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Rachit1983 Mar 11th, 2019 12:15 AM

Aug'19 trip to Kruger, Chobe and Catpe Town

After having been reading various posts on fodor's, travel blogs and articles for almost two weeks now, I have concluded that planning this trip to South Africa in August 2019 has been the most difficult one. Hence, am requesting expert advise from fodorites on some of my queries below. Will really appreciate your help in clearing the number f confusions that I have.

Brief background - we are a couple from New Delhi, India - went on our first safari in Masai Mara/ private conservancy in Kenya in 2017. Got hooked onto the experience, and now desperately want to do another safari trip - only this time, we are accompanied with out 3.5 year old daughter. I know that Kruger is not the best place to travel with a child, however, am just not willing to give it up and understand that there are various child friendly lodges.

I have thought of my travel dates as Jun15 - Jun30 - broadly speaking, want the whole trip to be easy going and not hectic at all.

Current itinerary looks like this
June 15 arrival in JO, spend a night or a couple of nights in JO
Jun 17 - 20 - commence safari for 3 nights and reach the lodge via self drive or flight - options being Madikwe or Sabi Sands. More inclined for Madikwe because of its proximity to Chobe, however, quite unsure.
Jun 20 - 23 - if decide on a lodge in Madikwe, head to Chobe via Gaborne Airport to Kasane Airport. Spend 3 nights at Chobe and decide on a lodge which offer a day excursion to Victoria Falls. Want to avoid staying separately at the Victoria Falls.
Jun 23 - 29 - Head to Cape Town (from Kasane Airport), spend 5-6 nights there and definitely experience Garden Route via self drive. Besides other popular things in Cape Town, again via self drive.

1. Is my itinerary making sense, in terms of locations, number of days and mode of transport?
2. Is the month of June a good option for safari, and which one amongst Madikwe or Sabi Sands provide a more rewarding experience during the winter months?
3. Is Sabi Sands a good option if I want to experience Chobe/ Victoria Falls as well? What will be the best way to travel to Kasane Airport from Sabi Sands - checked out there is a direct flight from Mpumalanga airport, however, its very expensive. On the other hand, flights from Madikwe to Kasane are quite reasonable.
4. Have checked out number of lodges in Sabi Sands, none seems to be working up in my budget - however, Gomo Gomo is a good option which fits well. Have shot a mail to number of lodges in madikwe, and basis the responses, it seems, something can be worked out. Can you please suggest some good options under US$500 per night for our family in either of the locations.
5. Will it be possible for me to drive down to Madikwe in a rental car (escape the flight) and drop off the car at the Gaborne Airport or any other place

Sorry for the number of questions, but I have spent endless hours on the internet and am still not able to finalize anything. Really look forward to the replies.


ekscrunchy Mar 22nd, 2019 10:36 AM

Rachit, are you planning this alone, without the help of a safari planner from South Africa?
If this is so, more power to you, but you are doing a lot of unnecessary work. Using a planner/agent will not cost you any more and might take away some of the stress.

Sabi Sands is the pinnacle of game watching in South Africa but lodges can be expensive.
If I were you, I would contact a local agent and provide your parameters to that person. Sometimes they can have access to "deals" you and I would not have. Even if not, at least they can work out the logistics. I've made a trip to Kenya and 3 to SA, all for game watching.
Each of these were planned by an agent in SA or, in the case of Kenya, by a local Kenyan firm.

I do not know Madikwe, but lots of people on this forum have experience there and it seems to be a top spot.

I will give you the namem of my agent, if you wish, or perhaps someone else here can chime in. Take a look at some of the other threads on this forum for names of people who might assist you, or perhaps others will chime in here...

June should offer top-notch game viewing, and also top-tier rates.

