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advise on joburg pls!

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hello!
will be heading to Johannesburg end of July for 2 weeks for my first time! was thinking if I should head to cape town but heard the weather is chilly and rainy. So I've decided to stay in joburg and travel around.

What would you think of this driving route? Is there much to see around these areas to experience an African culture?

- Joburg
- Pretoria
- Limpopo
- Kruger National Park
- Mpurmalanga
- Swaziland
-iSimangaliso

any Must go interest places that I've missed?

Thanks for your advise !!

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    Hi -- don't have much time this morning, but I love Joberg! Lots of great restaurants and historical sights. Many, many hotel choices from small chic boutique hotels to large international chains and in between.

    Trip Advisor has a great Joberg page -- check it out.

    Must sees are the:

    The Apartheid Museum
    Tour of Soweto -- Hector Pieterson Museum, Mandela's House, lunch or dinner at Sakumzi or Wandies, etc.
    Cradle of Mankind (outside of town)
    Rosebank Craft Market
    Lilies Leaf Farm (where the Rivonia freedom fighters hid until they were arrested, including Mandela)
    Neighborhoods Market to hang out and eat great food
    Mandela Square for eating and shopping

    I am just scratching the surface.

    Yes to Kruger -- many options for every price range. Safari a must. Lots of information here. Plan on two camps for a few days each if possible.

    Weather permitting go down to Capetown. Stunning. Easy flight. Lots to do, see, and eat.

    Good luck. Come back with more specific questions. Search for Joberg on this forum. There is a women who lives in Joberg who has a great travel blog on the city who posts here sometimes.

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    Hi Lolazahra,

    Thanks for your reply!

    Was checking out the places you've mentioned. and came out with a rough itinerary. Will skip cape town this trip and keep it for another time.

    Do let me know your thoughts!

    Travel days: 16 in total

    1. Joburg (3 days)

    -Cradle of Humankind
    -Joburg Zoo
    -Lion Park
    -Mountain Sanctuary Park
    -Melville Koppies
    -Hennops Hiking Trail
    -The Apartheid Museum
    -Tour of Soweto -- Hector Pieterson Museum, Mandela's House, lunch or dinner at Sakumzi or Wandies, etc. (Soweto bicycle tours?)
    -Rosebank Craft Market
    -Lilies Leaf Farm (where the Rivonia freedom fighters hid until they were arrested, including Mandela)
    -Neighborhoods Market to hang out and eat great food
    -Mandela Square for eating and shopping

    2. Limpopo (2 days)
    -The Waterberg meander (hiking, mountain biking, horse riding?)
    -Debengeni Falls (Magoebaskloof)

    3. Kruger National Park (2 days) - any recommendations on where to stay? there's just so many of them!

    4. Blyde River Canyon/ panorama route? (3 days)
    -Gods window
    -Sabi Sand Game Reserve (mala mala – any cheaper options? What about Kirkman’s kamp/ Ngala Tented Camp any good?)
    -Mpumalanga - not sure what to do here

    5. Swaziland (2 days)
    - Hlane Royal National Park
    -Village life (Swazi Cultural Village)

    6. KwaZulu (2 days)

    Head back to Joburg last day.

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    Hi FLIPS,

    I may be the person Lolazahra mentioned above (I have been living in Joburg for 2.5 years).

    As for the Joburg part of your itinerary, it is way too much for 3 days.

