Sunday, July 15, 2012

3800 KM Road Trip in Soth Africa Part - 1

It was that time of the year when, Myself and My Wife decided to go some place for a nice holiday.  We discussed lot's of places but, the place that we choose to visit was South Africa.  In this series of few posts, I am going to share my experiences and adventures on the 3800 KM Road Trip in the Amazing South Africa!

Why did we choose South Africa:

The choice was difficult to make, for us, nothing has given us more joy then, being in the lap of nature.  Visiting some of the most beautiful places on the planet has always been on our radar. 
  • South Africa is home to the Big Five i.e. Lion, African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Cape Buffalo and Leopard.  
  • South Africa has lots of very well maintained National Parks where one can spot all of the Big Five. 
  • Over and above these, there are many other wild animals that live in South African National Parks.
  • South Africa has a big coastline filled with unsurpassed natural beauty.  Some of the animals that could be seen there are, African Penguins, Ostriches, Seals etc.
  • South Africa is home to the Worlds Highest Bungy Bridge.  The thrill of jumping from there, would surpass any other adventure I have done so far.
How to plan the trip?

Ok, so the destination was decided but, how to plan the trip?

As one wise men once said:

Behind every successful holiday, there is a lot of planning involved :)

There are two ways to visit any destination
  • Buy a preplanned tour from one of the tour operators i.e. See it How They Want to Show it to You
  • Plan it yourself i.e. See it The Way You Want to see it
I am not saying one is better than the other, but certainly our inclination was towards doing it ourselves.  That way we get
  • The freedom of dates
  • Flexibility of amount of time we want to spend at a particular place
  • Choosing which once we want to visit and which once we could do without
  • Over and above it, we can see the destination as a local and not as a tourist
  • Gives us a sense of adventure and We have a good appetite for adventure :)
But, choosing to do it by ourselves is not the easiest way of going on an holiday.  It certainly requires some planning, guidance and getting some first hand experiences would be an added bonus. 

The Planning:

There were a lot of questions going through my mind in this phase
  • Will it be safe if we roam around alone?  Neither am I a Taekwondo expert nor I am good at Kung-Fu.  I am just a developer without any martial arts skills!
  • What places should we visit?
  • What about the public transport, how do we go from point A to B?
  • Will we get enough options for Vegetarian Meal?
  • How will the locals treat us?
And countless more.

Well, my approach has always been that, If the problem looks too big to begin with, break the problem into smaller parts and start solving the smaller problems!

I decided to shortlist the places I want to visit in South Africa, reading up on the internet, travel websites and collecting as much information as I could.

In the process I took help from One of my best friend.  He has been to South Africa numerous times on Business Trips.  With His help and some of my research we were able to get a list of places we would love to visit.  The list goes like
  • Kruger National Park - One of the biggest and renowned National Parks for game viewing
  • Sun City - Where the sun never sets
  • Knysna - One of the best tourist attraction in South Africa with a huge lagoon
  • Oudtshoorn - Famous for having Ostrich farms, one can even ride an Ostrich here
  • Cape Town - Beautiful cost line and amazing natural beauty in and around Cape Town
One problem solved, next biggest problem was accommodation and transportation.

Obviously, we wanted to rent a Car in South Africa and drive it around.  I then contacted a few companies in South Africa that would do the Car rentals and Hotel bookings for me.  Out of all such companies, Go Self Drive Tours understood my requirements and priorities correctly, they were very prompt in their service and quoted the best price.  They also suggested two new must visit places.

The two new places that got added were
  • TsitsikamaNational Park - The garden of the Garden Route, GOD's Heaven, had never seen such beauty!
  • Hermanus - Only town in the world for land based whale watching.
I went ahead with the Go Self Drive Tours and asked them to book the rental car and hotels for me.  

Took help from one of my very good friend to get the tickets and Visas done.  It takes around 15 days to get the visas.  South African embassy is very strict about the travel duration.  Our holiday was 15 days long and we got Visas for 15 days only! 

That's it!  The ground work was done, we were all set to go.  

Before leaving, I had read/heard a lot of opinions suggesting that, South Africa is not a safe country for two tourist traveling alone in a car.  But we left all that behind and decided to find the truth ourselves.

We boarded the aircraft, at that time, may be, I was, 40% happy, 30% confused, 20% exited, 10% scared or may be it was 40% scared, 30% exited, 20% confused and 10% happy!

Stay tuned for the next few posts, I will share how our trip unfolded and the numerous adventures places we visited!
Have some Fun!