Input on First Time South Africa trip

Old Jul 8th, 2021, 12:19 PM
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HELP need input on First Time Africa trip

Hi All, Need advice on a trip to South Africa in June 2022 for a family of 4 adults. We are hoping by next June Covid will be more stable and some of the regional airports costly PCR testing as possible.
We want to spend anywhere between 10-12 days in Southern African. Budget around $5,000 - $6500 per person ($20k - 25k USD total) excluded international airfare
We would like a few days on a Safari and also visit some cultural and historical sites. Below is what we are thinking that might work.

Day 1 Arrive Cape Town
Day 2 Full Day Robben Island & City Tour
Day 3 Full Day Cape Point & Peninsula Tour
Day 4-8 Timbavati or SABI Game Reserve (Sabi has a Pay 3 Stay 4 Special)
Day 9-10 Victoria Falls
Day 11-12 Johannesburg - Soweto & the Apartheid Museum
Day 12 Evening flight departure

Will this work with my budget? Should we maybe leave out Victoria Falls to avoid 3 regional flights?

This is a significant trip for our family and there are so many options to consider especially with adding two countries. Thank you for your advice.


Last edited by michaelnorman7859; Jul 8th, 2021 at 12:26 PM. Reason: additons
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Old Jul 9th, 2021, 12:09 AM
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Victoria Falls is wonderful, and if you could combine it with a visit to nearby Chobe NP in Botswana or Hwange NP in Zimbabwe it might be worth the diversion. Both are easily reachable on a day trip from Vic Falls. I spent a week in Vic Falls, and enjoyed it very much.

You are wise to plan the Robben Island tour for the second day, because the small ferries to the island are weather dependent, cancelled when winds are strong. Cape weather is unpredictable. If you have time on your arrival day, try to get up to Table Mountain on the cableway. You can check to see when the cableway is operating on the official Table Mountain website. Days are short in June, so the cableway closes early.

https://tablemountain.net/

The Cape Point and Peninsula Tour won’t be weather dependent, and you will probably stop off at Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town to see the penguin colony.
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Old Jul 9th, 2021, 05:54 AM
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Thanks for responding. I'm not familiar with the regional flights but is that too much flying from Cape to Kruger to Victoria Falls then back to Johannesburg all in 10 days?
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Old Jul 9th, 2021, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by michaelnorman7859 View Post
Will this work with my budget? Should we maybe leave out Victoria Falls to avoid 3 regional flights?
How are you planning to get from Cape Town to the Kruger area (Timbavati or Sabi Sand) in the first place? While flight schedules for June 2022 aren't available yet (and would be pretty unreliable at that, given the airlines' scheduling issues post-pandemic) odds are you'd have a very difficult time making same-day connections from airports like Nelspruit or Hoedspruit to Victoria Falls airport (VFA.) You might be able to get to the Livingstone (Zambia) airport (LVI) but then you'd need to arrange an international transfer to Victoria Falls. Certainly doable, but potentially a time suck.

The falls are certainly spectacular - if you can see them. June is a high water time, and the spray from the falls can seriously obscure the view. We were there in August, and while the flow was MUCH lower (almost too low) the spray was still a very limiting factor for visibility. I have to say, with apologies to the fans, we were frankly underwhelmed with the experience, and in retrospect wished we'd used those days elsewhere. Your call, of course.

If it was me (and it's not) and in the context of having visited SA a number of times, I'd probably drop the Victoria Falls trip and allocate those days to the Kruger area. I'd fly into either Nelspruit (MQP) or Hoedspruit (HDS) airports and rent a vehicle. True, you won't need it while at the safari lodge(s) but then after (or before, depending on the actual timing) you could use the vehicle to explore the area, including the marvelous Panorama Route, which is in the mountains just to the west of the Kruger complex. Panorama Route - Wikipedia

This is a stunningly scenic area, completely different from the lowveld landscapes in the park and adjacent reserves. The Blyde River Canyon, Three Rondavels, God's Window... all are breathtaking sights, all easily reached from the very pleasant mountain towns of Pilgrim's Rest or (our fave) Graskop. Stay at the funky and art-filled Graskop Hotel and eat fabulous pancakes at Harrie's Pancakes down the street.

Some scenes of the Panorama Route (not mine) -






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Old Jul 9th, 2021, 09:05 AM
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Gardyloo, I was at Vic Falls in November, the “low water” time. Visibility was excellent but the water was only a trickle in some parts of the falls. I’ve never been to the Panorama Route, but looking at your photos would choose that over Vic Falls, especially if already in South Africa.
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Old Jul 12th, 2021, 05:38 AM
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You do not need two full days in Johannesburg. I would drop one and move it elsewhere (maybe to the Zambia portion).

I think Gardyloo is giving you bad information on Vic Falls viewing in June. The end of June in particular should be a good time in many years. Of course it depends on when the rains end, how much it has rained, and every year is different. You don't want to go when there is too little (or too much)!

Definitely do some independent research. You can look at the hydrographs for the Zambezi River, for example.

