Big Five vs bears, Cape Town vs Toronto…
South Africa and Canada go head to head.
South Africa and Canada are both famed for their big time experiences. We asked two Destination Managers, Mark and Jessica, to help us decide whose action-packed destination is best. Let the battle commence…
Best natural landscape
Mark: For me, this must be Kwa Zulu Natal, a relatively unexplored area of South Africa in terms of tourism, but world-renowned as the place where the Zulus fought both the British and Boers. Historically fascinating, but also an area of outstanding natural beauty, with the Ubombo Mountains and Lake Jozini vying for the most stunning scenery in the world.
Jessica: Canada is certainly not short of is breath-taking scenery. From stunning coastal vistas and migrating icebergs to towering mountains, waterfalls and glaciers, even lush rainforests and the phenomenal Northern Lights. It’s so easy to see more than one of these during a trip. My advice, head to Peyto Lake in Alberta. Just the amazing colour of the lake against the mountains and green of the forests… makes my heart sing.
Best food and wine experience
Mark: South Africa will win this round easily; they have the Cape Winelands. South African wine is famous world over. Food wise South Africa has some of the best restaurants in the world including two in the top 50. The other bonus is that dining out is relatively cheap. There are 17 South African rand to the pound sterling so it’s easily achievable to have a stunning three course meal with wonderful wine for relatively little outlay.
Jessica: Sure, everyone knows that South Africa is renowned for its wine, but why not be one of the first among your friends to discover Canada’s burgeoning wine scene? Tour the rolling vineyards of British Columbia or sample Niagara’s unique ice wine in winter.
Best wildlife experience
Mark: Kruger National Park is one of the most outstanding safari regions in the world. Why? It offers one of the highest possibilities for seeing the Big Five in their natural environment. Plus, South Africa has many hidden gem safari experiences, such as Madikwe Game Reserve, that are not on the tourist trail but still offer Big 5 authentic safari experiences. At Hermanus, the whales come so close to the shore that you can see them clearly from your beach lounger.
Jessica: No matter what province you visit in Canada, you won’t have to go far to see one of Canada’s Big Five: bison, black bears, beluga whales, polar bears and moose. Head west to see if you can spot the elusive and rare spirit bear in the Great Bear Rainforest or northeast to see the enchanting narwhal, the unicorn of the sea.
Best resort experience
Mark: Sun City is the perfect place for families and couples. Lesley, our Managing Director, has taken her family there many times and loves it. Vibrant and entertaining, Sun City offers a comprehensive list of activities. Begin your day in the spa, move to the sun lounger, cool down on a waterslide, learn how to wakeboard, squeeze in some tennis, enjoy an evening in the casino, then sip a cocktail and look forward to tomorrow’s balloon ride to spot lions and elephants over Pilanesberg National Park.
Jessica: Clayoquot Wilderness Resort gets my vote. Get the safari feel in luxury tented accommodation located within a UNESCO Bio-reserve (the Clayoquot Sound). Experience the true essence of a wilderness holiday. Arrive by floatplane, from locally-sourced gourmet cuisine and relaxing spa treatments to incredible outdoor activities, including trail riding and wildlife-spotting on kayak safaris. Take the resort helicopter and spend the night at 1,400 metres above sea level at the Cloud Camp at the top of Urus Mountain. I win!
Best thrilling activity
Mark: What can I say: Shark cage diving with great whites? You can’t say better than that and this is high on my personal travel wish-list. Where? Cape Town, of course! If this doesn’t float your boat, try abseiling down Table Mountain – go on, I dare you!
Jessica: The only thing difficult about winning this round is choosing which seat-of-the-pants activity to pick, but here are a few of my favourites: snorkelling with Beluga whales or riding the tidal bore in the Bay of Fundy. However, nothing is more thrilling than coming face to face with a polar bear in Churchill, Manitoba.
Best city stopover
Mark: Ha ha! This is easy… Cape Town, one of the most spectacular cities in the world. There’s so much to see from riding the cable car up Table Mountain, spotting penguins at Boulders Beach, shopping and dining on the V&A Waterfront, or sipping cocktails in afro-funk bars, strolling through Bo Kaap and, touring Robben Island, the list of amazing things to see and do in this utterly absorbing city is endless. My top hotel pick is The Table Bay, sat in a prime location with enviable views of Table Mountain and the V&A Waterfront, with opulent guestrooms and fine dining at Atlantic Restaurant.
Jessica: Toronto is Canada’s entertainment capital. With so much to see and do, you’ll struggle to pack it all into one visit. Catch a Broadway show, join the locals in at a Maple Leaf’s hockey game, face your fears and try the EdgeWalk at the CN Tower or go kayaking in Lake Ontario. There are brewery tours in the Distillery District, fantastic shopping at the Eaton Centre, the colourful displays in Graffiti Alley and the street food at St. Lawrence Market. You can even take a day trip to nearby Niagara Falls and view the breath-taking thundering waters. Do I win?
Best exchange rate
Mark: Canada can’t possibly lose this one. At time of writing, you can get 16.33 rand to a pound. Rough price guide: A meal for two at a mid-range restaurant can be between 250–400 rand = £15–25. A bottle of mid-range wine is approximately 47 rand = £2.88.
Jessica: Oh, not fair! We can’t compete with South Africa here! But hey, Canada’s exchange rate is still much better than its big neighbour USA so every cloud has a silver lining!
Best time to go
Mark: South Africa is a year-round destination. Their seasons are opposite to ours, so it’s great for sunshine during our winter. In terms of safaris, there is no bad time to visit. If it’s wet season then the trees and plants are in bloom, meaning the areas are prettier, but it’s a bit harder to spot animals through the foliage. During the dry season the safari areas are starker, however, there are less places for the animals to hide. Another key time is June–December, when whales can be spotted in Hermanus.
Jessica: Canada has to win this one – there is simply no best or worst time to go. A totally year-round destination, there are just as many incredible experiences, from travelling across the Rockies onboard the Rocky Mountaineer Train in spring, to skiing down the winter slopes of Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler or earning your spurs at the Calgary Stampede in July. Canada is spectacular no matter what the season.
The verdict. There is one clear winner here, and that’s you! Take our advice and visit both. They’re both equally brilliant and you can’t possibly lose!
There’s no question too small. Start planning your dream trip by talking to our Destination Specialists.
Sign up to our newsletter
Receive the latest travel inspiration and destination news.
How we tailor make your holiday
The Hayes & Jarvis Way
We've been tailor making holidays for 65 years. With over 60 destinations to choose from, talk to us and we'll listen to your travel ideas to create unforgettable holiday experiences.