South Africa in February?


Oct 16th, 2014, 08:19 AM
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South Africa in February?

We are in the very early planning stages for a trip in 2016. We will use FF miles to get there from the USA, so I want to have a general idea of our itinerary when flights start to become available early next year. We are planning on 2 weeks, which means we'll have about 11 days "on the ground". My thinking is that we will start in Cape Town with some time perhaps in the wine lands, then head to the Eastern Cape along the garden route and finish with a safari in one of the private reserves on the Eastern Cape. My questions are as follows:

1) We have done safaris before (Kenya and India), so we will probably only spend a couple of nights (4 game drives) doing this at a luxury camp. Given the time of year and the proposed itinerary, does doing a safari at one of the Eastern Cape private reserves make the most sense? Or should we head to Kruger instead?

2) How long is the drive from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth? Is there a best place to stop for two or three nights on the way where we can spend time shopping and sightseeing?

3) If we do an Eastern Cape safari, it seems it would be easiest to drive to Port Elizabeth, fly to Johannesburg or Cape Town and fly home from there. Does this make sense?

4) With our limited time, we will obviously not be able to cover much of South Africa - does this sound like a reasonable itinerary? Are there any other places that are not-to-be-missed?

Thanks for your help.
Craig is offline  
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Oct 16th, 2014, 07:33 PM
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For me, the only reason to go to S Africa is safari, although I love everything about the Rainbow Nation. In two weeks, you are going to miss most of the "not to be missed", but they can wait until next time. You didn't give us any idea of what you like to do, so it's hard to give any advice.

You are doing self drive - just know they drive on the left side of the road, so I hope you are comfortable with that. If not, it is always possible to get a private driver. I didn't have a lot of trouble getting used to it, but I was a bit off with the manual transmission on the other side.

We find FF flights open up much closer to travel than a year out, with fewer miles required. We are flexible with dates, so flying on off days is not a problem. Leaving Friday and landing on Sunday is more difficult to book than Saturday to Monday, but not impossible. I booked travel for this past June in April using the minimum miles required. It worked out great.

It is usually the same price to rent a car in CT and drop it off in PE, so it makes no sense to return to CT (or vice versa). I use Avis. I would not use my short time traveling to Kruger. Addo is a huge, wonderful park and the private reserves are good. Check google maps for drive times, but expect construction delays. I hate to move every night - I prefer three nights minimum per stop. Find a nice stopover on the garden route that interests you. Personally, there are waterfront condo style accommodations at Storms River Mouth that look close to perfect, with lots of activities. Then there is Jeffrey's Bay for the serious surfers just east of PE. I would need way more time than two weeks - whales, golf, Addo, Mountain Zebra and Camdeboo NPs. Too much! Oh yeah, Cape Town - Robben Island, Kirstenbosch Garden, Penguins, Table Mtn.

Have fun planning. It's half the fun.
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Oct 17th, 2014, 03:27 AM
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christabir - we enjoy culture, dining out, hiking, horseback riding, shopping, history and taking in the scenery. About the only thing we don't spend a lot of time at is sitting on a beach somewhere.

I have driven on the "wrong" side of the road in Ireland (manual), Japan and Australia.

We usually leave mid-week and are willing to wait for our desired flights become available - just want to be ready, in case something good comes up. The other reason I start so early is that I too enjoy the planning.

I appreciate the advice in your 4th paragraph - wish we could take more than 2 weeks at a time, but we'll have to save that for retirement...
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Oct 17th, 2014, 05:32 AM
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Craig, I'm with you on the early planning. Originally looked into South Africa for 2015, but with timing and interests, we finally decided that it won't work out - settled on Sri Lanka instead. Would be interested in what itinerary you wind up with if you decide on SA. Happy planning!
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Oct 19th, 2014, 11:51 AM
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We waited and waited for those FF seats in Business Class to open up on the non-stop from Atlanta to Jo-berg. 18 hours in a lay flat bed is amazing. They never got less expensive than the "mid-price" range. If you're looking for coach seats, that's a different story. Or if you're willing to fly through Paris or Amsterdam to make connections. I really wanted the specific flights and plane, so watched daily.

