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south africa

USA
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south africa

About to fulfill a dream I've had for years and don't quite know where to start. About 3 friends will be setting out on a lifelong dream trip to S.Africa. Not quite sure where to begin planning. Naturally we'd like to see a safari or 2, Kruger NP is definitely on the list. However, wasn't quite sure if we should be seeing other places in S. Africa besides Cape Town. Is there much in Jo'burg, Durban etc? Definitely would like to do some of the wineries and also the gardens. Is it worth a trip to visit Botswana or Namibia, I've heard a lot about these 2 countries. We have about 2 and a half weeks total, and hope to fly out of NYC or Washington DC. Many thanks in advance.

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: south africa

Loretta

To answer your questions, it would be helpful to know how you are travelling around SA. Will you be flying internally or are you considering self driving. This with 3 of you is the best option cost wise and give you great flexibility to spend time in various places without rushing the experience. We are going again to Kruger and Kwa Zulu natal province to visit game reserves there and again will self drive, it is a great scenic experience. I personally would stick to Sth Africa given your time frame. There are sights to see in the other cities you mention but you do not need to spend long in each. Do you fly into J'burg from the US?. A reply with this info will help us posters give you the most useful advice

Cape Town Central...
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2. Re: south africa

Hi LorettaUsa

My top list in South Africa are

Kruger Park and Panoramic Route

Garden Route

Cape Town and winelands

Cedarberg

Hermanus for the whales

Namibia

Sososvlei

Fish River Canyon

Botswana

Okovango Delta

Zimbabwe/Zambia

Victoria Falls

2.5 weeks is too short

Kruger National...
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3. Re: south africa

Hi there Loretta!

Sounds like you have some great ideas, and I think it is so wonderful that you have decided to take the leap and fulfill a life dream.

Well, I would absolutely focus on the Cape Town and safari portion the most, and less so on the city of Johannesburg. It is a lovely place, but like any other big city in the world, you know? Maybe 2-3 nights there to get used to the time differences etc, enjoy a good coffee, and perhaps an interesting tour of Soweto.

Durban is a coastal city, with excellent spicy food, but if you have no real need to see the beach after Cape Town, you could give it a miss. However, with 2-3 weeks available, you will have plenty of time to add Durbs to your schedule too.

I would definitely spend 5-6 nights, if not a whole week in Cape Town to check out all the sights; Table Mountain, the wine land, V&A waterfront, Cape Point, and so on. You could also spend a few days along the Garden Route.

I would then definitely recommend at least 3-4 nights on safari, and if budget allows, the Kruger area. As this is a once in a lifetime trip, you could of course extend the amount of nights there. There are other reserves closer to the Cape Town area, but the Kruger is the flagship park, full of history and romance, definitely world famous for a reason!

You can either fly directly from Cape Town to the Kruger area, or go via Johannesburg.

Once there, you have two options r.e how to conduct your safari experience.

1. SELF DRIVE SAFARI EXPERIENCE

Self driving is the cheapest and most flexible option. You rent out a car and drive yourself around the public Kruger National Park, and stay in self catering government run (SanParks) chalets. They are clean and comfortable, and will do the job. There are restaurants at the bigger camps, and they serve the basics pizza, burgers, toasted sandwiches, eggs and toast etc.

The benefit of the self drive experience is the cost and the flexibility. You can take your time to explore, and it is cheaper than staying at a lodge.

The cons of the self drive though are that you are sharing the park with a few hundred other people; and this sometimes does cause traffic jams at the sightings. Also, you are not allowed to go off road in search of an animal, and you do not have a tracker/ranger to help. Although, you can book drives with a game ranger - but again, you cannot go off road etc.

2. PRIVATE RESERVE

Bordering the public Kruger are the private reserves called Klaserie, Sabi Sands, Timbavati, and Balule. These are connected to the public Kruger via unfenced borders, allowing the animals to wander in and out as they please (but not the people!). When staying within a private reserve, one generally stays at a lodge. One night starts at around R1800 per person, and can go anywhere up to R10,000+ per person per night.

