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Help required for 14 day South Africa itinerary

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We are four of us (2 couples), all in late 50's, wanting to visit South Africa in late December/January. We should be there for 14/15 days, not counting the travel days getting there and back. Based on preliminary research and our interestss, a rough cut itinerary seems to be as below :

1. Arrive at Cape Town - spend 3/4 nights here

2. Self-drive on Garden Route - spend 3/4 nights here - include some wineries, Mossel Bay, Outdshoorn, Knysna, maybe Addo Natl Park, ending in Port Elizabeth

3. Fly to Kruger - 3 nights in a lodge at KNP

4. Transfer to Sabi Sands - 2 nights at Sabi Sands

5. Drive the Panorama route, ending in Johannesburg - 1 night on Panorama route

6. Johannesburg - 1 night and fly out

Does the above look doable ? Any changes that you would recommend from a logistics viewpoint ? Suggested places to spend the night on Garden Route and Panorama Route ? Can we rent a car somewhere near Sabi Sands to do the Panorama drive and then drop off the car in Johannesburg ?

We wish to avoid doing self-drive in Kruger; more comfortable in guided drive there.

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    Omg - I'm exhausted. I know everyone thinks they won't go back to S Africa, but it's just not that far away any more - and flights from NY to JNB are cheaper than to Europe (even if flying through Europe which makes no sense to me!!) in our summer/their winter. And where else do you get to see lions, rhinos and elephants?

    Your timing is the busiest, hottest and most expensive time to travel to SA. I prefer their winter months, though it can get cold.

    I would choose either Kruger or the GR, not both. For me, the GR would take 10 days to enjoy. There's so much to do and see and addo deserves more than a drive by. It's a great park. Same goes for greater Kruger - I can easily spend 10 days!

    For this trip, I would skip GR. Next time (unless you're anything like me and can't get enough of Kruger and keep going back)!

    Here's what I'd do. You didn't give a budget, so I went with lower cost (not cheap!) rather than high end:
    Fly to CT, spend 5 nights so you can visit wine country, Cape of Good Hope and the Penguins, Table Mtn, Robben Island, township tour, enjoy the beaches, see the city and eat great food and drink great wine. So much to do and see.
    Fly to HDS and transfer to a lodge in Timbavati or Klaserie. Gomo Gomo, Africa on Foot, nThambo and Shindzela are good affordable options. There are many others in all price ranges. Stay 3-4 nights.
    Get a transfer to Sabi Sand - I'm assuming you mean one of the lodges in SS Game Reserve. Again, there are many options in wildly different price ranges. Arathusa (my rec), Elephant Plains, Nottens, Cheetah Plains may work for you. Mala Mala or Kirkmans for higher (not top) range are good options. Stay 3-4 nights.
    Get a transfer to a nearby airport with a car rental - Skuzuza or mpq and rent a car. Drive to hotel/B&B in Hazyview for one night.
    See the PR for the day, overnight in Graskrop (sp?) or other. Next day drive to JNB, drop off car, fly home. Add a night in JNB if you would like to add Soweto tour, Cradle of Humankind and/or Apartheid Museum.

    I might opt for the PR before Timbavati and fly back to JNB at the end. I like safari last because it's the highlight! If you can add 5-7 nights, I would consider your original plan, but two weeks is too short to do it all. I didn't include staying in knp because by the time you add in the entry fee, food, drinks, a car, guided drives or walks and gas you may as well stay in one of the full service lodges I recommend in Timbavati or Klaserie. Gomo Gomo is a good value and has a waterhole at camp so they come to you during the day!

    Enjoy your planning. Start booking soon - many lodges at that time sell out very early. If you choose to use a travel agent, Wild Wings and Sun Safaris get good reviews. Don't forget medical/evac insurance. The exchange rate is the best it's ever been, so it's a great time to visit.

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    Hello indiancouple!

    Your proposed itinerary has a great blend of city, bush and self-exploring with scenic vistas. The tough part is that you really don't have enough days available to you to not only do it all but to enjoy it all. So I have a few suggestions...

