South Africa – The Land of Sun, Sea, and Safaris
Kruger National Park
Spanning almost two-million hectares and home to more than 1000 different species of animals and birds, the Kruger National Park is the pride of South Africa. Famed for its vast size, rich conservation history, wildlife diversity, and ease of access, this incredible park is an unrivalled haven for some of Africa’s most magnificent fauna and flora.
Watch the drama of life and death in Africa play out daily in the most beautiful of landscapes. Rugged bushveld, dense woodlands, and rolling grasslands merge into one another to create an idyllic and untamed wilderness for the wildlife that lives here.
Accommodation in the Kruger National Park ranges from the rustic to the regal, with public campsites and lodges to private concessions and luxurious suites offering something to suit all tastes and budgets. Head into the wild on a guided game drive with some of the best guides Africa has to offer, or take your time on a self-drive through the park and soak up the surroundings.
Main Lodges vs. Private Camps
The difference between a stay at one of the regular Kruger Park rest camps and a private lodge is incomparable – and for good reason! The private camps offer an array of extras (many of which are included in the rate) that the main rest camps don’t, from luxurious unfenced accommodation and outstanding cuisine to privately guided game drives in open-top vehicles with expert rangers.
Private reserves and camps, such as Sabi Sand, Timbavati, Manyeleti or Thornybush Game Lodge offer unfenced accommodations of luxuriously high standards with all the deluxe amenities expected in a first-class hotel from Jacuzzi baths to personal butlers. They also serve equally high-end cuisine, with all meals being included in the rate. Breakfasts are generally served late after the morning game drive and afternoon picnics are set up in the middle of the bush. Dinner usually features a selection of grilled or roasted game meat, giving visitors an opportunity to taste at least one species spotted earlier that day — kudu, springbok, impala, and warthog. Open-air boma dinners by the roaring fire are popular at these private reserves.
But the biggest drawcard of these beautiful private camps is that of the game drives, which are conducted twice a day in open-topped and elevated Land Rovers to allow visitors to get as close as possible to the animals. Game drives are led by Shangaan trackers and armed rangers, who share their vast knowledge of the game and their habitats. Animals in these reserves, particularly Sabi Sands, are so used to being approached by vehicles that they almost ignore them entirely, ensuring good sightings on most game drives.
After an unforgettable day of game viewing, relax with a sundowner and toast the setting African sun – the Kruger National Park is Africa at its best.
Literally meaning ‘the place where the sun rises’, Mpumalanga is one of the most geographically diverse and beautiful places in South Africa. Magnificent natural landscapes abound, with towering mountain peaks in the northeast flattening out onto a massive escarpment, which plunges hundreds of metres down to the low-lying area known as the Lowveld.
Spectacularly carving its way through the Drakensberg Escarpment is the Blyde River Canyon, an 800-metre deep canyon that offers out-of-this-world views over the Klein Drakensberg escarpment. Massive spirals of dolomite rock rise out of the canyon walls, and strange cylindrical sculptures carved by swirling water create ethereal geological phenomenon seen nowhere else in the world.
This breath-taking terrain is big game country and home to dozens of private wildlife reserves and sanctuaries teeming with wildlife and birds. Grey rhebuck and the rare oribi roam the grassy plains, kudu takes cover in the dense woodland. Streams that were once panned for gold have become the haunts of eager anglers and lazy trout.
Steeped in the history of pioneers, hunters and fortune seekers, fascinating gold rush towns abound. Mpumalanga offers something for everyone.
Madikwe Game Reserve
Located in the North West Province along the Botswana border, Madikwe Game Reserve is one of South Africa’s largest malaria-free wildlife sanctuaries. Originally an old cattle ranch, Madikwe’s ‘Operation Phoenix’, was the biggest game translocation exercise in the world, and today, nearly 10 000 animals have been released into the reserve, including the Big Five, Hyena, the African Wild Dog, and many species of herbivore.
Meaning ‘place of blood’, ‘the crocodile’ and ‘wealth’ in the indigenous languages of the area, Madikwe is synonymous with the wilderness and harmonises perfectly with the natural surroundings of its locale. Ochre-coloured sands and thorny acacia bushveld surround luxurious and family-friendly lodges scattered throughout the reserve, which is easily accessible from Johannesburg.
