Having spent most of my travel days exploring other continents around the world, I was excited about the prospect of tapping into Africa and to see what it had to offer. The main reason for my interest was to go Great White shark cage diving which had been on my bucket list for years. Little did I know that this country offered so much more, and the trip really opened my eyes to this fantastic country.
South Africa’s southern coast lifestyle and scenery really reminded me of Australia in large parts, so if you have spent time in Australia and enjoyed yourself, then I would firmly recommend including this on your next round the world trip or just for a 2-3 week break.
I knew that I wanted to fly into Cape Town and travel along the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth, however I was undecided on how I wanted to make the trip. I finally decided to travel on the Baz Bus, which is a fantastic option, especially if you are on your own. If you’re looking for something more comfortable, it’s easy to arrange car or even campervan hire as part of a tailor-made trip
As soon as I walked onto the bus I found the environment very social and I knew I was in for a good time. Using the Baz Bus allowed me to have the flexibility to stop anywhere along the route for as long as I like which was perfect for me, and it was very cheap. Booking onto the bus was an easy process, and I found that I ended up travelling much of the way with the same travellers. I took the bus as far as Port Elizabeth, however they do also offer tickets further up the coast to Durban and then onto Johannesburg.
Exploring Cape Town for 3 nights is the perfect way to start your South African adventure. Many people will base themselves at either The Waterfront or down on Camps Bay. Both offer great accommodation options to cater for all budgets.
Making your way to the top of Table Mountain is certainly a must for anyone travelling here. You have the option of taking the cable car up and down, however making the trek to the top yourself is well worth the effort. The trek should take around 90 minutes and can be completed by anyone with a reasonable amount of fitness.
The trip over to Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned) from the V&A Waterfront is also another great experience if you have a couple of hours to spare. I also took a day trip to the Cape of Good Hope and visited the penguins on Boulders Beach which was also another highlight of my time here.
After the city I headed out towards Hermanus on the Baz Bus. We passed through the wine region of Stellenbosch which looked fantastic, however I needed to move on quite quickly to get to the Great White sharks, so I couldn’t linger in the wine region. If you have time to spend, I would definitely recommend a road trip through the wine region as part of your itinerary.
I took a 12 mile coastal walk in Hermanus and as I was visiting in September, it was the ideal opportunity to spot the Southern Right Whales in the bay. There are plenty of opportunities to take boats out onto the ocean however spotting them from the coastline was fairly straightforward, especially with the help of the local ‘whale crier’, who is constantly on the look out for them with his horn.
The next morning I woke early and headed to Gansbaai to go cage diving with the Great White sharks. On arrival we had a thorough safety brief before heading out. The speedboat powered out for about 20 minutes to a secluded cove which was great as it meant the sea was calmer and of course the visibility would be better.
Within no time the sharks were circling the boat and it was time to get in. We went in groups of 8, and at times the sharks were within touching distance. That day we saw 6 different Great Whites with the largest being 4.5m, so a real adrenaline experience. I can honestly say this was one of the best things I have ever done, so I highly recommend this for anyone heading this way.
It is generally best to view the Great Whites during their winter season (June – August). However the trips will not run if the weather is too bad, so if you are travelling at this time of year, then it is wise to leave a couple of days free just in case the trip is cancelled. I would always recommend booking in advance due to the popularity of the trips. You don’t need any special equipment or certification to dive with the sharks as you are surface based, and as the sharks pass by the cage you go under to see them.
There is an abundance of beautiful places to stop along the Garden route from Mossel Bay, Knysna, Wilderness, Plettenberg Bay and Jefferys Bay which will keep you busy for some time, and these are all stops along the Baz Bus pass route.
One of my favourite stops was in Storms River which is located within Tsitsikamma National Park. This place I can only describe as being like Queenstown in New Zealand for the abundance of adventure sports that it offers.
It is quiet on the nightlife scene but during the day you have the opportunity to throw yourself off the highest bungee bridge in the world (216m) or take a half or full day black water rafting trip down Storms River, with the odd cliff jump. You could head into the forest for some zip-lining or take a quad bike out for the day. This is just a snippet of what is possible and you could well find yourself spending longer than planned here. We spent a few nights at The Tube and Axe Lodge where they offered the chance to camp which was a great experience in itself. If you’re a fan of any type of adrenaline adventure – this is a key destination for your time in South Africa!
If you’d like to plan a tailor-made South Africa holiday or go swimming with sharks, speak to Mark about how to include South Africa as part of your trip. It may be easier than you think and I can help you plan flights, trip ideas and advise on which activities you’ll need to pre-book. I have no doubt your time here will be a highlight of your round the world trip!