We are in the very early stages of planning a first-time trip to South Africa.
At the moment, as we have yet to book flights, we have total flexibility - both in terms of when we visit and for how long.
Having been reading lots guide books, and on TA, lots of topics on this and various sub forums, we think we have an idea of the outline of our trip. We would visit in either October/November (2012) or February/March (3013) for about 4 weeks. As it would be our first trip, I guess our wishes aren't that exotic - rather a personalised rehashing of the many 'classic highlights' tours.
Basically, we would fly from the UK to Capetown, then take local flights (or train?)where necessary within the country to get to our chosen areas, but would mostly self drive otherwise. We have divided our trip up into 3 sections, geographically, but not yet necessarily in the order we'd do our tour:
A - Capetown area, to see the city and the wine areas just north of there
B - Garden route and on towards Durban area (have a friend there)
C - Visit a game park, probably in the Kruger - but would be very open to alternative suggestions here
Among the immediate questions where we seek help are:
1: We note lots of people start in Jo'burg and finish in Cape Town, or vice versa. Is that better than starting and finishing in Cape Town?
2: We are used to just renting cars wherever we visit and doing our own thing. Are there areas where you wouldn't recommend we do this either because of road conditions, rental car companies don't like you doing this or other reasons? I have researched this, and have got somewhat conflicting information. We have elected to hire a driver with a car or join a local tour for various local reasons on previous travels.
3: Weather-wise, is there a reason why we'd be better visiting in early 2013 rather than late 2012? And, also for weather reasons, is there a better order to do our trip?
4: We are well aware SA is a huge country, and understand our trip would be a cherry picking highlights tour. Nonetheless, is 4 weeks reasonable? Regarding our time in a game park. How long is enough to have a chance of enough drives to see a range of the 'usual' animals? (I know there are no guarantees!)
5: Is there anything unique to South Africa that we should be aware of to maximise the enjoyment of our trip
Once I have a better feel of what we want to do, and where to go, I shall post on the local forums for more detailed advice and tips.
Thanks for all contributions, suggestions, opinions.