A British & Irish Rugby Tour is one of the greatest and most anticipated events in the sporting calendar. It only happens once every four years, the same as a World Cup, but due to the Lions dividing their tours between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, it is 12 long years before the Lions play the same opposition again. This means that bragging rights for a series win for or against the the British & Irish Rugby Tour last 12 years. It is a long time to wait to get revenge. Some international players go their entire careers without playing a game against the British & Irish Rugby Team.
Due to the infrequency of the tours as well as the high stakes, the ferocity of the contests between the British rugby team and their opposition leads to legends being born. Every rugby fan can remember in minute detail what happened on a previous tour, 12 years ago. Who will emerge from the 2021 tour as a new legend?
The Springboks were the last team to beat the British in 2009. Who will ever forget the epic second test match at Loftus Versfeld, where the Springboks won the series after the hooter had sounded, thanks to Morne Steyn’s 50-metre penalty goal. Many players still rate that test match as the most physical game they ever played in. It is no wonder, considering eight players were hospitalised afterwards
12 years before that, The British & Irish Rugby Team upset the 1995 World Cup winning Springboks in equally dramatic fashion when Jeremy Guscott slotted a late drop goal in the second test match to clinch the series after a magical Matt Dawson dummy and an Alan Tait try had set up a win in the first test. In fact, the two previous times the Springboks have played against the British Isles Rugby Team, they were world champions, and it is the same this time around. That should certainly give the series a little more of an edge, given how the Springboks beat Wales and England on their way to claiming the crown in Tokyo. Will a combined British Isles side be able to beat the world champions on their own soil?
The best part about the tour to South Africa is that it is happening in the home of wild animals, beautiful cities, good wine and friendly people. The tour provides the ultimate excuse to take a holiday to South Africa and experience all that the country has to offer, from a safari in the world-famous Kruger National Park to days exploring Cape Town (regularly voted one of the most beautiful cities in the world.) Spend your time watching rugby, making new friends and taking in beautiful landscapes. I daresay there is very little more that a rugby fan could want.
With this in mind, we have scoured all of our favourite lodges to see which of them have space around match days and also which of them are offering specials. Many lodges offer winter specials in South Africa, including free nights. You can rest assured of their quality because we have visited them and wouldn’t recommend them if we didn’t rate them highly. And given the weak state of the local Rand currency compared to the British Pound, you will be pleased to see how affordable safaris in South Africa are. Many safari lodges are all inclusive, which means that all your meals are included, as well as two game drives per day to look for wildlife. Elsewhere in the country, such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, we are able to arrange day tours and activities to help you get the most of your time here, whether it is hiking up Table Mountain, visiting the penguins, or learning about culture in Soweto.
Every booking will generate a donation to the excellent Restart charity that does vital work in helping rugby players with career-ending injuries recover and adapt to life after rugby. You can find the main tour page here. South Africa is a rugby mad country and you will be able to feel the excitement everywhere you go. Check out our packages on our British & Irish Rugby Tour pages and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are rugby fans ourselves, even if one of us happens to be a Springbok supporter. But we tolerate him because he lives in Cape Town and will take next year's defeats without blubbing on about the refs or alleged food poisoning.
The Kruger, possibly the best-known safari destination in the world, synonymous with safari. Established in 1898, The Greater Kruger Park extends over some 22,000 square km (8,500 sq. miles). That’s the size of Wales if you are European, and Massachusetts if you are North American. (If you are neither, it’s flippin’ big). It supports a total of 500 bird species, 145 mammal species, and 110 reptile species, including an estimated 13,000 elephants, 40,000 buffalo, 2000 lions and more rhinos than any other protected area. We aren’t allowed to say how many, but it is lots and lots. The only decent wildlife reserve with a higher density of rhino is Hluhluwe-Imfolozi in KwaZulu-Natal.
What's the difference between the Greater Kruger Park and Kruger National Park?
The Greater Kruger Park is comprised of the Kruger National Park (KNP) and a number of private reserves next to the KNP. The fences between the private reserves and the KNP came down 23 years ago allowing the animals to move freely..
