Direct flights from the U.S. to Cape Town aren't available; London is the best gateway city to South Africa. South African Airways (SAA) and British Airways (BA) operate daily flights—twelve hours in duration—to both Cape Town and Johannesburg. SAA also runs a New York–Jo'burg flight via Dakar, Senegal—flight time is eighteen hours. The only direct flight from the U.S. to South Africa will be an Atlanta–Jo'burg route, which Delta will offer beginning December 4. Within South Africa, domestic flights from SAA as well as no-frills carriers like Kulula (kulula.com) are a convenient way to cover ground.
Public transport is a nonstarter in much of South Africa. Buses and trains—apart from the luxury Blue Train and Rovos Rail—are not safe. Traveling with a tour operator is your best bet, but here are a few tips if you decide to rent your own car: In larger towns, locals (often in semi-official fluorescent tops) will offer to look after your parked car. Let them. A two-rand coin, paid upon your return, is the going rate. Always clear everything from view inside the car. (Your definition of what's valuable won't correspond with others'.) Don't drive with your windows down. In South Africa, most new cars lock automatically from the inside, for good reason.
The Western Cape has an almost Mediterranean climate, with mild, changeable winters (May to September) when most of the rainfall occurs, and hot summers (October to April). Travel east of the Cape and you'll find some rain year-round, but more constant temperatures. Seasonal changes in Kruger National Park affect those on safari. The rainy season (September to March) leaves the bush dense through May, making wildlife viewing a bit harder. But when the dry winter months arrive (June through August), the lush leaves of trees and shrubs retreat, leaving animals with less to hide behind. Without rain, they are forced into using the larger watering holes, making their movements easier for rangers to predict. At Leopard Hills game reserve, thirsty elephants have been known to come up to the pools at the lodges, stick their trunks in and drink them dry. (Apparently elephants don't mind a spot of chlorine in their water!)
Antimalarial prophylaxis isn't necessary in the Western or Eastern Cape provinces. However, it's essential if you are planning to travel to KwaZuluNatal, Gauteng, Mpumalanga or anywhere near the Mozambique border. Seek advice from a physician on what precautionary measures to take.
The best way to experience South Africa is with a tour operator. Besides the enhanced security and convenience they offer, South Africa's a big country—you'll be covering serious distances, and not having to worry about travel details will help you hit the first tee feeling relaxed. Here are some top packages:
Abercrombie & Kent Private Travel: The Signature South Africa package includes Cape Town, the Garden Route and Kruger Park. Custom golf options can be built in at any point along the way. Ten nights, from $8,818. Call 011-44/207-1907-750 or visit abercrombiekent.co.uk/privatetravel.