This southern-most country of Africa can proudly boast of a long coastline of more than 2500 kms., exquisite wildlife and picturesque natural beauty!
This can undoubtedly be, and for us it definitely is one of the best holidays.
We spent a total of 17 days which includes our to & fro flights and days divided between Game watching at Kruger National park and Road trip along the Garden route.
Flights are generally where the planning begins and if you need to stay within a certain budget, also one of the first places you start skimming from!
So, we chose flights that started from Mumbai instead of Bangalore and had one stop both ways. The airlines were Rwanda Air.
As our trip involved a road trip, we went to Johannesburg & came back from Cape Town.
Cost both ways – ~40,ooo Rs. / person
South Africa is under the process of launching an e-visa for various countries and you may find further details on their website ( https://www.southafricavisa.com/ )
When we visited in 2017, we applied by visiting VFS global along with the documents and filled the following form
Cost of visa – ~2000 Rs. / person (VFS charges)
Day 1 & 2 – Flight to Mumbai and then onward to Johannesburg via Rwanda.
Our flight from Mumbai was late night and we were to reach Joburg next day noon but the flight made an extra stop at Zambia and was delayed. To top that, we misplaced one of our bags during transit!! Pheww! And the next day we were leaving Joburg for 3 days.
But… But… The South Africa airport officials were very prompt and we received the luggage next day early morning.. so all’s good there.
Anyway, we stayed in a cozy little BnB for the night, in Sandton area, spent the evening arranging sim cards, meeting a relative of the couple accompanying us, arranging a rental car and getting rid of all the weariness from the journey.
PART 1 – WILDLIFE
Day 3 to 6 – We left for Kruger National park where we were to spend the next 3 days,
(Tip – Try and make the bookings for stay inside Kruger as soon as possible. )
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
The park lies in the north-east of South Africa. It is one of the largest national parks in the world, with an area of 19,485 square kilometres. The park is approximately 360 kilometres long.
Main camp vs. Satellite camp
The main/rest camps in the park are larger camps containing shops, restaurants or cafeterias, petrol stations and first aid stations. The largest camp, which also serves as the headquarters for Kruger, is Skukuza.
The Satellite camps do not have a lot of facilities, except for accommodation and a common kitchen for minimal cooking.
Booking website – http://www.sanparks.org
Our accommodation arrangements were as follows –
2 nights Skukuza rest camp
1 night Satara rest camp
1 night Malelane Satellite camp
We also booked a morning safari and a sunset safari through the website, for better experience. But, that is optional. Every camp charges a conservation fee which is separate and compulsory.
So, coming back to the itinerary – we started early in the morning, after loading our rented car, towards the experience of a lifetime!
The road journey is pretty smooth and the highway that connects is quite a driver’s delight. There are decent pitstops and we made one such, for our breakfast. It took us approximately 5 hours to reach the Kruger gate and then proceeded further after a few entry formalities.
(Tip – Make sure to start on time and keep a good buffer as there is a time limit for entering the national park.)
We reached our camp in time for lunch, explored a little and though the excitement was paramount, as we had spotted quite a few animals on our way already (including giraffe), we tried to relax a little, only to be ready for self-driven game-watching session 1 in the evening.
Next 4 days were spent driving around, spotting various animals, birds, reptiles, etc. We were lucky to see a lioness with her cubs, 2 lions on a night stroll(during the night safari that we booked), parade of elephants, zebras, group of hyenas munching on their prey, giraffes (loads of them), meerkat and warthog (Timon & Pumba of Lion King fame), cape buffalo and rhinoceros, hippopotamus, monitor lizard, etc,etc….
( Tip – Make sure to enjoy a good BRAAI while you are there. The rest camp stores have all the raw materials you need from coal to camphor to spices, etc.
Braai is Afrikaans for barbecue. It is a social habit the South Africans have adopted and is widely encouraged wherever you are! As, after 6 p.m. you cannot go out exploring, the best way to pass your time is by engaging in some delicious Braai for the dinner.)
On the last day, we drove back to Joburg with a heavy heart but looking forward to a lot more of adventure yet to come. Once back, we settled in a new Bnb this time. It was a little room in a wonderful huge house with wonderful hosts. We ordered in, and retired with a smile on our faces.
PART 2 – HISTORY – as far back as it goes
Day 7 – This was our day dedicated to exploring Johannesburg, with all its history and culture.
We decided to book ourselves tickets for the hop on hop off as it is my favourite way of going through the entire city before choosing what to explore further.
Africa is where our ancestors evolved into human beings, and there is nothing that screams history louder than this!
Our stops –
– Constitution Hill
– Apartheid museum
– Wits origin centre museum
We had a quiet evening, returned our rental car & packed up, to board a flight next morning, to Port Elizabeth.
Day 8 – Reached Port Elizabeth, touched the beach waves and had some scrumptious dinner and a fun evening at a place called ‘beershack’.
We picked our rental car from the airport, and headed straight to our bnb which was owned by a very helping gentleman, who guided us through our day’s plan.
