South Africa

Introduction

South Africa is a very unique country placed at the southern side of the fascinating African continent. It offers a variety in terms of scenic variation that is almost unbelievable: from the Kalahari desert to the astonishing Cape of Good hope through the Namaqualand – the flowering desert; from the beaches of its infinite coasts to the Drankensberg Mountains, to the eastern wetlands of iSimangaliso, which alone boasts five different ecosystems, not to mention the thousands of hectares of land which host the most famous Game Reserves of the world, with Kruger National Park being probably on top of the list. It also contains two countries, Lesotho and Swaziland, on a land of around 1,2 millions of square km.

A country where you can swim with penguins or have a thrilling white-shark-cage-dive in the Western Cape, enjoy whale watching in the Zululand, hike along infinite trails almost everywhere, have the best photographic opportunities with the Big5 in uncountable Parks and Reserves and so much more. Food is great and every region has its own traditional dishes and typical flavors, you can discover a different style every day, enjoying wholesome food prepared with love in restaurants for all the pockets. Pair your food with one of the great South African wines, or with a craft beer locally produced.

If you seek adventure, you’ll get it! Beyond the above mentioned activities you’ll be able to have fun rafting, paragliding, surfing and kite surfing; or go for a thrilling bungee jumping, the highest in the world, or again get fit mountain biking or climbing. If you are a biker there are beautiful trails for you and your beloved motorbike in the most incredible sceneries.

It is hard to summarize such a variety of opportunities in a few lines, so let’s try to make some orders in this marvelous chaos.

You will find some suggested highlights of the country: beyond Cape Town and its region there is a strong stress on Wildlife Reserves and Parks, in order to give some inspiration to photographers but also to all those who really want to discover and enjoy the marvels of this country. Not all the beautiful parks of this country are named here, of course.

Contact us to have your personalized itinerary matching your real wishes and expectations!

Upcoming Tours

TSWALU & LONDOLOZI LUXURY PHOTO SAFARI 4 – 11 DECEMBER 2018
MADIKWE WORKSHOP 14 – 20 OCTOBER 2018

Discover Africa like you’ve never seen it before

Cape Town

For us one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town is the gem of the Western Cape, a vibrant, colorful and stunning city, built around the Table Mountain, just a shot away from the breathtaking Cape of Good Hope and the rolling green hills of the Winelands: Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek with their old wineries and excellent food will make you fall in love.Superb cuisine, friendly people and lazy sunny days await you here.

With pleasant daily trips you can easily enjoy a swim with the African penguins, if you want to, some good whale watching in Hermanus ( seasonal, from June to November ), great white cage diving in Gansbaai, or something more traditional like a whole tour of the Cape Peninsula, a stop in the old wineries for a lunch or for some relax. Not to mention the activities that you can do in the city itself, like a trip on top of the Table Mountain to admire the stunning view and the beauty of Table Mountain National Park, or a sundowner on Signal Hill, a trekking on the Lion’s head, maybe in a full moon night, or again a visit to Robben Island, where Mandela was jailed, or you can just forget about everything and take long walks in the Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens or along one of the many beaches of the city and surroundings, before going out for a delicious dinner in one of the amazing restaurants of the mother city.

The northern part of the region deserves a visit as well, with the astonishing beauty of the West Coast National Parks, Paternoster and Saldanha Bay.

The Cederberg region is only two hours from Cape Town and yet the landscape is completely different: wilder, warmer with a raw, dramatic beauty. Clanwilliam and Citrusdal with its towering mountains, brilliant purple and orange sunsets, laden with the scent of orange blossom in the spring. Lambertsbaai and Elandsbaai, with their perfect waves for surfing, offer open air restaurants serving only the best of our seafood and have an abundance of bird life to be spotted. 

The Little Karoo is for sure a great desert area to visit and enjoy its spectacular landscape; go through it on your way to the Garden Route, you will probably want to drive along this world famous road. There is so much to see! You will never get enough of it!

***TIP – Our suggestion is to avoid doing too many things: to appreciate this city and its region you need to take your time, or pick a few things you’d really love to do and enjoy them without rushing through a list of duties. We will be happy to help you choose your favorite activities in such a wide offer.

