South African “High Five, Big Five & Sky Dive”
Thursday, November 3, 2016
After visiting a few countries in Europe, South East Asia & Middle East, I was looking for an opportunity to fly to a place with little difference. It all started late last year when my wife and me decided to travel to South Africa along with our close friend. It was time to update our travel dairy.
We started exploring the web trying to find the best season to travel, places of interest, culture, and what not. We read reviews on trip advisor, South African tourist guides & websites. We finally drew our line at Cape Town, Wilderness & Kruger National Park for 11 nights. We looked for self-catering 2-bedroom hotel apartments that helped us enjoy with extra freedom. Being vegetarian, we made sure to purchase foodstuffs at hypermarkets to avoid unnecessary worries. I wanted to go for a self-driven tour, as it is the best way to explore any place, its culture & tradition. We penned down at compact SUV with full insurance, which is highly recommended. It requires an International Driving License (must be in English) and credit card in the name of the driver. I love leisure travel and hence our tour was not hectic and was planned in such a way that we get sufficient time to enjoy & relax. South African Embassy issues Tourist Visa within 3 days that can be applied a month in advance and to our surprise it was free for Indian Passport holders due to treaty signed between the two Nations.
We started our journey from New Delhi Airport @ 4AM on 29th February 2016 by Etihad Airways to Johannesburg Airport via Abu Dhabi. We reached Johannesburg at 4 PM. The journey was not over yet as we had a connecting local flight to Cape Town Airport to start our self organized tour. We reached Cape Town at 9 PM. On arrival, we went to the Rental Car lounge. Using local GPS, we reached our self-catering Hotel Apartment “51 on the Forest Drive” around 10 PM. After comfortable but long journey, we retired for the day and crashed on bed.
1st March 2016 (Table Mountain and V&A Waterfront): The day started with a good buffet breakfast and we drove to famous Table Mountain. We took our tickets for cable car and reached the Top of the Mountain within 8-10 minutes. The cable car accommodates around 20 passengers & revolves 360 degrees that helps everyone to get full panoramic view. The mountain has some breath-taking viewpoints of Cape Town city on one side and Atlantic Ocean on the other. Variety of nature trails with different difficulty level may be opted. We did try some of those. It also houses few rare species of plants, flowers and reptiles. After completing our trail at the top in around 2 hours, we came back to lower station via cable car. We drove further through the bay drive and stopped for lunch at an Indian Restaurant “Raj” right at the busiest street. After having a delicious lunch, we drove to the much talked about V&A Waterfront, which is undoubtebly the most advanced high street shopping arena in the city. We spend whole evening at the area buying souvenirs and cherishing musical show at the waterfront square being performed by a local band. We reached our hotel and enjoyed preparing a homely dinner.
2nd March 2016 (Cape Point, Ostrich Farm, Penguin Island & Chapman’s Peak Drive): After breakfast, we started at 10 AM for a long drive to Cape Peninsula that is the southern most tip of Africa. It is restricted area with various checkpoints. We bought our tickets at drive through counters and drove past the scenic views. On arrival, we purchased tickets for Funicular Rail “The Flying Dutchman” to reach the lighthouse that takes around 7-8 minutes. It is one of oldest lighthouse of South Africa and offers amazing views from where one can actually see the meeting point of the Indian & Atlantic Oceans. Then we headed for the Cape Point, the southern most tip of Africa. It was difficult time to leave the place but we had to move ahead. On our way back, we had planned to visit an Ostrich Farm, which have regular knowledge tours of about 45 minutes. We further drove via Simon’s Town towards False Bay coast to reach Boulder’s beach, which is home to 3000 Jackass Penguins. The sun was setting down and it was time for us to drive past one of the best scenic route in the world “Chapman’s Peak Drive”. This toll drive was probably the high point of our tour, which is strongly recommended for any visitor. The route reminded me of the racetrack of famous game ‘Need for Speed’. After dinner at an Indian Restarant “Taj Mahal”, we reached our hotel and there was a moment of silence to cherish the beauty of nature.
3rd March 2016 (Cape Town - Wilderness): We started for a full day drive through majestic Garden Route No. 66 and NH-2 that connects Cape Town with Port Elizabeth. Our destination was Wilderness, which was approximately 550 kms. My friend and me drove in tandem and we shared our views on the beauty of nature, which are still in our backdrop. We reached our destination around 6 PM and checked in to self-catering apartment “Wilderness Lake View”, which had a lovely serpentine river and lake view.
4th March 2016 (Cango Caves & Kynsna): We started around 10 am towards Oudtshoorn to visit Cango Caves where we witnessed stalactite and stalagmite formations dating back to over 100,000 years, which I termed as Zoo of Imaginations. After the caves tour, we drove to Kynsna to reach there for lunch. The drive was very scenic with Atlantic Ocean playing hide and seek with lush green bushes in between. We relaxed at the backwaters of ocean at Knysna. Later in the afternoon, we drove back to our apartment and got busy in preparing a lavish dinner.
5th March 2016 (Sky Dive): It was day that we all had been eagerly waiting for… Skydive at Mossel Bay Diving Center. Since we were booked for dive at 1 pm but due to weather conditions, we were informed that dive would be delayed. My wife and me finally got our call for dive. We got our jump kit and had instruction from our tandem dive expert. The glider could accommodate only 2 tandem divers. One can opt for photo and special edited video of dive at an additional cost (highly recommended). It took us around 20 mins to reach an altitude of 10000 ft. The diving experts kept motivating and shooting regular video interview, which I must say was very professional. Being our first dive and had to be special, we had lots of fun and of course shouting. Finally, it was time to jump and it took 7-8 mins to come to ground with a free fall of roughly 30 seconds, a thrilling experience that will be remembered forever. We got appreciated with successful diving certificates and memories in the form of photos & videos copied in a flash drive. We relished our dinner at Indian Restaurant “Punjabi Tadka” and drove back to hotel.
6th March 2016 (Wilderness - Johannesburg): It was time to adios first leg of our trip. We had breakfast at Mc Donald’s on our way to George Airport for flight to Johannesburg. We returned the vehicle and checked-in. On arrival, we rented another compact SUV for second leg of our tour. Later in the evening, we visited Emperor’s Casino, one of the largest casinos in South Africa. No cover charge was the best part of this casino. One needs to buy credit on their own interest and play at various counters. Glittering interiors having hundreds of slot machines and card tables surprised us. We did try and luckily came out winners. We returned back to our apartment late night.
7th March 2016 (Johannesburg – Kruger National Park): We started our day a little early to drive 600 kms to Kruger National Park. After rigorous research, we booked accommodation inside the Park. We stayed one night at Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp and two nights at Satara Rest Camp. Each camp has dedicated tents, cottages, etc. and details of the probable sighting of wild animals. There is strict checkpoint at each entry gate and one must follow all rules. Upon arrival at reception, one needs to sign indemnity as per SAN Park rules for every activity. We booked our game drives online. Our activity was reserved for 2-hours night safari at 8 PM. We were excited and waiting to see few of the Big 5 .We did spot a group of lions, elephants, wild boar, giraffe, rhino, zebra apart from regular species of deer’s, monkey’s, impala’s, etc. It was a real fun drive. Our cottage had an outside open kitchen. It was quite a brave decision to cook, for which we all contributed and relished.
8th March 2016 (Crocodile Bridge Camp – Satara Camp): We started our journey inside the park towards Satara Rest Camp. Since we booked the cottage well in advance, we had the privilege to drive inside the park. It took us 6 hours for 90 kms, as we need to follow strict traffic rules. We spotted lions, leopard, wild buffaloes and wildebeest apart from the animals spotted last night. We booked for an evening game drive on the spot at the reception area. The guide took us in the core part of the national park and shared his experience. We were lucky to see a group of lions, lioness and cubs. It was a long exciting day. It started raining as we arrived at our camp. Soon, we retired for the day.
9th March 2016 (Satara Camp): Full day was in front of us for our own adventure. We had the privilege of driving on the main roads, which helped us enjoy even more. We did spot a kill that involved 4 cheetah’s killing an Impala. That just made our day. We spent long time witnessing the cheetah activities from 50 meters away. We were excited to enjoy yet another, night safari. Due to wet and cold night, the nocturnal animals were not seen but we had some great sights. Upon arrival to the cottage, we relaxed.
10th March 2016 (Kruger National Park – Johannesburg): It was the end of our majestic journey, which had lot of emotions and memories. We lived our moments and still cherish it. We had to drive back 600 kms towards Johannesburg Airport for our flight back to Kuwait. The NH-1 was just a perfect setting for 9-hour long drive as we enjoyed the rains with coffee breaks. At the airport, we returned back the vehicle and proceeded for check-in.
At last, I would just say that the best thing about memories is……Making them!!
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