South Africa - Couple of Quick Questions

Old Jul 4th, 2021, 01:13 PM
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South Africa - Couple of Quick Questions

My husband and I would like to make a trip to South Africa, focusing on Cape Town and its sights, as well as the wine lands and a visit to see the penguins and perhaps a whale watch. We do not plan to combine this with a safari or a trip to a game preserve. A couple of quick questions:

1) Best time to go? We are thinking late Feb/March. Would this be a good choice, weather-wise?
2) I'm having trouble deciding which things we need or should have a guide for. Table Mountain and Robben Island I am confident we can do on our own. Should we have a guide for an overview tour of Cape Town to acclimate us? What about to see the penguins? I think we would plan to stay overnight in either Stellenbosch or Franschhoek, so do not think we would need a guide for that - just good reliable transportation to deposit us there and take us back a day or two later.

Thank you in advance for your guidance!
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Old Jul 6th, 2021, 04:22 AM
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Anyone??? Thanks
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Old Jul 6th, 2021, 09:06 AM
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Hi JMK - hope that this is of some use - our trip to SA was quite a long time ago, well over a decade, but I doubt that the basics have changed much.

Like you we felt that we didn't need a guide for Table Mountain [we didn't go to Robbin Island] but in the event we got to the top just as one of the free walks they were doing then was about to start [not sure if they are still available] and we spent a fascinating hour walking round the top with a local guide. So you might like to consider that or what ever is now on offer. Also I note that you don't mention the Kirstenbosch Gardens which were definitely one of the highlights of our trip -they combine well with a visit to Table Mountain though I recommend not having a flat tyre on route between the two as we did. more info here: https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/

We found it really easy to visit the penguins at Boulder's beach and then drive further down to the actual cape where there are several walks you can do and [when we were there] a great restaurant. Being Brits it's easy for us as they drive on the left like we do but I'm sure that if you don't fancy driving there are tours you can take to these places as well as driver/guides you can use.

We went in July - August so it was their winter which for us it was pleasantly warm most of the time; Feb/March will be much warmer.
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Old Jul 6th, 2021, 01:04 PM
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Iíve been to Cape Town four times since 2014. Late Feb/Mar would be a brilliant time weather wise, but unfortunately not whale watching season. As well as the penguins at Boulders Beach, there are lots of seals, even in the V&A Waterfront. Cape Point has African wildlife apart from marine animals. You will see baboons and ostriches, and if lucky antelope and zebra too.
https://thefynbosguy.com/cape-point-wildlife/

Iíve never needed a guide because I have in-laws to show me around. Hiring a car to drive to Boulders Beach and Cape Point would give you some flexibility, and if possible drive back at sunset over Chapmanís Peak Drive. If you donít want to hire a car a private guide might be a good idea, but there are cheaper ways to see the sights. The open top hop-on-hop-off buses are fun, and the Red Bus company has other tours as well.
https://www.citysightseeing.co.za/en/cape-town

You can take seal watching boat trips from Hout Bay, a suburb of Cape Town.
https://showme.co.za/cape-town/touri...duiker-island/

Hout Bay also has the famous Bay Harbour Market, which unfortunately is closed during Phase 4, but hopefully will be open when you are there.
https://www.bayharbour.co.za/

Last edited by Heimdall; Jul 6th, 2021 at 01:07 PM.
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Old Jul 7th, 2021, 12:17 PM
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annhig and Heimdall-

Thank you both for your helpful feedback.
Annhig - yes, the botanical gardens are on our list - just didn't make it into my message.

We now are thinking of combining this with a 3-night stay at a game preserve - is this also do-able in March? So, the trip would be Cape Town (3 nights), Wine Lands (2 nights), Joburg (2 nights at most), game preserve (3 nights). There are so many places we want to travel and so little time, I think this probably is our one trip to South Africa, so we want to make the most of it. Thoughts?

Thank you again.
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Old Jul 8th, 2021, 03:02 AM
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Glad to read that the gardens were already on your list. They have, BTW, a most impressive gift shop [or had when we were there] but we felt inhibited by the fact that we were at the beginning of our journey, so didn't want to weigh ourselves down. A mistake - we always wished that we had bought something there, if only a small momento.

We did a couple of safaris but on the Cape, not near Jo'burg. We spent 2 nights at Shamwari [which got us 3 free nights at the Raddison in CT] and one at a completely different sort of operation where we stayed in huts without electricity and had communal meals with lots of other guests. That was a load of fun. You can also stay in or near Addo I think and either take their tours or drive yourself.

