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Tentative Itinerary - what do you think?

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Hello!
My husband, son (13 yrs. old) and I are travelling for the first time to Africa and we would love your comments on our tentative itinerary. I have been researching many hours and I still have many doubts

We will arrive on April 30th on Johannesburg and leave on May 12th, 2017 (we will have one festive day, monday May 1st).

sunday
30: Johannesburg + Port Elizabeth - arriving to Johannesburg at 2 pm after 18 hrs. Take a flight to Port Elizabeth and sleep there - rent a car at the airport
1: Port Elizabeth + drive towards Garden Route - recover some energy at the beach (it´s the holiday, May 1st) In the afternoon begin driving towards the Garden Route. Sleep in Oyster Bay? Storms River? Plettenberg Bay?
2: Garden Route - I still need to make more research on that zone, maybe we could go to one of the reserves, Which one would be better? see question at the end of the itinerary, please. I think whale watching is also on the route to Capetown? Would it be possible to see them in May?.
3: Garden Route
4: Garden Route to Capetown. Sleep in Capetown.
5 /6: Capetown (Cape of Good Hope, Simon´s Town, Table Mountain, Houd Bay, Victoria and Albert
7: trip to the wine zone Stellenbosch (or skip it if we need more time for Johannesburg or for Capetown).
8: Kruger: early morning flight to Kruger National Park
9: Kruger (would 1 night be enough? I saw some pictures from Mpumalanga, is the nice part inside Kruger National Park or should we assign more time to knowing Mpumalanga outside Kruger?
10: Kruger /Mpumalanga + flight to Johannesburg early in the afternoon
11: Johannesburg (would 2 nights be enough in Johannesburg?)
12: morning flight to Lima

Main doubts:

Johannesburg / Capetown
Do you think it is reasonable to give Capetown 3 days and only 1.5 days to Johannesburg?

The Reserve(s)
What should I consider when deciding which reserve to go?
Where would we find more animals from different type? Is the difference the level of service? The type of animals?
Most tour companies offer Kruger National Park, and I have also seen that there are many reserves around the Garden Route and Capetown, like Addo National Park, Kynsna, Cape Agulhas, Walker Bay, Tsitsikama.
Is Kruger National Park superior?
I also read something about making sure that is malaria free - where do I find that information?
I am thinking I assigned 1 night more than I should to the Garden Route. Should I assign that night to the Kruger zone or to Johannesburg?

Would it be better to make the route the other way? Begin with Johannesburg and then Kruger National Park and the driving through the Garden Route and Capetown (or Capetown and the Garden Route), considering that our second day is holiday (May 1st).

Is it easy to drive in SouthAfrica? Would it be better to take a flight or rent a car from Kruger to Johannesburg? Would we need a car in the Kruger area?

We are probably being too optimistic with the times. Which zone do you recommend me to skip, if you think I´m right about the optimism?

THank in advance for your help!
BQ

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    Hi,

    Your trip sounds great! Yes, it is easy and convenient to drive in South Africa and a great way to enjoy your holiday. I would suggest doing some research about our specific traffic rules, things to watch out for etc. Here is some information:

    http://www.southafrica.info/travel/advice/driving.htm#.V6158YU65Yk

    https://arrivealive.co.za/Road-Safety-Advice-for-foreigners-driving-in-South-Africa

    If you drive from Johannesburg to Kruger (or fly close to Kruger and drive) you can include the beautiful Panorama Route outside Kruger as well (God's Window, Bourke's Luck Potholes, Blyde River Canyon etc). It's up to you to decide if you want to do this based on your interests, budget, time etc.

    Whether you need a car or not depends on what type of experience you are looking for:

    * You can choose to stay in a private lodge inside or outside the park. They might pick you up from where you arrive and organize game drives in their own vehicle, so you might not need a car at all. Private lodges usually have accommodation, all meals, game drives and some other services included but are much more expensive.
    * If you would like to be more flexible and do your own thing you can stay at rest camps situated inside Kruger Park. You would have to drive yourself to the camp and then either self-drive to look for animals in the park or join an organized game drive at the camp. More information: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/tourism/accommodation.php
    * You can look for other accommodation outside the park on a site such as http://www.safarinow.com or http://www.booking.com and then drive into the park everyday (just be aware that only a limited number of day visitors are allowed so maybe consider booking ahead) to look for animals or book a game drive with a private company.

