Capetown, Garden Route & Safari


Jun 7th, 2015, 01:38 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 3
Capetown, Garden Route & Safari

Can we make most of the arrangement after arriving or do it from USA?
We are a family of 4 (2 teenagers), not too adventurous but definitely enjoy the wilderness and wildlife. We are arriving from USA to Capetown around 9:00 PM on June 16th and depart on the morning of June 25th for flight back. Please help us with the guidance on if we will be able to make the most of the trip and not get caught up in tourist traps.

This is literally a last minute trip with no real preparations yet. My plans are to get a car for the trip, spend a couple of days in Capetown exploring the area and then take a drive on the garden route. Would it be possible/advisable to drive to Port Elizabeth and return in 8 days without taking a flight back from Port Elizabeth? We would like to go for a safari as well in this trip and would like to get some recommendations as where we should break our journey to go on a safari.

Alternatively, we can spend 3 days in Capetown, leave on garden route and find a local safari operator to take us and return back to from Port Elizabeth by car.

Thank you so much for any assistance we can get.
machupichutraveller is offline  
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Jun 7th, 2015, 08:45 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Why three posts?

We just had another thread about a short trip. I will give you the same advice:

Three - four nights Cape Town
Fly to Kruger area airport
Three - four nights private game reserve around Kruger
Fly CT, fly home

I don't know what a tourist trap is - places that are great are popular.
In CT - Don't miss Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain, Robben Island. I would stay near the V&A Waterfront or the beach, like Camps Bay.

Check out for good options - you will have a bit of cost shock, but Sabi Sand is the premier safari location. Email any/all that interest you. Also email Mala Mala for availability. When you find a place with availability ask them to help with transportation options from CT and back. There are many options but if you stay in the most southern part (the person on the other thread I mentioned chose Kirkmans Kamp, which is an excellent option) you can fly in/out of Skukuza which is very convenient. You could also take a shot at and see if there's anything available at much lower rates with your last minute trip! For you, it's all about availability at this late date.

Personally, I love S Africa in June, as wildlife viewing is excellent. It does make it tough to do your original plan as the days are the shortest of the year, giving you much less time to do everything you proposed. Driving to/from PE can be done but that's about all you'll do - drive. There is not enough time to squeeze in safari, but if you choose to you will have the same availability problem. But if you decide on the Garden Route, you can leave the rental car in PE for no additional cost and fly back to CT. I would not wait until I got to CT to make plans. With such a short time in country, you can't really take the chance and possibly lose a day or two waiting for arrangements.

No matter what you choose, you'll love it. Have fun! You'll have just enough time to decide that you have to go back.
christabir is offline  
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Jun 8th, 2015, 04:48 AM
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Hi there machupichutraveller!

I agree with Christabir's thoughts.

You really should consider a few days in CT and then fly onward to safari. I think you need 3-4 nights minimum for safari and you should definitely plan this now and not wait until you get there.

Sabi Sand does have the best game viewing and it's a great time to go. You can fly into one the local reserve airports and lodges can provide assistance with transfers as needed. But availability is key at this point and you will have to take what you can get. I'd start with ones that meet your budget and go from there.

In Cape Town, you can stay either in the V&A Waterfront at one of the many larger hotels or in the Kloof street area. Smaller hotels, trendy, eclectic restaurants, etc. Just another option.. 3-4 nights is a good amount of time in CT. You could certainly spend more time but that's a fairly typical amount.

If you absolutely wanted to stick with your original plan, you could spend 6/17, 18, 19 as your days touring CT and its surrounds. Then I'd leave CT early AM on 6/20 and drive to Mossel Bay (about 4 hours) and I'd stay one night there. Our clients like African Oceans Manor on the Beach. Lovely place to stay! Then on 6/21, I'd get going in the early AM and drive to Kwande or Shamwari Private Game Reserves (about 5- 6 hours). I'd do 3 nights on safari. On the 24th, I'd drive to Port Elizabeth (just over an hour) and fly back to CT from there, leaving your rental car in PE. You can fly Mango for R669 one way from PE to CT...

It's do-able but it's a lot of time in a car even if you drive one way and fly one way! You do miss some other lovely spots to stop and stay along the Garden Route. And, honestly, if you're now flying to get the safari in, you might as well fly to the Sabi Sand/Kruger area instead!

You will have a great family trip no matter what you do but I would really give some thought to how you want to spend your time for the days you are there. Africa is an incredible place and that's why people keep returning because there is so much to see and take in.

Happy to help with questions!

Africa Direct USA
diannelovestravel is offline  
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Jun 11th, 2015, 08:13 AM
Join Date: May 2015
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Hi there Machupichutraveller,

Close to a month ago, I was in the situation somewhat close to yours rushing and trying to plan our first trip to SA without knowledge of any specifics.
I'm being a hard working (reading), fast learning traveler doing now my planning alright . The difference was thought, I had 2 months ahead of my set-to-travel dates, your planning time is even shorter.
I don't know much about the Garden route, I'm sure it is a wonderful stretch to go through, I'm thinking of it as Pacific Hwy #1 in California..., but I'm positive that everyone would agree that leaving out safari when you're that close to Kruger National Park is pity. Plus, you have children, I think the safari will be amazing and out of this worlds experience for them.

