Roadtrip Capetown -> Johannesburg
Flight Amsterdam - Paris - Capetown
After a long flight we arrived late in the evening, picked up our car (yes, they tried to give us a smaller car than we have booked ... welcome to Africa! ... Oh, driving on the other side of the road too, this was a fun start of our trip!! During our time in Cape town we stayed four nights at the Sunsquare Cape Town City Bowl.
Cape Town, the second most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg is also the legislative capital of SA. This city has a more American of European vibe. If you want a more African atmosphere you’ll maybe disappointed, but really I can’t imagine anyone can be disappointed here!! This city has it all: a mountain to climb, a harbor with great places to shop and to eat, green parks, sport facilities, a mild climate, great beaches… If you go on a road trip, take enough time to explore this city!
We arrived yesterday when it was already dark. When we woke up in the morning, the first thing we saw from the window was the Table Mountain! Perfect start to the day! And it was also clear what we would do that day: a trip to the top of Table Mountain!
The flat-topped Table Mountain is forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top. The mountain forms part of the Table Mountain National Park, and is home to a large array of mostly endemic fauna and flora.
We wanted to take the cableway up and come down by foot, but there was a long queue so we walked up. The hiking trail 'Platteklip Gorge' starts a few 100 meters after the cableway station and the trail is just stunning, the views and the gorgeous nature are breathtaking!
Today we are heading towards the Cape of Good Hope. From Cape Town, the route along the coast via the Cape Riviera (Clifton, Camps Bay, ...) and Chapman's Peak and Hout Bay is by far the most beautiful, at some points the views are stunning!
Don't forget to stop at Simon's Town. This place is the home base of SA navy, but is best known for its population penguins. You find the largest population at Boulders beach, just past Simon's Town. To enter the visitorcenter you have to pay a small fee. But you can see cute penguins jumping in and out of the water along the whole coastline.
Not far after Simon's Town you enter the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. This region has a rich flora, the typical Cape Fijnbos, the fauna is also quite diverse. Baboons are very much present where people (and food) are, but we also saw antelopes and ostriches.
The most spectacular point here is not Cape of Good Hope, but the Cape Point Lighthouse. You are certainly not the only one here, prepare for a crowd in high season, there is a shop and a restaurant and if you can't make the steep climb to the lighthouse, you can take a small (expensive !!) cable car. But the view at the lighthouse is breathtaking, you have a beautiful view of the entire bay, the rough ocean, the peninsula and Cape of Good Hope itself. It is possible to take a hiking trail here that leads directly to Cape of Good Hope. Cape of Good Hope is the obligatory stopping point with the accompanying picture of the sign. There are many marked hiking trails in this area, if you have time, be sure to explore!
Visit Robben Island. At the Vicoria and Alfred Waterfront, near the clock tower, the boats for Robben Island leave. The safest thing to do is to book a few days in advance. We have booked our tickets one day in advance and we had the last available places. The boattrip itself takes just under 45 minutes. We were lucky, it was a bright sunny day, with a calm sea. And even then we already had the feeling that we were on a roller coaster, so to those who want to make the crossing on a day with turbulent weather: good luck !!
Robben Island is the most famous prison island in the world (maybe a shared first place with Alcatraz). It certainly had the most famous prisoner: Nelson Mandela, who spent 19 years of his life there. You can only go on guided tours on the island. The guides are former political prisoners, which makes it very impressive! The tours are split into two parts: a visit to the prison itself and a bus tour of the whole island.
The prison was closed permanently in 1991. In 1999 the buildings were opened to visitors and the site was declared a World Heritage Site.
After we got back to Cape Town we spent the rest of the day at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Not only because this district is bustling, fun for the kids and has many good restaurants, we watched the match Belgium-Brazil (World Cup 2018) in 'Den Anker', the best Belgian restaurant in Cape Town, together with many other Belgian tourists, a unique experience! This restaurant also made it to the top 100 of best restaurant of South Africa. If you want to eat here, don't forget to make a reservation!
Today we leave Cape Town. Our first stop on our road trip is Hermanus.