    My comments:
    -Cradle of Humankind: almost whole day if you include the caves
    -Joburg Zoo: why??? you can see wildlife in their natural setting
    -Lion Park: please avoid (research places who raise lion cubs for profit and their connection to the canned hunting industry)
    -Mountain Sanctuary Park: whole day at least
    -Melville Koppies: only with a group
    -Hennops Hiking Trail: most of a day, I haven't done this but my partner has and he went with a group
    -The Apartheid Museum: absolutely, we spent over 4 hours here
    -Tour of Soweto -- Hector Pieterson Museum, Mandela's House, lunch or dinner at Sakumzi or Wandies, etc. (Soweto bicycle tours?): the bike tour is fantastic, .5 day or a whole day
    -Rosebank Craft Market: never been
    -Lilies Leaf Farm (where the Rivonia freedom fighters hid until they were arrested, including Mandela): do not miss this and you should add Constitution Hill as well
    -Neighborhoods Market to hang out and eat great food: only Saturday but a lot of fun. On Sunday there is Market on Main
    -Mandela Square for eating and shopping: Meh... much better restaurants elsewhere

    You can also check out the Big Red Bus to get around to some places and check out some interesting neighborhoods as well.

    As for the rest of the trip, this is also way too much. You really need to narrow down more where to go. I might drop Limpopo and add time to Kruger, 2 days isn't nearly enough. You also need to consider the time to get from place to place and account for that in your planning. I am going to Kruger for 2 weeks on Saturday and even that isn't enough for me! You could maybe do a minimum of 3 days Kruger and 3 days in a private camp in Sabi Sands.

    Blyde River Canyon is nice if you have the time, maybe 2 full days if you want to do some hiking as well.

    Swaziland is nice too but I would consider adding that time to Kruger which is much better. If you still want to do Swazi, also consider Mlilwane instead of Hlane as it is really unique in that you can hike there among the animals (no dangerous predators), it is really special.

    KZN is huge and lots to do but you need to see what you really want to do there.

    I hope that helped some. I do have a blog with a lot of info on many of these places at underanafricansun.com

    Happy Planning!

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    Oh I forgot to add about Kruger. July is high season and most places are already sold out. But check on www.sanparks.org for availability. I love Lower Sabie, Tamboti and Satara the most but they are all nice. You may have to take whatever is left.

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    hi Kellyyee

    Thanks for your advise and suggestions! your blog is amazing, looking forward to reading more updates on your 2 week trip in Kruger national park!

    Have revised the itinerary. let me know if this is a much better route/ plan!

    Travel days: 16 in total

    1. Joburg (3 days)
    Day 1 (sat)
    -Neighborhoods Market to hang out and eat great food
    -Lilies Leaf Farm (where the Rivonia freedom fighters hid until they were arrested, including Mandela)
    - Constitution Hill

    Day 2 (Sunday):
    -Cradle of Humankind (including caves)
    - Market on Main

    Day 3:
    - Soweto bicycle tour (one day tour)

    2. Kruger National Park (3 days)

    3. Blyde River Canyon (got this from tripadviser) – (2 days)
    - Mac Mac Falls (then to Graskop)
    -Bourke's Luck Potholes
    - Three Roundavels
    - Bourke's Luck Potholes
    - Drive west to Pilgrim's Rest (return to Graskop)
    - Harrie's Pancakes (Graskop) - Lunch
    - The Pinnacle
    - God's Window
    - Lisbon Falls
    - Berlin Falls
    - Hazyview

    4. Sabi Sand Game Reserve (3 days)

    5. Swaziland (2 days)
    - Mlilwane
    -Village life (Swazi Cultural Village)

    6. Back to Joburg (any place to recommend for a night that we can stop on the drive back?)

    Appreciate it. thanks !!

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    Hi FLIPS,

    Glad you enjoy the blog, thanks!

    This looks a lot better, here are a few more comments.

    Joburg Day 1: I am not sure all 3 will be possible due to the rather limited opening hours. Liliesleaf is open on Sat from 9-4, Constitution Hill 10-3 and the market from 9-3 (even by 2 some of the food stands will be running out of food).

    I think the only way it could maybe work is to start at Constitution Hill and take the first tour (about an hour). Then you should still see the other buildings and be sure to walk around the fort for some great views. It is then goinf to be between 12 and 1 I think.

    The market is close so head over there but you would only have an hour or so. You will need around 40 minutes to get back up to Liliesleaf and I wouldn't arrive later than 2 and even that isn't a whole lot of time.

