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Black rhinos.
  More about South Africa
Size: 1,219,000 km2/470,659 sq mi.
Population: Approx. 45 million.
Capital: Pretoria.
Highest peak: 3,408 m/11,181 ft (Injasuti).
Neighbouring countries: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zwaziland, Lesotho.
Languages: (official:) English, Afrikaans and a number of tribal languages.
  Planning your tour
Visa and entry rules
Visitors may or may not need a visa, depending on their citizenship. These rules are subject to change without notice. You may check the visa requirements that apply to you (and also apply for a visa, if required) with the embassy, high commission or consulate that is accredited to handle your home country. Your passport should be valid for 30 days after the expiry of the visa, and should have at least one unused page.
Airport departure tax
There is a departure tax for flights from South African airports. The tax is usually included in the price of the flight ticket. The amount depends on your destination.
The local currency is rand (ZAR).It may be exchanged in and outside of South Africa.
Vaccinations and health
Consult a doctor or vaccination clinic in good time before travelling, to make sure you have appropriate vaccinations and malaria protection.
Vaccinations often recommended include diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, polio and hepatitis A. Some visitors may, in addition, need vaccinations for typhoid fever, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, cholera and/or rabies.
Yellow fever is not believed to be present, but you may be expected to show a vaccination certificate if arriving from another African country or from a South American country.
Malaria is present in the Kruger, Mapungubwe and Hluhluwe Umfolozi areas. HIV/AIDS is widespread.
Bilharzia, or schistosomiasis, can be present in freshwater in lakes or slow rivers in the eastern parts of the country. Avoid drinking, bathing, wading or washing in such water
You may bring similar clothes and equipment as for safaris in East Africa, but you should note that the appropriate luggage depends on the region that you will visit and the activities that you will take part in. See Luggage och Luggage list for safaris.
English, Afrikaans and a number of tribal languages are official languages. English mostly works fine.
Local time is GMT + 2 hours.
240 V 50 Hz for old British 3-pin plugs with round pins (15 A/250 V earthed).
Phone and Internet
The international dialing code for South Africa is +27. Internet cafés can be found in towns, hotels etc.
Johannesburg International Airport (JNB/FAJS) is the main airport, but Cape Town (CPT/FACT) and Durban (DUR/FADN) are receiving more and more traffic. There are domestic airports all over the country.
Traffic and driving
Driving in South Africa is on the left side of the road. You need a car if you want to travel the country on your own; it may be hard doing so using public transports. South Africa has a good road network.
  More web sites
South African National Parks
By SANParks.
Passport/travel document holders who are exempt from visas for South Africa
By South African department of home affairs.
South African representation abroad
South African embassies, consulates etc around the world. By South African department of home affairs.
Safari glossary
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Planning your safari:
South Africa
South Africa is situated in a beautiful part of Africa and has a marvellous flora and a pleasant climate. The golf opportunities during the northern hemisphere winter, the good wines, the beautiful nature, the safari park and cities such as Cape Town attract many visitors.

Seen as a safari country, South Africa doesn't match for example Kenya and Tanzania. It is not the obvious choice for visitors who want to visit Africa mainly for the wildlife. The strength of South Africa as a tourist destination is the variety of activities and experiences offered, such as the wine, travelling the Garden Route, visiting Cape Town etc.

Map of Africa Namibia Botswana South Africa Zambia Mozambique Malawi Rwanda Tanzania Kenya Uganda
The main topic of this web site is safari, though, and this page on South Africa is therefore mainly focused on safari destinations and safari activities in the country.

The country
South Africa is a large country that can roughly be divided into three main areas: the huge inland plateau, the Kalahari Basin in the north, and the narrow coastal plains. Together, these areas feature many different types of landscape, ranging from sand deserts to dramatic mountain ranges, undulating grasslands, coastal deltas and beaches. The country has few lakes or large rivers. The 1,860 km/1,150 mi long Oranje River has its origin in the Drakensberg Mountains on the border to Lesotho, and flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Just one percent of South Africa is covered in forest, of which most is found close to the Indian Ocean coast in the east.

The South African flora is remarkable. Some 20,000 plant species, or 10 % of all known species, have been recorded in the country.

