South Africa’s last remaining Covid-19 regulations have been scrapped with immediate effect. That means indoor mask mandates, limitations on gatherings, and checks on visitors coming into the country are now a thing of the past. Travelers to South Africa are no longer required to provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative PCR test. Now that travel to South Africa just got a whole lot easier, why not pay us a visit?
After the fifth wave of mild infections petered out without any noticeable increase in hospital admissions or deaths, South Africa’s health ministry has finally brought an end to the last remaining Covid-19 regulations. If you’ve been waiting to book your trip until the pandemic has ended and it is safe to travel again, now is the time!
South Africa is the perfect post-pandemic travel destination. The World in One Country, as South Africa is sometimes referred to, has so much to offer. Sensational mountainscapes, beautiful coastlines, vast areas of raw and untouched bushveld, waterfalls, forests, canyons and lakes, amazing wildlife, fabulous weather, incredible food, diverse cultures, and friendly people. And then there’s Cape Town, recently voted “Greatest City in the World to Visit Right Now”.
What’s more, it’s winter in South Africa right now which makes the country one of the best destinations in Africa to visit this time of year. South Africa’s winter sees warm days and crisp nights and offers loads of wonderful seasonal activities.
One of the best whale-watching spots in the world is Hermanus, a quaint seaside town to the southeast of Cape Town. Every year in winter, hundreds of Southern Right Whales make their way to Walker Bay in Hermanus to breed, birth, and frolic in the ocean.
During whale season from early June to late November, whale-watching boat trips, as well as land-based whale-watching walking tours, are available. Be sure to take your camera with you so you don’t miss the Southern Right Whales in action when they breach the surface of the water and come crashing back down with a tremendous splash. Marine species you’re also likely to encounter are Humpback and Bryde’s Whales, Cape Fur Seals, African penguins, and pods of dolphins.
Other activities in the area include Great White Shark and Copper Shark cage diving, kayaking with the whales, seals, and penguins, wine cellar tours of the award-winning Hermanus wine estates that make up the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Valley, flights over the ocean, coastline, and rolling farmlands and quad biking through olive groves, flower farms and up into the mountains of Hermanus.
Keep an eye (and ear!) out for the much-loved Hermanus Whale Crier who wanders the cliff paths and blows on his kelp horn to alert visitors to nearby whales.
Winter safari in Kruger
Although the dry season in South Africa’s Kruger National Park runs from May to October, the driest period is around mid-winter. With average midday temperatures of 26°C (79°F), cloudless blue skies, low humidity, and almost no rainfall, there is no risk of malaria. The temperature does drop at night, so be sure to pack warm winter clothing for your early morning and late afternoon game drives during June, July, and August and don’t forget to bring sunscreen. When the sun is up, you’ll find winter in Kruger feels like summer in Southern Europe.
While some wildlife enthusiasts prefer the lush vegetation of the summer months, game viewing in winter is exceptionally rewarding for first-time safari-goers. As trees turn brown and begin to shed their leaves, it allows for better visibility of the surrounding bushveld, making it easier to spot game. With little to no rain and rivers in Kruger running low, animals gather in increasingly large numbers at waterholes and that’s where the wildlife drama unfolds. It’s possible to enjoy some spectacular sightings waiting at a waterhole for the animals to come and drink while predators lurk nearby.
Fantastic winter game viewing isn’t limited to Kruger National Park. Winter safaris in Madikwe Game Reserve, Pilanesberg National Park, and game parks such as Phinda Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal are equally rewarding. These regions also experience clear skies, sunny days, cool nights, little or no rainfall, and similar dry season game viewing conditions.
Surfing in Jeffrey’s Bay
Surfing can be enjoyed all year round in South Africa but if you’re looking for some serious waves, Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape is the place to be, especially during the winter months. Jeffrey’s Bay, or J-Bay to insiders, is arguably one of the best surfing waves on the African continent.
Every year in winter from May to September, surfers from across the world travel to Jeffrey’s Bay to test their skills on the fast and powerful right-hand point break that put J-Bay on the map and made icons and world champions of surfing legends like Shaun Tomson and Terry Fitzgerald.
Situated an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha) at the base of Cape St. Francis, J-Bay can deliver rides on waves that are 1,100 meters (1,200 yards) long through multiple sections (Boneyards, Supertubes, Impossibles, Tubes, and Point) which break in excess of 6 meters (20 feet).
Winter blossoms in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Few gardens can match Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden’s glorious setting against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain and one of the best times to visit the gardens is in winter when the fynbos is in bloom. Fynbos appears unremarkable from a distance, like treeless, brown, and scrubby heathland. But it’s on closer inspection, however, that fynbos reveals itself to be a mesmerizing tapestry of plants bursting with unique and fascinating flowers.
If you visit Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden between June and August and take a stroll along the Fynbos Walk, you’ll be treated to the cheerful sight of proteas, pincushions, and cone bushes in bloom and the aromatic scent of Citrus Family (Rutaceae) foliage. Winter is also the best time to admire the magnificent crane flower which is known as the Bird of Paradise and to catch a glimpse of Mandela’s Gold, the garden’s yellow cultivar named after former South African president, Nelson Mandela.
Namaqualand flower season
One of the most awe-inspiring annual spectacles along South Africa’s arid West Coast is the famous flower season in Namaqualand. From August to September, millions of Namaqualand daisies and more than 3,500 other floral species bloom and turn the desert into a carpet of color for as far as the eye can see.
Depending on the rainfall, the timing and profusion of the flowers differ slightly from year to year. If you happen to be anywhere near Cape Town at the end of winter or the beginning of spring, you might want to consider adding a couple of days to your trip to visit the unique beauty of Namaqualand.
If the timing isn’t right and you’re a bit too early for the flower season, there is a host of other activities to enjoy. The Goegap Nature Reserve, for example, offers eco-trails, hiking, day drives, mountain biking, and 4-wheel drive routes.
Something for everyone
Whatever your interests, South Africa has something amazing to offer you! It is one of the most popular repeat-visit destinations in the world. Most first-time visitors are so blown away by their experience in South Africa that they become repeat visitors. And as one of the best safari destinations with some of the greatest outdoor experiences in the world, it is the ideal country for a post-pandemic vacation.