Eastern Cape

Right at the end of the Garden Route you enter in the Eastern Cape, past Port Elizabeth you will go through the Sunshine Coast and the Wild Coast that will lead you to the Zululand.The first Park you meet here is the Tsitsikamma National Park, famous for the hiking trails and the adventurous activities in an exceptional landscape. With many conservation areas and beautiful wildlife reserve, we avoid talking about the cities, like Port Elizabeth or East London, as we think that the best stops here belong in the bush. “Invigorating crystal clear air, beautiful scenery, tranquil ambience and an abundance of wildlife offer you a special and personal African wilderness experience at Mountain Zebra National Park”, in the northern part of this region, now offering also cheetah tracking on foot.

Moving along the coast you bump into lots of stunning Parks: the Addo Elephant National Park is the perfect place for a self drive, with budget accommodations available; Shamwari Private Game Reserve is a relatively young park, set into a breathtaking scenery with stunning accommodations, where, beyond the fantastic sightings of plenty of game included the Big 5, you will also be able to pay a visit to the Born Free Foundation and see the great job they are doing in conservation. Kariega Private Game Reserve a little further offers great Big5 experience and so does Samara Private Game Reserve, up in the far North.

With 54 000 acres of private wilderness, accommodating a maximum of 52 guests, Kwandwe is one of the highest land:guest ratios in South Africa, with award winning lodges and villas. Big 5 and much more await you here!

Lalibela Game Reserve and Safari Lodge is also located close to Port Elizabeth and Addo, it spans 5 ecosystems, resulting in a breath-taking diversity of flora and fauna.

In these parks, photographic opportunities are great, no doubt!

Moreover, all these reserves are malaria free, which is something you might want to consider, especially if you travel with children.

Kwa Zulu Natal

The Zululand offers so much in terms of wildlife and natural beauties and apart from the vibrant city of Durban, we point out the best things to do in-to-the-wild.The Drakensberg escarpment and parks lays right at the border with Lesotho and will win your heart: “stunning vistas and beautiful sunny skies in winter make it ideal for hiking and outdoor activities. The best route is centered on the Drakensberg World Heritage Site, which includes Giant’s Castle and the Central and Northern Drakensberg. “ Unforgettable landscapes and fun in the mountains.

The many parks set in the eastern side of this region are very diverse and offer different experiences: Hluhluwe National Park is a stunning huge park with an unparalleled beauty, open to self drive and family friendly; not the best place for photography, as in all the national parks, no off-road is allowed and the beautiful forests of the park will make your photographic life quite hard.

Moving East, along a beautiful coast you reach St. Lucia, the small town famous for its estuary filled with hundreds of hippos and crocodiles, you are right at the beginning of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, where swamp areas alternate to high sandy dunes falling into the Indian ocean ( at Cape Vidal ) and white soft sandy beaches invite you to rest and enjoy the almost everlasting summer of this region. The wildlife park has everything but lions and offer night drives ( real ones, from 8pm to 10pm ) at affordable prices. This massive protected area ends up at the border with Mozambique, and the activities offered range from water activities like diving, snorkeling, boat trips, to whale watching ( seasonal ) and from November to march you can assist to the hatching of the eggs of the Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles. Game drives, horseback riding and kayaking are some of the things to enjoy here.

Going North Phinda Private Game Reserve and Zimanga Private Game Reserve are a must go, the first is a “first class reserve” and the latter is 1st Africa Photographic Reserve and it is absolutely worth a visit, if you are keen on photography you cannot miss it! ( see our planned trip in Zimanga )

Mpumalanga & Limpopo

Mpumalanga and Limpopo are famous for hosting the Kruger National Park, maybe the most famous wildlife park in the world. Together with the private concessions that sit all around the Kruger, which form the Greater Kruger, it reaches almost 20000 square kilometers of unfenced wildlife reserve, with game allowed to roam freely in the whole area.Even if these two areas belong to the same park, they are quite different, let’s see why.

The Kruger National Park is open to self drive visitors, offers different types of accommodations and can be visited also for short day trips. As any other national park, no off road is allowed and it can get very crowded at any sighting, here you might have to share your view with many other cars. But it must be said that it offers very very good sightings, with great variety of animals spotted every day. Photographers will have the usual problem of the distance from the subject and the positioning of the vehicle, so long lenses, patience and creativity must be your best friends. Also a binocular might help, when taking pictures gets impossible! The park is huge, and can be divided in different areas: the northern part, famous for the baobabs and the landscapes, like the Pafuri area, but with less game, the centre, famous for the predators sightings, arriving at the very bottom of it, into an area that is very well populated by every kind of game and very good sightings happen regularly.

