One week in South Africa: my travel itinerary
One week in South Africa. Here I am back from one of the best trips of my life. A trip that took me far away, eight thousand kilometers south of Italy. In a place where nature reveal its beauty with a truly incredible power. This place is called South Africa, and I visited Cape Town and Kruger National Park. Here is my complete travel itinerary, in which I included some tips on how and when to organize it!
One week in South Africa: what to do and where to stay
Many people on Instagram asked me how to plan a trip to South Africa. I did it all by myself. For the flight tickets I used, as I always do, a very famous website called SkyScanner, a flight comparator that allows you to identify the most convenient solutions possible in terms of costs or time. So I opted for the flight departing at 10 pm from Milan Malpensa and arriving at 1 pm the next day in Cape Town. A 15 hours travel with a lay-over of a couple of hours in Addis Ababa right in the middle of it. Here’s everything about my week in South Africa, which I divided into 2 nights in Cape Town and 4 nights at Kruger National Park!
In Cape Town I stayed at The Silo Hotel, a design hotel located in the same building that houses the MOCAA, the Zeitz Museum Of Contemporary Art Africa. The upper part, the old silo, has been renovated to turn it into a luxury hotel containing some interesting works, which tell a lot about contemporary African art. But since I arrived there I was captivated by the huge windows and the light that enters through them.
My suite was split over two floors: in the lower one there was the living area with the living room and the terrace, with a view that embraced the Table Mountain and the whole bay below. The upper one housed the sleeping area and the huge bathroom with shower and tub, but we were suggested not to use it because of the problem of water shortage.
One of the most beautiful moments at The Silo was that of breakfast. Fresh fruit, all types of croissants, homemade muesli, yogurt and my favorite smoothie (orange, carrot, lemon and ginger), made just for me!
There are many things to do and see in Cape Town: the one I did not want to miss was Boulders Beach, the beach where you can admire penguins in their natural environment. And where you can even swim with them. A marvelous beach, protected by wooden footbridges so as not to make it overcrowded with tourists and by guards who check that nobody bothered them.
After the morning at the beach the program was to climb the Table Mountain, the mountain from which you can see the entire city from above. Unfortunately due to a very strong wind the top had been closed and so I could not get there. It was too dangerous. I was told that there are no adequate protective barriers. Often such accidents happen when you are traveling, but you do not have to ruin your day: go immediately to your next destination! And the one on my list was Bo-Kaap, one of the most photographed neighborhoods in the city. Walking through the cobbled streets and admiring the beautiful colonial style houses, each painted in one of the most vibrant color of the rainbow, was a fascinating experience (which reminded me of my trip to Cuba)!
In April in Cape Town the sun sets early, around 6:30 pm. Of the 3 days that we had available, we actually had only one day really full after the arrival, because the last one at 11 am we had to take a new flight of about an hour and a half. To Hoedspruit.
Below the sunset you can see from the rooftop pool at The Silo, which also houses a spa.
Kruger National Park
Reaching Hoedspruit airport, the most convenient to Kruger National Park, is possible both from Cape Town and from the nearest Johannesburg (from which I would have taken the flight back to Italy). Once I landed, I reached the first of the two resorts I would have stayed in. It’s called Royal Malewane and, like The Silo, it belongs to a South African luxury resort hotel collection, The Royal Portfolio. Here, as well as in Cape Town, they really pampered me: on my arrival I found for lunch a personalized menu based on my intolerances and food allergies (which I was asked at the confirm the reservation). The food at the Royal Malewane was really exquisite and cared for. All three main meals are included in the room rate, along with drinks and along with two “game drives” or “private safari” par day, or excursions on board an open jeep led by a ranger and an explorer (he takes care of spotting the animals and their footprints and sits in the front of the jeep, on a special chair, explaining step by step the animals that are in the “bush”, or in the savanna).
The room was really amazing, one of the prettiest I’ve ever been. There was a huge four-poster bed, with a welcome present for the safari (a flask and a bonnet). Then a lovely living room, the bathroom, also in colonial style, and a beautiful terrace with deckchairs and a private swimming pool. More than a room, it was a villa in the heart of the savanna. Without barriers. The animals could easily reach it, in fact the staff of the Royal Malewane was recommended several times on our arrival not to go out alone after sunset, not even to get to the restaurant: we should have called the reception that would have immediately sent their employee to guide us.
In the afternoon of my arrival at the Royal Malewane I made the first safari of my life. And the first animals I saw, really close, were in order: buffaloes, elephants, impalas and cheetahs! It’s amazing how close and peaceful the animals are: I melted when a baby elephant approached our jeep. But I leave you to the images, they speak for themselves!
Life at Royal Malewane starts early in the morning. The alarm rings at 5 am because the first game drive starts just before dawn (and lasts from 6 am to 9 am), while the second is from 4 pm to 7 pm, right after sunset. During the morning a small breakfast of hot tea and biscuits is offered right in the middle of the bush. During the afternoon there is an aperitif!
