12 Days in South Africa
DO NOT MISS
Getting up and close with penguins at Boulders Beach, the Apartheid Museum, taking the scenic train down the peninsula of Cape Town.
Day 1: Arrive in Johannesburg, have dinner and sleepover with local couchsurfer, get the scoop on the city.
Day 2: Apartheid Museum.
You can spend between 2 hours to all day at this museum, depending on how in-depth you want to explore the museum. There is a wealth of information and videos to absorb.
Day 3: Bus to Cape town.
Day 4: Peruse The V & A Waterfront, drinks on long street.
Day 5: Peruse downtown, Bakoven beach
Bakoven was a secluded non-touristy local beach with views of the 12 apostles and patches of sand between rock formations. It’s a great get-away from the crowds. Do bring your own picnic as there aren’t any shops near the beach since it’s behind a residential neighborhood
Day 6: City Sightseeing Tour on the blue bus: Kirstenbosch Garden, Wine tasting in Groot Constantia, views of the peninsula and beaches.
Get up early as there are lots to see. You can really spend an entire day in Kirstenbosch if you want to! (bring a picnic basket!) The buses go in a one direction loop, so if you find yourself on the beach later in the day you will find yourself in a long line of people trying to head back. The bus stops at all the popular beaches so you can survey and get an idea of which ones you want to explore and hangout.
Day 7: Two Oceans Aquarium, The Craft Market,
As far as aquariums go, Two Oceans is not too shabby. Don’t miss the penguin feedings There are two enclosures, the indoor one you can get really up and close to the penguins.
Day 8: Penguin Colonies in Simon’s Town.
We took the train which only cost R25 round trip. Once you get there you can take a mini bus to Boulder Beach where the penguin colonies are. You can walk along the board walk for free and see penguins nesting along the way. To see the penguins on the beach you can pay R40 to get into the park or walk further south to where they are building a new path and you can walk along the ocean and watch penguins dive from the rocks.
Day 9: Camp’s Bay, sunset Lion’s Head hike
The ocean is still freezing but there are lots of good eats along Camp’s Bay. Most people opt to take the cable car up table mountain but with Lion’s Head you get a non-obstructed panoramic view of the bay. Sunset hikes are popular as well as sunrise hikes for the early birds. The last stretch of the hike is pretty steep and involve a little rock climbing so bring a headlamp if you are hiking in the dark.
Day 10: Eastern Food Bazzar, The Company Garden
Day 11: Sea Point, Gem Museum
The gem museum can be skipped, unless you are interested in purchasing some jewelry. The public pool at Sea Point was very crowded but it seems to be the only way to enjoy being in the water near the ocean without getting into the freezing atlantic.
Day 12: Head to Namibia
In Johannesburg we stayed at Diamond Diggers, who provided free airport pick up. It’s an affordable quaint place located in a quiet neighborhood. Try to get a room upstairs as the floors are creaky so it can get noisy downstairs. The self-service kitchen is nice but you have to pay a daily flat rate for internet.
South Africa also has a plethora of members on CouchSurfing, which we took advantage. Everyone we’ve met were incredible! We stayed with CouchSurfers in Capetown but knew people who stayed at The Cat and Moose which was located directly on Long Street, making the drunken trek back to the hostel much easier.
From Airport: There is a train that goes to Pretoria in the airport but it doesn’t go to downtown Johannesburg. You can hire a private taxi which will cost you about 200 Rand or walk a bit to the taxi rank for shared bus taxis – just ask airport employees for directions.
Around Johannesburg: The cheapest way to get around Jo-berg is the shared bus taxi (aka, taxi) To get to anywhere you almost always have to take one taxi into center Jo-berg and transfer to another taxi at a taxi rank. Just ask your host how to get to places or call your destination for directions. You can also ask people on the street for directions but be weary of those that are eager to take you there themselves as they usually will demand some tip (you can say no) for their “help”. If you take public transportation make sure you give yourself enough time and not be in downtown after 5 pm. Streets get sketchy after stores close shop, even if it’s still daylight.
To Cape Town: There is a lovely train that goes to Cape Town but either book in advance or go early in the morning on the day of your travel as tickets do sell out. It is the cheapest option. If you couldn’t get the train there are a few luxury bus companies (e.g. intercape). The ride is about 17 hours.
To Namibia: Book well in advance for cheaper fares. The most renown bus provider is Intercape. There is a cheaper company called Bailey but they do not have an office at the station and take reservation via phone only. For more options you can visit the Namibia Travel Bureau in Cape Town.
TRAVELING WITH LESS TIME…
- Skip Johannesburg completely and fly directly to Cape Town. There is much more to do there and ambiance of the city is calmer.
- While South African wine is formidable, skip the wine tasting unless you intent to purchase some wine. There are destinations more focus for wine tasting such as Napa Valley.
TRAVELING WITH MORE TIME…
- Spend a few more days near Johannesburg to visit the Cradle of Mankind and The Lion Park, as well as Kruger National Park. All of which would be easier with a private vehicle.
- In Cape Town, spend a few more days exploring Cape Point and the peninsula. There are a lot of nice beaches around Simon’s Town and the train takes you right by the ocean front.
- Attempt hiking Table Mountain.
- Visit an Ostrich Farm.
- Rent a car and do the coastal drive from Cape Town to Durban.