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Elaine22 Mar 7th, 2008 09:12 PM

How many days do I need to see Cape Town Properly, and do the Garden Route?
I am having immense difficulty in planing a 23 day, (not counting days of arrival and departure), vacation to South Africa for my husband and me next January. We would like to see as much as possible of interest in and around Cape Town, such as Simon's Town Boulder Pengins, Robben Island, Table Mountain, the waterfront area, perhaps the botanical garden, and, of course, some shopping. Can any of these be combined in one day?

Following Cape Town we will drive the Garden Route and visit Franschoek, and Oudtshoorn for the Congo caves and Ostriches, ending up in Plettenberg Bay where we will be staying for a few days with some folks at their time share. I have to let them know soon which days to book.

We don't need much time for the wine areas, although I imagine they are interesting to see, since neither my husband nor I are wine drinkers.

Because it will be in January, I don't think it pays to stop in Hermanus, as there likely won't be any whales to watch, and I certainly don't have the nerve to go down into the cages to see sharks.

After this leg of the trip, I'd like to visit one, or preferably two reserves for 2(?) nights each and also visit Victoria Falls, although I am not sure of the necessity to visit Livingstone Island unless there is more to do there than just picnic. If the travel time is too great we may, regrettably, have to leave out Victoria Falls.

I don't know how many days to allot for each place, or how to factor in the driving and flying time between each area.

Are there anything I have left out that I should fit in to this time frame? Does anyone have advice for mapping out this trip?

23 days is beginning to look like not enough time, but I have already added four days to our original booking, and I can't extend it any further.

Chris80 Mar 8th, 2008 01:41 AM

I think 23 days is actually a very good time frame. A lot of people do the same things in just 9-10 days. So, don't worry too much.

I'd spend about 5 nights in Cape Town and surrounds. 2 nights in the Winelands (preferrably Franschhoek 2 nights or 1 night Franschhoek and 1 night Stellenbosch). 3-4 nights along the Garden Route till Plettenberg Bay. 2-3 nights in Plettenberg Bay. Drive on to Port Elizabeth. 1 night Addo Elephant Park (which is home to the Big 5) and 3 nights in a luxury Game Reserve like Shamwari to get pampered and have a great wildlife viewing. You can then decide to fly to Livingstone International Airport from Port Elizabeth (not sure if this route exists) and then visit the Victoria Falls.
And then you still have plenty of time left :)

But this is just a suggestion. I'm sure other Fodorites can elaborate more.

annhig Mar 8th, 2008 02:59 PM

Hi Elaine,

i largely agree with what Chris has said; 5 days in CPT would be great. we only had 3 days/4 nights and another couple of days would have been a lot better.

as for combining different sights in the area, we managed to see talbe mountain and the kirstenbosch gardens one day,simonstown/boulders beach and the cape of good hope on another, and a walking tour of the city itself in pouring rain on the third, and that was in the short day-light of July, so in January, you should be able to do rather more.

I suggest you try to get hold of a book called "7 days in Capetown" which I found on amazon, and has enough ideas for a month!

for your safaris, an alternative to addo is a private reserve called Schotia - it is not luxurious like Shamwari, but the night we spent in one of their huts [no electricity, but oil lamps and wood & coal stoves] was magical. we then had two nights at Shamwari ,which got us 3 FREE nights at the Radisson in CPT. Though those deals may not apply in Jan it's worth having a look at their web-site to see if they do.

good luck,

regards, ann

Elaine22 Mar 8th, 2008 06:46 PM

Thanks, Chris80 and annhig.

I am glad that we can see the major points of interest in Cape Town in about 5 days. Annhig, I will look for the book you recommended.

I should mention that we will be staying in someone's home in Cape Town, or at least in a separate guest structure that is part of their home, (so we don't really need any time at the Radisson) before going off on our own prior to meeting them in Plettenberg Bay for 2 - 3 days. Because they have to arrange in advance for their timeshare there, I'd like to let them know how many days we will be touring before we get to Plettenberg.

