Backpacker’s Guide To South Africa

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Backpacker’s Guide To South Africa

So, we wanted to fill our bags with some safari and road tripping maps. And South Africa had been on our wishlist for quite a while. But, every time we would mention it to our family and friends, the first question we would face would be “Is It Safe?”

maps

Well, we can tell you now, the real picture is quite rosier. The words to describe South Africa would be nothing less than – Exciting! Adventurous! Breath-taking! So, don’t listen to what people say. Go and see for yourself!

View from Cape Point
View from Cape Point | Photo Shutterstock

We spent almost 14 days on this trip, and every single day was a surprising treat to the eyes. The game drive experience at the Kruger National park is quite something. It’ll leave you speechless as you see the wildlife in the Savannah in their unmatchable swag as opposed to what you see in the Zoos. We can’t describe the adrenaline rush that we felt when we were almost attacked by a wild African elephant or the amusement we felt when we heard lions mating behind the bush (yeah, we heard that!)

An African Elephant approaching our open jeep.
An African Elephant approaching our open jeep.

We were spoilt for choice – exploring a different scenic view each day on our Garden route tour. One day you’be driving through the lush green forests, and the next you would be seeing a stretch of blue lagoon right in front of you. One day you would be passing by the rustic mountains, and the next thing you’re doing is bungee jumping off the highest commercial bridge in the world. Sometimes you would be romantically canoeing through the wilderness lakes, and the next day you are sandboarding off the dragon dunes. And the list of experiences that you take back is endless.

Best time to Visit South Africa:

The best time to visit Kruger National Park is during the dry season, which falls between April and September. During Kruger’s dry season, temperatures are mostly pleasant. Make sure to carry some warm woolens for the night and sunrise drive as it gets a little chilly. What’s more, vegetation is sparse, meaning you’ll have a better chance of spotting animals. However, extreme dry seasons can also result in increased animal deaths, so it’s best to avoid visiting in July, August and September, the season’s driest months.

Sunrise over the savanna and grass fields in central Kruger National Park in South Africa
Sunrise over the savanna and grass fields in central Kruger National Park in South Africa | Photo Shutterstock

The best time to go to the Garden Route is whenever you are ready, because this is an all year-round tourist experience – gorgeous and glamorous, sensitive and stirring. December and January are mostly crowded due to the Christmas holidays, so it may be a good idea to avoid if you can. We chose May, so that we could avoid the heat as well as club it with Kruger.

Suggested itinerary:

1. Day1 – Arrive at Johannesburg in the evening

2. Day 2 to Day 4Kruger National Park. The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. We stayed at the Pretoriuskop camp near the Skukuza rest camp. There’s a choice of camps that you can select depending on your budget. There are also many private properties that offer game reserves. You can go to https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/ for more information. We usually recommend anywhere between 3-6 nights reservation at Kruger, depending on time and budget allowance. 5 nights would be wonderful – that’s 10 safaris! More chances to spot the BIG 5 – African Elephants, Rhinoceros, Lions, Leopards and Buffalos. You can also combine your traditional vehicle safaris with walking safaris too.

The Black and White Beauty (Zebaras at Kruger)

3. Day5-day7 :  Cape Town. You can get back to Cape Town by the end of your 4th day from Kruger.

THINGS You Can’t Miss In Cape Town:

1. A cable car ride or hike up the long spread Table Mountain early morning is a must. You’ll be able to enjoy spectacular views of the city.

The colorful Bo-Kaap

2. The gorgeously colorful houses at the Bo-Kaap or as they call it the Cape Malay provide a fascinating glimpse into Cape Town’s Afrikaans and Muslim traditions.

The colorful Bo-Kaap.
The colorful Bo-Kaap

3. You can take a long lazy brunch at the harbour front, and then head to a drive along the 9 km stretch of paradise, namely Chapman’s Peak – it’s a must-do with breath-taking views. (You can also enjoy a dreamy sunset sailing at the waterfront, if you’re staying in Cape town for a longer time)

The Love Birds

4. Cape Town definitely has no shortage of amazing beaches, but Boulders Beach in False Bay offers something extra special – a colony of adorable African Penguins in all their waddling glory, right under your nose. In fact, it’s the only place in the world where you can get close to African Penguins.