We spent 10 days in February in Kruger from one end to the other and it was wonderful . Note that is a month that Gardyloo doesn't recommend, so I always take his timing recommendations with a boulder of salt!

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Old Jul 12th, 2021, 08:27 AM
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As with many travel decisions, it can be a case of making choices in the absence of definitive information, or potentially conflicting information. And it's often a case of "either-or" where committing to one course of action precludes another, owing to not having enough time or resources to do both.

MLGB apparently has an issue with my timing recommendations and he/she is free to do comment accordingly. I've only been to Victoria Falls once (as has he/she?) and had no knowledge before visiting that the spray issue could be as big as it was. My comments about June (when apparently neither of us have visited) is based on some research, and not just seat-of-the-pants guesses. Most of the sites I've consulted (various tour packagers, blogs, local visitor guides etc.) show June as being a transitional month between the high flow (hence high spray) summer and the drier winter (lower flow) months. You probably wouldn't know until you're there, so it comes back to the either-or choices. My recommendation, based on several trips to South Africa at various times of the year - but emphasizing that it's just a recommendation and not definitive - is to look at the trip in its entirety and see if there are other things that might appeal to you if you didn't visit Victoria Falls on this trip. If you have enough time and money to include the falls as well as other attractions in southern Africa, go for it. I would not make decisions based on a couple of IBB posters with different views.
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Old Jul 13th, 2021, 09:29 AM
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I've often wondered how long ago it was that you were in South Africa, Gardyloo?

The problem with answering the OP's question regarding flights is that the airline situation has changed even since I visited in February 2019. Several of the regional airlines have gone belly up or have suspended service (including South African Airways, the national carrier). Others still in operation such as kulua can and WILL suspend South African flights due to COVID or other issues (in case you aren't up on the latest civil unrest, you may wish to pop into BBC news feeds). Airlink has a limited domestic network within Southern Africa (including from several of the Kruger airports to Cape Town and from Cape Town to Victoria Falls.) Which may or may not be something you could rely upon.

There is also the issue as Heimdall mentioned of international flights into and out of the UK being disrupted by COVID. I was able to use Virgin Atlantic but that isn't a realistic option at present.

From the US, you can get into South Africa directly to Cape Town via Europe (KLM for example). For a Safari leg, you could actually do that from Victoria Falls (especially) and June would be a great month. Maybe the best, in fact. I recommend contacting a Zimbabwe/Vic Falls specialist. I don't know that we have one here on Fodor's. BTW my friends who I went to Kruger with, reported that February is a terrible month for Vic Falls. But I knew that, having done the research. I also knew that Februrary would be an awesome month to visit Kruger (the trip was in fact planned and operated by Rockjumper, a South African tour agency).

The scenery around CPT is so wonderful I wouldn't fret about the Drakensberg detour that Gardy always recommends. On our way back to Johannesburg there was a blockage on the main highway and our driver accidently took the wrong route back, taking us over that route. It didn't hold up to the Cape Town area which I visited immediately afterwards. I wish I had allowed more time for the Garden Route down there but only was able to fit in the West Coast National Park as a one-night trip instead.

Last edited by mlgb; Jul 13th, 2021 at 09:32 AM.
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Old Jul 13th, 2021, 10:09 AM
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MLGB I admit it's been a few years since I was there. How many times have you visited, BTW?

I don't "always" recommend the Panorama Route; I did so in this case (and note I generally say "if it was me" or some such) owing to the OP's stated timetable, which involved getting from the Kruger area to Victoria Falls in short order, when the flight schedules, such as they are for May/June next year, are - in my opinion - impractical, as they all involve either very early departures from Nelspruit or Hoedspruit (difficult to manage if coming from a safari lodge) or force an overnight at Cape Town or Johannesburg.

I do tend to like "twofer" opportunities, and since the Panorama route is quite convenient and reasonably easy to access from the reserves the OP mentioned, I thought it was a decent target if they decided not to pursue Victoria Falls.

This is a place to share opinions, and we're both entitled to our views. The OP is talking about spending a lot of money, so examining all the options is prudent.

That said, I don't want to provoke any arguments, so I'll back away from this thread.
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Old Jul 13th, 2021, 12:33 PM
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The biggest issue for your trip is likely to be quarantine and COVID restrictions coming and going, rather than flight times being "too early" and "impractical" as I doubt any real research was done.
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Old Jul 14th, 2021, 12:33 PM
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SKIP Vic Falls but do not skip Sabi Sands. Use a good travel planner..... Just go to JBurg and SS, and if you can manage, one other location--Cape Town.....I am enamored of the country and also would recommend looking into a visit to Zimbabwe if flights and budget and timing allow....
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Old Jul 26th, 2021, 01:12 PM
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Thanks for all your replies and great suggestions. We decided on June 4th -13th 2022. Cape Town (3 nights), Sabi Sands(4 nights), Victoria Falls (2 nights). We are praying that the epidemic is under control in the states and abroad by then.
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