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South African Cities

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And following up on my earlier post (first time visitors, in our fifties, looking at June 2017) - we will have about 2 weeks to visit. We've learned that we don't like bouncing around a lot on trips - we would rather establish a home base and explore from there. What advice would you give about which cities to prioritize. I read an article about Durban that intrigued me...Is it possible to visit two cities plus say Kruger or Kwazulu-natal without flying in between? (we would be ok with driving).

We are history fanatics, and otherwise most love rambling around cities and the countryside getting a feel for the country. I would love to learn more about the peoples of S.A. (those who were there before the Europeans arrived) if it can be done in a non-exploitive way.

in otherwords, don't know nuttin but am really eager to learn a lot more.

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    Hi Again Laura,
    I'll try & answer a few of your queries below -

    It is possible to visit two cities, as well as a game reserve, but assuming you are flying in via Johannesburg, I would on your first visit to the country, opt for Johannesburg itself, not Durban, and then, for Cape Town, simply because it is a must-see.
    And then of course, you would add your game-vewing choice, which as per my other reply to yourself, would be Kruger National Park.

    Whilst Johannesburg serves very much as a transit city for holiday-makers coming to South Africa, Cape Town is very much a place to stay a few days, to do day trips, & to possibly venture out on an overnight trip.

    I worked out a very 'bare-bones' itinerary for fellow travelers enquiring about South Africa, they had roughly twelve days to spend in the country.
    The itinerary is as follows -

    Day 1: On the day you arrive to Johannesburg, after 18 hours of traveling, spend one refreshing night in a hotel in Johannesburg
    Day 2: Transfer to Kruger National Park (KNP) and stay at one of the many outstanding Game Reserves for 3 nights
    Day 3: stay KNP as above
    Day 4: stay KNP as above
    Day 5: Transfer to a second Game Reserve in Kruger National Park for 2 more nights
    Day 6: stay KNP as above
    DAy 7: Leave Game Reserve and fly to Cape Town (CT), stay in Cape Town hotel for 3 nights and do day trips around Cape Town (visit museums, Robben Island, Table Mountain, the Castle, Bo-Kaap, do a local township tour to meet the locals)
    Day 8: stay CT as above
    Day 9: stay CT as above
    Day 10: Depart CT on a 2-day mini trip to Hermanus to very possibly see the whales, as well as to Stellenbosch/Franschhoek, a premier winelands area of South Africa
    Day 11: stay Stellenbosch/Franschhoek as above (or back to Cape Town proper)
    Day 12: Depart Cape Town for Johannesburg. Overnight in Johannesburg
    Day 13: Depart South Africa

    As I mentioned, this is a very rough itinerary, & can possibly be amended to spend a second night in Johannesburg upon arrival. You could then add a cultural day trip to see the Apartheid Museum, as well as to visit Soweto, & other local interests.

    South Africa has a very rich history, this will become apparent as you travel the country & meet the people. Every step of your trip will be a wonderful cultural learning experience, with smiling locals warm, & keen to share their heritage.

    I hope this helps,
    Happy Planning,
    Debbi - Travel Guru, Southern Destinations

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    Since you are travelling in June, CPT can be quite cold and wet with mist hanging over the city, the vineyards bare. Having said that, it can also be very cosy in the places you visit, with open fires etc. JNB can also be cold but sunny which is lovely.

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    Hi Laura!

    Great that you are planning for a trip to such an incredible place!

    I would fly JNB to Cape Town and spend 3-4 nights there exploring and enjoying the natural beauty, cultural history, and the incredible food/wine. Consider visiting Robben Island where Mandela spent 18 of his imprisoned years and District 6 Museum to learn more about the apartheid history. Visiting the penguin colony down in Simon's Town with an additional stop at the Cape of Good Hope always delights. The Kirstenbosch Gardens is also a nice visit. They have a lovely Sculpture Garden and their Centenary Tree Canopy Walk is architecturally designed to mimic the undulating movements of the "boomslang", local for "tree snake". A trip to the top of Table Mountain provides such wonderful views of the city where the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean converge. Adding on a night or two in the winelands would be a foodie's heaven. The wine train gives visitors the option to hop on hop off and visit a number of vineyards. There are so many ideas for the Cape Town and its surrounding area - that's for sure! Your timing may mean that it could be misty or foggy and a little chilly but certainly not the cold that many of us face in the USA. I just had clients return and they were surfing outside of Cape Town. Granted they had wetsuits on but they had decent weather.

