October in Africa and the weather is in charge. In East Africa the short rains have begun and the landscape replies with a blanket of fresh green grass. South of the Zambezi, however, it has barely rained since May and animals mill around the remaining waterholes.
August in Southern Africa marks the end of the region’s short-lived winter and the welcome return of warmer temperatures. Down in Cape Town, the last few winter storms wring themselves out and the days get longer, while up in safari country the weather is pretty perfect: sunny, warm and dry.
If you are planning a holiday to South Africa, you may find it difficult to decide where to go and what to include. Do you prioritise lions and elephants? Or vineyards and historic battelfields? How about championship golf courses and award-winning beaches? If you choose the latter, do you prefer the chilly Atlantic shores with their penguins and seals, or the balmy Indian Ocean coastline with its turtles and whales?
Few destinations rival South Africa when it comes to offering a wide range of attractions combined with an easy and convenient regional travel. Home to the Big 5 and breathtaking natural beauty, South Africa is an ideal safari destination for families, honeymooners and adventure seekers of all ages. The teeming game reserves are home to lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino in addition to rare cheetah and all the plains game favourites, like zebra, giraffe and gazelle. South Africa's Kruger area is widely considered the best place in Africa to see leopard, the most elusive big cat.
My first evening on Botswana’s Chobe River was the stuff of dreams. I sat on the roof of a game drive vehicle and watched in open-mouthed wonder as herd after herd of elephants poured out of the surrounding forest and down to the river to drink. Many younger ones broke into a run, their trunks and ears flapping in excitement; the older ones usually managed to keep to a dignified pace – at least until the last few yards. The countless trampling feet sent dust billowing into the air, turning the setting sun into a huge, hanging orb of fire.
In many ways, Port Elizabeth is a great place to end off your Garden Route self-drive holiday. Lying in the Eastern Cape province, it’s the place where the Western Cape’s lush forests and plantations start giving way to burnt orange aloes and the thicket bush that is the perfect terrain for kudu and one of the Eastern Cape’s main attractions: elephants. Addo Elephant National Park lies less than hour from PE – as it’s known to locals – and is ideal for first-time safari goers who are looking for a completely safe, malaria-free, family-friendly destination.
We love private conservancies for the advantages they offer to guests and the positive impact they have on conservation and the upliftment of rural communities... but the main reason we recommend private conservancies to our clients is for the exceptional game viewing advantages they offer, which are not available in national parks:
The vast red sand expanses of the Kalahari Desert rise up to meet us as we touch down in our 7-seater plane in the heart of Tswalu Private Game Reserve – the largest privately owned reserve in South Africa. At over 100 000ha, Tswalu is an endless sea of undulating sand dunes, grassy knolls and rocky outcrops, and the location of The Motse camp, our home for the next 24 hours.
She pushes her huge tail down, ducks under the waves with tremendous forces and then, with colossal power, launches her huge body above the water, coming down with a fantastic splash. Everything is quiet except for the chorus of ‘Wows!’ from my fellow boat passengers. There’s a shared anticipation and keen excitement as we hope she’ll do it again… Our luck is in as she once again uses her tail fin to propel herself like an aquatic rocket above the ocean off Kleinbaai, a tiny hamlet on South Africa’s Whale Coast, less than an hour’s drive from Hermanus and regarded as the whale-watching capital of the world.
Game drives cover a lot of ground but it’s only when you get out of your vehicle and set off on foot that you shift from being a camera-clicking observer to an active participant in the wilderness. As your armed guide leads you along well-worn elephant trails your senses sharpen and you notice things you’d otherwise miss in a vehicle: the alarm call of a troop of baboons, leopard paw prints on a sandy riverbed, the rich scent of sweet mahogany blossoms.