The Greater Kruger is made up of many Private Game Reserves, here the rules are different: no self drive but only lodge accommodation makes for an intimate experience of the bush, with a limited number of people in the reserve and never more than 2/3 vehicles allowed on a sighting ( but sometimes you will be the only one ); off-road is possible, all this will make all photographers very happy and will allow them to have unforgettable experiences while filling up their memory cards with stunning pictures.

The area is large, so habitats differ and of course animals gravitate toward whichever habitat is best for them. We find all the Big5  and so much more. Some areas are better known for their leopard sightings, others for elephant.

Sabi Sand is very, very famous for the leopard sightings, it comprises many concessions, like Mala Mala ( the real paradise of leopards ), Djuma, Sabi Sabi, Lion Sands, Londolozi, Singita and Ulusaba. All this area is famous for the predators sightings but also offer great game viewing throughout the year on  its 65.000 hectares of land. And we will never stress it enough, if you look for leopards, this is the place to be! ( see our trip to Sabi Sands ).

Timbavati is known as the land of the white lion prides, they are still present but they split into different prides and are now roaming in a bigger area. Spread over 50.000 hectares it includes Motswari, Ngala, Tanda Tula and Umlani.

The game here is amazing and photography is at its best, both from the game vehicle and on foot, during the adventurous nature walks. (see our trip to Timbavati)

Klaserie with over 60,000 hectares of wilderness is one of the largest privately owned reserves in South Africa, the owners have always been committed to preserving the reserve but also to a number of wildlife initiates, that include the Ground Hornbill Project, Rhino Protection and The Elephant Project.

Other reserves part of the GKNP are Kapama, Balule and Thornybush, they share the same beauty as the other ones and offer the same activities – following the same rules!

The Waterberg region is renowned for its hot spring resorts and the beautiful mountain terrain of the Waterberg mountain range. “There is plenty of wildlife to be seen on the numerous private game reserves in the region. The spectacular scenery of the region ranges from broad rolling hills to magnificent red sandstone cliffs. Among the hills and mountains of the Waterberg region there is evidence of human occupation dating back thousands of years”, with San rock paintings there to confirm it.

North West

Moving away from Johannesburg we reach, in a couple of hours, Pilanesberg National Park, possibly the most accessible game reserve in South Africa. Situated in the ecologically rich transition zone between the Kalahari and the Lowveld, this vast area promises thrilling big game viewing in a malaria free environment. A wide variety of accommodation is available to suit your needs. Open to self drive guests, it can be a one day destination fro those who stay in Sun City or in Johannesburg.After a mere 4 hours drive from Joburg we reach Madikwe Game Reserve. Madikwe is currently the fifth largest game reserve and is also one of the lesser – known parks in South Africa. This makes it a hidden- gem as it is regarded as one of the best conservation areas in Africa in a 680 km2 park. With accommodations matching every need, it offers fantastic game viewing, predators are regularly spotted, wild dogs packs roam around this vast land, which also host a very large population of elephants. Madikwe is malaria free. ( read about our workshop in Madikwe )

Northern Cape

The Northern Cape is the largest and most sparsely populated province of South Africa.It includes the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, an international park shared with Botswana. “Where the red dunes and scrub fade into infinity and herds of gemsbok, springbok, eland and blue wildebeest follow the seasons, where imposing camel thorn trees provide shade for huge black-mane lions and vantage points for leopard and many raptors… this is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.” A very sought after destination for all self drivers who love camping, it also offer a few accommodations in lodges where activities like game drives and walks can be booked. Malaria free.

Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, now protecting over 110,000 hectares of spectacular grasslands and mountains, malaria free. Over 80 species of mammals can be found on the reserve, together with approximately 240 species of birds, black maned lions, a healthy population of wild dogs, but what makes this reserve unique is the opportunity to spot pangolins and aardvarks, the Sacred Graal of every photographer!

Augrabies Falls national Park. The Khoi San people call this park “Aukoerbis”, which means “The place of great noise”, a very appropriate name for these stunning falls which make a spectacular jump of 60 metres. Not relevant for wildlife photography in the most typical sense, the park hosts a good number of bucks like the klipspringer, gemsbok, springboks, bat eared foxes, giraffes, birds and dassies, to name some. The natural rocky beauty of these falls is worth a visit, mainly if you are on your way to Namibia.

