“What are your long term goals”, the interviewer asked me. While I concocted an answer suitable to the corporate world- about leading a large team, being a role model for others etc. etc., my mind wandered off to South Africa. After all, Cape Town tops the list of cities I and KD hope to eventually settle down in- that’s our long-term goal!.
“”And I came to Cape Town in 2009, and it just hit me. I was like, ‘Yeah.’ I know when a good vibe gets to you. And, you know, I thought about this place every day from when I left. I was like, ‘I’m comin’ back.'” – this is what US born artist Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) said when faced with immigration issues on entering the US. Our feelings were no different…
Something about this country touches your soul like no place else does. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi’s and Nelson Mandela’s influence in this country is palpable in every experience you have with the locals- extremely humble and kind people, unparalleled respect for animals, and a soft corner for Indians ( a native South African lady asked me and KD if she could hug us because she had never met someone from India earlier; despite Port Elizabeth having a huge India settlement who have been living in SA for ages 🙂 )
It’s been 2 years and we still keep gushing about the trip to our friends, convincing them to ditch the conventional Europe travel plans and try the incomparable thrills and adventures that South Africa offers. What’s more, our trip from India cost us only ~2.25 Lacs (~ 3500 USD) for a couple (including airfare!)
This post is first in a 3-part series of our South Africa trip
2 Minute Trip Planner
- Ideal Time: 9-11 days (take 5 days off and combine both the weekends)
- Dont’ Miss:
- DRINK & EAT
- Classy yet inexpensive Wine Tasting at Franschhoek/Stellenbosch
- The local Flying Fish beer (lemon and apple flavors)
- Bunny Chow (a South African version of India Daal and Bread 😉 )
- Chapman Peak Drive
- Lion Spotting and Camping in Kruger National Park (ditch the private game reserves!)
- Bungee Jumping at Bloukrans, the highest Bungee Bridge in the world
- Beach lounging with the Jackass Penguins at Simon’s Town
- Trekking up the Table Mountains
- Book yourself a photoshoot (on an average, less than 100$ for 100 pics!). We booked our shoot with DesignerK Photography
- Wine tasting at Stellenbosch/Franschhoek
- Visit the colorful streets of Bokaap
- VEGAN TIPS
- You will find it hard to get vegan/vegetarian food if you look simply at menus of restaurants on Yelp. HOWEVER, mostly everything in SA is cooked fresh, and EVERY restaurant/cafe we went to, customized their dishes according to our dietary preference. We had no issues whatsoever
- Camps Bay or V&W Waterfront are in Cape Town
- Sandton area in Johannesburg
- Pick up your rental car at one city and drop it off to another at no extra charge
- TRIP COST FOR 2 (including airfare)
- INR 2,00,000 from India (~3000$ but could vary depending on the ticket prices from the US)
- DRINK & EAT
Day 1: Land in Johannesburg (Jo’Burg)
A 12 hours flight from India got us to Jo’Burg where we rented a car from the airport and headed straight to our Airbnb at Sandton. Jo’burg is infamous for its notorious crime rate, but if you are from Delhi/New York, you’ll be just fine 😉 Too much hype about nothing really.
Sandton is the plushest neighborhood in Jo’burg. We were surprised to learn that a lot of American and European expats who come to Jo’burg stay in Sandton area and eventually settle down there for good! Use this day to relax and explore the neighborhood. If you choose to spend more time here, you can drive down to the Gold Reef City and the Apartheid Museum (we did neither)
Day 2 & 3: Kruger National Park
Think wild safaris, lions and zebras, camp fires and aromatic food attracting hyenas! – I get goosebumps writing this! The only reason we landed at Jo’burg was that it was the closest international airport to Kruger National Park, the world’s largest sanctuary (as big as Israel they say!). A quick google search on wildlife safaris will throw multiple Game Reserves options at you. Ditch them all and go straight to South Africa National Parks Organization. We have a separate post coming up shortly about our adventures and planning for Kruger National Park.
Day 4 (Optional): En-route Bloukrans
Given the adrenaline junkies that KD and I are, there was no way we were missing a chance to bungee jump from Bloukrans Bridge (touted as the highest Bungee Bridge in the world). Also, the Bridge cuts quite a scenic picture! We took quite a detour to make it to Bloukrans because Face Adrenalin, the company that organizes it, is one of the few with not a single death so far. So we started Day 4 with the drive back from Kruger’s to the Jo’Burg airport and boarded an afternoon flight to Port Elizabeth, from where we drove 2 hours to Plettenberg Bay. We stayed overnight at Rocky Road Backpackers (INR 2000/ 30 USD per night) which was a very tranquil place set amidst open grazing pastures. Another group we met at the Bungee Jumping raved about Wild Spirit Lodge.
In all honesty Day-4 was the least favorite day of my trip as the entire day went by only in transit, but the Bungee Jumping experience made it so worth it! We have a separate blog post coming up shortly describing our experience.
Day 5: Driving the Garden Route/Knysna (Optional)
We messed up our Day 5, in that we drove 7 hours to Cape Town after the Bungee Jump in the morning only to realize that two days later we had to drive back 2 hours to Gansbaai. So instead of sharing what we did wrong, I’ll share what you must do right.