The safari destination South Africa
The South African nature and wildlife suffered much from the farming and cattle breeding brought by the colonialists. The wildlife populations quickly decreased, and some species became extinct. Some wilderness areas survived, though, and some were protected by private initiatives. Other areas have been restored since, and wildlife has been reintroduced.

Today's South Africa is a country with few large parks (there are some exceptions) and a large number of small local reserves, many of these private. Fenced parks are much more common than in for example Kenya and Tanzania.

Typical South African safaris
Two common features of the south African safari industry are the self-drive safaris (where you rent a vehicle to drive yourself, rent bandas or stay in camping sites, and handle cooking etc yourself) and the private reserve/lodge safaris (where you spend the whole safari in the lodge/ranch house of a private reserve and take part in safari activities arranged by the lodge). This may be compared to the most common safari concept in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda), where you visit a couple of different parks in a vehicle driven by a driver-guide.

The South African national parks are also more adapted to tourism than the East African, offering many types of accommodation, arranged activities and preset safari routes, shops etc. Some parks have tarmac roads, and many lodges and camps are fenced.

The best parks, for example Kruger National Park, are home to many mammal species, including all the classic African safari mammals. There are lions and cheetahs, elephants and rhinos, zebras and buffalos, hippos and antelopes etc. Compared to East Africa, the mammal species are roughly the same, although there are differences in which antelopes you may see. The birding is good.

There are no natural populations of African apes, i.e. gorillas or chimpanzees, in South Africa, and not very many monkey species. Monkeys are best found in countries with much forest, such as Uganda.

Travelling on your own
If you visit South Africa on your own (i.e. not on a packaged tour) and are fine with driving, you'll find a wide variety of vehicles to rent, ranging from saloons to four-wheel drive safari vehicles with rooftop tents. You'll also find many different types of accommodation in and outside the parks, including camping, bandas, farmhouses, hotels, tented camp and luxury lodges. In addition to traditional game viewing in vehicles, i.e. game driving, many parks offer safari walks and night game drives. Such activities may require you to hire an official guide.

Packaged tours
Most packaged tours to South Africa are not safari tours, but rather round tours to different parts of the country, offering a mix of nature, wine, sightseeing, cities, golf etc, and often include a few days in safari areas. There are also tours where South Africa is combined with other countries in southern Africa, for example Namibia or Botswana.

South Africa map. Kruger National Park Mapungubwe National Park Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park Marakele National Park Madikwe Game Reserve Pilansberg National Park Golden Gate Highlands National Park Vaalbos National Park Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Augrabies National Park Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park Namaqua National Park West Coast National Park Tankwa Karoo National Park Karoo National Park Camdeboo National Park Mountain Zebra National Park Table Mountain National Park Agulhas National Park Bontebok National Park Wilderness National Park Knysna National Lake Area Tsitsikamma National Park Addo Elephant National Park

Parks in South Africa
South Africa has some twenty national parks and a host of other types of parks, such as private reserves and nature protected areas. The latter parks are usually quite small.

The best known park is Kruger National Park, which matches the largest Kenyan and Tanzanian parks in size. Another handful of South African parks can be considered large or medium sized (500–10 000 km2/200–4,000 sq mi), while the remaining majority are smaller.

Self-driving is common in many national parks. This means that you drive your own vehicle, without bringing a special driver or safari guide.

Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is South Africa's most famous safari area. The area became a protected game reserve in 1898, and was upgraded to national park in 1926. It is situated in Transvaal in north-eastern South Africa and covers 19,633 km2/7,580 sq mi. Close to 150 mammal species, 500 bird species, 330 tree species and 115 reptile species have been recorded. The park also has a number of rock painting sites and Stone Age settlements, and finds originating from the San tribe, the Iron Age and pre-human Homo erectus.

Kruger is dominated by savanna, scrubs and woodland, and the list of mammal species found there is long. It's a Big Five park, which means that you may see elephant, rhino (both white and black), African buffalo, lion and leopard. The park authority SANParks has estimated that there are 1,500 lions, 12,000 elephants, 2,500 buffalos, 1,000 leopards and 5,000 rhinos in the park.

Classic safari animals
Many of the classic African safari animals may be seen, including giraffes, zebras, antelopes, crocodiles and some monkeys. The large predators are represented by lions, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs and spotted hyaenas.