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Wildlife

South Africa offers an impressive variety also when it comes to animals. In the wildlife and conservation areas all the typical African animals are well represented. Not to mention the marine world of mammals and fish!The most sought after are the Big5 – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo -, but the country offers so much more: a wide number of bucks, reptiles, other predators and a great variety of birds. Don’t forget to look for the lesser known Small5 – ant lion, leopard tortoise, elephant shrew, rhino beetle and red billed buffalo weaver -.

Big cats are well distributed: lions, leopards, cheetah are commonly seen in wildlife reserves, serval, caracal and wild cats are instead harder to spot. Timbavati, in Greater Kruger, hosted a pack of white lions, who are still present in the Greater Kruger. Other carnivores you will find here are the endangered wild dog, hyena ( brown and spotted ), aardwolf, civets, genets, mongoose, foxes, jackals, honey badger, weasel, otter and many more.

Elephants seem to be growing in number and have healthy populations after being almost disappeared in 1920’s, and so do rhinos, both black and white, even if these creatures are now very endangered, being poached for their horns. Buffalos can be found in large herds and hippos in large number. Giraffes and zebras roam peacefully everywhere.

Bucks are also very well represented: impala, kudu, springbok, duiker, klipspringer, waterbuck, nyala, bushbuck, eland, gemsbok, sable, roan, wildebeest and more, depending on the area.

Primates can be found also in some of the big cities. Baboons, vervet monkeys and bushbabies populate a vast area of the country.

Pangolins and aardvark are present but hard to spot, but contact us and we will give you good suggestions on where to find them!

Also reptiles, like crocodiles, over 100 species of snakes and chameleons are present here, together with almost 90 species of amphibian.

Birdlife

Grasslands, wetlands and forests, to savannahs, fynbos, the seashore and open oceans, these habitats offer a spectacular diversity of beautiful birds, from the diminutive, fynbos-restricted orange-breasted sunbird to the large, desert-adapted Ludwig’s bustard.

With almost 900 species of birds recorded, South Africa attracts birders from all over the world. Migrants and resident birds can be found almost everywhere, in the rainy season, from November to March, a real paradise for bird photography.

From the big ostrich, to the ground hornbill, from egrets to storks, secretary birds, kori bustards, cranes, cormorants, infinite birds of prey, owls, vultures, short-clawed lark, Shelley’s francolin, grey-headed parrot, African broadbill and crested guineafowl, black-fronted bushshrike, Arnot’s chat, blue-spotted wood-dove, racket-tailed roller, Senegal coucal and tropical boubou….and again the kingfishers, lilac breasted rollers, bee-eaters, sunbirds, weavers, whydahs, starlings, waxbills and so much more.

If you have never been interested in birds, you might change your mind after a visit here!

Marine Life

South Africa has a coastline stretching more than 2500 km, with the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic lapping onto its shores, and a few words about the marine life are due.The great white shark is probably the most famous resident of these waters, and activities like shark cage diving are quite common in some specific areas. Boat tours will take you where the great white hunts its favorite food, Cape fur seals, who live on small islands and are another great attraction of these oceans.

Whales are also a highlight of a tour in this country, they come along the coasts, in specific areas, in specific months of the year, to give birth. And so, from June to November, you might be able to spot the southern right whale, the blue whale or humpback whale, both from the coast and from the boat that will take you very close to these incredible mammals.

Dolphins and killer whales can also be seen, the first are very commonly spotted during boat trips in the bays close to the shore.

Last but not least, the African penguins populate the coasts and the sea of the Western Cape, and in a particular beach, you can have a swim with these funny little birds.

When to Visit

South Africa is a huge country and this also reflects into its climate.With regard to general temperature:

  • Winter months are between May and September – low season
  • Summer months are between November and April – high and peak season

Safari season:

May to September: this is surely the best time to go on safari, days are sunny with no rain, there is less vegetation and spotting animals is easier, also because they gather close to the remaining water sources. It could get quite chilly in the mornings and at nights, so arrive prepared! Some areas might get very crowded ( Kruger National Park ).

We can add also April and October to the best safari season, being aware of the possibility of some showers.

During these dry months the risk of malaria is lower than during the rainy season.

If you are looking for different pictures, with dramatic cloudy sky and green vegetation, then you can visit during the rainy season ( November to March ), but spotting animals will require more patience!

The Western Cape and Cape Town have rainy winters with low temperatures ( June to August ), and the best time to have a beach holiday here is for sure between November and March. Should you want to spend Christmas here plan it in advance because Cape Town gets fully booked every year!!

The Garden Route and the Eastern Cape might get rain all year round.

