At long last, international travel is finally open again to most of the world. It has seemingly become standard that every country you visit now requires a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours, (except for Tanzania, which does not require any test.) For some people, they even need to get another PCR test before they can return to their home country.
It might seem like a pain, but in reality, the test itself can be done quickly and near your home. A good way to think of it is that it is the same amount of effort as getting anti-malaria pills before your trip to Africa, or even a yellow fever vaccine, which used to be mandatory. It seems to be the timing requirement that scares people more than the actual test itself, but as with all international travel, one just has to be prepared. I’m sure my fellow Africans will relate when I say getting a PCR test actually seems like less of a hassle than needing to get a visa to travel to Europe or America.
The unfortunate reality of needing to get a negative PCR test is that it has made multi-country itineraries difficult and it seems like that for the foreseeable future, single-country holidays will probably be the way to go. Fortunately, this is not much of a problem in Africa, where the countries are massive and the scenery varied. It is easily possible to spend 1 – 2 weeks in any Southern or East African country. We have however figured out that it is possible to combine South Africa or Tanzania with one other country.
South Africa has the best infrastructure in Africa and while it might be annoying, it is easily possible to take an hour out of your day to get a PCR test done in Cape Town or Johannesburg before moving on to your next country. South Africa is also the major transit hub for travellers visiting Botswana and Victoria Falls. As long as you have your negative PCR test, you will be allowed to transit through South Africa to other countries. Tanzania does not require a negative PCR test, so it can be combined with any other destination. That is enough about Covid19 now; in this blog post, we want to show you just how much is possible to see and do in one African country. As always, for more details and itinerary suggestions, you can find everything you need on our website by clicking on any of the hyperlinks below.
Most famous for the great wildebeest migration, but now famous for being the easiest country to travel to in Africa because no PCR test is required to enter Tanzania. When speaking about Tanzania, it is very difficult not to just name drop its most famous destinations: the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Mount Kilimanjaro, Ruaha National Park and Selous Game Reserve.
Tanzania has some of the biggest and most densely populated game reserves on the continent. If you want to see lots of animals, then the northern reserves are for you. If you want to escape the crowds and infrastructure and have a truly wild experience, then the southern reserves will be your ticket. And all of these safaris are easily combinable with a week long beach getaway on several neighbouring islands. Zanzibar is the most famous island, but there is also Pemba and Mafia Islands for something more rustic. Due to the fact that Tanzania does not require a negative PCR test, it can be easily combined with Kenya.
The birthplace of the safari, and home to the other half of the great migration, in the Maasai Mara. Kenya has other awesome game reserves, such as Amboseli, which is a photograhers delight, Lake Nakuru for rhinos and Laikipia, where you can have a safari with a difference. Laikipia offers a variety of safari activities you won’t find anywhere else in Africa, like cycling safaris, lion tracking, dog tracking, horse riding safaris, and a visit to the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee sanctuary. Kenya is slightly more lenient with its Covid19 rules, the negative PCR test only needs to be not older than 96 hours.
Everyone has heard of the Greater Kruger Park for some of the best wildlife safaris on the continent, as well as the beautiful city of Cape Town, home to Table Mountain, Cape Point, Robben Island and penguins. It is easy to spend 7-10 days exploring the Greater Kruger Park and Cape Town, but South Africa really does have so much more to offer. In a previous blog post, we spoke about all the fun you can have along the Garden Route, from waterfall hikes, to wine tasting to whale watching and boat cruises.
For beach bums, there is the province of KwaZulu Natal, where the Indian Ocean is warm and tropical. Near isiMangaliso Wetland Park, you will find kilometres of unspoilt beaches. KwaZulu Natal is also home to some excellent game reserves, such as Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, Phinda and Nambiti, meaning it is possible to have an amazing Big 5 Bush & Beach combo just in this one province. As mentioned earlier, due to the testing facilities available, it is possible to combine South Africa with any of the countries coming up below, you just need to ask us how.
Namibia is home to the oldest desert in the world, from which the country gets its name – the Namib desert. It is also the second-most sparsely populated country in the world (after Mongolia.) A country the size of France and Germany combined, but with only 1.5 million inhabitants means that there is space and wilderness everywhere you go. Windhoek is the capital city and is located right in the middle of the country. This is where all Namibian safaris start and it is easily accessible with direct flights from Europe.
Namibia best game reserve is Etosha National Park, where you will find the largest concentration of black rhinos on the planet. There is also Fish River Canyon, which is the second largest canyon in the world. But perhaps its most famous site is Sossusvlei, where you can find some of the biggest sand dunes in the world, in a spectacular ochre colour. Sossusvlei really does look like an alien landscape and is unlike one you can see anywhere else in the world. Due to the vast distances between all these fabulous destinations, many Namibian stand-alone safaris take between 7-10 days. All safaris end in Windhoek, where PCR testing facilities are available. You can see all of our favourite Namibian safaris, both driven and fly-in, on our Namibian page, here.
