Travelling to South Africa with Wilderness Safaris

Travel Advice for South Africa

Situated at the southern edge of the African continent, South Africa is bounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides, with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland as its neighbours and Lesotho nestled in its centre.

Full name: Republic of South Africa
Capital: Pretoria (administrative capital)
Population: 54 million (2015)
Geographic coordinates: 29 00 S, 24 00 E
Area: 1 219 912 sq. km / 471 010 sq. mi.
Time: +2 hours GMT

Climate and Seasonality

South Africa enjoys a high number of clear, sunny days and despite regional differences, its climate is generally mild throughout the year. It is a relatively dry country with a mean annual rainfall of 502mm (19 in). The weather in South Africa is generally pleasant throughout the year – warm to hot days, and cool to warm nights. During our winter months however (May to September), it can get very cold at night and in the early morning, particularly when on safari. Summer in South Africa lasts from October until March, is warm to hot, with rainfall in the interior of the country.

What to pack

  • Sunblock, sun hat and good quality sunglasses
  • Camera with waterproof/dustproof bag/cover
  • Good walking shoes (tennis shoes are fine)
  • Malaria tablets (if applicable)
  • Warm Anorak or Parka and scarf / gloves for winter
Download Packing list in PDF

Health and Safety

South Africa is a stable democracy; however, it is sensible to take basic precautions whilst travelling anywhere in the world. We advise that you ask Tourist Information Officers, camp/lodge and hotel staff and local residents about areas to avoid.

Wilderness Safaris camps in South Africa are situated in malaria-risk areas; please consult your medical practitioner regarding any anti-malarials. Please check with your health department/travel clinic prior to departure, in the event there have been changes in the health regulations of the country you are visiting.

Passports and Visa

Visitors to Africa must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended departure date, together with onward travel documents, proof of accommodation and sufficient funds for the duration of your stay. Please also ensure that you have sufficient blank visa pages (not endorsement pages) in your passport, with at least 2 consecutive/side by side blank pages. Our recommendation is 3 pages (or even 4 if you are travelling through more than one country on your journey).

NOTE: All passengers under 18 years of age will need to present an unabridged birth certificate as well as a valid passport when entering, departing or transiting South Africa and Botswana. A sworn translation (certified/authenticated) in English should accompany all documentation that is in a language other than English.

For single parents, or those travelling alone with their child/ren, the following must be provided:

- An affidavit (no more than 3 months old on the date of travel) in which the absent parent gives consent for the child to travel, or
- A court order granting full responsibilities or legal guardianship of the child, or
- The death certificate of the absent parent.

Please speak to your Africa specialist to ensure that you have any appropriate travel documentation before departing on safari.

Banks and Foreign Exchange

The currency unit is the Rand (ZAR), denoted by the symbol R, with 100 cents making up R1 (one Rand). Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de Change


There are 11 officially recognised languages, most of them indigenous to South Africa. English is one of these, and everywhere you go, you can expect to find people who speak and understand it. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government and official documents. Road signs and official forms are in English. The President makes his speeches in English and at any hotel the service staff will speak English.

Recommended Reading

We recommend the following books specific to the South African region:

  • Wild About Cape Town - Duncan Butchart
  • Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela
  • Vanishing Cultures of South Africa - Peter Magubane
  • Mandela, The End of an Era - Charlene Smith
  • Scramble for Africa - Thomas Pakenham
  • Complete Book of Southern African Mammals - Gus Mills
  • Creatures of Habit, African Animal Behaviour - Peter Apps
  • Safari Companion - Richard D. Estes
  • This is South Africa - Peter Borchert
  • Thabo Mbeki, Life and Times - Adrian Hadland
  • Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - Phil Hockey, Ian Sinclair and Warwick Tarboton
  • Behaviour Guide to African Mammals - Richard Estes
  • Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals - Jonathan Kingdon
  • The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals - Jonathan Kingdon
  • A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa - Johan Marais, Graham Alexander
  • South Africa - The Bradt Travel Guide
  • Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa - Steve Woodhall
  • Travellers' Wildlife Guide: Southern Africa - Warwick Tarboton, Chris & Tilde Stuart
  • Dragonflies of South Africa - Warwick and Michele Tarboton
  • Field Guide to the larger mammals of Africa - Chris & Tilde Stuart