Your rate at a lodge usually includes the following;

- Dawn game drive

- Dusk game drive

- Breakfast daily

- Lunch daily

- Dinner daily

- Optional bush walks

- Refreshments on game drive

- Depending on the lodge; Drinks, transfers & laundry may also be included.

The benefits of a private reserve include a more 'luxury' experience, meaning everything is generally of a much higher quality. Your game drives are conducted in professional open sided safari vehicles, and are equipped with a highly qualified and experienced game ranger and tracker to help find and educate you about any wildlife you may encounter. This may be helpful for your stay of 3 nights, as it would higher the chances of seeing more animals/a vaster amount.

Do you perhaps have a particular budget in mind per person per night?

If you want to include Bots and Namibia, I would suggest probably lengthening the trip.

Warmest regards,

Jacqui

-Co-owner-

Lodge Trackers

Safari Specialists

Kruger, South Africa

Edited: 15 July 2013, 10:20
Johannesburg, South...
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4. Re: south africa

Hi Loretta,

Its amazing to be able to fulfil a life long dream!

A Kruger safari is a definite, whether self drive in the Kruger National park, or in a private safari lodge in one of the reserves bordering Kruger. These are quite a bit more expensive though. Both experiences are fantastic but very different. Your budget is also a contributing factor, as is how you plan to get around while in SA, which I think Nooee pointed out. A nice idea is to combine a few day self drive and a few days in a private safari lodge, if this is a possibility for you.

In addition to a safari, Cape Town is great to visit, and from here you will have easy access to the Wine Routes which are all about an hour out of Cape Town. I wouldn't spend much time if any in JHB, unless there is something really specific you are interested in seeing like the Apartheid Museum etc. KZN is also an option to consider, with safari options also being available as well as some nice hotels, guest houses.

Botswana is a great safari destination in areas like Chobe and the Okovango Delta for 2 to 3 nights, and can be nicely combined with SA. Namibia likewise is a different safari destination, and I think there is probably a lot else to see and do in Namibia.

Like Nooee said you probably won't be able to do everything and may have to compromise a bit.

Hope this also helps.

Regards.

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

north yorkshire
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5. Re: south africa

I am sure this won'g be your only trip to SA so don't try to fit too much in. We have booked our 4th "Trip of a Lifetime" to this wonderful country for Jan 2014. By the time you have done safari at KNP, 5/7 nights in Cape Town/Winelands and a trip along the garden route you will have used up your 2.5 weeks. I don't think you can usefully do much else.

USA
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6. Re: south africa

Wow! Thank you all so much for responding and for all those detailed suggestions. Yes, we will probably fly straight to Jo'burg from either NYC or DC. I haven't even looked at the possibilities or direct flights from there. I read from another TA'er that South African Airways have packages that they put together, so will also look into that. Just by reading what you all say, I think we probably should just stick with S.Africa, although one of the gals is real keen on Vic Falls, having said that, I read that there was not much else in the area once in Zim.

I grew up in Kenya, and after 35 years went on my first safari when I returned there a few years ago - it was magical. It's unbelievable how close to God and nature one feels when surrounded by these wonderful beasts in such close proximity. I swore that I would return to Africa, but this time S. Africa! I would also like to plan to see the penguins, I hadn't mentioned that earlier. I'm not sure that we would feel comfortable driving around on our own, especially not in Kruger, so we may stay in a lodge and take in the guided tours. Again, not quite sure where to start booking these expeditions. I have a friend in Kenya who has a travel business, but not quite sure if she covers S.Africa. Thank you all again, I'll be reading and watching this site for any new information. I also need to find out what if any shots are required, including a visa.

Many, many thanks. Trip Advisor is the BEST! I've planned so many trips on here, thanks to everyone who contributes.

