Budget – INR 3,00,000 for 2 people
1) Scuba dive with Sharks
2) Swimming with Penguins
3) Safari with Giraffes and Zebras
4) Visiting the Southernmost point of Africa continent
5) Drakensberg and Lesotho trip
6) Cape town – Tabletop mountain (one of world’s 7 wonders of nature), Cape of Good Hope
7) Surfing at Mossel’s bay
8) Beautiful beaches, amazing roads, and scenic drive (drove 4000kms in 11 days)
It was Christmas time and we were looking for a trip to Australia. By the time we came up with a well-defined itinerary and agreed on spending a fortune in Australia, it was too late for applying for Australia visa. So the next good option on our list was South Africa. It was quite a last minute plan (20 days before the travel dates), so much that we couldn’t even calculate properly the no. of days we might need for SA. We booked the tickets and went for visa application next day.The days were super busy before our vacation.
- Accommodation: We decided to keep our itinerary flexible, so looked for booking accommodation for the first day only. Thanks to couchsurfing.com, a local lady was kind enough to host us in Johannesburg on our day 1.
- Commute: We booked the car for 11 days from Johannesburg to Cape Town, return flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg and packed our stuff and started our trip.
- Food: Packed Haldiram Bhujia 🙂 , bread and butter (for emergency).
Day 1,2: Johannesburg
We reached Johannesburg on the 26th Evening, collected our car from the airport and drove directly to our host. (Lucky we! We got upgraded to Audi4.). We spent the next day visiting:
a) Botanical Garden – I don’t appreciate the manmade botanical garden much but this one was quite different. It had a great waterfall and a 3.5kms hike! Loved it.
b) Constitution Hill, Mandela House.
By noon, we started our road trip to Phalaborwa, where we decided to spend our night before entering Kruger the next day.
Accommodation: La Lechere Guest House
- Aggregator used for booking rental car: pricecheck.co.za
- Unlike many other countries, most of the places close by 9pm. Plan accordingly
Day 3: Kruger National Park
- Kruger is one of the gems of South Africa.
There are 3 ways of doing Kruger –
1) Walking Safari
2) Jeep Safari
As it was Christmas Season and ours was a last-minute plan, we couldn’t book a jeep safari. So we did a walking Safari and then did self-drive from North to South Kruger.
The walking Safari was a great experience in itself. You walk in the jungle with two Rangers with rifles who use basic tools and tricks to spot an animal. It was fun to locate an elephant and a wild buffalo by following their paws and poop :D. Using a cigarette lighter, we found the direction of the wind and went and stood at a place where the animal could smell/see us the least.
We then drove to Nelspruit for that night’s accommodation.
Accommodation: Mama Mia
- Kruger is a huge area. It has several entry and exit gates. The animal density and geography changes from North to the south of Kruger. While North part of Kruger is more forest-like, with less animal density, the south part is more of grassland sort, with more animal density.
- If you are charmed by the big 5, you might want to visit Sabie Sands, which is towards the south of Kruger.
Zebra from the south part of Kruger National Park
Driving along with an Elephant!
Near Oliphant Point of Kruger
Day 4: Durban
It was a long but extremely scenic drive from Nelspruit to Durban. Durban is a nice city. Lots of food options. Nice beach, hotels. We did a small walk around the beach, ate in a revolving restaurant with an amazing view and called it a day.
- If you don’t need a visa of Swaziland then try coming to Durban from Kruger via Swaziland. That is the shortest way.
- Keep an eye on your belongings. Durban is a place where a lot of thefts and robberies happen.
Revolving restaurant at Durban – Roma Revolving
Day 5: Aliwal Shoal
It is one of the top 3 diving spots of South Africa.(The other two are – Sodwana Bay (one of the world’s most popular dive site) and False Bay).
There were 2 kinds of dive options –
1) Reef Dive
2) Shark Dive
Early morning we went for the shark dive in our boat. Water was very turbulent. It was a fun ride for some and sickening for others. There were just 3 of us doing scuba diving that day with 5 other shark cage divers. The scuba dive was amazing. The sharks were huge and they were all around us. It was tough to maintain buoyancy in turbulent water, but once done, it was breathtaking to see so many sharks of various sizes, types (tiger sharks, black tip sharks, remoras attached to sharks). At times I could feel a fin of the shark on my body as they crossed me. Because of weather reasons our second dive, which was a reef dive, got canceled.
Accommodation: Aliwal Shoal Scuba
Shark dive needs scuba certification. Non-divers can do a shark cage dive
Shark Dive @Aliwal Shoal
Day 6,7: Sani Pass
Sani Pass in the Drakensberg mountains of South Africa is any hikers dream. You could just stand at one place and keep looking at the scenery and not get bored.
There are many hikes that one can do in the Drakensberg ranging from a single day hike to a week-long hike. As we also wanted to visit another country, we booked a day trip to their neighboring country – Lesotho.
Accommodation: Sani Lodge Backpackers
Lesotho needs a visa for visitors from some countries which needs to be applied in advance
With Bosothos of Lesotho who speak Sesotho
Day 8: Jeffrey’s Bay, Mossel’s Bay
After our hike, we started for Jeffery’s bay for taking surfing lessons. “Supertubes” in Jefferey’s bay is a home to world’s best surfers owing to the perfect waves that are formed on this beach. We tried to surf but failed 😦
Accommodation: Hartenbos River Resort
Campsite at Mossel’s bay
Day 9,10,11: Capetown
Post surfing, we hit the road again, this time -to reach cape town. The drive from Mossel’s bay to Capetown is through an extremely scenic route called Gardens route. It is one of the most recommended routes of SA.
