O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg is the air transport hub of Southern Africa and is linked to the rest of the world by many major airlines. This competition makes flights to South Africa relatively cheap and it is always worth looking for specials. Onwards travel is mostly by car or domestic flights. Because of excellent roads and facilities in South Africa, some people choose the self-drive option. In most other cases, your local tour operator will arrange pick-up from the airport and further transportation as part of your tour package.
Other international airports are located in Cape Town and Durban, but these are less relevant for further travel to your safari destination. In any case, few flights from Europe or America fly directly to either destination.
Here are some of the best options for getting around South Africa:
Car A great option, with affordable rental rates, a good road network, and the car-based South African lifestyle; the drawback is dangerous drivers.
Baz Bus The backpacker shuttle is a convenient and social option between Cape Town, Durban, and Jo’burg/Pretoria.
Train Tourist class is an unsung secret with sleeper coaches and dining car, linking Jo’burg to Cape Town and the coast.
Bus Lines including Greyhound, Intercape and Translux are useful, covering the country in comfortable vehicles at reasonable rates.
Shared Minibus Taxi Okay for short journeys but less practical over long distances; various safety and security issues.
South Africa has a lovely temperate climate with plenty of sunny, dry days. The main factors influencing conditions are the altitude and the surrounding oceans. Temperatures drop by about 3.5°F per 1000ft you climb. The east coast is on the Indian Ocean, which has a warm current. The west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with a cold current. South Africa experiences winter and summer in opposite times as Europe and North America and they correspond to the dry and wet season in most of the country, except for the Western Cape.
May to September – Dry Season – Winter
- Wildlife is easier to spot because there is less vegetation and animals gather around rivers and waterholes.
- There is little to no rain, the skies are clear, most days are sunny and there are fewer mosquitos.
- This is the low season and parks are not crowded, except for Kruger during school holidays.
- It gets cold at night and in the mornings. If your safari is in open vehicles, it’s recommended to pack warm winter clothing during June, July and August for the morning game drives.
October to April – Wet Season – Summer
- After the first rains the scenery turns green and its low season, resulting in less crowded parks and lower rates.
- This is the best time for birdwatching and migratory birds are present.
- Rains are mostly short afternoon showers and seldom really interfere with your trip.
- Game viewing can be quite slow since the bush is thicker and wildlife is more difficult to spot.
- It gets very hot in December, January, and February, and parks get crowded during the main school holidays in December.
Health & Safety
South Africa is, overall, a safe country to visit. All the more so if your visit is primarily an organized safari or tour. More than 7 million tourists visit South Africa every year and most visits are trouble-free. South Africa does have, however, a very high level of both petty and violent crime, including rape, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, and mugging. Most cases of violent crime occur in the townships, which is of no concern to tourists. Tourists are sometimes targeted by criminals in the big cities. Johannesburg and Durban, in particular, are crime hotspots. Unaccompanied walking around the city and driving at night is not recommended. An overnight stay at a reputable hotel or an organized visit to one of the many attractions in or around the city is fine.
Most of the country is free of malaria, but the main wildlife area lies in a low-risk zone, including Kruger NP and all other Lowveld reserves in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. The highest risk of transition is in the rainy season from October to May. See websites below for more detailed advice
Vaccinations are recommended, see the websites before for more detailed immunization advice.
Australia – www.travelclinic.com.au
Canada – www.iamat.org – Vaccinations / Malaria
Ireland – www.tmb.ie
New Zealand – www.iamat.org – Vaccinations / Malaria
United Kingdom – www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
United States – wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel