South Africa travel advice
As we are English, lets start with a bit of information about the weather!
Our personal favourite time to visit the northern areas of South Africa such as the Greater Kruger and Madikwe is in the South African ‘winter’ between May and October in the north of the country it is warm and dry. Warm can mean daytime temperatures anywhere between 20 – 30 degrees centigrade! Although the evenings and nights can be chilly to cold (especially if you are hading to the Kgalagadi) so a fleece or two in your luggage is recommended.
During ‘winter’ in Cape Town and the Eastern Cape reserves you can really experience three English seasons in a day Sunshine, rain, wind but with an average temperature of 17 degees Celsius, a bit like an English summer then! Even in winter you wint not experience terrible weather – it would be like late spring or early autumn for us, and the prices are a bit lower too!
The South African Summer is between October and May. In the North including, Madikwe and the Greater Kruger area it can get hot and wet although any rain tends to be focussed in short, heavy bursts in the late afternoon (if at all).
The Cape Town Summer often reaches the low 30s and is great time to visit Cape Town if you are looking to experience the world class beaches.
So when to take a Safari?
South African safaris can be enjoyed all year around, though the seasons do have an impact on the game and the game viewing.
The bush is generally dry in the winter months, with the grass being short it does make for a really good time of the year to spot wildlife. Surface water can get scarce in the dry season so wildlife will often congregate near rivers and waterholes. Staking out waterholes can yield some good predator sightings.
In the north Winter days are mostly cloudless which means great early morning and late evening light for photographers.
South African summers receive more rain than their winters so the grass and the bush is generally thicker and greener which can make game harder to spot. Also game is more spread out as surface water is more accessible.
However there are upsides and a good guide will always find you interesting animals and sometimes the greenery can make for more attractive wildlife photos.
For birdwatchers the South African summer is a superb time to visit as migrant birds arrive in huge numbers, it is also a great time of the year to spot newborn animals.
The reserves of the Eastern Cape have less seasonal variation so can be ideal to combine with Cape time and the Garden Route if you are looking to enjoy Cape Town in the Summer.
The main choice facing the traveller to South Africa is whether to fly direct or indirect. The direct flights are more expensive, but the indirect flights are longer.
The longer you can book these flights in advance helps to keep the fares down.
UK passport holders do not require a visa to enter South Africa. If you are travelling with children you will be required to present an unabridged birth certificate for each child, and possibly sworn affidavits permitting them to travel from parents not travelling. Please ask us for more details.
Self-driving can be a great way to experience South Africa, as driving is on the left, the road network is good and traffic laws are adhered to much more than is generally the case in Africa! Self-driving also gives you the flexibility to adapt your plans as you wish. We can book your hotels and car hire for you, and make suggestions as to excursions and outings to do in each place: having a car means you can pick and mix between our suggestions and any other ideas that take your fancy, to your own schedule.
As we’re not medical experts we feel it is essential you contact your G.P. regarding vaccinations and the like for travel to South Africa. What follows is some suggestions, but they must be verified by a medical professional. In addition to such vaccinations as you’d routinely have for living in the UK, further boosters are recommended for Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Diptheria. Malaria exists in the lowland areas of Mpumlanaga Province (including the Kruger though risk is lowe in the SA winter months), Northern Province and north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal.
If you are travelling to these areas in the summer please consult your G.P. for advice on what malarial precautions to take.
If you are heading to Madikwe, Cape Town and the reserves of the Eastern Cape then there is no risk of Malaria.
Money & tipping
The local currency is the Rand. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are widespread, the exception being in some of the more rural areas. Tipping is common in South Africa. 10% is normal in restaurants, around R10 for porterage.
For guided services (including on safari) we would advise around R150 per person per day, with about R100 a day for your tracker on safari. Lodge staff can also be tipped at R50 per person per day. Drivers for your transfers can be tipped about R25 per standard airport transfer. It is important to remember that tipping is a very personal thing, and if you feel someone deserves more or less, or even no tip, then that is entirely your prerogative and you should not feel bound by these suggestions.
Food costs are relatively low, it being possible to dine out for less than £10 per person; even if you really push the boat out you’ll seldom top £50 per person and in many places the food is superb. If you are into your steak you must take advantage of the great quality and excellent price of fillet steak in South Africa.
It is possible to swim off the beaches of South Africa, however most of them have strong currents and significant surf, so we only advise swimming if there is a lifeguard on the beach. There are secluded lagoons and coves which are more sheltered and swimming is easier. Generally the further east and north towards Mozambique you get, the more pleasant the water temperature is. Around Cape Town it is the Atlantic Ocean and you’ll probably need a wetsuit all year round.