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cmstraf May 31st, 2021 05:14 PM

South Africa solo May 2022: the choices
Hi All,

I am taking a 2-3 week solo trip to South Africa in May 2022, leaving my unwilling but supportive husband behind. Thus far the plan is
---Fly to Johannesburg May 1 on business class United flight obtained with miles
---3 nights Johannesburg (1 day downtime, 1 day Apartheid museum, 1 day tour of Soheto with guide.
--6 or 7 nights on safari: mostly likely, 3 at Phinda Forest Lodge, 3 at Phinda Mountain Lodge. May combine with Londolosi $$$$. Another alternative is Inyati.
--3-4 nights Cathedral Peak Hotel in Drakensberg moutains
--Naybe 3 nights in Capetown, maybe skip Capetown. I tend to like more time in fewer places but won't be back
--home with Economy one way flight J-burg with Emirates, planning to get 9 hour layover so I can get some sleep. Flight out of Capetown has only 4 hour layover which makes me want to cry. I can't afford to pay for business.

Carol Straforini

All thoughts and advice would be gratefully received.

mlgb May 31st, 2021 08:23 PM

You can drop one of the Jberg touring days, since it's possible to see both the Apartheid Museum and Soweto on the same day, using a private guide.

I liked Cape Town as a solo traveler. You don't necessarily need to stay downtown, although there are good museums there. Air BnB and Uber are available. Plenty of excursions from Cape Town also.

Far too much to see even in 3 weeks.

cmstraf May 31st, 2021 09:29 PM

Thanks, midb. Good idea about dropping one of the Jberg touring days. By "far too much to see" did you mean that SA has far too much to see or that I've included too much?

Greenhorn Jun 1st, 2021 01:32 AM

Hi Carol - a few thoughts:

mlgb is spot on with combining the Apartheid Museum with Soweto in one day.

Johannesburg (after 3 visits) remains one of my least liked cities - (though there is quite a bit to see) - if you have the energy on your first 'downtime' day (and decide to keep your visit to that city to two days) - I recommend a visit to Liliesleaf Farm (look up its history) - only 15 to 20 minutes by car from Sandton/Rosebank area where it seems most tourists stay - quite a fascinating site - and would compliment your visit to the Apartheid Museum /Soweto.

Have little experience of South African National Parks (and adjacent private reserves) - having visited only Ngala in South Africa - but query why you would choose two very closely located hotels in the Phinda Private Game Reserve. To my mind, would be better to experience different environments, combining Phinda with a visit north in a place like Londolozi or Inyati - many other options of course available.

The Drakensberg is stunning - but wondering if the Cathedral Peak Hotel is too remote (in terms of travel time) for your visit.

Capetown is a great city and if this will be your one and only visit to South Africa - I would urge you to include it. Not only is the city beautiful and beautifully situated - its hinterland and most especially its wine districts are incredibly picturesque (see Stellenbosch and Franschoek for example ((magnificent Cape Dutch architecture even if not interested in wine)). Or if not interested in that - see the Cape of Good Hope and so much more.

Have fun planning.

mlgb Jun 1st, 2021 01:48 AM

I meant that SA has far too much to see for even 3 weeks..

I'm not familiar with your reserves. I spent 10 days just in Kruger..which is HUUGE.

Gardyloo Jun 1st, 2021 08:27 AM

How would you get to Cathedral Peak? We stayed at that hotel for one night and were happy to leave. 3 or 4 nights? Yow. Mind you, the scenery to and from is spectacular, clouds willing. For that matter, how would you move around from Joburg to KZN to the Drakensberg to Cape Town etc.?

Question - have you been to the northern Drakensbergs around the Blyde Canyon and the Panorama Route? If not, you might do some googling. One advantage of this area over the central Drakensberg is the proximity to the Kruger complex of game reserves and lodges. Google Graskop and the Graskop Hotel.

We stayed a couple of nights at Phinda Forest Lodge and thought it was terrific but seriously overpriced. We much preferred some of the lodges in the Sabi Sand reserve over Phinda; the fencing around Phinda made it feel a bit too - what's the word - restricted? - for our liking. You might want to check out Madikwe as well - malaria free and we stayed a couple of time at the terrific Buffalo Ridge lodge, which had the benefit (to us) of being community-owned.

I too would shorten the time in Joburg by a day.

cmstraf Jun 9th, 2021 08:14 AM

Thanks, all. I'm just a couple of days away from having the planning done (and deposit paid) I'm working with the travel/adventure organization And Beyond, which is arranging much of the trip. They are knowledgeable, positive, socially progressive and ecologically sound, which is important to me. They are expensive, but seem like very good value. They will be arranging private transfers, either flying or driving, between different parts of my trip, flying from Sabi Sands to the Phinda airstrip, and from Durban to Capetown, driving from Phinda to Cathedral Peak Hotel.

Being in my seventies, white, and traveling without my husband is increasing expenses. I have been told by friends that even walking to restaurants and museums alone is unwise, so this has meant choosing more expensive hotels with restaurants in them and probably using guides to do things and go places on my own.

I'm going to wait and see if I have any energy on my rest day in Johannesburg--will be leaving fairly early after the third night for flight to the Sabi Sands area. I'll post when my itinerary is complete, and I'm going to look up Lillieleaf right now. Thanks again.

Heimdall Jun 11th, 2021 03:34 AM

Having visited in-laws in Cape Town several times, I can tell you that many people, even locals, use Uber when going out to restaurants in the evenings. I use the Uber app myself, both in Cape Town and London, England. When you book an Uber on the app it gives you info to help identify the driver and car, with photos and registration number of the vehicle, and a photo & name of the driver. The Uber or taxi will pick you up and drop you off at the door, so little walking involved.

