South Africa

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South Africa

Historically, South Africa was the pariah of the world under its infamous apartheid regime, but caught the imagination of all with Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1991, followed by the peaceful, first democratic elections in 1994. Since then, it has become one of the top travel destinations in the world, blending elements of both ‘Africa of old’ with modernity.

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On the one hand, one can escape to wild, remote areas and experience exceptional game viewing and true wilderness. Then, just an hour’s flight away, there are modern cities and hotels that compete with the best in the world. With eleven official languages and a diverse range of cultures and ways of life, it is no wonder that Mandela has named South Africa ‘the rainbow nation’.

When it comes to wildlife and scenery, South Africa has a plethora of places to see, including a number of World Heritage Sites and incredible game reserves. Overshadowed by the dramatic Table Mountain and surrounded by the Atlantic, Cape Town is one of the world’s most picturesque cities. Visitors can sample fine wine under the grapes in the tranquil winelands, while the coastline of South Africa is enormous, offering superb scenery, such as sandy beaches and sheer, fynbos-covered cliffs of the Garden Route, as well as amazing wildlife opportunities, from southern right whales breaching off Cape Town to pristine coral reefs on the KwaZulu-Natal Coast.

Inland are the intriguing and moving battlefield sites that lay testament to both the Anglo-Zulu and the Anglo-Boer wars. Here too rise the Drakensberg Mountains where vultures ride on the thermals over deeply green valleys and jagged peaks.

To the east and the pride of South Africa’s natural heritage is the Kruger National Park. At 2 million hectares and over 300 kms long, this enormous area encompasses a savannah landscape with 147 mammal species, over 400 bird species and numerous reptiles, amphibians and insects.

From desert dunes to rolling farmlands, savannah bush, subtropical hardwood forests and superb white sand beaches, as well as game viewing to equal the best in Africa (including a host of small parks and reserves in the Northern Provinces and Eastern Capes) South Africa offers something to travellers of all persuasions.

After all, where else can you find penguins and elephants living in the same country?

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Quick Facts

Administrative Capital
Pretoria

Population
50.7 million

Area
1.22 million sq km (470,693 sq miles)

Major Languages
11 official languages including English, Afrikaans, Sesotho, Setswana, Xhosa and Zulu

Major religion 
Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs

Monetary Unit 
Rand

Flight time from London
11.5 hours to Johannesburg

Time Difference 
GMT + 2

When to go 
South Africa’s climate is sunny and temperature throughout the year. Durban and Kwa Zulu Natal have a summer rainfall, and can be extremely hot and humid, so the best time for visiting this area is late summer, the winter or early spring.

Game Viewing Times
The best time for game viewing are the dry winter months – June to September. (as it’s Southern hemisphere) Winter nights can be extremely cold on safari so warm clothes are essential.

Cape Town
Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate, with rains during the winter. So the best time for seeing the Cape and Table Mountain is the summer, which is the months November to March.

Botany and Flowers
The best time for flowers however is springtime, in either August or September. During winter (June – Sept) proteas can be seen growing wild in the Riviers-Onderend and Outeniqua mountains.

Rafting and River Running
Rafting in South Africa is best during the rainy season when the river are at their highest. The rainy season is between December and February.

Whale Watching
Whale watching is best in the winter months which is June to Sept

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Highlights

The Western Cape

It’s hard to choose highlights in the Western Cape for there are very few parts of the province that aren’t utterly gorgeous.

Being the first province to be colonised by Europeans it sits at the bottom of the country, including both the most southerly point on the African continent, Cape Agulhas, and the much more famous Cape of Good Hope where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, just south of Cape Town.

Cape Town, furled around the slopes of Table Mountain, is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is usually the first stop of choice on any tour of South Africa. There is enough here to keep you entertained for weeks, from headline sites such as Table Mountain and Robben Island to great museums and historic sights such as Government Avenue, shopping and strolling in Greenmarket Square, Long Street and the V&A Waterfront. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants, craft stalls and buskers to keep you entertained, with regularly spaced cocktail bars to stop you getting thirsty.