    Ideally I would only do 2 of these on Sat.

    With that said, I am not sure your day 2 is really possible. The Cradle is very far from Market on Main and if you want to spend a bit of time at the market I wouldn't arrive after 1 (and it will be packed). You will have to check the times on the Cradle and caves.

    I think you should maybe pick between the Cradle and Caves and staying in Joburg depending on your interests. The Cradle is very scenic, if you are going to do this i would make a day of it. Cradle in the morning, lunch at Roots if the budget allows and afternoon at the caves. Or choose to stay in Joburg and do Market on Main, maybe a walking tour (check Ancient Secrets, Joburg Places or Past Experiences)or put back the Apartheid Museum. I think the city is a lot more interesting but that is me, your milage may vary. Also, the 2 markets are similiar so if you have to you can probably cut out one.

    The rest looks so much better. The days you list at each place, so they include travel time or is it really the time you have to see stuff? If you really have 2 full days in Blyde that is great. Look into staying at the Forever Resort. It is a beautiful setting, overlooking the 3 Rondevals. They also have several hiking trails starting from there.

    Swazi: you are going to spend a whole day driving there and another back to Joburg. 2 or 3 full days won't be too much at Mlilwane. We did a tour of a village next to Mlilwane organzied through the camp. It was fun but touristy but we also bought some nice crafts. They may require a minimum number of people to do this so check that. There is also a lot of crafts in the little center where Swazi Candles is located. We also stopped at little stands just off the road to buy stuff too.

    I can't really think of anywhere good to stop on the way back to Joburg. If you really have an extra day, I would add it to some place you already are staying.

    Hope that helps!

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    Hi there.

    Is it my imagination or did you take the Apartheid Museum out? This is a must IMO. Never will you find more info on the history of apartheid than at this museum and it is beautifully designed. It is a very moving experience. Please note I think you can do it in 2-3 hours. I know Kellyee21 said she spent 4 hours there and so have I (I have been multiple times), but if you do not have that much time and you concentrate on moving through it, you can do it in less. Also, they now have a really terrific cafe/restaurant with excellent food, so if you start in the morning, you can have lunch and move on to your next activity without worrying about eating. I urge you to try to put it back in. Your whole trip will be that much more rich by having gone and truly understanding how far this country has come.

    Lilies Leaf Farm is really, really interesting. In fact, I could not believe I had not gone before when someone recommended it to me. It tells yet another side of the story featuring those on the forefront of the struggle. You do not need as much time there as you do for the apartheid museum, so you can absolutely add something else to this day.

    Neighborhoods closes down at 3:00 PM on Saturday so beware and get there at least a few hours before that.

    I cannot believe I forgot Constitution Hill. I am so glad that Kellyee21 mentioned it to you. Deeply rich on so many levels.

    I think you are honing in on a good plan!

    And yes Kellyee21, you are the one I was talking about with the terrific blog on one of my favorite cities in the world!

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    I agree about camps in Sabi Sand being sold out. You need to do what I did last year for Bots and SA when I was doing a last minute trip -- just find out what is available and then do your research. Come back to the boards when you know what is available if you are stuck between a few places. For the most part, game viewing in this area is prolific and all the lodges are great. Some are much more expensive than others, but pretty much no matter where you stay, you are in for a treat.

    Get cracking on this if you have not already.

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    Lolazahra, Kelly,

    Thanks for your feedback and suggestions! I will definitely see how I can fit them in and let you know the final draft once I've planned it out!

    Surprising that July/ August is peak period as it's winter! Thought it would be more crowded in summer!

    Will start planning now and let you know how it goes!

    Cheers

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    Keep in mind that winter in eastern South Africa is usually the dry season. The climate, coupled with the less dense foliage, make it perfect for wildlife viewing.

    I second Lolazahra's comments about the Apartheid Museum. It is definitely a must do.

