At the southern most tip of Africa, where the Atlantic Ocean seamlessly meets the Indian Ocean rests South Africa. Plagued with a turbulent past this remarkable country has finally found its identity; one that intrepid travellers are quickly discovering can be mesmeric. It is this innate characteristic that draws thousands to book flights to South Africa annually.
The most popular stop for travellers taking flights to South Africa is Cape Town. The oldest city in southern Africa is by far the most progressive, with its trendy restaurants, buzzing nightlife and quirky shops. North of Cape Town is the vibrant, brash city of Johannesburg which most travellers visit on their way to Kruger Park – the biggest and most famous wildlife reserve in the world.
The towns along the coast of the country are also well worth a visit. Durban, in the northeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, has the best surf beaches while Port Elizabeth’s quaint cafes provide a good rest-stop on the way to the Garden Route. This coastal strip with its lagoons, forests and stunning beaches has become the second most popular destination after Cape Town.
Search and compare: cheap flights to South Africa
South Africa climate
Southern Hemisphere rules apply in South Africa. Winter is May to August; Spring September to October; Summer November to February and Autumn March to April. The climate is, in general, temperate with long sunny days. Most of the provinces have some rain in the summer, however in the Western Cape rain falls during the winter months.
When to fly to South Africa
South Africa is a year-round destination. The best times to book flights to South Africa depends on the activity you have in mind. South Africa’s summer lasts from November to February – warm with heavy rains in the afternoons.
Average winter temperatures range between 11 degrees in Johannesburg and 17 degrees in Durban; while summer temperatures hover between 29 (in Johannesburg) and 24 (in Durban).
The best time to watch game is spring (August to October). Whale watchers should visit between mid-June and the end of October for Southern Right Whales and between August and December for Humpback Whales.
For diving and surfing – April to September; hiking – spring and autumn as summer temperatures can be very high.
Search and compare: cheap flights to South Africa
Getting around South Africa
There are eight domestic airlines operating flights around South Africa. British Airways flies from Johannesburg to Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth, and between Cape Town and Durban. South African Airways, the national carrier, flies to several destinations including Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, George, Upington, Kimberley, East London, Mthatha, Margate, and Sun City. South African Express flies between Johannesburg, Cape Town, East London and George and several other cities.
Other airlines offering domestic flights include Kululu.com, Mango and Nationwide. There are also smaller charter airlines
Intercape, Greyhound and Translux offer services around the country.
Rail: Spoornet connects the major cities; Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, Cape Town or Durban for example. The Blue Train is a luxury service (scheduled and charter) that runs Pretoria – Cape Town – Pretoria. There are special packaged routes too. Rovos Rail is another luxury service and the Steam Train Company offers scenic tours old-style.
Roads are good and car rental companies with branches at the airports and around the country include Avis, Budget and Europcar. It’s also possible to rent a motorbike or campervan/motorhome. Drive on the left.
South Africa insider information
- South Africa has 20 national parks, of which Kruger is the largest and best-known. It was established in 1898 and is about the size of Wales. It is home to 147 mammals, 114 types of reptiles, and 507 species of birds. Among them are hippos, crocodiles, Impala antelopes (most numerous animal), zebras, buffaloes, giraffes and elephants. The big cats call Kruger home too - there are 1,500 lions, 900 leopards and 300 cheetahs. There are several rest camps throughout the park ranging from huts and family cottages to luxury guest houses.
- Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is composed of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (of South Africa) and Gemsbok National Park (of Botswana). It has more than 3.6 million hectares. In such a large space, vegetation is sparse and most of the animals concentrate around the Auob and Nossob riverbeds. Ground squirrel and suricate (meerkat) are the most numerous animals; badger, pangolin (anteater) and fox are also in residence. There are raptors (eagles, vultures, falcons and kestrels) as well as predators (cheetah, leopard, hyena and lion).
- Whales, turtles and penguins: view breaching whales at Hermanus, south of Cape Town. The town has its own whale crier, who blows his horn in a “Morse” code, signaling the location of whales. There are African Jackass Penguins on Boulder’s Beach in Simonstown (Simon’s Town). To spot Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles nesting, head to St Lucia in KwaZulu Natal. The turtles nest between November and January and hatch between January and March.
- Johannesburg has the Apartheid Museum and MuseuMAfricA, a history and cultural museum. Far from Austria, the South African Lipizzaners, are in action each Sunday morning in Kyalami. During Easter, the horses will dance to the music of the 1970s.
- Take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town. The cable car whooshes up the mountain (1085m / 3,560 feet) in less than ten minutes and has a rotating floor offering 360-degree views of the city.
- Trivago is a useful website for user reviews and recommendations on accommodation in South Africa. The site includes pages on a range of hotels across the country, including those in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Hermanus.