12 June 2009

The three week loop

Johannesburg – Kruger National Park – Swaziland – Zululand – Durban – Drakensberg Mountains – Johannesburg

South Africa's busiest airport by far is OR Tambo International in Johannesburg. That is why flights to Jozi, as the locals call it, are most of the time way cheaper than flights to Cape Town, the 2nd busiest port of entry to South Africa. Reason enough to start and end our 3 week journey here and not in shiny Cape Town.

After arriving in Johannesburg I highly recommend to take at least a day to rest (don't forget – the altitude is 2000m above sea level) and another day to explore the city. The City? Yes, you are right. A visit to Soweto and the Apartheid Museum are giving you an introduction par excellence to South Africa, it's culture, problems, history and future.

After 2 days in urban Johannesburg the world famous Kruger National Park is our next stop.
How to do Kruger? Well, you can either join an organised tour starting in Johannesburg, you can rent a car in Johannesburg and do the Park on your own or you can rent a car, drive to Nelspruit and join a safari starting there. My personal recommendation is to start the tour to Kruger in Johannesburg. Why? Well, because transport is included at no extra costs and you don't have to rent a car right from the beginning of your vacation. A four day tour to Kruger is the minimum – it gives a good chance to spot the Big 5 and, well, who hasn't watched the famous “Battle at Kruger” youtube video and is dreaming about catching a similar scene on tape?

After amazing days in South Africa's biggest National Park the journey (now you have to rent a car) is continuing to Swaziland, the only absolute Monarchy in Africa. Swaziland, bordering South Africa and Mozambique, is only covering about 17,000sq km. But it is full of culture, traditions, wild life and nature. You can easily spend about 3 days of game viewing, visiting craft centers (cheaper than South African ones) and exploring the two main cities of the country – the capital Mbabane and Manzini.

Being a week in Southern Africa it is now time for some beach and the Ocean. From Swaziland it is about a half day drive to St. Lucia at the Indian Ocean. Surrounded by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly know as the “Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) this UNESCO World Heritage Site supports more species than Kruger National Park or the Okavango Delta in Botswana. It is also home to the largest population of hippopotami in South African parks. Two sea turtle species use the beaches for laying eggs (only in season). Four days can easily be spend in the area. Next stop along the route is Durban, the capital of South Africa's province “KwaZulu Natal”. Durban is South Africa's third largest city and it's busiest port. And it is South Africa's most Indian City. Around 1 Mio. South Africans have Indian or Pakistani roots – and most of them are living in or around Durban. This makes Durban probably the most multicultural city in Southern Africa. Do you want to see, taste and smell it? Well, than a visit at the well-known “Queen Victoria Market is a must including a bunny chow for lunch. You haven't heard about bunny chows? Time to go to Durban to find it out. It is super yummy!

Time is running and so next stop are the Drakensberg Mountains (Afrikaans, meaning “Dragon Mountain”). The mountains are a hikers paradise full of stunning views, amazing walks and even free climbing spots. You can also go horse-riding, visit the Battlefields of the British, Zulu and Boer clashes of the past or visit Lesotho on a daytrip. A good couple of days are passing by without you recognizing it – it is simply mind blowing in the mountains.

Sad, but true, every holiday has an end and so has this one. It is only about a four hours drive from the Drakensberg Mountains (Ladysmith area) back to the starting point of this journey, Johannesburg – also known as eGoli, the place of gold.

Safe Travels!

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