South African Safaris | South African Tours | Embrace Africa

African Safaris Image

A Quick Guide to South Africa:

Here's the lowdown on why South Africa's going to surprise you! 

Welcome to the southern tip of Africa. Here, two great oceans meet, warm weather lasts most of the year, and big game roams just beyond the city lights.

This is where humanity began: our ancestors' traces are still evident in fossilised footprints 80 000 years old, and in the world's oldest rock paintings.

Today, South Africa is the powerhouse of Africa, the most advanced, broad-based economy on the continent, with infrastructure to match any first-world country.

You can drive on wide, tarred highways all 2 000 kilometres from Musina at the very top of the country to Cape Town at the bottom. Or join the millions of international travellers who disembark at our airports every year.

About two-thirds of Africa's electricity is generated here. Around 40% percent of the continent's phones are here. Over half the world's platinum and 10% of its gold is mined here. And almost everyone who visits is astonished at how far a dollar, euro or pound will stretch. Welcome to the Republic of South Africa.

Our banking hours are 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday and on Saturdays 9am to 11am. Most stores are open until 6pm every day of the week. Dialing prefix from other countries is 0027 and we drive on the left. Our highways are marked N for national and M for Motorway.

Who lives in South Africa?

South Africa is a nation of over 49-million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages and beliefs. Around 79% are black (or African), 9% white, 9% "coloured" – the local label for people of mixed African, Asian and white descent – and 2.5% Indian or Asian. Just over half the population live in the cities.

Nearly four-fifths of South Africans are Christian, the largest church being the indigenous Zion Christian Church, followed by the Dutch Reformed and Catholic churches. Many churches combine Christian and traditional African beliefs, and many non-Christians espouse these traditional beliefs. Other significant religions – though with much smaller followings – are Islam, Hinduism and Judaism.

What languages do people speak?

There are 11 officially recognised languages, most of them indigenous to South Africa. Around 40% of the population speak either isiZulu or isiXhosa. You don't speak either? If your English is passable, don't worry. Everywhere you go, you can expect to find people who speak or understand English.

English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government, of road signs and official documents. Road signs and official forms are in English. The President makes his speeches in English. At any hotel, the receptionists, waiters and porters will speak English.

Another major language is Afrikaans, a derivative of Dutch, which northern Europeans will find surprisingly easy to follow.

Is South Africa a democracy?

South Africa is a vigorous multi-party democracy with an independent judiciary and a free and diverse press. One of the world's youngest – and most progressive – constitutions protects both citizens and visitors. You won't be locked up for shouting out your opinions, however contrary. (But be careful about smoking cigarettes in crowded restaurants!)

What about apartheid?

Up until 1994, South Africa was known for apartheid, or white-minority rule. The country's remarkable ability to put centuries of racial hatred behind it in favour of reconciliation was widely considered a social miracle, inspiring similar peace efforts in places such as Northern Ireland and Rwanda. Post-apartheid South Africa has a government comprising all races, and is often referred to as the rainbow nation, a phrase coined by Nobel

Is foreign business welcome?

The "open for business" signs are up. The country offers an investor-friendly environment in which 100% foreign ownership is allowed. Repatriation of profits is liberal. The exchange rate is favourable. And if you're doing businesses anywhere in Africa, this is the gateway to the continent.

What's the weather like?

Summery, without being sweltering. In Johannesburg, the country's commercial capital, the weather is mild all year round, but can get cool at night. Durban, the biggest port, is hot and sometimes humid, a beach paradise. And in Cape Town, where travellers flock to admire one of the world's most spectacular settings, the weather is usually warm, though temperamental. If you're visiting from the northern hemisphere, just remember: when it's winter over there, it's summer over here. Bring sunglasses and sunscreen; leave the mackintosh at home.

Is it a big country?

