SOUTH AFRICA

WHY WE LOVE IT

  • Romantic settings in the bush at small, elegant lodges—perfect for secluded interludes.
  • Mind-altering safaris in which you'll see the Big Five—the lion, African elephant, African buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros.
  • Bird-watching and other adventures in Kruger National Park and other wildlife preserves.
  • Cosmopolitan Johannesburg, the wild and adventurous bush, Cape Town’s dazzling seaside—there’s something in South Africa for every mood.
  • The majestic estates of Cape Winelands, South Africa’s equivalent of the Napa Valley, where guests enjoy tastings, tours and festive picnics on enormous lawns.
  • Diamonds, diamonds, diamonds (we don't mean rhinestones). They may not be any less expensive here, but there’s something to be said for purchasing a stone where it was mined.
  • Five-star service on luxury trains like Rovos Rail's wood-paneled coaches or the Blue Train, whose cuisine and wines receive deserved acclaim. There's also the Shongololo Express and Spoornet’s Premier Classe.

WHEN TO GO

Seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. In the bush, temperatures range from 78 to 93 degrees in the late spring and summer (from November through March) and in winter can range from 27 to 75 degrees. Beachgoers will enjoy stays from October to March; for safari goers, from June through August is ideal because the grass is lower, making game viewing easier. However, if you plan to head to the beach and go on safari, October and November are good bets because temperatures remain warm but you can still see animals. South Africans generally vacation in the summer; tourist spots are most crowded from mid-December to late January.

WHAT TO PACK

Camera, binoculars, electrical converter. Hat and sunglasses regardless of the season—the African sun often blazes brightly. Sunscreen, insect repellent. Formal wear is rarely necessary in South Africa, but avoid shorts at dinner at most establishments; smart casual will be fine.

For safari, pack sneakers or other comfortable shoes and clothing with pale and neutral colors such as greens and browns to blend into the scenery. Pack washable clothes, because lodges typically provide complimentary same-day laundry service. In summer, pack lightweight clothes but also a windbreaker or light jacket for the evenings. In winter, bring a sweater and a fleece or warm jacket.

On most flights within South Africa, passengers may bring only one bag weighing a maximum of 20 kilos, or 44 pounds. Carry along a duffel bag so you can bring only the essentials on safari and store the excess.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers visiting low-altitude areas of the Mpumalanga Province, Northern Province (Limpopo), northeastern Kwa- Zulu-Natal as far south as the Tugela River and Kruger National Park take antimalarial drugs. In addition to routine vaccinations, the CDC recommends that travelers to South Africa receive vaccinations from four to six weeks prior to entering the country to prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, rabies and polio. The CDC also recommends that travelers visit a travel-medicine specialist before heading to South Africa, especially if they are pregnant or planning on becoming so, as this can affect some medications.

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