How to See The Best of South Africa in 12 Days

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In the past few years, South Africa has raced to the top of many travelers' must-visit lists. Filled with stunning vistas, cool cities, and all that famous African wildlife, the country really does have it all.

Add to this a strong US dollar and weaker South African rand, and it's never been a better time to travel to South Africa.

Camps Bay in Cape Town

Lions in Kruger National Park

If you're considering a trip to South Africa this year, here's a 12-day itinerary that will help you experience the best of what this great country has to offer. From Cape Town to Kruger National Park, you'll get the perfect introduction to South Africa even if you don't have a ton of vacation time.


Travel Itinerary: The Best of South Africa in 12 Days

Day 1: Arrival and Gansbaai

Most people would probably have you start your South African adventure in one of the country's major cities like Johannesburg or Cape Town. But I'm actually going to suggest that you fly into Cape Town and then head to the little coastal town of Gansbaai in the Western Cape.

Hermanus, South Africa
The nearby city of Hermanus

Gansbaai is most famous for being close to Dyer Island, where lots of great white sharks can be found. But the real reason I'm suggesting you start out here is because the town is both beautiful and super laid-back, making it an excellent introduction to South Africa.

Spend your first half-day strolling around the town and catching a beach-side sunset.

Sunset in Gansbaai, South Africa

Where to stay in Gansbaai: My pick is The Roundhouse, a locally-owned guesthouse that's very unique. It has a hot tub on the top deck with views out over the town and ocean, and the breakfasts can't be beat. (Plus, they can transfer you from/to Cape Town, and arrange any activities you might want to do in Gansbaai.) (Read reviews | Book here!)

The Roundhouse in Gansbaai, South Africa
The Roundhouse – it really is round!

Where to eat in Gansbaai: Speaking of meals, definitely have one at Blue Goose, which serves up fresh local seafood and some of the tastiest South African beef.

Day 2: Shark cage diving or dune biking

One of the biggest draws of Gansbaai is, of course, the great white shark diving trips. I recommend going with Marine Dynamics because of their pledge to marine conservation, but most companies in Gansbaai (of which there are many!) offer very similar experiences.

Cage diving with great white sharks in Gansbaai

RELATED: Should You Go Cage Diving With Great White Sharks?

If shark cage diving doesn't appeal to you, you might want to get your adventure on by hitting the sand dunes on a fatbike instead. Roundhouse owner Dave Caravias also runs Fatbike Tours, which offers up a few different tour options in the Gansbaai/Hermanus region.

Whichever adventure you choose, you'll be back in Gansbaai by late afternoon. Decompress in the Roundhouse's hot tub, and enjoy another South African sunset.

View of Gansbaai, South Africa
The view from The Roundhouse's top deck

Sunset in Gansbaai

Where to stay in Gansbaai: At The Roundhouse again, of course!

Day 3: Southern tip of Africa

Many people incorrectly think that the Cape of Good Hope near Cape Town is the southernmost point of Africa. But this actually isn't true! The real southernmost point is at Cape Agulhas, about an hour and a half from Gansbaai. Visit the lighthouse here, as well as the point where the Indian and Pacific oceans meet.

Cape Agulhas, South Africa

At Cape Agulhas, Africa

We stopped for lunch at the Pelican's Harbour Cafe in nearby Struisbaai, where I had the best (and cheapest!) seafood platter of my life.

Seafood in South Africa
This only cost $11 USD!

If you're up for more sightseeing (and a little extra driving) in the afternoon, consider heading north of Gansbaai to the Walker Bay wine region. I loved the tasting room at Creation Wines, located on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge.

Creation Wines in Walker Bay, South Africa
The tasting room at Creation Wines

*Note: Great white shark cage diving is highly weather-dependent, which is why it's ideal to stay in town at least a couple of days in case your original tour gets canceled. You can easily swap Days 2 and 3 if the weather isn't cooperative. (And, if for some reason you don't have enough time to spend multiple nights in Gansbaai, you *can* book a cage diving tour from Cape Town.)

Day 4: To Cape Town!

Now that you've settled into the South African pace of life, it's time to head to the Mother City: Cape Town.

It's about a 2-hour drive from Gansbaai to Cape Town, so you'll want to start off early in order to make the most of your first day in the city.

Camps Bay, Cape Town

Start your Cape Town explorations at the V&A Waterfront, home to South Africa's oldest working harbor, a huge shopping mall, a Ferris wheel, and a large collection of shops and restaurants, all within view of Table Mountain.

One of my favorite parts of the waterfront is the Watershed, which is essentially a large converted warehouse that now houses more than 150 vendors selling everything from original art to vintage clothing.

V&A Waterfront in Cape Town
V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront is also where you'll find the ferries that will take you out to Robben Island, which is home to the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of political imprisonment. Ferries depart every 1-2 hours from Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront, and tours of Robben Island are conducted by former political prisoners.

