Best Time To Visit
When to go
South Africa is mainly sunny throughout the year. Seasons are the reverse of those in the UK, with midwinter in June and July and midsummer in December and January. The best time to go to South Africa will depend on your destination as the climate varies considerably between regions. More details on where to go and when are below.
The southern-most part of the Western Cape, including Cape Town, has a Mediterranean-type climate, influenced by winds blowing in from the South Atlantic. This can result in changeable, though usually mild, days in winter, when most of the rainfall occurs. From November to March, weather is hot and sunny.
On the east side – including the Kruger Park Area – there is sunshine year round. Summers are hot, with short, heavy rains; winters sunny, dry and sometimes cold at night. Game viewing is particularly good between May and September, when the water shortage encourages animals to gather at waterholes.
KwaZulu Natal enjoys a subtropical climate, with plenty of sunshine year round. Summers are hot and can be humid, with sudden downpours.
There are daily non-stop overnight flights between London and Johannesburg (10.5 hours) and London and Cape Town (11 hours), with add-on fares from most regional airports. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are our main partners. We use KLM out of certain regional airports, as well as Emirates and Qatar Airways.
GMT +2 hours
British citizens do not require visas. A full passport valid for 6 months beyond your date of return is required, with at least two empty pages for immigration stamps.
There are no compulsory requirements. Malaria is present in some eastern parts of the country, but check yellow fever requirements if you are entering via a yellow fever endemic country. Always consult your doctor at least six weeks before travel and refer to this useful NHS Website for details of recommended vaccinations for your destination.
Things To Do
- Walk up to the summit of Cape Town's Table Mountain or take the easy way up by cable car
- Have a night to remember on a Township Tour at a local jazz club
- Take a guided tour to see local San art in the Northern Cape or in the Drakensberg Mountains
- Visit the meerkats at De Zeekoe close to Oudtshoorn or Tswalu in the Northern Cape
- Spend a morning in the Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape
- See the big cats - lion, leopard, cheetah - in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve
- Track endangered wild dogs in Madikwe Game Reserve
- Take time after dinner to gaze at the clear night skies in the Kruger National Park
- Learn about the Zulu and Boer wars on a moving battlefields tour in KwaZulu Natal
Cape Town - the city with the most beautiful location
South Africa is brimming with wonderful sights, but Cape Town is hard to leave off any itinerary. Higher than Ben Nevis, Table Mountain bursts out of the sea and the sand flats. Circling its base is Cape Town. There is so much to see and do, both in town and in the surroundings.
We have a large South Africa team of experts here at Rainbow - Shelley Phillips, Janine Bullen, Nikki Lynas and Candice Buchan. All would be delighted to talk to you about travelling in South Africa - you can ring them on 020 7666 1250. In the meantime here are some answers to questions we are most often asked.
Why travel to South Africa?
There are so many great travel experiences all rolled into one country. I don’t think there’s anywhere else quite like it. South Africa has a fascinating history, a tremendously rich culture and sense of national pride, it has spectacular national parks with a huge variety of different species of wildlife, both big and small. The food is top notch, accommodation is good value and the friendly disposition of South Africans make this a quite exceptional holiday destination.
How do we get there?
There are daily non-stop overnight flights between London and Johannesburg, and London and Cape Town, and from here you can take connecting flights to most regional airports. Alternatively flights via Europe and UAE can represent good value but when doing multiple city, it is best to consult us for excellent combined international and local flights which are all on one flight ticket, so the airline will then help you make connections missed due to their delays etc.
How do we travel around the country?
You can fly, drive or take one of the upmarket trains like Rovos Rail. Our self-drive holidays are good value and hugely popular - you can visit most of South Africa this way and it gives you lots of flexibility. For safaris you generally wont need your own vehicle as you generally head out with a guide in open 4x4 vehicle in the morning and late afternoon, however you can self-drive in national parks such as Kruger and Addo. The one thing to bear in mind is local guides have better ‘bush eyes’ you may be missing a fair amount by not making use of these skills. We have an excellent variety of group tours which cover all of the self drive routes. For smaller groups or those just wanting privacy, we can tailor-make a trip with private guide and vehicle.
If there was one thing I shouldn’t miss, what would you recommend?
This is such a hard question! My colleagues in our South Africa team would probably each say something different – the big cats at Sabi Sand, Cape Town or the Garden Route. Personally, I’m bowled over by the spectacular scenery in South Africa so I’d say that there is nothing quite as inspiring as walking to Cape Point just outside Cape Town or seeing the Blyde River Canyon from God’s Window in the Lowveld, near Kruger. These are two ‘views of a lifetime’.
Is there anything within easy reach worth considering as an add on trip?
Lots! Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mauritius, Seychelles and Mozambique are all for the most part best accessed from South Africa. For example a trip to the Victoria Falls for a few nights or a beach escape to Mozambique, Mauritius or Seychelles are all really worth considering if you have the budget.
Can you arrange a visit to the townships?
Absolutely. Visiting the townships is part of truly experiencing the optimism and energy of South Africa. We can arrange this for you with one of our long standing local partners and we can also help with visits to schools and local charities if this is something you’d like to get involved with.
How easy is it to travel to Lesotho and Swaziland from South Africa?
Both countries are easy to travel to and very accessible from South Africa – people usually drive through Swaziland en route from Kruger to KwaZulu Natal and visit Lesotho whilst on a KwaZulu Natal or from Johannesburg on self-drive trip. Generally a standard two wheel drive car allows you to reach most places in these countries, except for places like the Sani Pass in Lesotho which has tremendous views but requires a four-wheel drive.
What side of the road do people drive on?
You drive on the left hand side of the road, just like in the UK, which is one of the reasons it’s so easy to drive yourself here. Satellite navigation is easily arranged from main hubs such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, so do ask for details.
Can I drink the tap water?
Tap water is safe to drink and bottled water is readily available.
How can I contribute to the local economy and conservation programmes?
Many of the lodges and hotels have their own charities and communities that they support so just by booking these places you are already helping the country. Further to this there are many schools, charities and conservation wildlife projects that we can put you in touch with or arrange visits to whilst on your holiday.
Do I need any vaccinations/malaria tablets?
Some vaccinations are recommended depending on where you travel and malaria tablets are needed in the Kruger area. We always recommend visiting your doctor at least six weeks before departure.
Can I visit South Africa when pregnant?
Absolutely. You must avoid malarial areas and always take the advice of your doctor, but in general the lack of jetlag and mild climate in places like Cape Town and the Garden Route, make these ideal holiday destinations whilst pregnant.
Wild Nights Out - Tracking down Engimatic Wildlife in South Africa - interview with Dr Keith Barnes
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Why Choose Us?
Passionate travel experts
- We've been leading wildlife travel since our first South Africa tours over 25 years ago
- Our Travel Specialists have lived in their specialist area for years
- We work with local guides to immerse you deeper in our diverse range of experiences
Personal & tailor-made
- You'll speak to your own expert who'll share their first-hand knowledge
- We'll make your itinerary seamless with 24/7 emergency contact available
- Your Travel Specialist will listen to ensure you have the best chance of seeing the wildlife you love
Responsible by nature
- We take care to actively contribute to the conservation of environments we visit
- For select countries, we make a charitable donation on your behalf when you make your booking
- We've partnered with conservation experts and NGOs to curate responsible tours