2 weeks in South Africa

“Two weeks? You’re only spending 2 weeks in South Africa?” My mum’s face was a picture when I told her my summer holiday plans. I understood her concern. With a history spanning 100,000 years, and beautiful scenery taking up 120,000 square miles, South Africa is a whole lot of country to squeeze into a short space of time. 

But, as a part-time traveller, I don’t have the luxury of unlimited travel, so I was damn well going to spend my two weeks wisely. 

Below, I’ve outlined the itinerary I followed for two weeks in South Africa, so you can do it too.

Day 1 – Fly into Johannesburg 

Try to get a flight that arrives in Johannesburg in the morning. That way, you can try to sleep off your jet lag or head out on a tour of Johannesburg for the afternoon. 

Stay: Safari Club, Johannesburg for a cosy garden room with super friendly staff and free 15 minute airport transfer. 

Day 2 – Safari in a private nature reserve 

A safari is a must in South Africa, so head to a private lodge or camp in Greater Kruger to spot incredible wildlife for a few days. The transfer can take up to 7 hours by road, so pack entertainment and snacks to keep you going. The scenery is pretty spectacular so don’t waste too much time sleeping!

When you arrive at your lodge, head out on your first game drive in the afternoon and keep your eyes peeled for the Big 5. You’ll have time for a sundowner before you drive back to the lodge on the lookout for nocturnal animals with the help of your guide’s spotlight. 

2 weeks in South Africa: Africa on Foot

2 weeks in South Africa: Africa on Foot

Have dinner in the main camp with the other guests and enjoy drinks around the campfire before bed. 

Transfer: Ashtons for a professional shared minibus service to a number of stops in Kruger National Park. Make sure you allow enough time, though. Our first driver managed to add two hours to our journey as he kept taking wrong turnings and ignoring his sat nav! 

Stay: Africa on Foot for the most incredible guides, beautiful accommodation and access to a private nature reserve. I have genuinely never recommended anything more. I fell in love with the lodge as soon as I stepped foot in it, and never wanted to leave. 

Days 3-4 – Two full days of safari

Spend two full days at your safari lodge, waking up early for a morning bush walk as the sun rises, and taking afternoon game drives as the sun goes down. When not out on safari, your lodge is the perfect place to relax and look out for wildlife that could stroll through the camp at any moment. After a cosy night sleep in your camp, you’ll be ready to do it all again the next day! 

2 weeks in South Africa: Africa on Foot

2 weeks in South Africa: Africa on Foot

Stay: Another two nights at Africa on Foot for delicious food and evening drinks around the campfire. 

Day 5 – Transfer back to Johannesburg 

You won’t want to leave your safari lodge, I can almost guarantee that. But, sadly, it’ll be time to go after your final game drive in the morning. Say goodbye to your guides and the wildlife as you see what else this beautiful country has got to offer. 

2 weeks in South Africa: Africa on Foot

The Ashtons transfer back to Johannesburg should take 5-6 hours so I recommend another night in the city before flying south to the coast. Upon arrival into Johannesburg, check into your hotel and relax…

Stay: Safari Club, Johannesburg for one more night. 

Day 6 – Fly to Port Elizabeth

The flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth takes just over an hour, but it’s chockablock with spectacular scenery and one of my favourite approaches ever. Coming into land at PE, you fly out over the sea and then gently descend over the lovely little town. If the flight is empty, you may even be offered a jammy upgrade like we were for just £25! 

If you arrive before 2pm, you could transfer to Addo Elephant National Park with enough time for an afternoon game drive. The park is home to hundreds of elephants, a pride of lions and the world’s last remaining flightless dung beetle. You could drive yourself around, or book one of the shared jeeps driven by an experienced tracker and guide. 

2 weeks in South Africa: Addo Elephant Park

2 weeks in South Africa: Addo Elephant Park

Stay: Addo Elephant Rest Camp for a bungalow right on the edge of the national park. 

Day 7 – Start the Garden Route 

After a final game drive in the morning, it’s time to make your way to the Garden Route. The Garden Route is a beautiful stretch of countryside, lush forests and rocky coastline in the south of the country. It runs for 300km so you’ll want to spend a few days on it. The journeys always take longer than you think. Every two minutes you’ll want to stop to take photos of the scenery. 

2 weeks in South Africa: The Garden Route

The Garden Route officially starts at Tsitsikamma National Park, so that’s where you’ll head first. It is THE place to be for adventurers and thrill-seekers. Along the trail to the park, you can leap off the highest bridge bungee in the world, but it was too windy for us to jump. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

2 weeks in South Africa: Tsitsikamma National Park

So, instead we stopped off to visit a 2,000 year old tree. Much safer!