Whether you decide to spend your afternoon in the city or touring Robben Island, I suggest ending the day watching the sun set at Camps Bay, one of the more affluent areas of Cape Town. The beach at Camps Bay is nice, but at sunset the dying light paints the looming Twelve Apostles mountain range opposite the bay an otherworldly orange. It's absolutely beautiful and is a great way to end your first day in the city.

Sunset at Camps Bay
Sunset at Camps Bay

Where to stay in Cape Town: I stayed at three different hotels in Cape Town:

The Commodore Hotel – This upscale hotel is comfortable, has a great breakfast, and is just around the corner from the V&A Waterfront. (Read reviews | Book here!)

The Taj – The Taj is a 5-star hotel in the heart of downtown Cape Town. Normally I would never stay in a hotel this nice, but right now it's actually not exorbitantly priced. My dad and I were upgraded to a huge 2-room suite here, which was bigger (and way nicer) than my apartment at home. (Read reviews | Book here!)

The One 8 Hotel – If you're interested in a more affordable hotel in a different neighborhood, I can recommend the One 8 Hotel in Green Point. The staff was super nice, and it was just a short walk to a really nice waterfront path. (Read reviews | Book here!)

Or, you can compare Cape Town hotel prices here to find even more options.

Where to eat in Cape Town: There are TONS of great restaurants in Cape Town to choose from. If you're looking for something quick and nearby, though, V&A Food Market is a great place to find delicious street-food-type fare.

Day 5: Cape Town

Start your morning off with a unique way of seeing Cape Town. My votes are either a helicopter tour, or a ride in the sidecar of a WWII-era motorcycle.

Helicopter tours of Cape Town aren't a cheap outing (think at least $100-$150 per person), but it's one of the best ways to see Cape Town. Even on a cloudy day, the views over the city are nothing short of stunning.

Cape Town from above
Cape Town from a helicopter

Or, if heights and flying aren't really your thing, check out the city tours offered by Cape Sidecar Adventures. I did a short tour with them from Signal Hill to Hout Bay, which ended up being one of the coolest city tours I think I've ever taken!

They offer a 2-hour tour that makes for a perfect (and totally unique) introduction to Cape Town.

Sidecars in Cape Town, South Africa
Touring Cape Town in a motorcycle sidecar!

Next, no trip to Cape Town would be complete without a visit to Table Mountain, which is the large, flat mountain that overlooks all of the Mother City.

This symbol of the city isn't always visible (a cloud layer referred to as “the table cloth” often covers the mountain), but if you hit on a clear day you should definitely take the cable car to the top.

View from Table Mountain in Cape Town
The view from Table Mountain

The views out over Cape Town from Table Mountain are great – you'll see everything from Lion's Head to Devil's Peak to the Atlantic Ocean.

View from Table Mountain

Tip: Buy your tickets online ahead of time so you can skip the long lines at the foot of the cable car.

After Table Mountain (or, in case the weather is uncooperative and you can't go up), head back into the city and visit Cape Town's most colorful neighborhood: Bo-Kaap. This small downtown neighborhood is known as the Cape Malay Quarter, and is known for its colorful houses, multicultural make-up, and great ethnic food.

Bo-Kaap neighborhood in Cape Town
Colorful Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

You probably won't have time to fit in a cooking lesson in Bo-Kaap (the neighborhood is known for them), but you can perhaps grab dinner at a traditional Cape Malay restaurant like Bo Kaap Kombuis.

Day 6: Cape Peninsula + Boulders Beach

Cape Town is great, but you won't want to skip a trip to the Cape Peninsula if you have the opportunity to go.

Start out with Chapman's Peak Drive, a cliff-hugging road that connects Hout Bay in Cape Town to Noordhoek. There are a few viewpoints along the drive, including one that offers some amazing views back towards Hout Bay.

Chapman's Peak Drive in Cape Town
Chapman's Peak Drive

After the drive, make for Simon's Town and the famous Boulders Beach. Chances are you've already heard of Boulders Beach: it's the postcard-perfect beach that is also home to a colony of endangered African Penguins.

Penguins at Boulders Beach
Boulders Beach

You'll actually find three beaches here, but it's the boardwalks and penguin viewing area at Foxy Beach that get the most attention.

Boulders Beach, South Africa
So many penguins!

The beach at the far end of the protected area (the *actual* Boulders Beach) is one you can swim in – meaning you can totally swim with the penguins if there are any around!

Penguin at Boulders Beach, South Africa
You can swim at this beach!

The Cape Peninsula ends at Cape Point at the Cape of Good Hope. Even though it's not actually the southernmost point in Africa, it's still pretty cool to visit.

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Cape Point is actually a nature reserve that's part of the larger Table Mountain National Park, so it's not uncommon to see wildlife here like baboons (beware – they are not nice!) and dassies (they kind of look like big guinea pigs).

The most popular thing to do is to take the Flying Dutchman Funicular (or just hike) to the lighthouse at the top of Cape Point. From here, you get an incredible view out over the peninsula and ocean.

Cape Point Lighthouse
Cape Point Lighthouse

And if you don't want to rent a car and drive yourself from Cape Town? You can book a full-day Cape Peninsula tour from Cape Town that will include all these highlights!

Day 7: Sip wine in Stellenbosch

South Africa is known for its wine, and I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you to spend a day sipping some of the best.

There's a wine region close to Cape Town – Constantia – that would make a great morning or afternoon trip. But if you have the whole day, I recommend heading to Stellenbosch. Located roughly an hour from Cape Town, this one of the country's best (and prettiest) wine regions.

Waterford Estate winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa
Waterford Estate

I visited Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch, which offers a unique “wine safari” that includes a ride out into the vineyards in a safari vehicle, followed by wine tastings on a raised wooden platform out in the middle of the vines. I'm not really much of a wine drinker, but this was still a highlight for me.

Waterford Estate is STUNNING, and it was a pleasure to sip wines there in the middle of the vines.

Wine tasting at Waterford Estate

Stellenbosch has lots of wineries to choose from, and you can easily spend the entire day sipping away. Some other popular wineries in this region include Rust en Vrede, Delaire Graff Estate, and Tokara.

(Just don't drink too much and drive, folks! Hire a driver for the day, or book a day trip from Cape Town if you really want to indulge.)

Day 8: To Johannesburg

After a week in the Western Cape, it's time to head to another part of South Africa. Many people skip Johannesburg entirely, but I do think South Africa's largest city is worth a visit. It's true that it's grittier than other parts of the country, but that doesn't mean that there aren't things to do here.

A must-visit in Johannesburg is the Apartheid Museum (in Soweto), which chronicles the struggle South Africans faced during the country's decades of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination. It's not a happy museum, but it's an important one to visit if you want to understand South Africa today.

If you have time in the evening, consider a street art walking tour through the city, which will give you a glimpse into both the artsy and rebellious sides of Johannesburg.

Johannesburg street art
Johannesburg street art

Where to stay in Johannesburg: The 54 on Bath is a great choice in Johannesburg. (Read reviews here.)

Where to eat in Johannesburg: Head to the bohemian Melville neighborhood for lots of great foodie finds. I ate at Lucky Bean, which serves up tasty South African dishes like springbok and ostrich.

Day 9: Cradle of Humankind

For your second day in Johannesburg, you actually might want to book a tour out to Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves, or “the Cradle of Humankind.” This UNESCO World Heritage Site is where some of the world's most significant hominid discoveries have been made.

Start out at the Maropeng visitor center, and then head to the caves for a guided tour. A visit to the caves is a bit adventurous (there's some crawling involved), but how often do you get the chance to visit the place where some of the earliest humans on earth lived?

Day 10: Kruger National Park

The absolute highlight of my time in South Africa was going on safari in Kruger National Park. So naturally I'm saving the best for last in this itinerary.

Lions in Kruger National Park in South Africa

You can fly from Johannesburg to Skukuza on South African Airways, which will get you to Kruger with plenty of time to enjoy lunch and an afternoon game drive on your very first day.

There are tons of accommodation options to choose from in and around Kruger, and this is definitely a place where it's worth splurging on a really nice all-inclusive lodge.

I stayed at the Jock Safari Lodge, which is a private concession within Kruger that I did not ever want to leave. The villas all come with soaker tubs, outdoor day beds overlooking a dry riverbed, and even private plunge pools. And the staff and rangers here are all incredible.

READ MORE: The Private Game Lodge Experience in Kruger National Park

Jock Safari Lodge in Kruger National Park
Our day bed – you could lay down and watch elephants!

After arriving, we had some time to explore the property and then left on our first game drive in the late afternoon. And we saw the Big 5 (buffalo, elephant, rhino, lion, and leopard) all within this first safari!

Baby elephants playing in Kruger
Elephant family
Leopard in Kruger National Park

Where to stay in Kruger: I was a huge fan of the Jock Safari Lodge, and would definitely recommend it. (Read reviews | Book here!)

Where to eat in Kruger: When you stay at an all-inclusive lodge, all of your meals will be included.

Day 11: Kruger National Park

You'll want to devote at least 2-3 nights to Kruger. Even though you might be thinking that one or two game drives will be enough, the truth is that you will never see the same thing twice on a game drive – meaning every single one is exciting and unique!

Giraffe in Kruger National Park

Along with the Big 5, we saw things like lions mating, baby elephants charging our truck, a momma and newborn white rhino, wild dogs facing off with hyenas, and much, much more.

Lion pair in Kruger National Park

Mama and baby white rhino in Kruger

Wild dogs vs. hyenas in Kruger
Wild dogs vs. hyenas – super rare to see!

