Highlights from 2 Weeks in South Africa

Boulders Beach in South Africa
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For the past five weeks, I've been traveling around Southern Africa. I climbed sand dunes in Namibia, saw the Big 5 in Kruger, flew high over Victoria Falls, and traveled more than 1,000 miles overland.

And then I got home and became absolutely overwhelmed by it all. After having so many amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I was at a loss as to where to begin writing about them all.

So, to quote one of my favorite movies of all time, “Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

My adventure in Africa began in South Africa, a country that I've been desperate to visit for years. All told, I spent two weeks in South Africa, most of the time on a Style Hi Club tour with my dad. It was a luxurious, decadent way to see South Africa – not necessarily my usual travel style, but I have to say that this is absolutely the way you should see South Africa if you can afford it.

With two weeks in the country, we saw and did a lot. But here are my top five highlights:

1. Adventure and relaxation in Gansbaai

We started out slow in the tiny coastal town of Gansbaai. This town is most famous for being close to Dyer Island, where lots of great white sharks can be found. But, thanks so some bad weather, we didn't get to go cage diving with the toothy giants until our very last morning in Gansbaai. Before that, we spent our time riding ATVs through vineyards, going to the southernmost point of Africa (Cape Agulhas), stuffing our faces with seafood, and watching some incredible sunsets.

Hermanus, South Africa

The city of Hermanus from above

At Cape Agulhas, Africa

At the southernmost point of Africa at Cape Agulhas

Seafood in South Africa

The cheapest seafood platter I've ever ordered (about $10)

Sunset in Gansbaai, South Africa

Sunset in Gansbaai

The shark diving was the highlight of this part of the trip (post coming soon!), but I also appreciated the slow pace of life in Gansbaai – it was the perfect introduction to South Africa. (Oh, and The Roundhouse was probably my favorite place I stayed in SA!)

RELATED: Should You Go Cage Diving with Great White Sharks?

Cage diving with great white sharks in Gansbaai

SHARK!!!

2. Discovering Cape Town

From Gansbaai, we moved on to Cape Town. There, we explored the city in just about every way possible: On foot, in WWII-era sidecars, and by helicopter. We wandered around the V&A Waterfront, visited the colorful Bo Kaap neighborhood, and squealed over the adorable penguins at Boulders Beach. We even took a short trip to the Cape of Good Hope.

Sidecars in Cape Town, South Africa

Sidecars in Cape Town

Cape Town from above

Helicopter ride

Bo-Kaap neighborhood in Cape Town

Bo-Kaap

Penguins at Boulders Beach

Penguins at Boulders Beach

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Cape of Good Hope

The weather wasn't the greatest, though, and so it wasn't until I was back in Cape Town on my own after my Style Hi Club trip that I was able to see (and visit) Table Mountain, and go to Camps Bay for sunset. I was very thankful for that one day of sun!

View from Table Mountain in Cape Town

View from Table Mountain

Sunset at Camps Bay

Sunset at Camps Bay

RELATED: 72 Hours in Cape Town

3. Sipping wine in Stellenbosch

South Africa is known for its delicious wines, with its most famous wine region being Stellenbosch. We spent an afternoon in wine country, tasting wines on a vineyard “safari” at Waterford Estate. I'm not really much of a wine drinker, but this was still a highlight for me. Waterford Estate is STUNNING, and it was a pleasure to sip wines there in the middle of the fall-colored vines.

If you're planning your trip to South Africa and looking for accommodation in Hermanus, Stellenbosch or Cape Town, I'd recommend taking a look at AccommoDirect.com – they focus almost solely on accommodation in Southern Africa.

4. Riding the Blue Train

Thanks to a strong US dollar and a struggling South African rand, our group got to ride the famous Blue Train from Cape Town to Pretoria. This luxury train, with its polished-wood interior and fancy lounge cars, is a throwback to the heyday of train travel. I was impressed by the efficiency of the tiny rooms, the service, the food, and how lovely it was to just relax for a day and a half and watch the countryside slip by outside the window.

Blue Train in South Africa

The Blue Train

The cabin my dad and I shared

Blue Train dining car

The dining car

Food on the Blue Train

5. Going on safari in Kruger

Lastly, the absolute highlight of my time in South Africa was going on safari in Kruger National Park. We stayed at the Jock Safari Lodge, which is a private concession within Kruger that I did not ever want to leave. We saw the Big 5 on our very first game drive, and went on to see things like lions mating, baby elephants charging our truck, wild dogs facing off with hyenas, and much, much more.

Jock Safari Lodge in Kruger National Park

Our outdoor space at the Jock Safari Lodge

Mama and baby white rhino in Kruger

White rhinos

Leopard in Kruger National Park

Female leopard at night

If “going on safari” is not on your bucket list, add it. Right now.

RELATED: A Big 5 Safari in Kruger National Park

Weeks later, I'm still daydreaming about Jock and this experience. It was simply incredible and something I know I will never forget. I'm so glad I got to share it with my dad!

Wild dogs vs. hyenas in Kruger

Wild dogs vs. hyenas

I'll be writing more about most of these experiences individually in the coming weeks, but for now, enjoy the photos!

