Amazing South Africa: 3 week road trip itinerary
Before you go to South Africa:
Tipping – It is customary to trip on food, filling your car with gas (petrol) and parking your car. In general tipping on food is approximately 12% depending on the level of service you can choose to tip more or less. It is important to note that you cannot self-fill your car with gas, it must be done by an attendant at the gas station, the customary amount to tip is 10 RAND (or $1 USD). Lastly you will discover that every time you park your car there will be a parking attendant, they will watch over your car and assist you with parking and exiting the space for between 2-5 Rand (20-50c USD).
Driving – South Africans drive on the left hand side, like England and Australia. The easiest way to remember which side of the road you need to be on is to ensure you, the driver, is always closest to the middle of the road.
Food and Water – The food in south Africa is amazing, I mean out of this world. I was a bit worried before I left because my stomach is known to give me problems but I was completely fine and I drank the water… without my life straw, shocking I know.
Day 1: Arrive in Johannesburg drive to the Tshukudu Game Lodge (457km 5 Hours)
Flying into South Africa you will want to arrive in Johannesburg from there you have two options for getting to the Kruger National Park, you can choose to fly into Hoedspruit or you can drive. I chose to drive for two reasons, firstly it is much cheaper and secondly there is some amazing scenery along the way. As you make your way to the Tshukudu Game Lodge which actually boarders the Kruger National Park I would recommend stopping at Alzu Petroport N4 for lunch, here you will get your first glimpse of rhinos, buffalo, ostrich and zebra.
Your next stop will be God’s Window which offers sweeping views of the area and is certainly not to be missed. After that you will want to continue onto Blyde River Canyon which is the most scenic view in the area. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stop here because I didn’t know what it was called, everyone had tagged it as God’s Window, which is close by but not the same.
Day 2: Tshukudu Game Lodge
The Tshukudu Game Lodge was a huge highlight for me on this trip, they will of course provide you with a full itinerary upon check-in but I would suggest participating in as many of the activities as possible. First up is the morning bush walk, if you are lucky and the Cheetah’s are feeling up to it you might get the chance to walk with Hunter and Floppy. They live on the game reserve and while they hunt their own food and roam free they don’t mind human interaction because they were raised by park staff after their mother was killed when they were just cubs.
After a delicious breakfast you can choose to go on a morning game drive, this is a little extra but totally worth it. On this drive you will start spotting the Big 5 (Lions, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino and Elephants) as well as a variety of other animals. Fun Fact: The big 5 are based on their difficulty to hunt and not their population.
Once you have eaten a delicious hot lunch back at the game lodge the afternoon can be spent relaxing under a tree with the local Wart Hogs or why not take a dip in the pool. In the late afternoon the evening game drive will commence after high tea, as the temperature drops you will begin to see lots of animals emerge. Dinner is served under the stars and around a fire, after dinner the local porcupines arrive to clean up the scraps of food.
Day 3: Into the Kruger National Park, Satara Camp (120km, 2 Hours)
Today you will leave the Game Lodge and head into the Kruger National Park, due to poaching security is very strict getting into the park and you will need to proceed through 2 security check points. Entering the Park through the Orpen Gate, you will head over to the Satara Camp. Despite the name you will not be camping but staying in a bungalow, please note these need to be booked well ahead of time as they do sell out. Once you have checked-in its time to drive around the area and see what animals you can spot.
It is important to note that the gate to the camps inside the Kruger shut at 6pm. If you want to go on a game drive in the evening you can book them through the camp. They are well worth it during one of our night time game drives we spotted a Hyena dragging a carcass around before he was chased by a Lion.
Day 4 & 5: Kruger National Park, Satara Camp to Skukuza Camp via Lower Sabie (150km, 3 Hours)
Today you will leave the Satara Camp and head to Skukuza, I would recommend driving past Lower Sabie where you can stop for lunch. Once you reach Lower Sabie be sure to check their board and see where the Leopards have been spotted. We were extremely lucky and saw two leopards during our time in the Kruger, however do not be disappointed if you don’t see them, they are the most elusive animal in the park.
Day 6: Kruger National Park to Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth (460km, 5 Hours)
Sadly today you will leave Kruger, head back to Johannesburg and fly from there to Port Elizabeth which is where you will start the Garden Route portion of this road trip. I would allow plenty of time for this as there may be things you want to see along the way and/or unexpected delays.
Day 7: “The Garden Route” Port Elizabeth to Jeffries Bay (83km, 1 Hour)
During our entire road trip along the Garden Route we stayed in Air BnB’s which were great and very affordable most ranging between $40-60 USD a night. In Port Elizabeth be sure to check out the waterfront which is a great spot for lunch before starting the short drive to Jeffries Bay.
Day 8: Jeffries Bay to Plettenberg Bay (164km, 1 Hour 40 Min)
If you are looking for something fun to do in Jeffries Bay I highly recommend booking in a Sandboarding tour with http://islandvibe.co.za/ We had a wonderful morning with our guide learning to sandboard in the dunes. If you have never done it before not to worry it’s very easy to pick up and your guide will assist you.