To a European, yes. The country straddles 1.2-million square kilometres, as big as several European countries put together. To an American, maybe not – it's an eighth the size of the US. Still, it's more than a day's drive down the highway from Johannesburg in the north to Cape Town in the south (if you're driving sensibly), with the topography ranging across the spectrum from lush green valleys to semi-desert.

How is it divided up?

South Africa has nine provinces. Gauteng, the smallest and most densely populated, adjoins Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga in the north. The Northern Cape, the largest province with the smallest population, is in the west. The Free State is in the middle of the country. And the coastal provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape lie to the south.

Are there big cities with modern amenities?

There's more to Africa than lions. Johannesburg, a city of skyscrapers, sprawls wider than London or New York. The lights work, the water flows, there are multi-lane highways and – unfortunately – traffic jams. You can book into a Hilton or a Hyatt or a Holiday Inn and eat at cosmopolitan restaurants serving anything from sushi to burgers to crocodile steaks. Or you can lie back on a couch and choose from five analogue and over 50 digital TV channels.

What are the big cities?

South Africa has two capitals. Cape Town, the oldest city, is the legislative capital, where Parliament sits. Pretoria, 1 500 kilometres to the north, is the executive capital, where the government administration is housed. Next door to Pretoria, and close enough that the outer suburbs merge, is the commercial centre of Johannesburg, once the world's greatest gold mining centre, now increasingly dominated by modern financial and service sectors. The second-biggest city is Durban, a fast-growing port on the eastern coast, and the supply route for most goods to the interior.

How do I get to South Africa?

By air – unless you have a boat or rugged overland vehicle. Over 50 airlines and more than 30-million passengers a year move through South Africa's 10 principal airports, including the three major international airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

You say the roads are tarred?

Yes, even in the smallest towns. The major centres are connected by over 9 000 kilometres of tarred and regularly maintained national highways, including over 2 000 kilometres of dual carriageway, and the numbers are increasing steadily. The national railway has some 30 000 kilometres of rail track connecting the smallest hamlets.

I'll be able to phone home?

That, and more. With a network that is 99% digital and includes the latest in fixed-line, wireless and satellite communication, South Africa has the most developed telecommunications network in Africa. The country's three cellular operators provide telephony to over 39-million subscribers, covering nearly 80% of the population. The number of South Africans enjoying competitively priced access to the internet, uninterrupted connections and broadband access is growing steadily.

Are there modern banks?

South Africa has a world-class, sophisticated financial sector, abreast of all the latest technological trends. From the moment you step off the plane you'll start seeing banks, bureaux de change and automatic tellers (ATMs) all over. All major credit cards can be used in South Africa, with American Express and Diners Club enjoying less universal acceptance than MasterCard and Visa. Foreign banks are well represented, and you can bank by ATM or internet.

How far will my money go?

With a favourable exchange rate for many international currencies, you'll find South Africa a very inexpensive destination. South Africa's unit of currency is the rand, which is divided into 100 cents. Coins come in denominations of 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5, and notes in denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200.

Can I drink the water?

South Africa's water is of a far higher quality than that of many developed countries. High-quality tap (faucet) water is available almost everywhere, treated to be free of harmful microorganisms and both palatable and safe to drink straight from the tap. Johannesburg's water, for one, is as good as anything you'll get in a bottle.

Is it safe to walk around?

Like anywhere, yes – provided you don't go wandering about deserted streets at the dead of night. Yes, there is crime in South Africa. But you don't need to do more than take the usual sensible precautions. Know where you're going before you set off, particularly at night. Don't display valuable possessions carelessly in public. Lock the doors at night. And, like anywhere else in the world, know that there are some areas of the major cities where outsiders present a more vulnerable target. It is easy to avoid these areas without lessening your enjoyment of a country and a people who are, with a few exceptions, remarkably warm and welcoming.

Is it true that there are robots on the street corners?

Yes, there are. In South Africa, traffic lights are known as robots, although no one knows why. A pick-up truck is a bakkie, sneakers are takkies, a barbeque is a braai, an insect is a gogga and an alcoholic drink is a dop.