Going on safari truly is a bucket-list-worthy activity, and even after 4+ game drives, I wasn't ready to leave!

Your days will look something like this:

  • 5 a.m. wake-up
  • 5:30 a.m. coffee/snacks
  • 6-9 a.m. game drive (most animals are more active in the hours right around sunrise)
  • 9:30 a.m. breakfast
  • Relaxing time / maybe a walking safari offered
  • Lunch
  • More relaxing/pool time
  • 4-7 p.m. evening game drive
  • Dinner
  • Bedtime!

Sunrise at Kruger National Park, South Africa

RELATED: 8 Things to Know Before Your First African Safari

Day 12: Kruger + departure

You'll be able to squeeze in one more morning game drive on your last day, and then it will be time to fly back to Johannesburg and on to wherever in the world home is.

Zebra in Kruger National Park

Extra time in South Africa?

If you have a couple extra days in South Africa to play with, you might want to consider adding one of the following to your itinerary:

The Blue Train

This luxury train, with its polished-wood interior and fancy lounge cars, is a throwback to the heyday of train travel. The Blue Train travels between Cape Town and Pretoria, taking 1.5 days to traverse essentially the length of South Africa.

This is definitely a luxury experience, but the weak South African rand actually makes it relatively affordable right now (well, relative to “normal” prices!).

Blue Train in South Africa

I was lucky enough to ride the Blue Train on my trip, and I was impressed by the efficiency of the tiny rooms, the service, the food, and how lovely it was to just relax for a day and a half and watch the countryside slip by outside the window.

The Blue Train
The room my dad and I shared – chairs during the days, beds at night. So efficient!

You can fit this in between Cape Town/Stellenbosch and your time in Johannesburg if you have an extra night to spend.

The Garden Route

If you have even MORE time and don't fancy an expensive train ride, consider driving the Garden Route along South Africa's southern coast. This is regarded as one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa, but does require at least a couple extra days to truly enjoy.

Where to next?

After exploring South Africa, why not head to the beach for a while? The Seychelles (a dreamy island nation in the Indian Ocean) is only a short flight away and pairs up great with South Africa.

Read more: How to Spend 1 Week in the Seychelles

This itinerary obviously doesn't encompass everything there is to see in South Africa – it largely skips the Garden Route, Durban, the Blyde River Canyon, and the Drakensberg mountains, for example. But in order to see it all, you'd need a lot more than just 12 days in South Africa!

This itinerary (in my opinion, at least), touches on the best parts of South Africa, mixing the natural and the urban into one unforgettable trip.

More essential info

Have you been to South Africa? If so, what are some of your favorite parts?


12-day itinerary for South Africa


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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108 Comments on “How to See The Best of South Africa in 12 Days

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  1. Wow South Africa has been on my bucket list for a very long time, but I never see any good deals flying to that country, will have to keep saving up meanwhile

      Keep an eye on South African Airways! They have sales pretty often, especially during the low/shoulder season.

    Wow, you fit a lot into 12 days! I’m still trying to decide if I’d like cage diving or not, I would love to see the sharks so close but I really hate being underwater/in the ocean. Hmm… You’re so lucky you got to see all the big 5 so quick as well, love the look of those day beds!

      My dad came on the cage diving boat with us but didn’t want to get into a wetsuit and go in the water. He got a seat right above the cage instead, and had the best view of everything! He wasn’t expecting to be that impressed, but loved it! So you can always go and just watch if you decide you don’t want to get in the ocean. (I think maybe you can even get a discount if you just want to watch?)

      And as for our safari, yes we got so lucky! The Big 5 all in one game drive, baby rhinos, and wild dogs, which aren’t very common in Kruger!

        Hi there! Have you been to Pilanisberg? I’m wondering which safari is better since I heard Pilanisberg is closer to Johannesburg thank Kruger. I’m going to South Africa in 3 weeks and hearing your suggestion would be very helpful! I only have about 5 days in Jo-burg and 3 days in Capetown. I appreciate any thoughts you have to offer. Thank you!

          I have not been to Pilanisberg, I’m afraid, so I can’t really give you any comparison! There are plenty of places to see wildlife in South Africa, but I really do think Kruger is best if it’s Big 5 animals you hope to see!

    Wow! the wild life is alluring… as the famous song says… It’s time for Africa! On the other note, did you face any safety problems in SA?

      The wildlife in Kruger was incredible! And no, I didn’t run into any issues or have any fear over my safety in South Africa.

        Can we just go to Krueger for 7 or 10 days at the all inclusive lodge? We would have no problem having that schedule everyday and going on all those game drives. Stew

          Absolutely! I don’t believe any lodges will put a limit on how long you can stay!