    There is an excellent post on TripAdvisor that might be helpful in deciding where to stay:
    https://www.tripadvisor.co.za/ShowTopic-g293740-i9186-k7780288-How_to_do_Kruger_A_comparison_of_Private_Reserves_and_KNP-South_Africa.html

    I would suggest adding some extra time to Kruger and maybe spending less time in Johannesburg, unless you are specifically interested in seeing the city (Soweto, Apartheid Museum etc). Cape Town and surrounds are more beautiful and has a lot more interesting things to see in my opinion.

    There are thousands of articles on malaria in Kruger, I would suggest Googling and reading a few of them. The risk is generally low especially in winter.

    Some of the reserves that you mention are called "reserves" but this does not necessarily mean that they have the same kind of animals or environment, it just means that it is a protected natural area. Kruger and Addo have the Big 5 and lots of other large and small animals. The other places (and Addo) are next to the ocean and have different kinds of plants and animals (e.g. whales in season and maybe smaller animals/birds and beautiful natural scenery). I think May is a bit early for whales, but maybe you're lucky.

    Kruger generally has excellent game viewing and is a good choice, but it is a bit more touristy than e.g. Addo.

    I don't think it matters too much in which direction you drive the Garden Route. Personally I would recommend staying overnight in Knysna.

    I hope this helps! :-)

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    lidia_s77, thank you very much for the post!! Extremely helpful! Everything!

    I´m thinking about changing Port Elizabeth for George, the next city with airport and regular flights. In that way, we could have more time for Knysna and Oudthoorn -and Cango Caves- (beautiful place as I see in the pictures, thanks for the suggestions!) with less driving time.
    The disadvantage would be that we would be far from Addo and would leave it out. I think it would be Ok since Knysna and Kruger would compensate for the loss of Addo as part of our itinerary.

    We will follow your advice and give more days for Kruger Park, and I´ll read the links to choose accomodation.

    Thanks a lot!!!
    B

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    I agree, definitely give more time to Kruger, i would stay 9-11 at least. you will enjoy it so much more than JNB.
    great idea to fly to George, you will be eliminating quite a bit of driving and allow yourselves time to settle in .

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    Hello B,
    I will try and answer some of your questions and concerns below -

    Johannesburg serves very much as a transit city for holiday-makers coming to South Africa.
    In terms of things to see and do, very definitely allow more time in Cape Town, if possible more than 3 days.

    In all of the areas you mention, there are different types of game reserves, with different levels of accommodation, and with varying degrees of service.
    A recent article I wrote explains the differences in the reserves as well as the accommodation types (and also, why Kruger National Park is so famous) - https://www.southerndestinations.com/game-reserves-and-parks-of-south-africa-my-top-ten/
    This article also offers the information you are looking for on driving vs. flying to Kruger National Park.

    The reserve and lodge you choose will depend on the type of holiday experience you enjoy, what type of accommodation and service level you enjoy, what you would like to get out of your first visit to Africa, and on your budget.

    Whilst some reserves do have all of the animals (including the Big Five), they may not have a lot of them, which means your chances of seeing as much is less.
    In the reserves with fewer animals you may do a lot of driving around looking for the animals, as opposed to actually seeing them.

    Also, some game reserves/game areas are very well-known for a particular animal. For instance, if you would like to see leopard, the Sabi Sand area which is adjacent to the Kruger National Park, is famous for these big beautiful cats, and your chances of seeing them are much greater here.
    There are many game reserves and lodges within this Sabi area.
    For a bit more of an explanation, you can have a wee peep here - https://www.southerndestinations.com/34048-2/

    The Kruger National Park is mentioned often because it is an iconic game-viewing destination in South Africa. Whilst Addo is lovely (and close to the coast), it simply does not contend with Kruger National Park.
    I would possibly recommend Addo National Park to a second time visitor to Africa, but if you have limited time and would like to get the most out of your holiday, I would recommend Kruger National Park . So yes, in a lot of ways, Kruger National Park is superior.
    In terms of malaria, Kruger National Park is a malaria area. May, when you are visiting, is however a low rainfall month in Kruger National Park, which does lessen the risk.

