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Often referred to as the world in one country, South Africa is blessed with the lion’s share of sights and experiences

See the ‘big five’ on a wildlife safari in Kruger National Park, experience the dizzying heights of the Drakensberg Mountains and stand on Table Mountain with Cape Town at your feet. Taking up the entire southern tip of the continent of Africa, this giant of a country is monumental in both its scale and its beauty, from the Limpopo River meandering through the great plains of the northeast, to the fertile wine regions of the Cape and the sheer drama of the Blyde River Canyon.

With people as diverse as its landscapes, experiencing the Rainbow Nation’s cities is every bit as exhilarating – dine out in sophisticated Cape Town, experience the buzz of booming Johannesburg or promenade along Durban’s revamped waterfront. The food and wine are big-hitters too – we recommend the deliciously fresh seafood and a bottle of chilled Chenin.

Things to do

Wildlife enthusiasts will be in their element in South Africa – from spotting the ‘big five’ on safari across the savannah, to whale-watching tours off the Western Cape, there are so many creatures and habitats to visit. Saga’s Stay & Relax holidays allow you to spend time in South Africa’s national parks and nature reserves without rushing around. You can take things easy at your comfortable hotel and join excursions as and when the mood takes you.

For a little more action, join one of our guided tours that whisk you around South Africa’s many great sights, whether it’s the glorious beaches and verdant forests of the Cape’s Garden Route or the highest peaks of the Drakensburg Mountains.

Alternatively, if you’re up for a serious adventure, book a place on our overland truck and travel from South Africa into neighbouring Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.

Western Cape

The Western Cape is one of South Africa’s most visited regions, and with good reason. This is where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean, and along its wild and beautiful coast you’ll find the city of Cape Town. With its spectacular geography, life here revolves around the great outdoors – you can hike to Table Mountain in the morning, lounge on the beach in the afternoon, and as the sun sets find yourself a rooftop perch for sun-downers or a barbecue.

Table Bay is home to notorious Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was once held captive, while along the coast you can feast your eyes on the glorious Garden Route trail, which winds its way from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg.

Many of South Africa' vineyards are to be found here too, luxuriating in the sunshine around the historical towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

Eastern Cape

Stretching from the Western Cape to the border with KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape has many stunning landscapes to explore. The dramatic Indian Ocean coast is popular with surfers, while the Drakensburg peaks beckon walkers to their highland valleys and tumbling waterfalls.

The Wild Coast is the historical home of the Xhosa people and is culturally fascinating, while the two largest cities in the province also lie on the coast – Port Elizabeth and East London.

Limpopo

The vast, landlocked province of Limpopo borders Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique. It’s famed for its wildlife reserves, including the northern portion of Kruger National Park. Across endless grasslands, and that famously lazy Limpopo River, you’ll spot a diversity of wildlife, from lions and rhino, to meerkats and hippopotami.

See All Holidays to South Africa

Blue Marlin QQQQ

Stay and Relax

Relax at this friendly hotel on the inviting Indian Ocean coast

Ghost Mountain Inn QQQQ

Stay and Explore

Set at the foot of the Ghost Mountain in Mkuze, the Ghost Mountain Inn provides a comfortable base from which to explore the vast surrounding areas of unspoilt natural beauty, including the coastal reserves in Maputaland and Elephant Coast, where you'll discover some of South Africa's incredible wildlife.

Lakeside Lodge QQQQ

Stay and Explore

Set in the dramatic Entabeni wildlife reserve in South Africa, Lakeside Lodge is a relaxing retreat offering the chance to see the 'big five' on safari.

Where Oceans Meet

Escorted Tour Pace 1

Explore the very best of the Western Cape, discovering golden beaches, wild and rugged coastlines, and staying at historic seaside towns.

The Cape Revisited

Escorted Tour Pace 1

The perfect introduction to South Africa's Western Cape, this leisurely tour offers a variety of experiences at a relaxed pace, from game drives in the Aquila Game Reserve to seeking out ancient Bushman rock art in the Cederburg Mountains and sampling the locally-produced wines and chocolates of the Winelands.

Enjoy a close-up view of the African wildlife in Kruger National Park on this small group, all inclusive lodge-based holiday.

