South Africa is deservedly renowned for its combination of abundant wildlife and majestic scenery. A safari will likely be the focal point of your trip, but set aside several days to explore cosmopolitan Cape Town and the lovely adjacent Windelands. Numerous daily two-hour flights connect Johannesburg and Cape Town. The famous Blue Train makes a scenic 27-hour journey between Pretoria (near Johannesburg) and Cape Town. The elegant trains feature dining salons, wood-paneled club cars. Each air-conditioned guest compartment comes with a full marble bath en suite, phone, TV and butler button for drinks, laundry service and turndown. Jacket/tie for dinner. Visit bluetrain.co.za. A moreleisurely butequallyluxurious journey may beenjoyed aboard the nostalgic Rovos Rail, which takes two days and two nights to make the same trip and is pulled part of the way by steam engine. Visit rovos.com for details.
The dry and sunny November-April period is high season in the Cape. This is not the best time to visit Kruger and the northeastern safari lodges, so consider instead one of the smaller game areas in the Eastern Cape.
In the northeastern game areas in and around Kruger National Park, the ideal time of year is the cool, dry season from July to October. During this period the weather is agreeable, the bush has thinned (making game-viewing easier) and the animals are forced to congregate near permanent sources of water. The rainy season from December to March should be avoided (and at its height, the area’s dirt roads are often impassable). From April to July, the bush is lush and dense, and the animals scatter owing to an abundance of water. Anti-malaria medication is advised for the northeastern low veld. Be sure to bring a sweater and insulated jacket for the occasionally chilly dawn/dusk game drives. Visitors to South Africa from December to July should consider a safari in the malaria-free Eastern Cape or the Kalahari Desert.
CLIMATE: Johannesburg typifies the central high veld. The safari area of Kruger/Sabi Sand is in the low veld to the northeast. There, summers (December-March) are hot and wet; winters (June-September) are warm and dry. In the Cape, 1,000 miles to the south, summer is hot and dry, while winter is cool and rainy.
TIME: Seven hours ahead of New York (EST).
CURRENCY: Rand (R). Fluctuating rate valued at R8 = US$1.00 as of January 2012.
U.S. EMBASSY: Pretoria, Tel. 12-431-4000. Consulates: Cape Town, Tel. 21-702-7300; Durban, Tel. 31-305-7600; and Johannesburg, Tel. 11-290-3000.
DIRECT DIAL CODES: To phone hotels and restaurants in South Africa, dial 011 (international access) + 27 (South Africa code) + city code and local numbers in listings.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Passport containing at least two blank pages. Visit travel.state.gov, and for travelers’ health information, cdc.gov
GENERAL INFORMATION: Visit southafrica.net before your trip.