Durban beachfront on the warm east coast of South Africa
Table Mountain Cape Town
I was asked some advice for a tourist to South Africa, so I thought I would write a blog post and extend it to a wider audience.
Most tourists imagine that they can drive around the country in 2-3 weeks and see it all. This would not be adviseable as South Africa is a big country. If you did want to see parts to the north, south, east and west, you would need to fly to some and drive between other parts as I will recommend. An itinerary also depends on how much time you have and your budget.
TIME OF YEAR
April is the best time of year to visit South Africa. This is because the weather is generally the best... the heat of summer is over and winter is not yet upon us. Peak season would be summer when the schools are on holiday, but I personally prefer it off-peak when the crowds have thinned out and it is not so hot. Durban is best all year as our winters are never less than 15c and no rain. Cape Town is worst in winter as it is cold, windy and rainy.. best for Cape Town would be October/November and March/April. Cape Town is on the Atlantic Ocean so swimming is generally out, whereas Durban is on the warm east coast so August to end of April is good with best swimming/beaches December to March.
Emirates fly to Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg via Dubai, so best would be to fly in to one city and fly back out of another city, travelling between cities by car, train or bus. Most of the other airlines fly in to either Johannesburg or Cape Town, which means a stop in Durban and the east coast means additional flights or travel. I would even avoid Johannesburg completely and fly into Durban and then out of Cape Town home. My favourite Airline to Africa is SAA of course, but their routes are not the best and sometimes the prices are over the top. Check them out and compare.
WHAT TO SEE
Your routing may depend on what you want to see. The Kruger National Park a few hours drive from Johannesburg is probably the best but requires getting to Johannesburg and a few hours drive each way. I personally would avoid that as there are many excellent game parks around South Africa. If you have loads of time you could include the Kruger Park.
So suggestions could be... fly to Johannesburg, hire a car and drive to the Kruger Park. Stay 3 - 4 nights and drive back to Johannesburg to return the car. Fly to Durban and stay for 3 - 5 nights. Fly to Port Elizabeth (2/3rds of the way to Cape Town), hire a car and drive along the coastal Garden route to Cape Town stopping off en-route for 2- 3 nights. Spend 5 nights in Cape Town and fly home direct.
The Drakensberg Amphitheatre
Beach sculptures in Durban
Alternatively fly direct to Durban and stay 3- 4 nights. Drive up to the Hluhluwe Game reserve and stay 3 nights. Drive back to Durban and fly to Port Elizabeth following the same suggestion above ie cut out Jhb and the Kruger park.
As an extension to either route, you could drive to the Amphitheatre in the Drakensburg Mountains which are half-way between Durban and Johannesburg (2 1/2 hours drive), or you could drive from Jhb to Durban intead of flying. Another option is the train from Johannesburg to Durban which I believe is good.
Wine lovers would love Cape Town as the Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franshoek wine routes are within 40 mins drive of the city. I personally love Stellenbosch where my son goes to University at the moment, so I can visit him and drink loads of wine. There must be at least 200 wine farms in a few kilometres radius.
If you have a shorter or longer visit planned and want to come at an odd time of year or have any other queries, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try and help out with my recommendations. Enjoy!