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Old 15th June 2014, 22:00   #1
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Default Splendid South Africa

Hello Everyone,

I am putting up a travelog / photo-log about my recent trip to South Africa.

Ever since I visited the Tadoba Tiger Reserve last year, I was smitten by the experience and was eager to plan another trip to one of the national parks in India.

While watching Nat-Geo one of the days, I happened to see an episode on the big migration that happens between Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania. I realized there was no better place than Africa to see mother nature in it's true form and thus I started researching for a trip in the African continent.

As I researched more on Kenya and Tanzania, I realized that the cost for a wildlife safari was high on account of payments being only accepted in US dollars. While researching further, I chanced upon the Kruger National Park in South Africa which provided an option to hire a car and self drive with reasonable accommodation costs. 1 South African Rand equals approx 6 INR and thus it was turning out to be good value for money and thus we decided to visit South Africa instead!

We decided to add in the beautiful city of Capetown and it's surrounding areas to the itinerary.

I will just add in the highlights of the trip and some important info which might help future travelers to plan their visit. I feel if we read up too much about a place then we lose that feeling of surprise that we as travelers should feel in the first place.

Disclaimer: I am not really good at photography, so please excuse the quality of the images.

Starting with Cape Town:

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Cape Town also known as the Mother City is located in the western cape at the shore of the Table Mountain Bay. The best way to see Cape Town is to get a two day pass for the Hop on Hop off bus:

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It allows you to explore the city at your own pace and is a cheaper and convenient option instead of renting a car or hiring taxis. Further details can be obtained from the below website:

Things to do in Cape Town:

1. The Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark and a must visit for people visiting Cape Town. There is a cable car from the base of the mountain which transports people up to the top in less than a minute. The cable car rotates 360 degree during the climb thus allowing everyone an all round view of the surroundings.

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The cable car operation is subject to weather conditions and can be closed if its too windy or foggy.

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The smaller hill in the above background is called Lion's Head.

The view from the top of the mountain if fabulous and you can see the entire city spread out from each of its sides.

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The suburb seen below is the affluent Camps Bay area.

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There is a curio shop and a cafe at the top of the Table Mountain:

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Some interesting facts:

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2. Another popular place to visit is the V&A Waterfront Harbor. Many Hollywood and Bollywood movies have been filmed at this location. It houses many restaurants, shopping areas and is a popular destination with the families.

I do not have a proper pic of the area so uploading an image from the internet:

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3. Adjacent to the V&A Waterfront is the Two Oceans Aquarium which is a superb place to explore the marine life of this continent. It has a lot of underwater passages and the chance to feed the sharks! The displays are well maintained and a visit here is sure to put a smile on your face.

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More details here: http://www.aquarium.co.za/

4. On one of the routes of the Hop On Hop Off bus lies the very beautiful and tranquil Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. It is located at the foot of the Table Mountain which provides a stunning background. It covers a large area and a lot of unique plants particular to the continent are grown there.

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I will highly suggest that you carry a packed lunch and have a small picnic type with this amazing view to look at.

5. This is the colorful neighborhood in the city called Bo Kaap, a sort of a township which has become famous for it's brightly colored houses and architecture. It also houses a museum highlighting the lives of the Muslim communities who were early settlers here.

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6. Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope are situated at the tip of the peninsula are are best covered in a day trip along with Boulder's Beach (to see penguins) and a drive through the Chapman's Peak.
These places are located outside the city and The Hop On Hop Off bus does not cover them. It's best to hire local tour operators who have scheduled full day / half day trips to cover the above destinations.

From Wikipedia: 'Cape Point is a promontory at the southeast corner of the Cape Peninsula, which is a mountainous and scenic landform that runs north-south for about thirty kilometres at the extreme southwestern tip of the African continent'.

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7. Camps Bay - It is an affluent suburb of Capetown with a beautiful white sand beach and a splendid view of the Table Mountain in the background. A lot of good restaurants and cafes to spend time people spotting and watching sunsets.

8. Other places of interest which we did NOT visit - Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, Groot Constantia famous for old wine estates etc.

