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South Africa

South Africa

South Africa, “a world in one country”, is diverse and simply beautiful!  It offers its visitors a multitude of unique destinations and experiences, and is especially rich in history – from our ancestors having lived in this area for more than 3 million years to Nelson Mandela and the dawning of our new democracy.

South Africa offers an attraction to suit just about any traveller’s wish.  It is, for example, fast becoming a much recognised gourmet destination, offering seafood (crayfish, prawns, oysters and mussels, Yellowtail, Tuna and Galjoen), curries, sizzling Cape Malay dishes or the most traditional of all, the braai (barbecue).  All can be enjoyed with a glass, or two, or our award winning South African wines, whilst watching the big 5, experiencing the chilling roar of a lion, the trumpeting of an elephant or the gentle duet of ground hornbills, in one of South Africa’s national or private game reserves.

Then there are our largely unspoilt beaches which stretch over 2200 kilometers – from the sub tropical climate of KwaZulu Natal to the Mediterranean climate of the Cape.  South Africa’s beaches offer scenic beauty, great swimming, surfing and fishing, long quiet stretches and beaches teaming with life, especially during our festive seasons.  You can also enjoy the sights of the playing antics of dolphins to Humpback whales who visit the South African shores to calf every year.  Our oceans can be enjoyed from simply relaxing on the beach to exciting whale and dolphin watching trips, scuba diving, fishing or sunset cruises around our world-class bays.

South Africa is also well-known for its spectacular diversity of plants with way over 22 000 species. Over 10% of the world’s flowering plants are found on the Cape Peninsula – roughly 10 times that which can be encountered in the whole of Europe!  Visitors quickly discover that South Africa has an abundance of natural resources, a rich cultural history and many varying and colourful inhabitants, all of which ideally complements it’s top tourist attractions, creating an unforgettable experience time after time.

For those who keep a check-list of animals seen, you would obviously have started with the BIG FIVE (including the lion, the rhino, the buffalo, the leopard and he elephant), and possibly the LITTLE FIVE (incl. the Buffalo Weaver, the Elephant Shrew, the Leopard Tortoise, the Ant Lion and the Rhino Beetle).  But believe it or not, there is more to add – the FREAKY FIVE (incl. the Chacma Baboon, the Cape Vulture, the Pangolin, the Sun Gazer and the Golden Baboon Spider).

Now imagine capturing all of the above, the sights, sounds, shapes and colours, our rich urban life and our contrasting but equally diverse and beautiful natural environment, on camera, all in one trip, in one country!

Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park, where nearly 2 million hectares of unrivaled diversity of life-forms fuse with historical and archaeological sights, is where one finds true Africa. The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa.  Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African lowveld, this national park is a leading natural destination in terms of the diversity of its fauna and flora and a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies.

Truly the flagship of the South African National Parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals.  Man’s interaction with the lowveld environment over many centuries, from Bushman rock paintings to majestic archaeological sites like Masorini and Thulamela, is very evident in the Kruger National Park.  These treasures represent the cultures, persons and events that played a role in the history of the Kruger National Park and are conserved along with the park’s natural assets.


5 Things To Seek in the Kruger National Park

  • The Big Five: Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino
  • The Little Five: Buffalo Weaver, Elephant Shrew, Leopard Tortoise, Ant Lion and Rhino Beetle
  • Birding Big Six: Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard, Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Saddle-billed
  • Five Trees: Baobab, Fever Tree, Knob Thorn, Marula and Mopane
  • Natural & Cultural Features: Letaba Elephant Museum, Jock of the Bushveld Route, Albasini Ruins, Masorini Ruins,
    Stevenson Hamilton Memorial Library and Thulamela

Wild Province / Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape is the home of legends, a cultural melting pot, the birthplace of an iconic world leader, Nelson Mandela, and iconic political activists Steve Biko, Walter Sisulu and Chris Hani. The rich heritage and diversity of the Eastern Cape with its people, sights and sounds are interwoven into the tapestry of what makes this region so unique. Become encapsulated in the history of a proud region and its people. The Eastern Cape has also become known for its wide selection of national parks, the most famous being the Addo Elephant National Park.  Now the third largest national park in South Africa, it has expanded to conserve a wide range of biodiversity, landscapes, fauna and flora. Stretching from the semi-arid Karoo area in the north around Darlington Dam, over the rugged Zuurberg Mountains, through the Sundays River Valley and south to the coast between Sundays River mouth and Bushman’s River mouth, Addo covers about 180 000 hectares and includes the Bird and St. Croix Island groups.

