South Africa …an RV wildlife safari! 33 Day RV Caravan
It’s called a ‘whole world in one country,’ and it’s bursting with a diversity of cultures and landscapes – life on all levels lived to the fullest. Welcome to South Africa! A breathing kaleidoscope of vivid colors and the rich scents of Malaysian spices. And everywhere there is music. You’ll feel an underlying pulse before you even hear it. You may have come to see the ‘Big Five’ – African elephant, rhinoceros, African lion, Cape buffalo and African leopard. You leave with so much more.
Fantasy’s grand 33-day South Africa Wildlife Safari starts with three hotel nights in Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is not just another sexy seaside city with spectacular ocean views. It’s everything you want in an exotic destination: a gorgeous and gracious segue into a foreign country, an intrepid adventure and an idyllic retreat. Laugh at the ‘drunken sailor’ shenanigans of the African penguin colony at Boulders Beach. Ferry to historic Robben Island and honor the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Get out of the city and embrace the natural beauty of the land like the locals do. Experience the rocky and rugged majesty of the headlands at the Cape of Good Hope that claimed the lives of seafarers so long ago. Soak in the wild and windy ocean views from the bluff of the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Nothing illustrates better the resiliency of this complex country and its people than the proud Protea, a natural flower that blooms against all odds alongside the scrubby native fynbos.
We pick up our RVs and stock up on groceries in the breathtakingly beautiful winery region of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape Province. Stellenbosch is a living piece of Dutch colonial history. Its Mediterranean climate of hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters make it perfect for viticulture. With its green, rolling hills and streets lined with oak trees, this unbelievable region is no comparison to the Napa Valley region of California or the champagne region of France.
RVing in South African couldn’t be easier, and it’s absolutely the best way to experience the country’s staggering beauty and hospitality in the detail it deserves. The road infrastructure is excellent – highways are paved, wide and well patrolled. Signage is ample – pictorial or in English. ‘Keep left, pass right’ are the watchwords here. We drive on the left side of the road in right-hand drive vehicles. The metric system is used exclusively; distance and speed limits are measured in kilometers and fuel gauges measured in liters. Gas stations are not ‘self-help.’ Attendants provide all services, and it’s a good idea to keep spare change on hand for tips. Two important caveats: drunk driving is a very serious offense here and checkpoints are common.
Most highways lack fencing, so stay alert for any and all kinds of animals that wander onto the pavement. Large, slow-moving antelope or rogue gangs of aggressive monkeys can wreak havoc on your vehicle, psyche and schedule. Never, ever stop to feed any animals. The Automobile Association of South Africa (AASA) urges drivers to be vigilant and drive defensively, as you would in any unfamiliar area.
An important thing to remember while RVing in South Africa? Brake for Nando’s, the South African fast-food chain famous for their flame-grilled chicken sandwiches and local peri-peri seasoning. You’ll never go back to Chick-fil-A!
A short drive away from Stellenbosch brings us to Cape Algulhas (Cape of the Needles), the geographic southern tip of the African continent. We celebrate with a South African wine-tasting social here. The following day finds us in Oudtschoorn, known as the ‘ostrich capital of the world.’ We take a guided tour of an ostrich farm and enjoy a local meal.
We continue through the heart of South Africa’s famous Garden route to one of the country’s most beautiful and well-kept secrets, Knysna (pronounce nize—na). Dramatic sandstone cliffs pummeled by the pounding surf of the Indian Ocean below make every view a postcard. Along the way, we take a guided tour of the Cango Caves. This underground wonder world features dripstone formations of real-life objects and historical figures in a stunning natural amphitheater. Afterwards, you’re introduced to a wonderful South African tradition called ‘Sundowner.’ As the name implies, Sundowner is observed at sunset with a beverage of your choice to celebrate the events of the day by raising your glass to the sun. Everywhere you travel during sunset, you’ll see locals quietly standing outside with their glasses raised in a quiet salute to the sun. And lucky you, you’ll be celebrating your first official Sundowner with elephants!