Are Stellenbosch and Franschoek close enough to Cape Town that we could see them as a day tour and be able to drive back the same day? Are there day trips to those areas offered by tour companies? I don't think we'd be comfortable driving back ourselves at night, but I don't want the bother of checking into a hotel and then out the following morning.

What are the most interesting stops along the Garden Route? I have read about Monkeyland, a cheetah sanctuary, and an animal orphanage, but I don't know if it's worthwhile visiting those places if we are going to be at a couple of game reserves later.

I definitely want to visit an ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn,(is there more than one?), and see the congo caves, but I don't know if we need a day in each place or only a few hours. Is there enough to see in that area to overnight there on our way to Plettenberg? Where else should we stay if we spend 3 days aling the Garden Route.

From Plettenberg, we will be dropped off in George to fly to Johannesburg to connect with a couple of as yet not chosen game reserves, and a visit to Victoria Falls.

I still don't know whether to visit one game reserve in the Cape area, and one in Sabi Sands or the like, or go to both reserves in another part of the country right after Plettenberg Bay.

This is not easy to reaearch, but it's a lot easier than shovelling the 25 - 30 centimeters of snow we are getting in Toronto today.

Chris80 Mar 9th, 2008 03:12 AM

Yes, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch are doable as day tours from Cape Town.
There are many tour companies that offer day tours or half day tours to the Winelands. One is for example.

I haven't been to Monkeyland or the animal orphanage you mentioned. So, I can't comment on them.
There are various options for stops along the Garden Route. I'd suggest 1 night in Oudtshoorn (maybe on an Ostrich Farm), 1 night in Wilderness and 1-2 nights in Knysna. Or you could also spend 1-2 nights in the Tsitsikamma National Park in Storms River (east of Plettenberg Bay).

If you go to one of the Sabi Sabi lodges, then I'd say it's not really neccessary to visit a Reserve in the Eastern Cape as well. Maybe you can do 2 nights in Sabi Sabi and 2 nights in the Kruger Park itself (book accommodation far in advance).

PRLCH Mar 9th, 2008 06:46 PM

We too are spending about 25 days in South Africa at the end of this year, so I full appreciate how hard it is to decide what to see, where to go and how to fit it all in!! We will fly into Durban, and will have 5 nights in the Drakensberg, 4 nights in the Kruger Park, 2 nights in Timbavati (private game reserve adjoining the Kruger Park), 2 night fly in package to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe side), 5 nights in Stellenbosch and 5 nights in Knysna. We have a couple of days interspersed in Johannesberg as well to see family. As we are visiting "all ends" of the country we will be flying between some places and driving between others. Have fun planning and I am happy to share any further details with you if needed. My only tip is if you are planning on doing the Kruger Park during school holidays you need to book soon. We had difficulty getting accommodation.

annhig Mar 10th, 2008 04:25 AM

Hi again, Elaine,

trying to answer your question about how long to allow bewteen CPT and Plett, that isn't easy. we spent 2 nights on the coast east of Hermanus, but that was mainly for whale watching which probably won't apply in January. [in fact, we didn't end up whale watching there because of conditions; although the place we stayed - Grootbos -was pretty nice, it was VERY expensive and I'm not sure that I would bother again].

we then spent 3 nights near Plett; one day we spent whale watching followed by visiting the various sanctuaries in the area, the other at Knysna.

Were i to do it again, I would spend 2 nights at Knysna, and 3 at Plett - although they are quite close together, it is pretty pointless driving to Plett just to drive back to Knysna. you could spend your day on the featherbed reserve tour from the habour - we did the evening boat trip to the heads and whilst this was OK, we were very sorry to have missed the reserve.

near plett there are elephant, monkey and bird sanctuaries, all of which we enjoyed very much, and did in one day. [they are all adjacent to each other]. there is also the Srotms River drive, which we missed, and the Bloukrans Brisdge bungy jump which DS did and still show off about. Chac'un etc. DH and the kids also went to the snake sanctuary [i had a lie in the hammock instead!] and they liked that too. we also missed the Tsittseekamma tree walk, which is further east, and highly spoken of by people who have done it.