The KNP is managed by Sanparks, a government-run organisation, and covers about 80% of the total area. Tarmac roads run through the middle of it, there are numerous large rest camps, of which at least half a dozen have over 100 one to four-bedroom units, camping sites, and fast food restaurants catering to self-drive clients. The private reserves are managed by groups made up of small lodges and camps. Many lodges and camps only have between six and twelve one-bedroom chalets or luxury tents. No self-driving is permitted, there are no tarmac roads, and vehicle movements are carefully managed.
From a fauna and flora point-of-view, there there is not much difference. The parks are next to each other and there are no fences between them, so the animals and birds who call the area home can roam freely, and are found in both. In saying that, however, the area is large, so habitats differ and of course animals gravitate toward whichever habitat is best for them. Some areas are better known for their leopard sightings, others for elephant, and so on.
The parks that make up the GKP are quite strict about how many people are allowed in at a time. This means that your safari experience is far more exclusive and you won't be trying to get through dozens of other cars to see a lion kill or catch that special photo of a zebra baby. This is not an exaggeration. I have seen 50 vehicles in a scrum to look at a pride of lion lazing in the bush 50 yards from the road between Satara and Skukuza.
Guided Wildlife Experiences
Game-viewing in the private reserves is facilitated and managed by experienced and knowledgeable guides with excellent tracking skills in open-sided 4x4 game-viewing vehicles with a maximum of 9 guests from your lodge in them. Some lodges limit it to six No self-driving is permitted. The majority of the time, your vehicle will be the only one at a sighting.This ensures that you see not only the keystone species, but also the birds and the little fellas, who are arguably equally important in the local eco-system. On each game drive you stop for a break at a scenic point, get out of the vehicle, and enjoy refreshments and snacks. Game-viewing can also be conducted on foot, allowing a greater understanding of and connection with the bush.
The lodges and tented camps in the private reserves are more high-end than those found in the KNP. With limited numbers of guests at each, you are assured of a far more private and exclusive experience. Hospitality is personal and service is a priority, to ensure that you get the best possible safari experience. All the lodges have a watering hole, river, or lake, meaning that there is good chance of seeing wildlife when you are not out on safari too. Many lodges are also unfenced, so having interesting visitors around the grounds is not uncommon.
Our favourite private Kruger reserves
Sabi Sand with Mala Mala covers 780 sq km. The Sabi River and Sand River run through the area providing diverse habitats for the huge range of animals. Sabi Sand is known especially for its big cat sightings, most notably of the elsewhere elusive leopard. We have never had a client who has spent three night here without a good leopard sighting. It is the least budget-friendly of the private reserves, but at the upper end of scale has some excellent value-for-money lodges, with excellent attention to detail and fine dining combined with top=drawer wildlife sightings. My “Big Five record” of 2 hours 35 minutes was set here. Granted, the rhino was a 10-second arse-end encounter, but we had 45 minutes with a leopard and her two cubs eating a kudu up a tree, and a 20-minute coffee break watching mating lions…..
One of the largest privately-owned reserves in South Africa, Klaserie covers 600 sq. km of land along the Klaserie River. The owners are strongly committed to conservation and the park hosts three great conservation projects: the Ground Hornbill Project, Rhino Protection and The Elephant Project. Generally, the habitat is more open than Sabi Sand, which is great news for cheetah fans. With less of a reputation than Sabi Sand, the prices for the same level of comfort are lower too.
Bordering the KNP on one side and Klaserie on the other, Timbavati is also a prime game-viewing area, and a hot spot for African wild dogs (Cape hunting dogs), my favourite mammal (other than my kids), great for cheetah, and also pretty good for leopard. It also has the only wild white lions left in the world. Lodge rates here are also, on average, lower than in Sabi Sand.
Balule, Thornybush, Umbabat, Manyeleti, are good private reserves, and there are also Jocks and Lukimbi private reserves within the KNP.
When to go
Dry season –May to September – Winter
There is virtually no rainfall during the whole of winter, humidity is very low. and there is almost no risk of malaria. As water becomes scarce wildlife is attracted to permanent water sources. Temperatures from the evening to mid-morning can be chilly.
Wet seasons–October to April – Summer
It is hot and humid in summer. Temperatures can reach over 40°C/104°F, although average daytime temperature is 32°C/90°F. Mostly rain falls in the afternoon or at night. The rains bring green grasses, seeds, flowers, and as a result, more birds. The rains also mean there is no dust, and, other than Christmas and Easter, fewer tourists.
Photographer, conservationist, dive and field guide, teller of bad jokes.