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Tour de South Africa in 11 Days

Guest post by idoinejr

Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.

We arrived at O.R. Tambo Airport, Johannesburg, at 5PM local time, meeting our friend whom is finishing her work in the Peace Corps in Namibia at the airport. We had a relatively painless flight (as painless as 16 hour flights are!) and were eager to get our car and to the hostel for the night. The group consisted of three lifelong friends from Ohio; Marisa – Peace Corps Volunteer, Julie – Texas Transplant, and Tara – Proud Clevelander. Marisa had been to Johannesburg once before, and has lived on the continent of Africa for 5 years. Her knowledge was invaluable – anytime you can travel with someone whom has additional insight, do it! South Africa follows the English tradition of driving on the left-hand side of the road, so her previous experience meant she would be our driver for the trip!

Day 1: Kruger National Park

We got up early and started the 5-6 hour drive from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park. We took the N1, entering the park through the Phalabora Kruger Park entrance. The drive took us through cities, over mountains and through banana plantations – it was a great first taste of SA. We rented a cabin for our 2-nights at Kruger, which was a great decision for us. The park is open from 6:00AM-6:00PM, so by staying in the park, we could see as much action as possible. There are a number of ways to go on a safari, or game drive as the locals say, but we found that by going on our own, in our rental car, we were able to stop and watch the animals and environment that we wanted, and move on from what we didn’t. We did not have an official guide, but Marisa’s knowledge of the environment and animals due to her time in Namibia was a huge benefit!

Day 2: Mopani Rest Camp

The best time to see animals on safari is in the early morning or at sunset. Times when the predators are heading out for dinner, or finishing their hunt from the night before. We certainly found this to be true!

Day 3: Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp

We had a full-day safari before leaving Kruger and heading back to Johannesburg to stay the night before taking an overnight train to Cape Town. We exited Kruger in the south through the Crocodile Bridge, and took the N4 back. Again, as long as it was daylight, it was great to see new landscape and see all of the life in between the tourist hot spots. We stayed the night again at Shoestrings Airport Lodge as it was a very friendly hostel, and we greatly enjoyed our time there.

Day 4: Getting to Cape Town

Our great host at Shoestrings lodge let us know that if we take the local train from a station past that at the airport, it would be a 100+ Rand difference (Roughly 100 Rand = $10 US dollars in 2015 exchange rates). He was nice enough to pick us up from the airport after we returned our rental car, and took us to the next station so we could save the money for fun in Cape Town. Definitely a bonus. We took an overnight train from Johannesburg to Cape Town that took us through the heard of SA. The train passed through Kimberly, De Aar, and Beufort West on our way to Cape Town. The train was great – and again, allowed us to see a huge swatch of SA we may not have otherwise.

Day 5: Cape Town

  • Maharajah Restaurant
  • The Power & The Glory
  • The Village Idiot

We arrived in Cape Town at 3:00PM local time. Our Airbnb host (stayed in the Gardens District) was simply wonderful and offered to pick us up from the train station. We were to our apartment by 4:00PM, and able to recuperate for a bit before heading out for our first night in Cape Town. We had heard that Cape Town had great Indian food and were not disappointed! Our Airbnb host shared some of her favorite places to go out, so we headed first to The Power and the Glory – a coffee shop by day and bar by night. It was a good first stop kind of place. We headed then to the Village Idiot which was a bit more lively to continue the fun!

Day 6: Cape Town

  • Bay Harbour Market
  • Ashanti Travel Centre
  • Arnolds Restaurant

It’s a bit out of the way, but taking the time to see Hout’s and Camp’s Bay while in Cape Town is well worth it. They have a very different feel from the rest of Cape Town, and are unique in their own right. The Market at Hout’s Bay was awesome – lots of food and vendors to taste and choose from! Do not hesitate to do a little haggling! We found that next to our apartment was Ashanti Travel Center which was a great help to us for the week in scheduling tours and helping us to get the lay of the land. We checked out their pamphlets and learned more about the numerous tours available (whale watching, winery, biking, shark diving, you name it) before seeing a coupon for a free bottle of wine at a local restaurant! We snatched that up and heading to Arnold’s for a great dinner.

Day 7: Table Mountain

On the way up

We decided to hike instead of take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. It was definitely a tough hike, but well-worth the reward at the top! We did take the cable car back down though. To celebrate our hike, we went for Mexican on Kloof Street (Marisa lives in a small village and needed some Mexican while we’re in the big city!). After dinner we went ‘out’ on Long Street. Kloof has many more restaurants, and Long more bars and dance halls. During our time there, we fell in love with ‘JoBurg’ – fun bar with great dance music!

Day 8: Wine, Boerewoers and Whales Tour

  • Stellenbosch
  • Grabouw
  • Hermanus
  • Mama Africa

We went on a day-long tour where we were able to explore the famous Stellenbosch and Hermanus wine trails, learn more about the boerewoers (SA sausage) and even do some whale watching in Hermanus. It was a great tour we booked with the help of Ashanti. It is a full-day excursion called the Wine, Boerewoers and Whales Tour and we were gone from  7:30AM – 6:00PM.

Mama Africa’s on Long Street is a big tourist destination and it was easy to see why – a lot of lively, traditional African music and fun environment to boot. Definitely recommend this!

Day 9: Bo-Kaap

There are guided tours of the Bo-Kaap district, but we chose to go at on our own, and were glad we did so! We walked from our apartment, and enjoyed just strolling through the beautiful neighborhood. The Eastern Market was a bit confusing, but well-worth the experience. Bree Street was another, slightly more upscale road with lots of great bars and restaurants to choose from.

Day 10: Cape Peninsula

  • Simon’s Town
  • Boulders Beach
  • Cape of Good Hope
  • Chapman’s Peak Drive

We rented a car again to make the drive to see the penguins at Boulder’s Beach and the most SouthWesternly point of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. The drive to the Cape from Cape Town is beautiful, and reminiscent of Route 1 in California. There are many guided tours that will take you along a similar route, but again, we found that we were able to to our own pace and had no trouble going at it by ourselves! We had a great lunch on the docks in Simon’s Town before heading on to Boulder’s Bay and the Cape.

Day 11: Robben Island

Robben Island is a must for any visitor to Cape Town. The history and depth of experience there sets all the rest in perspective and we found the tour to be very informative. The V&A Waterfront has a lot to offer – and you can easily spend an entire day exploring just there! Our flight left at 11:00PM, and we begrudgingly packed our bags and souvenirs and headed on our way. SA and all of the people we met were outstanding. We all came away enjoying as much as we learned, and would gladly go back to SA, and to explore the remainder of the continent!

Traveled in August 2015

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