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South Africa itinerary help - especially Kruger portion

South Africa itinerary help - especially Kruger portion

Old Jul 6th, 2024, 02:58 PM
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South Africa itinerary help - especially Kruger portion

My husband and I and another couple (all in our 60s) are planning a first trip to South Africa in April 2025. We enjoy wine/eating out, beautiful scenery, and "easy" adventures (e.g., short day hikes, e-bikes, and light canoeing).

Here's our draft itinerary:

- Four nights Cape Town, including day trip to Boulders Beach, etc.
- 2 nights Franschoek
- 1 night Hermanus or L'Agulhas (it won't be whale season, so should we skip?)
- 1 night Oudtshoorn (ostrich farm)
- 3 nights Knynsa (or 2 in Knynsa and 1 in Plettenberg Bay?)
- 1 night Port Elizabeth - probably won't do Addo Elephant Park
- Fly to Kruger (probably Hoedspruit? Looks like a mid-day arrival)

Here's where it gets tricky! We have a total of 6 nights before we have to be back in Cape Town on the 7th day for an 8 p.m. flight home.

We would like a combination of self-drive safaris in Kruger and one two-night stay in a private lodge (probably Timbavati - looking at Moswari). Really hoping to see a leopard. We also want to do the Panorama Route. Here's what I'm thinking:

Day 1 - fly from Port Elizabeth to Hoedspruit, get car rental, and drive - probably to a Kruger rest camp - maybe Lower Sabie?

Day 2 - Lower Sabie to Olifants or Satara?

Day 3 - Private camp in Timbavati or Klaserie? Not sure we can afford Sabi Sands. Maybe Motswari in Timbavati?

Day 4 - same as previous.

Day 5 - Panorama Route and overnight in Graskop.

Day 6 - Drive back to Hoedspruit, catch flight to Cape Town, overnight in CT and then fly home the next night? I'm concerned about trying to do everything on Day 6 including catching our international flight home - so think a cushion day makes sense.

Would love your thoughts on this, to include any suggestions on the Garden Route, and - especially suggestions for the Kruger part - do the logistics make sense?

Thanks,
Karen
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Old Jul 9th, 2024, 08:22 AM
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While I think it's doable, I have a couple of observations for your consideration. These are based on personal experience and may not resonate with you.

Winelands and Garden Route: I'd be tempted to shorten the time on the Garden Route unless you have some major sights or places you need to be. You could easily base yourselves at Plettenberg Bay and visit Knysna as a day's outing, for example. I'd also include a day (and a night) in Stellenbosch, a very attractive historic college town with its own dining scene; a bit cheaper than Franschhoek. If you skipped Hermanus (which I'd do) you could add Stellenbosch easily.

Addo: I wouldn't skip Addo. In fact, and this might not find a lot of support, I'd give strong consideration to swapping Addo for a night inside Kruger NP. Both are open for self-driving, but Addo is more accessible and - just in my view - more rewarding hour by hour compared to driving around Kruger NP. Totally your call, of course.

Private game lodge, Kruger area: You might want to look at one of the lower-cost lodges within the Sabi Sand reserve, Elephant Plains. It's not as fancy as some of the others (we've stayed in 3 others in the SSGR) but the wildlife is the same, and Elephant Plains has sufficient traversing rights (where lodges are allowed on each other's territory) for optimal game viewing. We've never been to the Sabi Sand reserve when we didn't see leopards, for example. Compared with, say, Timbavati, the price for a rondavel at Elephant Plains might let your budget stretch from two nights to three.

Overall schedule: I'd be tempted to change your overall timetable fairly dramatically. I'm assuming that you'll be flying into and out of Cape Town regardless, but here's what I might do.

Start with a couple of days in Cape Town, as you're now planning. (I assume you're coming from North America, so jetlag will be an issue.)

But then fly up to Nelspruit (now Mbombela, airport code MQP) rather than Hoedspruit. Unlike Hoedspruit, MQP has nonstop flights to/from both Cape Town and Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha) versus having to change planes at JNB for both if you use Hoedspruit.

Get a car at MQP and drive (around 90 minutes) to Graskop. I'd recommend staying two nights at the artsy and funky Graskop Hotel, and don't miss a meal at Harrie's Pancakes in the village. On the full day, do your tour of the Panorama Route, then back to Graskop.