I agree that if you are going to Kruger etc., then I would give the eastern cape reserves a miss.

so far as the winelands are concerned, I think you would get more out of them if you stay there, but you could easily do two or three in a day. we spent a nice morning at Spier, which is the first one you get to out of CPT and is where the cheetah "experience " is. that we didn't like much, as we felt that it wasn't necessarily in the animals' best interests to be petted by all and sundry, but others have enjoyed it very much.

regards, ann

Doogle Mar 11th, 2008 12:22 AM

Hi Elaine

There are a lot of tour companies that offer day trips in cape Town and with 5 days you can easily see all the hot spots, you can do a full day Cape Point that will take you to Hout Bay, Cape Point Nature reserve, Boulders Penguis, Simons Town and Kirstenbosch Gardens. You can then do a walking tour of Cape Town called footsteps to freedom and Robben Island in one day, then a full day winelands, then Table Mountain and Township tour and have a day to relax or to do the Westcoast.

It iwll take you about 6 hours to drive from Cape Town to Pleteenberg Bay depending on road works it may take a lot shorter, from Plettenberg Bay you can do day trips to Oudtshoorn to see the cave sand the ostrich farms, Knysna, george, Tsitsikamma, and spend a day or two in Plett just lying on the beach or exploring the huge number of little shops. I would also suggest that you visit Monkelyland and the bird sanctuary, and a really nice day trip is the dolphin cruise, I think there is a compnay called eco-adventures that offers the dolphin cruise on the garden route. There are also a huge number of adrenalin activities, like sky diving bugi jumping, sea kayaking in the area.

From here you can fly out of Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and connect with a flight to Kruger, and do game viewing in the Kruger and then come back to Johannebsurg and do Victoria Falls, although in January I would say do it in Victoria Falls as the flow on the Zambian side is not great. You can also do 2/3 nights addittion in Chobe if you go up to Victoria Falls.

Let us know what your final trip is!

Elaine22 Mar 13th, 2008 06:47 PM

You Fodorites are amazing, and beyond informative.

Doogle, I only wish I could finalize this trip. It is making me crazy. Reading the posts is time consuming enough, but adding to that is the immense time it takes to check out the web sites.

Every lodge and camp says that they have the finest animal viewing in the country. If only one of them would say "We're only second best", I could start to narrow things down.

5 days in Cape Town should be enough to cover Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Robben Island, Simonstown/Boulders and Cape of Goodhope, a day trip to Franschoek and Stellenbosch, and shmoozing on the waterfront and still leave time for some serious shopping.

The treetop or canopy adventure at Tsitsikamma looks exciting, but the information page says is is for ages 7 to 70, so that lets my husband out, although he's the one who loves heights and I get weak-kneed looking down over anything higher than two feet off the ground. At our ages, adrenaline activites are probably not such a good idea anyway.

From Plettenberg Bay, what routing is the most time conserving with the least number of overnight stays to reach our destinations if we want to spend 2 nights at Victoria Falls, and 2 nights at two different reserves. I would love to fit in a stay at Ngongoro, but getting there takes up too much valuable time.

Should we go to Victoria Falls after Plettenberg Bay, and then to the reserves, or vice versa?

No other trip planning has ever had me so overwhelmed. I thought I would have this researched and booked in a matter of days, but the more I research, the more difficult and confusing it gets. Now I'm paralyzed altogether.

Doogle Mar 14th, 2008 03:38 AM

Hi Elaine

Let me try and make it a little easier for you. I am not sure what your budget is so I am working a a moderate budget.

