Our guide to the best game reserves and National parks in South Africa >> more
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Self Drive Safaris & Tours in South Africa
Hiring a car and driving your self is probably the most cost-effective ways to tour African and of all the countries in Africa, South Africa is probably the best suited for a self drive safari holiday or general tour of an African country. This is especially true for those new to Africa, because South Africa has:
- an excellent road network of a high standard
- many car hire companies, making sure rates are competitive
- many excellent National Parks with extensive road networks that you can explore yourself
- fantastic accommodation with plenty of options from 5 star luxury lodges, to self catering cottages to some of the best campsites in the world
- many wildlife, cultural as well as scenic routes: South Africa Self Drive Route Ideas.
The road infrastructure in South Africa is excellent, so driving around the country is a viable option. It is important to remember that South Africa is a huge country and as such is not easily traversed in a day, so plan your journeys carefully. If you're not used to driving long distances, rather break the journey up into smaller sections as fatigue is a major contributing factor in motor vehicle accidents. While most national roads are tarred and in good condition, the more rural the road, the more likely it is to be pot-holed and poorly surfaced.
Any valid driver’s licence is accepted in South Africa provided it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is printed in English.
Before you begin your journey, check your route. Many of the national roads between the major centres are toll roads. Check the toll fees before you leave, and make sure that you have either a credit card or cash to pay. Toll fares for a light passenger vehicles range from R2.50 to R46.00 (about 25 pence to £4.60).
South Africa Road Maps
You can obtain up-to-date information on the roads through the Automobile Association of South Africa. The AA also provides excellent guides in the form of strip maps tailored for specific destinations and information for tourists on accommodation en route. These are easily obtainable either at most airports in South Africa or any good bookshop. Another option is to purchase your map before leaving, Amazon has a good selection of maps of South Africa:
As mentioned earlier, South Africa is a large country and unless you plan on visiting for a very long time, my suggestion would be to decide what you want to get out of your tour and how long you have and then pick a region of South Africa that ticks all or as many of the boxes as possible.
Northern Wildlife Tour
A popular route covers a large part of the Northern region of South Africa, the tour will take you from Johannesburg through Pretoria, steeped in history, the Panorama Route of the majestic Drakensberg Mountains, the world-renowned Kruger National Park, the Pilanesberg National Park and then onto Sun City. The area you travel is rich in culture where you can meet various groups of people such as the Swazi, Shangaan, Ndebele, Venda, Tswana and Pedi. To cover this route at a reasonable pace will take about 10 days.
Cape Wine & Wildlife Tour
This tour is ideal for those who want to visit Cape Town, enjoy some wine and the good things in life as well as some of the best wildlife the Cape has to offer, visiting the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Cape Point, Boulders - Penguins, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Table Mountain, Robben Island, the world-renowned Stellenbosch Wine Route, Cape Agulhas, the most southern point of the African continent, the semi dessert Klein Karoo and the beautiful Garden Route. To cover this route at a reasonable pace will take about 10 days.
Zulu & Wildlife Tour
This tour has it all as you will get to visit some of the most beautiful areas in South Africa as well as three National Parks, with plenty of game viewing time. From Johannesburg airport, you make the short journey to the beautiful city of Pretoria. Travelling through the majestic Drakensberg Mountains to the Kruger National Park, a trip through the Kingdom of Swaziland and onto the St-Lucia Wildlife reserve and Hluhluwe - Umfolozi Game Reserves in Zululand. To cover this route at a reasonable pace will take about 10 days.
A true self drive safari will obviously mean that you drive yourself on game drive within the game reserve, this is possible in just about all the National Parks in South Africa. It is not possible on most private game reserves, here you will be going on safari with a qualified safari guide attached to the lodge that you are staying at within the reserve.
At most National Parks you can either go on an organised game drive or hire a safari guide for the day instead of driving yourself. I highly recommend this as an option for those new to the bush, not only for safety, but the local knowledge of the guide will mean that you will probably see more game and they will be able to pass on their knowledge to you. The cost of this service is more than worth it for most visitors.
If you are going to drive yourself, maps and guide books of the reserve can be obtained at the entrance of most National Parks and familiarise yourself with the visitors "Rules and Regulations", they are displayed at the entrance gates and on pamphlets that are issued on your arrival. This is for your own safety and the safety of the wildlife.It is also important to make sure you notice the closing times for entrance gates and camp gates and to get to them before they close.
All the major car rental agencies are represented in South Africa as well as many regional operators and specialist car hire companies You can find offices all major South African airports and cities. During major local events as well as international ones like the 2010 Soccer World Cup, they can become completely booked and so it is advisable to book in advance.