Cape Town has some world class restaurants with prices lower than you would expect elsewhere. Even ordinary restaurants, the kind that locals use, have excellent food at low prices. It would be a shame to limit your dining experience to hotel restaurants. The V&A Waterfront area is safe to walk around in the evenings, and for other parts of town seek the advice of hotel staff.

cmstraf Jun 12th, 2021 06:11 AM

Thank you again, Heimdall, for your encouragement to venture out with restaurants. I''ll do it.:tu:

cmstraf Jun 12th, 2021 06:36 AM

Final Itinerary. I paid a deposit yesterday, so this trip has become real! The plan is:
--, May 1 Business flight with miles, SFO to Johannesburg
-- May 2, arrive at Maslow hotel in Jo-burg in the evening
-- May 3 recover from jet lag resting in hotel (I need this)
-- May 4 tour to Apartheid museum and Soweto
-- May 5 Fly to Londolozi game reserve, Sabi Sands
-- May 6-7 Londololozi game reserve on safari
--May 8 Fly to Phinda game reserve Rock Camp
--May 9-10 Phinda Rock Camp on Safari
---May 11 Drive to Cathedral Peaks Hotel in Drakensberg Mountains.
-- May 12-13 Hike in Drakensberg Mountain (World Heritage Site)
--May 14 Fly to Vineyard Hotel, Cape Town for 4 nights
---May 15 Private tour to Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, penguins
--May 16. Open
--May 17 1/2 day tour of Cape Town and Table Mountain

People usually give reviews at the end of a trip, but actually one of the most important and hair-raising parts can be planning it. I worked with Seranne Slaviero of And Beyond, who was a gem. She was smart, efficient, positive, stuck to budget (which I did not) and patient with my changes and wishes for views from bed. And Beyond, which I chose for its ecological sensitivity and social awareness, is arranging all of my transport, whether by air or car. To this point, I cannot say enough positive things about this travel organization. Will write a trip report after my return, COVID wiling.
I'd appreciate anyone's suggestions about Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance, which I need to acquire in the next week.

Heimdall Jun 12th, 2021 07:53 AM

Your itinerary looks great to me! Just one small suggestion: don’t leave Table Mountain until the last day. In fact, if you do want the views from the top, and they are spectacular, go on the first day you can. The cableway is closed when winds are strong, and sometimes the top of the mountain is covered by clouds known as the “tablecloth”. The tour of Cape Point and the penguins at Boulders Beach is also wonderful, but less weather dependent.

You can prebook tickets for the cableway on the official Table Mountain website that are good for seven days from the proposed date. That will give you the chance to pick the best day, and save you lining up at the ticket office, but you will still have to join the line for the cable car. When the website is working it will tell you whether the cableway is running at the moment, give you estimated waiting time, and even a weather forecast:

Gardyloo Jun 12th, 2021 08:18 AM

Same question as before. Who will be driving you from Phinda to Cathedral Peak? It's 500 km and will take all day, and remember days will be getting short in May, and you DON'T want to drive after dark on the narrow, twisty and cattle-hosting roads in the Drakensberg foothills. Then, from where will you fly from Cathedral Peak to Cape Town? The nearest airport, Ladysmith, doesn't appear to have any commercial carriers, so would you be chartering somewhere?

cmstraf Jun 12th, 2021 11:11 AM

The travel organization will be driving me from Phinda to Cathedral Peak; I will have a private driver under their employ. And Beyond seems really good; my assumption is that they know the roads. My closest friend used them to make this same journey last year and was pleased with her choice to drive rather than fly.

There will be a private transfer from Cathedral Peak to King Shaka airport, then a scheduled flight from Durban to Cape Town. I don't know what the private transfer involves. Should I be worried?

Heimdall, thanks for your suggestion about doing Table Mountain first. I'll bring it up with Seranne when we are in contact at the beginning of the week.

cmstraf Jun 12th, 2021 06:15 PM

A final question? Can someone give me advice about travel insurance? I need to get it in the next 10 days, plan to get Cancel for Any Reason, the travel adventure pays for med evacuation to the nearest hospital, I'm assuming that my own medical insurance does not pay for international care (will check Monday). I'd be grateful for any thoughts. I particularly don't understand what limits to choose for medical care/med evacuated.

Thanks much

mlgb Jul 15th, 2021 10:20 AM

Sorrry that I can't help with your trip insurance question cmstraf and you may have already bought it. A friend recently recommended Seven Corners for international Travel Medical Insurance.

I agree that you need to try first for Table Mountain. Since you have settled on a hotel near Kirstenbosch Gardens I assume that is included in your touring plans. It's open every day and you can wander on your own.

I also went on two of tip-based walking tours of Downtown. Bo-Kaap would be high on my list. Hopefully you can get a tour set up for that.

cmstraf Jul 25th, 2021 03:55 PM

travel insurance and reliable charities
Hi all,

I did get the seven corners travel insurance and very much hope I won't need to use it. In the light of the sad and also scary violence this month, while I am still hoping to go to the Apartheid museum, I a m not going to go to Soweto, partly issues of personal safety, partly in the face of so much suffering, it seems wrong to go to look. What I would like to do is give some money to help with the hunger much of the country is suffering now. Does anyhow have any suggestions of reliable choices where I might donate?

jaceprice4686 Oct 6th, 2021 01:02 AM

If you're able to include Cape Town, I'd highly recommend it. There's a number of culturally significant tourist locations in Cape Town, along with some really great scenery. It's quite a different experience from what you'd find up north. If traditional tourist attractions are what you're after, there's Robben Island, Table Mountain, Good Hope Castle. Or just an hour north there's also the West Coast National Park, which has some really nice lagoon viewing, great birds - and ostriches.

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