Day 1 - Arrival) Cape TOwn - Welgelegen is a lovely guest house, welcoming and warm.
Day 2 - Full day Cape Point tour - this should include a seal island cruise and penguins at Boulders
Day three - Table Mountain and Robben Island
Day 4 - Take a day off and explore shopping
Day 5 - Winelands
Day six - Drive to Oudtshoorn and overnight here De Bergkant is a a little out of town but so worth the drive, or stay at Rosenhof. You can do Cango caves int he afternoon.
Day seven - Ostrich farm in morning drive to Plettenberg Bay - stay at either Hog Hollow or Periwinkle or Emily Moon
Day Eight - Knysna
Day Nine - Plettenberg (Do monkeyland etc)
Day Ten - Tsitsikamma - and overnight in Port Elizabeth at The Windermere.
Day eleven - Fly Port Elizabeth - JNB - hoedspruit. either stay at Tanda Tula, Ngala or Thornybush.
Day Fourteen - fly across to Mala Mala - do 4 nights at Mala Mala/Kirkmans/Nottens/Savanna (depending in budget)
Day Eighteen - Back to JNB you will have to overnight here
Day Nineteen - Fly to Victoria Falls - as you are travelling in January stay in Victoria Falls, do Victoria Falls hotel or Stanley and Livingstone.
Day Twenty one - Spoil yourselves and go to Chobe Chilwero for 2 nights.
Day Twenty three - Fly victoria Falls to JNB and home!!

Hope it helps at least you can see the routing.

annhig Mar 14th, 2008 09:10 AM

Hi elaine,

just to add to what doogle has said,

in CPT DO make time to visit Kirstenbosch gardens - a good half day.

in Plett, we stayed just outside at hog hollow and i was one of the nicest places we have EVER stayed [and friends that we recommended it to said the same],

and if you can avoid it, don't bother staying in PE - there's not much to recommend it; if you had a mid morning flight you could stay outside, or if an evening flighht, you could fly on the same day you do Tsitsikamma.

but these are just qibbles- doogle has put together a great tour.

regards, ann

Elaine22 Mar 14th, 2008 10:53 PM

Thanks, and thanks again.

Doogle, I so appreciate all the time you took to put everything into chronological order. It was brilliant.

I actually have one more day than shows in your itinerary because I said I had 23 days, but I didn't count the arrival day. I thought of it as just a day of resting after the impossibly long flights. That will give me an extra day in Cape Town, and for sure time to visit Kirstenbosch Gardens as Ann suggests...and more shopping!

We will be staying in Cape Town with our daughter-in-law's parents, but I don't want to impose on their hospitality by having them shepherd us around, so we will tour on our own. I couldn't figure out how to plan our days - what sites went together, so that itinerary was a great help.

After we leave Cape Town to drive the Garden Route we will meet up with our hosts in Plettenberg Bay to stay at their timeshare. (Beacon Island, I think)

I checked out the web sites for de Bergkant (charming), and Rosenhof (exquisite - but twice the price!). Is it worth the splurge to stay at Rosenhof? However did you find these places?

Doogle, if we are staying in Plettenberg anyway for 2-3 days, would it make sense to stay in the Oudstshoorn area for an extra day and do a day trip, rather than move again to another lodge so close to Plettenberg? As glorious and enticing as the other lodges appear, such as Periwinkle and Hog Hollow, packing up and checking in and out every day is a bit bothersome, and time consuming too.

Apparently in 2008, CC Africa is discounting certain of their lodges by giving the fourth night free. I don't know if that will be the case in 2009, but I will check. That gives Kirkmans an attractive rate. I don't know if MalaMala has the same policy. If they do not, is it worth the extra money to stay there and forego the discount?

As for Victoria Falls, is there any advantage to staying at Victoria Falls Hotel over Stanley (or vice versa)? Information on the Chobe Chilwero web site says that it is only an hour and a half from the falls. Would it make any sense at all, if we do go on to Chobe Chilwero, (which is rather expensive), to stay at Chobe and just take an afternoon tour to the falls instead of staying right at the falls? Again, it would be less checking in and out, but it may not make sense. Are the animals at Chobe different than at Kirkmans?

At least I am making some progress now. I feel so much better.

Doogle Mar 17th, 2008 02:39 AM

Hi elaine

In my opinion I like De Bergkant it is a little out of town, but the hosts are amazing at this little lodge, I would much rather stay here as I found Rosenhof a little stiff, and if it is double the price, they I would stay at De Bergkant, never mind that the food there is out of this world, it is so delicious! I could easilt do two days in Oudsthoorn and when you are at De Bergkant the owner will give you all sorts of day tours that are not available on any websites, that are enthralling, there are some amazing drives to do in that area.

If you have timeshare at Beacon Isle there is no need to fork out anymore money on accommodation because it looks charming, you can always go for lunch or dinner at the lodges.

