March 2016: Our experience of South Africa has been really positive. The people are full of hope and enthusiasm for the future and their children’s part in it. It’s been 22 years since Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically elected President and a lot has changed since then. Sadly, as a friend said, it would appear that the government is rife with corruption and that the biggest thing to come from Mandela’s reign is the creation of a black ‘elite’ to go alongside the white’s. Leaving millions of very poor people still struggling. There is still a lot to be done.
There is undeniable poverty in South Africa. Thankfully, there is no starvation as the country is so fertile but for the people living in townships life is hard. I’m sure crime is a big issue, sanitation is a stand-pipe and portaloos on the roadside but things are changing. Living in these shanty towns is rent-free, everyone has access to free primary schools, and health care is available but limited. Some choose to stay in the townships avoiding paying rent, they pay for electricity and as you can see some have satellite dishes. The government has a program for residents to move from the corrugated iron structures to nice newly built houses. The waiting list is long – 3/5 years.
Our experience of driving in South Africa was good. They drive on the left hand side. The roads are wide and well cared for, in fact better than some of the roads in the UK. Most people drive sensibly and within the speed limits which go right down to 60km/h near the townships. There are no zebra crossings (ironically) or bridges so to cross the road you must walk. This is probably the reason why the country has 40 times more vehicle related deaths than the UK. While most people speak English and would happily give directions, for security reasons, I would definitely recommend you have a sat-nav. We took a TomTom from home and downloaded the map for southern Africa that cost about 80 pounds or the same price the hire company wanted. Might come in handy in the future! The Western Cape area seems generally safe as long as you don’t decide to drive through the townships at night. I can’t speak for the rest of the country but many people say Johannesburg is very different.
We had a very interesting conversation with a chap called Thulani Ntsukwana of the Xhosa tribe. A well spoken guy fluent in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu. He introduced us to a young lady doing work-experience called nDomber whom he described as one of the ‘Born Free’. She was born in 1997 and of course has benefited hugely from the Mandela legacy of forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance, and hope that almost everyone in SA holds as a candle in the wind. “We don’t want her to grow up looking backwards. We want her to look forwards.” He earns about 2000 rand a month (that’s about 90 pounds) and yes prices are much cheaper here but….. He is a member of an NGO that supports the poor people – he has a good job and proudly does not consider himself poor – and pays 20% of his salary to help local kids get a uniform to go to school. “Our future is all about education” he says. You’ve got to admire this nation. A rainbow nation.
- 4 nights Safari
- 2 nights Blue Train to Cape Town
- 6 nights Cape Town & The Wine Routes
- 4 nights Garden Route
- 5 nights Plettenberg Bay
- 1 night Cape Town
We booked a return flight to Johannesburg rather than Cape Town because Jo’burg is SAA’s hub and most flights go via it. This allowed us to save some connections at the beginning of the trip.
Situated north-east of Johannesburg the Kruger National Park is about the size of Wales. We took the SAA direct flight from Jo’Berg Oliver Tambo airport Terminal 2 to Hoedspruit a small airport in the middle of the bush. It’s a turboprop flight so flies low enough for you to see the lie of the land. If you are flying in from the UK, BA offer an overnight flight landing about 7am, perfect for the connecting flight.
Day 01 – 4/3 Fly
Arrive Johannesburg 06:55 Terminal A
Collect luggage then transit to Terminal B
10:15 JNB – HDS 11:20 SAA 1225
Transfer to hotel (arranged with hotel)
Blog : Safari at Kapama near the Kruger National Park – A first for us.
Day 05 – 8/3 – Fly
Transfer to airport (arranged with hotel)
12:00 HDS – JNB 13:00 Terminal B – SAA 1226
Transfer to Pretoria Sheraton (Booked via hotel)
Safety! Always get the hotel to arrange transfers to and from attractions. It’s not safe enough for tourists to book a cab and don’t even think about walking! Having said that, as long as you use your common sense, you will be fine.
Day 06 – 9/3 – Train
06:45 Transfer to Pretoria Station from hotel (booked via hotel)
Blog : Taking the Blue Train to Cape Town – Old world elegance.
Day 07 – 10/3 – Train
16:00 Arrive Cape Town, transfer to hotel (booked with hotel)
Blog : Cape Town & The Wine Routes
Day 13 – 16/3 – Depart Cape Town – Drive
10:00 Collect hire car from Hertz 40 Loop Street, ZA 8001
Drive to Franschhoek – the start of the Garden Route
Blog : The Garden Route
The furthest east we travelled was to Plettenberg Bay to spend 5 nights at a beach resort. It was a good decision as there is plenty to do.
Day 17 – 20/3 – Arrive Plettenberg Bay
Blog : Plettenberg Bay
Day 22 – 25/3 – Fly
Depart Plettenberg Bay
Check-out The Plettenberg, drive to George Airport, fly to Cape Town
13:00 GRJ – CPT 13:50 SAA 8362
transfer to hotel (booked with hotel)
An easy drive of an hour to the local airport in George leaves you with a 50 minute flight to Cape Town. We had a final night there and it was a nice ‘full-stop’ to our holiday. Alternatively you could fly directly from George to Johannesburg but it costs 3 times the price of the trip to Cape and the last flight gets you into Jo’burg at 3pm leaving you with a 6 hour layover before flying home.
The drive from Plettenberg to George airport 1hr 30mins. Returning the hire car was straightforward and well signed. It’s a tiny airport and you only need to check 1 hour before the flight.
A final night in Cape Town buying gifts …. and a stay at the Radisson Blue Waterfront then fly back to Johannesburg and our connecting flight to London.
Day 23 – 26/3 – Fly
Transfer to airport (arranged with hotel)
16:45 CPT – JNB 18:50 Terminal B – SA 2024
Collect luggage transfer to Terminal A
21:30 JNB – LHR 07:45 (next day) BA0054 T5
At this time of year it is South Africa’s autumn with the coastal temperature in the mid 20’s. It is also quite windy so don’t be deceived and get burnt. The Kruger was much hotter and humid; around 35C.
I don’t know how I missed it but BA operate several flights a day between Cape Town and Johannesburg. This meant I could have checked in all the way and got a few more air-miles!