TravelKien aims to bring you first hand accounts of travels around the world. There is no better advice than a person who has been there and done that. While I am busy on a mission to try and figure out how to achieve my dream of visiting every country on this planet, my friends have very graciously agreed to give you their travel experiences.
This week, please give a big round of applause for my first ever guest writer, Priyanka Baxi. A very enthusiastic traveller, she has been to a host of places all over the world. Priyanka a.k.a Baxi as we fondly call her is one of those few who is always up for an adventure. Read the article if you don’t believe me. In my quest to find find people who LOVE travel, Baxi stands out amongst the crowd. And this article bears testimony to that.I always wanted to go to South Africa, but after reading this article it has jumped up a lot of rungs on my wishlist. I hope that this has the same impact on all you avid travellers out there.
“This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.” – Charles Darwin in a letter to his sister.
Situated at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa offers a plethora of activities to suit every age! That was why my parents, sister and I decided to give this beautiful country a visit. The start of winter in April seemed like a perfect getaway from the heat in Mumbai.
Day 1: After a 9 hr flight, we finally land at Johannesburg and we took a connecting flight to Port Elizabeth. Thereon we proceeded on the garden route to Georgetown. Garden route is a beautiful land route along the Indian Ocean, which stretches till Mossel bay, with the blue ocean on one side and the mountains on the other.
Suddenly it starts to get cold and it drizzles. Quite a relief from the sweltering Mumbai heat. Amidst all the tranquility, we stop at FACE adrenaline bungee jump over the Bloukrans Bridge (http://www.faceadrenalin.com/bookings.asp). It is the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee at 216 meters. Since this was my first bungee experience, the excitement was uncontrollable! In those 10 seconds of freefall, u can see the valley and the entire ocean, UPSIDE DOWN!!! We then checked into our hotel, Hotel Hyatt Oubaai (http://oubaai.regency.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html) and it is one of the best hotels I’ve seen! Each room opens up to a garden beyond which lays the crystal blue sea. The first day here and it already one of the best days I’ve ever had!
Day 2: Next day, we visit the Cango Caves; world’s finest stalactite caves.(http://www.cango-caves.co.za/) The breathtaking beauty of these fascinating limestone formations in nature’s own sculpted works of arts. We took the standard tour of an hour. If you’re adventurous enough, you can take the “Adventure Tour” which takes an hour and a half. The “Adventure Tour” consists of crawling through narrow passages and climbing up steep rock formations guided by small lights and ends up in a waterfall. We then went to the ostrich garden where we learnt a lot about this flightless bird. We got an ostrich neck massage (must try), gave them a hug and finally even rode one. It was one of the scariest rides ever! It rained that evening, so we got to witness a magnificent double rainbow(the Rainbow Nation lives up to it name), which stretched across the sky and ended in the ocean!It was a spectacular sight
Day 3: Today, we visited Knysna waterfront. Knysna is a port on the garden route and is famous for the same. We could go on for a boat ride in the icy cold waters but instead we decided to climb up the neighboring headland to get a bird’s eye view of the lagoon. In the summers, you can opt for white water rafting in Knysna River, which is famous for its unpredictable waters. Then we went to cheetah land and Crocodile Park. Don’t let the name misguide you, there’s a lot more to this park than just cheetahs and crocodiles. We saw some almost extinct species here, including white tigers, vampire bats (yes, they exist) and King Julian lemurs.I like to Move it, Move it!!!
Day 4: On route to Cape Town on the garden route, we stopped at Mossel bay for sky diving! Seeing the entire stretch of the garden route from 10,000 feet and the blue waters is definitely something that you shouldn’t miss! It is an experience of a lifetime! But a point to note: the weather is very very unpredictable. It can be bright n sunny one moment (ideal for sky diving) and cloudy and windy, the next (Tandem sky diving is very particular about the weather conditions). Anyways, after this amazing experience, we resumed our journey on the beautiful garden route towards Cape Town.