Cape Town Info:

Accommodation - There are plenty of backpacker lodges, hostels, budget B&B available. We stayed at the Primi Oxford House (INR 15500 for 4 nights), located in Greenpoint.


It's safe to walk down around the popular tourist attractions, however do hire a taxi while returning to your hotel room at night.

Meals - For all vegetarians, there are a lot of cafes and restaurants which have vegetarian options like sandwiches, burgers, falafels, hummus, pizza, pastas etc in the menu. A couple of Indian Restaurants are also present at Long Street.

I will recommend to pay a visit to the Cape Town Tourism Visitor Information Office at the City Centre. It's one of the stops on the Hop On Hop Off Bus. The folks there are helpful and will assist you in planning your time in Cape Town.

We also visited the Franschhoek Motor Museum, about an hour's drive from Capetown. I will post the pictures of the cars in a separate thread though.

We spent 3 days in Cape Town and then hired a car and drove on the Garden Route which is basically a road on the south eastern coast of South Africa. It covers smaller towns and villages popular for their beautiful natural settings.

The highlight was the Bungee Jump from the Bloukrans Bridge claimed to be the highest bungee jump off a commercial bridge. It was an exhilarating experience and highly recommended. DO NOT MISS IT!

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We also visited an Elephant Sanctuary in the Crags area along the route. It allows visitors to closely interact with elephants which have been rescued from poaching and are now being taken care of with a future plan to release them in the wild. The 'sanctuary' is basically a farm type and had 5 elephants. The whole 'tour' lasts about an hour which includes a interactions with with the gentle giants including a 'walk with the elephant' wherein you hold their trunks and walk around and other educational info about their lives.

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Last edited by trek : 21st June 2014 at 13:22.
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Old 18th June 2014, 20:50   #2
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Default Re: Splendid South Africa

Pics contd. from the Elephant Sanctuary:

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We paid R475 per person and felt that it was bit expensive and not entirely worth the money. I somehow felt that the animals were really being just groomed for the tourists and even when they will be released, they will be actually sold off to private game reserves for a lot of money.

Adjacent to the Elephant Sanctuary is 'Birds of Eden', a large free flight aviary. It has a lot of exotic birds and is a good visit for bird watchers.

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On the Garden Route, we stayed overnight at Wilderness, a beautiful small town surrounded by beaches and forests. We stayed at the below backpackers hostel for R475.

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There are a lot of other activities like kayaking, hiking, horse riding etc which can be done along the Garden Route. We restricted our time to two days since we wanted to spend more time at the Kruger National Park.

We took a flight out of George to Johannesburg and hired a car to drive down to Graskop which would be our overnight stop before we head out to Kruger National Park the next day via the Panorama Route.

On the Panorama Route, we visited God's Window, Bourke's Luck Potholes (avoidable), Blyde River Canyon on the Panorama Route before entering Kruger National Park through Phabeni, one of its many entrance gates. All of these are basically viewing points and can be covered in half a day. A google search will reveal details for those interested.

Kruger National Park:

The main highlight of this trip was to visit and stay inside the Kruger National Park which is an incredible and one of the largest game reserves in Africa guarding a diverse population of animal, bird and plant life.

Its roughly the same size of Israel or about 2 million hectares and houses many rest camps where people can stay during their visit to the park. The infrastructure inside the park is amazing in terms of roads, accommodation, tourist info etc.

The best way to see the park and the animals is to stay in the accommodation inside the Kruger park and drive around in your rented car.

Now let's see some pics of the amazing wildlife that we experienced at Kruger. These are in no particular order though.

On entering the jungle, we were first greeted by this herd of deers:

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This family of hyenas was really close to the roadside feasting on a recent kill:

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African Eagle:

Splendid South Africa-kruger-eagle-1.jpg

Last edited by trek : 21st June 2014 at 13:36.
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Old 20th June 2014, 18:26   #3
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Splendid South Africa-kruger-waterbuck.jpg

Southern Ground Hornbills:

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Our first spotting of the majestic African lions:

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The lakes inside the jungles always provide good animal sightings on a hot day:

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Carcass of a giraffe recently killed by predators. A reality check that you are in the midst of dangerous wild animals:

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We spotted this tusker by a dry river bed. We stopped our car and were observing him for about a minute when he started feeling uncomfortable with our presence. He began walking towards and that was a good signal for us to move on and so we did:

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Kori Bustard:

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We came across this group of zebras on one of the gravel roads and this young fellow seemed quite inquisitive of our presence.

