiday is such a fun part of the process!
Q) Will we be ‘roughing’ it if we visit South Africa?
A) No! … Only if you want to! But take a look at these points:
Some of the most luxurious accommodation in the world can be found in South Africa (The Oyster Box Hotel; The Cape Grace Hotel; Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff; Kapama Karula Safari lodge; the list goes on). It all depends on your budget and preferred level of comfort.
The same goes for our healthcare system. Our private hospitals (which are recommended for tourists) have some of the very best medical practitioners and there is no need to worry about being left out in the cold in the event of an emergency! (Please just check with your travel insurance before travelling to ensure that you are suitably covered). If you have read this far into the article you would have noticed the little pun I just threw in there...
As for roads, the conditions of our main roads and highways in South Africa are excellent, providing comfortable road trips between destinations.
You will always find ATM’S in towns and cities and most accommodation offers wifi for staying in contact with friends and family.
Q) Where is the best place to go on a safari?
A) South Africa is considered one of the best places in Africa for a safari and within the country there are numerous reserves to choose from. Depending on the location, vegetation and animal species may differ in each region, making each safari experience unique. Take a look below at some of our suggestions:
The Kruger National Park is synonymous with South Africa and is one of the largest game reserves on the continent. Because of this, there is an abundance of animals that inhabit the park and there are many private lodges to choose from that offer an exceptional safari experience. For wildlife lovers, flying to South Africa to spend a week on safari in the Kruger National Park is a classic option and worth every penny.
A little known fact is that KwaZulu Natal is home to some of the best Private Game Reserves in the country. In fact, the lodges here are frequented by locals who return to their favourite spots each year.
The Eastern Cape is a region where you can enjoy a safari in a malaria-free environment, which is an added bonus. Many who travel along the Garden Route like to finish off their trip with two or three nights in one of the Big Five Reserves.
(For more information on lodges and quotes on safaris please email email@example.com)
Q) Is South Africa a safe country to visit?
A) As with most places around the world there are always going to be areas that should be avoided. Knowing these hotspots is vital for any travel destination and this is usually avoided by booking your holiday through a trusted tour operator or agent. There is no reason to be afraid when visiting South Africa. This is a safe country. Our people are friendly and helpful but we do recommend practicing general caution, such as:
Do not accept help from strangers when getting cash from an ATM, rather go into a bank if you are needing assistance.
Keep your passport with you, or in the safe at your hotel, and make sure you have a certified copy of it should you misplace it.
Do not go into remote or unknown areas unless you know for sure that it is safe to do so.
Do not leave valuable possessions lying around in your vehicle.
Always use a trusted operator for transport.
Having a local contact who can assist you if needed throughout your trip is invaluable and this is one of the major benefits when booking your trip through a travel company.
Q) How does tipping work in South Africa?
A) Many South Africans are reliant on tips for their income. With that said, tipping is at your own discretion and you are at liberty to decide how much to tip if you are satisfied with the level of service you have received. Please note that there is no clear-cut answer but here are a few tips about tips:
Most South Africans are happy to receive tips in either local or foreign (US Dollars, Pounds or Euros) currency and it is recommended to keep some cash on you for these instances.
A 10-15% tip is considered the norm at restaurants if the service has been satisfactory
Hotel porters are generally given around R10 per bag.
Luxury safari camps usually have a tip box at the front desk or they may provide envelopes for tipping the service staff at the end of your stay (Starting from R50 per day for lodge staff is sufficient).
On safari you normally have the same guide and tracker for the duration of your stay and they are usually tipped on a per day basis, which is given to them at the end of your safari. Tipping usually starts from around R100 per day.
As with the safari guide and tracker, the same would apply for your South African tour guide.
Q) What health precautions do I need to take before travelling to South Africa?
A) We recommend visiting your local doctor who can advise you on what vaccinations are necessary for your trip to South Africa. While malaria is a common disease in Africa there are a number of preventable measures that can be taken. Vaccinations may also vary depending on where you are traveling from so please give yourself ample time (approximately six weeks before you fly) to discuss this, and any health concerns you may have, with your medical practitioner.
I hope these points have answered some of your questions and will offer a bit of reassurance while planning your South African trip!