Kruger National Park may be divided into a number of zones. The northern half, which lies north of the Olifant River, is a huge bushland dominated by mopane (a tree that survives in poor soil in dry and hot climate). The northmost parts are the hardest to access, and are therefore considered by many to be the most interesting area. There are sausage trees, baobabs and marula trees. The latter have fruits much appreciated by the elephants.

Fences removed
Fences between Kruger National Park in South Africa, Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe have been removed in recent years, creating a huge, continuous nature area called Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, where animals may move and migrate naturally between habitats. Fences have been removed also in other parts of Kruger, reopening former migration routes, but the long time of fencing has caused permanent changes to nature, and the populations of for example tsessebe, eland, sable and hartebeest have been decimated.

The best time to visit Kruger National Park, as to wildlife, is July to October. This roughly equals the South African winter, which is the dry season, when day temperatures are pleasant and the nights cool. Water is found mainly in rivers and waterholes during this season, which means that the wildlife is concentrated to such areas. The risk for visitors getting infected with malaria is also less in the dry season.

Summers (October to March) receive more rain, and the temperatures are higher. The park is green and lush in the summer, but the denser vegetation of this season makes it harder to spot the animals. The temperatures are around 23ºC/73ºF from September to November, 26ºC/79ºF from December to February, 22ºC/72ºF from March to May, and 18ºC/64ºF from June to August.

There are different forms of self-contained accommodation available in Kruger National Park, and also lodges. There are shops, restaurants, phones, fuel stations and tarmac roads. Kruger is generally easier to visit on your own, but also reminds less of true wilderness, than comparable parks in East Africa, such as Serengeti and Masai Mara. There are different routes, or circuits, within the park, some accessible only by four-wheel drive. There are also routes for walking and a nine-hole gold course. You can get there by road or by air from for example Johannesburg.

Private reserves around Kruger National Park
A number of small private reserves border the western part of Kruger National Park. These reserves generally offer wildlife similar to that in Kruger, good comfort, safari activities and competent guiding. The below reserves are some of those best known.

Makalali Resource Reserve
Makalali Resource Reserve is situated about an hour's drive west of Kruger. It has hillier landscape than the other private reserves described here. Makalali is known to be good for bush walks and game tracking. There are no African buffalos in the reserve, so you can't see all of the Big Five.

Mthethomusha Game Reserve
Mthethomusha Game reserve covers some 80 km2/30 sq mi and borders south-western Kruger National Park. The wildlife includes for example the Big Five, kudu, giraffe, zebra and the beautiful sable antelope. There is a good lodge, which apart from accommodation offers game viewing from vehicles and on foot.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Sabi Sand Game Reserve has an unfenced border to south-western Kruger National Park, and has, thanks to its two rivers, a stable wildlife population that includes the Big Five. There are some 30 lodges in the reserve, some of them very luxurious. Well-known Mala Mala and Sabi Sabi are two of these lodges.

Thornybush Game Reserve
Thornybush Game Reserve is situated just outside western Kruger National Park. It is a 115 km2/44 sq mi fenced reserve, covered by savanna and woodland. There are seven lodges, offering game viewing and good bush walking.

Timbavati Game Reserve
Timbavati Game Reserve borders western Kruger National Park. The fences that formerly separated the two parks have been removed, and now the area is one of the best in South Africa for safaris and game viewing. The reserve has eight private lodges, offering game drives and bush walks. The Big Five may be seen.

Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park
Hluhluwe Umfolozi is a beautiful 960 km2/371 sq mi national park, not very far from the coast of the Kwazulu-Natal Province of eastern South Africa, 280 km/175 mi north of Durban. Hluhluwe (pronounced 'shoushlooe') and Umfolozi were established as separate reserves in 1895, but were combined into one park in the late 1980's.

During the 1900's, it played a vital part in a program to save the South African white rhino from extinction. The program proved successful and has not only increased the number of rhinos in the park (there are today some 1,600 white rhinos, which is the largest population in the world), but has also provided many white rhinos for reintroduction in other parks in southern Africa and East Africa. A similar program focused on the black rhino has now started.

Big Five and many birds
Hluhluwe Umfolozi is covered by hills, low mountains covered in acacia shrub, higher and wilder mountains in the north, forests, grass plains and savanna. The wildlife includes the Big Five (elephant, rhino, African buffalo, lion and leopard), cheetah, hyaena, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, waterbuck, nyala, kudu, bushbuck, impalas and other mammals. There is a population of African wild dogs. Between 300 and 400 bird species have been recorded.

