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South Africa- Capetown/Safari Planning Help Please

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Hello,
I am traveling to S. Africa (or planning to) during Thanksgiving with my significant other for our anniversary. We are 31 and 34 and looking for a fun, romantic getaway to explore S Africa in the best manner possible!!

I am having difficulty understanding what would be the best itinerary and currently exploring a few different travel companies:

1) I would greatly appreciate if anyone has feedback on Lion World Travel and/or the Twelve Apostles Hotel and/or Lion Sands Safari in Kruger
-Was Lion World Travel a good company? Any issues? Any issues with South African Airways?
-Was Twelve Apostles too far from Capetown? Is staying downtown in the hustle and bustle more favortable?
-Is Lion Sands one of the nicer Safaris? Any other recommendations?

2) What is the best itinerary for someone coming to S Africa for their first time and potentially only time?
- 5 nights in Capetown, 3 nights in Safari (Is 5 nights too long? or 3 nights in Safari too short?)
- 4 nights in Capetown, 1 night winelands, 4 nights Safari

Are the winelands worth going to or similiar to Napa, etc?

3) What are the best day activities in Capetown?
- Helicopter tour, penguins, Robben Island, winelands, etc.

4) Any other help would be GREATLY appreciated. I am extremely confused and frustrated right now trying to pick and plan the best trip and would really love additional help in planning this trip;)

Thank you so much in advance for your help!!

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    i had looked at lion world safaris and, for us, their 'canned' trips didn't fit our time frame. you might want to read our recent trip report... i won't go into how much we loved our travel company again. but i would recommend using someone who can arrange a trip just for you and your s.o. rather than a group.

    the more nights you can spend, the better. we did 5 nights in capetown, and are older (and likely less energetic) than you... and felt we could have done it all in 4 nights. (especially with a driver, who will help you make the most of your day.)

    winelands were very much like napa/sonoma (where we live) and i would say skip it. we only did the winelands because we had scheduled one more day WITHIN cape town with a guide, and decided we simply liked driving around with him better. it was enjoyable, but not magical for us. (maybe we are jaded because we live here.)

    if you can possibly do both a kruger/national park AND a private reserve, do it. they are so different, and we were glad we did both... but for sure the national park first, it will feel like a let-down after a private reserve.

    i know... choosing WHAT we wanted to do and WHERE we wanted to do it, was the hardest part.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi ALeighton!

    A trip to Cape Town and the African bush is the perfect romantic trip!!!

    First of all, where you stay and how long you stay are largely influenced by your budget so I will do my best to offer ideas/suggestions without fully knowing that info.

    My recommendation to you is that you do 4 nights in Cape Town.

    After your arrival and first night of lodging, you would then have 3 full days to plan activities.

    The standard attractions:

    Full day drive to the Penguins/Boulder Town and the Cape of Good Hope. You can do this with a guide or own your own in a rental car.

    Another day, you could plan a drive to the Wine Lands region. It is only one hour away and you can visit quite a bit with an early start and ending with a lovely dinner there at one of the incredible restaurants. Unless you felt that you wanted to spend more time there exploring food and wine, I recommend one full day is good. In Oct/Nov, you will have cool nice days as it's early summer. Harvest is Jan - March.

    Another day you could visit Robben Island and a trip up to the top of Table Mountain. These are half day attractions so they could be combined to make for a full day. You may need some flexibility in your itinerary should the gondola be closed due to weather/visibility and you have to go on another day.

    Your final day could be largely a "free day" to include other things that meet your personal interests whether that's historical, cultural, shopping, culinary etc. For example, there's District 6 Museum, a Township Tour, a tour of the different neighborhoods around Cape Town, sharkcage diving etc etc etc.

    The list goes on and on as there are actually so many things you can do in Cape Town depending upon your interests but 4 nights seems to be a popular timeframe.

    As for lodging in Cape Town area, it depends so much on whether you like to be "in the thick of things" or whether you want to be in more of a boutique hotel in a neighborhood. In addition to location, do you like large hotels or small hotels? And then there's a classic and traditionally styled hotel vs a more contemporary looking one. Trust me, there's a "right fit" hotel for every visitor!!! Camps Bay is lovely as it's on the beach and slightly removed from Cape Town. You have Table Mountain and Lions Head for your view as well as some shops and restaurants but it will mean taking cabs or the bus to Cape Town central.

