South Africa Safari Vacations
South Africa is the undisputed king of the family safari!
It’s so easy to bring your family here for a safari tour and more: there are direct flights from everywhere, the infrastructure is well developed and works, self-drive is a viable option meaning you can cart all your luggage about and save on transfer costs.
There is virtually no time difference between here and the UK (we recommend Americans stop over in London for a couple of nights on the way), the cities love kids, and much of the country is malaria-free. We are big fans of a South African safari and city enrichment adventure the whole family will adore.
Top 4 Reasons For A South Africa Safari
1. South Africa is enormous!You’ve got your whole trip covered right here – maybe a walking safari and a few days’ vibrancy in Cape Town? A malaria-free bush wildlife experience and some Southern Right Whale-watching? A week in the wilderness and a week in the stunning playground that is the Winelands?
South Africa has family-friendly restaurants serving some of the very best food and wine to be found anywhere in Africa, and don’t get us started on the fabulous Garden Route.
2. Extremely AffordableTo reach any of Southern Africa, you’re highly likely to fly into the busy hub of Johannesburg.
With the Rand having fallen off a cliff recently, this makes a South African family safari very attractive: you’re flying directly there, it’s incredibly easy to get around once you’ve landed, and everything is about half the price that it was a few years ago.
4. Very Family-FriendlyTravelling in South Africa can seem very wild,. But compared to its neighbours it is a safe, well-managed and well-connected country, making it a good choice for families wanting adventure but not quite sure how wild they want to go for their first time.
South African operators have really honed their skills when it comes to keeping the kids engaged, as they are aware they are the prime destination for families in Africa.
Why To Avoid South Africa
The wild areas can also be a little too managed for our liking, although they do a great job of making it seem otherwise. Having said this, the country is so enormous that it’s easy to avoid the busier areas and experience the real deal without the hordes.
When to visit South Africa
As you’d expect over such a huge landmass, the climate in South Africa changes considerably from East to West, North to South.
The south west enjoys a Mediterranean climate – warm summers and mild, wet winters – although inversely to the actual Med (summer is November – March, and winter May – September). Thus, if you are heading to Cape Town or its surrounds, the best time is likely to be October – May when it’s dry and sunny.
The climate of the north east of the country follows the dry and rainy seasons governed by the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). This usually means one prolonged rainy season: October/November until March/April, when humidity is also high. The north east is where the prime wildlife viewing is, for example the Kruger, and so the best time to visit north east would be during the cooler dry season (May – Sept) when the animals are easier to spot as they congregate around dwindling water holes.
Note that even during the rainy season, it is highly unlikely to rain every day, so wildlife viewing can still be incredible.
This is calving time and youngsters learning the law of the jungle makes compelling viewing (even if it can be hard to spot them with the wet season’s dense bush).
If you are heading out in UK school holiday times (late July – early September, along with Christmas and Easter), you do need to pick your way carefully around the busier spots.
South Africa Calendar
Halfway through summer in Cape Town you will usually find blue skies and a powerful sun, with a blustery wind. It’s a great time to visit if you don’t mind a bit of heat, but it can get busy.
Inland and in the north and north east of the country, where you’ll typically find your game viewing, this is the height of the rainy season and not the best time to spot game.
This is the time to visit the Winelands as the trees turn for autumn and the air cools.
Cape Town is beginning to cool, while the wildlife areas are seeing the end of the rainy season. April is changeable everywhere in Africa, you can never really tell whether it will take the characteristics of the season before or after.
The beginning of the dry season in the wildlife areas, and of winter for the Cape.
The Southern Right whales start to arrive from the Antarctic.
Wildlife viewing is excellent in all the parks, as the bush dries up.
Southern Right whales are breeding around Hermanus, among other places.
November is changeable, but it heralds the start of the rainy season in most of South Africa, and the start of summer for the ‘Mediterranean’ Cape area.
Last of the Southern Right whales head off in November. Much wildlife will calve around this time which can be very rewarding if you can spot the young.
What to do in South Africa:
Our Top Experiences
Big game safari – Sabi SandSouth Africa does the big game safari exceedingly well, and Sabi Sand is arguably the best reserve for a South Africa safari holiday, if not the best spot for reliable cat and rhino viewings in Africa (check back in a while because poaching is casting a devastating shadow over South Africa).
The reserve is privately owned and – remarkably for South Africa – fenceless, so that wildlife can roam free. Because it’s private you can engage in activities usually prohibited in the main reserves- like off-road tracking and night drives.
Photographic Safari – MadikweWe are big fans of the Malaria-free Madikwe Big 5 reserve for kids.
We particularly love the submerged photographic hide which gives you a water-level view of all the wildlife popping down to the waterhole for a drink. And since it’s reached via an underwater tunnel, the kids can go by themselves any time.
Night Sky Safari – WaterbergThis is a truly unique way to spend a few days: Leobo Private Reserve. For reasons known only to its eccentric owner, it’s home to a 20-inch corrected Dahl Kirkham telescope for looking at planets and nebulae, and an 8-inch Hydrogen Alpha for looking directly at the sun. There is a learned astrologer on standby who can guide you all through the night sky during your stay.
This fabulous luxury house in the malaria-free and ‘safe’ Waterberg is also the place where you can ride, quad bike, or just chill in the ‘Ibiza’ hot tub on the roof. We particularly loved playing tug of war with the resident crocodile, Stevie.
Walking Safari – KalahariAt first light, greet the meerkat colony as they warm themselves in the sun before scampering off on their daily chores.
Then head out on a ride, and learn about the Kalahari with the world-class guides, or relax in the spa whilst the kids head out to learn about poo. Then head out again for a night walk for the rare chance of sightings such as aardvark, aardwolf, porcupine or brown hyena.
Safari and City – Kruger & Cape TownA week in the wilderness spotting endangered animals, visiting local schools and villages, and telling stories around the campfire whilst you cradle your hot chocolate; then on to Cape Town for a biking tour of the city.
Discover the history behind apartheid, seeing where Nelson Mandela was held captive, and learning how the ‘Rainbow Nation’ was born. A luxury, family-friendly hotel gives you the down-time to enjoy the city, the sunshine and the sea close by, whilst the kids can exhaust themselves in the pool.
Marine Big 5 tour - HermanusThe coastal cliffs and pathways of Hermanus is, in our opinion, one of the best places in the world for land based whale watching.
We particularly love taking to the water, led by a marine biologist, to see whales, dolphins, penguins, seals and surface viewings of the Great White Shark.
The whales are our favorite – they are big showoffs, and will often come right up to the boat to have a gander at what you are up to. Finding yourself eye-to-eye is shiver-inducing.
Learn More About South Africa Safari Vacations
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