A small group of my friends were on the fence about our travel trip to Africa. We did lots of research and realised that the only way of ensuring that we were getting the most for our money, whilst getting to see and do everything, was to join like-minded people on a tour. We concluded that this was the best way to book our first visit to Africa. So, all six of us booked a fully guided tour to South Africa. The tour was booked from beginning to end, leaving no room for surprises along the way. Our route was planned, meals were booked and all we needed was to ensure we had enough money to pay our entrance fees, extra meals and HAVE FUN!! The best part of all, the tour took a maximum of 10 people, so it was nice and intimate.
Our trip was epic!!! Our guide was well travelled and on the ball, ensuring that our small group was well cared for, entertained and kept us updated on area information and places of interest. We started in Johannesburg, where we were greeted at the airport by a young man standing with our names on a board for easy identification. Once everybody was together, we walked to our mini-coach and immediately our journey had begun. We visited Soweto for a shisanyama lunch with the locals and a walking visit to Nelson Mandela's House in Vilakazi Street. We stayed overnight at a local hotel. After breakfast the next day, we departed Johannesburg with an en-route stop at the Pretoria Parliament Buildings, before heading out along the Panorama Route to White River. The Panorama Route of Mpumalanga is located northeast of the Greater Drakensberg Escarpment, with the canyon starting at Bourke's Luck Potholes and ending at the Three Rondavels. The landscape of this area is absolutely breathtaking. We ended our trip in White River where we spent the night.
The next morning was extra exciting as journeyed through the small town of Hazyview, stopping for an elephant interaction before arriving in Mbombela (Nelspruit) for the night.
After breakfast, we meandered down into the province of KwaZulu-Natal driving through small towns like Piet Retief, before heading to our safari lodge near Pongola. We spent 3 nights on safari watching Africa's BIG 5 in their natural habitat. We also got to visit the local communities and connect with some very special people. We arrived as guests and left as family.
After breakfast and some very sad goodbyes, we left this special place and continued our journey down through Zululand, making our way to Isimangaliso Wetlands, St Lucia. We spent two nights here. This World Heritage Site is magical... filled with hippos and crocs that co-habit a saltwater estuary and are often found wandering the town streets at night. We also did a bicycle ride around the local village mixing with the locals, and had a "braai" on the beach. We had a great time in St Lucia!
We headed to Durban for a two-night stay. Here we booked to do something completely different - a guided hike with a “pitch your own tent” for the night experience in Inanda. Our guide cooked a delicious local dish for supper. This was a very local experience and we were privileged to be a part of this. We also got to eat in a local restaurant and experience why Durban is known as the Spice City of South Africa.
Our next adventure took us to Port Elizabeth where we met a new driver ready to take us on our Garden Route experience. We immediately meandered from Port Elizabeth to Knysna where we stayed for the night. That evening we ate dinner in the Knysna Forest - the largest indigenous (or native) forest in South Africa. The next day, we headed out to Oudtshoorn and visited the Cango Caves and the Highgate Ostrich Farm. We spent the night at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge for a very special experience.
The following morning we continued down Route 62 passing small towns like Ladismith, Calitzdorp and Barrydale and on to Robertson where we stayed for the night. The scenic Robertson Valley is renowned for its wines of connoisseur quality, radiant roses and thoroughbred horses.
As we made our way to the famous town of Franschhoek, we stopped for a wine tasting before arriving at the hotel, where we just relaxed and walked around the town enjoying more wine and chocolate.
The last stretch of our trip was quite exciting as we made our way from Franschhoek to Cape Town in a side cart, taking in the breathtaking sights of the Cape Peninsular. We spent two full days in Cape Town, just exploring the city and visiting some incredible places and markets. We did our last-minute shopping for the family back home and relaxed until we left for Cape Town International Airport.
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