Travelling around South Africa
In More Depth
This is the more detailed area.
For in brief click here
In this "Destinations" section we share our 10 week travels around South Africa and neighbouring countries.
As with all our long term travels, we could easily write a book on each destination travelled to but we try to give easy reading for experienced ideas, tips and advice for travelling to specific areas of the world that you might like to visit, are already planning or including to your bucket list for a must go to destination.
This trip to South Africa, you could say was just a little different to any of the other medium to long term travelling taken to date, as there was an adrenaline agenda element to it.
As usual there are two versions both in brief and in more detail but we will cover as usual our format of the "7 main points" in both.
Click on the photos below to take you direct to the specific country of your choice, or read under all about our travelling experiences, tips and advice on these travels.
With all our destination sections, we endeavour to identify the "7 main areas" of our experiences right from our initial planning and research, timings, the travel methods, budgets, why we chose our routes, to what was taken as luggage, do's and don'ts, places to see and what fellow travellers reasons were for travelling their way.
Durban Valley of 1000 hills
1. Areas/countries covered.
Location of travels taken for one specific trip
Without getting into too much detail, this was another single person adventure being me Dougie. I wanted to experience as much of South Africa and neighbouring countries as possible in a 10 week window but with an additional agenda being an adrenaline one of several heart thumping activities that only Africa can bring.
A goal also to take in as much of each country as I could in the time allocated but without rushing.
Picking from my bucket list of travelling to South Africa and taking in a little bit of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Swaziland if I had time, these additional countries all border South Africa and fit with my intended itinerary.
2. Planning and research
The bucket list of destinations, the routes to pick and how to get around or navigate.
As with all our planning and research I drew a map (tip 0330) of the countries I wanted to travel through and worked out the best way to navigate them and the easiest way possible for the time in hand.
I had already popped into the local travel agent for some much needed advice and got them to put an Itinerary together with their recommendations. Tip 0345 Call in the experts. The great thing about this tip is, there is no obligation to buy.
Also ask at the agency to speak to someone who has actually been to the particular destination you want to go to, as you will get first hand advice and knowledge.
The main country to tick off my bucket list for this trip was South Africa but as Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana were on the doorstep I saw no reason not to step over the line a little.
Having 6 adrenaline agendas, I pinned them to my map and planned my route around these.
Climb Table Mountain.
Cage Shark diving with the Great Whites in Gansbaai.
World's highest Bungee Jump 216 meters from Africa's largest bridge.
Get up close and personal to the Big 5.
Jump the Devils Pool at Victoria Falls.
White water rafting on the Zambezi.
It seemed logical to start in Cape town and work my way up the South East Coast along the Garden route which will cross 3 off my list then continue along the coast until I had enough of the sea and head inland up through the national parks and onto Victoria Falls.
Again wanting to vary the methods of travel I decided to only take flights over the long distances to give me as much time on the ground over the short period of time I had to explore.
Return flights into Johannesburg from Australia were covered and a short flight down to Cape Town would get me on the ground running.
My research on the topographical relief to be expected, showed little to be of concern and most areas I needed to go or get to seemed to be away from rugged terrain and easily accessible, so timing for my destinations didn't seem to be an issue. I did however allow for extra days here and there just in case. Tip 0347 Allow a few spare days into your Itinerary.
The more you travel for longer periods of time, the more useful fellow travellers experiences help or even just local knowledge gained can assist you along the way. Tip 0348 Ask the locals.
As usual travelling groups and social media travel forums are a great addition for your research where recent experience is always helpful.
In this we mean amount of time to travel and time of the year to travel.
We refer you to Tip 0332 Timings. How long and when
As previously mentioned my time allotted for this trip was approximately 10 weeks and with a the distances involved and special activities I wanted to complete, I knew this might be a bit of a rush to get it all done, so I allotted fairly set timings for each place I visited but with a day or so up my sleeve, just in case.
I chose late August to early November as my slot for travelling, mainly because early September was the best time to Jump the "Devils Pool" at Victoria Falls on this particular year. Tip 0349 best time to visit Victoria Falls. Also again this was slightly out of main season and accommodation would be easy to find and more affordable.