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    I just got back from S Africa yesterday. It was wonderful (again) but the drought is awful and our wildlife viewing was spotty.

    July will be cold in Joberg and freezing in Waterberg. Kruger will be really cold - especially on game drives early morning and late afternoon in open vehicles. Winter in S Africa is high season because wildlife is easiest to find and it's school vacations. And summer is very hot!! For me, cold is better than hot. Buy a hot water bottle to stay warm at night.

    If you can't find availability in Kruger, try the game reserves in KZN. With the drought they are not doing any off road to protect the flora for when it starts raining (it's a very good decision) but our game viewing was pretty good in Zululand Rhino Reserve and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi. Many reserves are making the difficult decision to remove the horns from rhino and it's jarring to see. But safer for everyone. Hopefully it's temporary.

    Kruger was depressingly dry and game viewing was not nearly as good as our past trips. The hippos and buffalo seem to be most affected. Surprisingly, we saw the most wildlife in the northern part of the park - mostly north of Letaba. Satara is so dry - almost a wasteland where it usually is beautiful savannah. We were unlucky in the southern part between Lower Sabie and Skukuza - we saw almost nothing. Very few hippos, very sad. For a private experience, try Pafuri Camp. It's newly reopened in the far north of Kruger and very nice.

    We stayed in Marakele NP in Waterberg on this trip - we enjoyed it and were pretty happy with the park. There are no restaurants so you must self cater but it was fun. We stayed on the predator side at Tlopi, but maybe stay on the non predator side for your first safari experience. It rained while we were there, so it was beautiful. Too bad the rain seemed to be very localized - it didn't make it anywhere else we went. Entabeni is a good option for a private reserve in Waterberg. We enjoyed Wildside Camp there not long ago.

    We ventured into Botswana and stayed in northern Tuli. I think the only reserve with any game right now would be Mashatu. The others are pretty far from a running river. We had very sparse game viewing there.

    We visited the Apatheid Museum on this trip - very well done but note the Mandela section is closed for renovations. It didn't bother us - Mandela is not the only hero. On past trips we visited the Cradle of Humankind which we enjoyed. Don't miss either of them. Use the HOHO bus and get a good overview and get off when you see something you'd like to explore.

    With just two weeks, try not to do too much. Stay for three nights in parks and reserves to see as much as possible. With shorter stays, especially with the dry conditions, you might not see much. The Swaziland cultural thing is silly in my view. Just drive around and you'll get a better idea of "real life". I would go to Cape Town if it interests you. It doesn't rain every day and it's the only place to see the Penguins!!

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    Christabir, sorry to hear that your wildlife experiences were more limited on this trip but even more sad to know the negative impact that the drought is bringing to the ecosystem, wildlife, people, and all. Hope things turn around soon.

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    Hi christabir,

    Thanks for sharing the experience! Such a pity that viewing wasn't fantastic. it's going to be my first time to a safari, and hopefully we can see some animals! will definitely check out the places you've mentioned.

    how cold does it get in winter?

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    It gets really cold. Lots of layers, gloves, hat, scarf... We had frost in Waterberg (in Limpopo) in June a few years ago, but warms up nicely during the day. We had a fierce storm in Marakele and the wind and cold was awful. On this trip last week in KZN where it's always warmest, I actually needed all of my layers - a fleece jacket, cashmere sweater, long sleeved t shirt, t shirt. My husband needed his heavy fleece jacket on the morning game drives and was in shorts for lunch. The next day a t shirt and light jacket was plenty. It will be warmer in Cape Town and KwaZulu Natal (my favorite province) is warmest on the beautiful Indian Ocean. Check out St Lucia in northern KZN for tons of fun activities - water, animal and land based. It won't rain anywhere but Cape Town and the eastern Cape in July. We stay at Rhino River Lodge in Zululand Rhino Reserve - love it there and quite affordable. Check Facebook - a special might pop up for July.