Explore the very best of the Western Cape, discovering golden beaches, wild and rugged coastlines, and staying at historic seaside towns.

A World In One Country

Escorted Tour Pace 2

South Africa is often described as a 'world in one country'. Discover why as you visit Kruger National Park, the Garden Route, magnificent Cape Coast and more...

Enjoy a close-up view of the African wildlife in Kruger National Park on this small group, all inclusive lodge-based holiday.

South Africa is transformed in September as the spring flowers bloom en masse. Tour the Western Cape on this special interest holiday to learn about the native flora and witness this joyful natural wonder.

The perfect introduction to South Africa's Western Cape, this leisurely tour offers a variety of experiences at a relaxed pace, from game drives in the Aquila Game Reserve to seeking out ancient Bushman rock art in the Cederburg Mountains and sampling the locally-produced wines and chocolates of the Winelands.

South Africa is often described as a 'world in one country'. Discover why as you visit Kruger National Park, the Garden Route, magnificent Cape Coast and more...

Look out for the big five – buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino – as you enjoy five game drives, a bush walk and more on this safari holiday.

Legacy of the Limpopo

Active Explorer Pace 1

Exciting game drives, wildlife-rich parks and luxury game lodges await you on this 13-night safari

Discover the diverse landscapes and cultures of South Africa's Kruger National Park, the Garden Route, magnificent Cape Coast and more, on our intimate small group tour.

Calling all explorers! Climb aboard our adventure trucks and join us on this 3,200 miles epic journey visiting South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe

Calling all explorers! Climb aboard our adventure trucks and join us on this inaugural 3,200 miles epic journey visiting Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

The Pride of Africa

Escorted Rail Tour Pace 2

See Africa's indigenous wildlife on safari, ride aboard Rovos Rail’s luxurious train, admire spectacular Victoria Falls and explore the Zulu battlefields.

Ultimate Africa: Ethiopia to Nairobi

Escorted Rail Tour Pace 2

Cross Africa on this epic journey, taking in five countries: Ethiopia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Ultimate Africa

Escorted Tour Pace 2

Cross Africa on this epic journey, taking in five countries. Experience game drives in three world-famous National Parks, admire spectacular Victoria Falls and journey through amazing landscapes aboard Rovos Rail’s luxurious vintage train. Contrast South Africa's winelands with cosmopolitan Cape Town then discover the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia…

Language

English -

South Africa is known for its diverse cultural identity which has resulted in no fewer than 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.

You shouldn’t have to worry about anything getting lost in translation though as you’ll almost always find someone who speaks English in the popular tourist areas.

Tipping

Tipping is not ingrained in the British culture so we often feel uncertain when it comes to offering gratuities, but in Africa tipping is the norm and helps to make up the salaries of some poorly paid service staff.

If you wish to tip porters or waiting staff, about £3-4 per person is the average, and if you are staying in a safari lodge it's customary to tip your safari guide directly, as well as the lodge staff; there is often a central tipping box for lodge staff and we would recommend the local equivalent of £2-3 per room, per day, and for the safari guide about £5-8 per person, per day.

If your holiday includes a safari or you're staying in a mobile safari camp, should you wish to show your appreciation to the crew we would suggest £7 per person, per day to be shared between them, and £7 per person, per day for your guide. This is of course entirely at your discretion but we know that some people appreciate an insight into appropriate amounts.

Population and size

South Africa has a population of approximately 50 million people with the vast majority living in the smallest of its nine provinces, Gauteng.

To give you an idea of its sheer scale, South Africa is five times bigger than the United Kingdom with an area of 1,221,000 square kilometres.

Currency

Rand -

South African currency is the rand which is divided into 100 cents. The cost of living is relatively much lower than the UK which means your spending money will go that much further.

Culture

The Rainbow Nation encompasses a broad spectrum of cultures, from different tribal groups to the descendants of the colonising Boers and British, who together form a unified South Africa. Most towns and cities in this country are well developed but many of the suburbs highlight the divide between rich and poor, and in rural areas such as KwaZulu Natal’s Zululand you're more likely to see clusters of rondavels - traditional South African huts - where people still live and work the land.