    For most visitors, renting a car and driving in South Africa is comfortable.
    If however you would like to relax and take in the views, there are regular transfers available between Johannesburg and the Kruger Park area.
    If you would like to relax and spend less time in a car/vehicle, flying is the answer, and there are flights between Johannesburg to small airports closer to the Kruger Park area.
    If you choose to stay at a private game reserve, you will them be transferred to your lodge by vehicle from the smaller airports.
    Flying does save a lot of time, but is a bit more costly.

    Whether you require a rental car around the Kruger area will depend on what type of accommodation you choose.
    If you decide to book at a lodge in a private game reserve, you won’t require a vehicle. The lodge/game reserve provides a speciality game-viewing vehicle, as well as specialty guides, who will take you out on game-viewing drives twice daily.

    You mention the holiday on the 1st of May. Please don’t worry, just about all restaurants, shops, and visitor facilities and amenities will be open on this day.
    What I should point out however is that May is winter in South Africa, and that chances of a warm day on the beaches of southern South Africa are remote. It may very well be on the chillier side and a bit rainy.

    Whilst the Garden Route is beautiful, as a first-time visitor to Africa, if I were you, I would skip the Port Elizabeth - Garden Route portion of your trip, and spend more time in the Kruger National Park area, and/or in Cape Town and surrounds (wine farms etc).
    Besides it being your first trip, twelve days is a very short period in which to spend a fair amount of time driving from place to place along the Garden Route.

    I have tentatively and very briefly re-worked your schedule for you -
    30: On the day you arrive to Johannesburg, after 18 hours of traveling, spend one refreshing night in a hotel in Johannesburg
    1: Transfer to Kruger National Park (KNP) and stay at one of the many Game Reserves for 3 nights
    2: KNP as above
    3: KNP as above
    4: Transfer to a second Game Reserve in Kruger National Park for 2 more nights
    5: KNP as above
    6: Leave Game Reserve and fly to Cape Town (CT), stay in Cape Town hotel for 3 nights and do day trips around Cape Town
    7: CT as above
    8: CT as above
    9: Depart CT on a 2-day mini trip to Hermanus to (maybe/hopefully) see the whales and to Stellenbosch/Franschhoek
    10: Stellenbosch/Franschhoek as above (or back to Cape Town proper for last night)
    11: Depart Cape Town for Johannesburg. Overnight in Johannesburg
    12: Morning flight to Lima

    This itinerary can be nipped and tucked slightly, but is roughly what I would recommend you consider.

    I hope this helps,
    Happy Planning,
    Debbi - Travel Guru, Southern Destinations

  • Report Abuse

    We are currently in SA for our first trip, which approximately mirrors Debbi's revised itinerary. Based on our experiences so far (we are currently in Cape Town with two days to go on a wondrous 14-day trip) I agree completely with her suggestions. It certainly depends on your interest but we were really happy, after recuperating a day in Joburg, to have another day that we used for a half-day tour of Joburg/Soweto. It was one of the best experiences we have had and that's no knock on anything else done so far. After visiting parts of Joburg, our wonderful driver, a Zulu gentleman who really knows his stuff, took us to Soweto, which IMHO is a must-see. Mandela's house, and Desmond Tutu's residence (he is supposedly there now) were highlights as was the Hector Pieterson Museum. However, a special visit to one of Soweto's tiny one-room shacks (arranged during the drive by our driver as an option with no pressure whatsoever), occupied by a woman and her two children, was surely THE highlight. She received R100 from us as a gift for letting us see her ultra humble living conditions. This was followed by a visit to a nearby open "corner market" where we tasted fried chicken feet for R1 and bought oranges as gifts for some of the children who gathered 'round. We will always remember this visit as a humbling, eye-opening reminder that much of the world suffers from poverty and deprivation on a scale that is hard to imagine. Another option to consider is taking a higher end train from Joburg--or Kruger--to Cape Town (we were told the less costly lines often result in unexplained delays that lengthen the trip and frustrate the passengers). We did not do this but talking with a driver here in Cape Town who has ridden the train, I can tell that she--and many of her clients--rank the train trip as a very rewarding experience. You apparently see a rich variety of SA's beautiful and diverse landscape along the route. You can even book an entire trip with overnight stops along the way. This may or may not fit your plans or budget but you might want to at least make an informed decision before cementing your plans.I would also put in a strong word for the private reserves near Kruger (we stayed in Naledi Enkoveni for four amazing nights). We were astonished and amazed at the game-viewing experience, which included seeing every one of the "Big Five" animals up close and personal. In fact, it's downright unsettling to be so close to, say, lions who have treed a baboon. Our superb guides do this every day and kept us safe so no problems in that regard. Just don't stand up in the vehicle (unless given permission to do so) and keep quiet!

