Now, it’s been a fair few months since Maz and I got back from our amazing holiday to South Africa.
But, as life resumed back to normal and Christmas and work got in the way, it’s been difficult to find the time to put it all down in a blog.
In recent months though, it seems the world and his wife is heading down to this amazing gem of a country and I’m loving re-living our epic trip through other people’s Instagrams (not! Shut up with the holiday snaps please, it’s March and freezing and gross here!). We absolutely adored our time there, even though it wasn’t too high on our bucket list before we went. I thought I’d give you the low down on our two weeks in Safa, what we got up to and why you should be searching through Skyscanner for flights quicker than you can say “through another slab of biltong on the braai!”
Our journey was pretty epic. We flew into Johannesburg via Istanbul, which didn’t add too much time onto the flights and saved us hundreds of pounds. It was once we landed that took it’s toll. We drove about five hours to the Kruger National Park once we’d landed so by the time we arrived, we’d been on the road/in the air 24 hours. If you’re planning on a trip to Safa, either stay in Joberg for a night before that drive or hop on a small internal flight to Nesspruit, which is about an hour outside Kruger. Most decent lodges will offer a taxi service and you don’t necessarily need a car in the park anyway if you’ve got some game drives planned.
We stayed in the stunning Needles Lodge in Kruger Park. When we arrived, we were greeted with fresh juice and hot towels (love a hot towel!) before sitting down to a fabulous home-cooked meal on the veranda with the rest of the guests, something I loved, chatting to people from all over the world. Living in the park is such a unique way of life. It’s so remote yet has a real sense of community, we loved it instantly. And feeding zebras who wandered up to our dinner table to say hi? Well you can’t get more Africa than that!
We did two full-day game drives whilst we were there. Go hard or go home right? I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t excited. I don’t really like animals. Not like I wish them harm or anything, they just don’t fascinate or excite me. I’m a human kinda girl. But after a super early start, when you see a giraffe casually stroll past the end of the drive, you start to see what all the fuss was about.
We saw The Big Five (elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion and rhino) within the first morning and it was incredible. The nervous excitement of what you might see next was so thrilling and our guide Dylan was just the best; driving whilst standing up, with a pair of binoculars in his hand, able to spot the most camouflaged animal from a mile off. I spotted a turtle in the water at one point. So I definitely contributed.
Next up, Cape Town. This city is just epic. There aren’t many places in the world you can experience mountains, ocean and city life all in one place. It’s phenomenal. We stayed in Camps Bay, a beautiful area on the coast, with the Table Mountain Range behind us and panoramic ocean views. Heaven. There were so many highlights in Cape Town, particularly our walk up Lion’s Head (a must!). We didn’t get up Table Mountain as the weather was too windy in the cable car (walking is for hardened hikers only) but we think we got a better deal up Lions Head. Less tourists and a view of the Mother City below.
We also did a tour of one of Cape Town’s townships, Langa. We were nervous about this; the townships are some of the poorest places in the city, vast shanty towns on the sides of the motorway with corrugated iron shacks as far as you could see. They’re not tourist attractions, people live there. But this was the country we were holidaying in; it’s not all sunshine and sauvignon, it’s a diverse nation of people so we felt it was important to see it. Our tour operator African Eagle also explained some of our fee went to support projects in Langa which we appreciated. Whilst at times the tour was uncomfortable (there was poverty in this place like we’d never seen and iot was easy to feel very guilty almost for the amazing lives we’re lucky enough to lead) it was just jaw droppingly inspiring. To meet such lovely people, see a different world, sit in their home (we had dinner with a local family) and get a glimpse of their lives, was unforgettable.
Next up was two fabulous nights in wine country. We stayed in Stellenbosch, a gorgeous little University town about 45 minutes outside Cape Town. We enjoyed a full day food pairing tour with Camino Wine Tours. It was literally heaven! As we went just out of season in early November, we basically had a private tour around five vineyards, tasting all the best tipple Safa has to offer.
Each vineyard accompanied the wines with different foods; cheese, canapes, pate or chocolate and we had the most wonderful, boozy, relaxing day. The scenery is just spectacular and if you take it slow, you just have such a wonderful, romantic day. Go nuts on the wine and you’d probably have a very different experience (our last wine tour in Napa, California ended up with scoffing cold pizza in bed and seeing double by 5pm. Not so cute or romantic!)
From Stellenbosch, we heading along the picturesque Garden Route, visiting some beautiful little towns and staying in some of the most gorgeous bed and breakfasts (we have Maz to thank for that, he’s quite the little travel agent when he wants to be!). If you’re planning on doing this, I’d recommend spending a few days in Plettenberg Bay (above). It was the most gorgeous coastal town. We did some beautiful beach walks and stuff our faces on the most amazing seafood we’ve ever tasted at The Fat Fish. A definite recommendation if you’re ever lucky enough to be in the area.
Some people compared the Garden Route to the Pacific Highway in California; we couldn’t really see it personally. It’s a beautiful route, with lots to see, but if doesn’t have quite the same epic coastal views that Cali boasts. You do a lot more inland driving so you don’t get the take-your-breath-away views as in the states, but never the less, it’s still a beautiful route.
Take your time driving it; there’s lots to see and places to discover. You might also feel brave and take a few hours to fling yourself off a bridge doing the bungy jump, like Maz did (crazy boy!) or go kloofing with Africanyon. We certainly compromise on our trips; I get the wine taste and Maz gets to chuck me off waterfalls! I wasn’t chuffed at the idea of kloofing (basically jumping off rocks, into pools, abseiling. Eugh!), but I hate to admit I had loads of fun. Despite a minor paddy trying to abseil down a cliff within about 5 minutes of the tour starting!
South Africa is full of variety. You can be as active or laid back as you like. We could easily have spent two weeks in and around Cape Town but we’re so glad we explored more of the country. It’s amazing value for money too. We never spend more than £50 for a three course meal for two, with wine. And even the most plush accommodation was no more than £70 per night, including breakfast. Your money goes so far at the current exchange rate (we did go in November 2016 though so it may be different) and you can really enjoy yourself on a more reasonable budget, especially in comparison to two weeks in the States.
I really hope I’ve inspired you to consider Safa. There’s so much more I could tell you about what a wonderful, diverse, interesting and plain gorgeous country it is but theses are our definite highlights.
I’d love to hear if you are planning your trip there or if you have any recommendations for other La Lux readers. Please do comment below to share your thoughts. Happy travels!