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Cape Town, Windlands, Garden Route, Beach, Makalali...advice please!

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Hello all!

I'm planning a trip to SA for me and my boyfriend in April 2012 (it'll be the first time for both of us). The trip will be at least 2 weeks long. As a somewhat of an obsessive travel planner, I've got a rough idea of what I would like our trip to look like, but am anxious for more tips and ideas.

Just a short note on our travel style: We like a little luxury, but would take a charming 3-star over a Disney-esque 5-star any day. We're both foodies and love small hotels.

So here's what I have so far:

Flight from Berlin - Cape Town, rent a car

2 nights in Cape Town at Parker Cottage or Abbey Manor, excursions to Cape Point, Table mountain etc. (don't think we need a tour guide for this stuff)

2 nights in the winelands (most likely Frankschhoek) - here we'd love a 1-day guided (or at least driven!) wine-tasting tour, preferably private or in a small group.

Garden Route - I need a little advice here. As it won't be whale season, I've read that it's not worth overnighting in Hermanus. So I guess Mossel Bay and on to Plettenberg? As much as I'd like to ride an ostrich and play with a baby cheetah (yes, I admit it), I'm deathly afraid of falling into a tourist trap. Anyone have a tip in terms of route and stops along the way?

After the Garden Route I was thinking of heading to the Elephant Coast, maybe even all the way up to Mozambique, for a couple nights on the beach (and I mean RIGHT on the beach…I miss the ocean). In this case we'd dump the rental car and fly from Port Elizabeth. After that I'd like to do to Garonga Lodge for approximately 4 nights. I'm toying with the idea of skipping the beach and doing 3-4 nights at Kruger instead.

Transfer to Johannesburg, Flight to Berlin

I know this is a lot of info…thanks to anyone that's read the whole thing! A couple more questions:
1. Can anyone recommend a good tour operator that could help me plan this? I worked with Argeus Travel while planning our Turkey trip and they did a perfect job of turning my inspiration into a real trip.
2. Do I need to be worried about driving around in the rental car? With this itinerary driving around with a car full of suitcases, etc. will be unavoidable.
3. Foodie tips welcome!

Thanks in advance for your help!

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    Hi Jeannie,

    Re your concerns about driving around in a rental car. My friend and I rented a car in Capetown, went to the winelands and then drove from Capetown to George on Route 62. We had no problems. Of course, while we were in Capetown and Winelands, our luggage was at our guesthouse and while we drove on Route 62, we made sure all luggage was hidden (nothing in the back seat).

    While in Capetown, during the day we used the car for excursions to the Waterfront, trip around the Cape peninsula, day trip to the Winelands, etc. but for evening excursions (going to dinner, etc.) the guesthouse advised us to use a taxi service they recommended instead of driving ourselves. Our guesthouse even lent us a mobile phone with the taxi service's number so we could phone to get a taxi back home.

    As you are leaving Capetown and going to the Winelands to stay for a couple nights, you should have no problem either. We ate lunch at the Delaire Winery. It has a great view; of course, we didn't see the view fully as the day we went to the Winelands, we encountered a rainstorm with major winds and fog.

    On the drive to George with stops in Hermanus and other lesser known towns on Route 62, we left our luggage in our car. You will be approached by people who will "watch" your car for a few rand. Tell them to watch your car and you will pay them when you return to the car.

    Enjoy your trip. SA is beautiful.

    Deb

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    Hi Jeannie, For the Franschhoek leg of your journey here is a listing of local wine tour options from out tourism bureau website;
    http://www.franschhoek.org.za/explore_and_play/
    Regarding Foodie Tips, current favorites with our guests are Le Bon Vivant, Cafe Bon Bon, Maison and Ryan's Kitchen.
    Deb's advice regarding car hire above is correct, you should have no problems if you keep your luggage in the boot.
    Enjoy your trip to our beautiful valley
    bernie (Co-owner, La Fontaine guesthouse, Franschhoek)

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    JeannieU2,

    Visited SA in November and I am slowly posting trip reports about it with info you might find helpful. Here are my few suggestions :)

    Avoid Europcar rental, poor customer service. I had a much better experience with Thrifty. Otherwise, car rentals and driving in SA was easy. Drove into Mozambique, a bit of a hassle but worth the experience and the R$500-750 you have to pay the rental car company for a border crossing letter.

    Get your Mozambique Visa ahead of time. A slow and almost frustrating process at the border.

    Visit Table Mountain for sure at night. Beautiful views of Capetown. Signal Hill during the day and hike Lion's Head.

    Dine at Zandberg Farm, lunch was fabulous! Zandberg produced the first SA White Merlot and is only about 20 Min from the airport.

    Stayed in Hermanus and loved it. Nice outdoor restaurants to watch the sunset.

    Do a shark dive... An unforgettable experience.

    Visit Fish Market in Maputo... Take a cab or walk to it. Best beaches in Mozambique.. 6-8hr drive up the coast.

    Stay at "Friends B&B". A nice bed and breakfast in Pretoria for about R$470 per night.

    You are going to love visiting SA :)

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    We had to cancel our trip but our son is doing most of what we had planned.

    He LOVED the Devon Valley Hotel in Stellenbosch.

    Then went to Montagu and hiked, staying at Koo Karro guest house.
    Visited Cango caves also.

    Stayed in Outsdhoorn 2 nights

    Also canoed in Sedgefield area and stayed at the Pelican Lodge.

    He found B+B's along the way with no problem.