    I was in S. Africa around this time last year and it was awesome!!! I did the Garden Route from Durban (a hole, skip it) all the way to C’Town with 2.5 days in Jo’berg at the start. I did a tour that included camping and we stopped at supermarkets along the way and the whole thing was very well priced. I did 22 days from San Francisco for about $3k and that included EVERYTHING. Now is definitely the time to go with the weak rand. I found service levels to be very on par with Australia and other experiences in the southern hemisphere.

      I did an overland trip from Cape Town to Victoria Falls separately (probably similar to what you did), and it was also very affordable and very well done. And yes, Southern Africa is not the “Africa” a lot of us Westerners picture – it’s much more European than most people realize!

    This looks like a great trip! But you’re right, to see everything South Africa has to offer I would definitely hope to be able to stay longer than 12 days! I would also love to pop into Lesotho and Swaziland if I was in that part of the world, just cause the idea of them is so cool; little countries surrounded by South Africa 😛

      A longer trip would certainly be ideal, but many people (i.e. most Americans) don’t have a lot of vacation time to work with, so I wanted to show that you definitely can do an epic trip like this in two weeks or less!

    Thanks for this comprehensive overview. My daughter was just asking if we could plan a trip to South Africa. I’d initially thought no, but now my interest is piqued. She’ll be glad to hear that. 🙂

      Good to hear! It is kind of far away from just about everywhere else, but both my dad and I had a really great time!

    Looks like you had an incredible time! Boulders Beach is unmissable when on a trip to South Africa…there´s nothing quite like swimming in the sea with penguins! What an experience!
    When I was in the Bahamas recently I saw pigs swimming in the sea, which was utterly surreal and made me feel like I was in a Hollywood movie!

      It was a bit too chilly to get in the water with the penguins when I was there, but it definitely was incredible to see them!

    It took me three weeks to complete the Garden Route! Most of the sights you describe in the west of South Africa I’ve visited and loved. I’m looking forward to visiting the east on a next trip!

      There’s so much to see! It’s a bigger country than I think most people realize.

    Oh, this makes me want to go back so much! I am half South-African and I really miss it all of the time. My mom has a saying that goes something like, “Once you’ve been to Africa, you spend your life trying to get back.” You really packed a ton into 12 days — that is hard to do in such a big, beautiful place! Well done.

      I think your mom might be on to something – I’m already planning my next trip!

    Love the suggestion of starting in Gansbaai. Haven’t been to South Africa (just Egypt and Tunisia while traveling from Asia to Europe), but two weeks definitely sounds like the right amount of town. Anywhere you were able to reach that qualified as ‘bizarre’ or ‘quirky’ that you didn’t get to mention here/

      Two weeks is a good amount of time to get a feel for the country, for sure. And Gansbaai is such a great place to start – it’s so chilled out! As for quirky places… you might want to add in time in Oudtshoorn, where you can ride an ostrich! (I didn’t get there on this trip, but it looks very bizarre!)

    Wow this post is amazing! Thanks so much! I just finished a post about festivals in Africa, and has gotten me really excited to plan a trip to SA but have no idea where to start. Great pics by the way! Cheers.

      Hopefully you have a few ideas on where to start now!

    This is a great post Amanda! And wow! You really did well. 😀

    I’ve only been to South Africa once but it was 13 years ago. Eek!

    I went to visit a German girlfriend of mine who has a house out there in Cape Town, and soends 6 months there and 6 months in Berlin. True Story: She bought the house while she was at a party as a bit of a joke. We all thought it was hilarious! Well, it all worked out nicely as the house is on the cliff, and totally gorgous!

    I was in Cape Town for only two weeks and really got to know the German and British expats out there!

    My fave part was the penguin santuary, the safari and the cooking lesson in Bo-Kaap. ps. They have just the best roast lamb! It was so good that I went back to the restaurant, twice in one day!

    Lovely to have met you Amanda and it was a great experience showing you the best of our area 🙂

      It was great to meet you, too! Next time I’ll definitely have to try the fatbikes. 🙂

    Great itinerary. You’ve really got a bit of everything included here. South Africa is somewhere I’d love to get back to.

      It’s certainly not difficult to fill up time in South Africa – there’s so much to do!

    Wow! I’m going to South Africa this July. I’ll most likely see Cape Town, Johannesburg, Tanzania, Botswana and Zimbabwe. This post has me even more excited, thank you!

      Yay, glad I could help build that excitement!

    You are very good at taking photos. These photos help the reader jumping into your journey. Make me feel as if I visited the same places. Great post!

      Thanks very much! I’m not a professional photographer, but I do really love taking pictures!

    Wow! A 12 day trip! Will definitely love to try this!

      I’d recommend even more days if you can, of course! There’s so much to see in South Africa.

    Hi Amanda,

    This seems like such an amazing trip! Thank you so much for all of your recommendations. My boyfriend and I are planning a very similar trip in 2018.

    Thank you!

      Happy to be able to help, Erin! South Africa is such a cool country. Hopefully I gave you a few new ideas in this post!