Famously one of the best places to go on a truly unspoilt African safari. We offer a number of 7 -10 day safari packages in Botswana which take in the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, Savuti, Chobe National Park and the Kalahari. When you are in Botswana, you truly are in the wilderness. Cellphone signal and wifi is limited and the dirt roads seem to go on forever without any direction to them.
The appeal of Botswana is the lack of infrastructure, but this also makes it tricky to get a PCR test done. The challenges are currently being addressed however, with Covid19 testing facilities being set up in Maun and Kasane. A number of 5-star luxury camps also offer testing in camp. They will fly a doctor to you. Currently, clinics are not open on weekends, so timing is important. The ideal would be to arrive in Maun, get tested, have 2 nights on safari and then return to Maun to collect your results before proceeding to your next destination
The most visited destination in Zimbabwe is without a doubt Victoria Falls. Most travellers will tag on two nights in Victoria Falls to a much bigger itinerary in South Africa or Botswana. It is easily possible to tag Victoria Falls on to the end of any South African itinerary, by getting a PCR test done in Cape Town or Johannesburg, or even at Victoria Falls Airport. Please remember that these tests cost money, usually between US$50 – US$70.
But there is so much more going on in Zimbabwe than just Victoria Falls and we highly recommend looking at our Zimbabwe combinations page for inspiration. Zimbabwe has some excellent game reserves, such as Hwange and Mana Pools, with world class lodges in them, catering for everyone, from 3-star to 5-star guests.
Zambia is currently the second easiest country to travel to in terms of Covid19 requirements (Tanzania, below, is the easiest.) Zambia only requires a negative PCR test not older than 14 days, which often means that you can visit another country before coming to Zambia and your PCR test will still be valid. For that reason, it is now easiest to visit the Victoria Falls from the Zambian side. Even though this is the country’s most famous attraction, there are some spectacular game reserves and national parks, with very few tourists around, which guarantees a tranquil and peaceful safari.
Although they are not as well known as other reserves in Africa, Kafue, Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa all have an abundance of space and animals. South Luangwa has a reputation for having the densest leopard population in Africa and many of the reserves offer supreme walking safaris for the truly fit and adventurous.
Uganda is most famous for gorilla trekking and for many people, Uganda is only a three night add on to a much larger safari so that they can see these magnificent creatures. However, Uganda has many more reserves than just Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (where the gorillas are found.) If you have a look at our Uganda page, you might be surprised at how much is on offer. Queen Elizabeth National Park is seen as the premier National Park and is where you can famously see tree climbing lions. There are over 100 species of mammals in the park, including Ugandan Kob, an antelope you won't find anywhere else in the world.
After your gorilla trekking, you can also head to Kibale and go chimpanzee trekking too. Some might argue that Uganda is the best place to see primates. See how many you can tick off as you go along.
And thanks to the fact that Tanzania does not require a PCR test, it is still eminently possible to start your safari with 3 nights of gorilla trekking before heading to the Serengeti. You will need a negative PCR test before entering Uganda.
Africa is open for travel again and as you can see, there is so much to do in each country that it is possible to build a 7 – 14 day single-country-itinerary that will leave you feeling enriched by the experience. In addition, Africa is probably one of the safest places to travel to right now, what with it being summer here for the next 6 months and due to the fact that on safari, you are in the middle of nowhere, away from the crowds, with the only other people around being travellers who all had to test negative before they could come on safari. Contact us and let’s start planning your journey.
South Africa is often called a world-in-one-country and nowhere is this more evident than along the fabled Garden Route. The Garden Route is so named because of the beautiful and diverse landscapes found along the way. But this is not all you can find, there are also wildlife safaris to be had, as well as a variety of activities, from game drives to hikes to boat cruises to wine tasting.
At the risk of hyperbole, it is where you can have a complete African holiday experience. What is so great about a Garden Route holiday is the flexibility it offers. The area known as the Garden Route begins in Cape Town and ends in the city of Port Elizabeth, 750km away, with many charming and different towns to stop at along the way. You can simply ask your travel consultant about which towns sound the best for you and incorporate those into your holiday, for as long a stay as you wish.
Let’s start in Cape Town shall we, because it is very easy to get to these days, with direct flights from Europe, North America and Dubai. Cape Town is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, being sandwiched between the imposing Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. There is so much on offer here that it is possible to having a week long holiday just in Cape Town, but for those doing the Garden Route, we recommend 3 nights in the city. The must see items in Cape Town are Cape Point, the penguins at Boulders Beach, Chapman’s Peak, the V&A Waterfront, Robben Island and of course – catching the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. For the more intrepid of you, it is also possible to hike to the top of the mountain. I could go on, but if you want to learn and see more about what there is to do in Cape Town, then please visit our Cape Town itinerary page, here.