Day 9: Plettenberg Bay to Knysna (32km, 28 Min)
For something different I would recommend booking a Kayak and Lilo tour in the Tsitsikamma National Park http://www.untouchedadventures.com/ . This 3 hour tour starts with a kayak down a huge gorge, followed by a lilo float down the river and a return kayak trip. After your action packed morning you can grab a hearty lunch at the Cattle Baron next door which has beautiful views of the bay. Watch out for the local Dusties some of them aren’t as friendly as others.
Day 10: Knysna to Mossel Bay (110km, 1 Hour 16 Min)
Today you will journey to Mossel Bay and if you are looking for a truly unique experience I would recommend booking a tour with the Indalu Game Reserve, http://www.indalu.co.za/. Here you will get to walk side by side with a heard of elephants and hand feed them a bucket of healthy snacks. It’s truly an amazing experience walking with these gentle giants, but don’t be fooled if they pick up a rock or stick and hand it to you they are trying to bribe you for snacks!
Day 11: Mossel Bay to Arniston (Struis Bay) (267km, 2 Hours 47 Min)
Before you leave Mossel Bay be sure to check out St Blaize Hiking Trail which is a seaside cliff hike. You can treat yourself to a delicious lunch at the end of the trail.
Day 12: Arniston to Hermanus (119km, 1 Hour 23 Min)
Arniston is a beautiful sea side town, however getting accommodation here can be quite challenging we actually ended up staying in Struis Bay which is very close by. Key attractions here include a beautiful Window Cave which is located in the Arniston Nature Reserve and Cape Agulhas which is the southernmost point in continental Africa and the location where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.
Day 13: Hermanus to Stellenbosch (97km, 1 Hour 23 Min)
If you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie like me or you just like to get up close and personal to animals Shark Cage Diving is for you. Depending on the time of year you are visiting South Africa will determine where your tour leaves from. As I was visiting in the off season no tours were running directly from Cape Town, all tours at this time of year leave from Gainsbaii. I booked my tour with Apex Predator, however I actually ended up going with their sister company Shark Watch SA http://www.apexpredators.com/
I would highly recommend this company and tour in general it was such an amazing afternoon spent in the water. The tour starts at 12.30pm with a hearty lunch at the Great White House, after which you board the boat and receive your equipment which includes a thick wetsuit, booties and goggles. Everyone takes turns in the cage which holds 8 people, and the tour guides try to ensure everyone sees a lot of shark activity. We were very fortunate and saw 6 different Great White Sharks during our time on the boat. Once you hop out of the water the boat has hot chocolate waiting for you and some delicious soup back on shore. Hot showers are available onsite for $5.
Day 14: Stellenbosch to Cape Town (113km, 1 Hour 30 Min)
Today it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy South Africa’s Wine Region. I would recommend starting at “The Spice Route” which has an amazing range of things to eat, drink and sample. From here you can head to Stellenbosh and hit up some of the big name wineries in the area.
Day 15 – 21 Cape Town
There are so many things to see and do in Cape Town you could spend a month just exploring this amazing region but I think 6 days is enough to tick off the main highlights. Below is a list of the activities you simply cannot miss.
Swimming with the seals
Swimming with the seals in Cape Town was a huge highlight for me, they are beyond cute and super playful, it’s truly a one of a kind experience. I booked through Animal Ocean http://www.animalocean.co.za/ while the administration staff were extremely disorganized at handing out the gear and collecting money from you, the tour guides and staff on the water were amazing and very knowledgeable.
Hiking Lions Head for Sunset
Visiting Cape Town and not hiking up Lions head to watch a sunset is a total crime. On the way up be sure to stop at Wally’s Cave for a photo opportunity that’s not to be missed. It’s a little hard to find so check out this website for full instructions: http://www.lifeofmike.co.za/wheres-wally-how-to-find-wallys-cave-lions-head/
Hiking Table Mountain
Hiking up Table Mountain in my opinion offers the best views, however if you are not feeling athletic you can take the cable car. The best day hike I can recommend starts off in the Kirstenbosch gardens, the trail goes straight up (so be prepared for a lot of stairs) and ends at a beautiful dam. From there you will hike across table mountain to the old rail way line, this is where you will find the Diving Board also known as the best views of Camps Bay and my favorite spot. After you have taken lots of photos you will descend to Camps Bay.
Paragliding off Signal Hill
If you are up for a little adventure why not try paragliding off signal hill? The views are unbeatable.
Cape Town Waterfront
The Waterfront in Cape Town has sweeping views of the ocean, harbor, the City of Cape Town and Table Mountain. There is a large shopping center and lots of restaurants to choose from that overlook the water.
Visit the Penguins at Boulders Beach
If you are looking for beautiful turquoise water and resident penguins to swim with look no further than Boulders Beach!
You can't come to Cape Town and not visit the beautiful suburb of Bo-Kaap, all the houses are brightly colored and make for excellent photos.
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