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vegasgirl Feb 13th, 2006 06:05 PM

Itinerary advice for SA
My husband and I are planning a three-week trip to South African in September. It is our first trip to Africa. Other than Cape Town, we're more interested in seeing wildlife, hence the cities of Durban and J-Burg are not included.

Would like some advice on the following itinerary, i.e., are we doing too much, missing out on something special, etc.

Sept. 2: Arrive Capetown; spend five nights.
Sept. 7: Pick up car and drive to Franschhoek; two nights.
Sept. 9: Fly to Johannesburg; drive to Drakensberg Mountains for two nights.
Sept. 11: Drive to St. Lucia (perhaps stopping at battlefields) and stay one night.
Sept. 12: Cruise the wetlands in morning, then drive to Hluhluwe in afternoon. Two nights at Hilltop.
Sept. 14: Drive to Swaziland; perhaps stay overnight in Big Bend.
Sept. 15: Check in early at Mkhaya Game Reserve for overnight stay.
Sept. 16: Drive to Mantenga Tented Camp for two-night stay. Explore Mlilwane Wildlife Reserve and perhaps white-water rafting on Usuta River.
Sept. 18: Kruger for four days, staying at Lower Sabie, Satara, Oliphants and Letaba.
Sept. 22: Exit Kruger and head down through Blyde Canyon, perhaps staying overnight in Graskop.
Sept. 23: Head towards Johannesburg; not sure where to stay. Flight is early evening on Sept. 24.

Would appreciate any advice you can give.

mkhonzo Feb 14th, 2006 11:41 AM

What a decent trip.
Where do you plan to stay at St Lucia? If you can squeeze an extra night in the area I would suggest that you do. Also if you are doing battlefields, might be an interesting perspective to stay at Isibindi, they tend to tell the story from a zulu perspective. I don't think that you'll be able to iummerse yourself in the battlefields as a day trip from the midlands to the coast.

I'd aim for Mkhaya for two nights, skipping a night in Big bend, will allow you more time to appreciatye where you are and all the Mkhaya has to offer.

In Kruger I like your choice of camps, however would suggest that you do Mopani in place of Letaba, only because the latter is close enough to the Olifnats area. My choice would be two nights Olifants instead.

Lastly, you are likely then to exit at Phalaborwa, so that puts Bllyde in reach. Graskop is OK, for the views, but not sure about accommodation, there is plenty in the area to choose form, look at Sabi, Kiepersol, Hazyview & white River areas for additional choices.

DoctorCarrie Feb 14th, 2006 01:33 PM

If you're looking for a place to stay in St. Lucia, we really enjoyed the African Ambiance B&B ( when we were on our honeymoon.

Make sure you book a night safari at Hluhluwe - it was incredible!

Have fun!!

cokie Feb 14th, 2006 02:00 PM

You are doing a LOT of driving after your flight to Joburg. I am a big fan of the Drakensburg and highly recommend staying in the park at Royal Natal. However, the drive there is a good 4-5 hours from Joburg. I've also stayed at the Antbear, outside of the park near Giant's Castle - but that is an even longer drive. The Drakensburg is gorgeous and the hiking is supurb, but with all the driving you'll be doing, you may not have the time to enjoy it.

Kavey Feb 14th, 2006 02:05 PM

In order to reduce your driving, I wonder if you could fly from Cape Town to Durban and do a loop of Kwazulu Natal before heading northwards to see Kruger and the surrounding region before finishing in Jo'burg?

We spent 5 weeks in SA in June 2004, the itinerary and report is on this forum, let me know if you want it but can't find it.

We spent 2.5 weeks in Cape Town and the Garden Route, then we flew to Durban.

From there we went to Hluhluwe Imfolozi for 3 nights - two at Mpila Camp in Imfolozi and 1 at Ubizane, just outside Hluhluwe (after a full day in the park; chosen because Hilltop was too expensive).

Then we went down to St Lucia where we loved staying at the Avalone guest house for 3 nights. Monica, the host, was the best B&B hostess of our trip - she's a wonderful, warm and friendly woman.

After that we spent 2 nights in Ndumo, another couple in Ithala and then headed up to Kruger. We stayed the first night in Berg-en-Dal and then 3 at Olifants before making our way to Jo'burg for our flight to Botswana and the next portion of our trip.

vegasgirl Feb 14th, 2006 05:19 PM

Thanks to everyone who responded to my post. I haven't booked any accommodations yet (except for Kruger), but will keep these recommendations in mind.

Cokie: I was under the impression that Drakensberg (looking to stay at Didima) was only a 3-1/2 hour drive from Johannesburg. Is that just wishful thinking? Also does anyone know how long a drive from Drakensberg to St. Lucia and from Hluhluwe to Swaziland?

I was kind of afraid I was short shifting St. Lucia and Drakensberg. Should I cut two days from Swaziland? Or am I spending too much time in Capetown? It's really only four days there considering our arrival day will probably be a complete wash with jet lag and all. However, it will cost me to change the Jburg flight as it is already booked through frequent flyer miles. (Yes, I got in on the tail end of the Delta-SAA codeshare.)

cokie Feb 14th, 2006 06:21 PM

Vegasgirl - I think that you are being way too optimistic to expect to get from Joburg airport to Cathedral Peak area (Didima) in 3.5 hours. If the traffic gods are smiling on you, and you drive fast you will be fortunate to make it in 4 - 4.5 hours. It is slow going once you get off the N3 (not to mention that Joburg traffic can be miserable, depending on the time of day). Don't let this discourage you - the Drakensburg is wonderful - but, do give yourself enough time to enjoy it. You may have to chose between St. Lucia and the Drakensburg.

ArthurSA Feb 15th, 2006 12:38 AM

You can get to Cathedral from Jo'burg in 4 hours or less, provided you use the best route. That doesn't include Van Reenens Pass, you divert from the N3 at Harrismith towards Bethlehem. I use this route to get to the Northern or Central 'berg, but also when I travel a couple of times a year to Durban, it's only about 12km longer and much more scenic. When doing the full Jo'burg/Durban route, it will take a bit longer because the Harrismith/Frere section is a 100kph speed restriction road compared with the 120kph N3. (Going all the way to Durban, you rejoin the N3 near Frere, after going through Bergville and Winterton.) But I've only ever seen a speed trap once in decades of doing that route. That was on the outskirts of Winterton, I've never seen one going directlky to Cathedral.

Soon after leaving Harrismith (initially in the direction of Bethlehem) you take a left, then a few kms on another left.
This takes you past Sterkfontein and Woodstock dams, down Oliviershoek Pass and to Bergville. (The Northern Berg is even closer, before Bergville.) Just out of Bergville is the turnoff to Cathedral, from memory it is about 45km from there. And tar (sealed) all the way.

ivee Feb 15th, 2006 05:11 AM

We stayed 3 nights in (near) Capetown and that gave plenty of time to visit. I could warmly recommend the Constantia Uitsig Hotel,ancient winery, ideally situated to see Capetown and go to Capepoint and also especially convenient do the road around the peninsula - a must) etc . so much nicer than to stay in the city center, but still very close. The hotel is wonderful,still not too posh, food incredible,I think everybody will like it.When doing the wineroads
I would also highly recommend the Klippe River country estate,in Stellenbosch , we made another stop in Rozenhof estate in oudtshoorn They all have winter rates. 2 or 3 stops is enough, I personnally think that 5 N Captown is too much. Of course it is also a question of personal taste . I think that in a game lodge you should at least stay 2 nights to enjoy it : you loose time arriving and leaving!

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