Which part of my South Africa trip would you like to read more about?

 

2 weeks in South Africa

 

63 Comments

  • Christin says:

    Your photography has gotten a 10000 better! Congratulations! Great pics, great adventure, and what a story/memory/lifetime conversation that you will always have with your Dad 🙂

  • Alison says:

    Wow! All of these experiences sound incredible. Your photographs do a great job of capturing all the fantastic adventures you had with your father. I have spent a lot of time on safari and never seen wild dogs. What a lucky sighting! Looking forward to reading more about your trip!

  • Ana says:

    South Africa is amazing! Wish we could have ridden the Blue Train.
    Love your pictures! We made the huge mistake of buying a used camera very last minute and not testing it fully. In addition to the other big mistake of not taking our old trusty camera as a backup. So we have wonderful memories but no good pictures!

  • Brooklyn says:

    I can’t wait to read more. South Africa has long been at the top of my travel list, so I can’t wait to read every last detail!

  • Liz says:

    Would love to hear more about the Blue Train! Travelling by train is my favourite form of travel but I’ve only ever really done that in Europe. Had no idea they had such a nice train in South Africa.

    • Amanda says:

      Normally the Blue Train is sooooo expensive. But thanks to the rand being pretty weak right now, it was actually a pretty good deal, so it was included in our tour! It was a very cool experience, and it was fun to dress up for a fancy dinner!

  • oh wow! you’ve had an amazing time!
    Tanja (the Red phone box travels) recently posted..Wandering around London in 72 hours (part II)

  • jess says:

    I am dying to go on Safari and it looks like you got super lucky with all the wildlife you got to see! Your photos are beautiful

    • Amanda says:

      We got SO lucky with all our animal sightings. It seemed like every time we went out on a game drive, we saw something that our ranger was like, “You don’t see this very often!”

  • Our Wanders says:

    It all sounds so-so much fun! We’ve never been to Africa yet and can’t wait to read more of your stories! Especially about the safari… 🙂
    Our Wanders recently posted..How We’ve Fallen In Love With Lucerne

  • Amanda, this looks like the trip of the lifetime! My boyfriend and I have talked about travelling to South Africa one day – after I show him these pictures, especially after him seeing the one of the Great White, I think he will be pushing for this trip much sooner in our lives haha beautiful pictures!
    Amanda | Lesson Plans & Layovers recently posted..What’s In My Bag: England

  • Philip Bell says:

    Wow looks an amazing trip, can’t wait to read more about it.

  • <3 !!!!! This just helped by dilemma about South Africa vs. Tanzania for a safari trip with my mom. Kruger National Park and the Jack Lodge looks incredible! The other highlights you featured here about South Africa are also amazing. Can't wait to start planning! Really looking forward to hearing more. 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      Kruger was AMAZING, and the Jock Safari Lodge is somewhere I would absolutely return to. I haven’t been to Tanzania myself so I really can’t compare it to South Africa. BUT, I really really loved South Africa. 🙂

  • The Lion King traumatised me. I can’t stand the sight of hyenas, haha!

  • Dominique says:

    Yayy! The Southern Africa posts are starting 🙂 I’ve really been looking forward to this as I’m considering a trip there myself next year! Bring on the pretty pictures and awesome stories!

    I’ve been to South Africa before, and I’m so impressed with it. We visited many of the same places – which means my favourites are quite similar to yours. I went on a safari in Kragga Kamma Game Park and Addo Elephant Park, which, judging by your pictures, is not nearly as exciting as Kruger. It seems I have to make my way east one day!
    Dominique recently posted..Warsaw – A Two Day Itinerary

    • Amanda says:

      Yes, the Africa posts are starting! 🙂 Kruger blew my expectations out of the water! It was probably my favorite park in Southern Africa (though Chobe was a very close second).

  • carrie says:

    I cannot wait to hear about the shark diving! that picture is incredible!! Looking forward to all the recaps! 🙂

  • Larry Lootsteen says:

    Great post! We were in South Africa in January. We had some similar adventures but lots of differences as well. Here’s my post if interested https://larrylootsteen.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/three-weeks-in-south-africa/

    The train ride intrigues me. What a great way to see the country! Would love to do that (once we win the lottery of course!).

    Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing your trip with everyone!

    • Amanda says:

      Funnily enough, the landscape between Cape Town Pretoria was much less exciting than I was expecting! Some winelands, and then a whole lot of absolutely nothing! But the train ride was great – definitely a must if you can do it!

      Glad to hear you had a great trip to South Africa, too!

  • Ella says:

    Yes!! Your posts on Southern Africa have begun! I’m excited to read more and I’m so glad that you had a great time 🙂 And those baby elephants are adorable.
    Ella recently posted..Photo Essay: Tel Aviv’s LGBT Pride Parade

  • Stop making me wanna visit South Africa, Amanda! I’m scared of flying and it’s a beast of a flight to Cape Town, haha.

    Those photos are incredible! I would love to ride the Blue Train so much! Trains are my jam. And the picture of the shark is so cool. I’ve always wanted to see a Great White.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Rachel Elizabeth recently posted..My Greatest Travel Fear

  • Danny says:

    Your photos are absolutely stunning!

