South Africa is deservedly renowned for its majestic scenery and abundant wildlife. A safari will likely be the focal point of your trip, but set aside several days to explore cosmopolitan Cape Town and the lovely adjacent Winelands. The famous Blue Train makes a scenic 27-hour journey between Pretoria (near Johannesburg) and Cape Town. The elegant trains feature dining salons and wood-paneled club cars. Each air-conditioned guest compartment comes with a full marble bath en suite, phone, TV and butler button. Jacket/tie for dinner. A more leisurely but equally luxurious journey may be enjoyed aboard the nostalgic Rovos Rail, which takes two days and two nights to make the same trip and is pulled part of the way by steam engine.
South Africa’s main roads are generally smooth, well-maintained and well-signed, so it is easy to drive yourself. Crime is chiefly a problem in the major cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Although many of the economic, social and political problems associated with the apartheid era remain unresolved, for the most part South Africa is a friendly and beautiful country through which it is a delight to travel.
The dry and sunny November-April period is high season in the Cape. This is not the best time to visit Kruger and the northeastern safari lodges, so consider instead one of the smaller game areas in the Eastern Cape. In the northeastern game areas in and around Kruger National Park, the ideal time of year is the cool, dry season from July to October. During this period the weather is agreeable, the bush has thinned (making game-viewing easier) and the animals are forced to congregate near permanent sources of water.
The rainy season from December to March should be avoided (and at its height, the area’s dirt roads are often impassable). From April to July, the bush is lush and dense, and the animals scatter owing to an abundance of water. Anti-malaria medication is advised for the northeastern low veld. Be sure to bring a sweater and insulated jacket for the occasionally chilly dawn/dusk game drives. Visitors to South Africa from December to July should consider a safari in the malaria-free Eastern Cape or the Kalahari Desert.
Johannesburg typifies the central high veld. The safari area of Kruger/Sabi Sand is in the low veld to the northeast. There, summers (December-March) are hot and wet; winters (June-September) are warm and dry. In the Cape, 1,000 miles to the south, summer is hot and dry, while winter is cool and rainy.
To phone hotels and restaurants in South Africa, dial 011 (international access) + 27 (South Africa code) + city code and local numbers.
Seven hours ahead of New York (EST).
Pretoria, Tel. (27) 12-431-4000. Consulates: Johannesburg, Tel. (27) 11-290-3000; Cape Town, Tel. (27) 21-702-7300; Durban, Tel. (27) 31-305-7600.
Rand (R). Fluctuating rate valued at R14.88 = US$1.00 as of April 2020.