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Vervet Monkey:

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A herd of elephants crossing the road. It's best to maintain some distance if there are smaller babies in the herd as the older elephants can get aggressive if they sense danger around:

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Last edited by trek : 21st June 2014 at 13:38.
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Old 20th June 2014, 18:58   #4
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One of the mornings, we had a fantastic start to game viewing with this incredible sight of two fully grown lions sitting smack in the middle of the road! They seem least bothered with the cars around and kept basking in the morning sun.

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Classic image of the golden savannah grass and the wild game:

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Hippos and crocodiles seem to co-exist peacefully:

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Zebra Crossing!

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Few shots of the gentle giants:

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While staying at the Lower Sabie rest camp, we went on a sunset safari in their open vehicle with a trained guide. The jungle in the night seems scary and the ride was thrilling. We saw a white rhino cross the road but we couldn't manage a picture.

The big sighting came in the form of this lioness in a crouching position waiting by the roadside. She was stalking some smaller prey and was completely oblivion to our presence.

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We had another of the close encounter this time with a zebra. Below is the car which was driving in front of us. As you can see, the zebra did not even move from his position and stood there like a statue. When the SUV moved on, we drove ahead and got a chance to see the animal from close quarters:

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We are indeed lucky as we saw one of the most elusive animals of the park - the spotted leopard!

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These two lionesses were tearing apart a warthog just besides the road and we were lucky to spot them. We could hear the sound of the skin tearing and the bones cracking!

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Last edited by trek : 21st June 2014 at 13:39.
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Old 20th June 2014, 19:31   #5
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Imp Info:

The Kruger National Park is really BIG and it's best NOT to try and cover a lot of distance looking for animals. The key is to drive slow so that it is easier to spot the animals.

For first timers, I will advise to stay in the southern region of the park, preferable the Lower Sabie and Satara Rest Camps as they are prime game viewing areas.

Splendid South Africa-knp_mapmm.jpg

Bookings have to be made through the centralized but very easy to use and efficient online booking system:

The average accommodation Cost for a cottage in Kruger: INR 5000 / night. In case if you do not wish to self drive, the rest camps also organize safari drives - early morning, sunset, night for residents with a trained tour guide.

We stayed for 2 nights at the Olifants rest camp and another 2 nights at Lower Sabie rest camp.

Below are some pics of the accommodation in the rest camps:

The entrance gate of the Oifants Rest Camp:

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The Rondavel Cottage that we stayed in at Olifants:

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It had a river view and a great opportunity to spot animals if and when they come to the river bed:

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Below is the Lower Sabie Rest camp (very popular and almost always fully booked) located on the river bank:

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The cottage at Lower Sabie:

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There are convenience stores inside the rest camps where in you can buy food items, vegetables and cook your own meals as most of the travelers did. Most cottages are equipped with hot plates and utensils, however do check for details at the time of booking.
There are also restaurants inside the camp if you prefer otherwise.

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We also stayed at a tent during one night at Lower Sabie. We could hear hippos all night just outside the fence. What a thrill!

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The camp areas are surrounded by electric fences to keep wild animals from entering. However baboons and deers often find a way in.

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All the roads inside the jungle have direction boards and maps are available at all gates:

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That's our VW Polo Vivo that we rented for our Kruger visit. It gave us an incredible mileage of 20kmpl running on petrol.
BTW Petrol Costs about Rand 14 per liter and Petrol bunks are present inside almost all rest-camps of Kruger.

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Ending the travelog with some parting shots:

The vast African plains:

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Sunset over the Olifants river
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Fantastic Roads in South Africa (outside Kruger):

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Some tips:

Please always be cautious when spotting elephants. Maintain a safe distance and if the animal seems uncomfortable about your presence (signs of raised ears, fake charge), move on fast!