South of the city centre, on the Cape Peninsula, the area is filled with fabulous boutique hotels and restaurants, excellent mountain walks and drives such as Chapman’s Peak and Hoerikwaggo Trail. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, long recognised as one of the finest in the world, show off the full glories of the Cape Floral Kingdom that have made this area a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Around the coast, small towns from Simonstown and Muizenberg to Hout Bay and Kommetjie provide excellent beaches, surfing, seafood restaurants and rummaging in antique and craft shops. And don’t forget to stop at Boulders Beach to hang out with the penguins.

Just inland of Cape Town, the rolling hills have been upholstered in vines. A trio of historic towns – Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl – stand at the heart of the Cape Winelands. Wine tastings are obviously a huge part of the Winelands experience, but there is so much more. Whether you want to pamper yourself with gourmet cuisine, a spa break or a round of golf, go hot air ballooning or horse riding through a Big 5 game reserve, these are all possible.

Beyond the Winelands rise the jagged Cederbergs, their cliffs and caves a natural art gallery decorated by the San for thousands of years.

The Garden Route

Conveniently accessible from Cape Town, the Garden Route is famous for its hardy fynbos floral kingdom, its secluded little bays and its year-round holiday frame of mind.

Stretching from Heidelberg in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the extreme western reach of the neighbouring Eastern Cape, the name derives from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation encountered and the numerous lagoons and lakes dotted along the coast.

The main arterial highway of the Garden Route is the N2 which passes through towns such as Mossel Bay, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley and George, the Garden Route’s largest city and main administrative centre.

Ten nature reserves embrace the varied ecosystems of the area as well as unique marine reserves, home to soft coral reefs, bottlenose and common dolphin, seals and a host of other marine life including killer whales that frolic close to shore, especially near Plettenberg Bay. Various other bays along the Garden Route are nurseries to the endangered Southern Right Whale which come there to calve in the winter and spring (July to December).

Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is not only renowned for its diversity of wildlife, but also for its conservation record. You can see the famed Big 5, but you’ll also be dazzled by hundreds of birds, ancient trees, mighty rivers and much, much more.
The world-renowned Kruger National Park is Africa’s oldest established wildlife park (1898) and offers a game experience that ranks with the best in Africa.The core of park is around two million hectares (almost the size of the Wales) and the surrounding areas of unfenced game reserves such as the famous Sabi Sands and Timbavati all combine to make up the Greater Kruger Park.

Sharing the park with you are over 100,000 impala, 10,000 blue wildebeest, 9,000 kudu, 5,000 warthog, 25,000 zebra, 180 cheetah, over 1,000 leopard and 1,500 lions, and that’s just the start.
The Kruger National Park enjoys a great year-round sunny climate and offers all kinds of activities, from guided game drives and bush walks with an armed ranger to three night walking trails in deep wilderness areas.

Battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal

Zulu wars, Shaka, Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, Colenso, Spioenkop, Ladysmith, Dundee, Churchill, Blood River, Cetshwayo, Boers … these are some of the terms which are associated with the internationally renowned KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields area of South Africa.

Walk in the footsteps of famous military strategists Shaka, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and General Louis Botha who were all at the Battle of Spionkop during the Anglo-Boer war which was the longest, the costliest, the bloodiest and most humiliating war that Britain fought in between 1815 and 1914. The wind sighs and whispers the secrets and sorrows of great battles, made visible by lone forts and small graveyards on these undulating landscapes ringed with rocky outcrops.

The legacy of the Zulu Kingdom’s critical, blood-soaked conflicts lives peacefully today, reconciled in this fascinating region’s myriad Battlefield sites, historic towns, national monuments and museums and in HQs of the British regiments who make a ‘pilgrimage’ to these fields of bravery and supreme sacrifice.