The subtropic climate is hot and humid, and the park is considered a malaria area. The summer from September to April is humid, while the winter from May to August is drier and has warm days and cool nights.

Mapungubwe National Park
Mapungubwe National Park is situated in north-eastern South Africa. It covers 280 km2/108 sq mi and protects an area along the Limpopo River on the border to Botswana and Zimbabwe. The landscape is a mix of rocky areas, mopane, baobab, acacias, plains and gallery forests along the rivers, offering habitats for elephants, lions, cheetahs, leopards, spotted hyaenas, African wild dogs, black and white rhinos, zebras, elands and other antelopes. Brown hyaena is also present but rare. Rock pythons and black mambas are fairly common. The bird life is still not fully explored, but it is rich and includes rarities such as Pel's fishing-owl.

This park is still under development, and doesn't have the same good infrastructure as for example Kruger National Park. Work to improve the infrastructure and recreate the former wildlife habitats is going on. In the future, Mapungubwe is meant to form a part of the Limpopo Shashe Transfrontier Park, which also will include Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana and Tuli Circle in Zimbabwe.

There is accommodation in a luxury tented camp and a basic camping site. These and some parts of the park may be accessed by two-wheel drive vehicles, but some game driving routes require four-wheel drive. Bush walks escorted by armed rangers are offered.

Apart from wildlife and nature, Mapungubwe National Park has a number of interesting archeological sites, including early Adrican Stone Age settlements, dinosaur tracks and fossils, and San tribe rock paintings.

The winters are cool and dry, while most rain falls during the summers. It is a generally dry area, though, with few rainy days and modest annual rainfall. Summer temperatures may rise to 45ºC/113ºF. The park is considered a malaria area.

You get to the park by road. The nearest major city is Pretoria, some 500 km/310 mi to the south. The nearest airport is in Polokwane some 200 km/125 mi from the park.

Marakele National Park
Marakele National Park (former Kransberg National Park) covers some 390 km2/150 sq mi and is situated in the Waterberg Mountains in the western part of Transvaal. This is a transition zone between the dry western and moist eastern parts of South Africa.

The park has stately mountains, grassy hills and deep valleys. Classic African safari animals such as elephants, black and white rhinos and the large cats (lion, leopard and cheetah) are present, as are brown hyaenas, sables, elands, kudus, impalas and other species. The park also has one of the world's largest colonies of Cape vulture, and generally good conditions for seeing birds of prey.

There is a self-contained tented camp and a camping site for tents and caravans. You may get to the park in a two-wheel drive vehicle (it's 250 km/155 mi north of Johannesburg), but many of the roads for game driving in the park require four-wheel drive. The park is considered free of malaria.

Madikwe Game Reserve
Madikwe Game Reserve is situated on the border to Botswana in the North West Province, 3 to 4 hours by road or 45 minutes by air from Johannesburg or Pretoria. It covers 750 km2/290 sq mi, and was established in 1991, when some 10,000 animals of 27 different species were introduced to recreate a Big Five area.

The park has flat grasslands and woodlands, dotted with kopjes (or inselbergs), divided by a mountain crest and bordering more mountains to the south. Some of the species you may see are cheetah, African wild dog, brown hyaena, sable, eland, gemsbok and giraffe. Some 300 bird species have been observed.

The summer is the warmer and rainier season, with temperatures rising to or just above 30ºC/86ºF. The winter is dry and cooler, and has a day average temperature of 22ºC/72ºF. Night temperatures may drop towards freezing. The park is considered free of malaria.

Madikwe Game Reserve is enclosed by an electric fence, and has a number of comfortable lodges.

Pilansberg National Park
Pilansberg National Park is situated west of Pretoria in the North West Province. This area is probably best known for the Sun City, a holiday destination just south of the park. Pilansberg covers some 500 km2/195 sq mi in the only mountains within the area. They are the remains of a former volcano that was created through eruptions about 1.3 billion years ago. The highest peek reaches 600 m/2,000 ft above the artificial Mankwe Lake, centrally situated in the area. This was farmland until 1979, when the work to recreate the nature and reintroduction of animals began.

