12 Days In South Africa | Garden Route Itinerary

We once watched a documentary about diving around sharks locked in a cage and made a mental note since then to travel to South Africa to do this. 3 years later, we were on a flight from Mumbai to Cape Town via Johannesburg to explore this magical country. (The flight tickets are way cheaper from Mumbai than any other city in India). We spent a fortnight exploring the Garden Route’s dreamy beaches, turquoise oceans, its wildlife sanctuaries and the untamed countryside while driving through possibly one of the most beautiful routes we’ve ever experienced.

During our 12 days in South Africa, our routes were laden with stunning views which changing terrain through small stretches. We kayaked in the ocean and saw seals which that swam alongside us, took a 40 minute helicopter ride around the stunning city, skydived, witnessed a whole lot of whales breaching, went into a cage among 4 great white sharks, saw the big 5 , saw dozens of adorable penguins upclose , bungy jumped from a 216 mt high bridge and fell in love with Africa all over again.

If you are looking for a place which is picturesque and exciting, then South Africa is for you. Here’s the itinerary we followed

Us in front of the Table Mountain

Day 1

We landed in Capetown in the afternoon and checked into our first hotel: Radisson Red in Capetown near the V&A Waterfront. We divided our stay into two different places so that we could see two different neighbourhoods. V&A Waterfront, where the city meets the sea is one of the most happening places of Capetown with colourful cafes, art stores, street performers, a Capetown Ferris wheel, the two oceans aquarium, a flea market with the gorgeous view of the alluring Table Mountains. We walked to V&A and booked our helicopter tour for the next day, and went to the two oceans aquarium where we saw the great white sharks (like a trailer before getting up-close with them). The first day in Capetown was terrific. The bar/cafe in our hotel was open 24 hours and we got back from the cold city into the warm bar with a lot of people having a great time. The Day 1 in Capetown was just perfect.

Radisson Red Near V & A
The table mountain as seen from V & A Waterfront

Day 2

The lovely people from NAC Helicopter tours picked us up from our hotel and took us to the helipad. Within 10 minutes after the initial briefing, we were up in the air staring down at the magnificent city in a 4 seater helicopter.
The second stop for the day was Bo-Kaap formally called as Malay quarters. Every home in this road has a different colour making it one of the most colorful streets in the world which celebrated the end of apartheid. We walked from Bo-kaap in search of ‘the best coffee in the world’ and landed up at Truth coffee roasting which is voted as the best coffee in the world twice by the telegraph and other media houses. We spent the right amount of time at this cafe and devouring their delicious Avacado Toast along with the Brazilian coffee and hot chocolate for K.

We got back to V&A and spent time in and around. We rode the Capetown wheel and enjoyed the ravishing sunset on the second day in Capetown!

Experience Highlights
It was a great idea to start seeing the city from the air. We understood the geography of the town and saw the places we were going to stay in the next couple of days. The highlight was seeing a tiny whale just below us. The 40 min helicopter tour took a whole round around the table mountains, the bays and the city.
When the Bo-Kaap was leased out to the slaves, the houses had to be painted white. Once the slavery system was abolished, and they were finally allowed to buy houses. They painted their homes to make it colorful as a symbol of freedom bereft of distinction. Isn’t this lovely? We ate in an interesting cafe with the view of the street and the table mountains peaking from behind.

Nac Helicopter Tours:
View of the Chapman’s peak dive from the helicopter.
The colorful Bo-Kaap
The best coffee in the world from Truth Coffee Roastin

Day 3
It’s the best feeling to wake up in a cosy hotel in a new city. Our last day of stay in the V&A waterfront area and Radisson Red. We checked out of our room and walked to do the first adventure activity of our trip! Ocean kayaking among the dolphins with Atlantic Outlook. It was a brilliant trip, but to our bad luck, we saw a bunch of seals and no dolphins. After our 2 hour kayaking experience, we went to a nearby farmers market and walked around talking to the local folk selling interesting goodies. Highly recommend visiting it if you are in Capetown on a Saturday. We rented a shiny blue Volkswagen Polo and drove to camp’s bay: A classy locality in Capetown facing the ocean at the foothills of the table mountain and checked into a gorgeous room. We had access to a tiny kitchen, a lovely balcony, the hall and the bedroom.

Experience Highlights
The kayaking in a rough sea was very exciting. The folks at Atlantic Outlook were accommodating and guided us throughout the trip.
South Africa follows a right hand driving orientation. It took us a while to get used to Capetown’s traffic, but it was pretty comfortable once we did.
Deciding to split our stay in Capetown was a great idea. We loved camps bay about how calm and peaceful it was, but the buzz of V&A was so much fun too.