We didn't take the shortest way along the coast to Hermanus, but a route that lies more northerly and that takes us to Stellenbosch. You simply can't ignore a wine region! The landscape is beautiful, situated at the foot of a mountain range, the wine estates stretch out. It all looks very luxurious to us! We had already decided to visit one domain, but it is really difficult to choose... We chose 'Rust en Vrede' (translated: peace and quiet) based on the name. No regrets on that choice! We were almost alone here, the guide turned out to be a Belgian student and the wine was excellent!
We arrived in Hermanus in the late afternoon. We had booked an apartment at the Whale Coast Hotel. But this turned out to be a big surprise: this apartment was bigger than our own house! Too bad this was only for one night! The town itself is cozy, there are many restaurants, but this place is actually known for one thing: you can spot whales here (best period: June to November). The whales come close to shore and if you don't immediately know where to look: it will quickly become clear when you see all the enthusiastic whale watchers!
Early in the morning we left for Oudtshoorn, a 350 km ride. Our place to stay here: La Plume Guesthouse, a working ostrich and vine farm with spectacular views of the Swartberg mountains and Olifants River valley. Oudtshoorn is located in the middle of the Kleine Karoo. An area consisting of beautiful mountain ranges, deep valleys and breathtaking gorges. A beautiful piece of nature to drive through! Oudtshoorn is best known for its ostrich farms.
We chose to visit Safari Ostrich Farm. There are a number of ostrich farms that have roughly the same things to offer, so you can just pick one! Fortunately, tourists who ride around on the back of an ostrich are a thing of the past. The tours are now very educational with respect for the animals.
You also have the 'Cango Wildlife Ranch' in the area, where there are even leopards and Bengal tigers, you can touch them if you pay a lot ... Not our thing, so we didn't stop here.
Time to move on! Destination of today: Knysna! We stayed here at Stannards guest lodge, two nights this time, not enough though to enjoy what this place has to offer!
Knysna is a small town situated along the coast and around a beautiful lagoon. The town has a nice and relax atmosphere, maybe because of the artists' community? On Thesen Island you can admire the beautiful houses.
From The Heads you have a beautiful view of the mouth of the lagoon in the Indian Ocean. We found Brenton-on-Sea even more beautiful, a village located on the other side of the estuary, so you have to drive around the entire lagoon for it, but you certainly don't regret that! The beach is beautifully pristine, you are almost alone here. We even found a lost penguin here between the rocks. Swimming is prohibited here due to the dangerous currents. The distance to the next village along the coast is about 5 km, a stunning hike! At the parking lot in Brenton-on-Sea you will also find a restaurant from which you have a beautiful view (and the food is great)!
There are a lot of fun activities to do with your kids in the Knysna area. We went kayaking in the lagoon. Monkeyland and Birds of Eden are two parks that are worth a visit.
Birds of Eden is situated on the way to Nature's Valley opposite to Monkeyland. You can take a combined entrance ticket for both places.
At Birds of Eden, you actually walk through a giant aviary, it is called to be the largest in the world. There are more than 250 bird species that have complete freedom, really unique to be able to see many of them so close! In Monkeyland you get a guided tour that takes about an hour. This project aims to reintegrate abused monkeys. The park covers an area of approximately 12 hectares, so the animals have plenty of space, they are not fed directly so that they learn again to forage for food like in the wild.
Time to move on again! Today we drive to Addo Elephant National Park, a 300km trip passing beautiful places such as Plettenbergbaai and Tsitsikamma National Park. All accommodations in Addo Park were fully booked, but we found a guest house in Kirkwood, not that far from the park: Lemmon3Lodge. Kirkwood was the first place where we got that real Africa-feeling, we were travels now instead of tourists! At the time we were there the guest house was being renovated, and we got one of the new rooms, but the renovation of the other rooms wasn't finished so we felt a bit like staying on a construction site. But when it will be finished this is a good place to stay!
Visiting Addo Elephant National Park
This park can easily be visited in one day. It's not big, but just big enough to offer variety in landscapes and animals. At the entrance we received a lot of information, including a competition form for the family in the car, our goal that day: who can spot the larges number of animals. This was great fun for our children and the competition dominated our day, but I have never seen them so enthusiastically spot animals... mission succeeded!
Many travelers choose to travel by plane from Port Elizabeth to Durban or even all the way to Kruger Park. But it seemed a shame for us to only see the country's tourist hotspots and miss a part of what South Africa really is. So we traveled by car via Mthatha to Drakensberg.