The original elephant section of the park was proclaimed in 1931 when only eleven elephants remained in the area. Today this finely tuned ecosystem is a sanctuary to over 600 elephants, lion, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, a variety of antelope and zebra species, as well as the unique Addo flightless dung beetle, found almost exclusively in Addo. The park can exclusively claim to be the only national park in the world to conserve the “Big 7” – the Big 5 as well as the Southern Right Whale and Great White Shark off the Algoa Bay Coast.

Mountain Zebra National Park

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.  Situated near Cradock in the malaria-free Eastern Cape, this national park was originally proclaimed in 1937 to save the dwindling Cape Mountain Zebra population.  Now, at over 28 000 hectares, the park boasts a conservation success story, protecting over 700 zebra as well as wildlife such as endangered black rhino and cheetah.

Shamwari Private Game Reserve

A mere 75 km from Port Elizabeth towards Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa.  Shamwari is the crown jewel of private game reserves situated in the malaria free Eastern Cape, the birth place of Nelson Mandela.

This privately owned 25 000 hectares of prime natural terrain has received numerous international awards.  Shamwari is an exploration of nature with close encounters of free roaming wildlife and the coveted Big Five with a choice of unique lodges, an exclusive private villa and the adventurous Explorer Camp.

Johannesburg / Soweto

Johannesburg, in South Africa, is the second largest city in Africa.  In 2016 there were 4.94 million people living in the city.  Joburg, or Jozi as most locals so fondly call it, offers it’s visitors experiences as unique and diverse as the city itself.  Whether you are on business, in search of a cultural encounter, an adrenaline rush or simply want to relax and unwind for a few days, the city of Johannesburg, and it’s surrounds, has everything you’re looking for and more.

The Apartheid Museum illustrates the rise and fall of South Africa’s era of segregation and oppression and is an absolute must-see. It uses a broad variety of media to provide a chilling insight into the architecture and implementation of the apartheid system, as well as inspiring stories of the struggle towards democracy.  Whilst in the area, especially over a weekend, a visit to Newtown will prove to be a most entertaining way to experience the local culture with a window into food, music, beer, art, performances, local song and dance.  This is a locally produced work of art, inviting people to cross the borders of race and simply enjoy true and colourful African talent.

Do not leave Jo’burg without visiting Constitution Hill. One of South Africa’s most important historical sites, the deeply moving and inspirational exhibitions here are split across four locations: the Old Fort, which dates from 1892 and was once a notorious prison for white males; the horrific Number Four Jail, reserved for non white males; the Women’s Jail; and the Awaiting Trial Block – now mostly demolished and replaced by the Constitutional Court.

The townships are the heart of the nation and none beats louder than Soweto.  Standing for ‘South West Townships’, this area has evolved from one of forced habitation to an address of pride and social prestige as well as a destination in its own right.  Visit Soweto to experience welcoming township life and to visit places of tremendous historical significance, such as the former home of Nelson Mandela and the Hector Pieterson Museum.  Part of your visit to Soweto has to include a lunch stop at Sakhumzi’s Restaurant.  A restaurant with a story – a home, a tree, and a bunch of friends – the home is still abuzz with patrons coming from Soweto, Joburg, Pretoria, in fact from all over the world, to experience a taste of true township flavour and Ubuntu!  For many years now it has been safe to visit the main sights independently.  A stroll down buzzing Vilakazi St offers an insight into modern African sensibilities, while the addition of the Orlando Towers bungee jump, or taking in a show at the marvellous Soweto Theatre, provides quality, fun experiences in what can be a place of great political abstraction.

The WITS Origins Centre is another must-see attraction.  The Origins Centre offers a journey of discovery and experience of Africa’s rich, complex heritage and boasts an extensive collection of rock art, fossils, artefacts and ancient stone tools.  WITS (The University of the Witwatersrand) also has strong ties to the Sterkfontein Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is where some of the oldest and most famous hominid fossils in the world were found. 

Johannesburg is probably the best starting point for your travels around South Africa, it will give you a quick, jam-packed introduction to the many many facets of our truly most amazing South Africa!

Durban / Drakensberg.

In the Zulu language, Kwa means “the place of the Zulu People” or “the Zulu Kingdom”, although it is often simply known by the locals as KZN.  It is one of South Africa’s nine provinces with 11 municipal districts but for travel purposes the best know regions include Durban, the South Coast, the North Coast, Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands, the Drakensberg, the Battlefields, the Zululand and the Maputaland or Elephant Coast.  Each of these areas has its own unique characteristics and attractions and you will find that you are spoilt for choice.

KwaZulu Natal is a traveller’s dream and with the seemingly perpetual summer of subtropical climate, it is not surprising that KZN is famous for it’s outdoor activities, beaches, natural environment, sporting events and a variety of adventure activities.  The Indian Ocean is warm and with relatively stable sea temperatures averaging 21C, it provides opportunities to swim, surf, fish, sail, snorkel and scuba dive or just hang out on the numerous beautiful beaches throughout the year.  In addition to all the water-related activities, in KZN adrenaline junkies can abseil the world’s highest gorge, bungee jump, go mountain biking, white-water rafting, dive with sharks or even do some ice-climbing in the snowy mountains of the Drakensberg in the winter months of June – August.

