South Africa: Final Questions Before Departure

Jan 23rd, 2010, 11:16 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 47
South Africa: Final Questions Before Departure

I am leaving for South Africa in just over a week and I have a few random last minute questions. Without further adieu, here they are:

1. I have one full day in the Winelands. I’m staying in Franschhoek. I’m planning on having lunch at Bread and Wine and dinner at Reuben’s. I would like to visit some of the vineyards but am overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices. The vineyards that seem to get the most press are Boekenhoutskloof, Stony Brook Vineyards, Boschendal and Tokara Estates in Stellenbosch. I’m concerned that these vineyards may be too commercial. Are these the best options for a first-time visitor? How many vineyards can I possibly see in a day, given my lunch and dinner plans? If you were a first-time visitor and had one day in the vineyards, how would you allocate your time?

2. What’s the best Township tour in Cape Town?

3. I am planning on driving from the Winelands to Knysna in one day. Where do you recommend stopping along the way for lunch?

4. Is it safe to leave one’s luggage in the car if you make stops along the garden route, say for lunch or to take pictures?

5. I am going on safari in Sabi Sands. What apparel is best for avoiding mosquito bites?

6. What will the weather be like in Sabi Sands in February? Do I need to bring warm clothes for dawn and dusk game drives?

7. How much should I tip my safari guide at the private game reserve?

8. Finally, can anyone recommend any great reads on South Africa, either fiction or non-fiction.

Many thanks for all your input.
Desidero is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2010, 06:22 PM
Join Date: May 2005
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I can't help with your questions, but please report back on your trip. I am planning a safari for July and am trying to determine where to go and if I need a tour company to organize it. Have a great trip!!
swacm is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2010, 06:38 PM
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An excellent book from my high school days that was acclaimed was called "Cry,the Beloved Country".Paul Theroux has a great book about Africa that is about his trips from Cairo to Cape Town.Rent "District 9" before or after you go-sci fi movie that came out this last year of the townships.

How come you are not eating at La Petite Ferme in Franschoek for lunch or dinner? It has a marvelous view and wonderful food and has been named in various magazines.

Tokara is a beautiful vineyard(expensive to eat at) but Nederberg in Paarl(super tour and tasting!!) and Kanonkop in Stellenbosch were fabulous for great wine,history and tastings would be my picks.Kanonkop was top winery this past year.I think about 3-4 would be about the amount for tastings and driving to and from?

If you have time while you are in the Western Cape and in the wine country you should go to the Drakenstein Lion Sanctury on Old Paarl road right outside of Stellenbosch for a visit-absolutely worth the stop. Go to to see about it online.It is a sanctury for lions that have been rescued from zoos,circuses,"canned hunting safaris",etc.It really touches your heartstrings to see how miserable these poor creatures were before this man started the sanctury and allows them to roam and be protected from mistreatment by humans.Feeding is around 430pm every other day and that is a hoot to watch them waiting for the chickens.
Do include a visit down to the Cape of Good Hope with all of the natural beauty and definitely a stop at Boulders Beach to see the penguins.Have a great vacation-I love SA! Ironically, I am leaving for Johannesburg SA tomorrow for work.
dutyfree is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2010, 06:39 PM
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Forgot to add that PINOTAGE is the wine you want if you drink red wine in SA-fabulous!
dutyfree is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2010, 06:53 PM
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4. I leave my luggage (but not my photo gear) in the car to do the activities you mention, making sure it's in the trunk/boot. I don't leave things in plain view in the car.

5. Long sleeves and long pants between dusk and dawn will help as well as spraying the neck area and ankles.

6. Temps in Feb. usually average about 70 F as the low and around 86 F for the high, with 4" rain for the month. I'd bring along a hoodie.

7. Tipping guidelines I follow are as follows:

* Rangers: $10 per guest per day in a shared vehicle. At least double that amount per guest in a private vehicle.
* Trackers / butlers / valets: $5 per guest per day (although I tend to give more to trackers, especially when it's clear they've gone the extra mile getting you to see the animals you've asked to see).
* General staff fund (for cleaners, cooks, waiters, etc): $5 per guest per day.

These are minimum amounts (assuming you were happy with the service); if you received exceptional service, a greater tip would be welcomed.

