South Africa: The Pocket Guide

I travelled through South Africa on an incredible road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
This is the review of that incredible adventure…

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This is a review of my 3 weeks road trip through South Africa.

South Africa
Population: 
55.9 Million.
Main Languages: Afrikaans, English.
Currency: 
South African Rand (ZAR). Credit cards accepted almost everywhere.
Getting around: The best way is to rent a car. You can also Uber/Taxi in main cities.
Internet: Wifi is really slow and it is hard to find a connection. The best is to get a sim card and charge it with data.
Best time to go:  From November until February.


Road Trip
Adventure:
 4500kms Road trip, from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
Lenght: 19 days.
Period: November with an average temperature of 26ºc in the North and 20ºc in the South.
Budget: 1300€ per person excluding flights.
– Accommodations: 890€ (2 people)
– Food: 790€ (2 people)
– Car (rental+gas+toll): 500€ (2 people)
– Other expenses: 200€ pp
Places Visited: Kruger National Park, Drakensberg Mountain, Port Saint Johns, Jeffrey’s Bay, Knysna, Mossel Bay, Durbanville, Cape Town.

Safety: 
South Africa is a country with a lot of inequalities, which brings a high level of criminality. Cities and towns are surrounded by Townships (underdeveloped segregated areas) so be extra careful outside careful outside of city centres.
I recommend moving around by car, doors locked at all time, stopping in main/big cities (especially between Drakensberg area and the Garden Route).
I did not have any issues during the entire trip but I think it is important describing the situation. Like any other places, follow some good sense rules to avoid temptation and everything will be fine.

South Africa Road Trip
South Africa Road Trip itinerary.

We landed in Johannesburg where we picked up the car from the airport and left right away for the Kruger Park. As we would be arriving too late to enter the park, we spent the first night in Malelane, on the other side of the river from the Park. We entered the Kruger Park the next day, early in the morning.


Kruger Park

IMG_1609

The Kruger National Park is one of the largest games reserves in Africa, also known as one of the greatest safari destinations in the world.
In other terms, it is The place to be for a mindblowing safari (see Safari in the Kruger Park article).

Stay:
I recommend spending at least 3 days in the Park.

Day 1
Starting from the Malelane gate, situated in the south of the Park and drove to Skukuza main camp on the first day.
Day 2
Driving around and reached Tamboti bush camp.
Day 3
Driving down to the Malelane gate and spent the night outside of the Park.
We were starting off early in the morning every day, around 6.30 am and self-driving around the main and side roads, looking out for some wildlife.

Accommodation:
Type: Safari tents in both Skukuza and Tamboti camps. These are very comfortable, have real beds, fridge, electricity, terrasse and bbq.
Price: R1130,50 (75€), for 2 people, for 2 nights, excluding conservation fees.

Food:
Cooking and restaurant.
You can do some groceries in the main camps, although I would recommend getting some food outside of the Park, before starting you Safari. Restaurants are only located in main camps, prices are okay and the food is good.

Tips:
Book your accommodations in advance. The only website selling them is the SanPark official website, make sure you also have all the practical information (check-in location, timetable…).
A standard car will allow you to self-drive anywhere in the Park.
– Get your main supplies outside of the Park.
Start off early in the morning (as soon as the gates open), that’s when the wildlife is the most active.
Spend at least 4 days, 3 nights in the Park. Our stay was a bit short so we were spending a lot of time driving every day. More time for a more chilled Safari would be my recommendation.
Binoculars or camera zoom would be a precious gear for animal spotting.
– Check the “animals spotted board” in the camps to know where to find them.

Drakensberg Mountain
Drakensberg Mountain, South Africa.
Drakensberg Mountain, South Africa.


The Drakensberg is World’s Heritage site and its dramatic landscape offers breathtaking hiking trails through the mountains.

It was a long drive from the Kruger Park, over 10 hours covered in one day to reach the Injisuthi camp in the Drakensberg. The road is absolutely amazing, landscapes are changing from forest to mountains to desert lands. The last part, to access the camp, was hardly accessible with a standard car but we still made it without damage.

Stay:
I recommend spending 3 days.

Day 1
A 5 hours self-guided hiking trail in the mountains (maps given on arrivals)
Day 2
A 3 hours hiking trail.
These hiking trails are not for beginners, although there are very well explained on the maps and easy to follow the path.

Accommodation:
Type: The Injisuthi camp offers lovely self-catering chalets overlooking the Drakensberg. There is no signal, no wifi and electricity only in the evening for lights (charging devices in the car). A real back to basic experience!
Price: R2035 (around 124€), for 2 people, for 3 nights.

Food:
We had bought food before getting there and were cooking all the meals. The camp sells basic needs if needed.

Tips:
– Make sure you can access your camp with your car (road conditions).
– If you are not familiar with self-hiking, find a camp that offers guided-trails.
– Spend at least 3/4 days, this place is paradise.

 

Port Saint Johns
Delicious Monster. Port Saint Johns, South Africa.
Delicious Monster. Port Saint Johns, South Africa.

We then left the Drakensberg for Port Saint Johns, over 8 hours drive, down the coast.
Port Saint Johns is a small very local town by the ocean, you won’t find many tourists or activities.

Stay:
I recommend spending 2 nights and 2 days.

Accommodation:
An amazing authentic African cottage overlooking the ocean called the Delicious Monster. The beach is right in front of it and there is a small trail starting off that beach, leading to a more isolated one.
Price: R1120 (around 69€), for 2 people, for 2 nights.

