South Africa is famous for its big-cat sightings. © Andrew Schoeman

Luxury Safaris in South Africa

I could wax lyrical about luxury South African safaris all day. Let me pour you a glass of Pinotage and I’ll begin…

The country is a fascinating cultural melting pot: where once empires collided, now flavours, rhythms and styles fuse. Each day South Africa conjures up new wonders, humour and mysteries.

Begin with a few days in Cape Town – arguably the most spectacular setting of any major city. On its handsome Cape Dutch doorstep, you’ll find the Cape Winelands, where a day spent wine tasting will revive even the most jaded palate.

Then head up the East Coast, where whales cavort and oceans commingle, and visit the picturesque towns along the Garden Route. Follow the shoreline all the way to the warm Indian Ocean beaches of Maputaland in northern KwaZulu-Natal – and scuba dive, watch turtles hatch or track rhino in iSimangaliso Wetlands Park and Phinda Private Game Reserve.

From there, head north to Mpumalanga, and spend time in the private game reserves of the greater Kruger, where wildlife tracking has been elevated to an art form. Or visit the adjacent Kruger National Park, which offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Africa.

Finally, veer west into the country’s interior to Madikwe Game Reserve or the Waterberg. Go on safari in the Kalahari Desert, and sleep under the stars. You might even see painted dogs in the wild.

There are treasures everywhere in South Africa – beneath your feet, some of the world’s richest deposits of diamonds and precious metals; everywhere you look, welcoming smiles and greetings in 11 official languages.

If I could give you one piece of advice, it’d be not to worry if you can’t fit everything in on your first visit. You’ll be back.

When to Go

South Africa’s seasons are essentially the inverse of the Northern Hemisphere, meaning that these are the warmer summer and autumn months. Much of South Africa receives its rain now, in the welcome and refreshing shape of brief, sharp afternoon downpours. The exception is the Western Cape, where warm, dry days make for perfect beach conditions. The bushveld of the Greater Kruger National Park is dry as this period begins – making it easier to see wildlife – becoming progressively lusher with the rains. Newborn animals vie for your attention with migrating birds.

These are the cooler months of winter and spring. The Western Cape receives its rain now, but elsewhere it’s dry. Vegetation becomes sparser and wildlife congregates at water sources, making this the best time of year to go on safari in Greater Kruger National Park. Cold mornings and evenings contrast with pleasantly warm days, so dress in layers. To combine beach time with wildlife viewing, your best option is Maputaland in KwaZulu-Natal, with its famously warm year-round climate.

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