Also agree with christabir. The only reason I would fly that far is for something I absolutely can't find elsewhere -- wild animals on safari. I can visit wine country, shop, dine, ride, and admire scenery in a multitude of places much closer to home...and a lot less expensive. We have been to Africa three times. Spending 3 weeks on safari each time. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Loved Botswana this last time around.

Good luck. Enjoy!
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Oct 19th, 2014, 12:29 PM
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We tend to get off the beaten track and not do what everyone else is doing.

We have taken one 2 to 2-1/2 week "big" trip every year since 2000 and have managed to get flights in business class with miles for each one, so we know the drill...

I am assuming that the scenery, shopping, wine country etc. in SA will be different from the USA and the countries we've visited recently (and flown pretty far to see): Australia, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Belize.

We could actually do wine, shopping, riding and admiring scenery in my home state of Connecticut and save a lot of money by your logic, I suppose.

However, as I said in the my original post, we've done safaris, seen the "Big Five" and tigers in India to boot. While we certainly want to do a safari in SA, that doesn't have to be the focus. From what I've seen, other than the safaris, South Africa is a relatively inexpensive place to travel to with much history and culture, which is also part of our focus.
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Oct 22nd, 2014, 12:32 PM
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We spent some time along the Garden Route and also the Karoo in October of 2012. Is a link to the post (which I did in route) that covers some of what you may want to see. (And skips over the Vic Falls and Zimbabwe safari, which you won't need to see).

Photos are here --
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Oct 23rd, 2014, 06:08 AM
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May I ask what your per night budget is, even if just for the safari piece of your trip? I'd love to make some recommendations for you. More info would be helpful though.
Thanks Dianne, Africa Direct USA
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Oct 23rd, 2014, 08:08 AM
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I certainly didn't mean to insult your travel style, Craig. I'm just saying, for my personal taste, it's all about the animals in Africa. we eat well on safari? Absolutely. I can't think of a better dining experience than sitting outside, overlooking a plains, delta or savanna--spotting a herd of elephants come to drink while sipping a fine SA wine.

We just returned from 10 days in Lyon, FR where we drove through the wine districts of Burgundy and Beaujolais. Dining in small bouchons, wine tastings, cooking classes, and beautiful scenery was the focus of that excursion. It was all about food and wine. In Africa, I want to be out in a vehicle with my guide as often and as long as possible. I find that sitting at a sundowner sighting with a G&T amongst a dazzle of zebra or a journey of giraffe or spending hours watching a mother cheetah teach her 4 cubs to hunt, is an amazing experience that we can find nowhere else.

Everyone has their own special idea of perfect. I am happy that you have found yours, while I enjoy mine. Cheers!
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Oct 23rd, 2014, 02:58 PM
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Thanks, uhoh for the links.

Dianne - US$1000 (safari only), but would welcome less. We do tend to travel independently and book direct or local (non-US) agents where possible, if that matters to you.

TC - yes, our priorities are different. Happy travels .
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Oct 23rd, 2014, 04:05 PM
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I think it will be difficult to match your experience on safari in Eastern Cape since you have already experienced game-rich Kruger and Kenya. If I were you, I would go to Sabi Sands or Timbavati in a heartbeat especially when there are direct flights between Cape Town and Kruger region. Having said that, I can appreciate an interest in seeing other game reserves and with that in mind, Kwande would then be my recommendation for you. Phinda would be another great reserve, especially if you had an interest in visiting St Lucia Wetlands (World Heritage Site).

For traveling from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, I would recommend overnight in Mossel Bay and then again 2 nights in Knysna/Plettenberg Bay.

Another option might be to fly JNB – Port Elizabeth then hire a car, tour Garden Route up to Cape Town, spend time in Cape Town and then fly to Kruger -- if you decide to return there for a safari.

Btw, you should enjoy the SA winelands! There are some incredible lovely boutique style places to stay, great restaurants and it's different in its own way from US vineyards.

