Highlights from 2 Weeks in South Africa

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For the past five weeks, I've been traveling around Southern Africa. I climbed sand dunes in Namibia, saw the Big 5 in Kruger, flew high over Victoria Falls, and traveled more than 1,000 miles overland.

And then I got home and became absolutely overwhelmed by it all. After having so many amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I was at a loss as to where to begin writing about them all.

So, to quote one of my favorite movies of all time, “Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

Sunrise in Kruger National Park

My adventure in Africa began in South Africa, a country that I've been desperate to visit for years. All told, I spent two weeks in South Africa, most of the time on a Style Hi Club tour with my dad. It was a luxurious, decadent way to see South Africa – not necessarily my usual travel style, but I have to say that this is absolutely the way you should see South Africa if you can afford it.

With two weeks in the country, we saw and did a lot. But here are my top five highlights:

1. Adventure and relaxation in Gansbaai

We started out slow in the tiny coastal town of Gansbaai. This town is most famous for being close to Dyer Island, where lots of great white sharks can be found. But, thanks so some bad weather, we didn't get to go cage diving with the toothy giants until our very last morning in Gansbaai. Before that, we spent our time riding ATVs through vineyards, going to the southernmost point of Africa (Cape Agulhas), stuffing our faces with seafood, and watching some incredible sunsets.

Hermanus, South Africa
The city of Hermanus from above
At Cape Agulhas, Africa
At the southernmost point of Africa at Cape Agulhas
Seafood in South Africa
The cheapest seafood platter I've ever ordered (about $10)
Sunset in Gansbaai, South Africa
Sunset in Gansbaai

The shark diving was the highlight of this part of the trip (post coming soon!), but I also appreciated the slow pace of life in Gansbaai – it was the perfect introduction to South Africa. (Oh, and The Roundhouse was probably my favorite place I stayed in SA!)

RELATED: Should You Go Cage Diving with Great White Sharks?

Cage diving with great white sharks in Gansbaai
SHARK!!!

2. Discovering Cape Town

From Gansbaai, we moved on to Cape Town. There, we explored the city in just about every way possible: On foot, in WWII-era sidecars, and by helicopter. We wandered around the V&A Waterfront, visited the colorful Bo Kaap neighborhood, and squealed over the adorable penguins at Boulders Beach. We even took a short trip to the Cape of Good Hope.

Sidecars in Cape Town, South Africa
Sidecars in Cape Town
Cape Town from above
Helicopter ride
Bo-Kaap neighborhood in Cape Town
Bo-Kaap
Penguins at Boulders Beach
Penguins at Boulders Beach
Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
Cape of Good Hope

The weather wasn't the greatest, though, and so it wasn't until I was back in Cape Town on my own after my Style Hi Club trip that I was able to see (and visit) Table Mountain, and go to Camps Bay for sunset. I was very thankful for that one day of sun!

View from Table Mountain in Cape Town
View from Table Mountain
Sunset at Camps Bay
Sunset at Camps Bay

RELATED: 72 Hours in Cape Town

3. Sipping wine in Stellenbosch

South Africa is known for its delicious wines, with its most famous wine region being Stellenbosch. We spent an afternoon in wine country, tasting wines on a vineyard “safari” at Waterford Estate. I'm not really much of a wine drinker, but this was still a highlight for me. Waterford Estate is STUNNING, and it was a pleasure to sip wines there in the middle of the fall-colored vines.

Waterford Estate winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa

Wine tasting at Waterford Estate

Waterford Estate winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa

If you're planning your trip to South Africa and looking for accommodation in Hermanus, Stellenbosch or Cape Town, I'd recommend taking a look at AccommoDirect.com – they focus almost solely on accommodation in Southern Africa.

4. Riding the Blue Train

Thanks to a strong US dollar and a struggling South African rand, our group got to ride the famous Blue Train from Cape Town to Pretoria. This luxury train, with its polished-wood interior and fancy lounge cars, is a throwback to the heyday of train travel. I was impressed by the efficiency of the tiny rooms, the service, the food, and how lovely it was to just relax for a day and a half and watch the countryside slip by outside the window.

