The 700-foot-high Bloukrans Bridge Bungy is located along the scenic Garden Route. // © 2014 South Africa Tourism
South Africa has come to be referred to as “one world in one country.” That’s because it offers it all: spectacular scenery, the wildlife Big Five, the wildlife Little Five, the ocean’s Big Five, the New World’s oldest vineyards, cuisine from around the world and more. With such a scope of offerings — not to mention year-round accessibility and sophisticated accommodations — the destination lends itself to custom itineraries for different types of clients. Helping you know what to include, South Africa experts share their tips about the country’s must-do adventures.
Though African Travel Co. sends clients on FIT trips throughout the continent, president Jim Holden believes that South Africa stands out for its combination of sophisticated first-world luxury and its variety of distinct safari experiences.
Where to Safari
According to Holden, there are unlimited choices as to where to safari in South Africa. He breaks it down by the country’s distinct experiences:
The beautifully scenic Garden Route from Cape Town up the East Coast along the Indian Ocean to Port Elizabeth, where a pristine wildlife reserve awaits
The northern Zululand coast, also along the Indian Ocean, where rhinos are bred for rehabilitation, versus those places in Africa where they have become extinct due to uncontrolled poaching
The world famous Kruger National Park on South Africa’s Eastern boundary with Mozambique where the private conservation areas and unique lodges make the lists of the top lodges to stay at in the world
The northern more arid parts of South Africa in the Limpopo district
The Kalahari Desert with its desert-adapted wildlife and ancient San people who are our ancestors, realizing that we are all said to have originated from Africa.
Who to Trust
“Know who you are working with to plan your safari,” said Holden. “If you are working with a company whose function is a lodge operator, don’t be surprised to only be told about their lodges. If you work with a tour operator, outfitter or ground handler, you’ll have a chance to learn about all of the choices for safari.”
When to Go
South Africa’s varied climate means its open for visitors 365 days a year, though during the rainy season (November to March), wildlife areas are most green and succulent.
“Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate so you can experience all four seasons in one day, and the desert areas offer a colorful carpet of desert flowers in the rainy season,” said Holden. “And since the central area of South Africa is at an elevation of 6,500 feet, the country has its own built-in air conditioning.”
South Africa Itinerary Tips
Start planning a safari long before you expect to travel; there is so much choice it takes time to work out the safari that is going to best suit what you are looking for.
Don’t feel you have to compromise; there is a safari for every budget.
Go on safari when the time to go suits you so you can devote all your attention to enjoying your safari rather than be worrying that you should be somewhere else. Africa is open 365 days a year — there is always somewhere you can go in South Africa at any time to enjoy safari.
Combine the different areas into a safari that fits the traveler’s time frame, and allows each area to complement the other.
Carefully balance the itinerary. Periods of excitement should be followed by time for recuperation and being at peace with nature.
Sthu Zungu has served as president for South African Tourism North America for more than six years. She has sampled many of the country’s once-in-a-lifetime adventures — even shark-cage diving — but thinks that for pure thrill, no experience beats bungy jumping.
“It is true that many destinations offer bungy jumping experiences, but South Africa holds claim to the Bloukrans Bridge Bungy,” said Zungu. “Measuring more than 700 feet from bridge to river, it is the highest commercial bridge bungy in the world. This particular jump is an activity that bucket lists are made for.”
Testing the Waters
Walk on the bridge and decide later if you want to take the plunge. But you can’t blame the weather — bungy jumping in South Africa is possible year-round.
A travel designer for Anywhere Anytime Journeys, Brad Martin has been selling South Africa for five years. In order to find the latest hot spots and trends, he has become a South African Fundi Specialist with South African Tourism and has attended South Africa’s annual tourism conference, Indaba. With all of that knowledge, he feels perfectly comfortable losing himself in the country’s natural settings.
“Even though I planned out everything for my trek in Cape Town, one day I suddenly made a wrong turn, and ended up in some crazy place I couldn’t find on a map,” said Martin. “I may have felt a little lost while it was happening, but later I realized it was the best part of my whole trip. Cape Town is my refuge — my sanctuary where I find peace that comes from my need for adventure.”
Why Cape Town Rocks
Known as one of the Seven Wonders of Nature, Cape Town’s Table Mountain is the only conservation area in the world surrounded entirely by an urban environment.