We had always wanted to go to South Africa for the safaris and waves. On our trip, we started in Jeffery’s Bay (flying into Port Elizabeth) and drove the Garden Route, making lots of stops along the way all the way to Cape Town (where we flew out). We decided to go to South Africa in March, because it was winter here in the U.S. and summer there. It was also off-season (smaller crowds) at Jeffrey’s Bay, which has some of the best waves in the world, and we had a few week window to travel and wanted to do a big trip and do something memorable with the kids. We thought, why not go to the absolute furthest corner of the earth? So we did. We flew on Lufthansa and had an 18 hour layover in Germany each way to break up the marathon flights. To get to from our house to Jeffrey’s Bay, we had a 2 hour drive to LAX, a 12 hour flight to Munich and another 12 hour flight to Johannesburg. Then we had a 2.5 hour flight to Port Elizabeth, which we finished with an hour long drive to J Bay. In total, it was 52 hours from the time we left our house to the time we got our flat in J Bay. Our 2 year old and 10 month old adjusted to the time change the first night. We were jet lagged out of our minds for a few days. It was kind of like when we brought our kids home from the hospital, except more sleep deprivation!!! The weather was perfect. It is late summer there and it barely rained. It was hot, but not unbearable. Perfect beach weather! It was shoulder season and we wore board shorts and spring suits instead of full suits and booties.
We stayed at the Starfish Surf House in Jeffrey’s Bay the first week, which had the most killer view of SuperTubes and was an amazing deal at only $30/USD per night for a 3 bedroom house. In Jeffery’s Bay, we surfed ourselves out on amazing waves, and ate incredible food. We also scored great deals on clothing at the Billabong and RipCurl outlet stores. We also took a day trip to do a safari at Addo Elephant National Park. We’d highly recommend doing a self drive safari here. It’s quite the adventure when you’re finding elephants, zebras, lions on your own! The kids were so stoked!
The following week, while driving along the Garden Route, we stayed in a hotel one night near Tsitsikama Park and then at a game lodge ( Nyaru Game Lodge ) near Mossel Bay and then at a hotel in Cape Town. We prefer simple accommodations and avoid traveling luxuriously. We prefer to travel economically and stay in places that have kitchens, space for two kids, a crib for the baby…etc. We went for location and proximity to what we wanted to do. The Nyaru Game Lodge had the coolest accommodation. We stayed in an african hut. It was the most unique place we have ever stayed in. They had a pet warthog and mere cat. Everything was quintessential Africa. We were about 45 minutes from some really cool caves and HighGate Ostrich Farm where they let Mike and Coral ride ostriches. Not pet, but ride. That was one of the highlights of the trip for sure. If you’ve ever dreamed about riding ostriches, your dreams can come true there! It is way harder than it looks!
While in Cape Town, we hiked, surfed, saw national landmarks (Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain), walked around town and hung out at beaches. We even saw a bunch of penguins at Boulders Beach! We didn’t realize that the Antarctic current comes up the coast and that the Atlantic Ocean is absolutely freezing! Mike cut his foot on his first wave, but had no idea, because his entire body was completely numb. We also saw beware of shark signs all over Llandudno Beach (where we surfed).
The food was great. We ate at a lot of really good causal restaurants all over the place. In Cape Town, we ate at a traditional African restaurant and Mike ate warthog and zebra shish kabobs. It was actually really good. We asked the locals where they recommended we ate and it always ended up being really good and usually very cheap. Every meal we had was great. The fact that it was incredibly cheap was a huge bonus!
Most of the challenges of this trip were logistics, planning. There was so much to do and such little time to do it. South Africa is a HUGE country. You could spend a really, really long time there. When we were there, we didn’t have any challenges. Everything went really smooth. We were a little worried about the murder, rape, child trafficking…etc, that you hear about. But then we realized that bad stuff happens everywhere and if you use common sense, that will keep you out of trouble 99.9% of the time. We didn’t have a single problem while we were there. It requires a lot of research before you leave, but once you know where to go and what to avoid, you can relax and enjoy the trip. Try not to get lost in the big cities. Muizenberg is a really cute little surf town, but it is right next to Cape Flatts, which is a very scary place, even in broad daylight.
The trip was an insanely good value for what we got. The exchange rate between USD and ZAF Rand is incredible, so once we were there, everything was really cheap. We would absolutely recommend this vacation to anyone, especially those who love adventure and being outdoors! If you surf, this country is heaven on earth!