Kayaking Experience With Atlantic Outlook
Beautiful sunset from the room in Camp’s Bay

Day 4

It is one of those days, where the pictures you take will be your cover photo on Facebook. The most picturesque day. We drove through the famous Chapman’s peak drive to Cape Point and Cape of good hope with a bunch of blissful deviations. Here are some stunning places we saw during our drive to Cape of Good hope and recommend you do too. Llandudno beach, Noordhoek beach, Scarborough town, Cape point ostrich farm and finally cape point at the cape of good hope and returned via Simon’s town to see the penguins. You can look at the penguins from the beach up close from the deck they’ve built. This bridge/deck shuts by 5.30 PM, and we were 5 minutes late to see the penguins that eve.

Experience Highlight
The view of Cape of good hope from cape point is stunning. Do not shy away from the trek to the lighthouse. It’s absolutely worth it. The seafood at the restaurant on top: Two oceans cafe is supposed to be very good.
The Chapman’s peak drive is hands-down the best road trip in the world: Mountain on one side and the blue sea on the other. There are multiple viewpoints and take the time to marvel at the beauty
Noordhoek beach and Llandudno beaches are pristine, clean and great for surfing. They are the perfect white sand and blue sea combination
Scarborough town is cosy and artist-friendly town. They have coffee shops selling the best avocado toasts.
Cape point ostrich farm is wonderful— purple lavenders on the two sides of the pathway and free running ostriches. If we had time, we would have loved to hang out here for longer.

Noordhoek Beach
Ostrich in Cape Point Ostrich farm
The Cape of good hope

Day 5
We woke up to a clear cloudless day in Capetown and went on top of the Table mountain in the cable car and marvelled at the beauty of the city. We drove to Kirstenbosch botanical garden to see the famous bridge. We further went to Simon’s town again to look at the penguins from the deck. On the way back from Simon’s town, we visited the Muizenberg beach to see the happy coloured changing room huts and finally ended our day back in Camp’s Bay and sipped a cocktail looking at the setting sun.

Experience Highlights
The table mountain is huge and if you have more time, you must go for the trail on the top of the mountain. The view from the different side of the mountain is stunning. Don’t forget to carry thick jackets as it gets cold with the altitude. You can also rappel back from the mountain, it does look dangerous and fun. We wanted to do that, but we didn’t have time.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is nice but nothing out of the ordinary like the rest of the country. If you love flora and fauna, you can spend a whole day marvelling at their beauty. Thinking back, we wouldn’t have missed much if we skipped this. Here’s a suggestion: Skip the botanical garden, be on time to see the penguins and make it to the Groot Constantia vineyard there.
Muizenberg beach is known for its sharks. There is a very amusing board which talks about being careful among sharks. Our favourite part of this beach is the vibrantly coloured beach huts. Makes a great spot for serious instagrammers.

From the top of Table Mountain
Simon’s Town
Little African penguins on the beach
Muizenberg Beach & it’s colorful huts

Day 6
We woke up early and left Capetown to Hermanus. It’s a 2-hour drive, and it’s stunning. We reached Hermanus, checked into the cosiest hotel ever with a view of the ocean from the room: Windsor Hotel, Hermanus. We had booked for an afternoon sea safari to see the whales with Southern Right Charters. We saw not 2-3 but 25+ whales and that too right next to our boat. Hermanus is the place to see whales. We got back and ate a lunch/Dinner at one of the lively cafes at the main road in Hermanus. It’s a charming little town, and you can’t help but fall in love with it. Our initial plan was to go on a shark cage safari the next morning in Gansbaai, which is 30 mins from Hermanus but due to bad weather, it got cancelled.

Experience Highlights
We took multiple detours on our way to Hermanus, and all of them were worth it.
The tours with Southern right charters to see the whales were very well organized. They knew where to find the whales, and we even saw a bunch of them breaching/jumping out of the water)
Our little hotel in Hermanus needs a special mention. It was a charming old hotel. We saw a whale breach when we were eating our breakfast the next morning. Just opposite the hotel, there are benches and a pathway alongside the ocean. We sat there for a good 30 minutes before we left Hermanus, making mental note to come here and live for a month in a small airbnb.

Southern Right Whale: Hermanus
Beautiful roads on the way to Hermanus from Capetown

Day 7
One week in South Africa and we’ve already experienced so many things! We drove from Hermanus to Mossel Bay, from western cape to the eastern cape. It was the longest drive of our trip. Mossel Bay is an industrial area, and it’s not touristy. We halted for a night in Dana Bay, right next to Mossel Bay. We found the cutest Airbnb with a stunning balcony. It’s an old couple’s home, and they made us feel so much at home 🙂
Experience Highlight
Our room in Dana Bay was very comfortable and had everything we need. We sat and watched the sunset and a couple of whales breach right outside the balcony. We went and got some groceries and made our dinner. Nothing like some comfort food 🙂
We stopped at a cafe called Ou meul. There were a few women making fresh sourdough bread and carrot cake. We had a big bowl of butternut squash soup and carrot cake for lunch! This was one of our most favorite meal of the trip.

