My wife and I will be visiting South Africa for the first time for 14 days in March/April 2014. Our international flights arrive and depart from JNB. Upon arrival at JNB, we will continue to Cape Town for 5 days, then a few days in wine country and then 4 or so days out on the road exploring more of the Western and Eastern Cape with tentative route through Montagu, Prince Albert, the Swartberg Pass, Oudtshoorn, Wilderness, and Knysna, finishing up in Port Elizabeth.
With our remaining three or four days we want to experience a game park/reserve. We are both interested in wildlife and realize that this will likely be a singular experience since we live in California and a return to South Africa may not happen for a while, if ever. Our question is which park to visit and in which part of the country. Our research has identified several possibilities that are aligned to our desire to see the Big Five and other kinds of wildlife but also allow us a comfortable bed and nice surroundings in the evening. Also, we’re not wildlife enthusiasts to the point where the length of an elephant’s tusks will matter tremendously. It will be enough for us to see abundant wildlife in their natural surroundings. We don’t want anything close to a zoo experience but we’re not hardcore safari veterans either. Given those parameters, we would appreciate comment and feedback on these possibilities, or perhaps something we haven’t considered.
1) Fly to Richards Bay from Port Elizabeth (with a stop in JNB), hire a car and drive 90 minutes up to Phinda Private Game Reserve. They also offer Cessna service from Richard Bay but we’ve read they can only load duffel bags into the plane and that even our small carry-on size roll-aboards may not fit. Spend three days in and around Phinda, drive back to Richards Bay, fly back to JNB to begin our journey home.
2) Stay in the Eastern Cape and drive from Port Elizabeth to Kwandwe Game Reserve (or another recommended park in the area) and spend three days there. Perhaps visit Addo Elephant Park, too. On departure day, drive back to Port Elizabeth, fly to JNB and head home.
Phinda sounds wonderful but is it worth two flights with a JNB connection, then hiring a car or figuring out how to solve our luggage issue for the Cessna ride? Is what we might see and experience there so much better than a reserve in the Eastern Cape that it justifies a full day of travel to get there?
All opinions and perspectives are welcome!