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    Hi bqycc!

    Great trip in the making and lots of great info that has been posted already! Just a few more ideas to put out there..

    I would perhaps suggest that you consider flying from Johannesburg directly onward to Cape Town and spending your first part of your trip there. After long transatlantic flights, clients tend to find that Cape Town is easier for acclimating to the time change without the demands of early wake up calls quite yet for your safari game drives. Just something that you might want to think about depending upon how well you do with jet lag and long flights...

    Also, for safari lodges, it would be great to target lodges that are family friendly and so that you can stay as a triple for your accommodations. Also, there are a number of lodges that offer children discounts which would be a nice bonus if space is available. I'd check that too. It does certainly depend upon your style of travel and budget but discounts are always great!

    I too would suggest that you save the Garden Route for another trip (trust me, you will want to go back!) so that you can fully enjoy your time on safari and in Cape Town. There are SO MANY great activities that your teen would love without having to explore that far. Traveling along the Garden Route means spending a lot of time in the car and while some spots are beautiful, there is just as much beauty to take in otherwise.

    Continue to post questions as you continue your planning. Happy to help!

    Best
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA

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    I agree with Dianne. Kill the Garden route. But plan a couple of day trips from Cape Town. Do a day trip to Franschhoek (it has a lot more charm than Stellenbosch so it is worth the extra driving). And do a day trip to see the penguins at Betty’s Bay (this also gives you a great drive along the coast). Or combine the two with a stayover in Franschhoek & do a loop. All are easy drives btw.

    Particularly with a 13 year old, the highlight of the trip will probably be Kruger. “Hunting’ for animals – either with guide in a reserve or on your own in Kruger is seriously fun. I know it was with us & we are returning next year for 2 weeks of just Kruger self-driving (and we never return anywhere). The reserve can give you close ups but the self-drive gives you the thrill of discovery so a mix of both is ideal for a first trip.

    And to reassure you re weather. We went this year over the same time frame you are considering & we had great weather. Only 2 half days of rain with warm to very warm daytime temps & cool nights.

    My report http://imcarthur.weebly.com/south-africa--namibia.html

    Ian

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    I am so glad that sherwoodforest posted about the amazing experiences that you can have in Joberg. I just do not understand why travel agents offer it up for a transit city only. Joberg is truly the heart of South Africa if you are at all interested in learning about the history of the country and experiencing the amazing livelihoods of all of the people, including the Black African population who have come to the city from all over the country. Of course, it was forced migration during apartheid, but now the chance to experience the breath of the rainbow nation should not be missed. I urge you to consider two nights so that you can tour for at least one day. Soweto is a must visiting the sights that were mentioned above and the Apartheid Museum is a must as well. Of course, this is just touching the surface. I love South Africa, I have been over 20 times! I have done every game reserve, Capetown numerous times, the garden route, the wine route, Kwa-zulunatal, etc. But I would never understand the history of this glorious nation and experience the melting pot of its citizenry if if were not for my time in Joberg. I am so happy that during my first trip all those years ago it included safari at Londolozi in Sabi Sand, Phinda Lodge in Kwa-zulunatal, Capetown, the wine route, AND Joberg. I remain grateful that my tour operator thought that this was an important stop and not just a transit city. It is why South Africa is in my blood now and I come back year after year, sometimes twice. I encourage you to keep Joberg in your itinerary. Your family will love it and it will add a dimension to your trip that no other city will. An added bonus are the great new boutique hotels and new foodie neighborhoods. The city has it all.