There are today about 10,000 animals of some 20 species in Pilansberg National Park. There are kopjes (inselbergs), ravines covered in dense forests, lakes, scrubs, gentle grasslands and woodlands. The animals include eland, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, white rhino, hippo, elephant, African Buffalo, red hartebeest, kudu, impala, sable, roan and tsessebe. The mammal predators are represented by lions, leopards, cheetahs, brown hyaenas and jackals. The bird watching is fairly good, not least as to birds of prey.

Pilansberg National Park has well-kept roads for game driving. Balloon safaris are offered.

Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Golden Gate Highlands National Park (116 km2/45 sq mi) is situated in the Maluti Mountains in the north-eastern part of the Orange Free State. It is a highland area of grasslands and afro-montane forests, where the wildlife includes oribi, white-tailed gnu, eland and other antelopes. There are also black-backed jackals and Cape foxes, but none of the large predators. Some interesting and rare birds recorded in the area are bald ibis, lammergeir and black eagle.

There is both basic and more comfortable accommodation, and activities such as game viewing, trekking and horse riding. The park has tarmac roads. It is 320 km/200 mi south-west of Johannesburg, and 390 km/240 mi west of Durban. Summers are cool, while winters are chilly and may receive some snow.

Vaalbos National Park
Vaalbos National Park (200 km2/77 sq mi) is a nature area along the Vaal River, close to the eastern border of the Northern Cape Province. It is a transition zone where dry and moist areas meet. The park has the largest South African population of roan antelope. There are also black and white rhino, African buffalo, eland, red hartebeest and tsessebe. A tourist route, built from materials from the diamond mines of nearby Kimberley Town, crosses the park.

Accommodation is available in basic camping sites and in bandas. The temperatures may reach 40ºC/104ºF during summers, and drop below freezing during winters. Most rain is received during the summers.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and Gemsbok National Park in Botswana form the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, covering 38,000 km2. The South African part (10,000 km2/3,860 sq mi) is found in the northmost part of the Northern Cape Province, 260 km/160 mi north of Upington and 900 km/560 mi west of Johannesburg. It was the first transfrontier park established in Africa. Its name comes from the language of the San tribe, and means 'the place of thirst'.

The Kgalagadi part of the Kalahari is a dry area of scrubs and red sand dunes, receiving an annual rainfall between 150 mm/6 in (in the south-west) and 350 mm/14 in (in the north-east). Surface water is available in some few waterholes, and many animals eat wild melons for water. The vegetation is sparse, and the wildlife concentrated to areas along the usually dried-out riverbeds of the Auob and Nossob Rivers. Most roads follow these rivers. Herds of gemsbok, springbuck and wildebeest migrate through the park, and you may see predators such as cheetahs, leopards, brown and spotted hyaenas, and the black-maned Kalahari lions. Suricates, or meerkats, are found throughout the park, and you may see honey badgers, pangolins, bat-eared foxes, giraffes, kudus, chacma baboons and more.

Some 280 bird species have been recorded, including many birds of prey, such as eagles, vultures, goshawks and kestrels. Kgalagadi is known as a good place to see the African pygmy falcon.

Harsh climate
The Kalahari climate can be harsh. The air temperature in the shade may exceed 40ºC/104ºF during the summer (November to April), while ground temperatures may reach 70ºC/158ºF. During winter night, the temperature may drop as far as -10ºC/14ºF. The rainfall is erratic, and often comes in rainstorms with heavy winds, mainly between November and April. Green grass and flowers follow rains, but soon dry out again.

Accommodation of different standard is available in self-contained bandas, camping sites and tented camps. Many camps are situated by waterholes. All roads within the park are dust or gravel roads, and some of them are one way only. Vehicles should travel at least two and two in the Botswana part of the park.

Augrabies National Park
Augrabies National Park is 120 km/75 mi west of Upington in central Northern Cape Province. It covers some 500 km2/195 sq mi. The Khoi tribe name for the area is aukoerabis, meaning 'the place of the great noise', which describes the sound of the 56 m/184 ft high Augrabies Waterfall when the flow of the Oranje River peaks after the rains. The local names of places and features in the area give an idea of what it looks like: Moon Rock, Ararat, Echo Corner. The barren rocky landscape has some wildlife, like klipspringers, gemsboks and reptiles. You may walk the area, or view the scenery and animals by car.