The ride from Kirkwood to Mthatha was approximately 500 km (6 and a half hours!!). We stayed at the Savoy Hotel in Mthatha.
The road is not particularly beautiful or impressive, but we are glad we did the journey this way. We saw extreme poverty, some serious car accidents, this road is anything but safe!! And luckily we only heard this after we got to Drakensberg: all travelers we spoke to had been stopped on this route by the police who charged them for made-up traffic violations ... The more assertive the travelers responded, the less they had to pay, a Belgian couple who said they did not have any money and suggested to arrange it further at the police station did not even have to pay at all!
Ride Mthatha to Winterton: another 525 km (6 and a half hours again!!). We stayed at the Ardmore guest farm, this location was the best! Breakfast and diner was included here, we got spoiled by the delicious food!
The guest house is situated in the Champagne valley of the central Drakensberg, just below the majestic Champagne Castle (the second highest peak in South Africa, 3377m) and Cathkin Peak Mountains of KwaZuluNatal. There are many activities in the valley like white water rafting, horse riding or a canopy zipline tour. But if you like hiking this area is heaven!
Hiking day! We chose Monk's Cowl. Here you have many hiking trails, you can also decide during the walk to add an extra piece or to make your walk a bit shorter. We did a not too long hike along two waterfalls. This place is quite touristy, but we did not meet many hikers.
In the evening I decided to do a short run, which was lovely in this gorgeous setting. But after a few miles I got chased by monkey's, they were not used to this, so I returned to the guest farm!!
Sad to leave this beautiful area! We could easily stay here a week without getting bored! Next stop: Durban. The road from Drakensberg til Durban is excellent, the 235 km takes only about 2 and a half hours. We stayed at Caza Beach Guest House, just outside Durban (Umhlanga) a guest house owned by Belgians! We planed to stay here one night, so no time to explore Durban. So our Durban afternoon was beach time!
A short ride to St Lucia, only 226 km (2 and a half hours). We booked two nights here at Luxury Tented lodge, our first glamping time! St Lucia is situated next to the Isimangaliso Wetland Park (a UNESCO world heritage site). We were very much looking forward to our stay at this place!
Needless to say probably, but the glamping experience was great! We could use a communal outdoor kitchen and in the morning breakfast was ready on our terrace and the monkeys were kept at a safe distance.
In the afternoon we explored St Lucia, a really cozy little town, nice atmosphere, very relax. A lot of backpackers in this town made us feel like we were 18 again! But when it gets dark it dangerous to walk outside here because the hippo's get out of the water in their search of food, sometimes the take a dive into the pools of hotels (we didn't see this though!). There are a lot of good restaurants here and not expensive at all!
Time for some adventure! We booked a boat trip on the St Lucia Estuary with Shakabarker tours. We can highly recommend this tour! We were picked up at the lodge in the morning and taken to the boat. This turned out to be a large raft on which plastic garden chairs were attached. The sides were neatly finished with plastic foil so that we did not get too much water in the boat (when our feet got wet we had to hang the plastic well!). An enthusiastic guide who might as well choose stand-up comedy as a profession made it a blissful morning. He brought snacks, coffee and tea so that we didn't go hungry. The information that was given about the area was very interesting, we saw a lot of hippos, sometimes from very close! Ditto for the crocodiles! Our kids made some new friends on the boat, and had a fantastic day!
In the afternoon we visited the Crocodile Center and Snake Park. This is a sanctuary for crocodiles, actually very interesting, a guide took a lot of time to share his many facts about these animals with us (we were the only visitors at the time). The children got to hold a baby crocodile, a highlight for them of course!
We also found a short visit to Estuary Beach worthwhile: an huge and impressive beach connects to the estuary, you can see hippos at the footbridge. Swimming is of course prohibited here!
Time to move on! Our next stop is Swaziland on our way to Kruger park. The main reason to take this route is to get a Swaziland stamp in our passports. We stayed in the Ezulwini area, in Mogi Boutique hotel
So we didn't really take the time to get to know the country. The landscapes we drove through were sometimes monotonous, only sugar cane plantations, at some other points especially in the north it was very beautiful and we imagined ourselves in the south of France.