    I would then fly from CPT to one of the airports that serve the Greater Kruger National Park (which includes Kruger plus a number of private reserves that abut Kruger with no fence). I'd recommend 3 nights in one location followed by another lodge in another spot. You can move between reserves or stay in the same reserve, specifically Sabi Sand, as some of the concessions have the Sabi River running through the area while others don't. So it is quite possible to stay within that reserve. So much depends upon availability, budget and your travel style but there are MANY lodges to pick from. You could opt for a suite style room at one lodge and a tented option at another.

    Safari is such an incredibly moving experience that I recommend it be last in your itinerary. It's nice to make it the grand finale. Also, the early wake up times are typically easier after you have fully adjusted to the time difference which is why I would recommend a stay in Cape Town first. There is no difference in cost to fly the loop of flights either way. And it is quite possible to do it the other way but barring any itinerary restrictions, I recommend it as last.

    An alternative to any of the Kruger Reserves would be to consider your safari stay in beautiful Phinda Private Game Reserve in Kwazulu-Natal which is near to the coast line. This area is beautiful. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is South Africa's first World Heritage Site. Beautiful wetlands, coastal dunes and widely varied eco systems. For example, Phinda, which has its own lodges on the reserve, has 7 distinct eco systems ranging from sub tropical to evergreen woods. It is pretty amazing and fascinating from an ecohabitat perspective. Clients are always pleased there but if you are set on seeing Leopards then Kruger area may be a better fit. I have seen leopards at Phinda but sightings are rarer than in Sabi Sand which is widely known as having superb leopard viewing.

    Hope this is helpful!

    Africa Direct USA

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    Thank you Dianne and Odin. I've noticed that most people seem to be recommending flying to whichever reserve we choose. How long would it take to drive? I find that whenever we add a flight in the middle of a trip it takes us up the better part of a day getting to and from airports, checking in etc, whereas if we drive we get to see the countryside on the way. Or is that not worthwhile in this case? thanks for the insights.

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    Driving around South Africa is definitely one of the best ways to see the country. Cape Town and Kruger are about 2000 km apart though and the shortest route (the N1 highway) doesn't go through the most scenic parts of the country.

    If you want to drive and see beautiful scenery, definitely consider driving from Cape Town along the Garden Route (N2) and even farther along the Wild Coast to Durban and beyond if you want to. The Wild Coast is one of the most undeveloped and most beautiful parts of the country and there are opportunities to spend time in rural village settings e.g. Bulungula Lodge: You can check distances on Google Maps.

    Other very scenic drives are from Johannesburg (or somewhere else) to Kruger along the Panorama Route (Blyde River Canyon, God's Window, Bourke's Luck Potholes etc). From Joburg to Kruger is about a 5 hour drive depending on where exactly you go. You can also drive between Johannesburg to Durban and visit the beautiful Drakensberg, Clarens, the Golden Gate National Park etc. or drive up the West Coast of South Africa from Cape Town to Langebaan or Paternoster.

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    Hi Lauramsgarden!

    Flying is easy and, for the most part, cheaper than in the US. There are many flights running out of JNB - CPT to accommodate international arrivals. There are fewer flights heading to the reserves out of JNB or CPT. For example, flights from CPT to the Reserves are at about 10'ish in the AM so that you can arrive in one of the reserve airports and transfer to your lodge of choice in time for afternoon game drive - sometimes for their lunch! So the flights are easy as far as time of day and the timing accommodates the typical safari schedules of sorts.

    The Panorama Route is a very pretty drive. As mentioned, you will see Blyde River Canyon, God's Window, Three Rondavels etc. Stunning, especially on a beautifully clear day. Depending upon where you leave from, it can be a lengthy drive though of up to 6 hours or so.

    To really enjoy the drive, I recommend it be done after safari on your way back to JNB for your departing flight. I also recommend that you overnight in one of the lovely guest house options so that you can take your time to enjoy the vistas. There are points where you can hike and/or take a boat tour in the river below to see waterfalls. There's even a hot air balloon option. It's also advisable to arrive in JNB before dark, especially for those who are not well-versed in the area or completely confident as to where they are going. Also, this is not a drive I advise after you have just arrived from a long flight with some possibly jet lag. I think it is better enjoyed on the back end of a trip.

    Hope this info is helpful!

    Africa Direct USA

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