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South Africa planning (CT,Garden Route + Safari)

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May 26th, 2014, 05:44 AM
  #1
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South Africa planning (CT,Garden Route + Safari)

Hello everyone! My husband and I just got clearance for 2 weeks holiday and we plan on celebrating my 50th and our 30th wedding anniversary (yes, we were young in South Africa. As of now I have a general outline but hoped you could answer a few questions. We are flying from London to Cape Town and plan on 4 nights there, which would include time in the city, Robbens and a day in the Winelands among other things.

After Cape Town, I planned to hire a car and drive at least part of the Garden Route. Someone suggested that we stay 1 or 2 nights in Hermanus and then move on to 2 nights near Plettenberg Bay. I looked on the map and they seem bizarrely close to Cape Town and I wondered if an overnight in both locations was necessary or if I should choose one or the other?

We plan on going on safari for 3/4 days from the Garden Route and can't figure out if it would be easier to get to Phinda or Sabi Sands from the Plettenberg Bay area.

We also thought about adding on a few days at the beach or trading that for a side to Victoria Falls. I'm worried that adding on either might make the whole trip feel rushed (I hate running from one place to the next, tbh, so there's a balance between seeing enough and enjoying the experience). I tend to be a slow traveler at heart.

This is our first trip to SA and our first safari. We have no checklist to fill out and just plan on enjoying the experience and being together.

Thank you so much for any help and insight you can provide.

Kind Regards
Megan
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May 26th, 2014, 02:01 PM
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I went to Hermanus on a day trip from Cape Town. We had lunch, walked along the coastal path, and viewed many whales. Hermanus is a cute town, and we passed a lovely day but I had no desire to spend the night. Make sure that your visit coincides with whale spotting, and also realize that spotting the whales is, I believe, weather dependent. I think you should plan a day or two longer in Cape Town, especially if your visit includes a trip to Robben Island and the Winelands.
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May 26th, 2014, 02:45 PM
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When will you be going?

Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay is a full day's drive, and if you're going in the southern winter (arguably the best time for safaris in the north) then you also have to deal with short-ish daylight hours.

Having been to both Phinda and several lodges in the Sabi Sand area, I would return to SSGR and the Kruger area over Phinda. If so, then your choices from "Plett" would be either to return to Cape Town and fly north, or continue along the coast to Port Elizabeth and then fly from PLZ either to Joburg or connect through Joburg and fly to Nelspruit or Hoedspruit (or if the budget can afford it, fly right into the Sabi Sand reserve on a lodge charter or scheduled feeder flight.) Most of the lodges can arrange a transfer either from Hoedspruit or Nelspruit, or you can drive (around 2 hours from Hoedspruit, 3 from Nelspruit) to the SSGR gate(s).

If you dropped the car at Port Elizabeth, you could squeeze in a day or two at Addo Elephant NP, a self-drive park with some great scenery and LOTS of elephants.

Driving from Joburg to the SSGR requires several hours (good roads, but a long way.) We generally stop for an overnight at Graskop, a nice little town right in the middle of the Panoramic Route and close to Blyde Canyon, an incredibly scenic zone. Visit one or two of the Panoramic Route sights, then it's an easy morning drive to the SSGR gates, so you arrive in plenty of time for the first evening game drive.
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May 27th, 2014, 02:32 PM
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Ah, thanks so much for your input and insight. It's so helpful! Thanks so much for the tip about Hermanus and advice about adding a day in Cape Town.

Since this is such a last minute trip (we're looking at early October), lodge choice is pretty limited and we'll have to make do with availability. Such is the life of limited holiday time! I will look at all of the fly/drive options and choices you suggested about different parts.

As always, there is never enough time!