The mammals of Augrabies have to manage the harsh climate, which has hot summers and cold winters. Some species that do are slender mongoose, yellow mongoose and hyrax. Other animals that may be seen are giraffes, steinbucks, springbucks, kudus and elands, and predators such as leopards, black-backed jackals, caracals, bat-eared foxes and African wild cats. The birds include black stork, rosy-faced lovebird, fairy flycatcher, black eagle and pale chanting goshawk. A noticeable tree is the quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma), an up to 5 m/16 ft aloe that survives in extreme temperatures and poor soil.

The summers are hot, while the winters are cooler. Winter nights may be cold. The weather is most pleasant from March to October, while most rain falls from January to April.

The park has accommodation in bandas, bungalows and camping sites. The park roads are all dirt roads. There is a private airstrip just outside the park, and Upington has a domestic airport with connections to South Africa's international airports.

Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park
This park, which is situated 875 km/545 mi north of Cape Town, consists of Richtersveld National Park in the north-western part of Northern Cape Province in South Africa, and of Ai-Ais Hot Springs Game Park in southern Namibia. The landscape is dry, barren and sometimes very hot; summer temperatures may exceed 50ºC/122ºF). Scorpions and many insects may be seen, while the mammal wildlife is sparse. It includes a few antelope species, jackal, mongoose, and bat-eared fox, plus smaller species such as rodents and bats. The park is known as one of world's richest areas in succulents, though, and also has a rich general flora.

Namaqua National Park
Namaqua National Park in the western part of the Northern Cape Province is a hilly area with several peaks higher than 1,500 m/4,900 ft. Few classic safari animals may be seen, but it's an area rich in butterflies, birds and flowers. Namaqualand has the world's richest succulent flora, and also an impressive annual flora. 1,000 of the 3,500 plant species of this area are found nowhere else.

West Coast National Park
West Coast National Park is situated along the coast in the Western Cape Province some 100 km/60 mi north of Cape Town. Large numbers of seabirds breed in the surrounding islands, and many waders may be seen on the beaches and in the wetlands of the park. The birds and the landscape are the main attractions, but there is also a limited mammal wildlife, including eland, red hartebeest, caracal and hyrax. Game viewing from vehicles is allowed in the spring (i.e. the months preceding the summer). Passing whales and dolphins may be seen in the ocean. Visitors that aren't very interested in birds may still appreciate the flamingos, pelicans and penguins.

Most rain falls from May to August. The summers are dry.

Tankwa Karoo National Park
Tankwa Karoo National Park is a 800 km2/310 sq mi park that is closed to the public (but if you have a special interest, you may still be able to get a permit to visit from the park authority). It has been established for research, and the nature is still being reconstructed. The area, which is one of the driest in the Karoo Province, was badly damaged by many years of cattle breeding. The park has a good bird life, but the wildlife is not impressive.

Karoo National Park
Karoo National Park (800 km2/310 sq mi) is some 500 km/310 mi north-east of Cape Town and 1,000 km/620 mi south-west of Johannesburg. It has a dry, fairly barren and hilly landscape. Much of the park is covered by the Nuweveld Mountains. Since the park was established, much effort has been made to reintroduce animals that used to live in the area, but disappeared as a result of local cattle breeding.

Game viewing is easy in Karoo National Park, as the vegetation is sparse. Red hartebeest, white-tailed gnu, eland, common zebra, mountain zebra, kudu and springbuck are some species seen regularly. Some other species are also present, but harder to see, for example mountain reedbuck, duikers, black rhino, caracal, suricate (or meerkat) and bat-eared fox.

The dry environment suits many reptiles, and the park has for example five tortoise species, agamas, many geckos and skinks, monitor lizards, chameleons and 18 snake species. The bird watching is fair. The park has 20 breeding pairs of black eagle.

Accommodation is available in camping sites, bungalows and self-contained bandas. The low altitude parts of the park are hot during summers, while the mountain areas are cool all year round.

Camdeboo National Park
Camdeboo National Park covers 145 km2/56 sq mi in the Eastern Cape Province, and is situated some 600 km/370 mi north-east of Cape Town and 250 km/155 mi north-west of Port Elizabeth, which has the closest domestic airport.