    You will see lots of animals!! It was our fifth time and we had some bad luck - others who visited the same time had very different experiences. But what we did see was excellent - some very fun elephants - even one who visited during sundowners (happy hour drinks), another scary snake (I encounter a new one each time, this time a puff adder) and our first wild dogs in the daylight. We had fantastic luck and saw aardvark twice (don't think it was the same one and it was amazing!!) and lion cubs of a lioness we had seen when she was just a cub herself! A juvenile honey badger, lots of gorgeous giraffe and black eagle eggs. So my "not so great" trip was pretty great. We just had some tough days - that's why three days per destination is best so you have more time to see "everything".

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    We just got back - haven't started my trip report, but we visited Kruger - check out Isibindi properties - Rhino Post is in the Sabi Sands and we stayed 3 nights. It was FANTASTIC. We drove from Kruger through Swaziland, hit a pothole and ended up not staying in the cute place in Mlilwane where we had prepaid accomodations, but found someplace just outside Mbabane that fit our needs (we did not want to drive far in the dark). ANYWAY, we went to Hluhluwe/iMfolozi for another 3 nights at Rhino Ridge which was totally different scenery but still amazing animal viewing, and then 2 nights on the coast at Thonga Beach Lodge. Then we cut back to Zululand for 2 nights to see battlefields with a terrific guide and ended up spending our last night outside of Harrismith, in the Drakensberg Mountains, so we only had a short drive there and then only 3 1/2 hours to the airport the next day to drop the car and fly home.

    Kruger was great in the daytime, chilly at night (perfect for sleeping). It was cold evenings and early morning in Hluhluwe Game Preserve, but 70s otherwise. On the coast the air temps were mid70s as was the water. I don't think it would be a good destination in July, though...that is dead of winter.

    Your temps will be quite comfortable, as long as you take layers. Do include fleece and a good scarf (maybe earmuffs!)

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    uh oh - so glad you had a great time!! We were in similar locations at similar times it seems. Kruger mid May, KZN late May. We got a flat in Kruger from a nail (we thought for sure it was from potholes!!) - but we (well, he) changed the tire (shockingly a full sized spare!!), had the flat repaired (they have secret emergency car repairs at most rest camps in Kruger!!) and only "wasted" a couple of hours in Skukuza Rest Camp. We had terrible potholes in S Africa - terrible doesn't even come close to how bad at times north of Marakele NP, but very few in Swaziland. Maybe because we drove to the east through Hlane and missed the population centers of Mbabane and Manzini. I hope you had similar kindness from strangers that we had. Too bad you missed the cute place in Mlilwane. Any chance your travel insurance will cover the monetary loss?

    Rhino Post isn't in Sabi Sand. It's in a concession in Kruger National Park. The weather in July will be colder than May - cold nights/game drives and warm to hot days in Kruger. The Indian Ocean stays surprisingly warm due to the warm jet stream so wet suits aren't needed to snorkel/scuba/swim usually until August if at all. We swam in July 2014 in St Lucia (in northern KZN) - it was a bit warmer than the Atlantic Ocean in "the Hamptons" (near my public beaches, just for reference) in summer. Days can be hot, nights cool to cold in KZN in July.

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    @christabir, @uhoh_busted,

    sounds like awesome experiences in the safari! looks like I will need to revise my driving route! unfortunately I wont be heading to cape town this trip and will fully utilize the whole 15 days around joburg!

    was thinking of spending 3 days each at Kruger/ Sabi Sand. Reckond that is sufficient?

    Would it be worth skipping Blyde River Canyon and Swaziland then, and include hluhluwe (rhino ridge)?

    Revised driving route:
    Joburg (3 days)
    Kruger national park (3 days)
    Sabi sand game reserve (3 days)
    Hluhluwe (3 days)
    Another 3 days to travel back to Joburg. any suggestions where to stop at?

    got to consider that it's winter and the day is short too! wouldn't want to drive in the dark when I'm not familiar with the roads.

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