Gold Coast...
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for Kruger National Park
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7. Re: south africa

Hi Loretta

You have been given some good ideas which include coverage of the most popular South Africa which should be included in your itinerary, such as Cape Town, Kruger, Garden Route. With two and a half weeks i agree it would be a tight to fit in a visit to another country also.

One thing I would reconsider is your fear of doing it yourself. Naturally this is not what tour agents/guides will tell you but thousands of people from all over the world and of all ages arrange and do self drive trips through SA every year. With three of you having input the planning should be fun and easy, with all the online information available and in particular the use of this very site, you can do all of your research yourself, and you will of course get loads of information and opinions from actual travellers and not just what agents recommend. Before our first trip to SA we trawled the forums picking up all we needed to know then booked it all ourselves from the comfort of home. The personal contact we had with guesthouse and lodge owners, and even car rental companies prior to our trip just added to the excitement.

As Nooee has said with three of you hiring a car is not only beneficial financially but the flexibility of doing it yourself is simply not comparable do being on a tour and subject to the whims and timetables of a group following a set itinerary.

The safety precautions you would take are not much different to what you would do in cities in your own country. The roads and highways are very good, in fact many are better than what we have here. If you have a car there is no need to worry about transfers, you could even drive yourselves through Kruger to get to your lodge of choice and possibly have an amazing wildlife experience from your own car, unbeatable.

Here is a link to our old trip report from our first visit, it might help with itinerary ideas as it covers most of the most popular destinations..

tripadvisor.com.au/…29073542

Yes you are right about the magic of being close to the wildlife in the bush, once experienced it is something that people are drawn back to again and again, ourselves included. South Africa is a wonderful country to drive around and the people we have met there are the friendliest we have met anywhere. And if you decide to plan it yourself, you can come here for help from other travellers whenever you like.

Tempe, Arizona
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for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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8. Re: south africa

You don't need visas for South Africa.. If you do go up to Vic Falls, you will get your Zimbabwe visa when you arrive at the airport - $30USD cash. No shots needed either. Some people get malarone (prescription from your doctor) to help guard against malaria, though malaria is not found in much of the country. Since you are just getting started, think in terms of probably 3 flights. Johannesburg to Cape Town - Cape Town to Nelspruit or Hoedspruit (the jumping-off airports for safaris in, or near Kruger Park) and then the flight back to Johannesburg. My love for wildlife (I operated safaris in Kenya for almost 20 years.. a great safari country) causes me to suggest that you plan at least a week on safari, visiting a couple of the private reserves near Kruger.. or perhaps some time within Kruger and some time in a private reserve.

What's the difference between the two? In Kruger, you are responsible for your meals, game drives (you will need a car to go to Kruger), pretty much on your own. You can pay to be on a game drive with the Park Rangers, and also then go out in your car and look for wildlife yourself. The stores in the Main camps in Kruger do have everything you need to prepare meals, etc. In a private reserve, they do it all for you. Plus, it will be a more personal and quieter experience, since the lodges & camps in private reserves are much smaller.. You will find these more relaxing, too, I suspect. And more expensive, of course. Since there are 3 of you, you will need to look at reserves that can accommodate you all in one chalet, and not all reserves have those. Some that do: Inyati, Serondella, Enkoveni. Further, there are some reserves that would not charge a single supplement, so you could utilize 2 chalets.. might even be interconnected, but not necessarily.

You will save some $$ if you travel in May through August or September.. that is, save on lodging in Cape Town and in some of the reserves when winter discounts are in effect. There are seasonal 4-for-3 offers, too. Lots to think about! TMI is a hazard here, so I suggest thinking in terms of a couple of 'blocks' of time - one for the Western Cape where Cape Town and the Winelands are - and one for safari. If you have an interest in the history of the country, a day in Johannesburg might be useful. The Apartheid Museum is pretty strong.. a tour of Soweto explains a lot.. For now, continue your own research and we will help whenever you ask.

Dave Patterson - Owner - The Africa Safari

9. Re: south africa

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10. Re: south africa

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