Me and a friend went to South Africa for 20 days in September. We rented a car and drove from Johannesburg to Cape Town. We bought a SIM card at the airport so we could book our hotels every day via the internet, which is very cheap in South Africa. I’ll tell you about my itinerary and what I did along the way.
Johannesburg – Soweto – Sabie – Panoramaroute – Hoedspruit – Kruger Park – Swaziland – St Lucia – Durban – Port Elizabeth – Jeffreys Bay – Plettenberg Bay – Knysna – Oudtshoorn – Gansbaai – Hermanus – Cape Town
Day 1 & 2: Brussels – Dubai – Johannesburg
After a 16-hour flight we arrived in Johannesburg where we picked up our rental car, a Volkswagen Polo. In Europe we drive on the right side of the road, in South Africa they drive on the left side. It’s an awesome experience and I promise you, you get used to it very quickly!
Tip: We booked two rental cars, one in Johannesburg and one in Port Elizabeth after a domestic flight. Keep in mind you have to pay the deposit (1500 euro) two times so the limit on your credit card should be high enough!
Our first stop was in Soweto, a township 20 minutes driving from Joburg. We parked our car and as soon as we got out of the car guys started begging for money and food. We didn’t give them money but bought them some food. DON’T! After a while we found out that it’s a plot between these boys and the shopkeepers. You buy cookies or drinks for them, they give them back to the shopkeeper and they get some money in return. In Soweto you also find the House of Mandela. Next to the house of Mandela I bought a traditional, handmade Ndebele lucky doll.
Next stop, the colorful Orlando Towers. I LOVE THEM. The perfect place for people who love some adventure. There’s a bungee jump, a tower swing, an internal tower swing and the possibility to do a base jump. In the restaurant I had my first experience with real African food, more specifically with Chakalaka, a spicy vegetable side, delicious!
I’m sure you’ll read everywhere not to drive when it’s dark in South Africa but we did it every day, otherwise your days will be very short as it gets dark very early in September. And honestly I don’t understand why you shouldn’t drive at night as your car has lights. We stayed in Villa Vittoria Lodge, a nice hotel in Johannesburg. In the evening we went to Hard Rock Cafe. The food there is really great and cheap compared to other Hard Rocks.
Day 3: Johannesburg – Sabie
On our way to Sabie we took a stop at Lion Park. A great place where you can go on a guided lion and wild dog tour, feed giraffes and meet cheetahs and lions. Meeting those cute, little cubs was amazing. We stayed at Oom Gawie Se plek in Sabie. The rooms are overrated but the owners are very hospitable.
Day 4: Panoramaroute – Hoedspruit
We started the Panorama Route in Sabie. We visited the Mac Mac waterfalls, Pinnacale Rock, the Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels & God’s Window. God’s window is a viewpoint, from where you can see the beginning of the Blyde Canyon landscape, the highlight of the Panorama Route, at least for me. For the budget travelers, there is a small entrance fee for visiting the Blyde Canyon and the Three Rondavels. What do you get in return? An awesome view. Take your time to enjoy it! Another place you should visit on the Panoramaroute is the famous Harrie’s Pancake in Graskop. These pancakes are legendary! We ended our day in Hoedspruit and stayed at Loerie’s Guesthouse. A very nice place to stay. The hotel manager recommended us to go for dinner at Sleepers Railway Station Restaurant. This is a cool place, with excellent food, great wine, and it’s not expensive at all.
Day 5: Kruger National Park
Kruger Park has 5 different entrances. We entered the park via the Orpen gate.
Day visitors are not allowed to enter the park with any alcohol. When they checked our car we had to throw away all the alcoholic drinks. We spent the whole day in the wonderful Kruger Park. Even though we didn’t see the big 5 but (I guess you should be really lucky to see them all 5 in one day), we had an awesome time. The most remarkable moment was seeing about 150 elephants crossing the street just in front of our car.
