I met a European couple (the guy from Netherlands and girl from UK) in Australia a couple of years ago. They are now planning to come visit South Africa later this year and I thought it may be useful for European travellers to hear a South African’s opinion of a holiday in South Africa.
Firstly you need to understand that I’m an outdoor man. Although I live in a city, everything I do for pleasure will be to get away from city life. While in Australia, I read somewhere that “If you can’t get lucky in Darwin, you should stop trying”. So if you’re looking for big, busy cities to party, don’t follow my advice and if you want to get lucky, go to Darwin.
I believe anybody coming to visit South Africa should try to spend a couple of days in Knysna and Drakensberg. Although there are many other places worth visiting, these two are my favourites.
Most international flights in South Africa arrive or depart in Johannesburg or Cape Town and I would recommend you arriving in Cape Town and departing from Jo’burg. For a bit of wine tasting, do a 1 or 2 day wine trip to Stellenbosch or something around Cape Town and then head off to Mossel Bay (personally I would spend 1-2 days in Hartenbos, just outside of Mossel Bay). Cape Town waters are pretty cold due to Atlantic ocean, so if you want to spend some time on beach, don’t even bother before Mossel Bay. However, I would save my beach-time for Plettenberg bay and Jeffreys bay. Mossel Bay is around 400Kms from Cape Town. From Mossel Bay, I’d go straight to Knysna (+/- 120Kms), although there are a couple of beautiful places along way, so it depends on your time and budget.
I grew up in Knysna and though it is a much bigger and commercialised town now, it is still a stunning place to visit. If you like hiking, spend time in Knysna. When I was a little boy, our family got lost on a hiking trail and at some point we had to cut through an immensely dense fern growth. Being too young to know dangers, I thought it was most amazing thing because we were walking (or crawling) on top of these ferns probably 1 meter or so above ground and ever so often I would see our little fox terrier down on ground looking up at us. The Knysna forest has an amazing variety of plants and trees and on many of hiking trails you will constantly be covered by a huge tree-top covering. In my opinion it is beautiful and I can spend many hours just enjoying beauty in a small area. The town itself is now well developed and has many activities for tourist. Many stunning restaurants on waterfront and make sure you have a couple of drinks on a sun-downer trip on lagoon. Try to spend at least 2 days in Knysna.
Your next stop must be Plettenberg Bay. It’s only about 60Kms from Knysna and with its stunning beaches, Plett is one of my favourite bird-watching destinations Those would be bikini-clad type of birds, of course. I must admit that I only know Plett for its beaches, but just for my love of beaches and “birds”, I would gladly spend 2-3 days in Plett.
After Plett you may want to look into Storms River mouth, but I’ve only been there twice many years ago. There is a friggin big tree there in case you’re interested in seeing an 800 year-old Outeniqua Yellowwood. It is also a beautiful area for hiking similar to Knysna forests.
Many year ago I used to go spear fishing in Oyster Bay, +/- 120Kms from Plett and only a couple of kilometers from Jeffrey’s Bay (world famous surfing destination) and recently I developed a website for Oyster Bay Lodge. On my second visit to Oyster Bay Lodge I arrived a couple of hours too early, so I went for a walk on beach and I was reminded of what a beautiful area this is. While walking next to water, I had a seal following me for a long time in waves just meters from me. Okay, I know a wild seal couldn’t care less about some human walking on dry land, but we must have accidentally been moving at same speed. The beach just stretches on for miles and miles. On one side there are some rocks for fishing and spear fishing, but to other side you just see kilometres of sandy beach. After my walk on beach I went up to lodge, but owner had gone out, so I went for another walk in bush on lodge itself. I had only spent a couple of hours there, but impression I get is that you can spend many hours of hiking and not get bored. Oyster Bay is very secluded and is ideal for people who really want to get away into nature. It is, however, only a couple of minutes drive from Jeffrey’s bay, St Francis and Humansdorp if you’re looking for shops or more people.