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South Africa first time

Leeds, United...
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South Africa first time

Hi

We are planning a trip for next May for 3 weeks.Is this a good time to go?We would like to cover Cape Town,garden route,eastern cape and Drakensbergs.

Is the eastern cape good enough for safari without having to go up to Kruger NP?Also is this area totally malaria free?We like walking and have been told Drakensburgs are a good area for this.How many days should we spend in each area? Grateful for any advice.

Thanks.

Weybridge
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1. Re: South Africa first time

Hi,

May is the start of the low season rates, so in terms of making your money go further, then this is a good time to go. It is also just before the rainy season starts in Cape Town too, so actually, yes, a pretty good time all round ! It will be quite chilly in the evenings tho, so do take something warm to wear then (just realised this sounds very motherly, sorry !!!).

The Eastern Cape is completely malaria free. The lodges here are all situated in a handful of privately owned reserves, ranging in size from 5,000 hectares to 25,000 hectares. These reserves all operate independently from each other, and each therefore have their own wildlife stock - the larger reserves can obviously sustain more wildlife in terms of actual physical numbers. The smaller reserves do have to limit the number of predators - for example, a small reserve can only sustain a few lion, or else they would find their entire buffalo population is wiped out very quickly by hungry lions ! Although they are all Big 5 reserves, I have to admit that sightings of leopard are very, very rare.

The world-famous private game reserves and safari lodges of the Greater Kruger Park, however, do offer possibly the best Big 5 game viewing opportunities to be found anywhere, with lion and leopard tracking a particular speciality. BUT the area is malarial, so you would need to take anti-malaria tablets, so if you really don't want to do this, I would say stay with the Eastern Cape lodges, you will still have a great safari.

For 3 weeks, I would suggest :

Cape Town - 5 nights

Winelands - 2 nights

Garden Route - you could comfortably do 5 nights here, maybe splitting your time between 3 nights in Knysna and 2 nights in Tsitsikamma, especially if you like walking

Eastern Cape Safari - 3 nights

Fly from PE to Durban - maybe do a couple of nights in Durban just to relax on the beach

Drakensberg - 3 nights

And as you are in the area - if you take one night out of either Cape Town or the Garden Route, I would really recommend 2 nights in the Battlefields. The Battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal offer an incredible insight into the history of South Africa, and the best way to really appreciate this bloody and fiercely-fought history is to go on one of the mesmerising and theatrical tours of the key areas, which bring to life the incredible stories of events that happened only 100 years ago. No matter how uninterested you think you are in history, these tours will captivate and move you.

Hope this helps !

Tracey, Owner / Director. Travel Butlers

Leeds, United...
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2. Re: South Africa first time

Hi

Thanks very much for the advice.Sounds pretty much what we wanted.This is probably a stupid question but are there any malaria carrying mosquitoes in the Drakensbergs?I wouldn't want to risk not taking the tablets and get caught out!

Cape Town
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3. Re: South Africa first time

There are definitely no malarial mosquitoes in the Drakensberg! Too high, too cold, too dry, too far south!

I think Tracey is a bit optomistic about May in Cape Town. Yes it can be nice and relatively warm but then end of May is already winter. It can get cold and the rain has definitely started. See the attached monthly averages (May is the third wettest month) - http://news.bbc.co.uk/weather/forecast/81 If you could bring your trio forward to April it would be an advantage. But that said with 9 wet days it means there are 22 days without rain!

Concerning Safari you mentioned the Eastern Cape as an alternative to Kruger National Park. If you are planning to stay in the excellent National Parks then Tracey hasn’t mentioned the best alternative to Kruger which is Addo National Park. This is a park of 240,000 hectares – ten times to fifty times bigger than the private reserves. It has two very good camps where you can rent a comfortable chalet or cottage for two with private bathroom heating (for the cold nights) and aircon (for the hot days), as well as a private terrace where you sit and watch animals over your breakfast. Same level of cost as Kruger – around R850 per night for a couple. Good general game viewing – including Lions, Hyena, Buffalo, Black Rhino, Zebra, loads of different Antelope, Warthogs, Monkeys, Jackals and lots of birdlife - although not quite on a par with Kruger. But probably the best Elephant viewing in South Africa. We have sat near one of the main waterholes in the afternoon and counted over 200 Elephants!

Then although May is probably not the best month in Cape Town it is one of the very best times in KZN and the Drakensberg. I would spend less time than Tracey suggests on the Garden Route. At this time of year 2 or 3 nights should be fine. I would then spend at least a week in KZN. We go there most years around this time for our winter holiday. As Tracey mentions the battlefields are a very interesting area to spend 2 nights. The coast both North and south of Durban is still lovely and the sea very swimmable in May. Great walking in the Drakensberg. I also like the Midlands area between the mountains and the battlefields and the coast. Gentle ccountry area with lots of small villages with arts and crafts workshops and studios.

There are also excellent Game parks especially in Northern KZN. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi has the best White Rhino viewing in the world and I also like Ithala and the Greater St Lucia Wetlands park. There are also very good Private Reserves such as Phinda or Zulu Nyala. This tourist parts of the these areas are malaria free – especially in the winter months. Although there may be a few local village cases in the hot, wet summer. There is definitely no need for visitors to take anti-malarial drugs.

If you have to travel in May I would seriously consider splitting your time 50:50 between Cape Town and the coastal and country regions nearby and KZN. Giving the Garden Route and Addo or the private reserves a miss until your next visit in the summer.

Edited: 23 September 2011, 12:03
Leeds, United...
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4. Re: South Africa first time

Hi

We could bring the holiday forward to mid april and start with Cape Town and garden route but would this make much difference? Are we better off just concentrating on KZN and Drakensbergs? We were keen to do a safari but you say give this a miss.Not sure whether to rethink when to go.

Cape Town
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5. Re: South Africa first time

Easter next year is relatively early and the school holidays finish on the 10th April. There is a long holiday weekend from April27-May 1 but that shouldn't cause too many problems. I am pretty clear that, on average, mid April is better than May in and around Cape Town.

I have no doubt that if it is your first visit to South Africa and you are keen mountain walkers that you should certainly visit Cape Town. You have to climb Table Mountain. In few cities in the world can you do an iconic mountain hike right from the city centre! There are a lot more great mountain and coastal walks within an hour or two of Cape Town. Look at the Cederberg, Jonkershoekberge in the Winelands and the coastal walks near Betty's Bay. As well as the Cape Point reserve, Silvermine and the West Coast National Park even closer to the city. Add to this all the city things and the 600 wine estates, in lovely countryside within a couple of hours of the city, and you have masses to do for a 10 day period. April should be good hiking weather - not too hot, not to cold, no bush fires and maybe an occasional shower. IMO the coastal and mountain scenery around the Cape is every bit as good (better!) than the "Garden Route".

Then I certainly wasn't saying give safari a miss. I was just giving you more options. Either travel to the Eastern Cape, as you originally suggested, or go instead to one of the equally good Parks or Reserves in KZN.

As I say, on balance, my choice would be 10 days in the Western Cape then fly to Durban and ten days in KZN including, a day on the Midlands Meander, a few days hiking in the Drakesburg, two days travelling througj the battlefields area, 3 days Safari time, in either one of the northern KZN parks or a private reserve. Finishing up with a day or two in the St Lucia area and the warm Indian Ocean beaches of Cape Vidal. Then 3 hours back to Durban and fly home either via Joburg or via Dubai.

Edited: 23 September 2011, 15:26
Leeds, United...
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6. Re: South Africa first time

Thanks a lot. I will look into this.

7. Re: South Africa first time

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