Boulders Beach

5. The landmark, and the most touristy location of the route is Cape Point at the end of the Cape Peninsula, with the legendary Cape of Good Hope. The Cape point has some brilliant scenery but beware of the Baboons at this point.

Cape Point

6. The Vineyards – Stellenbosch, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Western Cape.

Cape Point Vineyards.

Although we did not find enough time to visit the must-do Stellenbosch, we got a chance to have an ever so romantic wine tasting ceremony at the Cape Point Vineyards Estate.

4. Day 8- Day13 The Ultimate Garden Route Drive – 6 day tour

Day8 – Drive from Cape Town to Cape Agulhas.

On the way you stop at this quaint culturally rich town of Hermanus. It’s popular for its whale watching & you might even find some pretty little shops along the way.

Staff waiting for guests to arrive at a restaurant in Hermanus | Photo Shutterstock

The seafood restaurants around are a must try! The ultimate destination of Cape Agulhas is the geographic southern tip of the African continent and the beginning of the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

At Cape Agulhas in South Africa, the most southern point in Africa, where two oceans meet | Photo Shutterstock
At Cape Agulhas in South Africa, the most southern point in Africa, where two oceans meet | Photo Shutterstock

Day 9- Oudtshoorn

This Ostrich capital of the world, offers you a peek into its famous Ostrich farms. And make sure to put the BRAAI OSTRICH FILLET on the top of your list to try. Other than the ostriches, the adventure route at the limestone beds of the Cango Caves here, are an experience you’ll not regret taking back with you.

Cango Caves

Day 10-Wilderness

Imagine a day full of dreamy adventures like paddling your canoes till the middle of a lake and then hiking up the mountain for a delicious lunch by the waterfall amidst the mountains! That’s exactly how this day is gonna look like.

Kayaking at the wilderness
Kayaking at the wilderness

Day 11-Tsitsikamma National Park

All you adventure seekers, don’t forget to stop at the Bloukrans Bridge to test your courage at the world’s highest bungee jump bridge (216mts) before you head to the Tsitsikamma. The afternoon can be spent hiking at the Park with its unique combination of indigenous forest and beautiful Indian Ocean coastline. The walk over the Storms river suspended bridge is again quite a touristy thing and not to be missed!!

Let's do the Bungee
Let’s do the Bungee

Day 12 – Addo National park

Since we had already done the Kruger, we opted for only one game drive at the Addo, and were lucky enough to spot two lounging lionesses.

Troop, herd of elephant, Loxodonta africana, drinking at the water hole in late afternoon in Addo Elephant National Park

Day 13 – Mossel bay

Oh, the amazingly outstanding taste of the cheese bruschettas, the chocolate éclair, the spinach & cheese quiche that we had for breakfast at the farmers market in George ( the second largest city in the Western Cape province of South Africa) is something we don’t want to forget. Again, the brave hearts have an option here of either the Tandem Skydive or Sandboarding. You can return to Cape Town by the evening.

Sand-boarding at Mossel Bay
Sand-boarding at Mossel Bay

Day 14 – return to the Den!

Safety tips in South Africa

It’s easy to travel safely in SA. You just need to be more cautious than you would be in Europe or any other Asian country. It’s better to visit places in the daylight hours with a local guide or with somebody who knows the lay of the land. Whether in a group or alone, avoid walking in the night. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or avoid flashing your expensive phone or a camera.

Suggested Local tours:

We booked our local trips through www.detourafrica.com. They further put us on Kruger through Outlook Safaris and Garden route through Earth Stompers. They left us with some unforgettable experiences and helped us explore the different facets of South Africa that we had never imagined!!!!

So, wishing you happy travels to South africa, a destination that you absolutely must visit at least once in your lifetime!

Photo Courtesy: Clicked on iPhone by us and some friends we made along our journey

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