Will I get to see wild animals?

You won't have to go far to do so. An hour's drive from such urban jungles as Pretoria and Johannesburg, you can see lions, elephants, buffalo and hundreds more species in their natural environments.

One of the world's first wildlife conservation areas was South Africa's Kruger Park, more than a century old. Today it is part of a single broad conservation area that spans private and public game parks and stretches across national borders into neighbouring Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

There are other reasons for visiting South Africa too: golden beaches, some of the world's best surf, spectacular scenery ranging from mountains to deserts, eco-systems found nowhere else in the world, an opportunity to experience African culture first-hand – and one of the least expensive holiday destinations you'll find.

Top 10 Reasons to Visit South Africa

  1. Affordable During these tough times, who doesn’t want an affordable holiday? In SA, you can even afford luxury and have spending money for shopping and other treats!
  2. Natural Beauty South Africa’s scenic wonders are legendary. From Table Mountain to God’s Window, our mountains, forests, coasts and deserts will feast your eye and lift your spirit…
  3. World-class facilities Whether you opt for Afro-chic or authentic Africa, you’ll find it easy to get around, have a comfortable place to stay, have a great meal, connect.
  4. Adventure South Africa is the adventure capital of the world. With over 130 adventures and counting, there is something for everyone from mountain walks to shark cage-diving!
  5. Good Weather In sunny South Africa, our great weather invites you to enjoy the outdoors, play golf year-round and take advantage of the nearly 3000 km coastline…
  6. Rainbow Nation The Rainbow Nation celebrates all its African and immigrant cultures. Find out how friendly our people are whilst you try your tongue at 11 official languages!
  7. Diverse Experiences Go almost anywhere in SA and experience the ultimate combo of nature, wildlife, culture, adventure, heritage and vibe – you’re spoilt for choice, so pack it in!
  8. Wildlife Warning! Watching wildlife is addictive. First you start with the Big Five in so many ways, then whales, penguins, meerkats, wild dogs, birds, dung beetles…
  9. Freedom Struggle Discover a nation’s struggle for freedom whilst following the footsteps of Mandela, Hector Pieterson and many other celebrated revolutionaries. It will touch and inspire you.
  10. Responsible Tourism In SA you can travel with care as you explore our protected areas, contribute to social and conservation projects, buy recycle art and stay green.

Top 10 Activities in South Africa

  1. Game viewing and safari Safari in South Africa is up-close and as wild as it gets. Go on a game drive, a bush walk, or even a horse-ride or veterinary safari, for an authentic, even life-changing wildlife adventure.
  2. Adventure However you define adventure it’s possible in South Africa. We can conjure up your wildest expectation and more: seeing the Big 5, diving with Great White Sharks, death defying adventure sports or discovering the humanity and generosity of other cultures. Name your adventure – we’ll make it happen.
  3. Be a sport Where better to get sporty? We’ve got fabulous weather all year round, historic playing fields and state-of-the–art new stadiums. We’re pro’s at BIG sporting events (we’ve won plenty of them too!). The crowds are passionate and the atmosphere’s electric. Whether you’re spectating or playing sport in South Africa you’ll have a ball.
  4. Nightlife From a night of fine dining to raucous all-night jol (party) in a township shebeen (tavern) South African’s love to have a good time. Let your hair down and live it up in our clubs, pubs, late-nite chill bars, theatres and live music venues. You won’t just find the best wildlife in our game parks…come on, the party’s starting!
  5. Shopping From off-the-beaten-track curio markets filled with collectable handicrafts to bargain-stuffed flea markets, and glitzy malls in our big cities with the latest must-have name brands, shop-a-holics are spoiled for choice in South Africa; more so because our favourable exchange rate makes your retail therapy last longer too.
  6. Beaches We’ve thousands of miles of glorious coastline, with Blue Flag beach gems dotted along its length. Whether you’re a trendy sun-worshipper, a water sports fanatic, a beach comber or a family seeking sea and fun – South Africa’s got a beach that’s perfect for you.
  7. Township Tours Visit for the struggle history and stay for the vibe. Go beyond the history and the icons to the warm, welcoming heart of our townships and their residents where determination, innovation and cutting-edge style will surprise, inspire and touch you in ways you never dreamt possible.
  8. Theme Parks Let the good times roll! Get a gold-rush at Gold Reef City, play like the Little Mermaid (or Captain Hook!) at uShaka Marine World and test your water prowess at the Valley of the Waves. Our countrywide fun-packed theme parks will keep the smile on your face for days.
  9. Casinos Bet on having a good time around South Africa. From slick city gaming spots for high-rollers to family seaside entertainment venues, and our most famous casino Sun City, in the crater of an ancient volcano – we’ve a myriad casino’s where you can take chance on lady luck.
  10. Ostrich Farms Ride them, feed them, learn all about them – who knew that, that big bird in the little Karoo could be so much fun! We don’t think you’ll get your new long-necked friend through customs, though – so opt for an egg shell, leather goods or some bright feathers as a memento of your Oudsthoorn ostrich adventure.