    I'd recommend that you start in Cape Town. Such an amazing vibrant and colorful city rich with culture and history too! For CPT, I would add a night and stay 4-5 nights instead. I would consider one of those nights in the Wine Lands. There are many lovely boutique guest houses/hotels to stay at and an overnight will give you more time to explore Stellenbosch and Franschoek. You'll be there at harvest so the vineyards will be busy! I think between traveling to see the Vineyards, the Penguins, Cape of Good Hope, Kirstenbosch Gardens and other notable sights, you will get that feeling of exploring/self-drive for that part of South Africa.

    I would then skip the Garden Route. You really can't do the Garden Route in 3-4 days. There's some incredible things to do along the way and you'd be missing them entirely. You would be driving about 3-4 hours per day, venturing to different towns and sights, and staying in 3-4 different places. That's a lot of movement and it could end up being a blur. I would save that for your return because you will want to go back!!!

    From CPT, I would fly to Sabi Sand/Timbavati Reserves and stay 6 nights (1 more night than what you outlined). When people ask me "how many nights?", I say "4 at a minimum but 6 is better!" Six nights also gives you the benefit of possible long stay discounts at a number of lodges as well as the possibility of splitting up your stay between 2 different lodges/camps. With six nights, you could even opt for 3 of those 6 nights in a lovely luxury tented camp too just to switch things up!

    At the end of your safari, I would arrange for a rental car so that you can drive back to JNB via the Panorama Route. I would stay one night along the way. The scenic vistas are incredible. Blyde Canyon is magnificent as well as God's Window. As one of your stops, I'd consider a hot air balloon ride to take it all in! Wow!

    Once in JNB, if you opt to spend time there, you can visit Museum of Africa, Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, and/or a Soweto Tour. Then top it off at SAB World of Beer to toast your incredible journey!

    You'll have a great trip!

    Enjoy!
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA

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    Correction to the post I just made:

    I think you'd be better off flying from CPT to JNB, driving the Panorama Route out of JNB, go on safari last, then fly back to JNB. Meant to write that but didn't for some reason - correction there.

    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA

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    Thanks for the advice, christabir & Dianne. By the way Dianne, I am already in touch with Africa Direct (Tanya) to help with our bookings.

    Some things I did not clarify in my original post. I know how great an experience it would be to spend most time in CT and Kruger, but we have done a 10-day private safari in Kenya & Tanzania, covering Masai Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro & Amboselli. So we have already experienced the safari joys in all its glory. The South Africa trip is more about experiencing the other things that South Africa has to offer. Of course, while we are there, it is tough to avoid Kruger, hence we are budgeting a few days there - but would not like Kruger to form the major portion of the itinerary. Also, we are experienced travellers, who prefer a fast-paced travel rather than the leisurely pace that many others prefer - to each his own. Also, beaches,museums and vineyards etc are of much less interest to us.Natural beauty, architecture etc are bigger draws for us.

    Given our research and advice received so far, we have shifted our travel dates to November, when the weather will be better and it would be a little less crowded.Tentative plans are (and we are still looking for suggestions on overall itinerary) :

    Day 1 : Arrive at Cape Town in afternoon / evening. 4 nights in Capetown (avoiding beaches and wineries), which really means 3 full days, to cover Table Mountains, Robben Island, Cape of Good Hope, and sights in the city itself (we are not the museum types).

    Day 5 : Leave by rented car, covering maybe one winery in Stellenbosch, followed by Hermanus, and a long drive to Knysna. 2 nights in Knysna (which really means we get Day 6 and half of Day 7 in Knysna).

    Day 7 : Afternoon, leave Knysna, explore Plettenberg Bay, and reach PE by night. Night at PE.

    Day 8 : Early morning flight to JNB, with quick connection to HDS. Transfer to Sabi Sands for 2 nights (possibly Arathusa).

    Day 10 : Transfer to a lodge at KNP for 2 nights.

    Day 12 : Leave KNP on a rented car on Panorama Route, stopping one night somewhere (maybe Graskop).

    Day 13 : Drive to Johannesburg. Night at Jo'burg.

    Day 14 : Fly back home.

    Given what I have written above, I do not think that 4 nights in Capetown or 2+2 nights at Kruger or 1 night on Panorama Route would be too rushed. I do admit that 3 nights on GR is a bit short, and we would miss out on many things, but we have heard great things about Knysna, and wish to visit there.