Most of the park consists of scrubs and grasslands at 740–1,480 m/2,430– 4,855 ft altitude at the foot of the Sneeuberg mountain range. Compassberg, a 2,504 m/8,215 ft peak within the range, is found to the north, and peaks covered by snow during winters can be seen outside of the park to the east. There is a 10 km2/4 sq mi dam in the park, which offers many great views.

There is some mammal wildlife, which can be viewed from vehicles, including steinbuck, springbuck, blesbok and white-tailed gnu in open land, and kudu, bush duiker and African buffalo in denser vegetation. Mountain zebras are sometimes seen in the mountains. More than 225 bird species have been recorded, including ostrich, lesser honeyguide, Namaqua dove and pale chanting goshawk.

Camdeboo National Park is in an area of hot summers and winters that may get very cold.

Mountain Zebra National Park
Mountain Zebra National park is situated in Eastern Cape Province, some 800 km/500 mi from both Cape Town and Johannesburg, and 280 km/175 mi from Port Elizabeth. The park is dominated by the Bankberg Mountains, where the open land and deep valleys are home to a fine mountain zebra population. Other species in the area are African buffalo, black rhino, red hartebeest and gemsbok. The most common mammal predator is the caracal, a small to medium sized cat. The bird life includes ostrich, blue crane, black eagle and honeyguides.

The summers are hot, while winter nights may get cold. Most rain falls during the winter and early summers, but not more than 390 mm/15 in per year.

Table Mountain National Park
Table Mountain National Park protects the Table Mountain just south of Cape Town in the Western Cape Province. It is an area of mixed nature and a nice flora. There is some bird life, although it's far from overwhelming. The mammal wildlife is mainly limited to hyrax.

Agulhas National Park
Agulhas National Park is situated by the sea 230 km/145 mi east of Cape Town, and consists of a windy coastal plain on the southmost point of Africa. There are many plant species, including some 100 endemics, and the bird watching is good. Whales, dolphins and porpoises may be seen in the ocean.

Bontebok National Park
Bontebok (35 km2/14 sq mi) is the smallest national park in South Africa. It is a flat area covered mainly in scrubs and grassland, bordered by the stately Langeberg Mountains. The mountains are fine for trekking, and the Breede River along the park border offers fishing and good canoeing. The park has its name from an antelope called bontebok, and a couple of hundred individuals of these still remain in the park, and you may see them when visiting. Other mammal species are mountain zebra, Cape grysbok (a dwarf antelope), rhebok and red hartebeest. 200 bird species have been recorded.

Wilderness National Park
Wilderness National Park is in the middle of the Garden Route, 450 km/280 mi east of Cape Town and 410 km/255 mi west of Port Elizabeth. It is a pretty park with lakes, rivers, beaches, forests and mountains. It has no safari wildlife, and is rather a recreational area, offering trekking, canoeing, paragliding etc. There are whales and dolphins in the ocean, and the bird watching is interesting.

Knysna National Lake Area
Knysna National Lake Area is a tidal lagoon at the mouth of the Knysna River. There are sandbanks and wetlands surrounded by lakes, beaches and forests. There is no safari wildlife, but a rich bird life including black-winged stilt, African fish eagle and African oystercatcher. All in all, some 280 bird species have been recorded. The park is situated on the Garden Route, 500 km/310 mi east of Cape Town and 300 km/185 mi west of Port Elizabeth.

Tsitsikamma National Park
Tsitsikamma National Park consists of both land and sea, and was the first African marine park established. On land, the park has beaches, rocks and coastal forest, while the sea part consists of tidal zones, reefs and deep-sea fish. Dolphins and southern right whale are sometimes seen.

The combination of forest and coast makes the bird watching interesting. Some birds seen are African finfoot, pied kingfisher, giant kingfisher, narina trogon and crowned eagle.

Tsitsikamma is situated 615 km/380 mi east of Cape Town and 195 km/120 mi west of Port Elizabeth.

Addo Elephant National Park
Addo Elephant National Park is situated 75 km/45 mi north of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province. It is a narrow park reaching inland from the coast, covering 1,450 km2/560 sq mi of forest, scrub, grassland, succulent semi-desert, sand dunes, coastal grass plain, and the Zuurberg Mountains.