This is the one we stayed at, but I'm sure there are others in similar vein.

https://www.schotiasafaris.co.za
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Old Jul 8th, 2021, 10:59 AM
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Not sure I'd bother going to JBerg on this short a trip unless you are already routing through there for international flights . We did go to Kruger in February although for 10 nights and the weather was not bad at all (some people apparently don't realize that February is a good month for baby animals and always recommend August Sept for safaris). It only rained in the far north of Kruger but that was spectacular for birding since there was a termite eruption and puddles attracting all of the birds.

I might look into the West Coast National Park instead (north of Cape Town). There is lodging in the park but I was too late to book that so stayed in Langebaan at Le Mahi.

I did rent a car and stayed in a few different places to avoid some commute traffic.

For the penguins and Cape Point, I stayed in Simon's Town at an Airbnb called SALT. However they are now advertising a 5-day minimum.

Uber is reallly handy in Cape Town.

You must do the drive up Chapman's as recommended above.

Last edited by mlgb; Jul 8th, 2021 at 11:06 AM.
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Old Oct 6th, 2021, 12:23 AM
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One thing to consider when visiting Cape Town, is the winds! Unfortunately, it's often having to choose between possible rain or wind. During the summer months (Nov -> March) the "South Easter" (fair weather wind) can totally ruin the idea of a relaxing day around the beach - but winter months are often dominated by cold fronts as well. October is often a good balance, but you can also potentially either get lucky and have fine weather without much wind, or you could get unlucky and get some late winter cold fronts pushing through. If wind doesn't bother you though, November through February should be good.
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Old Oct 6th, 2021, 03:37 AM
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Yes, it does get windy in Cape Town, especially in summer, but if you plan ahead it isn’t much of a problem. The Table Mountain cableway and Robben Island ferry are cancelled when winds are too strong, so it’s best to plan those activities as early in your trip as you can. Table Mountain has another phenomenon, the “tablecloth”, which occasionally covers the top. It’s beautiful to see, especially from a distance, but there wouldn’t be much point in going up the mountain on those days.

Clifton 4th Beach would offer some shelter on windy days, as would Glen Beach, the small beach at the north end of Camps Bay. The boulders on aptly named Boulders Beach offer some protection from wind, and there you can swim with the penguins.
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Old Oct 7th, 2021, 03:39 AM
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Thank you, all! These suggestions are great - now our list of "Must do's" and "Have to's" keeps growing!
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Old Oct 11th, 2021, 09:50 AM
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We were in Cape Town for a week at the end of a longish trip through South Africa in October to December. During that week I think there were only two days when the cable car to table mountain was working. Very much a question of Carpe Diem if the weather is playing ball. I dont think you really need a guide or tour for Cape Town or anywhere else for that matter. A rental car is by far the best option for many places outside of CT. Inside CT we walked for much of the time and around the suburbs like Camps Bay we used Uber (though with mixed experiences!)

in the Winelands we loved Stellenbosch but were less impressed with Franschoek and were very happy we chose to stay in a Stellenbosch. If you have the time and want the self drive Safari experience, I highly recommend , Nyathi Restcamp within Addo NP. Almost like a private camp within the much larger Addo. Huge amounts of wildlife esp elephants. Simonstown is great for the Penguins and we stayed at SALT on mlgb’s recommendation (an excellent suggestion MLGB!). Shame about the 5 day min stay though.
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Old Oct 11th, 2021, 11:05 AM
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Adding to the tips on the cable car, if the weather is good, don't even try to drive up and find parking, in addition be sure to reserve your ticket in advance of heading up there (because internet may not work up there). Don't ask me how I know. I found a spot but couldn't get my cell to work and I just gave up after seeing how incredibly long the ticket line was.

I did get to see the "table cloth" from another B&B I used and really liked, which is a bit farther outside of town in Muizenberg (The Muize). Some people think Muizenberg is a little sketchy but I found it to be okay and there is secure parking for overnight. If you are driving in from the east (if doing the Garden Route) then it is convenient.

I was warned to not to stop my car at isolated beaches especially along the coast east of Muizenberg and to be cautious at some of the birding and nature areas east of Muizenberg (Rondevlei or the Strandfontein sewage treatment ponds.) That seems to be the standard caution around Cape Town, although I think Boulders Beach and Cape Point are okay. However there are some areas around Table Mountain and other driving routes where you need to be careful. Ask a local!

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Old Oct 11th, 2021, 01:38 PM
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One more tip for Table Mountain: You can buy your tickets online on the official Table Mountain website, which are good for 7 days from the chosen date, so you can pick the best day to go. The website is packed with useful information, telling you first up and first down times, or that the cableway is closed due to weather that day, so check it again before starting out. https://tablemountain.net/
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