Historically, the battles fought in the beautiful hills and valleys of northern KZN at the turn of the 19th century, changed the course of South African history.  The sites of famous skirmishes that rocked the British Empire, weakened the Boers and broke the mighty Zulu nation, draw visitors from across the world.  Some of the more famous battlefields are at Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana in Zululand, but there are many other interesting historical sites, museums and monuments throughout the province.

Not many people know that it was in KwaZulu Natal that Nelson Mandela was finally captured after having been on the run from the apartheid government.  He was later sentenced and spent 27 years in prison.  Commemorating this event, is a magnificent memorial, “The Mandela Capture Site”, outside the town of Howick in the Midlands.  It was also in KwaZulu Natal that Mandela chose to cast his vote in South Africa’s first ever democratic elections.  This he did at the Ohlanga Institute on the outskirts of Durban.

Some of South Africa’s premier game and marine reserves are situated in KwaZulu Natal and are very proud that two of the country’s eight magnificent World Heritage sites, namely the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the Elephant Coast and the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park in the mountains to the west of the province are here.  Another important game reserve is Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, world famous for the role it has played in preserving Africa’s white rhino populations from extinction.

The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is one of KwaZulu Natal’s two World Heritage Sites.  This site is part of a much longer mountain range that stretches some 1,600 kilometres, from South Africa’s northernmost provinces to the Eastern Cape.  Not only does the World Heritage Site protect a stunning natural mountain wilderness area, it also protects an amazing cultural legacy of ancient rock art in Africa painted by Southern Africa’s earliest inhabitants, the San or Bushmen.

The Zulu people named the 300-kilometre section of mountain range bordering KwaZulu Natal and the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho ‘uKhahlamba’, meaning ‘Barrier of Spears’.  The early Dutch settlers called them the ‘Drakensberge’ or ‘Dragon Mountains’.  Nowadays, this lovely natural wonderland is referred to by locals simply as the ‘Berg’.

In the park itself, hiking along the footpaths through the mountains, camping in caves or stopping to have a picnic and a plunge in the rock pools, with tumbling streams and cascading waterfalls, are just some of the great pleasures of a visit to the beautiful uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.  This is definitely a place for photographers.  The morning mists swirl around the dramatic mountain peaks and through the cool yellowwood forests.  In summer, dramatic mountain storms crash around the mountain peaks and in winter, the snow-capped heights are a sight to enjoy from the cosy warmth of your mountain chalet fireside.  It is wonderful just to sit and take in the views of herds of eland and other smaller antelope making their way across the sandstone-flanked valleys.  Baboons bark in the distance while black eagles and Bearded vultures soar between the towering basalt cliffs.  Abseiling, rock climbing and ice climbing in winter, are also popular.

Garden Route National Park

Along the south coast of South Africa lies one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world, home to the Garden Route National Park. A mosaic of ecosystems, it encompasses the world renowned Tsitsikamma and Wilderness areas, the Knysna Lake section, a variety of mountain catchments, Southern Cape indigenous forest and associated Fynbos areas.  These areas resemble a montage of landscapes and seascapes, from ocean to mountain areas, and are renowned for its diverse natural and cultural heritage resources.  Managed by South African National Parks, it hosts a variety of accommodation options, activities and places of interest.

Best Times to Visit

Low Season, winter months (June – August): Ideal for wildlife watching, prices are generally lower with discounts andspecial packages available.

Shoulder Season, autumn and spring (April – May and September – October): Sunny, gentle and comfortable weather. Wildflower season is late August to early September.  Optimum wildlife-watching conditions are from autumn onwards.

High Season, summer months (November to March):  Peak times are early December to mid-January and around Easter. During peak times accommodation in national parks and the coast is usually booked up many months, often a year, in advance.

Medical / Health

As long as you stay up to date with vaccinations and take basic preventative measures, you’re unlikely to succumb to any hazards. While South Africa has an impressive selection of tropical diseases, suffering from diarrhea or a cold is more likely than contracting an exotic malady. The main exception to this is malaria, which is a real risk in north eastern South Africa and for this it is recommended that you consult your medical practitioner or pharmacist for advice on taking medical precautions for malaria in advance of your trip.


Please ensure that you have all the necessary insurances in order prior to the start of your trip.  Medical aid should be in place and travel insurances  should be taken out at the same time that you start making flight bookings, travel arrangements and payments   Safari Odyssey can assist with travel insurances.

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