But when there's so much to see and its such a huge country, how do you choose what to prioritise? If you're only going to come here once, you want to get it right. Which is why we'd recommend you book a trip with our chosen ground operator, Tailormade Tours South Africa, rather than stressing about the logistics yourself. They can arrange a package that includes as much or as little as you like (hotels, drivers and guides, activities, internal flights or your entire trip), and their suggested itineraries will help you get the most out of each region - away from the tourist hordes wherever possible.
Why we chose this partner
- They've been operating since 2002 and have an experienced team passionate about travel in Africa and are members of ATTA member (African Travel and Tourism Association)
- They're a full service partner, meeting you off the plane and you'll have a 24-hr assistance line at your fingertips
- Like i-escape, they hand-pick the hotels and lodges they work with, their focus being on matching your personality to the nature of what is offered so you can be confident of their standards - e.g. The Outpost, Grand Dedale and Three Trees at Spioenkop
- Their guides are Theta accredited, and specialists in their fields, be it wine, art, politics, botany or wildlife
- You can choose to self-drive or be driven (they work with Bidvest on the ground, and you can choose your level of vehicle)
Please be aware
- i-escape can only vouch for those properties which are featured and reviewed on our website. For other areas and accommodations, while we do trust our operator to provide the best options for your needs, you should make sure that you are happy with their suggestions before confirming
- Bear in mind that you will need to book your own international flights. Also note that the guide prices exclude internal flights, since these costs vary, but your quote will include them.
Best time to go
The best time to visit largely depends on what you plan to do:
Cape Town, Winelands, Garden Route: November-April
Game viewing: May-August, when it's dry in the east
East coast (Durban and KwaZulu Natal): June-August
Flower displays: August-September
Northern deserts: August-September
Our top tips
Accommodation in South Africa runs the whole gamut: boutique city hotels, friendly guesthouses, charming B&Bs, glamorous villa rentals, even beautiful tented lodges and quirky treehouses. We've reviewed many of these in extensive detail, and you can request their inclusion in your itinerary. Otherwise, be guided by our operator, who will recommend properties to suit your budget and preferences.
Here are the things we loved on our many collective trips (most i-escape staff have been at least once):
- Boat trips
- Horse riding
- Hot air ballooning
- Mountain biking
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Scuba diving
- Scuba diving courses
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
- Whale watching
- Wine tasting
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:Children are welcome on all the tours, and outdoorsy kids will love all the wildlife, swimming, surfing and adventure sports (canopy tours, kayaking, you name it). Our ground operators have devised - with our input - a special Family Adventure tour aimed at families visiting SA for the first time, with minimal driving times. It takes in Cape Town (staying at self-catering apartments where you don't have to worry about disturbing other guests), the Garden Route (with options for whale watching, horse riding, wild cat and monkey spotting and more), and finally some malaria-free game viewing in Addo (at a lodge which offers special activities and animal tracking for little ones). Or you can ask to tweak any other tour to make it more fun for kids of your age/s. Do bear in mind that distances are big and temperatures can be high (especially in the Karoo), so don't be too ambitious - especially with younger kids or toddlers.
Whether you want a self-drive or a more guided experience, take a look at our [rates:SA096:sample itineraries] for inspiration. These can be booked as they are, or tweaked to your requirements (different hotels, shorter duration etc). Most itineraries include an internal flight (which can be booked for you) to an airstrip in one of the game parks; you're transferred to the lodge and all game drives are organised for you (the driver acts as a guide, too). Note that the guide prices exclude internal flights, since these costs vary, but your quote will include them. If you're just visiting Cape Town - Garden Route - Addo, you can easily self-drive: the roads are safe, and Brits will be pleased to know you drive on the left.
Most itineraries start in Cape Town, and finish in either Port Elizabeth or one of the wildlife parks (usually Kruger). Some include internal flights to eat up the huge distances in this country. You'll need to book your own international flights into Cape Town and back from either Cape Town or Port Elizabeth or Johannesburg. See each itinerary for details. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving South Africa.
Or you can devise your own customised itinerary, though do bear in mind the scale of the country: a one-way trip (with internal flight back) usually makes more sense than an overland loop.
From the Airport
A representative will meet you at your arrival airport and transfer you to your first hotel. If your tour is part of a longer stay in the country, please indicate where you would like to be met.
More on getting to South Africa and getting around