The park has some 400 elephants, about as many African buffalos and 40 black rhinos. Lions and hyaenas that were recently introduced have established themselves, and are mainly seen during early mornings or during night game drives. There are also leopards, but these are seen less often. The elephants are easiest to see by the waterholes during hot days, where also the rhinos may appear around dusk.

Some other mammal species seen in Addo Elephant National Park are suricate (or meerkat), hippo, eland, kudu, warthog, red hartebeest and common zebra. There are plans to introduce cheetah and African wild dog.

More wildlife
A different type of wildlife may be seen in the outskirts of the park. The Zuurberg Mountains are home to for example mountain zebras, mountain reedbucks, baboons and blue duikers (a type of antelope), while gemsboks, springbucks and gnus may be seen in the northern parts of the park, where the landscape is drier. The forests closest to the coast have bushbucks, bush pigs, brown hyaenas and tree hyrax. A few hundred bird species have been recorded.

A few of the roads through the park are tarmac roads, while the others are dust roads good enough to allow two-wheel drive vehicles. Self-contained accommodation is available in bandas and camping sites. There are also lodges and tented camps.

The summer temperatures may reach 40ºC/104ºF, while winters are cooler. Rain may fall (450 mm/18 in annually) during most parts of the year, even though there are rainfall peaks from March to April and from September to October. The park is considered free of malaria.

Other nature areas of interest
South Africa has many nature protected areas, of which many offer visitors good opportunities to experience wildlife, birds and nature. You may find such areas by searching the web. You may also consult the book Guide to Southern African game & nature reserves (ISBN 1-86825-558-1) by Chris and Tilde Stuart, which has much information on such areas in South Africa and other countries in southern Africa.

Other destinations/activities in South Africa
Rovos Rail
Rovos Rail offers very special travelling by rail in southern Africa. The coaches are old-fashioned and luxurious, and the comfort and service is first class. The trains are even hauled by steam locomotives during some stages. A few different routes are offered, including main destinations such as Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town in South Africa, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Swakopmund in Namibia, and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The journeys are all about travelling slowly, very comfortably and in style. Rovos also has classic aircraft (Convair 440, DC-3 and DC-4), fitted with business class seats, for transfer flights.

Garden Route
Parts of the southern coast between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth are referred to as the Garden Route. It is a route of pretty nature, high mountains, beautiful views of the landscape and the sea, valleys, lakes, rivers, forests and beaches. (Some of the parks described above are situated along the Garden Route: Wilderness National Park, Knysna National Lake Area and Tsitsikamma National Park.)

South Africa offers good golfing opportunities, on both new and old courses; there are more than 600 courses in the country. Many of them are demanding, while others offers antelopes and other animals for spectators. The coast has many fine seaside courses, with good views of beaches and the ocean, and coastal winds to master. A number of courses around Cape Town may suit visitors that want to combine the game with sightseeing or tours into the wine districts. Many courses offer comfortable or even luxurious accommodation, including beautiful surroundings and good food.

Most of South Africa's vineyards are found towards the coast in the Western Cape Province, i.e. around Cape Town. The climate here is Mediterranean, with warm and dry summers and ample rainfall during winters. Vineyards are also found in the drier northern and eastern parts, where the climate demands different cultivation techniques and results in other wine styles. There are many vineyards to visit, and many offer wine tasting.

South Africa is just south of the Southern Tropic, and has a mainly dry and sunny climate. The climate generally becomes more humid the further east you go, but there are also local humid areas, such as the areas around Cape Town in south-western South Africa.

Going north along the coast from Cape Town, the climate becomes drier and hotter, and the landscape changes into desert when you approach the border to Namibia in the north. The coast east of Cape Town has a temperate climate, which changes into subtropic north-east of Port Elizabeth, and shows more and more tropic character the further to the north-east you go.

Inland South Africa is drier and has mild or cool winters. Areas at higher altitudes may be cold, and some even receive snowfall during winters.

Please note that 'summer' and 'winter', as used on this page, refer to the local seasons, which may not coincide with summers and winters in other parts of the world.

This web page on South Africa is a stand-alone introduction page that comes outside the main scope – Safari in Kenya and Tanzania – of Information found elsewhere on this site might not be fully applicable to South Africa or safaris in South Africa.

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Page updated 18 February 2009