Trip to South Africa in Feb 2010

Folks, below is the commentary of my short visit to South Africa in Feb 2010. This was an official visit for 3 weeks and I got to explore the countryside only during weekends. Hence my trip details will be no means exhaustive. Still a couple of pointers and some photos to share with the readers of www.ghumakkar.com and an humble attempt to enrich this wonderful site.


Ready for a long drive

Currency
1 ZAR (south African Rand denoted by R) = Rs 6 (INR)
1 US Dollar = R 7.5

Visas:
South African visit visas can be obtained in a week. No sweat here. However, if you are planning to go there during May – July 2010 you may need a factor in a longer time due to the heavy rush for the FIFA world cup.

Tickets:
I flew from Hyderabad, India. Hence took the Emirates flight: ‘Hyderabad – Dubai – Johannesburg’ more for convenience. However it took 15 hours end to end (4 hours to Dubai, 3 hour waiting in Dubai and 8 hours to Johannesburg from Dubai). Smarter thing is to take the South African airways from Mumbai to Johannesburg – total of 8 hours flight. so folks in Mumbai and near-by areas can take SA Air instead of a Middle-east connection. The ticket costs around Rs 48,000 for the return for my sector

Johannesburg (Jo’burg)
I stayed at one of the service apartments in a gated community in Morning Side – Closer to Jo’burg. Go for it. These are clean, secure and inexpensive lodging options compared to Hotels. You get a 2 bedroom, bath attached, fully furnished apartment for about ZAR 650 per day. Functional kitchen with all necessary utensils means you can cook your own food and full fledged laundromat available for your use. Stay at Sandton or Morning Side. Better areas.

Jo’burg downtown is very rough. Security is a small concern in Jo’burg. So need to be better prepared. Tap water in South Africa is absolutely fine.. Bottled water costs more than Petrol.. So drink from tap water. Went around all the shopping malls in sandton and Jo’burg areas. Wanderers cricket ground is wonderful.

Drove to Pilanesburg National Park (2 hours from Joburg). The safari was awesome. Pilanesburg is around 600 SqKms and home to Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos, Giraffe and Zebras. Got to see plenty of Elephants, Zebras, Rhinos and Giraffe.. No luck with Lions..

However we saw the other animals so close, in their natural habitat, it was well worth the visit. Need to budget an entire day for Pilanesburg Safari..

Sun city casino is next door to Pilanesburg.. Sun City was made immortal (or is it other way around?) by Aishwariya Rai and Sushmeeta Sen when they won their title here.

Got to visit Monty Casino the next day (1 hour drive from Jo’burg).. excellent place to hang-out.. Got to see the Sherlock Holmes movie here.. Time well spent..

One place that’s a must see, according to local public, is the Kruger National Park. Kruger for the safari (350 Kms from Jo’burg) is apparently mind-blowing and is South Africa’s answer to Masaimara and Serengeti. Pilanesburg comes next in the pecking order. So if you get a chance go to Kruger.

Cape Town (CPT)
The next weekend, I got to spend at Cape Town. Again stayed at Service Apts.

Absolutely awesome tourist destination.. Lots of mountains and beaches..Very very beautiful city.. As usual the best way to explore any city is to do the Hop-on hop-off tourist bus (my favourite- If you read my blog in Ghumakkar about my trip to KL and Singapore, you will get an idea of what I’m saying).

Entire Saturday was spent on Hop-on bus (R 120 this is Rand and not Rupees mis-spelt).. I got down at Table Mountain stop.. Got into a cabe car (R 160, Rand again).. Takes you to the top of Table mountain.. breathtaking view of the city, of the harbour, Robben island (where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in exile), view of the waterfront.. many more…

Not to be missed.. spent some time on the beach road as well.. there are many eateries.. Indian ones too.. Raj .. good quality but expensive.

Sunday we drove to Cape Agulhas (4 hour drive) which is the southern most tip of the African Continent. Many people confuse Cape of Good hope to be the southern most tip but it’s Cape Agulhas..The drive was breathtaking.. we stopped at a small place called Hermanus for lunch.. In the eatery we saw India – South Africa cricket match on TV. Harbajan Singh was on a hat-trick during that test match.. there was a small crowd around the TV all South Africans.. we were the only Indians there.. when Bajji missed the hat-trick we were the only ones to be disappointed :). Cape Agulhas is the place where Indian Ocean and Atlantic oceans meet.. Attached a photo of that point.. Place worth a visit..

