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Visiting South Africa – the itinerary

October 6, 2019

It’s been awhile – I almost thought I’d forgotten my blog password! Luckily I’m in and I’m back to talk about South Africa. South Africa was one of those holidays which I will always look back on in awe – it was amazing. I don’t think I’ll be able to properly explain how great it was. But hopefully I can share some pictures and some recommendations to convince you that you need to get South Africa on your list ASAP.

In order to live in my happy holiday bubble for as long as possible, I’m planning a few posts on our trip. So I thought an overview post was called for. I’ll come back later and update this with links to more detailed posts on the different areas.

The logistics

When planning our trip, we knew we wanted a holiday around September – October and turns out that it is a perfect time to visit South Africa. The weather can be changeable but for the most part it was hot and pleasant for the whole time we were there.

We flew from London Gatwick to Cape Town via Doha. British Airways do have a direct flight but it was really expensive compared to the fares with Qatar. It does make the flight longer but was worth it to save a good chunk of money that we could spend on the trip.

Otherwise you can also fly direct from London to Johannesburg and then do a connecting internal flight – they have a few budget airlines which were rather affordable.

We did prebook our airport transfers through V transfers who were really great. However, uber is huge in South Africa, so just getting an uber when you land is a good option too.

Exploring Cape Town

As I was meeting my family from around the globe, a few days in Cape Town at the start of the trip was essential. It was a great time to get our bearings, see how it felt and decide on what we wanted to do. We did have some big things booked in – the safari, the majority of our hotels – but we didn’t have all our activities sorted.

As the fam was quite jetlagged, we decided to go to Kirstenboscht – the Cape Town botanical gardens, a short uber away from the centre. The gardens were spectacular, with the views of table mountain and filled with a myriad of birds (though sadly not the beautiful cape parrot, which is South Africa’s rarest bird). Other highlights included the V&A waterfront, visiting the spa and doing a walking tour.

Going on safari

When we organised South Africa, we knew we wanted to do a safari. But as you would expect -safaris are expensive and as my sister had done one before, we didn’t want it to take up the whole trip. We debated flying up to Kruger but as it is a malaria zone (Cape Town isn’t), we decided instead to do a smaller safari at one of the game reserves in the Western Cape.

The wildlife reserves here are smaller, but there are many of them to choose from. And keep in mind, when I say smaller, Sanbona, where we visited is the size of Singapore. So you know, still pretty big as far as reserves go.

I want to write a ginormous post on our safari so all I’ll say now is that it was just one of the best things I’ve ever done. We stayed in tented lodges, bumped our way around the park in a giant jeep, saw animals in their natural habitat, drank g&ts as the sun went down and sat in jacuzzis in the evening to watch the stars. I mean, you can’t really get much better right?

The Garden Route

Sanbona is about a 3 hour drive from Cape Town – on the inland road called the route 62. Most definitely worth a drive. It’s essentially parallel to the road known as the Garden Route – a scenic drive along the coast from Cape Town.

From Sanbona we drove down, stopping first in Mossel Bay where we saw whales frolicking in the bay! Such a highlight of the trip – even if Mossel Bay itself isn’t the most inspiring of places. We ended up doing a stunning hike in Wilderness too.

From Mossel, we continued to drive down to Plettenberg Bay. A stunning little town overlooking the sea. We double downed on our hiking and spent a day traversing the Robberg Peninsula. This is one of the best walks on the garden route and well worth it. It is definitely quite intense – including many a mini bouldering session, but the views were epic.

Staying at the Plettenberg Hotel was also a highlight – a gorgeous hotel which was a perfect spot for us to have a lazy day sitting by the pool and strolling along the nearby beach.

Heading to the winelands

We had one driving day in the trip and that was the day we headed back from Plettenberg. Luckily for us, it was the only day where we got pouring rain! Rather than head back into Cape Town itself, we wanted to stay in the winelands – areas with hundreds of wineries, around an hour outside of Cape Town main centre. We stayed in Stellenbosch – one of the most well known.

As you would expect, our time here was full of food and wine! We did a wine tour, visited wineries and wandered around the beautiful centre. I love South African wine so it was a real treat to learn more about it, and of course, buy some wine to bring back home.

Back to Cape Town

And we ended the trip heading back to Cape Town! This actually worked out really well, as we then had time to do the things we found out about the first time we were there. This time around we did a Township tour, headed down to Boulders Beach to see the wee penguins, and did a tour of Robben Island.

Unfortunately we didn’t get up table mountain (no thank you to giant queues!) but we did manage to do everything else that was on our must do list.

I just really can’t express how great a trip it was (and just how hard landing back into reality this week has been…). But honestly, if South Africa isn’t on your to visit list then get it on there now!

Have you ever been to South Africa? Have you got any questions about visiting? I’ll try and answer them in a future post.

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