Tips:
Pick a nice accommodation where you would be able to chill during the day as beside the beach, there is not much to do.
Move around by car and be cautious that it doesn’t feel very safe in this town, although we did not have any issue.
– We were cooking most of the food at the accommodation and went to a nice local restaurant called Steves, a bit expensive but the food is very good.

 

Jeffrey’s Bay
Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa.
Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa.

 

The drive from Port Saint Johns to Jeffrey’s was very long, the journey took us around 12 hours.
Jeffrey’s Bay is reputed being one of the best worldwide surf spots and is a charming town.

Stay:
I recommend spending 2 nights, 2 days.

The weather conditions were unfortunately not good for surfing so
mostly hanging out, shopping, restaurants…

Accommodation:
Type: A very cosy Airbnb, close by the beach
Price: around 90€.
We booked very last minute and there was not a lot of accommodation left but you can definitely see that the prices are increasing.

Tips:
2 days were enough. There is a nice surf factory shopping centre, so if you need some gears or some rental equipment you’ll be able to suit yourself up. Also a great coffee shop with awesome food.
– Outside of the very town centre, the place is not safe, so move around by car and be careful.

 

Knysna
Knysna, South Africa.
Knysna, South Africa.


We then drove down to Knysa, it’s a bit over a 2 hours drive. We made a quick stop in Plettenberg Bay for lunch, which is a nice town, more developed than what we’ve experienced so far.
Knysna is part of the garden route and offers a wild range of beautiful beaches, restaurants and other activities.

Stay:
I recommend spending 3/4 days.

Hanging out and going to the beach, very chilled stay.
There is a nice place to go called Thesen Island, it is easily accessible by car/walk and you’ll find some charming shops, restaurants and other activities.

Accommodation:
Type: A sweet self-catering bungalow.
Price: R2400 (around 147€) for 2 people, for 3 nights.

Tips:
– I would say 3 days is enough, good to rest after long drives and enjoy some nice beaches.
– Every Friday, there is a very nice local food market with live music, go check it out. Adress: Welbedacht Road, Knysna.

 

Mossel Bay

Also part of the Garden Route, Mossel Bay is a popular holiday destination. A chilled town where you’ll find nice beaches and activities such as shark caging, surfing, kayaking and many more.

Stay:
I recommend spending 2 nights and 2 days.

Chilling on the beach. You can spot dolphins and seals from the beach if up early in the morning.

Accommodation:
Type: A very nice place with a small garden and bbq facilities.
Price: R1400 (90€) for 2 people, still decent for a last minute booking.

Tips:
– Lovely stop if you are doing the garden route.
– There is not much of “adventure”, it is a family holiday destination so expect a lot of leisure activities that you’ll have to pay for. Nice if you want to chill out for a couple of days.

 

Durbanville
Meerendal Wine Estate. Durbanville, South Africa.
Meerendal Wine Estate. Durbanville, South Africa.


Part of the famous Winelands
, Durbanville is only 1/2 hour from Cape Town. Less famous than some of its neighbours like Stellenbosch, Paarl or Franschhoek, it still offers amazing vineyards with full immersive experience and high-quality wine.

Stay:
I recommend spending a 1 night, 1 day in a Wine Estate.

Also booked very last minute, the choice of the destination was highly influenced by the availability.
We went to the Meerendal Wine Estate, an amazing location with a wonderful parc, vineyard, hotel, restaurants and even an art gallery.
We enjoyed a nice wine tasting, experienced both their restaurants and walked through the vineyards. They also offer to book a picnic basket to enjoy in the park if the weather allows it.

Accommodation:
Type: Beautiful Boutique Hotel, in a really nice designed suite.
That was definitely the most expensive stay of the trip but the experience was so worth it and after weeks on the road, it was amazing to enjoy some luxury comfort and relaxing time.
Price: around R2000 (120€), for 2 people, including breakfast.

Tips:
Go experience the Winelands! That is amazing, especially if you’re into wine. There are different regions and different type of stays, also day trips. Pick what sounds attractive to you and what fits your budget.
Get the picnic basket if the weather is nice. Most of the wine estates offer that option, just check their website or email them.
Book in advance your stay.

 

Cape Town
Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town, South Africa.


The final destination of our journey. Dominated by the breathtaking Table Mountain, surrounded by postcard beaches, full colours, cultures, cuisines, Cape Town offers a unique experience for travellers.
(See The Cape Town Guide for more info…)

Stay:
I recommend spending at least 4 days.

Time to enjoy some must-do sights, wonderful beaches, experience the vibe of the city and its amazing cuisine.
Here is the list of the sights, you’ll find the description and the reviews in The Cape Town Pocket Guide.

– Bo-Kaap
– Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
– Waterfront
– Clifton
– Camps Bay
– Boulders
– Cape of Good Hope
– Chapman’s Peak Drive
–  Noordhoek Beach
– The Old Biscuit Mill

Accommodation:
Type: A very nice Airbnb apartment, in the area of Observatory. Location was good, close by / easy access to main interests as we were moving around by car.
Price: around R2000 (121€).

Tips:
Getting around by car is definitely the best way.
Be early in the morning on spot for high touristic sights (Cape of Good Hope, Boulders…).
– Spend at least 4/5 days in Cape Town, even more, if you have time. You’ll always find awesome things to do.
See the Cape Town Guide for more info

 

 


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