1. Delta, dunes and falls
If you’re one of those people who wants it all, a trip that starts under the spray of the world’s most spectacular waterfall, then delivers you into a houseboat on the lush Okavango Delta, before crossing through the surreal, stark beauty of Namibia and finally deposit you in cosmopolitan Cape Town, is it. An adventure that’ll really blow your socks off.
The 24-day Delta, Dunes & Falls tour with Peregrine (0207 408 9021; peregrineadventures.com) costs from £5,095 and includes all transfers, accommodation, most meals and listed excursions.
2. The flowering Cape
The annual spring explosion of flowers in the world’s richest floral kingdom has to be seen to be believed. Africa Travel does a marvellous loop that heads north from Cape Town then south-east to include De Hoop, my favourite coastal nature reserve. Broadcaster and gardener Carol Klein joins the tour for two days to show guests Cape’s loveliest gardens. The company offers an excellent-value luxury itinerary that includes Grootbos and Bushman’s Kloof, both exceptional private nature reserves, as well as Paternoster, prettiest of the West Coast towns.
3. The great cape road trip
South Africa is a perfect destination for those who love the freedom of the open road and travelling at your own pace. There’s a great circuit that takes you from Cape Town via Route 62 into the semi-arid Klein Karoo, traversing several mountain passes before looping down to the Garden Route, famed for its wild flowers, with an interesting mix of overnight stops before returning via the coast to the city. Alternatively, begin your road trip by heading east for the Eastern Cape safari region, or north to the twisted rocks and red desert of the Northern Cape.
A 12-night self-drive itinerary with Kirker (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com) costs from £2,995pp, including airfares, accommodation, breakfast, car hire, and full board and game activities at Kariega Game Reserve.
4. Big five and battlefield
Start off tracking the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo – in Phinda, Kwa-Zulu Natal’s best private reserve, then soak up the sun on the subtropical coast at the Oyster Box, the country’s best luxury beachfront hotel. From here you self-drive inland to explore Fugitives’ Drift, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift with excellent guides who bring the heroism of those embroiled in the Zulu and Boer Wars to life.
A 12-day tour with Steppes Travel (01285 601750; steppestravel.com) costs from £3,995pp, including airfares, accommodation, full board at Phinda and Fugitives’ Drift, breakfast at Oyster Box and car hire.
5. On the back of a horse
You can get much closer to wildlife on a horse, and the sense of unencumbered freedom as you canter alongside gazelles, or amble (cautiously!) past rhino is unmatched. Not only does South Africa offer the biggest choice of riding safaris, but the combination of quality horses, guiding, accommodation and value for money is unbeatable.
A seven-day horseriding safari arranged with In The Saddle (01299 272997; inthesaddle.com) costs from £1,155pp including accommodation, meals, drinks and riding activities.
6. Easy riding
With country roads that are for the most part free of heavy traffic and in good condition, a choice of gravel and tar, and plenty of scenic mountain passes, South Africa is ideal for touring on two wheels. Local operators Up South take all the hassle out of planning a motorbike trip.
Cape Town is surrounded by mountains and valleys producing wines that are remarkably different in character. The choice is staggering too, with more than 150 wine estates in Stellenbosch alone. Tasting rooms and restaurants are equally varied: from historic 17th century Cape Dutch estates to glass boxes cantilevered over vineyards, converted barns to glamorous fire-lit dens.
8. Adventure on rails
There’s something very special about being rocked to sleep, drifting off to the clickety-clack of a train track, knowing you’ll wake up somewhere new. There are three great options: the Pride of Africa (aka Rovos), the most luxurious cocoon on rails; the stalwart Blue Train, and the Shongololo Express, now owned by Rovos, who will doubtless make a commercial success of this affordable alternative.
A 16-night escorted itinerary (nine nights aboard Pride of Africa) with Great Rail Journeys (01904 521936; greatrail.com) costs from £6,595pp. A 14-night trip aboard the Shongololo Express to Vic Falls with Cox and Kings (0843 504 8765; coxandkings.co.uk) costs from £4,775.
9. Perfect pedalling
If the views of the Golden Gate National Park in the Maluti Mountains of the north-eastern Free State are extraordinary (and they are), the Royal Natal National Park is just jaw-dropping; ideal for hiking and biking, with striated cliff and soaring mountain peaks a constant backdrop. Next up are the Hlumu Mountains, then a two-day break to go game spotting in the Kruger before it’s back in the saddle, cycling the aptly named Panorama Route.
A 14-day tour with Exodus (0203 131 8320; exodus.co.uk) costs from £2,549pp, including airfares, accommodation, most meals, bike hire, back-up vehicle.
10. In search of butterflies
Black Emperor, Dwarf Blue, African Leopard, Gold-banded Forester – names alone to conjure up these bright fluttering gems. Butterfly hunting is a wonderful way to explore Kwazulu-Natal’s diverse habitats, and while the emphasis is on lepidoptera, there are plenty of birds and game to discover alongside, in the tropical forests, wetlands, savannas and coastal vegetation of this province.