    South Africa is top on my list, the shark dive/whales, boulder beach, table mountain and Kruger are my top must see things. Any suggestions on prices, how long to visit and how to make it cheap but safe? Any other must see or do’s? Thanks for any advice!

      Hey Kevin! All of my South Africa tips are right here in this post! I would recommend at least two weeks, but obviously the longer the better! And as for pricing… South Africa can definitely be a budget-friendly destination (especially with the strong dollar right now), but can also be luxurious. If you’re on a budget, I would look for hostels or cheaper hotels to stay in, maybe cut out the wine tasting, and rely on things like the hop-on, hop-off bus to see Cape Town. When it comes to a safari, though, I don’t recommend scrimping on that – if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing for you, it’s worth spending a few extra dollars!

    Hello there, great post! May i know which camera did you use at the Safari? I have been using my iphone throughout my trips, and just not sure whether i should invest in sth for Africa.

    Hi Amanda,

    When is the best time to travel to South Africa? I’m thinking of visiting South Africa next year 🙂

      I visited in May (basically like autumn) and really enjoyed it. But I honestly think South Africa is a year-round destination! I don’t know that there’s a “bad” time, especially since the country is quite big.

        Just read the if there is a best time to visit commnet: In regards to animals is there a time of year where they are more abundant then other parts of the years, (Big 5, Penguins on the beach and sharks?)

          You’ll always find penguins at Boulders Beach. As for sharks, the best times depend on where you want to see them. If you want to potentially see them hunting seals near Gansbaai, winter is the best time to go (they say April-late August, but I think June and July are really the best months!). And as for safari-type wildlife, the dry season (also winter) is often best because many animals are out and about searching for water. (Though I think wildlife sightings in Kruger are very good year-round, but winter is for sure the best time to see animals in other countries like Namibia and Botswana.)

    Any price estimate for a trip per person following this itinerary? Thanks!

      It depends on a lot of factors, including the exchange rate when you’re going (I went when the rand was really weak, so was able to fit more in for less money!). My dad and I did a guided tour that included most of what’s mentioned here (including staying at the fanciest hotels, and a ride on the Blue Train) and it was about $3500 per person. You could easily lower that total if you stay in more budget-friendly hotels and skip the Blue Train.

    What would you recommend for getting around? Did you rent a car to get to Gansbaai or to get to Cape Agulhas? Thanks!

      You *can* book tours/transport from Cape Town to Gansbaai. But if you then also wanted to go to Cape Agulhas, you’d need transport/a tour again. Renting a car would be ideal if possible, though the folks at The Roundhouse can help organize all of this, too, if you’d prefer not to drive yourself.

    Hey Amanda,

    Really awesome post, I actually did the shark cage diving a month ago. Was so cool! Used to have a crippling fear of sharks. But realised they look more confused if anything lol.

      I’m glad to hear you got over that fear! I think sharks are SO COOL.

    I am presently planning a trip to Africa for July. I was wondering if I could do this on my own to make it a little less expensive. Your blog is amazing with all the links. You make me feel I could make this happen. Thank you for all your time and efforts.

      Yes, you could definitely do this independently! You could also cut out some of the side trips (like Gansbaai and Stellenbosch) to save money, too. You could easily do a few days in Cape Town, fly to Johannesburg, and then do a Kruger safari. The only thing I would still recommend splurging on is the safari – staying a a good lodge will make the experience all the more memorable!

        Mary Ann,
        Thank you for the advice. I am looking forward to being in South Africa in July. This does help to have other ideas and options. I will look at some of these options since I will be there during the winter months….I am a summer person at heart so I may want to take your advice. Amanda….this is the best blog I have seen on traveling there. Thank you again!

          Luckily “winter” in South Africa isn’t really the same as winter in many other parts of the world! I visited in May last year, and while I did usually wear jeans and a sweatshirt or light jacket, it was nothing compared to winter in Ohio!

            That is good to know! That sounds doable for clothing!

    Thanks a lot! This is a great read.
    I am leaving this comment here for those of you interested in visiting the northern part of South Africa. In the Limpopo province, there is a considerably new private game reserve called the Mapesu Private Game Reserve. It is spread across 7200ha and is definitely something that you cannot miss out on. The reserve houses a beautiful 4 star luxury lodge called Mopane Bush Lodge which is very affordable. The tour offered by the lodge is absolutely brilliant for the money that they charge their visitors.


    I am a South African so I can give a little homegrown advice:
    June to August is our low season as winter is a little cold, with temperatures are between -3 to 15 degrees Celsius. Winter is Johannesburg’s dry season and Cape Towns Wet Season. If Cape Towns sea is too cold for your liking another great location is the around the Durban coastline where the weather is warm most of the year. Do not stay in Durban city its awful and dirty, instead the neighboring towns around it are much nicer! (Richards bay, Umhlanga, Amazontoti, Margate and Balito) A hidden gem is St.Lucia, you can do whale watching, turtle tours, Hluhluwe / Nature Reserve is nearby, there are hippos walking the street and on the beach (they are aggressive and can kill you, so dont get too close!) Hope this helps 🙂

      Thanks for the tips, Mary-Ann! All good info!

    Hi Amanda,
    Thank you for all the tips. South Africa has been my dream vacation. Reading your blogs and looking at your photos even excites me more. I am planning to bring along all my 5 kids there. Youngest is 9 years old. Whats your opinion abt bringing kids along and following your itinerary?

      Hey Linda! Kids can definitely do most of the things on this itinerary! You might want to skip the wine tasting, and some of the museums/tours (like Robben Island and the Apartheid Museum) might be a bit heavy for kids – but you’d know better than me! Most of these things are actually pretty kid-friendly, though; Jock Safari Lodge even has a kid-friendly lodge called Fitzpatrick’s that’s great for families!

    This is such a great read. You have all your points jotted down right. Thanks a lot for the article. Also, I had been to northern part of Limpopo last year, and we stayed over at a lodge called Mopane Bush Lodge. It’s this really nice cozy place. See if you you can do a survey on it. Could be worth it.

    Hi Amanda,

    Thanks for such a great post. is Kruger park in Johannesburg or did you have to fly somewhere else? Also would you recommend staying at the safari lodge while in Johannesburg (The all inclusive one you mentioned)? Lastly the blue train takes you where exactly ?

      Kruger is not in Johannesburg, no. I flew from Johannesburg to Skukuza, which is right on the border of the park. I would recommend staying at an all-inclusive safari lodge, yes. It’s absolutely worth the money for the experience you get. And the Blue Train goes from Cape Town to Pretoria (or vice versa).

    Hi Amanda! Thanks for all the great information. I have a question about your stay at the TAJ Hotel. Do they accept US Major Credit Cards or does everything have to be paid for in ZARS? That also applies for everything you did while there did you find it hard to use major credit cards or did you have to get their currency?

      Hey Nicky! Most countries these days accept Visa and MasterCard, including South Africa. Most hotels will charge you in the local currency, and then your credit card company converts it into USD. There’s usually a foreign transaction fee associated with this, but check to see if your credit card waives those (if not, it’s fine – just know you’ll be charged a small percentage extra when using your card overseas).

    Hi Amanda! Thanks for sharing your wonderful itinerary with us. I have a question regarding the transportation there. Is it safe to rent a car and drive around? Not sure about the security there so I was hoping to hear some advice from you. Also, how did you get from Cape Town to Johannesburg? 🙂

      It’s relatively safe to rent a car in South Africa. The roads are well-maintained, and infrastructure is pretty good. A few years ago you were advised not to drive at night because carjackings DO still happen there, but I’m not sure how/if that has changed. I personally took the Blue Train between Cape Town and Johannesburg, though flying is also an option.

    Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for the amazing and comprehensive itinerary! I’m planning a honeymoon to South Africa for the upcoming year. We want to do both Cape town, its surroundings, and Kruger National Park. How did you get around in South Africa? Did you rent a car? Can you recommend the best way to travel between Cape Town and Kruger (too bad they are on the opposite sides of the country). Also, what company did you do the safaris with?

    Any advice would be much appreciated!


      Getting from one side of South Africa to the other, I used both a train and planes. Flying between Cape Town and Kruger is probably the easiest. And as for the safari, game drives will be included if you stay at a private lodge like I did!

        Thanks for the info. I think we will definitely fly from Cape town to Kruger. But do you think it’s easier to rent a car while exploring the vicinity of Cape town or go by taxi or public transport?

          It depends whether you’re just going to stay in the city, or whether you also want to do short trips to places like Stellenbosch or the Cape Peninsula. If you also want to do those things, you’d probably save some money renting a car.

    Hey Amanda! What would you suggest if I am traveling to South Africa next week, as far as the currency did you exchange it for Rands or use USD? Would you suggest paying with US dollars while there in Capetown?

      Hey Nicky! My dad and I exchanged some USD at the airport, and then also just used credit cards. Visa and Mastercard are pretty widely accepted in South Africa.

    great post! really helpful tips, I am planning a trip to cover cape town, johannesburg (mainly just kruger) and victoria falls in 18 days (quite ambitious i know). but would you be able to advise the best way to plan this?

      I tend to just plan my trips independently since I travel so frequently (so, I just research flights, hotels, etc. on my own), but you could always have a travel agent help you if you aren’t comfortable planning it yourself. You could also look into guided tours that might include all the spots you want to see.

    Hey Amanda !!
    Beautiful writing, makes me want to go South Africa right now !!
    Just a couple of questions?
    Do you think december is a good time to do the trip? I am just worried about Kruger as it doesn’t seem to be the best time.
    And secondly how was the party scene ?

      I can’t speak to the party scene as I’m not the type of person to seek that out. As for timing, I think December is fine as long as you book everything in advance since it’s holiday time for South Africans, too. It will be busier that time of year, but still fine to visit I think!

    How much was Kruger Park? Did you take direct flight or did you stop in Europe first?

      We flew to South Africa via London, but that was mostly because I wanted to show my dad around London a bit. It is nice to break up that long flight, though, if you have the time to do it. As for Kruger, I visited as part of a larger tour. How much it costs largely depends on where you stay. If you want to read more about where we stayed in Kruger, check out this post:

        Thanks for the valuable info. I would definitely want to break up the long flight. Good suggestion.

    I am pleased to remember a trip to Cape Town and I recommend this city to everyone. It was there that I discovered South African wines and for the first time I had dishes with ostrich meat. It is also a city that I would like to return to. The first time I did not have time to climb the Lion Head or swim in a cage surrounded by sharks.

    Dear Amanda,

    I am planning a visit to SA in January 2019. Your 12 day itinerary is exactly what I am looking for. Thank you so much for taking the time to put your experience into word for us as a guide and share with our friends. Your honesty by saying that you might receive a small fund from the hotels you recommend us, is truly appreciated.

    Please be encouraged to share more of your experiences of your travels as you are truly gifted at it.

    Best wishes,

    Disna Wijemuni

      Thanks for the kind message, Disna! Happy to be able to help you plan your trip!

    What a comprehensive, factually correct article about South Africa. I live here, and this post is one of the best I have read. Your itinerary is realistic, your facts and names of places all correct, and you give a good, accurate impression of South Africa. Great post. Subscribing to this blog now .>)

      Thank you so much, Diane! Comments like this mean a lot to me, as I put a lot of time into providing really great travel content that people can actually use! Great to hear that I’ve gotten it right about South Africa.

    Which is the best time to visit
    why cant you fit in garden route, kwa Zulu natal and sun city
    is it possible to pick up part route ride on the blue train
    we would need a car to hire with English speaking driver cum guide

      You can visit South Africa year round and do all of these things! And you can certainly add places like the Garden Route to your itinerary, but there’s no way to fit it all in in just 12 days (which is what this suggested itinerary covers). As for the Blue Train, I don’t *think* you can do only one part of it, but you’d be better off consulting their website or contacting them directly. I’m not a travel agent and don’t plan or sell travel for anyone.

    Amanda, your blog was really impressive! We’re planning a 15 day tour from India to South Africa. Which time of the year do you recommend would be best for this? Is it safe to self drive or would private transport be the better alternative? Could we also hope to cover Sun City in this trip?

      I went to South Africa in May and thought it was pretty perfect – it did get colder at night (especially in Kruger), but it never got super hot and was mostly dry. I don’t know that there’s a “bad” season to visit South Africa, though! It’s mostly safe to self-drive in South Africa, though my dad and I did opt to go on a tour, so I don’t have any personal experience driving there! I can’t say that I’m familiar with Sun City, but I don’t see why you couldn’t add it on since it sounds like you’ll have a couple extra days!

    My husband and I are looking to go to SA for our honeymoon. When would you think would be the best time of year to go? Your itinerary is really helpful and is getting me super excited!

      South Africa has several different climates, so it’s really a year-round destination! I visited in May, which was a quieter time of year just going into winter. It meant it was cooler (and downright cold on the mornings we went on safari!), but May-September are the best months to see wildlife in South Africa.

    Hi Amanda, absolutely stunning experience of SA! i was wondering about the logistics of this journey. Did you manage on your own, have your own guide/driver or followed a tour?

    Many thanks!

      Hey Daryl! I traveled mostly on a tour in South Africa, but you could definitely do this independently, too. In the Cape Town area, you could either rent a car (I personally didn’t feel comfortable doing this, but it’s an option), or do some day trips to get to the places nearby like the Cape Peninsula and Stellenbosch. I took the Blue Train between Cape Town and Pretoria (to get to Johannesburg), though it’s easiest to fly. And then we also flew from Johannesburg to Kruger.

    Awesome stuff. One question, what’s the best time of year to travel to Africa?

      Africa is huge, so it really depends on where you’re going and what you want to see! If we’re talking South Africa specifically, it still depends! You can see different things in different seasons, so it depends whether you’re most interested in safari, beaches, cities, etc. South Africa is a year-round destination!

    Could you please let me know which safari package you booked for your game drive the 3 days in Kruger?
    It would be great if you share the contact of that safari as we can go ahead booking with the same team.

    Quick question for you if you don’t mind. I’m doing a hunting/backpacking trip this fall with some friends. It’s gonna be about a 20 mile hike in we weather. Do you have a favorite boot that you would use in that situation? I appreciate the help!

      I generally like Merrell hiking boots a lot, and my husband has a pair of Oboz that he really likes. I would just make sure that whatever you get is waterproof!

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