Cape Town and the Greater Kruger area are the two most-visited places in South Africa, the country right at the bottom of the mighty African continent. They are perfect for those wanting to visit Africa for the first time or to go on their first-ever safari – here is our best advice we’ve gathered since 1998.
Why choose South Africa?
- South Africa is the most developed country in Africa with excellent infrastructure in place. Cape Town is one of its most beautiful cities and the Greater Kruger area (which consists of the Kruger National Park and private game reserves on its border like Sabi Sand, MalaMala and Timbavati) is known for easy, convenient safaris.
- Long-haul flights jet directly into Cape Town and Johannesburg, making for easier logistics.
- English is very widely spoken, and almost all signage is in English, so it’s easy for you to get around.
- There is a very sound hospitality and travel industry so you should expect high standards, excellent service and great accommodation.
- There is plenty to see and do, making it perfect for large groups with diverse interests or multi-generational families travelling together.
- Thanks to the generous exchange rate, your foreign currency will go far in South Africa, giving you excellent value for money and allowing you to splurge on fine dining, exceptional wines, high-end shopping and activities like private tours with expert guides.
"Our trip was great from start to finish"
Our time at More Quarters in Cape Town allowed us to reconnect with friends… and to revisit several spots we'd visited before. The location was fantastic and central to many restaurants, shops, and bars. Cape Town is one of our favourite places… It is our wish to return to Africa again if we have the good fortune to do so.
Your FAQs: How to Combine Cape Town and Kruger
How much time do you need?
Obviously, the longer your vacation, the better! We suggest at least seven nights in South Africa, divided into about four in Cape Town and three on safari in Kruger. The more time on safari, the better. Try to arrange for a week in South Africa at a bare minimum; 10 days gives you more breathing space to really take it all in.
Some travellers think that all of Cape Town can be seen in just a day and that a generic ‘city’ is not worth vacation time. But Cape Town is so much more than just a city: you need a full day to experience the Winelands (as wine country is known); another full day to see Cape Point, the penguins at Boulders Beach and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens; and at least half a day to summit Table (not Tabletop!) Mountain. Add time to visit the historic city centre, the colourful Bo-Kaap, beautiful Camps Bay beach and the vibrant V&A Waterfront, and soon you’re up to at least three or four full days. Even the Winelands is worth a staying night or two if you enjoy wine and fine dining.
Cape Town has many exciting restaurants and you’ll find that your money goes a long way thanks to the exchange rate!
Remember that for every two nights you stay, you only get one full day in a place. Moving every second day can be pretty tiring and doesn’t give you much time to really relax, get to know the staff or even unpack.
What makes safari fun and exciting is its sheer unpredictability – you never know what you’re going to find. Although the Greater Kruger area is well-known for the Big 5 (especially leopards) and you may be lucky enough to see all of them in a single game drive, this is never guaranteed. The more time you have, the better your chances of seeing the animals you have your heart set on. Lions, for example, may only hunt every three days or so – if you want to see them getting ready to hunt (rather than just lazily lying around, snoozing in the shade), your chances are much better if you’re on safari for at least four or five days.
Should you do Cape Town or Kruger first?
There is no right or wrong answer – whichever works better with your logistics. Your personal Africa Safari Expert will create a seamless itinerary that maximises your time on holiday and minimises time spent in transit.
If you fly directly into Cape Town, it makes sense to start your holiday there in a great hotel, then fly up to the Kruger area. If you jet into Johannesburg, we strongly suggest overnighting in the city if your plane lands in the afternoon or evening if you are going onto your safari first. You won’t make the afternoon game drives in Kruger anyway so it’s best to freshen up and rest so you can head out first-thing the next morning in time for brunch, high tea and the afternoon drive.
If you are arriving in Joburg and then flying to Cape Town, your Safari Expert will aim to get you there in one day, so you can have dinner in Cape Town, Africa’s foodie haven. The flight between Cape Town International and OR Tambo International is only two hours long.
When leaving, consider whether you want to go straight from your hotel to the airport for a long-haul flight or from the lodge – going from the lodge may make for a longer return journey with more steps, which is not ideal if you just want to get home.