The lodges that were recommended to you here are among the best or even are The best, so they're priced accordingly high. Below are prices from the quotes that I got. I was inquiring quotes by emails and it was taking 24hr at least, for some it took 3-4 days and they came actually after I already booked the lodge for us.
I have learned that you don't have to inquire only by email, you can
1. go to Direct Lodge site. Please note, many websites will carry the name of the lodge you googled and offer to book through them, but choose the Direct Lodge's site.
2. You Also can look at availability on Expedia and - yes, they sell lodges as well + you will see the prices in USD without need to convert from ZAR.
I booked our lodge on

So here are the prices FOR TWO PEOPLE Per Night for mid of July 2015 in UDS- ready?
(PLEASE note - the email quotes will come priced Per Person PER Night).

Kirkman Camp quote from an agency #1 - $1.575

Kirkman Camp quote from an agency #2 - $1.050

Ngala Tented Camp - $1.312

Kings Camp - $1.084

Out Post - $811

Simbavati Hilltop Lodge quote from a agency #1 - $875

Simbavati Hilltop Lodge quote from a agency #2 - $750

Pondoro - $751

Lukimbi - $716

Imbali - $682

Kapama - $668

Idube - $628

Elephant Plains - $576

Rhino Post - $547

Hoyo Hoyo - $523

You have family of 4, so it will add up.
Those are the Private, Fancy Lodges that have included in the price - Accommodation, Two Safari Games per day, 3+ meals, some even alcoholic drinks. Please note, that some lodges are not accepting children up to certain age.

Now, you also have much less expensive option staying in the Kruger park at the Camps that ran by the government.
Example, Satara Camp’s bungalow is around $170 per night (not per person per night).
So, you are the Planner ofcourse, but I would do what I'm planning to do on our trip.
Spend your "allowed"/desirable amount of nights in Cape Town.
Fly Cape Town to Hoedspruit (Airport code HDS). Direct Flight # 1241 - USD$280.
Rent a car there (everyone say it is easy). Drive 68 km to the Kruger Park’s Orpen gate, enter the park (entrances fee), then drive 48 more km to the Satara Camp. You're not going to be the only car there, don't worry, look at the traveler's pictures.
Satara is a big camp with bungalows and a restaurant. And then you can either stay your entire stay there and do safari with the park rangers (not a huge additional fee) or even drive yourself (everyone says it’s no big deal, easy). But for the first timers to get more out of safari, it is recommended to take it with a guide.
I was very worried that I'm running out of accommodations, but as you can see there was availability, I would think there is still some for you.
I booked lodge called Elephant Plains - it is rated very well as the best value, almost on a “fancy" side accommodation in a very popular area .

So here what we will do:
Starting in Cape Town - 15 to 21.
Staying in Elephant Plains Lodge (Sabi Sand reserve) 22-25.
Arriving to HDS on 21st at 12.50 pm, a day before 22nd, so we can get on time for checking-in in our lodge. Rent a car at HDS.
21 to 22 at some rest camp in KNP (satara or orpen). Satara has 5 bungalows available for our night.
Overnight at the camp, dinner at the restaurant.
Next morning 22nd we leave very early, exit through the Gowrie gate to head to Elephant Plains?
22 to 25 Elephants plains (Yes!)
We have two more spare nights I'm working on.
so 25 to 26 to 27.
We won't be going back to Cape Town, but driving to Johannesburg (JNB) with an overnight stop.
Our plane home is from JNB on the evening of 27th.
You can try to see Lodges availability by entering "Kruger park" into the search field on Expedia or

And/Or look up Real Time availability for the government ran camps at

I hope this helps!
Good Luck, let us know how it'll go.

Olia_ok is offline  
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Jun 11th, 2015, 08:27 AM
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 30
I lost my thought there

"And then you can either stay your entire stay there and do safari with the park rangers (not a huge additional fee) or even drive yourself (everyone says it’s no big deal, easy). But for the first timers to get more out of safari, it is recommended to take it with a guide."
I meant to add
or combine a less expensive camp and a "fancy lodge", so at the end you will have the experience of both and will see different parts of the park.
Olia_ok is offline  
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Jun 11th, 2015, 03:07 PM
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The OP has not responded, so I don't think they will return to see this. Unfortunately, no one gives a budget when they post here.

From someone who has actually been to Kruger, it doesn't make sense for such a short trip, first time to South Africa, to self cater at a national park for a couple of nights. The wildlife is most active at sunrise and sunset, so you have to deal with the logistics of food (buy a cooler, food and drinks?) without the restaurants being open in the morning if you want to see animals being active. You have to be inside the camp gates before sundown and the gates in the morning open just as the sun is rising. Do you have any idea how to identify the animals you see and unless they cross the road, you won't see them. Sure, you can add the SANParks game drives (they are not even close to the quality of those at the private reserves!), but then you may as well pay the premium to be taken care of at a full service lodge. There is a ton of value having a trained, professional ranger, who also has a radio to hear about other rangers' sightings, take you on game drives. They can go off road because it's private property. They can go out before the sun rises and after the sun sets. breakfast snacks and coffee before, during and after your am game drive. Brunch, lunch, dinner, cold drinks, bug spray provided. Yes, I love Kruger NP, but I think on a first trip, and the 44th trip, having professionals guide you, teach you and take care of you is priceless.