The next two days are devoted to Tsitsakamma National Park. We walk across the Storms River Suspension Bridge. En route to Addo National Elephant Park, we stop to take a 10-minute walk through a lush, cool forest to the ‘Big Tree.’ This revered giant yellowwood is estimated to be 600-800 years old. Careful not to view it with ‘giant redwood eyes’ though, as it might appear significantly smaller than its American counterpart. We take a game drive, a guided safari tour with lion viewing before stopping for afternoon tea. Dinner is African outdoor dining at its best, called a boma dinner under the glittering African sky. A morning game drive concludes our stay.
An overnight in Cradock is highlighted by a traditional South African dinner and cultural dance show. A scenic country drive to Gariep Dam offers an option to stop and explore the dam. We drive through Bloemfontain to Golden Gate National Park near the Lesotho border. A nature walk along the beautiful sandstone cliffs affords some sweeping panoramic views. We drive on to Midmar, stopping to explore Nelson Mandela’s apartheid museum here.
On the way to Shakaland Zulu Cultural Village, we stop at Howick Falls, or ‘Place of the Tall One,’ in Zulu legend. Shakaland is a must-see stop on any South African itinerary. It’s all things Zulu all the time here amidst the indigenous thorn trees and aloes. We’ even sample Zulu beer! En route to St. Lucia the next day, we stop at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park for game viewing. Imfolozi is the oldest nature reserve in Africa, known for having the largest population of white rhino in the world.
Our exploration of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park continues as we head toward Pongola. We stop for a wildlife cruise and to view big game and exotic birds at Hluhluwe National Park.
Day 21 finds us in Swaziland! This tiny monarchy is best known for its festivals, world-class wildlife viewing and stunning handmade craft jewelry. Speaking of which, we check out the local crafts at Mlilwane Game Park before enjoying a potjie dinner with Swazi dancers. Oh, the joys of the potjie dinner! A potjie is similar to a Dutch oven – it’s a round, pot-bellied, three-legged pot used only outside over a campfire. Cooking with it is a true South African art.
The next glorious three days are spent in Kruger National Park. This is the real Africa, South Africa’s best-loved treasure. The Big Five is the big draw, and they’re everywhere in and around the resident baobab and marula trees. We stay at the luxurious, five-star thatch roof Buhala Lodge on the banks of the Crocodile River. Our luxury safari experience starts with lunch at the Buhala Lodge, followed by a Sundowner guided game drive and dinner. Our second day in Kruger begins with a guided game drive and a packed breakfast to enjoy along the way! We head back at the lodge for lunch and then take off on an evening game drive before dinner. The next morning after breakfast, we take a self-guided game drive through Skukuza Camp, the capital of Kruger National Park. There’s nothing quite like safari life: breakfast, game drive, lunch, game drive, dinner, relax, sleep – and do it again tomorrow!
On day 26, we drive 49 miles through Bronkhorstspruit to Pilanesberg, near Pretoria and Johannesburg. We have two days here. Time enough to walk with lions, have lunch and do a bit of relaxing. An available option is a hot-air balloon ride — well worth consideration.
We return our motorhomes in Johannesburg and spend one hotel night here before our morning flight to Zambia and Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World! We arrive in Zambia just in time for a buffet lunch, followed by a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, the fourth largest river in Africa. We’re now in Botswana and we stay in Chobe National Park near the vast Okavango Delta. Itinerary highlights here include a Botswana safari and lunch as well as a guided tour of Victoria Falls and a local village. Victoria Falls marks the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and it is the largest (and possibly loudest!) waterfall in the world. There could be no more fitting finale to Fantasy’s RV Safari Extravaganza than a farewell dinner in this classic African setting. We fly back to Johannesburg in the morning, where once again our time becomes our own to return home or journey on.
It’s been said that once you visit Africa, something intangible touches your heart to ensure your return. Is it the endless grasslands that flow over the horizon like an infinity pool? Is it the warmth and generosity of people who share everything they have to welcome a stranger? The thrill of viewing the Big Five in their natural protected habitat? The utterly unique food with all of its exotic influences? Or the moving silhouette of a lone baobab tree on a sweeping savannah? Fantasy’s fabulous South Africa RV Safari will show you all of this and more. But only your heart can answer this question. ‘You know you’re truly alive when you’re living among lions,’ Karen Blixen said in Out of Africa. We know that once you leave Africa, all you’ll dream of is your return.