My family has begun discussing a possible trip to South Africa for July 2013. We would have between five and eight adults traveling from the US. This would be a first time visit for everyone in the group. We're thinking of maybe a twelve or thirteen day trip. Based on some itineraries we've seen on the SAA Vacations site, we've generated a very basic plan. We're open and amenable to any and all suggestions the experts on TripAdvisor can offer in regards to locations, times, accommodations, transfers, etc. We haven't officially discussed budgeting yet, but I'd guess we're in the range of $6,000 - $7,000pp including flights. In a previous trip to Italy we utilized apartment rentals (i.e. VRBO, HomeAway, TripAdvisor) and liked that option. We realize this is not possible, nor do we want it, during the safari portion of our trip. So here we go...
Day 1: Leave US on direct flight via JFK or ATL. Probably JFK so we can have an earlier arrival to JNB. Doesn't the Delta ATL flight get in much later in the day? Would that allow us time to get to CPT on the evening of Day 2? I like arriving in SA earlier, but it's easier for us to get from Kansas City to Atlanta versus JFK.
Day 2: Arrive JNB, fly to CPT. Commence jet lag.
Days 3 - 5: We think we need a minimum of three days in Cape Town. One for a winelands tour, one for a peninsula tour, and one for Table Mountain and exploring the city. Any idea when the gondola is closed for winter maintenance? Stay in the city or Camp's Bay? Advice on private driver guides? Our private guides in Italy were indispensable.
Days 6 - 8: Day 6, travel to the Garden Route, probably by air unless you would suggest making the long drive instead. Stay in the Plettenberg or Knysna area. We've seen some lovely rental properties in both. We definitely want to do a whale watching tour, but don't know of other activities. Should we stay the full three nights, or is two enough?
Day 9 - 11: Travel to Kruger area. Undecided on where to stay; there are a ton of options. Early favorites might be somewhere like Mohlabetsi or Notten's. If the budget works out favorably elsewhere, maybe we splurge on something more high end. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Spend remainder of Day 9 and all of Day 10 and 11 at lodge.
Day 12: Begin the long journey home. Could we get from Kruger to JNB in time for a return flight, or would we need to spend the night in J'burg? It looks like the SAA flight doesn't leave until 9:00 PM.
Day 13: Back in the States.
* If we need to add a day somewhere we probably can. For work and scheduling purposes, I'd like to keep it at fourteen days max. That way we could do a Friday - Friday or Saturday - Saturday and at least have a little time to start recovering before going back to reality.
* Is Victoria Falls worth an extra two days and/or adjusting our itinerary? We don't want to push ourselves too much, but we also realize we might not be back to SA for a long, long time.
I'm sure there are many more questions floating around in my head that haven't manifested themselves yet. I'll be sure to post when the do! Again, we welcome your advice, suggestions, or complete deconstruction of this itinerary. Thanks in advance!