PART 3 – ADVENTURE
Day 9 – We start our Garden route drive!! Woohooo!
PORT ELIZABETH TO KNYSNA
Leave early, only to make your first stop at Jeffery’s bay (80 kms. ) for a delicious breakfast at Nina’s and some picturesque moments at the beach.
With a full tummy, head straight to Storms river mouth. It is absolutely breathtaking! A little walk will take you to a very ‘grammable’ suspension bridge, and if you fancy, you can kayak as well as participate in some cliff-jumping here.
A little further ahead is the famous ‘Bloukrans bridge’ which is the spot for the highest bridge bungee jumping in the world. (15-20 kms.)
And then we just moved ahead to stop at our first stay along the Garden route – KNYSNA. ( 70 kms)
We stayed at a nice little bnb near the quay with water flowing by the backyard, and super close to the market area.
Day 10 – Explore Knysna
Knysna heads are quite a popular spot to admire the endless water around a beautiful spot to unwind .
We also decided to drive back to Plettenberg bay to enjoy the beach and enjoy a hearty lunch.
Later we had a cruise ride in Knysna, which we had booked in advance.
The cruise commences from the Knysna market, hence we shopped a little too and had our dinner here.
Day 11 – KNYSNA TO CANGO CAVES & OSTRICH FARM
Now, we took a little detour from the Garden route to reach the Cango caves (150 kms.) , took a tour and visited an Ostrich farm is Oudtshoorn (15-20 kms.)
Use the link here https://www.cango-caves.co.za/ to make your bookings and other information. We opted for the heritage walk as the adventure walks takes you through narrow tunnels which made me claustrophobic, even thinking about! The limestone formations are absolutely spectacular and the guided tour is very well defined and interactive.
Ostrich farm visit was a short one for us as it was quite hot but still watching those birds flapping and running was a delight. You can also take an Ostrich ride if you wish to.
We had our lunch at Ocean’s basket somewhere on the way, and it is not to be missed if you like seafood.
OUDTSHOORN TO MOSSEL BAY
Then, we moved ahead to Mossel bay (100 Kms.) where we stayed the night in a stunning sea facing bnb.
Day 12 – SHARK CAGE DIVING
We had made a booking for shark cage diving here. It may sound scary but it definitely is not. We booked it with this company https://whitesharkafrica.com/experiences/ and had quite a thrilling experience. All information is provided on their website and it takes approximately 3-4 hours for the entire experience.
Post-lunch, after an encounter to remember, we relaxed for some time and then got back on the road, heading to HERMANUS (300 kms.)
We had booked a bnb here, with no particular area in mind. We just wanted to be close enough to wander away for whale-watching on the recommended spots. (Comment below if you need details of those spots – Its an exhaustive list)
Day 13 – TRY YOUR LUCK AT WHALE WATCHING
Hermanus is popular for whale watching and for the restaurants & cafes along the waterfront. You can easily spend hours together trying to spot these beautiful mammals, but then in our case, time again played a spoiled sport. And, we were scheduled to leave for Cape town, and we did not spot any (having spent a few hours at various spots) !
Our first stop enroute Cape town, was the Boulder’s beach (130 Kms.), near Simon’s town, in Cape peninsula. It is packed with little African penguins, swimming and flapping around unawares of the mammoth cuteness it is spreading and how touched everyone is, to see them there.
We spent a good hour or so with these little creatures, only to move on to ‘Cape of good hope’, the most south-western point of Africa. We took a cable car to reach the vantage point, that is most popular for viewing the Cape point. The winds here are strong, and the feeling is totally heavenly, standing at a point so above ground, watching those miniature waves clashing against the cliff, and only water till where the eyes can see.
Gathering all these soul-touching experiences, we moved towards Cape town, to our bnb near the convention centre. Time to relax!
Day 14,15 – We had booked Table mountain cable car using the link here https://www.tablemountain.net/ hoping to a see a panoramic view of Cape town but unfortunately the weather never turned in our favour. The good thing is that these tickets come with a validity of 7 days and can also be refunded during this period. So, well, we at least got out money back!
Owing to the weather, no other activities were possible, so we concentrated on the other best thing – food & shopping. We made rounds to V&A waterfront everyday, especially for great food and elite brands. (Tip – Do not miss Nando’s while you are here!
Day 16 – SKYDIVING
Though it was our final day here and the weather still was incredibly foggy for the table mountain to open its doors, our skydiving company (http://www.skydivecapetown.co.za/) summoned us. So, well. jumping from a plane in mid-air is not something we do everyday… So that morning was spend with a chest so heavy with nervousness, but the feeling was surreal and once I jumped off, heading straight towards earth, accelerated by gravity, weightlessness hit me, and that smile just came back!
What an end to an already fabulous trip!
Day 17 – GOODBYE
Time to pack our bags, say goodbye and return to our country. and you know what… no rains.. no fog.. clear weather.. and the table mountain cableways were operational that day!! But, we were at the airport already!!
And BTW, we are BRAAI experts now!!!