    Now he is at Schotia/Addofor two nights after bungy jumping near Mossel Bay or Knysna.. I don't recall exactly where that was!

    He will return via Gainsbaii for the shark diving which he did last time around and enjoyed it.

    He has 12 full days and has been in the car for several hours some days but it has all been worth it.

    He took route 62 through the Karoo over to the other cities I mentioned.
    He had great food along the way. Lots of ostrich meat, which he likes.

    I'm sure you will have a fabulous trip. Hopefully we will get there ourselves soon!

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    2 nights in Cape Town is very short, I always recommend 4 nights at least.

    The Cape peninsular tour is really a full day.

    If the weather is poor & cloudy there is no point in going to Table Mountain or Signal Hill. So you need to be flexible here & with 2 days you don't have that.

    A lot of these arrangements/bookings can be done by yourself over the internet however as it's April most places will have availability unless it's the Easter holidays ? Majority of B&B's in SA are of very good quality.

    Car hire can be arranged on-line via brokers or direct, Thrifty as mentioned above or Aroundabout Cars are local firms, either collect at the airport or have them delivery to the accommodation. The arrival time could be a factor here, if at night think about getting a taxi or arrange collection. After a long flight day or night I suggest this as it helps to get your bearings & not have to adjust immediately to driving on the 'other side' & allows you to take in the sights on the way into the city. Regarding the luggage, make sure the car is one that has a boot not a hatch-back with a view through glass into the boot.

    Food tips, on the peninsular day, there is not a lot of places to stop at so would suggest Noordhoek Food Barn after Chapman's Peak should you take this route, again there is some decision to be made here, do you take the east side or the west side first, east side is probably preferable as late afternoon on the west side should see the sunset if weather permits. Lets say you take the east side first, M4 to end, turn left to Tokai, at traffic lights turn right onto Main Road, if you want scenic views across False Bay take Boyes Drive road into Kalk Bay otherwise stay on Main Road through to Muizenberg (detour to Spier ?), St James, Kalk Bay, I think the best fish in Cape Town comes from Kalkies at Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek has a great beach, in Simon's Town there is Bertha's good food & just outside of the town is the Black Marlin. Watch out for baboons & keep the car doors locked at all times as they are crafty/clever !! I always drove with the car doors locked wherever I went in SA. On return on west side there is Scarborough beach, Noordhoek beach, Hout Bay & beach & Llandudno beach, they are some of the best around CT & less tourist populated, Camps Bay is very trendy, if it's windy then they are not the best places to visit at all !!

    The winelands of Stellenbosch & Franschhoek are very popular, make sure you do not stay over a weekend as a lot of them close for ½ day on Saturday & all day on Sunday so check to see if open before you book.

    Yes I know something's are a tourist trap but I will never forget what it felt like to stroke a Cheetah & to feed an Elephant or how I laugh still at the video of my husband riding an Ostrich !!!

    The Cheetah outreach programme at Spier http://www.spier.co.za/what_to_do_at_spier/cheetah_outreach/ justifies itself & is not far out of Stellenbosch & near the N2, you could add this into your peninsular tour/day. The Elephants at Knysna http://www.knysnaelephantpark.co.za/about-us.html also again is justified in it's reasons whilst I feel Cango Wildlife Ranch is just that a tourist trap & feels like a zoo.

    You need to decide which route to take from the winelands, you can carry on inland on Route 62 or head for the N2, both have there advantages & disadvantages, R62 has no coast, lots of farm land & scenic mountains, N2 is a highway lots of straight road & not a lot of coast can be seen but if you take a right turn you can reach the coast, for unspoilt beauty.

    Inland route research places such as Robertson, Worcester, McGregor (of the beaten track), Ashton, Montague, Ladismith, Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn, George, from hereon you join the N2 to go to Mossel Bay you would have to back-track.

    N2 route starts in Cape Town but there is some fantastic coastal scenery roads, places to visit/drive through on route in the Overberg region, detour from Somerset West follow the False Bay coastline, penguin colony at Stoney Point (less tourists than Boulders Beach Simon's Town), lunch on the rocks at Hermanus or just stop for views, head to Cape Agulhas through mountains, look for Eagles in the sky, Agulhas is the southern point of Africa not Cape Point, head to Arniston, Malgas, Infanta & to Witsand where the Breede River inlet is and is great for fishing & has a lovely beach (of the beaten track). Or you could just drive the N2, only places of some interest is Swellendam, Riversdale, Albertina then Mossel Bay.

    Mossel Bay is ok, I think I was just put-off by the oil refinery close by. I have not stayed overnight here just a short day-trip. Same for Plett, I was disappointed I prefer Witsand. I also preferred Knysna it's lagoons, shipwreck history, forests, Storms River, Natures Valley, Tsitsikamma. PE is not to far & did a safari in this region then took a flight to Durban, the water is a lot warmer up there !!

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    Hi everyone!

    Happy new year and thanks for the great tips! I'm getting more and more excited about my trip and have booked our flights and the first hotel (3 nights) in Cape Town. I think I'll save Mozambique for the next trip, which will allow us to move around SA at a more leisurely pace.

    I'll definitely rent a car either with Thrifty or Aroundabout. Europcar screwed me once in Spain, so I will never use them again.

    How warm is the water in Durban in April? I defintiely need to plan at least 2 nights at the coast (the more isolated, the better) and would love to swim a bit (and not in a swimming pool...I love waves)!

    Thanks again!
    JM

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