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Adding Whales & Flowers to your Safari

Ask anyone in the business about the best time to go on safari in Southern Africa and the answer is always the same. Whether it’s the Kruger Park, Victoria Falls or Botswana, you’ll experience the driest weather, the lowest malaria risk and the easiest wildlife viewing during the long, dry winter season – from the start of June to the end of October.

Rhino spotted in the Greater Kruger in the dry season

The winter safari season is characterised by open, dry landscapes with good wildlife sightings.

But as the savannah landscapes dry up across Southern Africa, the opposite is happening in the Western Cape region of South Africa. Nourishing rains start falling in June, triggering masses of flowering plants to erupt out of the ground. Colourful sunbirds and sugarbirds take advantage of bright flowering winter-aloes and the clear coastal waters churn with the activity of southern right whales, migrating to the Cape from the deep Antarctic.

Sunbirds and sugarbirds and flowering winter-aloes

The Western Cape’s unique climate means a surge of colour & animal activity between June & October.

By the end of the rains in October, the Cape landscape has seen successive waves of flowers, carpeting some places in sheets of colour as well as providing winter food for the Cape’s unique wildlife characters – coastal-dwelling ostrich, rock pool-foraging baboons and herds of eland, Africa’s largest antelope. It’s a great time to go walking and hiking in the Western Cape – a region without malaria or large dangerous animals – and there are always local endemic birds to tick off.

Ostriches in Cape Point

As comfortable at Cape Point as they are in the Kalahari, ostriches are a natural part of the Cape fauna.

Who could resist such a combination? And it’s easy to add whales, birds and flowers to your big game safari. There are flights from across Southern Africa to Cape Town, lying at the heart of the experience and providing the hub for you to branch out and explore further. You can quite literally watch elephants on the Zambezi River in the morning and raise a glass to Cape Town’s sunset that evening.

First, let’s get the timing right. The start of safari high season in June and July coincides with the wettest and coldest months in the Western Cape, and the whales are not there yet. It all changes in August when the whales begin to arrive and both Cape Town and the surrounding countryside explode into flower.

Flower season in the West Coast National Park

You’ll see wildlife on Africa’s savannahs but not with carpets of flowers – the Cape is a photographer’s paradise.

Now is the time to book a trip to Namaqualand in the Northern Cape to see the famous ‘desert flowers’ or perhaps the Cederberg Mountains, famous for their Khoisan rock paintings, but in truth there’s no need to go so far. The West Coast National Park lies no more than an hour and a half’s drive from Cape Town and is internationally renowned for its winter flowers – it’s ideal for a day trip.

Fynbos in the Cape's whale coast

Delve a little deeper into the fascinating Cape ecology with a guide – a must for anyone interested in plants & flowers.

There’s a subtle shift as August proceeds through September and October. The focus moves to the more mountainous areas where the Cape’s local vegetation – the fynbos – now enters its most colourful phase. Towering Table Mountain and rugged Cape Point are great flower-filled destinations in Cape Town while an hour’s drive takes you to the Whale Coast, centred round the town of Hermanus offering the easiest land-based whale watching in the world.

The spectacle of whales interacting with each other – fins flapping and tails waving – against a mountain backdrop is a magical one but if you want to place yourself at the absolute heart of both the flower and whale experience, then the De Hoop Nature Reserve on the southern Cape coast ticks all the boxes. A half-day drive from Cape Town and well worth a couple of nights’ stay, this hideaway fynbos sanctuary consistently records the greatest densities of migrating whales and offers visitors a wealth of guided activities to immerse themselves in the natural environment.

Whale watching season in South Africa

The Cape’s shallow, crystal-clear waters makes it ideal for whale watching – see them at their peak Sept – Oct.

Then November. The summer rains start across Southern Africa’s safari destinations and animals begin to disperse from dry-season water, making wildlife watching more challenging. Conversely, the rains are ending across the Western Cape: flowers continue to bloom for a while longer, though more muted in scale, and the southern right whales slowly turn and begin their long trek south to polar waters.

But what a show they all left behind them.

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Reviews

Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

Roger (UK)
Very helpful good suggestions for holiday ideas always available for questions good organising

Excellent service and they supplied good suggestions for our holiday they also organised all internal flights and arranged check in for us so we had no worries while on holiday. We have had a most memorable holiday staying at wonderful places thanks to Sabrina and Safari Online. Would recommend Safari Online to organise your holiday.

Lorraine (UK)
Professional, quick and top of the edge service!!!

From the very first contact we’re very happy about the respond time and quality of information from safari-online.com. Based on the received first tailor-made quote, which is a weblink with all the details about the flights, photos of the lodges etc. we knew that this is “our” partner for this trip. Our expectations were excelled!!!

Lukas (Germany)
Professional, patient, efficient and responsive. Met all our travel needs and requirements spot on

Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

Neena
Karina was absolutely instrumental to our safari success.

Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

Chris (USA)
Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)
An incredibly well organised tour with no hassles whatsoever.

Safari Online understood our needs and was able to present us with sensible options to choose from. It was evident that this tour operator has knowledgable and experienced agents who can arrange a seemless tour. We were provided with a professional online itinary which was comprehensive and easy to use, knew exactely what to expect, and encountered no stumble blocks along the way.

Gwen (AU)
It was a safari of a lifetime and exceeded all of our expectations!

Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

Heather (USA)
Safari Online were extremely efficient and absolutely charming to work with.

Our 28-day itinerary took us to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. A magnificent and unforgettable adventure. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently from the flights, transfers, rides, connections, etc. Absolutely wonderful! Can’t thank them enough!

Ann and Mario (Canada)