Visa: The embassy in Mumbai is very badly managed and it takes anything from 4 weeks to 2 months for visa approval. Plan your trip in advance. Also the bookings in Kruger fill up real fast so take a note of that.

There was a lot more that I have experienced during this trip which I am unable to put in words like the starry African sky, the tranquility and silence of a jungle, the thrill of being so close to the wild, the seclusion and slightly scared feeling on the gravel roads of Kruger..

I am in love with Africa and I am hoping to go back to Kruger soon!

Please excuse the picture quality wherever weak as I am not really good at photography. Hope the above travelog can help members planning a future visit to South Africa.

Thanks for reading!

Last edited by trek : 21st June 2014 at 13:49.
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Old 23rd June 2014, 13:32   #6
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 23rd June 2014, 14:46   #7
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Dear Trek! Very good travelogue accompanied with beautiful pictures. In fact, just running my eyes through your posts, I was bowled over by the photographs. The picture of the Olifants river is mind blowing and you were there at the right time. By gravel roads, I think you meant the roads on your last three pictures? Seen this type of roads in Japan too! Please upload some more photographs of the safari.
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Old 23rd June 2014, 14:56   #8
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Indeep you are very lucky to spot big cats so many times. I have been to Kruger in 2012 and I did not spot so many.
But the Kruger experience is really something. After all those things we see in National Geography/Discovery from childhood, it feels great to see them in person in wild. Very Very nice pics.
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Old 23rd June 2014, 16:40   #9
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Thanks Trek for the amazing pics and precise narrative. Was lucky to be at the the 3rd point of the Migration triangle - the Ngorongoro in 2010. More photographs please.
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Old 23rd June 2014, 16:56   #10
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Originally Posted by trek View Post
I am in love with Africa and I am hoping to go back to Kruger soon!
I Agree, Africa is an amazing place! Nothing like the bush as they call it. Any pics of cars? The motor industry is very vibrant in SA and they manufacture most cars. I recall from my childhood, an ad in the South African publication of CAR for the BMW 333i, was floored they put the 535 engine in a 3 series!
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Old 23rd June 2014, 19:30   #11
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Originally Posted by padikpanther View Post
Thanks Trek for the amazing pics and precise narrative. Was lucky to be at the the 3rd point of the Migration triangle - the Ngorongoro in 2010. More photographs please.
+1. Nice narrative Trek! The pictures have narrated the African safari experience very well. I started recollecting cherished memories of my 2006 visit to Lake Manyara & Ngorongoro Crater the moment I started reading your travelogue.

Post some more pictures

Regarding the road experience, I travelled from Arusha to Lake Manyara in Tanzania; the roads were sheer bliss to drive.
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Old 23rd June 2014, 19:58   #12
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Splendid - good to see an Africa lover. Once you are smitten it becomes an addiction - so beware !!

Also you are lucky that you could spot the leopard so close to the road and so clearly. I have been on safaris so many times in the continent and have seldom seen it so casually walking so close to a path

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Old 24th June 2014, 06:17   #13
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A wonderful travelogue with some brilliant pics , if you don't mind can you please share a rough estimate of the expenses for the entire trip , the best time of the year to visit , documents required for South African visa , details such as how far in advance we need to book to guarantee accommodation in the cottages that you have mentioned.
Apologies for bombarding you with so many questions , me and wifey are completely smitten by your travelogue and we are exploring this option very seriously , once again thank you for sharing.
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Old 24th June 2014, 09:48   #14
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Fantastic write up and pictures Trek. You were indeed lucky to spot a variety of animals in the safari. I visited Tadoba couple months back and all I could manage was a leopard Looking at your travelogue (plus the self drive option) has really inspired me and I'm looking forward to plan for South Africa now!

If you don't mind, could you please share the expenses incurred and the gist of the planning done?
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Old 24th June 2014, 13:30   #15
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Trek, Those are some amazing pictures and the information you have provided is pretty valuable too. Can you please share some indicative costs and a little about driving rules there. I suppose you have an Indian DL and renting a car isn't an issue. Keep it coming, my friend.
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