The Kwa Zulu Natal has mild winters and might get very hot and humid during January and February, but it mainly has sunny days all year round.

The Whales season is between June and November, with the central months the best ones ( Western Cape and Kwa zulu Natal )

Passport, visa and important docs

Your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after your intended date of departure from South Africa.South African law requires travelers to have two fully blank visa pages. Blank “endorsement” pages are not sufficient. The blank pages must be “visa” pages.

All travelers should have at least two fully blank passport visa pages upon each arrival in South Africa, including following trips to neighboring countries.

Requirements for visitor’s visas differ from country to country (click here to see which countries are currently exempt), and the requirements are subject to change. As each application is treated as an individual case and you should make enquiries with your nearest South African mission or consulate abroad or any office of the Department of Home Affairs to see whether or not you are required to apply for a visa.

Remember that there is a fee charged for issuing a visa, and you should check the cost with the office as well as this is updated annually. The fee is payable in different currencies in different countries.

For a complete overview over visas please visit the Home Affair Immigration page

or the Home Affair main page

IMPORTANT NEW REGULATIONS FOR PEOPLE TRAVELING WITH MINORS

New requirements, introduced by the South African Department of Home Affairs from 1 June 2015, specify that all minors (children under 18 years) are required to produce, in addition to their passport, an Unabridged Birth Certificate which shows the details of both parents for all international travel to and from South Africa. Rules may differ for children traveling with one parent, two parents, relatives, unaccompanied and many other cases are considered. Please read carefully!

Travelers will be asked to produce the required documentation at check-in for each flight.

Important contact information

  1. The South African Department of Home Affairs, 0800 60 11 90 (toll free from South Africa)
  2. Your local South African Embassy

MALARIA AND VACCINATIONS

Malaria is the most dangerous disease in Africa, and it also occur in some areas of South Africa, with higher risk in Mpumalaga and Limpopo regions, the parks area ( Kruger and Greater Kruger ).There are a few intermediate risk areas: Kosi Bay, Sodwana Bay, Mkuze Game Reserve and St Lucia Lake (not the town of St Lucia and the river mouth).

The Western Cape in malaria free, and so it is for the other regions.

Months from October to April carry the higher risk and taking all precautions, included an adequate prophylaxis is strongly advised.

It is essential to take all possible precautions to prevent mosquito bites, also in low risk areas, with suitable clothes, repellent,  mosquito nets.

Please go to your travel clinic in time before your departure, in order to have the appropriate suggestion for your specific case from a specialized doctor, who may prescribe prophylactic tablets to prevent malaria.

Be also aware of the fact that malaria can be contracted also if under prophylactic tablet, so in case  of symptoms like headache, muscular and joint pain, fever, shacking chills and in some cases nausea, diarrhea and fatigue consult a doctor immediately and  advice you travelled in malaria risk areas.

Symptoms usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite, even if some kind of infection can appear up to 4 years after the original bite and malaria tablets may delay the appearance of symptoms.

Vaccinations for Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Polio should be reviewed and updated if necessary.

There is no risk of yellow fever in South Africa. The government of South Africa requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only  for travelers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travelers having transited more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.This does not include the US. If you are traveling from a country other than the US, check this list to see if you may be required to get the yellow fever vaccine: Countries with risk of yellow fever virus (YFV) transmission.

MEDICAL INSURANCE

It is essential adequate travel and medical insurance be taken out prior to departure.

This should cover any medical situation such as hospitalization, as well as cancellation and evacuation.

Usually lodges in wildlife parks require guests to have a medical insurance.

SAFETY

South Africa is a safe country to visit, always provided that one use good common sense. The country gets around 10 millions tourists every year who join organized trips or travel across the country in self drive.Most of the violent crimes occur in the townships and do not involve tourists, so please avoid these areas, unless your visit is organized by a tour specialist.

In big cities like Cape town, Durban and Johannesburg avoid walking and driving at night and don’t wear showy clothes, jewels, purses and big cameras hanging from your neck.

Be careful when withdrawing money from ATM, try to do it in malls during the day. Don’t go around with too much money.

CURRENCY AND PLUGS

South African currency is Rand, shorten to “R” or to “Zar”. We suggest you change some money before your trip to South Africa.Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere also for small payments. ATM are everywhere.

Please be aware that in the Parks area Pos and ATM might be out of order, so have some cash with you.

Most common plugs and sockets in South Africa are of type M and N. Please get a universal adaptor before your departure. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

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