Roads between Hermanus and Mossel Bay

Day 8
It was a full day for us. We started it by leaving Dana Bay and our cute Airbnb after a delicious breakfast and went to do our first activity for the day: Shark Cage Diving with Read all about it here. We later reached Skydive Mossel Bay, 15 mins away from the port. Skydiving with a view of the bay and snow-capped mountain is breathtaking. After this, we drove to Knysna and checked into a lovely hotel by the lagoon called the Amanzi Island Lodge

Experience Highlights
Knysna is a delightful town and deserves more time in your itinerary. How we wish we had an additional day here.
A lot of activities like shark cage diving, whale watching, sky diving etc. can be done in different parts of the garden route. So if you miss it somewhere, there’s an option to do it other parts of the trip too.

Great white shark right next to the cage
A Great white shark a meter away from our cage
Navin Skydiving in Mossel Bay
View from our room in Knysna

Day 9
Leaving Knysna was very tough. Our resort was stunning with a view of the lagoon. We left Knysna and drove to Tsitsikamma National Park to do the second highest Bungy Jumping in the world from the Boulkrans Bridge with Face Adrenalin. This place is exactly in between Knysna and Port Elizabeth. It was the best experience of the trip! Never have I ever been so scared to jump off a cliff. After the jump, we drove to Port Elizabeth, a charming little town and stayed in a cute Airbnb.

Experience Highlight
The people from Face Adrenalin are super fun and helpful. Their advice to anyone who’s going to jump is that “Do not look at the bridge before you are on it, and do not look down before you jump”. We did both of that. See our videos of the jump here and here

Kitty Bungy Jumping in Boulkran’s Bridge
Navin taking the 216m Jump

Day 10
We left Port Elizabeth early and went to the Daniell Cheetah Project. It is a cheetah sanctuary and a little piece of heaven if you love animals. We sat across a cheetah and heard it purr when we touched her; we saw some very gigantic hyenas and two growling lions. After our tour in DCP, we drove to Adoo National Park. It was our last part of the trip, and this was all about wildlife.
We went on our first self-drive safari, and it was a fantastic experience! We stayed in a pretty property right outside the national park called the elephant house.

Experience Highlights
Daniell Cheetah project will show you the side of wildlife you didn’t know. The survival of the fittest in the real sense.
Our initial choice of place to stay near Ado national park is a tent in Camp Figtree, but we booked our stay a little late and had to settle for Elephant house which was very comfortable and stylish.
The self-driving safari is the cheapest form of safari in Ado national park or any other national park in South Africa. You won’t have a guide, and you are on your own, but it’s a thrilling experience.

Our room in Elephant House, Ado National Parl
Navin with Khakhi the cheetah
A roaring male lion in Daniell Cheetah Project
Grazing zebras in Ado National Park

Day 11
The general manager of Elephant house suggested us to check out Scotia Private Reserve and it was a great idea. A national park right adjacent to Ado National park and a rough 45 mins drive from Elephant house, we booked an afternoon safari with Scotia Private Reserve. It was from 3 pm to 10 pm and included evening snacks, dinner, drinks, and bonfire an exciting safari where we saw the big 5 and a small night safari.

Experience Highlights.

Scotia Private Game Reserve was an ideal way to end our trip in South Africa. We went on a game drive in an open jeep with a brilliant guide. They had placed blankets for when the national park got colder after the sunset. We saw the four lions very close to our jeep, three rhinos and our guide refused to go close to them and a hippo. We saw four elephants walking gracefully across the national park.
The food was prepared in the traditional Braai method, and it was so delicious. The setting was peaceful by the bonfire inside the forest. We drank some apple cider quietly thinking about how amazing our last ten days have been.

A male lion in Scotia Private Reserve
Dinner and bonfire set up in the middle of the jungle: Scotia Private Reserve
Elegant giraffe in Scotia Private Reserve

Day 12
We checked out of Elephant house and drove to the port Elizabeth airport. We took a flight from Port Elizabeth- Johnessberg- India.

Budget

We often get asked as to what the budget for the trip was so we’ve decided to include this to help you plan better. This trip could have been way cheaper since stay and food is purely a matter of personal choice. However, we discovered that South Africa is a place where you have multiple places to do activities such as Whale Watching and Shark cage diving but just boils down to ultimately the weather and your luck in being able to have a good sighting:)

Twelve days, one shiny blue rented car, two people, 1200 Kms. This trip has been about striking off a lot of things from our bucket list. There’s a little bit of something for everyone here. We know it in our gutt that we are going to come back to this country sometime in our life.

So will South Africa be your #NextCheckIn?

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