Madikwe Safari Lodge
Johannesburg and Pretoria
Once regarded as simply as South Africa’s main business hub and seat of government respectively, with nothing else to offer, Johannesburg and Pretoria have grown in leaps and bounds and are flourishing centres that are well worth a visit in their own right.
Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, Johannesburg, or Jo’burg, has smartened up its act with an inner city transformation akin to that of any big European city. The cultural district of Newtown boasts a plethora of trendy theatres, restaurants, museums, and jazz clubs while the lively streets of Melville capture the heart and soul of the city.
The handsome, rather more conservative counterpart of Pretoria exudes colonial history with broad jacaranda-lined boulevards, gracious old homes, and sprawling leafy suburbs. Once the heart of the apartheid regime, a new sense of multi-culturalism is being infused into the city. The impressive Herbert Baker designed Union Buildings are an architectural delight while the massive Voortrekker Monument and modern Freedom Park offer a more holistic approach to history.
Spectacular scenery, beautiful beaches, world-class winelands, and a vibrantly rich culture and history, Cape Town is undoubtedly one of the jewels in South Africa’s crown. Defined by the iconic Table Mountain, whose majestic backdrop that was recently named one of the natural wonders of the modern world, and caressed on either side by two oceans, this energetic city never fails to deliver. Crafted by Mother Nature herself, life in Cape Town is all about the great outdoors and the city is packed with a variety of activities to enjoy. Head to one of the Blue Flag beaches of Clifton or Camps Bay for a day of sun, sand and sea; climb up Lion’s Head at dawn or take a ferry trip across the bay to the historic Robben Island. For something more relaxed, enjoy a picnic at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, sip wine on a historic farm in Constantia or have a swim with penguins on Boulders Beach en route to Cape Point.
Home to an incredible selection of award-winning restaurants, trendy cafés and vibrant cocktail bars, as well as some of the world’s finest wine farms, the city is a haven for gourmands.
Stunning natural scenery, rugged mountainscapes, and fertile valleys filled with orchards and vineyards are the home of the Cape Winelands, one of the Cape’s most beautiful regions.
Pink-hued mountains tower over patch-worked valleys of undulating vineyards that produce some of the finest wines in the world. Steeped in tradition with a rich history and culture, this beautiful area is a cosmopolitan hotspot for fine wining and dining.
Begin your Winelands ramble in Paarl, renowned for its haunting scenic beauty and ancient viticulture and fruit-growing heritage before meandering through majestic mountain backdrops to the Francophile village of Franschhoek. Originally founded by the French Huguenots after their exodus to Africa, this little French corner is lovingly known today as the ‘Food and Wine Capital of the Cape’, producing superb wines and French-inspired cuisine.
Visit the oak-lined streets of Stellenbosch, the heart of the wine industry and one of South Africa’s oldest and prettiest university towns, or venture further afield to the lesser known areas, such as Ceres, Elgin, McGregor, and Montagu, who are famed for their award-winning wines.
You cannot help but be seduced by the glorious natural beauty of the Cape’s famous Garden Route. Stretching from Cape Town past the towns of George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay along the coast towards Port Elizabeth, beautiful beaches, picturesque lagoons and lakes, rolling hills and majestic mountains make up the breath-taking scenery of this magnificent coastline.
Ancient indigenous forests line the coast from Wilderness to Knysna where you can enjoy adventure trails and hiking, river canoeing, or sliding through the tree canopy. Visit a six-hundred-year-old yellowwood tree or spot one of the few remaining Knysna elephants.
Beautiful beaches and secluded bays such as Hermanus and Stilbaai dot the rugged coastline, where southern right whales come in to calve and play, while a lush and fertile area of greenery runs up into the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains, offering excellent hiking trails, bird watching and mountain hideaways. Inland, the town of Oudtshoorn rests in a semi-arid valley and is home to the world-renowned Cango Caves and the ostrich, which are farmed here by the thousands.
Boasting miles of golden shores lapped by the warm Indian Ocean, a subtropical climate with endless sunny days and warm evenings, and a productive multi-cultured society that played a vital role in shaping the modern Rainbow Nation, Kwa-Zulu Natal is one of South Africa’s most vibrant provinces.
