South Africa and Swaziland
In October 2013, we took a 2-week trip to South Africa and Swaziland.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
The first stop (after a 15 hour flight and a 4 hour drive), was Kruger National Park. We knew we wanted to do a safari, but all of the organized ones we found were insanely expensive. Then we discovered that Kruger National Park has accommodations for a fraction of the price. The options included tents with common bathrooms and more solid bungalows with private bathrooms. Both were fun, but I wouldn’t recommend the tent for the first night. After the long trip from New York, not having to trek to the shower would have been nice.
You can then sign up for safari tours within the park. Only the official park tours are allowed in the park after sunset, so you have the place to yourself. We saw elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, gnus, hippos, water buffalo, rhinos, otters, and plenty of other animals. The only animal we didn’t get to see was the leopard.
On our drive back to Johannesburg, we went through Swaziland. Because it was there. We laid our eyes on Mozambique across the river, but didn’t go in because we didn’t have the required Yellow Fever shot. Anyway, Swaziland was small but beautiful. We think we may have eaten dinner next to the crown prince one night. We stayed at Stables Backpack Resort. It had private huts which looked nice. We were feeling cheap so stayed in the hostel portion, which is literally a converted barn. It was a bit odd, but certainly memorable.
As we drove out of Swaziland, the border guard stopped us and asked where we were going. When we said Johannesburg, he pointed to a guard and then pointed to our car and told us we’d drive him part of the way. Huh?! So, this Swazi police officer hopped in our car. We were confused about where he was going (and worried because we had a flight to catch). We ultimately realized he need to go a different way. He very agreeably offered to get out on the side of the road. We went from feeling very uncomfortable to feeling bad about leaving him with no ride.
From Johannesburg, we flew to Cape Town. South African Airlines leaves much to be desired, so that took much longer than anticipated. But, we did eventually get to Cape Town. On the recommendation from a colleague of mine, we stayed at Backpackers Hostel. We got a private room and it was great. We’d highly recommend this place. Cape Town feels like an African San Francisco. Lots of hills and fog. It’s stunningly beautiful.
Bo Kaap Neighborhood
The next day we drove around Cape Peninsula.
We also took a boat out to Robben Island for a tour of the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned.
And then we took a tour of a local township. It was a really eye opening visit.
After Cape Town, we started another road trip with a stop in wine country, specifically Franschhoek.
Then on to Hermanus for some whale watching.
We drove many hours through desert-like landscape to Oudtshoorn. Along we stopped at the cult favorite, Ronnie’s Sex Shop. It’s really just a dive bar. It was originally just Ronnie’s Shop, and some prankster came around and added the “Sex”. It caught on, so they’ve left it. The clientele are super nice, though. I had a terrible sunburn and one woman went out back and cut some fresh aloe for me.
Oudtshoorn is known as the ostrich capital. And that, it was. We ate ostrich meat, ate ostrich eggs, and then on a visit to an ostrich farm – this inexplicably happened.