[Travel Guide] South Africa

Random Observation/Comment #324: South Africa really needs a radio station devoted to Lion King songs. It would get all the tourist listeners.

in their natural habitat

in their natural habitat

Is South Africa, as a travel destination, right for you?
Things you must like:

  • Adventures
  • Roughing it in the wild
  • Impromptu decisions
  • Driving long distances (~7 hours per day)
  • Animals far away
  • Photography (because someone will be stopping to take pics of everything)
  • Road sing a longs

Things you must not dislike

  • A lot of road poo
  • Animals close up (uncomfortably)
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car
  • Driving dangerous roads with huge potholes
  • Sleeping in interesting places (thatched roof bungalows)
  • Weird radio stations speaking a very interesting language
  • Lack of television and Internet

Things you must bear

  • Terrible bureaucracy
  • Wearing the same clothes
  • Staring eagle eyed out the window for hours looking for animals
  • Constantly stopping at rock sightings that look like animals
  • Explosive diarrhea
  • Infrequent bathroom breaks (in spite of above)
  • Plans will change (we wound up in a different country)

South Africa is definitely one of the best places to go for triumph moments (items to cross off your bucket list) . There are even those things that I never added to my list that wound up there unexpectedly.

From my South African trip, I:

  • Visited a new continent
  • Visited a new hemisphere
  • Visited 3 new countries (South Africa, Nigeria, and Swaziland)
  • Went on a safari and drives around the park (seeing impalas, rhinos, elephants, lions, wildebeasts, water buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, hyenas, hippos, baboons, little monkeys, springboks, and sables)
  • Herded impalas, baboons, zebras, and elephants with the car
  • Slept in increasingly thatched roof bungalows
  • Drove on the left side of the road
  • Saw a South African sunrise
  • Saw a Swaziland sunset
  • Drank Africoke (African Coca Cola) at all borders
  • Listened to Zulu, Swazi, and Afrikaans country music
  • Hung out by the fire with warthogs
  • Drove the craziest roads in my life all around the country weaving through mountains
  • Saw a giant baobab tree (from The Little Prince)
  • Walked on top of a water fall (through the running water before it falls)
  • Picked up a hitchhiker (she had a baby on her back and had to walk 10 miles home from the baobab tree)

Our itinerary for the 7 days:
Day 1 – (not including the 18 hour layover in Nigeria), rent car and drive from Johannesburg airport to Kruger national camp (5 hours). Stay in skukuza camp ($104/night)
Day 2 – drive west to numbi gate looking for animals. Move to lower sabie ($104/night). Take sunset tour (230R).
Day 3 – drive north towards satara. More wandering and seeing new animals self guided. Try to see southern most baobab tree (it was flooded closed). Another night in lower sabie.
Day 4 – drive south to melalane (2 hours). Drive into swaziland towards mbabane (2.5 hours) and stay in mlilwane wildlife sanctuary (320R per person per night). Walk around and befriend warthogs since they are everywhere roaming free
Day 5 – horseback riding through the best scenery (150R per hour). Haggle touristy gifts at ewulini valley market ($20 for all my souvenirs), drive 5 hours west looking for cave paintings, Drive on roads that don’t exist in any driveable condition, stay at a 2 story loft hotel suite (Francolin lodge) in neilspruit (1550R / night), eat a steak dinner ($30 per person with drinks and appetizer)
Day 6 – drive north to see waterfalls (sabie falls, pinnacle, God’s window, Lisbon falls, and this view right after the echo caves), drive north to see huge baobab tree, give a lady with her daughter a hitchhike ride for 10 miles, drive south west back to Johannesburg (4 hrs)
Day 7 – early flight out with a 10 hour layover in lagos again

If you want to repeat our badass trip, here are some good things we did and lessons learned:

  • Get your shots. Yellow fever (with the yellow card) was needed for Nigeria (even in transit), typhoid, hep A, and flu.
  • Rent an suv. Definitely needed for the roads for sure. It’s also fun when you drive off the beaten path
  • Bring a car charger just because you’ll be in the car a lot
  • Bring an Africa converter (pic different from European or British plugs) they actually have ones to purchase for around $3 here, but they rarely convert to US, so we needed to do this monstrosity conversion
  • Bring a 270mm+ lens. Animals are usually far away and you’re not allowed to leave your car in kruger
  • Follow the speed limit. I don’t think they give out speeding tickets, but this is more important so you don’t run over birds or scare wildlife. They cannot fly fast enough to dodge the car. Trust me on this one.
  • When you pass someone on the single lane roads, flash your emergency lights once to say ‘thank you’
  • Pack a cool hat and sunglasses as you will need these to rock out
  • Pack light long sleeves, tshirts, jeans, and a thin long sleeve shell. We did not do laundry, but we’re also dudes that don’t mind.
  • Pack all sorts of medication. Peptobismol, antimalarial pills, diarrhea medication of sorts.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half at all times because you never know when the next gas station will be (gas is around 11.5 Rand per liter)
  • Have water in the car and at all times for cooking. We had brown water from the faucet at kruger camp and got terrible explosive diarrhea the second night. Luckily, we had the right medication to push through a shitty day (haaaa). But seriously, boil the water thoroughly if you are cooking. Wash bowls/utensils with the boiling water as well. Usually this is not a problem, but we had massive rain and floods before we went
  • Put swaziland in your itinerary and go to mlilwane wildlife sanctuary. It’s amazing. I’m on a horse.
  • Get the car rental on a weekday so you can also get permission to go to Mozambique and get another passport stamp. Plus, it’s a great place to see the Indian Ocean. Since I missed it because we didn’t have the papers, I guess the next trip is to Madagascar.
  • Get Android 4.2 Jellybean with Photosphere so you can take awesome 360 panoramic photos like the album I’ve posted on my Google+.

This was a very bro trip and I think I would recommend it as one between bros or father-son more than couples (even bro couples). I could foresee eye rolling and ‘Roughing it’ complaints from even the most out-doorsie girls. Maybe it was just our itinerary – it had a road trip bro-y feel to it and I can’t imagine it any other way. Good times.

~See Lemons Love Safari

South African Animal and Swaziland Gallery: