With 300 National Parks and Reserves, South Africa offers endless safari experiences: from those in the richest savannah to the most desolate places. Obviously the vast location of the places offers different climates, depending also on the period; for this reason it is good to choose carefully the destination that best suits our needs.
In the meantime it is necessary to remember that the seasons are reversed compared to our northern hemisphere. That said, in Cape Town and on the south coast the climate is very mild, with limited temperature variations between winter and summer and not abundant rainfall distributed throughout the year. The average temperature ranges from 12 degrees in July to 21 in January and February.
In the area of Alexander Bay and the West Coast the climate is constantly mild, so that daytime temperatures remain on average around 15/16 degrees in winter and around 20 ° C in summer. In this area it rains much less (350 mm per year).
In the area of Durban (east coast) the climate is decidedly more sultry in summer and mild in winter, with annual rainfall of around 1,000 millimeters (89 days).
Johannesburg, in the North-East hinterland, has instead a mild and pleasant climate, with rainfalls of about 700 millimeters per year (91 days).
The area of the Kruger National Park on the border with Mozambique (north-east) has dry and sunny winters (with great night / day temperature ranges) and hot and humid summers.
In general, spring (September – October) is a good compromise. For a complete tour, April / May is fine, for the safari and the Johannesburg area the period between May and October is perfect. In the South, in the area of Cape Town, it is preferable from November to April, in the south-east (the Durban area) to better choose from May to September. However, with a minimum of adaptation and awareness, South Africa can best be experienced throughout the year.
PERIOD TO AVOID
the summer months (November to February) see a large number of international tourists, so that the various structures tend to increase prices until doubled. In December the closure of the schools pours onto the crazy beaches of people, and it is also to consider that the South-East part has very high temperatures. Strong winds sweep Cape Town, with inland mountainous areas subject to fogs and violent rains.
1 – Kruger National Park
kruger national parkThe Kruger National Park is the largest and most famous in South Africa, with an extension of over 22,000sqm with 6 different ecosystems and nearly 2,000 plant species. It houses all the members of the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, buffalo) and most are found in the southern part of the park, where there is more water and more rain, and for this there are also more roads to sightings.
The central area is instead excellent for the sighting of felines, with a massive presence of lion herds.
The northern part of Kruger tends to a greater “monotony”, with desolate horizons and a smaller number of animals. Arriving at the extreme North, the vegetation is clearly lush, with palm and baobab trees, and endless species of birds to observe.
The Kruger houses one of the most interesting Hide (protected observation platforms), the Lake Panic, which overlooks a large pond, the scene of bird passages, hippos, crocodiles and turtles. There are not many others, even if in a couple it is also possible to stay overnight for a “total” experience in nature. It is also possible to do a 4×4 tour of the Kruger, along the famous (and only remaining) Mananga Trail, a 50 km of tracks in the deepest savannah. For trekking lovers, it is also possible to plan outings of a few hours, advancing on foot along paths not covered by cars, or walking for at least 8 hours and then sleeping under the stars ..
2 – Gondwana Private Game Reserve
In the territory of the Western Cape, not even 4 hours away from the magnificent Cape Town, we find the Gondwana Private Game Reserve, 11,000 hectares of protected reserve in which to spend a fantastic experience. It is famous for being the only reserve in the world where one can practice the safari in the Fynbos, the shrub vegetation typical of this region, and where the Big Five are found in the company of giraffes, zebras, hippos and gazelles, and rare species of birds present only in this area. Here too it is possible to organize trekking in the vastness of the Fynbos, in addition to the usual safari
3 – Isimangaliso Wetland Park
In the province of KwaZulu Natal (east coast) instead is the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, the third largest protected area in South Africa and a UNESCO heritage site. It can be easily reached from Durban, the nearest city with an international airport.
The park covers an area of 32,000 hectares and includes 8 different ecosystems. The excitement of taking part in a night safari, in search of the Big Five that only appear after dusk, or choose a boat trip to come across hippos and crocodiles along the Santa Lucia estuary.
The city of Durban nearby, certainly offers other equally strong experiences: nightlife, perfect climate, beaches and cultural mix.
4 – Addo Elephant Park
In the Eastern Cape territory, the Addo Elephant Park to the Big Five is also joined by the whale and the great white shark, which together constitute the so-called Big Seven.
Inside the park there are more than 600 elephants, among the largest groups in the whole African continent. This area also includes St.Croix Island, which is home to various species of birds that share space with the largest colony of African penguins.
To get to the Addo Elephant Park, you can privilege the panoramic Garden Route that starts from Cape Town and goes directly to the port city of Port Elizabeth, with its beautiful beaches.
5 – Pilanesberg National Park
Starting from Johannesburg early in the morning, you reach the park in just under two and a half hours: a protected area of about 500 square meters, surrounded by three concentric rings of hills that form the crater of an extinct volcano, among the largest at world, with rare types of rock; in the center a small artificial lake, various types of mixed vegetation and almost 400 species of birds. A unique place among the various parks and areas of South Africa, in which to concentrate the most disparate emotions.
What to wear and what to pack
The watchword must be “practicality” and adaptation, which means banishing large and rigid suitcases. With a soft medium-sized bag made of washable material, we can well say we have a battle suitcase: light, easy to carry, adaptable and water resistant. Another fundamental rule is to dress in layers and carry practical clothing in natural fabrics, such as linen and cotton. Don’t bring excesses, few changes will suffice (you can always do a laundry along the way).
The climate of the savannah is characterized by a strong temperature range between day and night and, even during the day, temperatures can change a lot due to sudden rains. It is therefore always necessary to provide both t-shirts, shorts for daylight hours, and a sweatshirt, rain jacket and long pants for those in the evening.
Better to wear neutral colors that reflect the sun, they blend well with the surrounding nature and do not attract too much insect attention. Instead in the evening it is better to prefer light clothing, possibly white, which helps shelter from mosquitoes that can be carriers of malaria and other diseases. An excellent repellent spray is indispensable, to be sprayed even on clothes.
If you are traveling during the African winter, it is better to wear gloves, a scarf, a hat and an anti-wind jacket with light padding. Always useful for rubber slippers for long journeys by car and for showers, and sports shoes, or better yet trekking boots, for excursions with rangers and for moving easily throughout the journey.