We are an Irish family both in mid forties with 3 kids 15 13 and 11 traveling to SA for 3 .5 weeks on 27 March for special trip (kids have never been out of Europe) plan to rent a car, Not too fussy about accommodation, kids used to scouting etc want to spend money on activities and cultural things. Issue is do we fly into Cape Town and return from Cape Town or do we fly to Capetown and return joberg. Want to do cape, garden route stuff, canopy tours, addo, shark diving, a few days on beach .was also thinking of a few days on hiking tours on wild coast, exploring local villages plus outdoor stuff near Cintsa. Would love to hear some Zulu or Xhosa singing/music. With the amount of time available some friends are saying that is more than enough. But we would like to see a slightly non-western side too. My daughter would love to do tropical coral reef snorkeling. dont know if this is available anywhere in Western or eastern Cape ? and was thinking of towns north of Durban such as Umshangla rocks for that and a few days on a beach which would be different to northern European type coast. Other option would be to see St Lucia wetlands park, but we would need to take malaria tablets, then shoot up straight to Joberg airport on way back. Also have to balance the amount of driving kids will put up with, but with 2 or 3 days in each place is all of this manageable?
Is it worth flying back via Joberg just to see Drackensberg and nice snorkeling north of Durban?
Any thoughts would be helpful
We did some of the tour you mentioned, so I'll try to help where I can.
I'd say definitely visit the Drakensberg--especially for Blyde River Canyon and lookouts like God's Window. We were there at sunset and it was just beautiful.
For Zulu music and dancing, I think you can see that in many places throughout your trip. We stayed in a small reserve at the Shalati Bush Lodge in Limpopo, and locals came to show us some traditional Zulu dances. It was very nice to see--they're so passionate.
Umshlanga Rocks is nice, in a touristy kind of way. We went for a day when staying in Durban, as we were advised not to go out too much around Durban. The beaches are lovely and there's a great Indian restaurant in the Cabana Hotel.
We also did a boat tour though the St Lucia Wetlands. Very lovely and we spotted all kinds of animals along the banks and in the water. I don't think it's a malaria-prone part of SA--I believe only Kruger Park is a risk area. Check with your travel clinic before you go. Although I do recommend a day through Kruger, if you can.
We only snorkeled in Mozambique, which will probably be out of your way. I hear Cape Town is a must for snorkeling, though, although the water is supposed to be cooler than on the Indian Ocean.
I have an entry of two in my blog here that goes into a little more detail. Feel free to take a look, if you like.
And enjoy! South Africa is an amazing place.
I am also not aware of St Lucia wetlands being malarial-prone, but do double check. There are probably more international flights out of SA through JHB than CTN, so which ever one you chose based on how you plan your trip should be fine.
Cape Town is fabulous - very different from the rest of the country. There are wine farms a short drive away but also very western. Robbin Island might be a great touristy place to visit as an intro to SA? It's not at all gloomy given it's recent history, it is actually quite an informative tour and gives one the feeling of "Yes, I am in SA" and you get an AMAZING view of CTN and Table Mountain from there - breathtaking!
It will definately be worth your while to drive from Natal to JHB via the Drakensburg - really awesome part of the country.
Cape Town seas are Pacific and Atlantic, which are def much colder than the wonderfully warm India ocean accessed through Natal. There should be enough opportunities to snorkel in Natal or along the Eastern Cape, commonly refered to as the Garden Route (between CTN and Port Elizabeth/East London) along the coast. Also a stunning part of the country. Very green - foresty. A basic internet search should give you many options for that part of the journey if you are interested.
Parts of Natal (actually Kwa-Zulu Natal), are refered to as Zululand also through online searches, you should be able to find places to visit which give tours etc and Zulu culture stuff. There will always be singing because we are a singing people .
I think if you mix up your driving and flying it should not be too strenuous, eg I would drive from CTN along garden route to a certain spot (not further than Port Elizabeth) - it is a very long drive though - the map is deceiving (it takes as long to drive from CTN to Port Elizabeth as it does from CTN to JHB which is a good 12hrs easy without stop-over) then fly to Durban - Umhlanga is great, then drive to St Lucia perhaps? Then from Durban drive to JHB via Drakensburg - that's about a 7hr drive that SA families do at a go, but it should be even better with a stop over in the Drakensburg - there are alot of trails and Zulu cultural things that can be done there. I know this is also very western, but there are amazing spas in that area - your wife would LOVE them, why not give the kinds some free-time one morning while you and your wife have a half-day spa treatment to wrap up your trip?
Hope this helps and you have great trip.
I think Kwa-Zulu Natal is a far nicer part of the country than Cape Town..