Tip: Take enough drinks and food with you
We left the park at 5 pm and found a cozy hotel named Candillabra Guesthouse. I just love this hotel, it gave me the ‘coming-home-feeling’. We went for dinner in Tambarina. A cozy restaurant with great food and a very friendly staff.
Day 6: Swaziland – Saint Lucia
We arrived in Swaziland after a one-hour drive. First stop? Hlane National Park. It was a total loss of time as we didn’t see any animal. The coolest thing we did in Swaziland was visiting Cultural Village. It’s a unique location where you find out more about the traditions of the Swazi culture. We intended to stay in Swaziland for one night but to be honest, except the Cultural Village, it’s a boring place so we drove straight to Saint Lucia. We were lucky enough to reach the border a few minutes before closing time. In Saint Lucia we stayed at Elephant Lake Inn.
Day 7: Saint Lucia
In the morning we took a walk at the beach and witnessed the incredible hippo’s during a boat trip on the Saint Lucia Lake. In the Isimangaliso Wetland Park we finally saw rhinos. It’s a great park and it’s definitelly worth a visit. In the evening we drove to Durban, a 4-hour drive. We spend the night in Grand Orchid Guesthouse.
Tip: Isimangaliso Wetland Park is a great place for a picnic.
Day 8: Durban
The weather in Durban was rainy and cold. We took a walk on the Golden Mile, the popular stretch of beachfront in the city of Durban. Our second plan was scuba diving but the weather didn’t allow us to. In the evening we went for dinner in the coolest restaurant I’ve ever visited, Cargo Hold Restaurant. It’s not the cheapest restaurant but when I’m able to watch sharks during dinner it’s all worth the money for me. It’s like literally sitting under water and the service is excellent!
Tip: Make a reservation for the Cargo Hold Restaurant.
We stayed at Concierge Boutique Bungalows, a very trendy hotel. I LOVE it, especially the bathroom is amazing. The breakfast is delicious and the terrace is extremely cozy.
Day 9: Durban
In Stadium Moses Mabhida you find the big swing. The big swing allows you to take the thrilling leap swinging out into a massive 220m arc where you soar into the center of the stadium.
The next stop that day was Funworld, located on the Golden Mile. It’s a beachfront amusement park and even without kids it’s fun! The cable car is a nice way to see far and wide. I loved this place because it’s quite old school.
In the evening we drove to the airport. We had a flight to Port Elizabeth at 4 AM so we decided to sleep in the car, which was a cool experience.
Day 10: Port Elizabeth
After picking up our rental car we drove to the Addo Zipline, the highest, longest and fastest double zip line in South Africa. It’s less spectacular than it sounds but I enjoyed the climb and the ride. I also liked their Giant swing.
Another place we visited that day was Bayworld, a large and diverse cultural and natural history museum with displays centered on dinosaurs, marine and bird life, Xhosa culture and much more. You also find a snake park in there. The interactions with the seals and penguins were the coolest part.
Next to Bayworld you find Boardwalk. An extremely cozy place and therefore a must visit when in Port Elizabeth. It’s a small village with shops, restaurants and a casino.
Day 11: Jeffreys Bay – Plettenberg Bay – Knysna
As I live a bucket list life I wanted to learn to surf in Jeffreys Bay and I’m a snowboarder so I thought it would be a piece of cake… it certainly isn’t! But still it is cool! We had a private lesson for 1,5 hour with Son Surf School.
On our way to Knysna we stopped at the Bloukrans Bridge, the world’s highest commercial bungy bridge. My travel mate felt the urge to take the leap, I didn’t.
I regret not spending more time in Knysna. It’s a very cozy town with nice pubs and restaurants.
Day 12: Oudtshoorn – Gansbaai
The Safari Ostrich Show Farm in Oudtshoorn is a must visit. On the guided tour you will learn and see all aspects of ostrich farming & ostriches. I also had the chance to feed the ostriches and even to ride one. Not everyone can ride an ostrich, your weight has to be under about 130lbs. In their two restaurants you can eat delicious home-made ostrich dishes.