During my stay at CPT, i also got a chance to drive to Cape of Good hope but could get entry into the national park as we reached after 6:00 PM..

However, the drive was breath-taking with long beaches along the way.. we also stopped at a place called penguin point.. Got to see lots of them.. CPT is more scenic than Jo’burg.. and touristy..

After CPT, we packed out bags to Jo’burg and Pretoria.. After spending a few days here, we moved back to Hyderabad with warm memories of African visit

Final Thoughts
— African people are very warm and friendly.. The entire place is getting ready for FIFA world cup.. so there’s a football fever that’s palpable..
— Some areas around Jo’burg should be avoided.. I guess that’s true of any city in the world
— Try to stay in service apartments.. you will cut your costs by over 40% on both lodging and boarding expenses as you can cook your own food..
— African Safari is breathtaking.. Donot miss it
— You can rent a car and drive around.. Rules similar to the ones in India.. (Cars with gears, right hand drive and keep left etc).. Works out cheaper.. gives you lots of flexibility.. Taxis are very expensive in RSA.

Enjoy your vacation..

11 Comments

  • nandanjha says:

    Lovely pics and so much of useful information. Thank you Swami. I am not sure on how many people would know about car-rent and that the driving system is same as ours or that service apartments make more sense. Usually we go by package-tours and that sort of doesn’t give us all the info.

    Best one was the hop-on-hop-off bus :-)

    Destinations outside of India are not well represented here at Ghumakkar so its really great to read about RSA, probably a series of posts (I guess I made the same comment :-)) would have given us more pics.

    Looking fwd to read from you as you travel more. Thanks again.

    • swaminathan mani says:

      Thanks Nandan for your appreciation. I agree I should have written the posts in 3-4 parts.. that would have given an option to upload more pictures..

      The roads and other infrastructure in South Africa are top class. As good as you see in the US or any other developed country..And you can hire a Merc for less than R 500 per day and drive around..Very cheap..

      — Swami

  • nandanjha says:

    Oh. Probably a trip dedicated to drive all the fancy cars can be a good thought :-)

    Swami – You may want to sign-up for a gravatar at http://en.gravatar.com/ , that way you would see a small pic along side your comments, in the title of the story and on your page (http://www.ghumakkar.com/author/Swaminathan-Mani/)

    The ‘Author’ pages still show the photos which people (or me) uploaded at Ghumakkar but the plan is to change that to ‘gravatar’.

  • Swami,

    Thanks for introducing South Africa. After reading your account, I feel that it would not be difficult to manage it on our own.

    BTW how one can search for service apartments in South Africa. Is there any website dedicated to it ?

    And yes the pictures of exotic African animals are very good.

  • Sunil says:

    http://www.wheretostay.co.za is a good site, you can find information about all types of accomodation from self-catering apartments to five star hotels. It is a beautiful place. But better to take precautions as the crime rate is high. A good place to see the lions is “Lion and Rhino” park. Its near Jo’berg (around 50 km). Go on a sunday afternoon (around 12 or 1 pm), the lions are fed in a common area, in an open area. You can sit in your car and enjoy seeing them feasting, step ou tof your car, you will end up as sunday lunch for the lions .. lol

  • Satish says:

    Hi Mani,

    Very Good post and thanks for such a wonderful piece, It was as good as being there :-) . The clarity of pictures and the scenics were awesome.

    I recommend you can consider a parellel career option- professional photography !!!!. All the best.

    Regards
    Satish

  • Yashodhara says:

    Hey Swami, awesome narration, felt it was a live show. Valuable facts and amazing views!

    Regards
    Yashodhara

  • Ravikant Vemula says:

    Very good. i enjoyed them.Feels nostaljic and tempts everyone to visit these places. Thanks for sharing the info.Cheers RK

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Swami,

    Which are the place you recommend for one day tour to Johannesburg? I heard that after sunset its not safe to travel there.

    Any eating places or food suggested by you?

    • Swami says:

      Hi Mahesh,

      for one day trip visit Pilanesberg national park and sun city – you can stretch and cover these two on a single day. There are several indian joints. Nothing which is outstanding but good.

      Yes, better to be careful after sunset. We should not walk alone on the roads. But inside a car should be safe.

      • maheh semwal says:

        I will be visiting Johannesburg in last week of July. I have two days to explore the city , could you suggest the place which is highly recommended to visit.

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