Recently, I was extremely lucky & was able to visit South Africa over the Holidays with my family. We spent 16 days traveling & exploring the beauty South Africa had to offer.
We left Canada & flew to London, where we had an 8 hour layover (rookie mistake). We spent a few hours exploring Windsor Castle, it was extremely beautiful & who would have thought that the Royal Family actually visits & stays there from time to time! It was my first time in London, so this short but sweet visit has inspired me to visit England in the future!
From London we flew to Johannesburg, this 11 hour flight was extremely tough. Sleep was minimal & economy was extremely uncomfortable squished between my two passed out brothers. From Johannesburg we flew to Chobes, Botswanna where we spent 4 days & 3 nights, exploring both the rivers & land safaris. Here we stayed at Chobes Africa Safari Lodge, I had an extremely beautiful single room with a massive bed & view of animals. On the first day we did a boat cruise from the lodge, here we saw elephants, crocodiles, buffalo, water bucks, etc. On the second day after finally sleeping in a bed after two days of travelling, we did a morning cruise through Chobes National Park (our first official Safari!!). Here we saw elephants, zebras, giraffes, baboons, & many other animals, we also saw a dead elephants carcass, nothing would ever compare to the smell of dead elephant, it is something I will never forget! After our safari, we did another boat tour, this time through the rain… as you can imagine it was cold, wet & uncomfortable. After we washed up, we had a little Christmas dinner, finally celebrating after spending the holidays travelling on planes. On our third day, we did another Safari cruise through Chobes National Park, within minutes we saw our first lioness. She was absolutely beautiful & on the hunt for food! Again we saw elephants, zebra, giraffe, baboons, monkeys, kudu, impala, & the list goes on!
From Chobes, we drove to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Here we spent time exploring & visiting some natural wonders of the world. We were lucky enough to stay at the historic Victoria Falls Hotel, deemed one of the oldest Hotels in Africa, The Victoria Falls Hotel serves is a reminder of the distinguished and elegant era to which it was born and has earned its status as the epitome of grand luxury travel. Oh & the Queen stayed here when she visited Zimbabwe while she was still a princess. Here we finally had a little free time after arriving & finally spent some time relaxing by the pool. We ended up visiting a local brewery that evening called 3 Monkeys, you definitely need to stop there if you are in Zimbabwe! The next day, we woke up nice & early to pack a lot of activities in for our one day in Victoria Falls. From the Victoria Falls Hotel, we walked roughly 10 minutes to see one of the Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls. Pictures do not do justice, it was absolutely breath-taking & beautiful. From here we did a helicopter tour that took us over the falls (my brother used my GoPro & got some amazing footage!), it was absolutely marvellous seeing the falls from above. After completing our helicopter tour, we headed over to ‘The Lookout’ & did some zip-lining through the gorge.
After cleaning up a little, we took a little fieldtrip about 15kms outside of town to this little village where we were able to see what 55% of the population lives like in Africa. We were able to take a tour of the property, talked to the family about what they do to support their family & were able to play with the children as well. I instantly fell in love with these children, they were so cute & when we brought them some balls to play with it was so heartwarming to throw the ball around & see how happy they were. My boys Sam & Fredrick absolutely stole my heart & will not be forgotten!
Post-Village visit, we went to dinner at the hotel, where we enjoyed a show that involved dancing as a way to tell ancient african stories, It was quite cool to be exposed to cultural storytelling! Though it was a quick visit to Victoria Falls, it was the perfect amount of time to visit all that we wanted to see.
After travelling for almost 11 hours, driving from Victoria Falls to Kesane, Botwanna to catching flights from Botswanna back to Johanessburg & flying from there to Cape Town, it was a tough day! I was extremely sick on top of having to spend the day travelling & could not think of any worse way to travel. I just wanted to be all cozy, sleeping in a bed, instead of running through airports.
Cape Town was next on our travel itinerary, here we spent 3 days drinking great wine, visiting beautiful locations, & getting over feeling sick! We stayed at the Vineyard Hotel, which had an amazing gym, working Wifi & an absolutely beautiful courtyard!