Having similar climate to my country of residence, I expected Cape Town and along the coastal areas would be on par with Sydney in NSW and up to Southern Qld, certainly cooler than up in Zambia where I anticipated a climate not too dissimilar to Cairns but dryer more than a tropical heat.
This all helps with knowing what to pack, level of fitness and general preparation for your impending travel. Things like will I need to book accommodation that has air conditioning, a pool, mosquito nets etc,.
How much you intend to spend, or would like to spend on your trip
As I was travelling again out of peak season my costs should be kept fairly low and my first few days accommodation in Cape Town was an absolute steal. Tip 0350 Special Deals.
For the cost of AUD $45.00/night including breakfast, I managed to pre-book a 5 star hotel right in the centre of town, close to everything.
So with my return flights to and from South Africa and my first few days accommodation all sorted, I was ready to find more bargains along the way.
Travelling low or off season definitely works well for me, although many travellers may not have the luxury of picking their timings. The benefits being more affordable travel and accommodation with less people around meaning no queuing, silence and great photo shots. Tip 0351 Benefits of off/low season.
I find that when travelling large areas of the globe and for long periods of time, advanced bookings can limit your experience. Tip 0352 Limiting your travel
What, why and how much to take.
As with most long term travelling I would be with my whole luggage most of the time, I opted to take my large backpack with a detachable day pack. This was a Black Wolf Ceader Breaks 90ltr. Now I must add this was far too big for my needs but is very light weight and easy to carry which still suits me but when we travel for longer in 2018 I will spoil myself on a smaller 60ltr backpack of the same type.
Our recommendation still, is to go for a 65ltr backpack with a 10-15ltr daypack, anything else won't be as effective.
Long trousers are advisable for walking about on safari and a good jumper or windproof coat and beanie for your early morning rises, when on safari. You really won't need any other heavy clothing, jumpers and the like but take plenty of mix and match clothes and a good quality light weight rain mac.
A good pair of hiking shoes/boots, think about taking some old "T" shirts pants and socks that you can throw away as you go.
Make sure you have a good camera with zoom and a back up one too. Good vanity pack and first aid equipment. Micro towel and that's about it.
A full list of what to take will be within the "Lists, inventories and Itineraries" section of this website.
With this type of travelling and means of travel, we wouldn't recommend a suitcase with wheels.
Less is best as we always say and what was taken for the whole trip will be updated within the "Lists, inventories and itineraries" section of this website.
The actual trip and where we went.
The beginning of my travels was a pre-booked return flight into Johannesburg which was going to be my central airport whilst in South Africa.
An overnight stay nearby the Airport as my flight into Cape Town was early the next day. I would be returning several times to Johannesburg and this destination was not high on my list, so with time permitting I could explore a little more later on.
A relatively short flight south west into Cape Town and with transfer to my hotel in the centre of the city I was ready for action.
Having volunteered for Radio Lollipop on the Gold Coast Australia, I took advantage of contacting associates at the local Children's Hospital where Radio Lollipop was in negotiations to open a new studio there and was an ambassador to assist in promoting this organisation as the first in the country.
This took a few hours of my first two days in Cape Town and decided to stay locally in the city and explore the "V & A Waterfront" Harbour, Castle of Good Hope and main touristy areas being "The Company's Garden", local markets, "Bo-Kaap," museums and the great "Long Street" full of eateries, bar, clubs and shops.
All within walking distance to my superb accommodation which I must add was a great price of AUD$45 per night including breakfast and our next tip 0354 Booking accommodation through airline.
Picking up a map from your reception desk of where you are staying is a must and they always mark where you are and some key places to visit.
Ask away to your heart's content. Where is the best place to eat? How long does it take to get here or there? How much does a taxi cost from here to there?
Grab your accommodations business card for your wallet in case you get lost.
Cape Town is a vibrant city and has many hidden treasures in such a small area and with the epic backdrop scenery of Table Mountain at virtually every corner you come to in the city.
Cape Town is without doubt a magical place to be and great way to see as much as you can is to take the "Cape Town City Sightseeing Bus" which has six routes and is a Hop-on Hop-off bus that pretty much gets you to most places you could ever want to see locally. If you have the time and are fairly fit and healthy, I would walk the inner parts, as you can miss a fair bit between stops.