Top 10 Experiences in South Africa

  1. Scenic Splendour and Serenity South Africa is blessed with spectacular scenery and natural landscapes - soaring mountain peaks and passes, dense and ancient forests, miles of unspoiled coastline, rivers to sooth or thrill you, and rolling flower fields and grasslands of every hue. Places to be still, places to inspire you, places to explore or to simply revel in the joyous gift of nature.
  2. Wine Tasting With wine regions stretching from the western to the far northern Cape and the edge of the Karoo you can almost taste your way around South Africa. Sample at well-known estates or seek out little-known gems – our Port and Brandy routes are renowned too. Where there’s fabulous wine, great food is never far behind. Oenophiles, gastronomes and sybarites – don’t miss our winelands.
  3. Five-star Safari At our finest award-winning safari lodges in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, the bush equals bliss. Luxury on call, impeccable service and cuisine, soothing spa’s and superlative wildlife encounters add up to safari adventures that will exceed your wildest expectations.
  4. Struggle Sites South Africa’s struggle for democracy continues to inspire and touch the lives of millions. Visit our top struggle sites and museums and be a part of our journey to freedom as you walk in the footsteps of some of the greatest living freedom icons in history.
  5. Magnificent Marine Where else can you sail beside a whale, go eye-to-eye with wild Tiger sharks, cage-dive with Great Whites, be charmed by urban penguins, snorkel beside whale sharks and be entranced on a moonlit beach as new-born turtle hatchlings make their bid for life in the ocean?
  6. Cultural Encounters Experience cultural interactions that are real and inspiring. Whether you spend a day in a Zulu village or a city township; a week in a Xhosa household or escape to a typical South African farm, you’ll find South Africans are friendly and their day-to-day lifestyles and customs accessible. Short or long stay – you’re welcome!
  7. Outdoor Rush Beautiful weather, spectacular locations, awesome scenery, and record-breaking, mega-thrill adventure mixed in – that’s how we’ve earned the title the Adventure Capital of the World.
  8. Urban Rhythm Feel the energy of our cities, catch the beat of Afro-pop, hip-hop or jazz at a shebeen or all-night club, play in our casino’s, visit our museums, be entertained in our theatres. Shop, dine and follow the pulse of our rhythm to your next urban African adventure.
  9. Your South African Feast From traditional comfort food to Michelin-star dining; a hearty shebeen buffet or a gourmet banquet beneath a star-strewn African sky, let your taste buds take you on a journey of discovery with mouth-watering South African soul food.
  10. Indulge your senses Relax and rejuvenate the South African way. Cocoon yourself in calming treatments and soothing therapies. Scented traditional balms made with indigenous oils and ingredients will have you stress-free and feeling like African royalty in no time.