    From Cape Town, I would suggest that you spend your safari in Sabi Sabi at a romantic lodge. There are many to pick from. You mentioned Lion Sands which is lovely. They also have the treehouses that you can sleep on as an optional one night special treat. Check out Chalkley's, Kingston and Tinyeleti Treehouses at Lion Sands. Other special romantic lodges to consider would be Londolozi (recently named by Conde Nast Traveler as Best Far Flung Honeymoon Destination), Sabi Sabi Lodge, and Dulini. But to be honest, romance comes from within so you can find it anywhere! The lodges are very service-oriented and if you make sure they are aware that you want the experience to be special, they will do so!

    If your budget allows, you could upgrade to a private jeep which really takes the experience to a whole new level. With a private jeep, you really can call the shots as to how long you are out on your game drives, what you want to spend your time watching/doing and when you want to come back to the lodge, etc etc. It does make for a very private and personalized journey.

    As far as how long to spend in the bush, I recommend at least 4 nights. I think six nights is really great if you can stretch to that. If that's a possibility, I recommend to my clients to consider splitting that between 2 lodges. It's a great way to "switch things up" with a new lodge/style of lodge, staff, food etc. You could even do 3 nights at one lodge and 3 nights at a luxury tented lodge.

    Sounds like a great trip! Happy to help!

    Best
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA

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    We did a rhino conservation project last year for a romantic 25th anniversary celebration. It was our best day ever. Dianne is right - it comes from within.

    You didn't give us a budget - there are many options, but the prices can be in any range. For Cape Town and the Kruger region, a tour company is not required. Any good safari agent can arrange a flawless, stress free trip for you. kawh used Wild Wings (sorry if you don't want to share that) for a local SA option. I used Classic Africa in the US.

    Can you add a few days to your plan? Just over a week is a short time for such a long flight. I laugh every time I see "first and only" to SA - we all thought that, but SA gets into your heart in a way no other country does. You'll be planning your return before you land at your home airport.

    I would do 3-4 nights in CT., 4-6 nights (1-2 lodges, minimum 3 nights each) on safari. It's a great city, but a city. Where else can you see lions and elephants?

    Depending on your budget, you can go to Arathusa, Africa on Foot (and sister camps), Nottens, Cheetah Plains, Simbavati, Gomo Gomo for affordable options. Kirkmans Kamp, Lion Sands, Mala Mala and many others for higher end options. You will love them all, you just need to see which one feels right for you - their websites are excellent. Sabi Sand and Timbavati are the two reserves that most of us go to. You don't need to spend a fortune to get a great experience, but the higher end lodges have incredible service.

    There are too many lodges for me to recommend, so mix and match any that interest you. I would do the following, with the additional couple of nights:

    CT - 3 nights. Robben Island, Table Mtn, Cape of Good Hope/Penguins. Winelands not necessary - everyone is very proud of SA wine and serve it everywhere. We used the hop-on/hop-off bus which allowed us to see a lot and get out when something interested us. For a short stay, a hotel near the V&A Waterfront might work, or you can stay outside the city near the ocean, like Camps Bay, if you prefer.

    Fly to HDS Hoedspruit and transfer to lodge in Timbavati for three nights. Ngala Tented or Kings for high end, Africa on Foot or Gomo Gomo for more affordable.

    Transfer to lodge in Sabi Sand for 3 nights - Mala Mala or Kirkmans for high end, Arathusa or Cheetah Plains for affordable.

    Transfer to closet airport or private air strip. Fly JNB. Easy, no group tour required.

    Kirkmans and Ngala Tented are owned by &Beyond and you can get a long stay discount of stay 4/pay 3 - and ask about discounts in CT, too. It doesn't really matter the order between Timbavati and Sabi Sand, but stay in the nicest lodge last. I also prefer CT first because I like to do the best last - and safari is the best!

    I totally understand your frustration, but don't let it deter you. SA is fantastic and even the worst trip will be great. There are SO many options and everyone seems to recommend the highest priced lodges available. Check out sabisand.co.za for all of the lodges available in Sabi Sand - and the huge price differences!

    Have fun planning. And congratulations.

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