Written by Harriet Nimmo.
South Africa is a brilliant, easy introduction to Africa. It is a fantastic destination for your first-ever safari …or your fiftieth. It is an efficient, well-developed country with good tourist infrastructure, impressive service levels, and a great variety of accommodation to suit all budgets. Here are my top five reasons to go on safari in South Africa.
From a wildlife point of view, South Africa has it all. There are still good populations of rhino. If you book a safari to one of the private lodges in the right area, you stand a good chance of seeing the Big Five (rhino, elephant, lion, buffalo and leopard). If you choose the right game reserve, you may also be fortunate to see cheetah. If you’re very lucky there may also be wild dogs. In addition, there is a huge variety of antelope species, smaller carnivores and the most amazing array of birdlife. As well as the Big Five, it is important to take time to look at and learn about the small creatures – insects, reptiles and amphibians. South Africa is a wildlife treasure trove with great guides to help you get the most from your safari.
Unlike many of the other African safari countries, the difference between the dry and wet season is not so marked in South Africa. This means that you can book a safari all year round. And even if it does rain, these are often short downpours and then the sun comes back out again. In addition, many of South Africa’s wildlife reserves are fenced, so the animals cannot physically leave the parks. June to October, the dry season, is peak safari time. However there are many advantages travelling outside this time. It can be cheaper, with fewer tourists. The bush is lush and green, and this is the breeding season for many of the animals, especially the antelope. It is a joy to see the animals looking fit and sleek with their enchanting babies. Summer (November to March) is also the time of the summer migratory birds arriving, so there are many more bird species to see, including the colourful cuckoos, rollers and bee-eaters.
Another reason to go on safari in South Africa is the variety of destinations on offer. As well as your safari there are all sorts of other options to add to your holiday. For example, beautiful Cape Town, the glorious Winelands, the beaches of the Garden Route, the Drakensberg Mountains and the cultural offerings of Johannesburg. You can easily combine very different experiences in the same holiday. Cheap internal flights connect the major cities so it is simple, for example, to hop down to Cape Town after your safari.
South Africa is great for children, with a variety of safari lodges geared specifically for families. Make sure you choose a child-friendly lodge. Many offer fantastic activities for children. Some examples include junior ranger programs, shorter game drives, educational games, nature walks looking at the little creatures and special play areas with trained nannies.
My final but very important top five reason to go on safari in South Africa is that it can be very good value compared to some of the pricier safari destinations elsewhere in Africa. There is a great variety of safari options from self-drive and self-catering in the National Parks right through to luxury lodges in private reserves. There is an excellent tourist infrastructure, with good value internal flights and impressive service levels.