The climate is much nicer and more predictable/mild, the sea temps are good all year round, beaches are stunning, and you have the Drakensberg mountain range which is nothing short of incredible, and somewhere for me that is a "must see in your lifetime" place.
I honestly think you can have a much nicer holiday in Natal. Using somewhere like Kloof as your base (which incidently is enar Zulu dancing at Phezulu), you can tavel to Hluhluwe game reserve (around 3 hours on really good, quiet, easy roads). They have the big 5 and superb tented accomodation, you literally hear anuimals brushing the sides as they walk past!! You go onto the tent balcony and watch the animals walk past in the morning.
Then you drive 30 mins to St Lucia, a world heritage site with miles and miles of some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere. Cape Vidal is here too, think literally hundreds of miles of amazing beaches with hardly a sole on them, you can find your own mile if you walk a bit. Lots of Hippos and Rhino here too, as well as massive crocodiles that lie right in front of you (completely wild, not fenced/protected nonsense).
Drive back to Kloof after a few days up that way, and then head into the Drakensberg mountains. These are amazing, they are part of the top 5 places to see in the world and really earn that accolade. Fantastic walks and views from a massive mountain range. It is as tranquil as you'll get, and lots of bushman cave paintings and the like too.
Back to Kloof after 3/4 days, and spend a bit of time visiting the Zulu heritage sites only 20 mins away, valley of 1000 hills and a few other amazing places. Also head down to the south coast to more good beaches.
I know Cape Town is good, but its climate, cold seas, and limited real Africa type experiences just make it seem too metropolitan to me, you could go to a similar sea front anywhere in the world, or vineyards in France, whereas nowhere else will you find the drakensberg or cape vidal.
I think you'd enjoy Natal far more and get a real Africa holiday you'd never forget.
thank you all so much for all the helpful advice . I felt under pressure to book our flights last weekend before many of you replied , as prices were going up (there are 5 of us ) so booked in the end into and out of Capetown , However am very keen after all your replies to explore kzn ( assuming I can persuade my wife and family to put up with a lot of driving )and in the end can fly back to CT from Durban or Joberg at the end of the trip . local airlines such as 1 time are cheap by European standards .
Two final questions .
1 local route planner Shell info gives journey times by car and distance between various towns in SA . eg Port Elizabeth to Durban as 850 km and approx 8 hours . Are these realistic journey times for such long distances ( at least by Irish standards ) or are the roads that good?
2. our 3.5 week trip overlaps SA school holidays by 2 weeks . Our lonely planet says many places get booked up during Easter holidays and it is better to book well in advance , especially popular places like accomod in SAN parks. IS that only on Easter long weekend itself or whole holiday . I would ideally love to be able to travel as we go and book accomodation ahead just day or two in advance , in case we really want to linger somewhere . However is this realistic at present ?
My tentative plan at this stage is to spend 3 days or so in Capetown , somewhere like Kalk bay where we can swim( were used to freezing cold water) get a bit of sun( after our miserable Irish winter ) and use as a base . next onto Gansbaai or Hermanus for shark diving trip for two of us Then 4 or 5 days exploring Wilderness Park , based near wilderness or Knysna and Plettenberg. Then onto Addo National park for 2 days . The choices then are to head up to the Wild Coast , or head straigt up to Drakensburg for a few days ,explore some zulu culture/music followed by a few days in St lucia or some seaside places north of Durban and 2 nights in Ithala Game Reserve which looks fantastic and fly back via Joburg .
thanks again for your help . We are all quite excited now
Any help/advice needed re travel in Ireland ,please give me a shout
I can tell you that the roads are pretty good in the parts you are planning to visit. However, along the wild coast, places like Coffee Bay and Port St Johns are quite a long drive from the main highway and can take several hours to reach and if memory serves me correctly, not only pot holes but cattle and horses can get hold you up.
The Drakensburg really are amazing, but so is St Lucia etc. Difficult choice! Personally I would the latter and then drive up to Jo'burg via Hluhluwe and/or Kruger and then through Nelspruit.
If you get a chance, take a liitle detour to Hogsback, its really magical!
I can reccommend Simonstown just outside Capetown to stay, its very safe, beautiful, with fab beaches and of course, the pengiuns...the kids would love it! You can take boat trips from there too.
I spent around a month In SA in '07 and travelled from Capetown, along the Garden Route etc, up to Jo'burg and then to Kruger, down to St Lucia then back cross country to Ladysmith. I think I covered all major spots apart from around Durban including Swaziland, so if you have any other questions ...feel free. Cant help you with school hols though..no idea!
One other thing, the petrol stations out there are very well equipped with toilets, cafes etc. There are picnic stops along the major routes, but wouldnt like to comment on the safety aspect of stopping there.
Have a great trip!