On the way, we also visited the Southernmost point of Africa continent – Cape Agulhas. It was an isolated peaceful shore, which really felt like the point at the end of the world. The following days we visited:
1) Boulder’s beach for Penguins.
2) Cape of Good Hope, old Cape Point LightHouse, Dias beach
3) Noordhoek Beach
4) Chapman’s Peak drive
5) Llandudno Beach
6) Wine tour at Groot Constantia
7) Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
8) Camps Bay Beach
9) Tabletop Mountain Hike
10) Sunset at Signal Hill
- Boulders beach:
- If you just want to see the penguin colony, you don’t have to pay. Just take the left gate.
- For swimming with penguins: Enter the beach. Behind the huge rocks, which you can cross swimming, you can reach a huge colony of penguins with whom you can sit, relax, swim and spend as much time as you want
- Chapman’s peak drive: While coming from Cape of good hope to Capetown city, try taking Chapman’s peak drive. It is quite a famous one and a lot of movies are shot here.
- Tabletop mountain:
- Do take the cable car to the table top mountain. It is a revolving cable car and it gives you a panoramic view of Capetown while standing at the same place.
- Tabletop cable car charges are lesser in the afternoon (1pm onwards).
- A descend from the tabletop mountain at a medium pace can be done in 1.5hours. The point where you hit the road would be 2kms away from the lower cable car station. Plan the car parking accordingly
View from Tabletop mountain
Vineyards of Groot Constantia
The southernmost tip of Africa. (Also divides Indian and the Atlantic Ocean)
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Cape of Good Hope
This was all that we could fit it in our 11 days vacation to South Africa. It was a super fast-paced trip, but we loved every bit of it.
WHAT WE MISSED:
- Bo Kaap: a colorful town in Capetown. Thanks to the crazy traffic at the Signal hill post-sunset, I had to skip Bo Kaap in order to catch our return flight on time 😦
- VA waterfront and rest of the “city” part of Capetown
- Longer hikes in the Drakensberg
- Big 5 safari (though we could spot 2 of the big 5 in our normal safari as well)
- Ostrich farms: There are a lot of ostrich farms in SA, especially near Capetown. Do plan a visit if possible
- Kalahari desert
- Big 5 game at Kruger: Needs a bit of preplanning and booking in advance
Vegetarian food options:
Sadly, South Africa isn’t a place where there are a lot of local veg delights. So the following was our survival strategy for this trip:
1) Veggies, fruits, and rice+gravies from SPAR (can be found every 10kms)
2) Ethiopian food (must try – Yetsom Beyaynetu -the closest you can think of, to Dosa, 3 types of lentils and mixed veg with salad)
3) Pizza (easily available)
4) Mediterranean platter(can be found in big cities/towns)
The foodie author of this blog
Good to know things before you travel:
1) If you have less time(3-5days), visiting Capetown and around would be the best way to plan your SA trip.
2) Take care of your belongings, keep your car locked properly. Few of our fellow travelers got robbed.
3) The Speed limit is 120km/hr on highways. There are highly accurate speed cameras which can track your numberplate. (We got pulled over by traffic police once)
4) Blink your cars backlights once to say thank you to cars that gave you pass and front lights once to say welcome to the cars to whom you gave a pass.
5) There are several entrances to Kruger. Know beforehand, which part you want to explore.
6) Use www.sanparks.org to book accommodation in the National Parks
7) THIS ITINERARY IS A CRAZY ITINERARY. PRACTICALLY, ONE SHOULD NOT TRY TO FOLLOW IT IN ANY TIME LESS THAN 16 DAYS OR MORE.
Major Cost Buckets:
|Category||Details||Cost for 2 in INR|
|TRANSPORT||Last minute return flights (from Mumbai)||90000|
|Last minute one-way flight from cape town to Joburg||28000|
|South Africa Visa||5000|
|Car with unlimited mileage for 11 days (Audi3)||41500|
|Activities||Sisulu botanical gardens||500|
|Kruger National park walking Safari||9000|
|Kruger National park gate entry for car for self-drive + Map||4000|
|Scuba diving with Sharks||21000|
|Boulders beach entry for interaction with Penguins||800|
|Day trip to Lesotho||7000|
|Wine tasting at Groot Constantia||1000|
|Tabletop mountain cable car (one way)||1600|
|Entry fee + funicular ride (one way)- cape of good hope||1100|
|Accommodation||La Lechere (Kruger National Park)||8000|
|Mama Mia (Nelspruit)||4000|
|Aliwal Shoal (Durban)||3500|
|Camping at Sani Lodge backpackers (Drakensberg)||500|
|Lucolo Palace (Mathatha)||2000|
|Camping at Hartenbos River Resort (Mossel’s Bay)||2000|
|Camping at Chapman’s Peak (Cape town)||1500|
|Camping at Imhoff Park (Cape Town)||2000|
|Victoria Villa and Spa (Cape Town)||8500|
|Food + other misc for 11 days||—-||16500|
Visa Requirements for Indians
- South Africa – INR 2500 per person (including VFS charges) – 15 working days:
- Lesotho – INR 10000 per person – online visa – 3 working days
- Rwanda – INR 2000 per person – visa on arrival