The high end lodges have other valuable aspects, too. They have a maximum of 6 people per vehicle which makes wildlife viewing better and more comfortable. The accomodations are gorgeous. Drinks and laundry are included. The quality of food and wine are top notch. Some have private plunge pools. For many people, these are very important.

I travel cheap. I want to go to Southern Africa as often as I can, so the luxury lodges are not where I go. Our last trip was almost three weeks, almost all on safari and we spent less than $5000 total, including car, gas, tips, food, everything. But most of the above posted lodges are not where I would choose. We also visit parks outside the Kruger area - South Africa is big and diverse. But in the private reserves around Kruger, here are a few. Gomo Gomo is good with kids and they have a waterhole in camp. Shindzela is a very nice, casual lodge, the three Africa on Foot camps are outstanding, nDzuti doesn't get enough attention in the U.S. forums. Arathusa, which has a waterhole, and Cheetah Plains are in Sabi Sand and somewhat more affordable. None of these are "fancy", but very comfortable with good rangers. There are many, but it's hard to find them because they don't have the resources to market to the U.S. and the safari agents. Pixelpower, one of the posters here, made a fantastic list a couple of years ago - you can probably search for it.

If a budget is not given, most of us will suggest the higher end lodges. And most people expect us to. If budget is important, they usually say that up front.
christabir is offline  
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Jun 11th, 2015, 08:15 PM
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 30
Hi Cristabir,

Thank you for the great points. Well, I was looking hard for the lodge, I wish I could read the above earlier.

Where would you suggest for us to stop for a night following our check out from EP? We are checking out on 25, flying home 27 evening. We can do another night in the park.

Also, can you please tell me, beside the gates to the park, are there gates to the camps inside the park? so if you're late for the camp's gate..., you do what..?
Thank you.
Olia_ok is offline  
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Jun 11th, 2015, 09:22 PM
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I would contact EP directly and ask if they have availability on more convenient nights to fit your schedule. If so, move it up or back so you have three nights for two camps. You can change SANParks camps at no charge if you do modify - don't cancel and add (I've made that mistake!). If your plan stays the way it is, get directions from EP from Satara - you may have a very long drive to get into Sabi Sand reserve, which you will have to pay to enter as well because you're driving. Try one of the Africa on Foot camps - they have an excellent reputation for having great rangers and they do real walking safaris as well as game drives. Shindzela is good, too, but has a small traversing area. Try every place I mentioned. If you can change it around somehow, just cancel the Satara reservation. As you said, it wasn't expensive. Just chalk it up to a learning experience. But you set yourself up for a lot of moving around if you can't change the EP rez. If you fly back to JNB you can stay near Kruger until the day you fly home, so you can do two nights.

Driving to camps in private reserves requires a high clearance. I hope you rented an SUV. It's also better to have a higher vehicle to see wildlife better in Kruger.

Yes, gates at each camp, too. Don't be late, they'll lock you out to sleep with the lions. No - you'd better have a cell phone to call to open the gate. They charge a fee that is not posted anywhere. Be nice - they could charge as much as they want! And you could get tickets for driving when you are not allowed. Don't be late. And don't speed - sunset is when animals are most active and I hope you don't want to hit the animals you came so far to see.

Get in touch with EP to change the rez - three nights EP and three nights other lodge, fly to JNB.
christabir is offline  
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Jun 20th, 2015, 07:40 AM
Join Date: May 2015
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Hi Christabir,

Thank you for your reply, sorry, I got out of loop for a while.

I didn't change anything, and most likely the itinerary will stay the same. There is not enough experience AND time for me to start moving things around fast.
well.., I'm still debating about one more night at the park thought..
Very exited, 3 weeks left, Thank you!

And yes, you were right, OP did not return.
Olia_ok is offline  
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Jun 25th, 2015, 08:03 PM
Join Date: Dec 2013
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Is there ANY reason why somebody didn't suggest a safari in the East Cape lodges? That would eliminate the cost, hassle and time to get to Kruger.
jkgourmet1 is offline  
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Jun 26th, 2015, 03:51 AM
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jkgourmet, diannelovestravel did give some recommendations but everyone is recommending Sabi/Kruger as the East Cape just doesn't compare. It is totally worth it to go and I would eliminate everything else to make it happen. Just my 2 cents.
kellyee21 is offline  
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Jul 3rd, 2015, 11:43 AM
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Just to comment further, sure Cape Town has worthwhile sights such as Cape of Good Hope and Kirstenbosch Garden. There is the winery region just north but the Garden Route not worth the drive...except that we did go over to Plettenberg Bay staying in a castle lodge for a week.

Anyway though Kruger Park is some distance it would be a shame not to take in a safari while in SA. We were with son teaching one summer and saw other sites in Jo'burg area.
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