south africa: travel resources—where, what, why, how

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When putting together my travel plans for South Africa I was unable to find any package that truly covered what I was looking for. They either catered for the passive traveller or did the usual Cape Town/ Kruger combination and nothing else. A bit of a waste, I felt, since there was much more to South Africa. So I ended up travelling solo and independently through the country, doing all the things I really wanted to do, and pleasantly finding it one of the safest and friendliest countries for a woman to travel alone through.

I did some homework and luckily also found great guides whilst travelling. I’ve put together a list of the travel services I used. All of these are still valid as of now. I checked.

Port Elizabeth
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Hotel: City Lodge, Summerstrand
(Typical City Lodge hotel, but great location on the beachfront.)

City tours and airport transfers:
Sisa Manxiwa (e-mail: scmanxiwa@webmail.co.za, cell: +27 (0) 76 426 0145 / (0) 79 160 0563.)
(A mine of information and a thorough gentleman, he came highly recommended by every hotel and tourism office in the city!)

My related blog post:
south africa 1: port elizabeth, victorian england in africa

Garden Route
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Package tour (Garden Route Splendour 4 days 3 nights):
Thompsons Africa (Thompsons are one of the biggest tour operators in South Africa. Absolute professionals. One can’t go wrong with them.)
Township tour in Knysna:
Emzini Tours (One of the most emotionally poignant and beautiful township experiences I had in the country.)

My related blog post:
south africa 2: the 4-day scenic garden route

Cape Town and around
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Hotel: Holiday Inn Express, St. George’s Mall
(Swank hotel with slick minimalist décor in the heart of Cape Town. Ask for a room on the 15th floor for great views.)

Day tours:
Peninsula, Winelands, Walk to Freedom (Langa Township and Robben Island), City Day Tours: Thompsons Africa, contact tel: +27 (0) 31 275 3500.
When exploring on my own I walked through the city (it is very safe) and took the City sightseeing buses to get around. At R220 for a day pass, the buses are a treat.

My related blog posts:
south africa 3: cape peninsula, the company of nature and wine
south africa 4: kaap staad aka cape town, the most beautiful city in the world

Durban and KwaZulu-Natal
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Day tours:
Battlefields and City Day Tours: Thompsons Africa
Kamberg, Shakaland, Sani Pass, Hluhluwe/ St. Lucia/ Emdoneni and Indian Cultural Experience personalized tours, Airport transfers: 1st Zulu Safaris
(There really is no other way to explore KwaZulu-Natal; for real adventure 1st Zulu Safaris win hands down. Ask for Sotiris, cell: +27 (0) 82 776 6771.)

My related blog posts:
south africa 5: kwazulu-natal history—from rorke’s drift to kamberg to shakaland
south africa 6: kwazulu-natal adventure—from sani pass to its game reserves
south africa 7: durban—sun, sea, sand and the indian connection

Johannesburg and Pretoria
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Hotel: Mercure Johannesburg, Randburg
(Awesome staff, the hotel is located right next to Brightwater Commons/ Randburg Waterfront.)

Day tours:
Pretoria, Soweto, Cradle of Humankind Day Tours: Ulysses Tours and Safaris
(Very knowledgeable guides and warm personalized service.)

Airport transfers:
Please do NOT take a taxi from O.R. Tambo airport. They cost a fortune. Ask your hotel to do a pick up or a company like Ulysses to do the transfers. There is also the gau train which gets you to Sandton in 12 minutes. The service includes an additional network of buses to various neighbourhoods.

My related blog post:
south africa 8: gauteng, johannesburg, the place of gold

Kruger National Park
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Lodge: Umbhaba Lodge
(Stunningly beautiful place. My room had a balcony, sitting room, bedroom, two bathrooms and a gorgeous four-poster bed. Add to this wildebeest in the grounds and pretty awesome meals.)

Post-Kruger accommodation in Johannesburg: Outlook Lodge
(It is near O.R. Tambo airport and they make the yummiest omelettes.)

You could do the Kruger bookings directly or ask an agent. I used www.uyaphi.com since I also wanted to do the Panorama route. They booked it for me through Spurwing Tourism Services.

My related blog posts:
south africa 9: the ‘panorama’ journey

south africa 10: kruger and the big 5

Local flights
Open a couple of windows in your browser with the following addresses to get the best deals.
www.1time.co.za
www.kulula.com

Happy travelling. ❤

south africa 10: kruger and the big 5

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Kruger National Park is nearly every South African’s favourite place in the world. It is also part of every tourist’s mandatory itinerary to the country. Covering an area of two million hectares, the game reserve is a realm in itself where wildlife reigns supreme and we humans are the outsiders, satiated with being mere audiences to a world that is complete.