Blue Train in South Africa

The Blue Train
The cabin my dad and I shared
Blue Train dining car
The dining car

Food on the Blue Train

5. Going on safari in Kruger

Lastly, the absolute highlight of my time in South Africa was going on safari in Kruger National Park. We stayed at the Jock Safari Lodge, which is a private concession within Kruger that I did not ever want to leave. We saw the Big 5 on our very first game drive, and went on to see things like lions mating, baby elephants charging our truck, wild dogs facing off with hyenas, and much, much more.

Jock Safari Lodge in Kruger National Park
Our outdoor space at the Jock Safari Lodge
Mama and baby white rhino in Kruger
White rhinos

Lions in Kruger National Park

Baby elephants playing in Kruger

Leopard in Kruger National Park
Female leopard at night

If “going on safari” is not on your bucket list, add it. Right now.

RELATED: A Big 5 Safari in Kruger National Park

Weeks later, I'm still daydreaming about Jock and this experience. It was simply incredible and something I know I will never forget. I'm so glad I got to share it with my dad!

Giraffe in Kruger National Park

Wild dogs vs. hyenas in Kruger
Wild dogs vs. hyenas

Zebra in Kruger National Park

I'll be writing more about most of these experiences individually in the coming weeks, but for now, enjoy the photos!

Which part of my South Africa trip would you like to read more about?

 

2 weeks in South Africa

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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70 Comments on “Highlights from 2 Weeks in South Africa

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  1. Your photography has gotten a 10000 better! Congratulations! Great pics, great adventure, and what a story/memory/lifetime conversation that you will always have with your Dad 🙂

      Aww thank you! The new telephoto lens I bought for this trip was definitely worth it!

        What telephoto lens did you use?

          An Olympus 70-300mm. Not the most expensive lens out there, but it did the trick!

    Wow! All of these experiences sound incredible. Your photographs do a great job of capturing all the fantastic adventures you had with your father. I have spent a lot of time on safari and never seen wild dogs. What a lucky sighting! Looking forward to reading more about your trip!

      We were so lucky to see the wild dogs, and for such a long time! (We probably spent half an hour watching them taunt the hyenas.)

        Hi! you talked about the weather…on what month did you went there?

          I was in South Africa in May – so kind of autumn-ish.

    South Africa is amazing! Wish we could have ridden the Blue Train.
    Love your pictures! We made the huge mistake of buying a used camera very last minute and not testing it fully. In addition to the other big mistake of not taking our old trusty camera as a backup. So we have wonderful memories but no good pictures!

      Aww bummer about the photos – but I guess that means you’ll just have to go back! 😉

    I can’t wait to read more. South Africa has long been at the top of my travel list, so I can’t wait to read every last detail!

      I have lots to write, so I’m glad you’re excited!

    Would love to hear more about the Blue Train! Travelling by train is my favourite form of travel but I’ve only ever really done that in Europe. Had no idea they had such a nice train in South Africa.

      Normally the Blue Train is sooooo expensive. But thanks to the rand being pretty weak right now, it was actually a pretty good deal, so it was included in our tour! It was a very cool experience, and it was fun to dress up for a fancy dinner!

    I am dying to go on Safari and it looks like you got super lucky with all the wildlife you got to see! Your photos are beautiful

      We got SO lucky with all our animal sightings. It seemed like every time we went out on a game drive, we saw something that our ranger was like, “You don’t see this very often!”

    It all sounds so-so much fun! We’ve never been to Africa yet and can’t wait to read more of your stories! Especially about the safari… 🙂

      It was a great first trip to Africa – I’m still processing it all and am amazed by everything I did/saw!

    Amanda, this looks like the trip of the lifetime! My boyfriend and I have talked about travelling to South Africa one day – after I show him these pictures, especially after him seeing the one of the Great White, I think he will be pushing for this trip much sooner in our lives haha beautiful pictures!

      Do it! Right now is a fantastic time to go to South Africa, too, because it’s really affordable!

    Wow looks an amazing trip, can’t wait to read more about it.