I think you are wise to start your planning now. Your itinerary should be an expression of who you are: what you like to see, your style of lodging, and how much time you want to spend in the various places just to take it all in!

Happy to help! Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Dianne, Africa Direct USA
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Oct 24th, 2014, 06:57 AM
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Dianne - great food for thought. I'll be open-minded about the routing. We have not been to Kruger but will research this and your other suggestions.
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Oct 25th, 2014, 06:36 PM
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We are doing a self drive trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town in April 2015. This will be our second self drive in South Africa.

In 2009 we rented a car and did a round trip tour from Johannesburg to Kruger seeing some of the beautiful countryside west of Kruger and doing a fantastic self drive safari in Kruger staying at Satara and Lower Sabie in the park. We then flew to Cape Town, stayed 6 days and rented another car touring the wine country and the city proper.

With out a doubt the self drive safari in Kruger was the best of the safaris we have done, including one at a private Sabi Sands camp just next to Kruger and a private landrover with driver, week long safari in the Serengeti. The Serengeti was fabulous, but there is nothing like finding the animals all by yourself and having the spot to yourself, for as long as the animal or you want to/will stay put.

The first trip was so much fun we are going back and will spend enough time to do another self drive safari in Kruger on the way to a stop in St Lucia, then Durban with time for the Zulu Battlefields, on to Addo for a few days with the elephants and what ever else we can find. Then we drive the Garden Route to the Wine country and end in Cape Town.

I Goolged self drive Garden Route tours and came up with several canned routes (ones agents were selling which gave me some very interesting ideas for things that appeal to us. Plus these tours also gave me an idea what is reasonable for a day's drive or site seeing.

I will post a blog of our trip, but that won't help you much for your planning right now.

And I agree planning is at least half the fun!!
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Oct 26th, 2014, 05:01 PM
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Hi Craig
I actually like the plan you laid out in your original post. You could spend 4-6 nights in and around CPT then make your way slowly along the Garden Route and end with a safari in the Eastern Cape.

There are tons of activity and accommodation options along the Garden Route, and there were some unique shops as well. I can't remember peak season for whale (and great white shark) watching, but that might also be an option in addition to hiking trails and boat rides on the river. It's a very scenic part of the country.

I'd much prefer an Eastern Cape safari to Kruger because it is less crowded. It would also depend on what type of safari experience you seek. Kruger is popular because of the density of game and the comparative ease of sightings. Another advantage of an Eastern Cape safari is the scarcity of malaria.

I would rather not drive, and so I would park myself in a location for a few days while exploring the options and then use a private transfer to reach the next destination. Well worth it, and I've had a great experience with the company Ilios for transfers.

You'll have a great time regardless of which options you eventually decide upon. The exchange rate is in our favor and South Africa is one of my favorite places to visit overall.
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Oct 27th, 2014, 10:22 PM
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We found two nights en route from CT to Port Elizabeth adequate, and the driving straightforward (got caught speeding and just paid the police what they wanted - since they 'had forgotten' their receipt book!). Loved staying in Dana Bay in a wonderful Austrian-owned B&B - it's close to Mossel Bay and they organised a private driver (no cost) to take us to and from a restaurant in Mossel Bay - you can choose which one from a short list. J-Bay probably best bet for the other night en route. South Africans seem to love Plettenberg Bay a lot. Can't comment as we only stopped for coffee there.
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Oct 27th, 2014, 10:40 PM
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These so called "on the spot" fines are not legal here in South Africa. There is a huge police corruption problem here and by "just paying what they wanted" you are contributing to the problem. If you have really broken the law you must insist on paper ticket. Never pay directly in cash to the cops as it goes right in their pockets and they go on to hassle the next person. They will try and tell you all sorts of things but hold your ground, they will soon understand you are not paying and move along.
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Nov 8th, 2014, 03:09 AM
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For the last 8 years or so we have spent the winters in the Western Cape, Gordon's Bay, which is about 40 minutes west of Cape Town. This is not a safari area, and in fact it's not the best time for safaris, but it's a great way to escape the winter in the northern hemisphere.