    It doesn’t look like it was too cold in South Africa, given that it’s currently winter there.

    • Amanda says:

      Thank you, Danny! And no, it wasn’t too cold at all! The evenings sometimes got a bit chilly, but “winter” in Southern Africa is definitely a lot different than winter in Ohio!

  • Zach says:

    Cage diving, Cape Town and an African safari have been on my bucket list for forever! Hope I’ll be able to do what you’re doing someday!

  • Lauren says:

    Looks like the trip of a lifetime! Few questions-

    Did anything shock you?

    If you had one area to recommend for a two-week trip, where would it be?

    I’ve never even thought about how great the seafood must be in South Africa!
    Lauren recently posted..How to be a Good Travel ‘Grammer

    • Amanda says:

      It was tough to see the townships just outside of Cape Town, especially when I was on this super luxurious trip. Knowing that many people live there with absolutely nothing was sad, and made me very thankful for what I have at home.

      The one area I’d recommend would definitely be Kruger! The safari was amazing.

      And yes, the seafood (especially in Gansbaai and Cape Town) was amazing!!

  • Love this post! Your photos bring me back to our happy 2 weeks in South Africa this past September for our honeymoon! The Big 5 in Kruger was one of the best experiences of my life – my only regret is that we didn’t stay longer. I love the Blue Train – I’m dying to try any of form of old train travel and this looks fantastic! Table Mountain was foggy every day we went up so I think that is reason alone to return to South Africa!
    Bridget @ A Traveling B recently posted..Ireland in Video

    • Amanda says:

      I was in Cape Town for 4 days, and we could only see Table Mountain on one of them! Definitely a reason to go back. 🙂

      The Big 5 in Kruger was the highlight for me, too. I could have stayed at that lodge forever!

  • I can’t wait for all the details, especially the shark diving!

  • Fantastic photographs Amanda!

    I would love to read more about the train journey as I’ve heard so much about the Blue Train lol!
    Victoria@ The British Berliner recently posted..Astonishing news! I’m going to the Philippines and I’m organising a Summer European Challenge Campaign. By train!

    • Amanda says:

      I spent so much time relaxing and just enjoying my time on the Blue Train that I hardly took any photos! So I’m not sure if I’ll do a separate post. BUT, it was definitely a cool experience, especially if you love trains.

  • Awesome post! Lovely pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  • Chavon says:

    Hi Amanda, what travel agency did you use to book your accommodations?

    Thanks!
    Chavon

  • Tania says:

    What crazy timing this is! I came across your blog post by way of Pinterest. I have done absolutely no searches for safariing on Pinterest but there you were. 🙂 My boyfriend and I will be on our way to Joburg, Kruger and Mauritius in 3 days! We’ll be staying for 2 wks. So it was super awesome to read about your safari. We’ll be staying at the Phelwana Game Lodge. Hopefully our experience will be as equally awesome as yours. Your pics are truly awesome and gave me such a rush for the things we might see.

    • Amanda says:

      I hope you have just as amazing a time, Tania! Kruger is quite a special place.

      • Tania says:

        Hi Amanda! It was truly amazing. We didn’t come upon any wild dogs 🙂 (I told our guide about you ’cause they want to see wild dogs so bad out there) but we did see two leopards. Our guide was so pumped since she hadn’t seen one let alone 2 in months. It was truly special and we got to see all 5 of the Big 5. Our lodge was really nice as well. All around, it was such a great experience. Lots of people agreed that we should have visited Cape Town. So that just means some time in our future my boyfriend and I need to go back to Africa. 😀 I hope if we do, we do the same tour you did. It looked super fun.

  • Willa says:

    Thank you for visiting my Country and I really hope each and every one will come and visit South Africa soon.

  • Abby says:

    Wonderful post – so many great travel ideas! What time of year did you visit? My husband and I are trying to plan a similar trip and had thought of going over Christmas/New Year, but have heard maybe we should put it off til September when game viewing is better. Were you there in the wet or dry season – it looks like you had plenty to see!

    • Amanda says:

      We were there in May, which is late autumn. Technically wet season in Cape Town (I think), and the start of the dry season in places like Kruger. I thought it was a great time to visit!

      • Jackie Albasini says:

        Amanda, September/October is the best time to go, especially if you are going to be going to Kruger National Park. It is spring and the grass is still low after the dry winter, so the game viewing is wonderful. Also in October/November the park comes alive with all the babies being born. December is hotter than hot (mid-summer)in KNP – it is really scorching hot and not pleasant at all. December in Cape Town is fine, but still hot.

  • NTripping says:

    Wow, Amanda, your South African photos are stunning!

    For me, a great surprise was the South African food. Despite the large amount of meat and deep-fried dishes we devoured, nothing felt heavy in the stomach.

    Cheers,
    N.
    NTripping recently posted..25 Of The Most Scrumptious South African Food Classics

    • Amanda says:

      YES! My dad and I felt the same in South Africa – we were blown away by the food. My dad is prone to stomach issues, and had absolutely zero our entire trip!

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