My 12-Day Itinerary to Explore South Africa
Never did I ever think I would go on a safari before age 30.
Was it a bucket list item? Totally. But daydreams of a safari always started with the phrase “It would be so cool to…” without fully believing I’d check it off so early in life. I’ve been home from South Africa for about two weeks now, and it was such an incredible trip I still have to remind myself it happened.
For a little under two weeks, we saw all the animals, drank all the wine, and snapped all the photos. We drove up some of the most beautiful routes I could possible imagine, laid on more beaches than I can count, gorged on some of the best seafood I ever tasted, and celebrated the 29th birthday of my other half (hi Teddy!)
Flights, Planning, and Getting Around South Africa
Every time I saw a photo of South Africa, with the beaches, coastline, and wildlife, all I could think was, “I have to go there.” But if you’ve ever researched flights to South Africa from North America, you know they are extremely long and extremely expensive (running $1500+ a pop). The reason we decided to book the trip was because we found a $550 round-trip ticket—roughly one-third the cost of the average flight—through Scott’s Cheap Flights.
A Few Tips Before You Go (#1: Book the Safari First!)
#1: Book the safari first. Even though we bought our flights over half a year in advance, when we went to book our safari many of our top choices were already sold out. So first lesson learned: Book your safari first!
#2: Rent a car. We drove to so many beautiful, coastal towns in South Africa, and the drive was just as much a part of the experience as the end destination (tip: Get a data plan that allows you to use GPS). Some of our primary destinations (such as the safari and bungee jumping) were four hours apart, so we planned stops in adorable towns along the way. We loved this article on how to make the drive part of your trip.
#3: Pack resistance bands. With the exception of the one, lone gym I paid a drop-in fee for, all my workouts were done outside our Airbnbs. My boyfriend and I were able to keep up with our workouts by following the TL Method, using just resistance bands and our own bodyweight.
My 12-Day Itinerary to South Africa
Our first stop on the trip was the safari. For four days and three nights, we stayed at an all-inclusive resort called Botlierskop. Our “room” was actually an executive tent, which is a fancy way of telling you we were glamping. Our accommodations were gorgeous, but the food was subpar, as sometimes happens with all-inclusive stays.
I absolutely love animals, and I was so excited for this portion of our trip. We had an incredible tour guide named Jade, who told us everything we needed to know (did you know lions can wait 2-3 weeks between meals?! I can barely wait three hours.) A few pro tips here, all of which have to do with clothing: Wear a sports bra (it’s a bumpy ride), bring a warm jacket, and while jumpers may be cute in appearance, they are not in practicality—particularly when you have to pee behind a bush.
Mossel Bay and Knysna
After the safari we packed up the car and drove to a couple coastal towns, enjoying the scenic roads and exploring the beaches. Our first stop was Mossel Bay, where we booked an Airbnb right next to a coffee shop called Coffee at Work. [Pro tip: whenever my boyfriend and I book Airbnb’s, we always try to be in walking distance to cafes and restaurants.] We both squeezed some work in and I checked in with my members from the TL Method, who were crushing it while I was away.
What we ate: Cafe Gannet
What we drank: Coffee at Work
Saturday was shark cage diving. Now, on paper, shark diving sounded like my favorite thing the world: It came with a free breakfast, so food + animals = happy Tara. In reality, the conditions left much to be desired. The wind and current was insane, causing the sharks to go into hiding and me to be the most seasick I’ve ever been in my life. I don’t know how I didn’t throw up. In the afternoon, we stopped at Herold’s Bay Beach on our drive to Knysna.
What we ate: Carola Ann and Freshline Fisheries. Carola Ann was my favorite meal of the trip. It was incredibly fresh, amazing food, that’s won the best excellence award on TripAdvisor for many years running.
Where we stayed: Airbnb in Knysna
Bungee jumping has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. When I found out the tallest bungee jump in the world is in South Africa, I just had to go. If you want to see me jump off Bloukrans Bridge, check out this video.
On Monday we drove to Cape Town, after we made a return trip to Carola Ann’s for one last breakfast stop. We made our drive part of the experience, stopping in Stellenbam for lunch and drinks at Ronnie’s Sex Shop, a quirky bar in the middle of the bush.
Where we ate: Fork for tapas (SO good)
What we drank: Ronnie’s Sex Shop
Where we stayed: Airbnb in Cape Town
We explored the Bo Kaap neighborhood, which is known as one of the most Instagrammable places in the country. Almost every building is painted bright, exotic colors, giving us plenty of photo opps. That evening, we explored the Winchester Mansions for drinks and to watch the sunset.
Wednesday was all about scenic drives and beautiful beaches—hitting four different beaches in a single day. We started our day exploring Peninsula Drive, stopping for a coffee, then driving up Signal Hill. We stopped in Muizenberg, one of the most popular surfing destinations in all of South Africa. In the afternoon we went to St. James Beach and Kalk Bay and saw seals (sorry guys, I’m going to tell you about every.single.animal I saw for the duration of this trip). We finished our night off at Boulders Beach (to see penguins!) and Cape Point, choosing to stay by the water for dinner.
Friday was the last day of our trip. We hiked up Table Mountain, which takes about 2.5 hours. Usually there’s a cable car that can take you up the mountainside in just ten minutes, but it was closed due to wind. We did some last minute shopping at Old Biscuit Mill Market, and laid on the beach one last time at Camps Bay before returning home to snowy Colorado.
Resources You Have to Use to Plan Your South Africa Trip
Once, I booked a flight to Hawaii on less than two weeks notice. This was not that trip. We planned half a year for this trip, making it an incredible experience. I cannot tell you enough how important planning was, and how it allowed us to squeeze in so many moments.
I have to give a shout-out to Kiersten of The Blonde Abroad (who we interviewed on the A-Cup Podcast!), who was an invaluable resource in planning our trip. While Kiersten has traveled to over 70 countries in her lifetime, she splits her home base between Cape Town and California. If you read nothing else, be sure to check out the following articles:
And have fun planning your trip!