    I repeat, with our penchant for travelling to different countries (and we have covered about 35 countries, with many more to go !), I sincerely doubt that we will ever return to South Africa, hence the "greed" to sample as much as possible. However, we remain open to ideas and suggestions, which is why we are posing our questions here.

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    Hi Indiancouple

    First let me tell you that I closely follow your trip reports. Took a lot of help from your Europe trip report while planning my Swiss tour this summer and discovered some of the best treasures of the country.

    I am also planning a South Africa tour coming April and the first search I made was your profile to see if you have been there too : )

    My good luck that you are going there too! I am sure you would have finalised your itinerary by now.

    Could you please share your final itinerary and advise me in fianlising my itinerary too...

    I am also of the same opinion of not wanting to visit a country more than once so would like to cover as much as I can in this trip. We are planning a 10 day trip. I have not undertaken a wild safari before so would like to include that too.

    We will be 2 (Indiancouples ; )) aged around 28.

    Thanks in advance and all the best for your upcoming trip.

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    Hi Shveta!

    For 10 days, I'd recommend a 3-4 night stay in Cape Town as a start. It is such an incredibly vibrant city with magnificent natural beauty. You have Table Mountain that hovers over the city and provides an incredible view of where the Indian and the Atlantic oceans converge. In Cape Town and the nearby surrounding area, there are so many different things to do and certainly something for everyone: a trip up Table Mountain, Robben Island and District Museum, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Boulder's Town and the Penguins, Cape of Good Hope, the Winelands, fabulous restaurants, shopping, great local beaches, and more! You can opt for a guided tour for many different activities which often gives a more local view of the area, its history and natural beauty.

    Depending upon your style of travel, you can stay on the Waterfront which is a more active bustling area or you can stay in a nearby neighborhood in a quaint and charming boutique hotel. There is a style of lodging and a price point to meet everyone's needs and interests!

    From Cape Town, I would then go on Safari for a 6 night stay. You can fly direct from Cape Town to a number of different airports depending upon which lodge you choose.

    From a game viewing perspective, the Sabi Sands and Timbavati Private Game Reserves, which share an unfenced border with Kruger, can't be beat. Truly the best place to see even the elusive leopards! Private reserves give you some major benefits over national parks. For example, only those staying at the lodges are traversing the area so numbers of visitors are more controlled. You can also do night drives which will expose you to the nocturnal sounds, animals and their activity. Unlike in National Parks where you are confined to stay only on the road, the jeeps in Private Reserves are allowed to drive off road to follow an animal into the bush which is not only fun but it gives you a chance to understand their behavior as they move through the thicket. Guides/rangers are typically more knowledgeable and since they communicate with other jeeps in the area, you can get to sightings more easily.

    I'd recommend that you split your stay of 6 nights as 3 nights at one lodge followed by 3 nights at another lodge to give you a feel for another lodge and area. Clients often opt to experience a different style of lodging between the two lodges - perhaps a luxury tented accommodation might be a nice change! Splitting your stay works really well and transfers to another lodges are easy.

    If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Happy to help!

    Such a wonderful trip ahead of you!

    Best
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA

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    Hi Shveta,

    Just saw your post. Thanks for the compliments about my trip reports !

    Our itinerary for South Africa has been finalized, and is as follows (we go in mid-November) :
    Day 1 : Arrive Cape Town late evening
    Day 2, 3 & 4 : Cape Town
    Day 5, 6 & 7 : Garden Route, staying at Knysna on Day 5 & 6, and taking late flight on Day 7 from George to Johannesburg
    Day 8 & 9 : Sabi Sands Game Reserve
    Day 10, 11 & 12 : Kruger National Park, staying at KNP Bunglow on Day 10 & 11, and in Graskop on Day 12
    Day 13 : On Panorama route, taking late evening flight to Johannesburg
    Day 14 : Fly back to India

    The itinerary is a bit tight, as we could not extend the duration. If we had 2 more days, I would have added another day to Cape Town and another day to Knysna.

    Will definitely post a Trip Report when we come back.

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    Thanks Dianne and Indiancouple.

    Sorry for such a late reply. With the festivities setting in, had to put the planning part on hold. Will come back with my queries shortly.

    Best regards

    Shveta

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