A Rainbow Nation: 30 Days in South Africa
South Africa is blessed with more than its fair share of the world’s incredible wildlife, landscapes and people. A land of contrast, from getting up close to leopards and lions on a safari at Kruger National Park, whale watching, lovely Winelands, spectacular Garden Route and of course the breathtaking coastline of Cape Town, South Africa is indeed a world crammed in one country.
Geographically, it is situated at the southern tip of Africa, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east. The country is bordered to the north by Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana, and also encloses two independent countries, the kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland.
I needed a visa to enter South Africa! Filipinos applying for a visa don’t need to pay any visa fees, just submit the required documents. Visas cannot and will not be issued at ports of entry. Do not show up without a visa if you are required to have one!
The following nationalities do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Portugal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania (90 days per 1 year), United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and citizens of British Overseas Territories.
The following nationalities do not need a visa for a stay of 30 days or less: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Gabon, Guyana, Hongkong (BNO passports or SAR passports), Hungary, Jordan, Lesotho, Macau, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Pero, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Korea, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
South Africa is a sunny country, located in the southern hemisphere where the coldest days are from June to August and the hottest from mid-October to mid-February.
South Africa has two major international airports: OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) and Cape Town International Airport. There are direct flights from major European cities, GCC region, US states, South America (Buenos Aires), Australia and Singapore.
For our (my partner and I) 30 day journey around South Africa, we rented a car – Spark Chevrolet that cost us Php 21,761/ USD 463 (including insurance and one-way return fee – we picked the car up from Johannesburg and returned it in Cape Town) for 30 days. We thought it was a bargain since car rentals in the airport cost about Php 84,000/USD 1,788 for 30 days. We did not consider to use their public transport because:
- We wanted to explore as many cities as we could
- It is more expensive, not practical and less convenient
- It is a city built for the car, and public transportation is being developed for easy mobility
Our main point of entry from Dubai, United Arab Emirates was Johannesburg and exit was Cape Town. We used an open jaw ticket which proved to be more economical and convenient.
For the accommodation, aside from the places where we stayed below, you can check our list of Best Luxury Hotel in South Africa or you can also find more places to stay in South Africa from https://www.accommodirect.com/.
Below is the order of cities we visited in South Africa:
JOHANNESBURG – 4 Days and 3 Nights
Otherwise known as Joburg or Jozi is the South Africa’s BIG APPLE, the CAPITAL and economic hub of South Africa.
Accommodation: Margaret’s Place – Bed and Breakfast, approximately Php 2,100/USD 45 per night on double occupancy. Check their availability and room rates here.
We love Hop, On Hop Off Tours! Who wouldn’t? That’s the easiest and safest way to see the city. We were delighted when we found out that City Sightseeing offers this experience to travellers of this big city. We visited:
- Top of Africa, Carlton Centre – the tallest building in Africa that offers a panoramic view of Johannesburg
- The Apartheid Museum – racial discrimination has become synonymous with South Africa from 1947 until 1994. Visitors to the museum are greeted with a reflection of what it was like to live in a racially segregated society
- Golf Reef City Theme Park and Casino – is built around an authentic 19th-century gold mine, and brings together fascinating historical attractions with some of the most thrilling rides in the southern hemisphere.
- James Hall Museum of Transport – established in 1964, it’s the largest and most comprehensive land transport in South Africa
- Soweto – a must for any visitor keen to get a taste of the vibrant and gritty street life this township is renowned for
- The Mandela House – former home of South Africa’s legend, Nelson Mandela
- Hartbeespoort Dam – surrounded by the beautiful Magaliesberg mountain range, it has become a hive of activity and is a very popular weekend getaway.
- Eastgate Shopping Centre – one of the largest in the country, we thought it would be great to see what Johannesburg has to offer when it comes to shopping!
SUN CITY, RUSTENBURG – 3 Days and 2 Nights
A unique and internationally acclaimed luxury resort and casino located in the heart of an active volcano, it is a 2-hour drive from Johannesburg.
Accommodation: We stayed in an Airbnb place just stone’s throw away from the resort for approximately Php 2,680/USD 57 per night on double occupancy. It was the cheapest rate we found that fit our budget! The owner gave us coupons to enter Sun City Hotel, Cascades Hotel and The Cabanas for free as well as the Maze of the Lost City.
- Pilanesberg National Park – one of South Africa’s fascinating game reserves. We drove around to see the famous “Big 5” (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros – the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot).
- Maze of the Lost City – a challenging and fun activity. The maze resembles a semi-ruined Mayan stone maze.
DURBAN, KWAZULU-NATAL – 4 Days and 3 Nights
A natural holiday paradise popular for its gorgeous coastline of warm sun-kissed beaches, a variety of restaurants, vibrant nightlife and many sporting facilities. This urban city is an 8-hour drive from Sun City, Rustenburg.
- Durban Ricksha Bus tour – the pleasant and relaxing way to see the city aboard a double decker bus
- Stroll along the city’s Golden Mile – nickname for the beaches near downtown that stretch along the Indian Ocean.