At the Royal Malewane they have just inaugurated the new Bush Bar, a dinner restaurant. In addition to serving exceptional food in a cozy and romantic atmosphere, it allows you to attend a musical and dancing show offered by the village choir, which involves all the guests: did you see me dancing with them on Instagram Stories?
The safari at the Royal Malewane can be done not only on board the jeeps, but directly on the private terrace of your room. Upon my arrival I had been warned that animals could come to drink at our pool (strictly of water at room temperature and without chlorine). But it never happened, until the last morning. I was starting to pack, when I look out the window and see an elephant drinking from my pool. Immediately after reached by one, two, three friends. It was a huge emotion, difficult to put into words. I had tears in my eyes from joy.
I spent the last 2 nights in South Africa at Kapama Karula. Another lodge in the middle of the Kruger, located about 40 minutes by car from the Royal Malewane, on the bank of the river Klaserie. This is also a five-star resort, finely furnished in a modern style and equipped with every comfort. Meals and drinks are included in the room rate. My room was giant: a bedroom, a walk-in closet, a bathroom with tub and shower, a cozy living area and a huge terrace with a private pool of heated water! Also here the rate includes two game drives par day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, of 3-4 hours each. Here the wildlife was slightly different from the previous resort, because of its proximity to the river.
Since my arrival at Kapama Karula, monkeys have appeared on the terrace of my room. Impossible to have breakfast outdoors because I was literally assaulted by these nice thieves (which you see below with their loot of bread)!
During the morning safari a small breakfast was offered, set up on a table along the river.
On the first day at Kapama Karula, in addition to the afternoon safari, I also went on a night safari and I finally managed to see leopards and lions for the first time!
Before this trip I did not know that the lion was the king of the forest, but also of the night. He can sleep up to 20 hours a day and the night-time is his favorite time to stay awake, as well as the easier time to find and observe him closely.
Among the animals that you can see during a safari in Kruger there are those called the big 5: elephants, leopards, rhinos, buffaloes and lions… Yes, I managed to see some lions awake with the light of day! Then cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, chameleons, hippos (seen only in the river, it is difficult to see them out of the water), monkeys, impalas (a kind of fawns), pumas and mongooses. The first days I struggled a lot to see the animals. The rangers literally chased after them, following in their footsteps and listening to their sounds. Overall I can say I was really lucky to see all this variety and so many babies!
Safari, basically, is not dangerous. I was not scared to see the animals so close to the jeep, as they were not scared to see it and see us. This is because the rangers explained that they perceive the car as a large animal from which they have never been attacked, so they respect it and do not approach it. They pretty much ignore it. They perceive it as a unique entity, which is why it is important to never get up when you are on board and close to them. The jeep was only a few meters away, so that they can be seen well with the naked eye. It is however equipped with some telescopes, to see even better the animals. As anticipated above, each jeep is driven a ranger and an explorer.
Photographing animals during a safari is not as simple as it may seem. They are unpredictable: they stay still for a long time, but then when they decide to move, they do it very quickly. It is not always easy to find an interesting pose, because maybe the animal is on the back, or is covered by shrubs.
I recommend always applying sunscreen and anti-mosquitoes before going out. Malaria is still unfortunately present in Africa, for which there is prophylaxis. I did not want to do it because, having booked the trip very late, I wanted to avoid having disorders that it can cause. Also, as I was staying i South Africa only for a week, I knew that I would be back in Italy in time to do the treatment it in case I had contracted it.
The time zone in South Africa is the same as Italy and this helps a lot, above all because there is no jet lag when you come back home.
As for food and drink, you will read on all the guides that you have to pay attention to raw foods and prefer cooked ones. I’ve always eaten everything from fruit to vegetables and smoothies and I’ve never had any problems. In the safari lodges I had a bottle of water to wash my teeth in the bathroom. The first day I had not noticed it, I washed them with tap water and nothing happened.
I recommend traveling with a health insurance. I do it yearly because I travel often and all over the world, so I need total coverage. But it is possible to stipulate one exclusively for the trip to South Africa.
Many people have asked me what the best time to visit South Africa is. Here the seasons are reversed compared to Italy, so now it’s fall. Nevertheless the temperatures were nice, around 20/25°C. In Cape Town there was the problem of strong wind, but it was a hot wind. The optimal period, however, is from October to April. The least recommended months are June, July and August, the coldest ones, but actually for the safari they are better because the bush is not so green, there are no leaves, so there is more chance to see the animals.
How much is a week in South Africa? It’s an economically challenging trip, starting from flights to overnight stays. You have to pay at least two thousand euros par night if your goal is to stay inside the Kruger and do private safaris, which I think are one of the most incredible experiences that can happen in life. Seeing the elephants drinking from the pool in my room was the absolute thrill of the whole trip!
As always I hope that you will find these tips useful and that my photos made you dream, even for a moment.
Happy Thursday to all of you!