The next morning, take off for (hopefully) Elephant Sands. Here's the deal with the private lodges: They all offer two game drives per day, one in the early evening and one in the early morning. Check-in time is typically around 2 PM, giving the lodges time to clean and prepare the accommodations. You want to be there as close to that as possible, so that you can get settled and ready in time for the evening game drive. Missing the evening drive because you've arrived too late in the afternoon is leaving (a lot of) money on the table, so staging yourselves in Graskop the night before makes a lot of sense. Map - https://maps.app.goo.gl/xxe7AWqARE1REHbA6

When you're done in the Kruger area, drive back to MQP, drop the car and fly down to PLZ. The Addo main camp is around 90 minutes from the airport, and I'm betting you'd find a day driving around Addo to be terrific.

From there, it's on to the Garden Route. I'd stop (maybe for a meal) at Jeffreys Bay, one of the world's most famous surfing beaches, then on to either Plettenberg Bay or Knysna.

One thing I'd suggest is that you have a look at swapping Oudsthoorn for an overnight trip up to Paternoster on the Atlantic coast around 2 hours north of Cape Town. This is a lovely old village right on the beach, with colorful fishing boats and terrific seafood. You could detour going or coming to West Coast National Park, full of wildlife (no big 5, but plenty of other species) and birds - also very beautiful.

Here's a map with all this: https://maps.app.goo.gl/dW6iaBymzSjAW88U6

So anyway, a lot of thoughts; hope it's not disruptive.
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 05:44 AM
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Originally Posted by althom1122
My husband and I and another couple (all in our 60s) are planning a first trip to South Africa in April 2025. We enjoy wine/eating out, beautiful scenery, and "easy" adventures (e.g., short day hikes, e-bikes, and light canoeing).

Here's our draft itinerary:

- Four nights Cape Town, including day trip to Boulders Beach, etc.
- 2 nights Franschoek
- 1 night Hermanus or L'Agulhas (it won't be whale season, so should we skip?)
- 1 night Oudtshoorn (ostrich farm)
- 3 nights Knynsa (or 2 in Knynsa and 1 in Plettenberg Bay?)
- 1 night Port Elizabeth - probably won't do Addo Elephant Park
- Fly to Kruger (probably Hoedspruit? Looks like a mid-day arrival)

Here's where it gets tricky! We have a total of 6 nights before we have to be back in Cape Town on the 7th day for an 8 p.m. flight home.

We would like a combination of self-drive safaris in Kruger and one two-night stay in a private lodge (probably Timbavati - looking at Moswari). Really hoping to see a leopard. We also want to do the Panorama Route. Here's what I'm thinking:

Day 1 - fly from Port Elizabeth to Hoedspruit, get car rental, and drive - probably to a Kruger rest camp - maybe Lower Sabie?

Day 2 - Lower Sabie to Olifants or Satara?

Day 3 - Private camp in Timbavati or Klaserie? Not sure we can afford Sabi Sands. Maybe Motswari in Timbavati?

Day 4 - same as previous.

Day 5 - Panorama Route and overnight in Graskop.

Day 6 - Drive back to Hoedspruit, catch flight to Cape Town, overnight in CT and then fly home the next night? I'm concerned about trying to do everything on Day 6 including catching our international flight home - so think a cushion day makes sense.

Would love your thoughts on this, to include any suggestions on the Garden Route, and - especially suggestions for the Kruger part - do the logistics make sense?

Thanks,
Karen

Cape Town and Surroundings

  • Cape Town (4 nights): Explore the city, V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain, and take a day trip to Boulders Beach to see the penguins. Don't miss a visit to Stellenbosch for wine tasting.
  • Franschhoek (2 nights): Enjoy the vineyards and gourmet restaurants.

Hermanus or L'Agulhas

  • Hermanus or L'Agulhas (1 night): Even if it's not whale season, Hermanus is still charming for a night. L'Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa, could be an interesting alternative.

Oudtshoorn and Knysna

  • Oudtshoorn (1 night): Visit an ostrich farm and the Cango Caves.
  • Knysna (2-3 nights): Opt for 2 nights in Knysna and 1 night in Plettenberg Bay. Explore the Knysna Lagoon, take a cruise, and visit the Knysna Heads.

Port Elizabeth and Kruger National Park

  • Port Elizabeth (1 night): If not visiting Addo Elephant Park, spend the night in PE before flying to Hoedspruit.