This is very much a country of contrasts and you'll no doubt be tempted to take lots of pictures, but please remember to ask permission before taking photographs of people. Head and shoulders above everyone else on the list of famous South Africans is, of course, the late Nelson Mandela. Others include golfer Ernie Els, actress Charlize Theron and Carry On star Sid James, who was born in Johannesburg.

The history of South Africa dates back to around 40,000 BC when small groups of hunter-gatherers roamed the wilds. They were known as the Khoi and the San and much later, in the 4th and 5th centuries AD, they were joined by the Bantu. The 17th century heralded the arrival of the Europeans, firstly the Dutch, who originally came to set up a supply station for the ships of the East India Trading Company. There were also French, German and British settlers, the latter establishing rule over much of the Cape region.

Various factors, such as the abolition of slavery and the discovery of diamonds and then gold, led to the Boer wars of the 1800s. The British eventually gained sovereignty in the early 1900s and in 1910 the Union of South Africa was established, encompassing present day Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Dutch and English became the official languages and new laws were brought in severely restricting the rights and freedoms of black South Africans. Over the coming decades a movement representing Afrikaner interests (the descendants of the Dutch) grew in popularity. Then in 1948 their political group, the so-called National Party (NP) came to power on the back of their main policy - Apartheid.

The ANC (African National Congress), who represented black South Africans and which was the political group Nelson Mandela was a part of, encouraged resistance and campaigned for equality. The protests and reprisals escalated throughout the 60s and 70s, becoming increasingly more violent. The ANC were banned and in 1964 Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Finally, following pressure from the international community, the government repealed the Apartheid laws in the early 90s. In 1994 there were free elections in South Africa: the ANC, led by Mandela, won by a clear majority, thus establishing the fledgling Rainbow Nation that we know today.

Phrases

Don’t be too confused if a local says they’ll do something “just now” – they don’t actually mean right away but in the not-too-distant future. Instead, if they plan to do something soon, they’ll say “Now now”!

Timezone

South Africa is only two hours ahead of GMT so you’re unlikely to be affected by jet lag.

Electricity

Mains voltage is 220-230 volts AC (50 cycles) and most main sockets are of the 15-amp type, with three large round pins, as formerly used in the UK (although we wouldn’t recommend testing old appliances).

South Africa’s electricity grid hasn’t caught up with its increasing development yet so don’t be too surprised by sporadic power cuts.

Climate

South Africa’s varied landscapes and climates mean that wearing the right clothes varies greatly from place to place. Celsius temperatures can soar into the thirties and above during summer, but plummet in winter, especially on the Northern Cape where they have been known to drop below freezing.

Also, when packing, remember that the seasons are back to front in the southern hemisphere.

As a rule of thumb, take something warm for early morning game drives, mountain outings and winter evenings beneath the stars, as it can get quite chilly. If in doubt, remember that dressing in layers never goes out of style.

Try to blend in on game drives too – bright or high-contrast colours like black and white are a no-no – while lightweight, full-length trousers are essential if you want to avoid such irritations as brambles and ticks when exploring the great outdoors. 

If you plan to travel during the rainy season, then as the name suggests, pack some wet-weather gear. And you can leave your suit behind, since the dress code for most evenings is casual, unless you fancy stepping out at an exclusive restaurant that is.

Health

‘Cook it, peel it or leave it,’ is the best advice when travelling abroad, especially if you have a sensitive constitution. However, tap water is potable in South Africa so you don’t have to worry about brushing your teeth with boiled water!

Insect repellent and full-length clothing are a good defence against mosquitoes and other flying insects, which are common in warmer climes.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Passports and visas

A visit to South Africa will reward you with a stamp in your passport when you enter and leave so you’ll need at least two completely empty pages.

If you plan to cross the border during your holiday, for example to Botswana or Zambia, you’ll need to have a few more pages spare.

British Citizens won’t need a visa for stays under 90 days.

Smoking

You’ll find that smoking is now banned in most public places while in hotels it’s often confined to a small glass-enclosed bar area or outside terrace.

Flight time

If you’re flying from London to Pretoria it takes from 11 hours 20 minutes; from London to Cape Town it’s from 12 hours 10 minutes.


Places in South Africa

Cape Town

Cape Town has a reputation for friendly hospitality


Climate

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