Rachit1983 Mar 23rd, 2019 02:17 AM

Hi Ekscrunchy, thank you so much for your reply. You are right, using a planner agent is the best way to go about planning and I also tried speaking to a few. However, the quotes offered were way off my budget. So, with endless phone calls to lodges, hotels and research on internet, I have been finally able to plan and book the trip. To make it easier and limit my budget, I decided to let go off Chobe and Victoria Falls for some other time. Here is my current tentative itinerary:

Reach Johannesburg late in the evening, pick up the hire car from the airport and spend the night in a nearby hotel to the OR Tombo Airport. Next morning leave for 3 nights safari in Balula reserve in a private lodge and there after spend three nights in Kruger National Park on a self drive safari, staying at three different rest kamps (Skukza, Berg-en-dal and Shwiwamani). There after, leave for Cape Town and reach late in the evening and spend 4 nights there followed by 4 nights enroute the garden route (staying for one night in Vineyard, 1 night in Gansbaai and 2 nights in Knysna). Next day take the early morning return flight from George airport to Johannesburg and spend the day there. Finally leave for India the next day morning.

How does my itinerary sound to you, anything that you would suggest me to alter. Also, please help me with a few of your most favorites things to do while in SA.

Once agin, thank you for your reply.


ekscrunchy Mar 23rd, 2019 03:38 AM

Rachit I wish I could help further but I have been only to CapeTown (two visits of about one week each) and the Sabi Sands, and Johannesburg. About the latter: Please get some local advice on the issue of picking up the car and driving late at night to your hotel. This is passing on only what I have read, but it appears that it might be a little dangerous to be driving in unfamiliar areas late at night near the city. I did spend a few days in Johannesburg and did drive (with driver, however) to the CBD and other areas, but this again, was with a local driver and in daytime. The driver was full of cautionary tales and did not want me to get out of the car in the CBD. (I did and he was quite nervous about that). So make sure you have your hotel fixed and have the route planned and get local advice on that, I might be worried, for example, about stopping at red lights. Maybe what I write is nonsense, but please check it out.

What I liked in CapeTown?. Everything! The Gold Museum does not get a lot of mention here but that was good, as well as District Six Museum. And certainly the drive to Cape Point with stop for penguins at Boulders Beach. Also "Chappie's Peak Drive" And for sure, Botanical Gardens and maybe visit to the area of Constantia for scenery.

Gardyloo Mar 23rd, 2019 05:51 AM

I'm a bit confused by your post. You ask about August but then have a June itinerary. Can I assume that you've decided on June instead of August? In your second post it sounds like Madikwe and Chobe have been dropped; is that right?

I've stayed twice in the Balule reserve and I think you'll enjoy it. What property are you considering?

Let me make some suggestions for you to consider, along with an alternative schedule.

On arrival at Joburg, spend a night in an airport hotel in order to get your body clocks adjusted. The next morning, get a car and drive to Graskop, a pretty town along the Panorama Route. The next day, drive along the Panorama Route (stunning mountain and canyon scenery) then to your lodging in Balule. Time your arrival at the lodge for early afternoon so that you'll be settled in time for the evening game drive.

Home - Graskop Hotel

When your stay in Balule is over, rather than spending time in Kruger NP, drive to either Hoedspruit airport (HDS) or Kruger-Mpumalanga Airport (MQP) and drop the vehicle. One-way rentals within South Africa are relatively easy and won't add hugely to the cost of the car. Then fly (probably via JNB) to Port Elizabeth (PLZ) and get another car.

Drive to nearby Addo Elephant National Park and spend a couple of days (i.e. the ones you would have spent in Kruger) exploring Addo. This is also a self-drive park, with a very wide range of animals, including, of course, a LOT of elephants. The landscape and ecology are quite different from the Kruger area, and I'll wager you'll enjoy yourselves immensely.

Then drive the length of the Garden Route to Cape Town. Visit Jeffrey's Bay (big surfing scene) and consider adding Hermanus and a swing through the Cape Winelands before ending in Cape Town. Then return home from Cape Town (via JNB or whatever.)

Here are two maps illustrating this. Google the places on the maps if you're not familiar.