Also known as The Zulu Kingdom, this spectacular region is steeped in history and home to an array of attractions that are not to be missed on a visit to South Africa. From the World Heritage Sites of the coastal iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the mountainous ‘Barrier of Spears’, to the gateway city of Durban, whose pulsating and inviting fusion of East and West overlooks Africa’s busiest seaport and the expansive golden beaches interspersed with idyllic getaway coves of the South Coast – Kwa-Zulu begs to be explored.
With an unparalleled, airbrushed beauty that has inspired a million picture-postcards, the Drakensberg Mountain Range is home to some of South Africa’s most breath-taking landscapes.
Forming the boundary between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, the jagged sweep of basalt summits and buttresses have long attracted visitors and adventurers from around the world to take in its spectacular vistas.
Aptly named ‘uKhahlamba’, meaning ‘Barrier of Spears’ by the Zulu, morning mists swirl around the towering mountain peaks and through the tranquil yellow wood forests that teem with wildlife. In summer, dramatic mountain storms crash around the peaks, while in winter, the snow-capped heights are picture-postcard perfect in their serene beauty. Herds of eland and zebra wind their way across sandstone-flanked valleys, barking baboons can be heard in the distance and black eagles soar between the towering cliffs.
Tumbling mountain streams and cascading waterfalls can be found in the World Heritage Site of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, where a myriad caves and overhangs protect an incredible cultural legacy of ancient rock art painted by Southern Africa’s earliest inhabitants, the San Bushmen.
Natal Midlands – Battlefields
Steeped in history, the rolling hills and valleys of northern KwaZulu-Natal where battles that changed the course of history were fought some 120 years ago, echo these heroic and tragic deeds today.
Two of the most famous battlefields, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift set the stage for the Zulu defeat of the British army with nothing but spears and courage while Spioenkop Battlefield is famous for playing host to Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, and Louis Botha.
Take in a wonderful ‘re-enactment’ of some of the famous battles that took place, where local people dress up in bright red, colonial British or traditional Zulu warrior attire and attempt to repeat history.
Elephant Coast – iSimangaliso Wetland Park
An area of outstanding beauty, the Elephant Coast is a natural paradise that is home to a myriad different ecosystems, where, in the words of the late Nelson Mandela, “the world’s oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale).”
Towering forested dunes stretch along the protected coastline for miles, backed by long, white sandy beaches that play host to vast numbers of nesting turtles; wide rivers wash through broad flood plains and large coastal lagoons spill out into the ocean feeding thousands of marine creatures; and deep coastal lakes are packed with hippo, crocodiles, and a variety of fish. Swamp forests have massive raffia palms that are home to the rare, indigenous palm nut vulture, and a variety of beautiful birds.
The Elephant Coast is famous for its game reserves such as Tembe Elephant Park, home to some of Africa’s largest tuskers, Ndumo and Mkuze, famous for their birdlife, and the private and highly sought-after reserve of Phinda.
Vibrant, energetic and culturally rich, Durban’s melting pot of culture, cuisine, and coastal subtropical climate make this one of South Africa’s most popular holiday cities.
Miles of golden beaches, warm water, and some of the best waves in South Africa draw surfers, scuba divers, and anglers alike. A beautiful waterfront promenade makes for an enjoyable seaside stroll, the iconic Moses Mabhida stadium hosts fantastic soccer games and the uShaka Marine World Aquarium promises a day of fun for the whole family.
Take in the prominent Zulu culture in the markets, art galleries, theatres, and on the streets where vendors sell a variety of African crafts and curios and visit sites where Mahatma Gandhi, John Dube and other heroes of the South African struggle once lived.
Greatly enriched by the city’s Indian population, Durban is famous for its Indian cuisine, so be sure to experience the wonderful food, ceremonies and festivals held in and around the city.
Nature lovers will delight to find many natural, green parks and gardens around the city, as well as nature reserves, such as Shongweni and Kenneth Stainbank within easy walking and driving distance.
How to get there ?
KLM flies daily from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal to Johannesburg via Amsterdam.
No visa required for Canadian and US citizen.