Holiday in South Africa
I met a European couple (the guy from the Netherlands and the girl from UK) in Australia a couple of years ago. They are now planning to come visit South Africa later this year and I thought it may be useful for European travellers to hear a South African's opinion of a holiday in South Africa.
Firstly you need to understand that I'm an outdoor man. Although I live in a city, everything I do for pleasure will be to get away from city life. While in Australia, I read somewhere that 'If you can't get lucky in Darwin, you should stop trying'. So if you're looking for big, busy cities to party, don't follow my advice and if you want to get lucky, go to Darwin.
I believe anybody coming to visit South Africa should try to spend a couple of days in Knysna and the Drakensberg. Although there are many other places worth visiting, these two are my favourites.
Most international flights in South Africa arrive or depart in Johannesburg or Cape Town and I would recommend you arriving in Cape Town and departing from Jo'burg. For a bit of wine tasting, do a 1 or 2 day wine trip to Stellenbosch or something around Cape Town and then head off to Mossel Bay (personally I would spend 1-2 days in Hartenbos, just outside of Mossel Bay). Cape Town waters are pretty cold due to the Atlantic ocean, so if you want to spend some time on the beach, don't even bother before Mossel Bay. However, I would save my beach-time for Plettenberg bay and Jeffreys bay. Mossel Bay is around 400Kms from Cape Town. From Mossel Bay, I'd go straight to Knysna (+/- 120Kms), although there are a couple of beautiful places along the way, so it depends on your time and budget.
I grew up in Knysna and though it is a much bigger and commercialised town now, it is still a stunning place to visit. If you like hiking, spend time in Knysna. When I was a little boy, our family got lost on a hiking trail and at some point we had to cut through an immensely dense fern growth. Being too young to know the dangers, I thought it was the most amazing thing because we were walking (or crawling) on top of these ferns probably 1 meter or so above the ground and ever so often I would see our little fox terrier down on the ground looking up at us. The Knysna forest has an amazing variety of plants and trees and on many of the hiking trails you will constantly be covered by a huge tree-top covering. In my opinion it is beautiful and I can spend many hours just enjoying the beauty in a small area. The town itself is now well developed and has many activities for tourist. Many stunning restaurants on the waterfront and make sure you have a couple of drinks on a sun-downer trip on the lagoon. Try to spend at least 2 days in Knysna.
Your next stop must be Plettenberg Bay. It's only about 60Kms from Knysna and with its stunning beaches, Plett is one of my favourite bird-watching destinations Those would be the bikini-clad type of birds, of course. I must admit that I only know Plett for its beaches, but just for my love of beaches and 'birds', I would gladly spend 2-3 days in Plett.
After Plett you may want to look into Storms River mouth, but I've only been there twice many years ago. There is a friggin big tree there in case you're interested in seeing an 800 year-old Outeniqua Yellowwood. It is also a beautiful area for hiking similar to the Knysna forests.
Many year ago I used to go spear fishing in Oyster Bay, +/- 120Kms from Plett and only a couple of kilometers from Jeffrey's Bay (world famous surfing destination) and recently I developed a website for Oyster Bay Lodge. On my second visit to Oyster Bay Lodge I arrived a couple of hours too early, so I went for a walk on the beach and I was reminded of what a beautiful area this is. While walking next to the water, I had a seal following me for a long time in the waves just meters from me. Okay, I know a wild seal couldn't care less about some human walking on dry land, but we must have accidentally been moving at the same speed. The beach just stretches on for miles and miles. On the one side there are some rocks for fishing and spear fishing, but to the other side you just see kilometres of sandy beach. After my walk on the beach I went up to the lodge, but the owner had gone out, so I went for another walk in the bush on the lodge itself. I had only spent a couple of hours there, but the impression I get is that you can spend many hours of hiking and not get bored. Oyster Bay is very secluded and is ideal for people who really want to get away into nature. It is, however, only a couple of minutes drive from Jeffrey's bay, St Francis and Humansdorp if you're looking for shops or more people.
Your next move will depend on how much you like the outdoors compared to cities. Port Elizabeth is a fairly small city by most standards and it's around 80 Kms from Oyster Bay, so most places you'd want to visit in the area can be reached from both locations. Whichever way, make sure you visit the Addo Elephant park and Shamwari game reserve for a bit of a safari and the big five.
From Port Elizabeth, I would fly up to Jo'burg and head out of the country, or if your time/budget allows, jump on a plane to Durban and work your way up to Jo'burg.
As much as I loved Durban many years ago, I personally would not spend any more time there. Do your own research about Durban. Beautiful beaches, hot waters and hot weather almost all year long, but' I would rather go up north for some scuba diving in Sodwana. Enough on that, from Durban I would rent a car and travel up to Jo'burg, with a 3-5 day stop in the Drakensberg.
I spent a couple of days in the Drakensberg with a friend once and on the first morning I went for a walk before sunrise. When I got back to the camp a couple of hours later, my friend had woken up and was standing at the side of the tent and waved for me to be quiet. He was busy taking photographs of a couple of guinifowl and was amazed that we were so close to 'nature'. I was amazed that he would be impressed by something so small. During my first walk I had sat on the top of a little hill to watch the sunrise and had a deer walking around a couple of meters from me. I had also watched a falcon gracefully flying around between the hills, seen quite a few rabbits and 'dassies' (don't know their English name) and monkeys and I had had a swim in a natural pool below a fair-sized waterfall. If you like waterfalls and little mountain streams, the Drakensberg is a must!! The world's second highest waterfall can be found in the Drakensberg
The Drakensberg is about halfway between Johannesburg and Durban. Very roughly, it's about 350KMs in either direction.
This is just one possible trip if you're coming to visit South Africa. As I mentioned, there are many other beautiful and interesting places to visit in our country. If your main objective is a safari and seeing the big five, then look into the Kruger National Park and surrounding game reserves. If you want to go scuba diving there is absolutely NO choice, go to Sodwana bay.
About the Author
Dirk Wessels is a keen traveller and outdoor enthusiast and is also the web designer for Oyster Bay Lodge. You may freely use this article on condition that you keep an active link to http://www.oysterbaylodge.com