- Moses Mabhida Stadium – for football fanatics, this majestic place is not to be missed!
- SkyCar & Viewing Platform – the 360-degree view of Durban is simply stunning here!
PORT ST. JOHNS AND THE WILD COAST, EASTERN CAPE – 3 Days and 2 Nights
Famous for its wild waters, open beaches and relaxed lifestyle, Port St. Johns is at the centre of tourism on the Wild Coast. This delightful little town is a 5-hour drive from Durban, Kwazulu-Natal.
Accommodation: Amapondo Backpacker Lodge, Php 1,300/USD 27 per night on double occupancy. What attracted us to stay here was their pet Lizwe, a spoiled donkey! Check their availability and room rates here.
We hired one of the tour guides of Amapondo Backpacker Lodge to show us around town for a day, and we visited:
- Isinuka – Got covered in mud at this sacred healing site
- Port St Johns Museum
- Mthumbane Village – a cultural village
- Climbed the famous lighthouse on the beach
- The Blowhole & The Gap – an amazing natural phenomenon, forcing a jet of water 10’s of metres into the sky
CHINTSA, EASTERN CAPE – 3 Days and 2 Nights
A picturesque village in the Wild Coast region that offers travellers clear beaches, outdoor adventures and cultural encounters. It is a 4.5-hour drive from Port St Johns, Eastern Cape.
Accommodation: Buccaneer’s Backpackers and Lodge, Php 2,210/USD 47 per night on double occupancy. Check their availability and room rates here.
- Cheetah encounter at Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve – being inside a big cage with tamed cheetahs!
- Relax by the lodge’s lagoon
- Star gazing along the unspoilt white sand beaches of the Wild Coast
PORT ELIZABETH, GARDEN ROUTE, EASTERN CAPE – 3 Days and 2 Nights
A.K.A. the Friendly or the Windy City of South Africa, this coastal hub which offers various fun filled activities is a 4-hour drive from Chintsa, Eastern Cape.
- Port Elizabeth City Tour (conducted by one of Lungile’s knowledgeable tour guides). We visited
- Campanile Memorial Tower – climbed over 200 steep steps to reach the Observation Room and was amazed by the stunning view of the harbour and bustling city.
- Route 67 – walked around the 67 public artworks symbolising Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of work dedicated to free South Africa
- Donkin Heritage Trail – historical interest in the old Hill area of central Port Elizabeth.
- Kragga Kamma Game Reserve – home to vast herds of African game animals that roam freely in unrestricted natural surroundings.
- The Boardwalk and Casino – one of the entertainment hubs of Port Elizabeth
KNYSNA, GARDEN ROUTE, EASTERN CAPE – 3 Days and 2 Nights
A natural paradise nestled on the banks of breathtakingly pretty lagoon, along with the scenic Garden Route. It is a 3-hour drive from Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.
Accommodation: Jembjo’s Knysna Lodge and Backpackers, Php 2,245/USD 47 per night on double occupancy. Check their availability and room rates here.
- Knysna Elephant Park –we got up close and personal with the elephants!
- Knysna Head and Featherbed Nature Reserve – we had an unforgettable 4-hour excursion aboard a ferry and cruised the idyllic Knysna Estuary, boarded a 4×4 vehicle and drove through the reserve to the top of the Western Head for a jaw-dropping view of the lagoon.
CAPE AGULHAS, WESTERN CAPE – 3 Days and 2 Nights
Located at the southernmost tip of Africa, this rocky headland is where two great oceans (Indian and Atlantic) meet, a 4-hour drive from Knysna, Eastern Cape.
- The Southernmost Point of Africa – where two oceans collide
- Cape Agulhas Lighthouse and Museum – the only one of its kind found in Africa
- Side trip to Arniston – a small fishing village
CAPE TOWN – 4 Days and 3 Nights
Save the best for last!
Cape Town is a city like no other! Eclectic, diverse, cosmopolitan, beautiful and one of the most iconic cities in the world! The city of all cities!
Accommodation: We stayed in an Airbnb Place in a suburb called Observatory, a student neighbourhood for Php 1,270/USD 27 per night on double occupancy.
- City Sightseeing offers Hop On, Hop Off Tours, the best way to explore Cape Town at our own pace! We visited:
- Mariner’s Wharf – harbor-front emporium
- V&A Waterfront – South Africa’s most popular shopping and dining destination
- Camps Bay – trendy and affluent suburb. It was just nice to look at those lovely and big houses in this area!
- St John’s Road Sea Point –people watching along this beautiful setting
- Kirstenbosch Gardens – a visit to Cape Town will not be complete without a stroll in this acclaimed botanical garden!
- Cape Peninsula – a World Heritage Site! A spectacular sight and home to breathtaking bays, beaches, rolling green and valleys.
- Table Top Mountain – the most identifiable landmark of Cape Town!
- Robben Island – a guided tour of the former prison of Nelson Mandela where he was incarcerated for 18 long years!
- Stellenbosch Wine Routes – took a cellar tour in this well-known wine region of South Africa
If you have other tips and questions, drop a comment below!
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