      Unforgettable is the word I would use! I’m looking forward to writing a lot more. 🙂

    <3 !!!!! This just helped by dilemma about South Africa vs. Tanzania for a safari trip with my mom. Kruger National Park and the Jack Lodge looks incredible! The other highlights you featured here about South Africa are also amazing. Can't wait to start planning! Really looking forward to hearing more. 🙂

      Kruger was AMAZING, and the Jock Safari Lodge is somewhere I would absolutely return to. I haven’t been to Tanzania myself so I really can’t compare it to South Africa. BUT, I really really loved South Africa. 🙂

    The Lion King traumatised me. I can’t stand the sight of hyenas, haha!

      I know, right?!? We heard them “laugh” once or twice, too, which just made my stomach flop.

    Yayy! The Southern Africa posts are starting 🙂 I’ve really been looking forward to this as I’m considering a trip there myself next year! Bring on the pretty pictures and awesome stories!

    I’ve been to South Africa before, and I’m so impressed with it. We visited many of the same places – which means my favourites are quite similar to yours. I went on a safari in Kragga Kamma Game Park and Addo Elephant Park, which, judging by your pictures, is not nearly as exciting as Kruger. It seems I have to make my way east one day!

      Yes, the Africa posts are starting! 🙂 Kruger blew my expectations out of the water! It was probably my favorite park in Southern Africa (though Chobe was a very close second).

    I cannot wait to hear about the shark diving! that picture is incredible!! Looking forward to all the recaps! 🙂

      Luck for you my shark diving post should go up tomorrow!

    Great post! We were in South Africa in January. We had some similar adventures but lots of differences as well. Here’s my post if interested https://larrylootsteen.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/three-weeks-in-south-africa/

    The train ride intrigues me. What a great way to see the country! Would love to do that (once we win the lottery of course!).

    Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing your trip with everyone!

      Funnily enough, the landscape between Cape Town Pretoria was much less exciting than I was expecting! Some winelands, and then a whole lot of absolutely nothing! But the train ride was great – definitely a must if you can do it!

      Glad to hear you had a great trip to South Africa, too!

    Yes!! Your posts on Southern Africa have begun! I’m excited to read more and I’m so glad that you had a great time 🙂 And those baby elephants are adorable.

      Baby elephants can’t possibly be anything other than adorable! 😉

    Stop making me wanna visit South Africa, Amanda! I’m scared of flying and it’s a beast of a flight to Cape Town, haha.

    Those photos are incredible! I would love to ride the Blue Train so much! Trains are my jam. And the picture of the shark is so cool. I’ve always wanted to see a Great White.

    Thanks for sharing.

      LOL I would say I’m sorry, Rachel… but I’m totally not! South Africa is amazing!

      (But yes, the flight there is a bitch!)

    Your photos are absolutely stunning!

    It doesn’t look like it was too cold in South Africa, given that it’s currently winter there.

      Thank you, Danny! And no, it wasn’t too cold at all! The evenings sometimes got a bit chilly, but “winter” in Southern Africa is definitely a lot different than winter in Ohio!

    Cage diving, Cape Town and an African safari have been on my bucket list for forever! Hope I’ll be able to do what you’re doing someday!

      The safari was, I think, the highlight for me – even better than I ever expected!

    Looks like the trip of a lifetime! Few questions-

    Did anything shock you?

    If you had one area to recommend for a two-week trip, where would it be?

    I’ve never even thought about how great the seafood must be in South Africa!

      It was tough to see the townships just outside of Cape Town, especially when I was on this super luxurious trip. Knowing that many people live there with absolutely nothing was sad, and made me very thankful for what I have at home.

      The one area I’d recommend would definitely be Kruger! The safari was amazing.

      And yes, the seafood (especially in Gansbaai and Cape Town) was amazing!!

    Love this post! Your photos bring me back to our happy 2 weeks in South Africa this past September for our honeymoon! The Big 5 in Kruger was one of the best experiences of my life – my only regret is that we didn’t stay longer. I love the Blue Train – I’m dying to try any of form of old train travel and this looks fantastic! Table Mountain was foggy every day we went up so I think that is reason alone to return to South Africa!

      I was in Cape Town for 4 days, and we could only see Table Mountain on one of them! Definitely a reason to go back. 🙂

      The Big 5 in Kruger was the highlight for me, too. I could have stayed at that lodge forever!