My first adrenaline junkie hit was just around the corner and I planned to climb both "Table Mountain" and the "Lions Head."
My first choice was the Lions Head only because the view of Table Mountain was awesome from this vantage point and the drop offs to the sea are quite spectacular here. You can also Hang-glide down to the sea from Lions Head. A thrill for me to try when I have more time.
The walk up to the beginning of the climb is fairly easy and the wild flowers en-route along the path are so pretty, almost like you're "Dorothy" on the yellow brick road. The view to the sea, Table Mountain, city and the harbour are the best.
To climb the tip of Lions Head you will need a sturdy pair of shoes/boots and be prepared to use your hands toward the top but it will be worth it. For those a little less adventurous, I would still take the walk around the tip and there are two ways to get there.
You can get a taxi up to the main ridge and walk easily in the surrounding gardens and just chill on the hill.
Allow yourselves a good half a day for this gem of a view and as I did, stroll down into town stopping off at a bar/eatery or two to soak up that unmistakable atmosphere all around you.
The following day I was ready for my main climb up Table Mountain and at the time I was there, engineering works were being carried out on the bi-cable aerial cable-way. Although this didn't directly affect me personally there were a lot more climbers on the mountain than usual and is thought for travellers in their planning and research processes.
I had taken a taxi up to the main base station and took the climb to the right of this station. There are several climbs around the base of this mountain but this route was good enough to say I had conquered the elements and tick it off my list.
It is a steady climb and fairly easy for most with a modicum of fitness but take plenty of water and stop as you need, mainly to look back at the glorious views.
Nearing the top it opens out more and becomes a welcome walk to the top. There are various walks you can do at the top but I stayed on the main path toward the Cable car area and as expected the views are like no other. I was most fortunate not to have any cloud cover at all and you could quite literally appear to see forever. With a good zoom lens it's a photographers dream vantage point, you could spend the whole day up there.
The climb down was nearly as challenging as the climb up, as your legs feel a little weary from the initial climb and many people stay up longer to rest for this reason alone but you climb down with a sense of real achievement and in awe of what you have seen.
Nearing the base of the climb I felt exhilarated and decided once again to casually stroll back down to the city, taking in all I could and hitting a few watering holes as I went. My time in Cape Town was nearing an end and I had a day trip left and a slow day ready for my departure from this wonderful place I have grown to love.
I planned to come back to Cape Town nearing the end of my travels and take the cable car up the mountain too, just to experience it all once more. A Township visit and a round trip to the Cape of Good Hope would be my treat to finish off my travels.
I had organised for the last few days my second adrenaline hit being Cage Shark Diving with the Great Whites and had wanted to find the best company to do this with.
"White Shark Adventures" in Gansbaai run a great service and organises pick up and drop off from your accommodation in Cape Town. This is an all day trip and picks you up early morning and drops off late afternoon because of the distance from Gansbaai but everything is included and quite honestly, it is a day trip of a lifetime.
So excited for my adventure my alarm was set and off I went, picked up in a modern bus along with various other like minded travellers. We headed off to Gansbaai with hearts all thumping and nervous banter in anticipation.
White Shark Adventures run a slick operation and after a light breakfast and safety briefing we were all on board ship and hurtling along at great knots toward the area known for our pending encounter.
Within minutes of setting up, the cage was in and the sharks came a looking. We were most fortunate to have some tens of great whites circling. Adult and juveniles were upon us with some measuring a good 4 meters in length.
They set up to allow for two rotations at least in the cage and no one misses out, although sometimes it is better to watch from above to see these awesome creatures casually and seamlessly glide through the water, with an occasional attack of the bait from the depths of the ocean below.
If you really want to get up close and personal to these wonderful creatures of the ocean then this is the company to go with. We definitely didn't need a bigger boat!
Heading back in disbelief of what we had all just experienced, nerves all gone and a feeling that we survived a close encounter, there was a look of complete satisfaction on everyone's faces and elation of a moment in time that none of us will forget.
Back in Cape Town a well earned pizza from the best pizza in town on Long Street my stay was over and I was heading off for my next thrill in South Africa.
Go to this tip to find out why I went against my ideals of finding out for myself.