8. Below are a few, which I really enjoyed

The Covenant, James Michener, broad historical novel of SA

The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay, set in SA during the 1930s and 1940s, it tells the story of an Anglo-African boy

Birds of Prey, Wilbur Smith, adventure novel of very early SA
sdb2 is offline  
Jan 25th, 2010, 05:47 AM
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There are many companies that do township tours listed in Fodors guidebook and on the internet. I can't remember the name of the company we went with, but I would ask specific questions before booking. Needless to say, it is important to get a good guide, preferably someone who grew up in a township who could give you a personal perspective of life in the township. Beyond that, I would make sure that the tour includes a visit to a school when the school is in session, as well as a stop in a neighborhood to interact with the people. Our tour was certainly an eye opener and gave a good perspective of life in SA for many of its citizens.
shelleyk is offline  
Jan 25th, 2010, 11:03 AM
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Township tour: After much research, we selected Inkululeko Tours (, a small CT tour company whose guides are township residents and who encourage their guests to get out of the vehicle and interact with the people. It was fabulous! I would highly recommend them! Robin
canadian_robin is offline  
Jan 25th, 2010, 08:22 PM
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Cry The Beloved Country as already mentioned, Fiela's se Kind (or Fiela's child, English version set in Knysna Forest), Disgrace by Jm Coetzee (very disturbing account of post apartheid SA), Long Walk to Freedom (Nelson Mandela's autobiography). district 9 excellent movie, satir based on South African history and unashamedly South African.

If you go the Swartberg pass route from the winelands then you can lunch in Oudtshoorn we ate there recently at Cafe Brulee, very good food, this is Ostrich country so you can take in an ostrich farm, also very scenic through Swartberg.
kimssouthafrica is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 04:13 PM
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Thank you all for your terrific responses. Keep 'em coming!!

One other question: I have contacted a few tour guides for private tours of the Cape Penninsula and the Cape of Good Hope. They are charging about R1200 for the tour. Is that a reasonable rate? Do I need to tip the guide on top of that?

Thanks again!
Desidero is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 04:22 PM
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That is for a full day and includes lunch? Does it include pick up at your hotel? If you are on your own, then it is probably the way to go, even if you find it a bit pricey. If you were a couple, I would suggest renting a car and driving yourself. Robin
canadian_robin is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 06:07 PM
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Yes, it is for a full day and includes pick-up at my hotel and lunch. It does not include admission to vineyards and wine tasting fees.

As I will be doing the tour on my own, I take it you think it's a fair price and good idea?

Do I need to tip the guide on top of the R1200?

Thanks for your input.
Desidero is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 08:28 PM
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The vineyards do not charge admission and many don't even charge for a tasting. For the latter, you would pay maybe R9 to try ~ 6 wines - not much.

I do think going with a guide is a good idea if you are on your own. I think the price is fair for what is included. Ask your guide to take you on the hike (there and back) between the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point - it is an easy, ~1-hour hike with amazing views. If you are up for it, the umpteen stairs down to Diaz beach (you will pass the beach on the hike - it is the amazing beach that you can see from Cape Point) are worth it and the beach is a great spot for a picnic lunch.

Just like a waiter in a restaurant, if the service is good, then you should give your guide a tip - the better the guide, the more generous you should be. He/she will be grateful for any amount.
canadian_robin is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 08:32 PM
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and...I'm sorry...I meant to wish you a safe and wonderful trip! You must be off shortly. Go well (as they say in SA)! Robin
canadian_robin is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 09:22 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 154
Check out Andulela ( and Coffee Beans Routes ( for cultural and community tours into townships and other places. Inkululeko is well regarded, but I haven't been on one of their tours personally.

Consider Solms-Delta wine estate in Franschhoek (

For books, Frontiers by Noel Mostert is excellent for understanding the early colonial history, but it's a massive volume (as is Michener's Covenant). I like Stephen Watson's poetry about Cape Town (The Other City) and his edited volume called 'A City Imagined' with contributions from a range of excellent writers. This pairs nicely with 'From Joburg to Jozi: Tales of South Africa's Infamous City', an anthology of stories and memoir by a range of writers (new edition out this month). If you're into crime fiction, Deon Meyer's books are great. Zoe Wicomb and Sindiwe Magona are other authors who write novels about (black) women in South Africa. Personally, I find Courtenay and Wilbur Smith play too much to stereotypes to be satisfying, but millions of people love their work. In Cape Town, be sure to pop in to Clarke's Books on Long Street for the best selection, but the Exclusive Books in the OR Tambo airport (Joburg) isn't such a bad place to browse either.


kurt_a is offline  
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