IF you do want to drive along the Garden Route, one place to stop overnight is Wilderness, very close to Kynysna. This is what we did in January. We drove from Gordon's Bay,stopping one night on the way back, as we still had several weeks left in our stay.

Lots of people love Knysna, and there should be a fair amount to do there for a day or so, but we prefer Wilderness, which is quieter, and to my mind, prettier. We stayed in Wilderness Manor, one of the best Guest houses we have stayed anywhere in the world. Great hosts, lovely rooms, wonderful breakfasts (how do you like your scrambled eggs? Runny, soft, or hard? Never been asked that before. And they came the way I wanted)

Another option is Oudtshoorn. Another very comfortable place.

Our trip was to the Addo Elephant Park - not a safari, but we enjoyed it immensely. Nothing like having a whole family of elephants walk around your car as if you wernt there. Some shots of Addo, http://cettesemaineacarlux.blogspot....onale-des.html
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Nov 10th, 2014, 04:38 PM
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Yes it does make sense to do a safari in the Eastern Cape, and to do a one-way trip leaving from PE. CT to PE is 10 hours drive approx 750 km, the game reserves are a further hours drive from PE, 100 km.

For of the beaten-track look at the Robertson area, McGregor is a hidden gem. Then travel the R62 into the Klein Karoo, stay around Oudtshoorn. From here you could go to Mossel Bay but I'd skip it unless it really interests you. The biggest town/shopping is Knysna, better here at mid-week than weekends.

To help you decide look on youtube at the many suggestions received.
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Nov 10th, 2014, 08:12 PM
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Hi Craig,

11 days is not a lot of time but if that is the most you can do then you will have to make some tough choices.

Kruger and surrounds are amazing but since safari doesn't seem to be a priority for this trip and you only want 2 days, I would stick to the Eastern Cape as you also want to see the garden route. I don't know the luxury camps, we also stayed at Addo which we really enjoyed (though it really can't be compared to Kruger). There were 3 beautiful little lion cubs born recently in Addo who are doing really well. They will of course be much older by the time of your trip but just in case anyone is going soon be sure to look for them (I have only seen photos).

When we visited the garden route (after a week in KZN) we stayed 2 days Addo, 2 Storm's River Mouth, 2 Knysna and 2 days in Wilderness. That seemed really rushed to me as there is so much to do and we didn't get to see the Karoo though we did drive to Cape Town on the Route 62. I stayed at Wilderness Manor too, my favorite B&B of the whole trip and I highly recommend it. It looks like you can only stay 2-3 days so I think you will have to pick one place. Hard to say what I enjoyed the most as they are all different and I enjoyed everything. Storm's River Mouth has a lot of activites to do including a fun zipline if you are interested in anything like that.

I would also plan 5-6 days in Cape Town especially if you include the winelands. Before we moved here last year we took 3 separate trips to South Africa and always included Cape Town for 5-6 and never ran out of things to do.

If you are interested, the photos from my 2012 trip including the Garden Route are here:

Have fun planning, South Africa is amazing.

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Nov 25th, 2014, 05:08 PM
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Hi. I'm late to the thread but if you are still planning, I hope you will consider safari in the Sabi Sand private concession area of Kruger and spend at least a day or two in Johannesburg on your way to or from Kruger. Visiting Joberg will ensure that you have a culturally relevant trip that will encompass the history, food, and culture of the apartheid era. There are amazing ways to tour Soweto and take in Mandela's house, Desmond Tutu's house and the Hetrick Peterson museum to learn about the Soweto uprising. While there, you must eat at Wandies or Sakumzi. Additionally, the Apartheid Museum can't be missed. I've been numerous times and am always inspired. Lillie's Leaf Farm, the last place all the freedom fighters hid is also something, as is the Cradle of Mankind in Pretoria. Consider Joberg for relevant South African history and Sabi Sand for some of the best safari in all of Africa. Don't forget Robben Island while in beautiful Capetown, one of my favorite cities in the world!

We will be back in South Africa for Christmas with an addition of Botswana! Can't wait!
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