No matter how many times one has been to Kruger, one can just never get enough of it. It is too big. It changes colours and moods with every passing day. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the lowveld in the country, the park contains a mind-boggling number of animal and plant species together with centuries old cultural treasures such as rock paintings and archaeological sites.

I stayed for three days and two nights and, yes, saw all the Big 5. 🙂 Which boiled down to herds of buffaloes and elephants, a leopard smacking away its lips after an impala kill, rhinos marking their territories with trails of urine and dung, and seven lions and a herd of buffaloes battling away on the banks of a stream after the lions had attacked one of the buffaloes. Continue reading

south africa 9: the ‘panorama’ journey

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Guess you’ve heard the old adage—the journey is as important as the destination. My destination is Kruger National Park. The journey is appropriately the Panorama Route. 🙂

I had always wanted to do South Africa’s Panorama Route. One of those ‘have to do’ things in life. Why, you might well ask? It is scenic, on a majestic scale, cutting through the northern Drakensberg Mountains and Great Escarpment to abruptly give way to the plains of the lowveld.

Nature in South Africa is rather grand. Everything a little larger than life, a little more verdant, a little more unique and unduplicated by god. The Panorama Route’s first highlight is the Blyde River Canyon with the Three Rondavels standing sentry on the side; the latter evocative of the huts of the country’s indigenous people. Continue reading

south africa 8: gauteng, johannesburg, the place of gold

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Gauteng, place of gold

Four whole days in Gauteng! I’m a very happy woman. Yes, trust me, there is a lot to see and explore in this concrete jungle that is South Africa’s economic powerhouse. Gauteng actually means ‘place of gold’, a name that is evocative of its history and reason to be. The smallest yet wealthiest province in the country, covering a mere 1.4 percent of its total land area, Gauteng contributes 33.9 percent to South Africa’s GDP and 10 percent to the whole African continent’s GDP. In historical terms its name traces back to the discovery of gold in 1886 in Johannesburg.

I used to live here at one time and enjoyed it fully, that is apart from the traffic which is absolutely crazy. I know, everyone talks about the crime. I have, touchwood, never had a bad experience. And things are even better now with neighbourhood watches, plain-clothes police, and security cameras. Here is my take on Gauteng, not as a resident, but as a traveller. 🙂 Continue reading

south africa 7: durban—sun, sea, sand, and the indian connection


Self portrait—Artist: Me; Location: Golden Mile.

Sun, Sea and Sand and a bit more

Durban is South Africans’ choice domestic holiday destination. It is the most African city in the country. It is also the most Indian city in Africa. Not many foreign tourists come here. Another one of those slips.

The busiest port in Africa, Durban is an eclectic mix of golden sands, colonial architecture, and Indian colour. There is an easy feel to it which makes one feel immediately at home. The pace is relaxed; the smiles are warm and friendly. Life simply revolves around the beach which makes the six-kilometre long golden mile the obvious ‘start’ and at times ‘finish’ to one’s explorations of the city.

Which is what I did as well. An invigorating walk down the paved promenade took me to uShaka Marine World, a themed aquarium park built in a mock-up ship-wreck. At the other end of the day, a sky-car lifted me to the roof of the Moses Mabhida Stadium and windy, stunning views of the sun-kissed city. And somewhere in-between, against a backdrop of children shrieking with delight in the water rides and weathered Durbanites throwing their fishing lines into the waters, soft warm golden sands kissed my bare feet as I chatted with sand sculpture artists from far off Tanzania and Sudan. Continue reading

south africa 6: kwazulu-natal adventure—from sani pass to its game reserves

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The thrill of Sani Pass

Aah, that adrenalin rush! That sense of adventure in exploring unchartered, gruelling terrains and then coming back to tell the tale. For many travelling to South Africa, and to me, it simply means the Sani Pass.

Once a rough mule trail, Sani Pass is now a notoriously dangerous mountain road to Lesotho via the Drakensberg Mountains which can only be traversed by a 4X4. Lying between the border controls of South Africa and Lesotho, the 8-kilometre-long gravel road through no-man’s land starts at 1,968 metres above sea level and ends near the summit at 2,873 metres. The journey is marked with steep ascents, hairpin bends appropriately named “suicide bend” and “big wind corner”, loose gravel, and beautiful views. Some walk this road. For the adventurous, the thrill is in the 4X4 drive. Continue reading