Post the Bungee Jump in the morning, make the hour-long drive to Knysna. Knysna is a small quaint little town where we had stopped for a quick lunch. You could also consider spending the day at Knysna given the plethora of fun stuff to do here. Post lunch make the 5-hour drive to Gansbaai, through the famous Garden Route.
A lot has been said about Garden Route’s beauty on the internet. Garden Route has been rated frequently amongst the Top 3 routes in the world. But, honestly, throughout the 5 hours drive, we kept waiting for the ‘magic’ to happen, eagerly looking out the windows, anxious at every turn, hoping to see sights that would blow us away. At one point in time, we were so disappointed, we actually weren’t sure if we were ON the Garden route or some other route parallel to it. Sadly we were indeed on the Garden Route, and I hate to admit that it falls quite flat compared to the Pacific Coast Way and many other road trips we have made.
Day 6 First Half: Shark Cage Diving at Gansbaai
The Atlantic water near Gansbaai is known for having the largest concentration of the great white sharks as compared to anywhere else in the world. The whole island is filled with multiple tour companies that organize half day tours in the shark infested waters, promising an ‘up close and personal’ experience with the Great Whites, which can as big as 15ft in length ( almost the size of a sedan!). I was scared- I admit it and prayed with all my heart that somehow the boat would break or a storm would come that would cancel our trip. However, KD was equally scared of Bungee Jumping (which I was super excited about), and I had promised him that I would go in the shark infested waters with him if he bungee jumped with me.
While shark cage diving sure does sound like a thrilling experience, it is equal parts gross. The Atlantic waters are super chilly, and the chum ( fish food and blood) thrown in the water to attract the sharks makes the water around the cage quite disgusting. Whether you can see a shark underground is not guaranteed either, but the staff tries their best, offering to send you under the water twice, or even thrice, so you can get a sighting.
As part of the experience, you put on the wet suit and snorkel, step into a rectangular cage that is dropped in the water and wait for the sharks to experience. What is interesting is that after the trip our guide told us that if the Sharks put their mind to it, breaking the cage, would be a child’s play for them. But they prefer to take the eggs rather than cut the hen! 🙂 🙂 They are conditioned to come to the boats every morning and evening, knowing it’s their daily source of food!
All tour companies offer showers, so bring a change of clean dry clothes, so you can head straight to Cape Town from Gansbaai
Day 6 Second Half: Cape Town!!
And we finally made it to Cape Town on Day 6! 🙂 It hits you the minute you enter Cape Town- this weird vibe that leaves you wishing never to leave the place.
Day 7: Table Mountains and Kirstenbosch Gardens
The Table Mountains give Cape Town its unique personality. These majestic mountains are called so, because they are flattish, like a table, on top and almost always have a thick cover of clouds, also known as the ‘table cover’ on them. Locals and tourists flock the Table Mountains or the Lion’s Peak (another mountain in Cape Town) for hiking. There are also cable cars that go to and fro the top of the mountain.
Post the hike we went to Kirstenbosch Gardens, which did not figure in our original itinerary, after all it’s just a garden, right! But we were surprised to see some amazing variety of flora and fauna here- like in the pictures below.
Do try an authentic Afrikan dining experience at Moyo situated inside the Kirstenbosch Gardens. We had a vegetarian Tagine and my favorite beer ever- Flying Fish (in lemon flavor)
For Dinner, we went to V&W Waterfront. This is the place we chose for our photo shoot. More details on that later in the post.
Day 8: Chapman’s Peak Drive, Simon’s Town, Cape of Good Hope
This entire day was so much fun! Simon’s Town is about an hour’s drive from V& W Waterfront and we went via the Chapman’s Peak drive which is short but very beautiful.
Simon’s town is known for its large congregation of Jackass Penguins (a smaller, even more, adorable version of the normal penguins found in the colder regions) These penguins are everywhere- literally!
While at Simon’s town do check out the cute little boutiques here!
From Simon’s Town, we headed to Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost point of South Africa.
Day 9: Stellenbocsh/Franschhoek
We felt that our first experience at Wine Tasting deserves a special post to itself. Coming up shortly!
Day 10: Camps Bay, V&A Waterfront, and Long Street
Given that we had set up base at V&A Waterfront, we headed there almost every night for dinner. The waterfront has lots to do in the evening, with local fairs and markets, a significantly huge mall and lots of eateries. This is also where we had our photoshoot!
Camps Bay was one of my favorite areas in Cape Town with the Ocean Lined cafes. The beach is beautiful too but sadly the Atlantic waters were super chilly when we were visiting. You will end up heading here at least twice during your stay for lunch/dinner. Since Camps Bay is right below the Table Mountains, it’s a good place to stop by for lunch after your hike too!
Long Street area is the place where all party goers flock to. Lined with an array of pubs, cafes, and restaurants, this place is most lively in the evenings.
We guarantee that after your trip to South Africa, when asked “which has been your most fun trip ever” by your friends, your answer will be South Africa! 🙂