When exactly the stay-at-home orders in South Africa will end remains largely unknown but in the meantime, we can daydream and plan that post lockdown holiday. There’s nothing like having the prospect of a holiday on the horizon to get you through a rough patch. When it's time to travel again, where will you go? We can’t wait to “step into nature” after months of lockdown. We’ve put together our favourite local places, experiences and activities for a glorious first post-pandemic holiday.
Travelers walking along the famous beach of Plettenberg Bay | Photo by Annika Mikkelson
A Garden Route self-drive holiday
It is hard to beat the romance of the open road and with a country as beautiful as ours a self-drive holiday is first on our post lockdown to do list. Stretching along the coast from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, the Garden Route is deservedly one of South Africa’s most popular journeys. Boasting some of the best beaches, mountains and forests neatly packaged together.For both couples and families, a self-driving holiday offers the ultimate in complete flexibility to go where you want, and to veer away from the well-trodden and often busy tourist trails. There will be some short-term strangeness once we are able to travel again and being in charge of your own transport is the best way to feel secure and safe as we enter into our “new normal”.Find out more about the safety of self-driving the Garden Route as well as tips on where to stay and what to do.
Photo by Martijn Vermeltfoort
South Africa is fast growing as one of the most incredible whale watching destinations in the world with spectacular annual visits from southern right and humpback whales. Each year these magnificent gentle giants congregate to the shores of Hermanus all the way along the coast line towards Plettenberg Bay.Whether from land or boats (known as an ocean safari) you can expect to have the most spectacular sightings of whales from June - November during their annual migration from their icy feeding grounds off Antarctica. They are a true marvel to behold! Peak calving season, and therefore viewing season, is during July and August.
Our favourite whale watching spots in South Africa are:
False Bay near Cape Town, Hermanus, Southern Cape, Eastern Cape, Plettenberg Bay and the Garden RouteRead more about Whale Watching Season in Africa: Where and When?
Photo by Birkenhead House, Hermanus
A Garden Route Safari
Speaking of the Garden Route, to many South Africans the excellent game parks in this area are still undiscovered treasures. The overall quality of the private reserves in the Garden Route is extremely high and it’s a naturalist’s paradise. Unlike the Kruger National Park - the Garden Route is malaria-free which makes it perfect for expecting couples or families with young children. Several lodges specialise in family safaris, offering exclusive-use accommodation, tailored safari programmes and dedicated staff.Home to lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo, these private reserves have gained an international reputation for conservation as many reserves are sanctuaries for endangered and highly sought-after animals such as cheetah and wild dog. If you live within driving distance take the trip and experience a genuine Big 5 safari.Find out more about our Our Top 5 Garden Route Game Lodges
Photo by Botlierskop Private Game Reserve
A Kruger Park Safari
In terms of cost, both regions of the Kruger offer affordable self-catering accommodation for couples and families alike. Due to higher demand, there is a greater selection of rest camps to choose from in the south. Learn the difference between a safari in southern Kruger vs northern Kruger, and this will teach you exactly where to go if you love bird watching or wish to encounter those elusive leopards. One thing is certain though, the Kruger is a rewarding Big 5 safari destination with every changing season.Next you need to decide which of the 21 Kruger rest camps best suit your travel style and interests. To make it easier, here is a list of the most popular camps in each region - those that offer various accommodation options, great facilities and exceptional game viewing opportunities.
Southern Kruger Park
Skukuza Rest Camp
Skukuza Rest Camp is the hub of the Kruger and the largest rest camp - accommodating plenty of visitors all year round. Skukuza nestles on the southern banks of the Sabie River and boasts campsites, safari tents, bungalows, cottages and guesthouses. Highlights during a stay at Skukuza include an early morning stop at the Mathekanyane Lookout and a drive down the river road (H4-1) towards Lower Sabie, which is known for its incredible wildlife sightings.
Lower Sabie Rest Camp
Lower Sabie Rest Camp nestles on the banks of the perennial Sabie River, which is a primary source of water for wildlife throughout the year. This camp, which is loved by families, offers campsites, huts and bungalows. Highlights during a stay at Lower Sabie include exceptional bird watching and incredible sightings of lion, cheetah, elephant, rhino and large herds of buffalo.
Berg en Dal Rest Camp
Berg en Dal Rest Camp lies on the banks of the Matjulu Spruit and is surrounded by a rocky hillside. The camp boasts campsites, cottages, luxury units and bungalows. Highlights during a stay at Berg en Dal include visits to San rock paintings sites in the surrounding hills and fantastic sightings of leopard and wild dogs.
Northern Kruger Park
Mopani Rest Camp
Mopani Rest Camp is the newest of the Kruger camps and overlooks the Pioneer Dam - a primary water source for the rich diversity of wildlife. One can view plenty of animals without even leaving the camp! Mopani has 4-bed units, 4 & 6-bed units and a luxury guesthouse. Highlights during a stay at Mopani include abundant waterbird viewing over Pioneer Dam and a unique sleep-out experience.
Punda Maria Rest Camp
Punda Maria Rest Camp nestles in a Sandveld region which is often referred to as the botanical gardens of the Kruger. The camp boasts campsites, safari tents and various bungalows. Highlights during a stay at Punda Maria include the Babalala picnic spot and the Mahonie Loop (S99), which is well known for its leopard and lion sightings.
Shingwedzi Rest Camp
Shingwedzi Rest Camp sits on the banks of the Shingwedzi River and is concealed by mopane tree - a favorite amongst waterbuck, nyala, kudu and elephant. The camp comprises of campsites, huts, bungalows, 5-bed units and a guesthouse. Highlights during a stay at Shingwedzi include a visit to ‘Red Rocks’, which is known for its elephant, lion and leopard sightings. The Tshanga Lookout is a must, offering incredible views across northern Kruger.
A Madikwe and Sun City Adventure
Take your family on the adventure of a lifetime by combining two iconic South African destinations: Madikwe and Sun City. Traditionally Madikwe has been a well-kept secret, but in recent years it has started to develop beautiful lodges delivering incredible wildlife sightings and all just a short drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria. It is a great destination for families or those wishing to avoid the crowds of the Kruger but still looking for an authentic safari experience. Plus the added bonus of being malarial free. Sun City is a kingdom of indulgent fun and entertainment with world-class accommodation and activities for every member of the family.If this sounds like the holiday for you take a look at this 7-day sample tour:
Photo by Sun City
South Africa is arguably the world’s premier destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, boasting a long list of must-visit and awe-inspiring national parks. Whether you’re in search of stunning coastal scenery, soaring mountain peaks or wildlife viewing experiences, you don’t need to travel too far from home to be met with expansive stretches of pristine nature, an intoxicating raw wilderness feel and endless opportunities for active adventures. What’s more, you’re very likely to be able to enjoy all of this while avoiding the crowds when planned well.
Visit the lesser known camps
There are so many incredible SANParks camps throughout the country that a few special camps are often overlooked. Experience some of the lesser known camps like:
- Golden Gate National Park: Best for hikers.
- Bontebok National Park: Best for birders.
- Augrabies National Park: En route to Namibia.
- Richtersveld National Park: Best for 4x4.
Travel during low season
If you can handle a bit of heat or a bit of rain travelling during the low season has great advantages, most of all quieter camps and great rates.
- Low season in the Kruger NP: February, May and November.
- Low season in the Addo NP: February, May and November.
Find the park that's right for you in our blog: National Parks in South Africa: A Park for Every Experience
Photo by Vincent Van ZalingeStart planning your adventures now and just make sure that whatever you book during this period have flexible terms to ensure you are protected in case you need to change or alter your plans.