Car Hire Companies in South Africa
- Budget Car Rental
- CABS Car Rental SA
- Europcar Southern Africa
- Hertz South Africa
- Holiday Autos
- Imperial Car Rental
- Khaya Car Hire
- National Car Rental
- ResQ Rent-a-Car
- Tempest Car Hire
- Fay's Car Hire (Gauteng)
- Wise Wheels Car Rental (Western Cape)
4x4 Buy, Sell or Hire
The AFRICA 4X4 CAFE:
4x4 vehicles for sale or hire in Africa.
If you are considering a self-drive safari in Africa and are rapidly being put off by huge rental costs - why not buy a 4x4 that is already in Africa ? If you have 8 weeks or more then you can buy a 4x4 and then have the safari of a lifetime, at your own pace and at a fraction of the cost of doing the same thing through a big operator. So if you are looking to buy, hire or sell a 4x4 in Africa then get in touch with the Africa 4x4 Cafe.
As well as being a market place for overlanders to buy and sell their vehicles, the Africa 4x4 Café also offers a forum for private 4x4 owners, in Africa , to hire out their vehicles – again usually considerably cheaper than using the big rental companies.
Tel: +44 (0) 776 860 6729
Web: Africa 4x4 Cafe
BMW motorcycle hire
Fax: 0861 252 252
BMW motorcycle hire and tours in South Africa
UK Telephone: +44 20 7043 2400
Great African Outdoors
South African Bike Hire and Tours
Phone: + 27 21 556 8365 Fax: + 27 21 556 8364 Cell: +27 83 771 2980
African Offroad Tours
Dirt Bike Tours
Tel 954.646.4395 (9am - 5pm EST)
Fax 954 630 2657 (24hrs)
South Africa boasts a huge collection of wildlife areas, both public (National Parks) and private reserves that encompassing every possible landscape from deserts to forests, mountains to coast that are home to a massive variety of plants and wildlife.
Take a look at the Safari Guide to the Private Game Reserves and National Parks of South Africa.
South Africa as a whole, has many places to stay to suit all tastes and budgets:
Inexpensive hotels near the airports like the City Lodge Airport Hotel in Johannesburg which I reviewed on my last visit to South Africa, are perfect for one night stay overs and especially useful if you arrive on a late flight or are leaving really early in the morning.
But for the most part on your self drive safari, you are either going to be staying within the boundaries of the game reserves and national parks or just outside.
Private Game Reserves
Generally private game reserves have fully catered lodges, that range in quality and price from moderate right up to 5 star luxury lodges that rival (and sometimes beat) anything that a hotels offer. There are also a few private reserves that do offer self catering options and even camping. These lodges will have their own safari guides and you will go out on safari with them, leaving your hire vehicle at apakring spot at the entrance of the lodge, for the duration of the stay at the lodge.
You are once again spoilt for choice with accommodation within South Africa's National Parks (SANParks). Generally the accommodation is cheaper than that of private lodges, but still are of an excellent standard. Because of this, you are well advised to book as far in advance as you can, this is especially true for the peak season. (April, July and December to January)
In general the accommodation you can expect includes:
- Main rest camps that have retail facilities, a restaurant or self service cafeteria and usually have electricity
- Rondavels, usually thatched self catering units that have either their own or shared facilities
- Cottages, chalets forest huts and cabins are stand alone units that are either catered or self catered
- Chalavans are permanent caravan cross cottages
- Tents are permanent canvas tent units usually built on a solid platform of wood and come with beds, some have bathrooms and kitchens as well whilst others use shared facilities
- Camping and Caravan sites: most have electricity points with shared facilities
Just Outside the National Parks
Another option is to stay near a national park in a private lodge, bed and breakfast or self catering cottage and then drive into the park during the day and then returning to your accommodation after the visit. This can be use full especially if all the accommodation is unavailable within the park. The range of places varies and it pays to shop around, but in general there are some stunning places to stay, many of which are either on small reserves themselves, places of natural beauty or on working farms.
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Family Safaris in Africa
Taking your kids on safari in Africa, does have it's unique challenges, but it does not mean that you should not go, infact the educational benefits will last a lifetime. There are plenty of family friendly safari holiday out there, you just need to look a little harder. For more >> Kids on Safari.
Car Hire in South Africa
- » South Africa Home
- » Cape Town
- » Safari and Golf Breaks
- » Game Reserves & NP's
- » Kruger NP
- » Kgalagadi NP
- » Addo Elephant NP
- » Hluhluwe Imfolozi NP
- » Hluhluwe Game Reserve
- » Imfolozi Game Reserve
- » Karoo NP
- » Mountain Zebra NP
- » Pilanesberg NP
- » St Lucia Wetland Park
- » Table Mountain NP
- » Duma Manzi Reserve
- » Phinda Game Reserve
- » Sabi Sands Reserve
- » Shamwari Reserve
- » Self Drive Safaris
- » Volunteer South Africa
- » Cheap Safari Deals
- » South Africa Flights
After your camera, a good pair of binoculars is crucial in getting the most out of your Safari Holiday. So what is a good pair of binoculars? Here is my binocular guide and recommendations >> Binocular Reviews
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