To be honest I felt a little guilty after eating the ostrich steak so we left the farm and took the beautiful Garden Route to Gansbaai, a 6-hour drive.
Day 13: Gansbaai – Hermanus – Cape Town
In Gansbaai I did one of the coolest and most adventurous things I’ve done in my entire life, and again it was a bucket-list-thing, cage diving with white sharks. I think everyone should experience this at least once in their life. We chose White shark projects, an awesome company that wants to help the sharks instead of using them to make money. Be prepared, the water is ice cold, your blood pressure rises and your heart is pumping hard and fast. I live for moments like these and I hope you do too.
Still impressed by the sharks, we took the Cape Route 62 to Cape Town, the most wonderful one in South Africa. We hoped to spot some whales in Hermanus but unfortunately we didn’t see one.
Cape route 62 also brought us to Boulders Beach which remains the only place in the world where one can get up close to African Penguins. It was already dark by the time we got there but I was lucky enough to meet one of these cute little guys from nearby.
Day 14: Cape Town
We wanted to visit Table Mountain but the weather was too windy so the cableway was closed. Therefore we decided to go to V&A Waterfront. A shoppingcenter next to the harbor with a great array of shops, lovely coffee shops and restaurants. You can easily spent the whole day there!
When you want to go out in Cape Town, Long Street is the place to be. I liked Cappello, Salt & Pepper and Crew.
In Cape Town we stayed at Kloof Nek Suite. A small, affordable hotel with nice people and clean rooms.
Day 15: Cape Town
Today we went to another shopping mall, Canal Walk. A nice place to spend the day when the weather is not that great. In the evening we went back to Waterfront to go to the movie. It’s just something I love to do when abroad. After the movie it was partytime (again), in Long Street of course.
Day 16: Cape Town
On day 16, I wanted to visit the Table Mountain but the cableway was closed…again. So we decided to go zip lining in Cape Town because zip lining is always a good idea.
Day 17: Cape Town
I’ve always loved gospel music so I was very happy to discover the Hillsong church, a large Christ-centered, Bible-based church. The atmosphere and the songs are amazing and very inspiring. There are churches on different locations in South Africa.
The number two on my bucket list (after making a world trip) was skydiving. And that’s exactly what I did in Cape Town. As I’m afraid of heights this really is a milestone in my life. I’ve always wanted to overcome my fear of heights and still can’t believe I did it! I wish I could describe the feeling but I just can’t find the words for it.
Third time’s the charm, the calbleway to the Table Mountain was opened today so we finally could go up there. You have to be patient to get a ticket, the waiting time is about 1,5 hour. I just jumped out of a plane but believe it or not, the height scared me. On the other hand, the view was stunning. You can also climb the mountain yourself instead of taking the cableway. It takes you about 2 hours but I admit I’m too lazy for that.
Tip: It’s nice to see the sunset on top of the mountain but don’t forget to take some warm clothes, it’s cold up there.
Day 18: Cape Town
Today we drove to Cape Point and Cape Of Good Hope. It’s a quite long but beautiful drive and it’s a must see. Be prepared for some climbing to get to Cape Point, the most south western corner of the continent..
Day 19: Cape Town
Robben Island was used at various times between the 17th and 20th centuries as a prison, a hospital for socially unacceptable groups and a military base. Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was imprisoned there for 18 years. It has an interesting history, told by an old prisoner, which makes the experience very real. The boats are often fully booked so make sure you book your tickets in advance.
Day 20: Cape Town
Sandboarding, another tick off my bucket list. As I’m a snowboarder I love the whole concept so I felt great when standing on my board in the middle of the dunes. Being a snowboarder is not a requirement but it definitely is an advantage. To be honest, sandboarding is easier than snowboarding because it goes slower and you just go straight forward.
We booked this awesome trip with Sandboarding Cape Town. We payed about 30 euros for 2 hours.
Tip: Choose a company that offers a jeep to bring you back to the top of the hills, otherwise you’ll have to do it by foot and that’s exhausting.
Before going back home, we stopped over in Dubai for three days. You can read about these awesome days here.