Part II | Trip Dates: November 7- November 20, 2017
The Motherland was so precious, had to bring out a two-parter!
Continuing from South Africa Part 1, I wanted to give details on the remainder of the trip including Must do’s, helpful tips & highlights!
As I’m sure you can imagine, the most exciting part of the trip by far was the 3 game drives we did! We had one game drive in Hluhluwe and two in the internationally acclaimed Kruger Park. (Definitely, check out Kruger Park! Put it on your list!)
All three game drives we drove in a Jeep-style open vehicle and all were included in our Smartour package!
The third, however, charged extra to drive in the open jeep. Instead, we would have just stayed on the tour bus. Looking back, probably not worth it paying an extra 60 USD for the additional day in the open jeep being we had seen all of the animals up close during our first two trips.
The coolest thing about the drive was that the animals were at arm’s reach, you were almost fearful that they were going to jump in the car with you!
Check the CDC website, they have loose recommendations. I opted for the malaria pills, prescribed via my doctor, and a hepatitis A shot, administered at a local urgent care. However, you know your body and health better than anyone so speak with your doctor in regards to what vaccines they recommend for you to take.
Day 8: My birthday (Nov 14), we traveled to Swaziland where we had the opportunity to see basket weavers at work, shop for unique souvenirs and taste delicious cuisine.
We drove to the border of Swaziland and physically walked across it, where we received our passport stamps for entry. Unfortunately, only lasting a day, I didn’t get to explore Swazi as much as I would have liked, especially being there was an attractive King on the hunt for a new wife, but I loved the bit I did get to experience. Swaziland showed us beautiful countrysides and gorgeous views, neighboring the world-famous Kruger Park.
In Swazi, we stayed at the Avani Ezulwini Valley Hotel (Rate: 3 stars). The hotel was located in a complex, but there wasn’t much to do, and the rooms were basic in comparison to the other hotels. The country is really trying to increase their tourism to help stimulate the economy, so it was incredibly inexpensive to spend/buy!
Depending on how often you honestly see yourself using your phone while abroad will determine what plan, if any, you will need to look into. I have AT&T and spoke with them in regards to their options, opting for their Passport 200mb plan. This plan included unlimited text messages, wifi, 200mb and $1.00 a minute calls for USD 40. I found it helpful being that every hotel we stayed in had wifi, but had on average a 500mb limit, my AT&T Passport plan gave me unlimited access!
Days 9 & 10 were the game drives that I mentioned at Kruger Park. While at Kruger, we stayed in the Protea Kruger Gate Hotel by Marriot. (Rate: 5 stars) Protea was my second favorite after Emdomeni, the food, the staff, the views, the rooms, all top notch. I found myself at yet another spa visit while staying at Protea receiving an African Goddess Golden Facial, totally recommend to everyone!
The US dollar went exceptionally far! I budgeted around $100 a day/ $1400 total but came nowhere near spending that much, closer to half honestly. I only converted 450 USD to the South African rand and the rest spent in USD or on my credit card.
I have a TJX rewards credit card which offers zero transaction fees when using your card abroad, saving me 3% per transaction (compared to having charges). TIP: NEVER USE A DEBIT CARD WHILE TRAVELING. GET YOURSELF A CREDIT CARD OR CASH MONEY!
Day 11 before arriving at Sandtown, Johannesburg, we stopped at the magnificent Blyde River Canyons, and the Bourke’s Luck Pot Holes, a place of African legend containing bizarre holes cut into rock by powerful river erosion.
Our trip ended in Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city, where we explored Soweto, former home to the late Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the apartheid museum and the final resting place of Mandela, his home in Gauteng. The apartheid museum is an absolute must-do, we spent 2 hours reading and viewing the history but could have easily spent another 2 more.
What to Pack:
Definitely check the forecast while packing for your trip, as you should always do! If you’re located in the US, South Africa has opposite seasons as us, so they were entering into their Summer Season. Despite it being the start of summer, most days were chilly, mid 60’s to low 70’s, with mornings and evenings requiring a light jacket.
I packed quite a few shorts, long pants/jeans, yoga pants, and light jackets to help with layering. We also experienced a few showers, though not many, so know if you need an umbrella.
Simply put, South Africa/Swaziland was a life-changing and amazing trip, and anyone who has the opportunity to experience all that it has to offer should jump at it. This was not my first organized group travel, and I’d recommend beginner travelers or those who don’t fancy planning to take advantage of them for the group rates and the provided itinerary. See below for my absolute must-do’s and as always, leave questions/comments below!
- See Table Mountain in Cape Town
- Participate in a Game Drive in Hluhluwe/Kruger Park (Stay at Emdomeni and Protea Marriot)
- Visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg
- Shopping at Green Markets in Cape Town
- Go to Bo Kaap Colorful Houses in Cape Town
- Check Out Zululand, South Africa (Cultural Experience)
- Explore Swaziland
- Eat Seafood in Cape Town (Calamari)