After our long & dreadful travel day, the next day was rainy as anything which is apparently unheard of in December. We visited the Waterfront quickly, where we looked around the mall for a short 20 minutes before we drove to Stellenbosch. Hello Wine Country! In Stellenbosch, we visited Neethlingshof Winery & did a wine tasting of some lovely wines. Now I am usually always down for wine, but after being sick the day before the last thing I wanted was to do a wine tasting, I couldn’t believe it but I was turning wine down for the first time ever (okay not completely, I still had a sip of each)! After visiting wine country we headed back to get ready for New Years, but as you probably guessed already I spent New Years in my bed, and it was great! On January 1st, we again had a jam packed day! We drove down to the Cape of Good Hope, stopping along the way at Lions Head, here we saw Cape Town from above and boy was it spectacular. We were also lucky enough to stop & put our feet in the Atlantic Ocean along the way, I never realized just how cold the Atlantic Ocean really was! Once we got to the Cape of Good Hope, we climbed to the top, we climbed to up towards the lighthouse and were able to see the spectacular view of the cape, where both the Indian & the Atlantic Ocean meet! I couldn’t in my wildest dreams picture something so surreal. From the Cape of Good Hope, we drove along the coast to Boulders Beach where we saw the South African penguins, they are so small & adorable, but by all means fiesty (one pecked right at my phone while I was trying to get close to take a picture, leaving a mark on the case!). It was a sight seeing so many South African Penguins in one place & on a beach of all places. Here we were also able to put our feet in the Indian Ocean, who could say they put their feet in both the Atlantic Ocean & the Indian Ocean in one day, within a matter of 3 hours! It was quite the way to spend our time in Cape Town! There is so much more to experience, Cape Town itself is definitely one trip!
After catching another flight (have you lost count yet? I did too, don’t worry) from Capetown to Kruger, we had another two hours in the car before we made it to Sabi Sands in Kruger National Park for the next couple days. Sabi Sands was by far my favourite place that we visited while exploring South Africa, it was safari heaven. Here we stayed at Idube Game Reserve, I highly recommend it! Here we did two safaris a day, one at 5:30 am for an early morning game drive & again at 4:30 pm for an evening game drive, with free time in the afternoons which we spent napping, relaxing or in my case tanning/swimming (might as well take advantage of the beautiful weather, while I could). Here we were lucky enough to see all kinds the animals!! We came across: leopards, elephants, impala, kudu, baboons, monkeys, tortoises, white rhino, lions (saw a pack of 19!), and hyena. It was so magical seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitats, I could not have asked for anything more special.
From Sabi Sands we drove to Tjakastad where we spent the remainder of our trip relaxing & enjoying Africa before we headed back to the cold. We stayed at Nkomazi Game Reserve, where we stayed in luxury tents. This was a great place to spend the remainder of our trip, there were only 11 tents and we took up 10 of them with our group. Again we did two safaris a day, one at around 6 am & the second at 4:30 or 5 pm, we had high tea in the afternoons, and spent our days relaxing on our decks reading. We also had access to spa treatments while there, I treated myself to a full body massage, I figured after spending the past 17 days on and off flights, in and out of safari trucks & beating my body up basically, I could use a little TLC. At this reserve we saw some animals while out on our drives, while not as many as we saw in Sabi Sands it was still amazing! We saw: a pack of lions, zebra, giraffes, impala, elephants, and hyena. It was so bittersweet that this was the last place we would be spending time before heading home.
This trip was by far the best & most magical way to spend the end of 2017 & a perfect way to bring in the New Year, Welcome 2018 with a fresh slate! I went to South Africa stressed & worried, I came back with a fresh attitude & openness that I never have after a vacation. This was one of those trips that you feel like you need a vacation after, it was exhausting, there was lots to see & do & fit in within a small window. It was tiring but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I came home with not only 17 stamps in my passport but a lifetime of memories & a million photos/videos. I left my heart in Africa
If you get the chance to visit anywhere in the world, I highly recommend visiting South Africa. The beauty, the culture & the wildlife of South Africa are definitely something each & every person should experience at some point in their lives!
If your thinking about visiting South Africa & have any questions on anything, please feel free to reach out, I would love to share more about this experience!
I am currently in the process of brainstorming my next big trip, any suggestions on where should I go next?