Day 5: We went to Cape Town’s premier tourist attraction, yes the Cape Point. We climbed it up till the lighthouse, to see the mighty Indian Ocean meet the Atlantic Ocean! After an hour of huffing and puffing, we finally reached the top and the view was magnificent! Surrounded by water on 3 sides, the view was mesmerizing! There was a stand, which gave directions and distances to the important cities in the world. We walked it up the to the Cape of Good Hope and proceeded to table mountain, which is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. We managed to get into the last cable car for the day at 5:30 and when we reached on top, it was sooo cold!
Tip: don’t forget to carry atleast two jackets. It is very windy and cold!
We sat at the Table Top Cafe, had a glass of hot chocolate while seeing the beautiful sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean! The entire sky was golden and the blue sea looked like molten gold! It was mesmerizing! On the way down in the cable car, we saw the entire city of Cape Town lit up in the evening sky. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at Long Street in the city centre, which offers an eclectic mix of entertainment.
Day 6:We take a short 45 min boat ride and visit Seal Island. It is called so because of the number of cape fur seals that occupy it. The water here is so cold that it’s impossible to even step in it. It is impossible to survive even 3 minutes in it because this water carries the currents from Antarctica. After this, we went for a normal city tour to see the parliament house, the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium, the castle of good hope, water front, Malay Quarters, etc. We visited the penguin park, which is the natural habitat of special African penguins. Spent the rest of the day in the market picking up knick-knacks.
Day 7:After landing in Johannesburg, we checked into our resort which was called the Emperor’s Palace, referred to the Vegas of South Africa.(http://www.emperorspalace.co.za/peermont/content/en/emperors/emperors-home). It was a huge resort, which had luxurious accommodation, an amazing casino and lot more. Once you’re in the ‘city of gold’, you have to visit the gold reef city! They have a theme park with some of the most thrilling rides like anaconda, tower of terror and raging river rapids. We then went to Jozi’s story of gold, which started with a small documentary on how gold was discovered in SA and soon after that we were taken underground in a gold mine where we saw the gold being mined out and the tools they used. It was a wonderful experience.
Day 8: It is a must to spend atleast a day in Suncity. It is a beautiful resort, around 2 and a half hours from Jo’burg and it is a tourist’s paradise. The palace of lost city is a hotel but is no less than an actual palace with side towers and a huge lawn.
We were lucky to witness a wedding there. There are a wide range of activities to choose from, golfing, water park called valley of waves, a casino and a safari. Suncity entertainment center is also famous for its timely artificial earthquakes, which make you feel like you are indeed in a lost world. Coming all the way to Africa and not going for a safari just seemed so wrong! So we opted for a evening safari in the Pilansberg Game Reserve, which is just outside Suncity. We were put in an open bus and were taken through the entire game reserve. We saw giraffes, zebras, deer, hyenas, and cheetahs at a distance. We were blocked on the road by a group of elephants fighting. It was such a sight!
Tip: You can also opt for a hot air balloon ride over Suncity!
Next day we packed our bags and boarded a flight back to Mumbai! It was one of the best trips I’ve been to. I definitely want to do bungee and skydiving again. And I most definitely want to do shark cage diving the next time I come here, which was shut because of winter.
Home is never too far when you’re away from home. Home is where your heart is.
Important Information for travellers :
Flights : Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways,Emirates, Jet Airways, Air India all fly to South Africa. It is very well connected to almost every city in the world. Return airfare starts from INR 40000 and can go upto INR 75000, depending on the airlines.
Visa for Indians : South African visas can be applied at the VFS centre for South Africa. It takes approximately 5 days for the visa to be processed. A tourist visa costs INR 1350.
South Africa Visa Application Centre
Fourth Floor, Dr. D.B Marg,
Grant Road (East),
Mumbai – 400007, India
South Africa is a beautiful country. And with the FIFA World Cup 2010, its infrastructure has improved manifolds. Like all tourist advisories, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and be careful. Indians have been known to subject to harassment from locals. It is advisable to keep someone aware of where you are going and better still to give a copy of your itinerary. These are just some precautions. Just like people are warned about India, even we should stay safe in a foreign land. But that shouldn’t stop you from jumping off the World’s Highest Bungee or follow the lions in a safari, right?
Till next time, travel safe.. 🙂