With the chance of being shot down in flames, Kirkmans used to be part of Mala Mala and therefore in the same area, the game do not really care where you are staying they come nad go and move as they please, the rangers are great at Kirkmans, and I really like this lodge, honestly, I think the discount will add to you being able to do a lot more so stay at Kirkmans if the offer is still on.

With regards to Victoria Falls, the Victoria Falls Hotel is 5 minutes from the falls and you can walk there, they have a foot path to the falls, Stanley and Livingstone is out of town and you would need transfers into town to get to anything, so that is a plus for the Victoria Falls Hotel. On the negative, the hotel is old and looking very tired and the service is just not what it was, i was there recently and the number of poor service issues are to numerous to mention, Stanley and Livingstone is lovely it is clean, the staff are great and the food is excellent.

With regards to Chobe, it is only an hour and a half if there were no border posts, you have to do two border post clearences from Vic Falls into Chobe and if a border official is having a bad day you could be there a lot longer, it really makes a difference to have just a night in Victoria Falls.

With regards to animals, no an elephant at Kirkmans looks the same as an elephant in Chobe a do the lions, leopards and all the rest however 10 elephants at Kirkmans and 120 elephants crossing the river while you are on a sundowner cruise is very different, it is wild and amazing the area, landscapes, habitats are all different, you cannot just take the animals into account, it is an amazing and different experiance at both lodges.

Elaine22 Mar 18th, 2008 07:59 PM

First, let me correct my statement about CC Africa giving 4 nights for the price of 3. That only occurs in off season, and does not apply to February when we will be there. Natch!

In order to conserve travel time to maximize time available for the reserves, it appears that we would have to go to the reserves(s) right after Plettenberg, (via George, where we are being dropped off), and go to Victoria Falls at the end of the trip. Because of the logisitcs of flight times, this saves a full day of travel, which is important.

So now the question is do we opt for 2 nights each, at two lodges fairly close to each other, such as Phinda Mountain and Phinda Forest, or 2 nights each at different parts of the reserve, such as Kirkman's in the eastern and Exeter Dulini, in the western section of Sabi Sabi? Or is it better just to choose one of them and stay there? However does one choose from such incredible choices?

Will there be different species of animals to see in the different areas, or just a change of scenery, vis-a-vis topography and accomodations?

If the Victoria Falls Hotel is run down and offers poor service, is the Royal Victoria a better option? Or is it worth having to shuttle to and from the falls to stay at the Stanley and Livingstone?

At last, thankfully, I have the first leg of the trip almost in order, thanks to the kindness and exceptional patience of Fodorites such as Doogle, and Chris, and Ann and others. I am just in need of a little more direction for the safari section.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped me. I can't express enough how much it is appreciated.

Doogle Mar 19th, 2008 12:57 AM

Hi there

elaine t makes no sense at all to move lodges at Phinda as if you are there for 4 days you will cover a good part of the reserve from any of the lodges that you stay at if you are there for 4 days and it just means packing and unpacking.

If you do the Kruger area/Sabi Sands then it may be worthwile combining two lodges, so 2 nights at Exeter and then two nights at Thornybush in the Timbavati as these are two seprate areas and the vegeation is different again I would not do 2 exeter and 2 Kirkmans. If you do this area a great combination is 2 nights Mala Mala and 2 nights Tanda Tula as two different areas and two very different camps.

In Victoria Falls, are you not talking about The Royal Livingstone, this is on the Zambia side of the falls and in February the water level is not great on that side and you are going to have to go to Victoria Falls to see the falls in their full splendour, if you go to the Royal Livingstone you have to pay their really high visa fees of US$135.00 per person whereas if you stay on the Victoria Falls side this is avaoided. I personally think you will enjoy the Stanley and Livingstone, but Victoria Falls Hotel has great views. Who knows by then the service may have improved, if you stay at Victoria Falls HOtel, as them for a new deluxe room.

SA_Guide Mar 19th, 2008 03:04 AM

Hi, I am a tour guide based in Cape Town and would like to offer some advice from a guides perspective on touring here.