From Cape Town, the next stop is often the Cape Winelands, especially for the wine and food lovers. The two best towns to choose between are Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. This is where you will find South Africa’s oldest and grandest wine farms, most of which offer wine tasting and wine tours. Franschhoek is known as the culinary capital of South Africa and is also home to the Wine Tram, which must be just about the best way to go wine tasting. Depending on how much you like wine, you can spend one or two nights in the winelands.
From the winelands, the next stop has to be Hermanus. The drive from the winelands to Hermanus along the R44 is one of the most beautiful roads in South Africa, hugging the edge of the Hottentots-Holland Mountains as it meanders through the small towns of Rooi-Els, Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond. Betty’s Bay is home to another penguin colony if you want to get another look at the clumsy guys. Hermanus is famous for being one of the best whale watching spots in the world when the Southern Wright Whales come to calve between June – December. It is also a beautiful town in its own right, and with the R44 being as scenic as it is, it is worth a visit any time of the year. There are plenty of photo stops along the way.
After Hermanus, you have a few choices for your next stop. This will be the longest drive of the route, at about 6 hours, with the next popular towns to stop at being Knysna, Oudtshoorn or Plettenberg Bay. All these towns are situated in close proximity to one another, so you can stop at just one, or you can stop at all 3 if you want. Both Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are situated on the coast, within the coastal forest belt. Plettenberg Bay is the bigger of the two towns and has the best beaches, with the sea being much warmer than it is in Cape Town. Knysna is the most beautiful town, being situated in rolling hills surrounding a lagoon. It is possible to do a cruise on the lagoon and a drive to the Heads viewpoint is worth it. Attempts were made to turn the Knysna lagoon into a harbour, but the entrance to the lagoon is so rocky and dangerous that it was not viable and today, sailing your boat through the dangerous waters of the Heads is uninsurable. On the other side of the Heads is Featherbed Nature Reserve, where you can go for a scenic hike.
Oudtshoorn is inland, in the Karoo semi-desert. You will notice how the landscape changes dramatically as you drive over the Outeniqua Mountains. That is one of the things I enjoy about the Garden Route, there are mountains and mountain passes everywhere. Oudtshoorn is famous for being the ostrich farming capital of South Africa and it is possible to stay on an ostrich farm while you are here. Oudtshoorn’s other claim to fame is the Cango Caves.
About an hour outside of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay is an area called Tsitsikamma, which is known as the gem of the Garden Route. When you visit Tsitsikamma, you will see where the Garden Route gets its name from. This is where the forest is at its densest and where the flowers are at their most colourful. Tsitsikamma has beautiful flowers and hikes. My favourite is the waterfall hike, which leads you through the forest and along the edge of the coast until you get to a dramatic waterfall. The other good, but much shorter hike is to the wobbly suspension bridge that spans the mouth of the Storms River. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can do a zipline canopy tour in the Tsitsikamma forest, or bungee jump off the Bloukrans bridge, which at 216m high, used to be the highest in the world, but is now the third or fourth highest, depending who you ask.
After you have thrown yourself off the Bloukrans bridge, or simply had lunch at the café and watched other crazy people do it, it is finally time for a wildlife safari! In the Eastern Cape province, just an hour outside the city of Port Elizabeth, are a number of private game reserves all offering fully inclusive Big 5 safaris. What does fully inclusive mean? It means that you don’t have to lift a finger because breakfast, lunch and dinner are included, as well as local drinks. You will get to go on two guided game drives per day to look for animals. Please remember to tell the guides what animals you want to see, as many of them are expert trackers and can then do their best to find your favourite animals, including elephants, lions, buffaloes, zebras, giraffes and more. There are many game reserves and lodges to choose from in the Eastern Cape, so check out our Eastern Cape Safaris page to figure out which one is the best for you.
After your 2 or 3 nights on safari, you can drop off your rental car at Port Elizabeth and fly home, or you can drive all the way back to Cape Town, along the inland Route 62, stopping at different towns along the way, such as MacGregor and Robertson.
If you have made it to the end of this blog post, I’m sure you can see how the Garden Route brings together the best bits of South Africa to provide you with a beautiful and complete itinerary, from a Big 5 safari to hiking up Table Mountain, to whale watching and sampling some of South Africa’s finest wines on her oldest wine farms, there is something for everyone along the Garden Route. Don’t forget your cameras and your sense of adventure.
You can view a few sample itineraries we have for the Garden Route here; or you can contact us if you want to plan your own tailor-made journey.
Photographer, conservationist, dive and field guide, teller of bad jokes.