Hear in gripping detail the background to the Anglo-Zulu War on the Day of the Dead Moon at Isandlwana mesmerised by the remarkable story of this fantastic Zulu victory. Listen at sunset to the famous story of Rorke’s Drift, where 139 British soldiers were attacked by 4,000 Zulu warriors, winning more Victoria Crosses than in any other battle in history.

The Western Cape

It’s hard to choose highlights in the Western Cape for there are very few parts of the province that aren’t utterly gorgeous.

Being the first province to be colonised by Europeans it sits at the bottom of the country, including both the most southerly point on the African continent, Cape Agulhas, and the much more famous Cape of Good Hope where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, just south of Cape Town.

Cape Town, furled around the slopes of Table Mountain, is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is usually the first stop of choice on any tour of South Africa. There is enough here to keep you entertained for weeks, from headline sites such as Table Mountain and Robben Island to great museums and historic sights such as Government Avenue, shopping and strolling in Greenmarket Square, Long Street and the V&A Waterfront. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants, craft stalls and buskers to keep you entertained, with regularly spaced cocktail bars to stop you getting thirsty.

South of the city centre, on the Cape Peninsula, the area is filled with fabulous boutique hotels and restaurants, excellent mountain walks and drives such as Chapman’s Peak and Hoerikwaggo Trail. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, long recognised as one of the finest in the world, show off the full glories of the Cape Floral Kingdom that have made this area a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Around the coast, small towns from Simonstown and Muizenberg to Hout Bay and Kommetjie provide excellent beaches, surfing, seafood restaurants and rummaging in antique and craft shops. And don’t forget to stop at Boulders Beach to hang out with the penguins.

Just inland of Cape Town, the rolling hills have been upholstered in vines. A trio of historic towns – Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl – stand at the heart of the Cape Winelands. Wine tastings are obviously a huge part of the Winelands experience, but there is so much more. Whether you want to pamper yourself with gourmet cuisine, a spa break or a round of golf, go hot air ballooning or horse riding through a Big 5 game reserve, these are all possible.

Beyond the Winelands rise the jagged Cederbergs, their cliffs and caves a natural art gallery decorated by the San for thousands of years.

The Garden Route

Conveniently accessible from Cape Town, the Garden Route is famous for its hardy fynbos floral kingdom, its secluded little bays and its year-round holiday frame of mind.

Stretching from Heidelberg in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the extreme western reach of the neighbouring Eastern Cape, the name derives from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation encountered and the numerous lagoons and lakes dotted along the coast.

The main arterial highway of the Garden Route is the N2 which passes through towns such as Mossel Bay, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley and George, the Garden Route’s largest city and main administrative centre.

Ten nature reserves embrace the varied ecosystems of the area as well as unique marine reserves, home to soft coral reefs, bottlenose and common dolphin, seals and a host of other marine life including killer whales that frolic close to shore, especially near Plettenberg Bay. Various other bays along the Garden Route are nurseries to the endangered Southern Right Whale which come there to calve in the winter and spring (July to December).

Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is not only renowned for its diversity of wildlife, but also for its conservation record. You can see the famed Big 5, but you’ll also be dazzled by hundreds of birds, ancient trees, mighty rivers and much, much more.
The world-renowned Kruger National Park is Africa’s oldest established wildlife park (1898) and offers a game experience that ranks with the best in Africa.The core of park is around two million hectares (almost the size of the Wales) and the surrounding areas of unfenced game reserves such as the famous Sabi Sands and Timbavati all combine to make up the Greater Kruger Park.

Sharing the park with you are over 100,000 impala, 10,000 blue wildebeest, 9,000 kudu, 5,000 warthog, 25,000 zebra, 180 cheetah, over 1,000 leopard and 1,500 lions, and that’s just the start.
The Kruger National Park enjoys a great year-round sunny climate and offers all kinds of activities, from guided game drives and bush walks with an armed ranger to three night walking trails in deep wilderness areas.

Battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal

Zulu wars, Shaka, Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, Colenso, Spioenkop, Ladysmith, Dundee, Churchill, Blood River, Cetshwayo, Boers … these are some of the terms which are associated with the internationally renowned KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields area of South Africa.

Walk in the footsteps of famous military strategists Shaka, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and General Louis Botha who were all at the Battle of Spionkop during the Anglo-Boer war which was the longest, the costliest, the bloodiest and most humiliating war that Britain fought in between 1815 and 1914. The wind sighs and whispers the secrets and sorrows of great battles, made visible by lone forts and small graveyards on these undulating landscapes ringed with rocky outcrops.

The legacy of the Zulu Kingdom’s critical, blood-soaked conflicts lives peacefully today, reconciled in this fascinating region’s myriad Battlefield sites, historic towns, national monuments and museums and in HQs of the British regiments who make a ‘pilgrimage’ to these fields of bravery and supreme sacrifice.

Hear in gripping detail the background to the Anglo-Zulu War on the Day of the Dead Moon at Isandlwana mesmerised by the remarkable story of this fantastic Zulu victory. Listen at sunset to the famous story of Rorke’s Drift, where 139 British soldiers were attacked by 4,000 Zulu warriors, winning more Victoria Crosses than in any other battle in history.

Where to stay

These are just a selection of the properties we can personally recommend. Please get in touch to hear more about our full portfolio.

Birkenhead House

Birkenhead House is an Hermanus hotel in an enviable location atop the rugged cliffs of the Cape Coast, giving it dazzling ocean views and easy access to the beach. Birkenhead House is the epitome of contemporary beach house cool: modern, stylish and visually stunning.

take me to Birkenhead House

Chitwa Chitwa

After its classic transformation into an eclectic blend of European style with African chic, Chitwa Chitwa has emerged as an exquisite balance between unbridled luxury and environmental harmony, an oasis of conservation.

take me to Chitwa Chitwa

Delaire Graff

Delaire Graff Estate is surrounded by sweeping views across stunning vineyards and mountains towards Stellenbosch, one of the world’s leading wine destinations. The ten sumptuously decorated lodges, each with their own private plunge pool, invite complete relaxation in an idyllic setting.

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Ellerman House

Once the stately home of Sir John and Lady Ellerman, distinguished shipping magnates and investors, Ellerman House sits perched on the slopes of Lion’s Head in the prestigious Bantry Bay residential area. This elegant Cape Edwardian mansion is known for having one of the most spectacular ocean views in South Africa.

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Fugitives’ Drift

The spectacular Fugitives’ Drift property, a 5000 acre Natural Heritage Site, overlooks both Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, and includes the site where Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill lost their lives attempting to save the Queen’s Colour of their regiment.

take me to Fugitives’ Drift

Leobo Private Reserve

The Waterberg is a diverse environment, offering an abundance of wildlife. Rich in archaeological history and Bushman paintings, it is considered to be one of the geological wonders of the world. The Observatory is a masterpiece, ideal for couples or for families. This remarkable house is state-of-the-art, with breath-taking views and the ultimate in luxury. […]

take me to Leobo Private Reserve

Molori Safari Lodge

The word “Molori” means “to dream” in Tswana and truly captures the essence of Molori Safari Lodge, recognized throughout the world as Southern Africa’s most luxurious game lodge. Molori combines local décor and design with international style.

take me to Molori Safari Lodge

July 2019: Southern Africa with Simon King

This desert-orientated itinerary with Simon King takes you to the extremely remote and little-visited Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, characterised by its red sand dunes and the arid Nossob River valley. From the Kgalagadi move onto Tswalu, the largest private game reserve in South Africa.

take me to July 2019: Southern Africa with Simon King

Get in touch with us now to start planning your journey

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