South Africa Bucket List
Don't let your fear decides for you...
South Africa was the travel destination which I had in mind since many years. About 8 years ago I was even looking at jobs offers in Johannesburg, and for a short moment I thought that I could move there. However, I quit this idea pretty quickly when I read more about ‘bad fame’ of Johannesburg, which is consider as a dangerous city, full of brutal crime.
When I met my current fiancé, we talked about South Africa as well. And here is the funny story coming… apparently I told him something like this: “ South Africa? No, I don’t want to go there, it’s too dusty’’ LOL! Believe me or not, but I totally don't recall this conversation with him! I assume I was pretty tipsy when I told him that ;-)
Years passed by and I still had South Africa in mind. I also have heard many awesome travel stories from people I know. They all were vevry positve abouth this country. And, what's the most importnat, they all came back in one piece. So, regardless the danger of crime and potential dust, we have decided to travel there for 3 weeks.
This was our 11th common travel for my fiancé and myself. And I think this was our the best holiday since we started traveling together. My second half isn’t the beach type of a guy. Reading a book and chilling on the beach it isn’t his cup of thee. He is the adventure seeker who likes to get his body tired and soul filled with new experiences during the holiday. I am somehow in between these two types. I definitely like some activities. I love hiking and being close to the nature, but I also love to warm up my ass on the beach and spend just lazy afternoon with a good book and nice cocktail in my hand. What’s the best about South Africa is that this country can give you all of these!
We considered two option before traveling - getting fully organised trip or plan everything by ourselves. Fortunately, we chose the second option. It gave us way more freedom although I bit less peaceful mind. The biggest problem was the transportation. In South Africa there is nothing like public transport (beside Cape Town) which can be recommended for tourists. Hence, renting a car was the only one option. For us, there were few issue here. First of all, in South Africa there is left side traffic, which can be a little challenging for European drivers. Additionally, I don't have driving licence, so only my fiancé could drive there. I can tell, he wasn’t very happy about it, neither his legs with cramped muscles. So, a small tip for everyone - as South Africa is a huge country, better get yourself an automatic car with cruse control.
We started our advantage from Panorama Route in the north-east part of South Africa. We flew from Amsterdam to Johannesburg. Nevertheless, we skipped visiting Johannesburg and drove straight to Hazeview, which is one of the towns on the Panorama Route. We stayed in the Blyde Canyon River Lodge which has two amazing viewing points on Blyde Canyon. From there we drove to National Kruger Park, which is one one of Africa’s largest game reserves.
We stayed 3 nights inside of the park, spending each night in different camp. We traveled between Pretoriuskop camp, Skukuza and Satara. Especially Skukuza is worth to visit, because it has a lot of facilities and good restaurants. Moreover, it's located next to the river, which gives more chances to spot wild animals, which are coming twice a day to drink from the only one source of water close by.
While being inside of Kruger, the safari games are the must! You can pay for organised trips or just drive around with your own car. If you chose the second option, please keep in mind your safety. As there is no GSM network in some parts of the park, having a spare wheel in the car and enough water could be a good idea. Ideally, be careful with taking off roads and don't leave your car when any animal is close by. Even an innocent zebra can be potentially dangerous when it feels threaten. During these 3 days, we did 4 safari rides in total. Luckily, we saw all The Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo) we wanted to see. The most difficult was leopard, which we were looking for 3 days! And we noticed it on our way out from the Kruger park ;-)
After Kruger park experience, we had traveled back to Johannesburg and from there we flew to Port Elisabeth for two days. But to be honest, you can skip this place as well. There is not that much to do there. We stayed there two days, and I found this place a bit boring. I also had a bit uncomfortable felling while walking on the streets.
Nevertheless, this was our beginning of Garden Route, which is just a name for a 300 km road that stretch at the south-eastern coast of South Africa. It's definitely an amazing experience to see the coastline on one and mountains on the other side. You can easyly drive this distance within one day, but we preferred to explore it more. That's why we stayed overnight in Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, Swellendam and Stellebosch. All of these places have their unique vibe. But we definitely had a lot of fun in Stellebsoch during wine tasting. For such a wine lovers like my fiancé and myself, this was just haven on earth (let's skip the topic of next morning hangover) LOL
From Stellenbosch we drove to The Cape of Good Hope and Boulders Beach, which is known as penguin beach. Do you remember a movie cartoon "Madagascar"? Then you know what I am talking about! It was absolutely adorable to see these funny birds on the sandy beach of South Africa. After this we drove to Cape Town, which is an amazing city that deserves a separate post :)
As a quick summary about South Africa I can say that's definitely worth to visit this country. It's really amazing country with beautiful nature, and unfortunately, difficult history. I don't want to go deeper into apartheid issue, but that's something what is important to have in mind. Similarly, as a huge discrepancy between rich and poor people in this country. Nevertheless, I really found people in South Africa very nice and polite. To be honest, I really don't recall situation when I felt unsafe. But of corse, always when traveling, a bit of caution is necessary. So watch your belongings and always lock the car. And be careful while withdrawing cash from any cash machine, as scamming is pretty common in these situation. Always make sure that no one stands behind your back and don't accept help from random person.
Besides that, everything else looks like in Europe to me. At every gas station you will find a clean toilet, supermarket and cash machine. If you are going to tank your car, there alway will be a gas station employee who will do it for you, so you won't get your hands dirt. Just leave a small tip for this extra service. Almost every restaurant has free WiFi and roads are in way better condition than in my homeland (Poland). So, what shall I say... just plan your trip ahead! (don't wait till the last moment to book your plain tickets like us :P ) And enjoy your stay!