Do your research before coming. Try and get as much info as possible before planning your trip. Donít just rely on one source, read guide books, visit forums like this and try to get as broad a picture as possible. You will get a lot of conflicting opinions but in this way you will be able to filter them and see which opinions seem most objective and informed.

If you can afford it, make use of a tour guide. I am biased of course but you really will get more out of your tour this way particularly if you hire a private guide and let them know what your specific interests are (if you find a guide on the internet check out their references or testimonials). It will give you an insight that just would not be possible if you were travelling on your own and it will allow you to just relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery (and wine if you indulge) that we have. One word of warning though. If you do get a guide, find out what kind of vehicle you will be touring in. If it is a Quantum donít go! They are not suited to the job as they are cramped and have very small windows so it is hard to see anything.

Things you should see.

Well this of course depends on your interests but this is what I would recommend:

A city sightseeing trip on the open top bus. This is probably the best value tour in Cape Town. It is a hop-on-hop-off service which gives you a good introduction to the city. The tour goes through the city with stops at The castle of Good Hope, Greenmarket square, quite a few museums, Table Mountain, Camps Bay Beach and the V & A waterfront (more too but these are the highlights).

Table Mountain. The weather in Cape Town is VERY unpredictable. Someone once told me that if you donít like the weather here just wait 10 minutes! The first chance you get when the mountain is clear, phone them to find out if they are open AND GO! This is something you do not want to miss.

The Cape Peninsula. Make sure you do a full day for this. The trip will take you right to the tip of the peninsula and normally includes an optional boat trip from Hout Bay to visit an island covered with seals (45minutes), Cape Point which is the tip of the peninsula, the Cape of Good Hope, the Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach and Kistsenbosch Botanical Gardens. This is a very long day but well worth it.

Robben Island. This is a three and a half hour trip (including the ferry rides) to the island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Once you get to the island, you will be taken on a guided coach tour of the island and learn about its history. Then you will do a tour of the prison itself with a former political prisoner and see the cell in which Nelson Mandela stayed.

Wine Tour. This tour is not just for wine lovers. The areas visited are VERY beautiful and offer a dramatic contrast to the scenery you will see on a Peninsula tour. This region is also steeped in history and for lovers of architecture, will give the chance to see some of the best preserved Cape Dutch buildings in the country. For food lovers, this area has some of the best restaurants in the country and as part of your tour; I would highly recommend having a large, leisurely lunch.

A Township tour! Many people who visit Cape Town see only the things that I mentioned above but one of the things that most characterises our country is its contrasts! South Africa is a land of incredible scenic beauty and (for a few) great wealth. Unfortunately, due to our past, it is also a land where many people live in poverty and I believe that visitors should see the whole picture. This tour will give you the chance to interact with the people that constitute the majority in this country. It can be hard but it can also be surprisingly uplifting to see the spirit and humanity of the people that have suffered most from the Apartheid system. It is also one of the few ways in which the money from tourism can filter down to the people that need it the most. Many visitors are reluctant to do this tour as they feel it may be seen as voyeuristic but the people in the townships welcome visitors (sometimes literally with open arms) and realise that people are there because they care. I would advise though that you choose your guide very carefully as it is important for your guide to have an intimate knowledge of the areas and people you visit. Do not do this without such a guide.

SA_Guide Mar 20th, 2008 01:23 AM

I forgot to metion something about Robben Island. Try to book your tour as early as possible. There are times when the tour is booked up for weeks in advance.

ejbentx Mar 22nd, 2008 11:16 AM

I second SA Guides encouragement to vsit a township - and I am shocked no one else has mentioned this! We went last September to Kayamundi with Selwyn ( and it was one of the top 3 highlights of our trip (which is saying a lot in such a magnificient place like SA!)
While you are giving Tsitsikamma a miss, I would encourage you to drive into Nature's Valley - preferably with time to spend having lunch at their beautiful beach - saw baboons on the road in.
I would spend two nights in Knysna versus all the time in Plett. The sanctuary is a must see, and the town is fun to walk around, the views spectacular, and the food was great everywhere we went!
Good luck - I'm jealous!

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