When is the best time to go?
Generally, peak safari season is from about June to October – Africa’s winter and the northern hemisphere’s summer.
The lack of rain over the Kruger area thins out the grass radically (so it’s easier to find and see the animals) and game doesn’t stray far from the few remaining water sources (once again, making them easier to find).
This also is when Cape Town is usually going through a wet and cool winter – temperatures generally range from about 10°C/50°F to about 20°C/70°F. This is actually very pleasant and there is generally not as much wind as in summer, when the Southeaster can blow strongly. Days can be gloriously sunny and even wet days mean you can hit museums, galleries, shops and wineries with no problem. Think cosy cellars, roaring fireplaces, comfort food and great red wine.
You will have warm clothing with you for safari so packing for both is not a problem. Early morning game drives are cold and we strongly suggest gloves, scarfs, hats, trousers and a fleece.
Peak safari season also overlaps with whale-watching season: pods of giant southern right whales start arriving on the Cape Town coast in about late June, peaking in a crashing crescendo in about August and September when places like Hermanus are a safe haven for hundreds of these beautiful mammals.
How much should I budget?
This is such a tricky question because there are so many factors at play: your personal finances, the time of year you travel, your preferred level of comfort, added activities and so forth. Generally, for a vacation for two adults sharing a room who want to do about four nights in Cape Town and three nights on safari in Kruger in 3- for 4-star or ‘mid-range’ accommodation, we’d suggest about USD5 000 per person. This includes internal flights and road transfers but excludes international flights.
This sort of budget puts you in extremely comfortable (but not super luxurious or over-the-top) lodges and hotels, which is exactly what you need if you’re out exploring all day. Flying between destinations is much more convenient and gives you more time on vacation. It is also important to have a driver for road transfers – the standard of driving in South Africa can be extremely variable and stressful, the last thing you need on holiday (plus, they drive on the left, adding another complication).
If you want to save as much as possible, then we suggest the following:
- Travel in the low season. Avoid travelling over major holidays like Christmas, New Year and Easter when the region’s school are on a break. Cape Town’s low season is over winter (from about May to November) expect for whale season (about August and September). Kruger’s low season is about November to April (except for Christmas, New Year and Easter). If it is your first safari, we suggest spending more on the bush so you can get the full peak-season experience and saving on Cape Town.
- Choose accommodation wisely. There are lots of good-value guesthouse options in Cape Town that put you within walking distance of excellent delis, restaurants and cafes – opt for one of these to satisfy your budget. They might not have a spa or swimming pool but you’ll be so busy in the heart of the action that you likely won’t miss them!
- Ask your Safari Expert for great value. He or she is constantly in touch with hotels and lodges that offer stay-pay deals – go for them!
- Focus on what really matters. Home in on what really interests you, whether is it nature, history, art… In this way, you can spend your funds on what you love, rather then merely ticking off items you think you should see or do.
Cape Town-Kruger Safari Holiday Tours
Our tour ideas are fantastic inspiration for creating your own version that suits your pocket and interests. Every Safari Expert can tailor-make a bespoke itinerary just for you – we don’t sell off brochures or one-size-fits-all ‘packages’. Cape Town and Kruger are in our backyard so we can give you expert advice because we’ve actually been to the lodges, hotels and camps that we’ll recommend to you.
"Very pleased with our choice"
In planning our trip, we reached out to many companies... Our agent, Ashley, was extremely proficient. She worked patiently with us in tailoring the itinerary to our specifications, which was not the standard format suggested by most of the other companies. Comparing notes to other folks we met on safari confirmed this. The suggested camps were all excellent and we could not have come up with those ourselves. We were glad that we heeded the advice on the variety of camps and landscapes. We especially liked Notten’s Bush Camp. It seems like there was a lot of thought in making the transfers seamless, efficient and comfortable. This mattered because we were on the move every few days. All questions were answered promptly. Most of all, we felt that we received good value and cannot imagine a better experience. Highly recommend this company.