    Good luck and have fun!

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    Ian, loved your trip review! maybe I should also follow everyone´s advise and go at least one day to a public camp.
    The only drawback is that my husband doesn´t want to drive In Kruger , so I don´t know if we would take advantage of the "do-it-yourself" safari, since we would have to hire a safari service.
    He is joking about having a car problem and not being able to get out of the safari back to the camp / reserve / hotel in one piece, ha ha. We may be way too "city-people". Anyway, I got aroused by the possibility of the game, is there any other way to do it? Maybe hiring a persona that drives the car, but not an expert?

    Lolazahra, do you think we can do your suggestions in 1.5 days?

    Thanks again for all your great comments!

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    If you have to pay a driver, then you might as well just stay in a private reserve for the duration. But tell your husband that it is as easy & as safe as driving anywhere else in the world. Just follow the park rules.

    I have one internet forum friend (not a travel forum but he is blitzing the world & traveling excessively) who didn't read the rules when he entered the park last May (he was there the day before we got to Skukuza & we crossed paths without connecting at JNB). And he had done minimal research. He drove through a chunk of the park, jumping out of his rental car to take pictures & selfies etc. Other campers were honking at him & waving him back. He saw all of the Big 5, as well as the usual suspects. Finally a camp ranger spotted him on a bridge & escorted him back to his car with a stern warning.

    Ian

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    I wish the stories about irresponsible Kruger visitors would not be retold. Taking those pictures could have been tragic. Unfortunately when people are stupid, the animals must pay for the stupidity.

    Just to put your mind at ease, we had a flat in Kruger but as you enter the park they hand you a pamphlet with emergency numbers on it - just call them (or text) and they show up to help. Just make sure you buy the Kruger road map so you know where you are. :) That said, one night in Kruger NP doesn't make sense. I prefer three nights at private lodges and three nights (at least two) in Kruger to get the best experience possible at both. One night you barely get your bearings before it's time to go. Self driving is the only way to do it and is very easy. Just rent a car at Hoedspruit, Nelspruit or Skukuza airport, whichever is nearest your private lodge, and you're ready to go. It's similar to driving in Yellowstone. Instead of bison and bears, you see elephants and lions. :) it's so fun!

    I love Joberg too. A great way to get a quick and very good overview of the fascinating city is to do the HopOn HopOff bus with Soweto extension. It's a good tour and gives you many opportunities to HopOff at interesting sights. The Apartheid Museum is very well done and is on the HoHo route.

    Your original itinerary looks fine, but as others have suggested, skip the GR and I'd start in Cape Town. Safari is the highlight, save it for last. Do CT for however long you have. It's a very nice city, very European feeling. Then fly to the airport nearest your chosen lodge (there are three) and stay three nights in a private reserve lodge, three nights in Kruger NP or another private lodge. Fly to JNB, enjoy a day or two in Joberg before your flight out.

    If you'd like to visit KwaZulu Natal, after CT you can fly to Durban or Richards Bay. Get a road transfer to a private lodge or St Lucia (such a fun town!). There are direct flights from Durban to Nelspruit for your visit in Kruger. I love KZN - it's beautiful, warm and more authentically S African feeling.

    Lodges depend on budget. Generally the more expensive lodges add luxury, not better game viewing. Here's a map of many of the private lodges and a general area map including the airports. I don't recommend Thornybush or Kapama reserve lodges as they are fenced from Kruger and the wildlife can't roam freely.

    http://assets.sunsafaris.com/Map-of-Kruger-Camps.pdf

    Believe it or not, some of the popular lodges are already selling out for next year! S Africa has become a very popular vacation destination. Have fun planning.

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