JNB - Panorama - Kruger:
Addo - Garden - Cape Town:

mlgb Mar 23rd, 2019 09:29 AM

I hope you ignore the advice above to skip Kruger. And where is Shiwamani? I'd try to stay at least a night or two farther north than Berg-en-dal and Skukuza (both are huge camps). Perhaps Olifants which is not quite as busy as the other two and has good access to the Satara grasslands and an amazing setting at the top of a hill.

In JNB we spent our arrival night at Sunrock Guesthouse in Kempton Park. They include an airport shuttle and breakfast in the reasonable price. So you can wait til the following morning to pick up the car. I wouldn't spend any time sightseeing in JNB if you are short on time.

Cape Town of course don't miss the penguins. You can get quite close to them at Seaforth Beach which has no admission charge. You will even see them in the afternoon wandering up into town to shelter for the night. If you've bought the WILD CARD then Boulders Beach will be included as will Cape Point. Bo Kaap is fun for about an hour although swarming with Instagrammers.

Air BnB might be a good way to go if you want to include two nights in the Simon's Town Area (which I'd recommend).

ekscrunchy Mar 23rd, 2019 10:48 AM

Agree about exploring the possibility of staying in SimonsTown for part of the CapeTown
portion. That would allow you to see the penguins and do the scenic drives and might be a cost savings over CapeTown.

I know that many people take a cruise to see the seals out of Hout's Bay. I found the water to be too rough for my liking (in late September, however). Not sure if that is the usual or if that is true at other times. But although you do get close to the seals, I am not sure if that would be the best use of your limited time. Be aware that there is a good chance of spotting whales along the coast; we saw quite a few close to the shore on our visits.

There is a fast-food-type restaurant in South Africa that you may be familiar with in India (not sure about that). In any case, I think that Nando's chicken is quite good and they do spicy levels that I liked. And there are also good Indian restaurants in the city, as you probably already know. If you have some names, I'd like to learn, for I will return in September!

mlgb Mar 23rd, 2019 01:15 PM

In Central Cape Town there is always the inexpensive Eastern Food Bazaar. Don't skip the ice cream!

Eastern Food Bazaar | Cape Town's favourite Eastern Cuisine

Although maybe you don't want Indian Food. The food was generally excellent everywhere.

Actually my favorite meal was was my last night's dinner at SunRock in JNB. However the dinner service window is short, you have to be there by about 7-7:30 pm at night. Excellent traditional home-style food. It reminded me a bit of British Caribbean food I ate growing up. Which, thinking of the history of both places, wasn't surprising.

Rachit1983 Mar 24th, 2019 04:21 AM

Hi Ekscrunchy, thank you so much for your revert. So for Johannesburg, I am reaching late in the evening and have booked a self hire car to be picked from the airport. To keep it easy, have booked Protea Hotel which is very close to the airport (basically just to spend the night), I believe right at the airport. But I will take your point with me and be very cautious, especially because I am travelling with my family. Next day morning, we leave JO for Kruger.

Agree, Gold Museum hasn't found much of a mention, and I will surely try to visit it during my stay in CPT. My current itinerary for CPT is - reach late in the afternoon and keep it easy that day (staying in the centre of CPT). Next two days, we'll spend time within CPT and will cover the places logistically feasible - surely cover Robben Island Museum, Table Mountain and Cape Peninsula/ Point. On fourth, fifth, and sixth day, we are staying at Simon's Beach, Stollenbosch (Vrede-en-lust) and Gansbaai respectively. Lastly, we are staying for the last two nights in Knysna.

Rachit1983 Mar 24th, 2019 04:33 AM

Hi Gardyloo, thanks a ton for your revert. Apologies for the error, but basically I entered the wrong month in the heading, which I could not change later. You are right, after having spent numerous hours on research and budgeting expenses, I decided to let go off Chobe/ Victoria in this trip - will plan that separately in future. I was able to get a good deal from Mohlabetsi lodge, so booked a 3 night stay with them. Graskop/ Panaroma Route seems like great option, but I won't be able to stay in Graskop for a night as the bookings have already been made in balule and KNP. But I will surely have lunch at Graskop and experience the Panaroma route, and reach Balule just in time for the evening game drive.