    Fantastic photographs Amanda!

    I would love to read more about the train journey as I’ve heard so much about the Blue Train lol!

      I spent so much time relaxing and just enjoying my time on the Blue Train that I hardly took any photos! So I’m not sure if I’ll do a separate post. BUT, it was definitely a cool experience, especially if you love trains.

    Hi Amanda, what travel agency did you use to book your accommodations?

    Thanks!
    Chavon

    What crazy timing this is! I came across your blog post by way of Pinterest. I have done absolutely no searches for safariing on Pinterest but there you were. 🙂 My boyfriend and I will be on our way to Joburg, Kruger and Mauritius in 3 days! We’ll be staying for 2 wks. So it was super awesome to read about your safari. We’ll be staying at the Phelwana Game Lodge. Hopefully our experience will be as equally awesome as yours. Your pics are truly awesome and gave me such a rush for the things we might see.

      I hope you have just as amazing a time, Tania! Kruger is quite a special place.

        Hi Amanda! It was truly amazing. We didn’t come upon any wild dogs 🙂 (I told our guide about you ’cause they want to see wild dogs so bad out there) but we did see two leopards. Our guide was so pumped since she hadn’t seen one let alone 2 in months. It was truly special and we got to see all 5 of the Big 5. Our lodge was really nice as well. All around, it was such a great experience. Lots of people agreed that we should have visited Cape Town. So that just means some time in our future my boyfriend and I need to go back to Africa. 😀 I hope if we do, we do the same tour you did. It looked super fun.

          Visiting Cape Town would be a great reason to return to Africa! So glad to hear that you go to see the Big 5 on your safari! Such a special experience.

    Thank you for visiting my Country and I really hope each and every one will come and visit South Africa soon.

    Wonderful post – so many great travel ideas! What time of year did you visit? My husband and I are trying to plan a similar trip and had thought of going over Christmas/New Year, but have heard maybe we should put it off til September when game viewing is better. Were you there in the wet or dry season – it looks like you had plenty to see!

      We were there in May, which is late autumn. Technically wet season in Cape Town (I think), and the start of the dry season in places like Kruger. I thought it was a great time to visit!

        Amanda, September/October is the best time to go, especially if you are going to be going to Kruger National Park. It is spring and the grass is still low after the dry winter, so the game viewing is wonderful. Also in October/November the park comes alive with all the babies being born. December is hotter than hot (mid-summer)in KNP – it is really scorching hot and not pleasant at all. December in Cape Town is fine, but still hot.

    Wow, Amanda, your South African photos are stunning!

    For me, a great surprise was the South African food. Despite the large amount of meat and deep-fried dishes we devoured, nothing felt heavy in the stomach.

    Cheers,
    N.

      YES! My dad and I felt the same in South Africa – we were blown away by the food. My dad is prone to stomach issues, and had absolutely zero our entire trip!

    Hi Amanda,
    South Africa was my first home for 56 years. The people are just the greatest. Once you have been there it will always be in your blood. Viva SA!!!!!!!
    Your trip described “everything the heart desires”. May the Kruger National Park be one of Gods extra miracles and be there forever.
    Please all get there sooner than later

    We were last september 3 weeks in South Africa and liked it a lot. Especially the safari’s and the wine tasting. Great pictures you have. They bring back a lot of memories.

      There’s so much cool stuff to do in South Africa!

    Hi Amanda,

    Loved your blog and really helpful in term of every aspect….
    can you please provide an itinerary for Mauritius for a week like you have for Seychelles.

      Sorry, but I haven’t traveled to Mauritius yet! And I only write itineraries for places I’ve been, based on my own trips there.

    Hi Amanda! I would like to know what camera and what lens did you use for the safari. We are going to Kruger in two months and I would like to be prepared to take close up like yours! Thanks!

      Hey Annie! I used my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera with a 75-300 lens for all my close-up wildlife photos. I do recommend practicing a bit before you go – you’ll need to put your camera on a sport or burst mode so you can capture moving animals better! (You can read more about the photo gear I use here: https://www.dangerous-business.com/2017/02/travel-photography-gear/)

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