Our "Insider Tips" South Africa Travel Blog


South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries on Earth and has so many reasons to put it on your bucket list. From the amazing wildlife, to the diverse scenery, the delicious food & wine, the huge range of activities and adventure, the incredible history and culture and all great value for money. We’ve met with experts from South Africa’s tourist board and put together 5 brilliant reasons to visit South Africa and given some great insider tips too.

1) Wildlife. The wildlife of South Africa is a huge draw; people want to see the ‘Big 5’: lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos and leopards on game drives and bush walks. South Africa also has amazing birdlife, including penguins at Boulders Beach near Cape Town. June till November is the spectacular whale watching season and at the beginning of this period is the ‘Sardine Run’ (it occurs around Jun – Jul) where millions of sardines migrate down the Wild Coast (Eastern Cape & KwaZulu-Natal) and with them they bring a multitude of game, fish, sea birds, sharks, seals and dolphins.


Insider tip - You can whale watch for free from the shoreline at Boulders Beach near Cape Town!

Insider tip – Ladies, I’ve been told that when going off-road during your game drive wearing a sports bra is essential!

Insider tip – different wildlife tends to be more or less apparent in different areas. So leopard is more prevalent around Sabi Sands, wild dogs around Madikwe, and white lions at Pumba.

2) Scenery. South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries on Earth and has wonderfully diverse scenery. The Western Cape lies on the southern tip of Africa where the cold Atlantic and the warm Indian Ocean meet. It is home to majestic mountains, (including the world famous Table Mountain) valleys of beautiful farmland and stunning beaches. It contrasts with desert areas of Northern Cape and North West Province and the flat grasslands of Free State in the heart of the country.

Driving in South Africa is very popular with tourists: it’s a great way to see the stunning scenery and it’s an especially popular way to see the famous ‘Garden Route’ (a 5-hour drive from Cape Town to Mossel Bay via Franschhoek and the winelands.) South Africa has well-kept road networks; ample fuel stops and well signposted roads. Petrol prices in South Africa are much cheaper than the UK and they drive on the left so UK tourists don’t have to adjust driving style.

Insider tip – You don’t need a 4X4 to drive round South Africa.

Insider tip – You only need to worry about Malaria in a few of the north/north eastern regions of South Africa.

3) Food & Wine. South Africa is justly famous for its food & wine thanks to a coastland supplying a variety of seafood; fertile soil and a perfect climate for growing produce to eat and use in winemaking. But the culinary scene is also helped by a population of diverse cultural backgrounds all contributing to a fusion of cuisines. Meat is a large food staple and is often cooked on the braai (BBQ). Boerewors, kudu, ostrich and of course steaks are just a few delights that can be experienced. As well as the delights of South African cuisine, you can sample some of the finest wines in the world. The Western Cape is home to the world famous Winelands – a notable wine-growing region for over 300-years, and only an hour or so drive from Cape Town.

Insider tip – we’ve been (un!)reliably informed that South African wine doesn’t contain chemicals and preservatives so you don’t get hangovers!

Insider tip – the grape harvest is around Feb/March time

Insider tip – there are a few ways you can do lots of wine tasting without worrying about driving afterwards! There are vineyard tours available on horseback, by pedal bike, or by the Wine Tram, which does two different routes, each one stopping at around 6 different wine estates. You book your departure time from Franschoek then can hop on/hop off to your heart’s content all day. Spend 2 nights in Franschoek and do one route one day and the other route the next to see 12 different vineyards!

Insider tip – if driving to the winelands, you can usually stop off at vineyards you pass enroute without prebooking.

Insider tip – as South Africa is such good value, you can experience traditional afternoon tea at the luxurious Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town, for only around £10 per person!

Insider tip – local restaurants offer exquisite cuisine and wines at very low prices, about £13 per person for a meal and half bottle of wine.

Insider tip – the winetown of Wellington is surrounded by stunning scenery and only around 1 hr 20 mins drive from Cape Town.

Insider tip- Babylonstoren is a great little wine estate to call in at with home grown food from their own garden in the restaurant.

Insider tip – a beautiful little place to stay in Franschoek is the Avondrood Guest House.

4) Activities & Adventure. There’s a huge range of activities and sightseeing to enjoy in South Africa, and that’s on top of the amazing safaris you can do. As we’ve already mentioned the wildlife and the scenery along the Garden route are breathtaking. In Cape Town, you can tour the city on Harley Davidson motorbikes, electric bikes and even horseback, taking in the District Six Museum and the Woodstock food fair as you go. Then you could visit Table Mountain in a cable car or go to Chapman’s Peak and take a Cape Peninsula boat trip. If you’re looking for adventure then South Africa is for you. There are opportunities for thrills like: helicopter rides round the coast; 216 metre bungee jumps and shark cage-diving! For sports enthusiasts you can free-climb a mountain, surf or go diving. And you can go seal swimming in Knysna for yet more up-close-and-personal animal experiences.

Insider tip – You can do a Robben Island tour in just half a day.

Insider tip – make sure you prebook your Table Mountain tour for as soon as you arrive in Cape Town, that way if it gets cancelled due to high winds you can rearrange to do it whilst still there!

Insider tip – for great surfing, head to Jeffries Bay by Cape Town.

5) History & Culture. South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation for its array of diverse culture, celebrated through 11 official languages spoken by different tribal groups like the Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho, Pedi and Ndebele. You can learn more about the various different tribes at a number of cultural attractions in South Africa including the Lesedi Cultural Village, made up of the homes representing the five tribal groups listed above. Music and dance are an important means of artistic expression in South Africa and Jazz is a favourite in the townships and has diversified into Township Jazz, Black Jazz and Marabi. South Africa is also steeped in history – visit Mvezo, the Eastern Cape Village where Nelson Mandela was born or Robben Island where he was imprisoned to find out about the apartheid struggle. The Battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal where the Anglo, Boer and Zulu wars took place are another draw for historians. A popular way to find out about recent history is a bicycle tour of Soweto, which is infused with history of the struggle against apartheid.

South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Insider tip – love a curry? South Africa has the largest Indian population outside of India!

Insider tip – Soweto sounds like an African name but it’s an acronym of ‘South Western Townships” and an organised tour is perfectly safe.

Insider tip – want some of that “Out of Africa” tradition and style? Then do a trip on the Rovos Rail.

Being on the southern hemisphere means that South Africa has reverse seasons to the UK weather, so it’s a great option for guaranteed winter sun. It is a large country and has diverse climactic regions, in general the weather is sunny and hot in their summer months (November to February), and fairly mild during their winter (June to August). The weather in autumn (March to May) and spring (September to October) is less predictable and more changeable. The Cape has a Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters, and hot, dry and sunny summers. The northern regions have a subtropical highland climate with plenty of sunshine, hot, humid summers when thunderstorms regularly occur in the late afternoon and evening, and dry, sunny winters with cold nights.

Insider tip – As South Africa is due south of the UK, there’s only 1 hour time difference in UK summertime and 2 hours in UK winter time. As you don’t fly through many time zones you avoid jet lag!

Insider tip – tipping! Allow around 10-20 Rand (approx 50p) for hotel busboys; 2 to 5 rand for petrol attendants (they fill your car up for you); the same for car park attendants; around 150 rand/day for safari rangers and 100 rand/day for safari drivers, if not already included.

With so many reasons to go there, you should put South Africa on your to-do list.



Ian & Mark from Travel2Give Feb 2015

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