As the world is so big and has so much to offer, I’m never visiting the same destination twice, but for the beautiful South Africa, I'd make an exception. This gigantic country really has so much to offer. A rugged interior with stunning views, a fantastic coastline, a region where they produce fine wines, restaurants to tempt any foodie .... I could go on forever.
Twenty years ago I got to know the country during our honeymoon. My husband and I fell in love with this amazing country and knew right away that we would return here with our children. Two years ago our parents treated us to a safari in Sabi Sands followed by a few days on the beach in Mozambique. A detailed report will follow. Upcoming Easter holidays (April 2017) we fly to Cape Town to explore the entire Cape.
We landed in the morning after a 12-hour flight with Air France. We picked up our rental car and got some good advice from the desk officer. Since we stayed one night in Johannesburg, he said, "go to your hotel and rest. Your holiday starts tomorrow. Johannesburg is not a safe city." After sitting for an hour in our room, we decided to ignore his good advice and take a ride to get an impression of the city. We never left the car because there is indeed a bit of a grim atmosphere. You can visit Soweto (South Western Township), but you should definitely do this with a guide.
The next morning we drove to Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. The city is so beautiful during spring (our autumn) because it seems like the whole city is in bloom. You can see the purple flowers of the jacaranda everywhere. For this, Pretoria is called Jacaranda City.
The city was once the bastion of Apartheid but after the arrival of Nelson Mandela it became the place of shared power and tolerance. The city has many large buildings in the Victorian style and you'll find lots of parks with statues and exotic trees. Include a visit to the Kruger House Museum and learn everything you need to know about Paul Kruger, who was president of Transvaal for many years. The Union Building is on a hill and from there you can enjoy beautiful views over the city.
After our visit to Pretoria, we left for the so-called panorama route. The environment has not stolen its name. You pass one phenomenal view after another.
Mpumalanga is the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. Here you will find God's Window. From here you have a 'divine' view on the Lowfields. A little further you can hear the splashing of the Mac Mac Falls. Bourke's Luck Potholes is a small canyon where water flows. One of the highlights is the view of the three rondavels, also known as the three sisters. These are mountains that look like small huts (rondavels).
If you have some time left, you can visit Limpopo Echo Caves. A guided tour takes 45 minutes. No time? No problem. Soon you pass Oudtshoorn, with its Cango Caves, that are far more spectacular.
Pilgrims Rest is an old gold mining town that received its name from the first group of prospectors who called themselves "pilgrims". It's very touristy but very charming. The largest gold nugget ever found here weighed 11 kg!! We stayed at The Royal Hotel. If you enter the hotel you feel like you're traveling back in time.
The next day there are two beautiful waterfalls on the program. And I'm in love with waterfalls. The first are the Lisbon-Falls and after that you pass Berlin Falls.
After a beautiful drive we arrived at Hazy View hotel near the Kruger Park entrance . Next to the river that runs through the garden is a sign warning ‘watch the hippos at night’ (written in juicy South-African, I love it). The hotel has a superb location, but otherwise it is not so special.
From here you can start your safari in the Kruger National Park. If it is your first safari, you will enjoy it, but for us it looked a bit too much like a zoo. The accommodation in the park is not so great. It’s better to choose a safari in one of the private parks such as Sabi Sands. Much more authentic and the lodges are far more luxurious. In the upcoming blog post on South Africa and Mozambique you will find more information.
We stayed in Elephants, but that is absolutely not recommended.
From Johannesburg we flew to Port Elizabeth for part 2, the Garden route. Read more in part 2.