Actually I spoke to a couple of lodges in Addo National Park and it seemed like a good experience, however, I got enticed with the thought of self driving in KNP and exploring the wildlife, I actually didn't know initially that I can do that. And I understand that it will not be an issue with my daughter as well.

I am staying for 1 night each in one of Vineyard estate and Hermanus, so will be covering that and will surely add Jeffrey's bay to my itinerary.

Rachit1983 Mar 24th, 2019 04:48 AM

Hi mlgs, am sure you have had great experiences in KNP, and I am definitely not ignoring it. I was late into booking the camps in KNP, and hence, could not get a booking in Shiwamani (will check for Olifants today itself, and if I can change). As we are novice, can you please help us with some self-drive tips in KNP, especially how best to go about spotting the wildlife.
We are covering the entire garden route and staying for 1 night at Simon's, so will surely add Seaforth beach to the plan. Thank you for your suggestions. Would you recommend buying a Wild Card?

Rachit1983 Mar 24th, 2019 04:52 AM

When in Rome, do as the Romans. So we really forward to trying some new cuisines and Non-Indian restaurants. Will surely keep you posted on our good finds.

mlgb Mar 24th, 2019 11:12 AM

Wild can decide if it's worthwhile by looking on the SANParks website for the different park conservation fees, which are daily fees, vs the cost of the International Wild Card (All Parks). It depends on how many days and which parks. There is a discount for a family pass. We were in Kruger for 10 days, so definitely worthwhile for us.

My #1 Tip is to buy one of the illustrated Kruger Park Maps (by Tinkers) that are sold in the park stores. It will be fun for your non-drivers to tick off the different species and there is a lot of info, not just detailed maps showing lookouts, ponds, etc and side roads along the rivers, which you'll want to visit.

I see a Bush Camp called Shimuwini mentioned In the Kruger Map, Is that what you had tried for? I imagine availability is limited with such short advance. There are also some camps north of Olifants near the Phalaborwa gate, eg Letaba and Mopani. I guess you just have to take what you can get. If you can't get into Olifants, I'd try for Satara. But I guess at this late date, you have to take what's available.

The most popular route for short trips is Skukuza to Berg-en-dal, Crocodile Bridge, Lower Sabie and back to Skukuza. I would at least drive part way up toward Satara as a day trip for grasslands. There are a number of websites that give advice for self-drive routes, such as this one. I'd encourage you to poke around on them once you've got reservations. One of the best reasons to spend more nights in Kruger is to get farther north into the grasslands.

Kruger Park | About the Grasslands, Central Grasslands

There are sightings Boards at the various camps and rest stops such as Tshokwane. I went during the season when wildlife is spread around the park and we had the advantage of radio contact with the other teams to alert us about felines. When we stopped we often had to wave off the self drive people (it's just birds) but many self drivers seem to pull over when ever there is a safari vehicle stopped.

It's generally recommended to hit the gates as early as you can, also. Especially for the big camps or if we were moving camps that day, we lined up early before the gates opened, to try to get out before the mass exodus.

I'm sure you'll have lots of great meals in CPT. There aren't any great restaurants in Seaforth or Boulder's Beach but my Airbnb host suggested that Boulder's Beach Restaurant is acceptable. Simon's Town is about a 20 or so minute walk from Seaforth. Or you can drive and park in Jubilee Square. There is a famous greasy fish n chips place at the Simon's Town Pier, Salty Sea Dog. Others that she recommended were Cafe Pescado, Lighthouse Cafe, and Saveur. The latter probably needs a reservation. I stuck with the greasy fish n chips and some snacks from Seven Penguins Convenience Store on the Main Road at the top of Seaforth. Tasty Table on the Main Road is also good.

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