The location where we stayed was very beautiful. It is clear that the Ezulwini valley is a good place for hiking. You can do multi-day hikes and the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary would be very worthwhile. What we especially remembered from our Swaziland visit is that it is normal to occasionally see a giraffe at the side of the road and that road safety is a relative concept here. We are happy to have taken this route, but it was not the most impressive of our trip.
After an excellent breakfast we continued our journey. Today we were heading to Kruger National Park. A place that has an almost mythical status for me. A spot very high on my bucketlist!
From Ezulwini to to the place we stayed just outside Kruger Park (La Kruger Lifestyle lodge) the ride was about 200 km, it took us just under 3 hours to get there.
The Lodge is literally tucked away in the most beautiful bushveld o the southern Kruger National Park region. Decks are built around the existing Marula tree and other bushveld trees. You can spot a lot of animals here (endemic birds, impala, kudu, warthog, bush buck,...) and not far from the lodge there is an impressive sunset point, where you can witness the sun going down over the Kruger nature.
In the evening you can share your safari expiriences with the other guests at a campfire
We did not wait until the next day to visit the Kruger Park. We were at the Lodge early in the afternoon, so decided to drive to the park entrance (crocodile bridge gate) and see if we could still visit. The hours are very strict, which means that you have to be back from the park before a certain hour (unless you have an overnight stay in the park) or you have to pay a fine. We still had two hours left before closing time, so we decided to have a quick look inside the park.
You really don't have to make any effort to spot an animal here. Everywhere we saw wildebeest, impala, bush buck, ... after a few kilometers we already saw large herds of elephants, sometimes a giraffe. There was quite a bit of enthusiasm in our car for all this abundance of wildlife!
A whole day to enjoy the beauty and the wildlife of Kruger NP! We entered the park at the Crocodile Bridge gate, drove to Lower Sabie first. This is a good place to get out of the car for a while, because it's forbidden to go out on the roads. We took some off road tracks which led us to the Afsaal viewpoint.
We left the park at Malelane Gate.
It was a long day in the car, but it brought us what we expected: beautiful landscapes with lots of wildlife!
The children couldn't get enough of it and neither did we!
A 4x4 car is certainly easy here, but with every rental car you can drive around the park without any problems, even on the off-road parts. You have to watch out for elephant droppings on the road. These are often full of thorns from the Accasias and driving over them will guarantee you a flat tire!
It's time to leave this stunning place and go to White River, still close to Kruger Park, but also great to explore the Panorama Route. Because it was only a one and a half hour drive we decided to go through Kruger and leave the park at the Numbi gate.
We stayed at Ilanda Guest House in White River.
The Panorama Route is a scenic road in South Africa connecting several cultural and natural highlights. The route, steeped in the history of South Africa, is centered around the impressive Blyde River Canyon, the world's third largest canyon. It features numerous waterfalls and several natural landmarks. The route starts at the foot of the Long Tom Pass just outside Lydenburg, following the natural descent from the Great Escarpment to the Lowveld, and ending at the border of the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces near the Echo Caves.
Graskop is a nice town in this area. The place is popular among the tourists. Seems like everyone wants to eat a pancake at 'Harrie's pancake', so did we... and we can confirm: the pancakes are awesome! You can even go bungy jumping here...
Pilgrim's rest is an old mining village, we had read about it that it was very beautifully restored and was worth a visit. This was our biggest disappointment in this region! The whole village looked fake, only meant to let tourists buy as many souvenirs as possible and if possible also rip off some money because they start washing your car without asking or because the place where you parked suddenly turns out to be paying . Our advice: stay away from here!
Our two favorite places here are: Bourke's Luck Potholes and The Three Rondavels. Both beautiful wonders of nature. At Bourke's Luck Potholes you'll see spectacular giant bowls carved by the water at the confluence of the River Blyde and the Treur. At Three Rondavels you have the most beautiful view of the entire area.
A long ride to Johannesburg. In the late afternoon we took the plane back home where we arrived the following morning. Despite our big bird the flight home was quite bumpy!
Our South Africa trip was a great experience. We never visited a zoo again after been in Kruger Park, and we have huge respect for this country and it residents, this country has so much to offer!