Kruger and Timbavati

  • Day 1: Fly from Port Elizabeth to Hoedspruit, rent a car, and drive to Lower Sabie.
  • Day 2: From Lower Sabie to Olifants or Satara. Both camps offer good wildlife viewing opportunities, including leopards.
  • Days 3-4: Stay at a private lodge in Timbavati (Motswari is an excellent option).
  • Day 5: Panorama Route and overnight in Graskop. Explore sites like Blyde River Canyon, the Three Rondavels, and Bourke's Luck Potholes.
  • Day 6: Return to Hoedspruit, fly to Cape Town. Having a reserve day is a good idea to avoid stress related to international flights.

Kruger Logistics Suggestions

  • Leopards: Satara and Timbavati are known for good leopard sightings.
  • Panorama Route: Allow enough time to explore this spectacular route. Graskop is a good starting point.

General Tips

  • Car Rental: Ensure you have a comfortable car for long distances
  • Bookings: Book your accommodations and activities well in advance, especially for private lodges in game reserves.
  • Travel Time: Be flexible and ready to adjust your itinerary based on local conditions and recommendations from local guides.
Your plan seems well-balanced, offering a combination of relaxation, adventure, and cultural discovery. Enjoy your trip to South Africa!


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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 05:56 AM
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Wow - great input. You've given me lots of food for thought. The issue I didn't mention earlier is that our friends are joining us for the Cape Town, wine country, and Garden Route. They are then flying back to Cape Town and home, whereas we will be going on to Kruger. They have a safari with their daughter/husband two months earlier in Botswana and so decided to skip the SA safari. That means we have to leave Kruger for the end.

I really like your idea of adding a night at Stellenbosch - I think all four of us would really enjoy that. And agree with skipping Hermanus. Will look into your other suggestions.

At this point, I've made some lodging reservations - but all can be canceled - and have switched the itinerary somewhat based on feedback from the TripAdvisor forum.

I have the flight from Kruger back to Cape Town out of HDS at the end of the trip - this is non-refundable. (I was assuming Timbavati.) I've also booked Motswari, but that can be changed. The reason I selected it is because we want some luxury to treat ourselves at the end of the trip - but can't afford the nicer lodges at Sabi Sands (well, we could, but don't want to spend that much).

The itinerary looks like this:
- Fly Skukuza (not booked) - pick up car - head to Lower Sabie Rest Camp (reserved) - but worried - saw a number of reviews about bat droppings.
- Self-drive - return to Lower Sabie (so two nights here)
- Drive Panorama Route, and spend night at Hoedspruit (booked Wild Dog)
- Head to Motswari - check in
- Motswari
- Back to Hoedspruit for flight back to Cape Town

Why did you suggest basing at Plett rather than Knynsa? I thought the latter would have more to do and be nicer (prettier?). Also, I really wanted to see an ostrich farm - hence Oudtshoorn. Some other activities we're interested in: Monkeyland and maybe Birds of Eden, a cruise somewhere along the way - either lunch or sunset - short hike at Robberg, lunch at Fynboshoek Cheese (Storms River). We very much enjoy good food/wine. I'd also like to hit the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden in Stellenbosch - so was planning on at least driving through there. But it will be easier if we add a night there. I'd like to swim with the seals in Plett, but haven't broached that with the other couple yet.

So... based on this, what do you think of the new plan? Again, thank you so much for the thoughtful and detailed response.
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 06:04 AM
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Isaac - just seeing your response! I think I was typing my response to Gardyloo at the same time you were posting. Thank you so much! What do you think of what I just posted?
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 06:19 AM
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Lots of great advice above.

I'd seriously consider one of the lodges in Sabi Sands - not saying this is a trip of a lifetime and you'll never be back, but the rewards of being out in a private game reserve , to me, just up the whole wildlife experience massively.In the National Park, self driving, you cannot follow the animal off road; so yes you might see a leopard but chances are it will very likely be on the move and will disappear within seconds. We've stayed in two of the "lower end" lodges Arathusa and also Inyati (the latter prettier overall but Arathusa has a watering hole which is amazing for bringing game right down in front of your accommodation)but have also done some NP driving with a guide in Botswana's NPs.The latter, while great, was very frustrating because when an animal was sighted we couldn't follow and enjoy watching it on the hunt or returning to a pride etc.(I would add that vehicles are almost invisible to the wildlife and do not disturb them as such.)
I'd add that the quality of accommodation, food and guides in both Lodges was excellent.
Our first trip to SA was supposed to be 'once in a lifetime' but we've been back twice and also ventured into several other southern African countries on two other trips - great wildlife watching becomes highly addictive.





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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 09:59 AM
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Thanks, Scotlandmac. We were planning our private lodge experience at Motswari in Timbavati. Do you think Sabi Sands is that much better?
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