Kate and Aly guest blogging today! We just got back from an amazing trip to South Africa and are here to write a TripAdivsor-esque review of our time with Naama and Jon.
Place #1 – Naama and Jon’s place is fantastic. We highly recommend the guest room shower. The room has been filled with amenities and guides to help you enjoy your time in South Africa. Though the owners, Naama and Jon, will gladly answer any questions you may have.
Place #2 – Hotel on St. George’s Street in Cape Town. A little dated, but overall in a decent part of town. It’s walking distance to the Waterfront and the breakfast is pretty good. Most importantly the woman at the front desk won’t judge you when you have to call her up (twice!) because you (Kate) can’t figure out how to work the safe. Or when you (Kate) hang up on her because you found what you were looking for, but then she calls you back anyways and you have to lie and say you mis-dialed. (Actually, she probably judged during all of that.)
Place #3 – African Rock Lodge in Hoedspruit. We got here late, and left early, but even with those few short hours this place was an absolute joy! And we got to do a braai for dinner which was delicious.
Place #4 – Rondavel at Letaba in Kruger National Park. A nice little shelter in the heart of the camp. There are 3 twin beds, and A/C, which worked perfectly for Kate and Aly – slightly less perfectly for Naama and Jon. Make sure your outside fridge is turned toward the wall so the monkeys can’t get your food!
Place #5a – Rondavel at Skukuza in Kruger National Park. Aly noticed that it was slightly ‘dirtier’ than was expected. That dirt? Mouse poop. Were we sure? Yes, because we actively saw a mouse in the rafters up top, pooping down on us. Jon and Aly saved the day by getting us a new room. This had to be done quickly because A) we needed to get this settled in time to meet our group for the safari and B) they needed to turn around the room so that they could put someone else in there. (Sorry guys from Kentucky that got the mouse poop room!) Note: as Jon was running to get our stuff out of the room he turned back to us and said “If I’m not back, go on safari without me!” The only thing that would have made that the perfect scene of an action movie was if he ran into a fiery inferno.
Place #5b – Rondavel at Skukuza in Kruger National Park. See place #3. They were practically the same, except the fridge was located in the room.
Lodging Average – 3.5 stars
- We started our trip off with tour of Soweto – a township of Johannesburg and the hometown of Nelson Mandela. It is also home to the (aptly named) Soweto Uprising. When the government tried to force all education to happen in Afrikaans, the people rioted. This was a catalyst that encouraged action from the rest of the country as well as the world (economic sanctions, etc). While there we saw a beautiful church that still has damage from the riots.
- We ended our trip with the Apartheid Museum. This is a beautiful museum. There is a lot to take in, so the 2ish hours we spent were definitely not enough.
- Waterfront – A great place to spend some time. It’s beautiful, and it’s one of the few places you can walk around comfortably after dark. It’s also a wonderful place to find some local crafts to bring home as gifts, or to find good food.
- Hiking – We hiked both Table Mountain and Lion’s Head.
- Table Mountain: The original plan was to hike up Table Mountain and then take the tram down. Unfortunately when we got there, we learned that the tram wasn’t running because it was too windy. We decided to continue along anyways. It was HOT hiking up, and we probably didn’t have enough water. The hike typically takes around 2 hours. While it really only took us about 2.5 hours up, we both thought that we had been hiking for much longer. Also hiking is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more like scrambling up rocks (kind of like the Acrocrag but without glitter). And, SURPRISE, it was really, really windy up top. Because the tram was closed, nothing on top of the mountain was open. So we took a little break in the shade, and then started our descent down. Side note: Our legs were essentially useless for the next couple of days. We are both in pretty good shape, so the soreness in our legs that lasted for four days was totally unexpected.
- Lion’s Head: Two days later (with still sore legs) we climbed Lion’s Head. Kate liked this hike a little more, because you circle the mountain and get to see different views of the city and ocean. Again, there is a little bit of hiking and then the rest is scrambling up rocks. Aly got the two of us a wee bit lost on the way down and we ended up going down the route NOT labelled as the “preferred route” – which meant it was significantly scarier. We had to go down using chains and metal bars implanted into the mountain. Oddly, Aly, with a fear of heights, hopped on down without a fear in the world. While, Kate, had a teeny tiny little freak out.
- High Tea – We did this at the One and Only hotel. Neither of us have done High Tea before and it was fun. We got dressed up, drank tea in a dainty manner, and tried to pace ourselves on all the sweet treats. We also tried to get a massage here for our sore legs, but ended up at a different fancy hotel and accidentally got a couple’s massage. Kate’s first!
- Hout Bay, Boulder Beach, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point and the Kristenbosch Gardens – We hired a driver (he made abundantly clear that he was not a tour guide by barely saying a word to us) to take us to all of these places. It was a whirlwind of a tour – but we highly recommend going out to see all of them.
Panorama Route/Kruger National Park:
On our way to Kruger, we drove along the Panorama Route, stopping along the way at the amazing sights, like God’s Window, Blyde River Canyon (the third largest canyon in the world), Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels, and so on. It was an incredible drive that took almost a whole day! (And that was with just doing a picnic lunch at one of our stops!)
Safari – There really isn’t much to say about this. It was quite possibly the most awesome thing we have ever done. We saw lions, giraffes, elephants, hippos, rhinos, leopard, impalas, kudus, warthogs, cape buffaloes, wildebeests, baboons, and lots of birds (special shout out to the lilac-breasted roller). We both thought it was going to be an amazing experience, but even with that high bar it was still the absolute highlight of the trip.
Activities Rating – 5 Stars
Naama and Jon were wonderful to stay with. While on safari you were more likely to find us all within 2 feet of one another than more than 2 feet apart. That said, there is no one we’d like to be in such close contact with than the two of them. They were super helpful in our pre-planning and throughout the rest of the trip. They were also fun and generous and we love having them as friends.
Rating – 5 Stars
– By Alyson & Kate
* = This isn’t just a saying for the TSA, it holds true for safari. If you think you see something, say something!