Thanks again. I really appreciate your help.
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May 27th, 2014, 09:11 PM
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Why the Garden Route? I would skip it and do Sabi Sand and Phinda. If you use &Beyond lodges in SS or Timbavati they will arrange flights between the two areas. I'm a safari girl, so being in S Africa for scenery doesn't make much sense to me. Elephants and lions (or rhinos and cheetahs) are much more interesting. If budget is the issue to not do both, there are less expensive alternatives - try Arathusa in SS (there are many affordable options!!) and Tembe Elephant Park north of Phinda. You can drive between the two areas in a day - we stopped in Mbabane, Swaziland. We are going (next week!) to Kruger and a park near Phinda, Zululand Rhino Reserve. We booked our flights on May 2, so four months to plan is a luxury. We only have two weeks this time, too, and a very small budget.

I would do 3-4 nights Cape Town, fly direct to Nelspruit (or Hoedspruit) and get a transfer from the lodge, then fly or drive (car rentals at both airports) to Phinda for 3-4 nights(Durban is 2-3 hours away, or charter direct), then fly back to JNB for flight home. Open jaw flights are available (fly into CT, out of JNB). If driving, you'll lose a night between JNB and SS and 1 night between SS and Phinda. Easy drives.

You could also try Mashatu in SE Botswana combined with SS. It's my favorite place we've been so far. It's really easy to do a self drive from SS to Punda Marie in northern Kruger, then drive west to Mashatu (or you can do flights SS to Mashatu). It does involve a stay in Kruger, but restaurants are available at PM. Just a thought - I really loved Mashatu and hope to return in 2016!

Visit the Garden Route and Addo (or one of the private reserves in the area) next time. KwaZulu Natal (where Phinda is) is beautiful, too. The town of St Lucia has tons to do, and is in a UNESCO site. The Indian Ocean is beautiful, and warm.

Have fun planning!!
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May 30th, 2014, 06:49 AM
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I agree with Christabir about the Garden Route. It's nice, but not worth giving up safari time on your first trip to South Africa.

Another possibility in Sabi Sands that won't bust the budget is Elephant Plains. We had a lovely time there in 2012.

Have a wonderful time, Gypsyfeet!

Celia
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Jun 4th, 2014, 12:20 PM
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2-3days in Capetown are plenty to do the winelands & some historical. You could do Table Mountain if open & good weather & Kirstenbosch Gardens has the new Boomslang open! A day trip to Hermanus is great & you can see the Penguins at Boulders beach also. We have been on safari 5 times in South Africa & the SabiSand area reserves are the BEST for animals, big cats, elies, & especially leopard. Have a great company we always use there in Capetown if you want. We have gone to MANY different lodges.
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Jun 6th, 2014, 07:13 AM
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A bit of thinking outside the box...

I agree SS is fantastic. I've done wonderful safaris there. Once I even spent two weeks on Sabi Sabi plot, doing my FGASA lvl 1 guide exams.

...but it is not the only place you can do a great safari.

If your mind is already made up on CT and the garden route; leave it like that! Not sure why anyone would dismiss the garden route. If you're in the neighborhood and never been there, you should definitely go see it. There's plenty of stuff to do:

- Knysna & Featherbed Island
- Swellendam & Drotsky museum
- Mossel bay;Diaz museum & whale watching
- George & Outeniqua Transpot Museum
- Oudtshoorn; visit an ostrich farm & Cango caves. THere's also a cheetah rehabilitation centre nearby.

On top of that, there's plenty of "pure nature" destinations along the way that are really food for the soul. I'm thinking of;
- De Hoop nature reserve (unspoilt beaches etc).
- Nature's Valley in Tsitsikamma National Park, near Plettenberg. Also check out Tsala Treetops lodge. Simply divine!

And to end your trip, instead of flying from Port Elizabeth to Nelspruit and from there to a lodge in Sabi Sands; why not do a safari at one of the reserves near Addo national park? They offer similar big 5 experiences and accommodation is just as luxurious as you want it to be. Added bonus; no malaria.

Check out reserves such as Shamwari, Amakhala, Lalibela, Pumba and Kwandwe. Or Samara, further north.

HTH,

J.
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