Stay: Tsitsikamma Village Inn in the heart of nearby Storms Village. The hotel rooms are set in original cottages and buildings, laid out around a central courtyard and garden. 

Restaurant recommendation: Tsitrus Cafe in Storms Village for a cosy meal of homemade pizzas, local beer and cider. 

Day 8 – Explore Tsitsikamma National Park

Head to the National Park for the day to take your pick of wonderful activities. You could take a walk along the beach, hike up a mountain, go snorkelling, kayak, or head to the open fronted restaurant overlooking the sea and spot dolphins while devouring seafood. Guess which one we did…? 

2 weeks in South Africa: Tsitsikamma National Park

2 weeks in South Africa: Tsitsikamma National Park

2 weeks in South Africa: Tsitsikamma National Park

Back in Storm Village, you’ll be equally spoilt for choice for the afternoon. Go for walks in the woods, zip line through the forest, taste beer at the microbrewery, eat ice cream sundaes in the village diner and make friends with the local cats. Whatever takes your fancy. 

Stay: One more night at Tsitsikamma Village Inn to sleep off your adventures.

Restaurant recommendation: Rafters in Storms Village for a romantic meal on the patio. 

Day 9 – Oudtshoorn

Today, continue along the Garden Route to Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world. You could stop off at a farm for a tour to learn more about the animals and visit incubation sites. However, if you pull over next to an ostrich field, you’ll get hundreds of the things wandering over to say hello! Save those pennies!

2 weeks in South Africa: Oudtshoorn Ostriches

In the afternoon, visit Cango Caves: a cavernous complex of tunnels and chambers filled with stalagmites, stalagtites and questionable formations. You can only go in with a guide to find out about the history and discovery of the caves. Apparently a farmer noticed his cattle were disappearing, and he tracked them down a massive drop into the caves! It was a pretty awesome moment when the lights went out to show how dark it would have been when he first arrived. You couldn’t see a thing!

After your tour, head back to Oudtshoorn to relax and wander around the sleepy town before dinner. 

Stay: Turnberry Boutique Hotel for large, comfortable rooms and a good, central location. 

Restaurant recommendation: The Black Swan in Oudtshoorn for tasty wine, delicious food and a wonderfully classy atmosphere. 

Day 10 – Stellenbosch & the wine region 

Get a good breakfast this morning – you’ll need it. There’s lots of wine coming your way today!

It’s quite a long drive from Oudtshoorn to the main wine estates, so sit back and enjoy the spectacular scenery. You could stop off at Ronnie’s Sex Shop – a little building in the middle of nowhere. The story goes that Ronnie sold jams and marmalades before his friends vandalised the sign. It’s now world famous but still has nothing to do with sex!

2 weeks in South Africa: Ronnie's Sex Shop

Have lunch at Rooiberg Wine Cellars where you can enjoy a glass of wine with your meal for absolute pennies. And it’s good stuff too! I could have stayed here all day, looking around the cellar shop and admiring the view from our al fresco lunch spot. Yet our day of wine had only just begun! 

2 weeks in South Africa: Rooiberg Wine Estate

Next, head to Simonsig – one of the more traditional wine estates in the Stellenbosch region – for a wine tasting. To celebrate my birthday, we were treated to a premium tasting of seven delicious wines. This included a sparkling wine that Tim opened by sword! The whole tasting was pretty special and something I would urge any visitor to South Africa to try!

2 weeks in South Africa: Simonsig Vineyard

When you’re satisfyingly sozzled, it’s time to head to Cape Town to round off your amazing two weeks in South Africa. You should arrive in time for dinner, and there’s an incredible amount of choice in the city. Find out where to eat in a Cape Town in my blog post, coming soon! 

Stay: Townhouse Hotel in Cape Town for a little bit of luxury in the centre of the city. 

Restaurant recommendation: Kloof Street House for a pretty spectacular meal in a beautifully romantic setting. Booking is highly recommended as we had to sit in the lounge for our meal, rather than the restaurant itself!

Days 11-13 – Cape Town

Spend another 3 nights in the Mother City checking out all it has to offer. Hint: it’s a lot! 

You could take the cable car up to Table Mountain, catch a ferry over to Robben Island for a guided tour, explore the colourful neighbourhood of Bo Kaap, drive to the most South-westerly point of Africa at Cape Point and while away the hours souvenir shopping, wine drinking and seafood eating at the V&A waterfront. 

2 weeks in South Africa: Cape Town

2 weeks in South Africa: Boulders Beach

My complete guide to Cape Town is coming soon, so keep checking back!

Day 14 – Fly home 🙁

Sorry guys, but your trip has to end eventually! Today, take a transfer to Cape Town airport ready for your flight back home. 

What an incredible trip! It was through doing this two week itinerary that I completely fell in love with South Africa. I found two weeks was the perfect amount of time to start exploring, but I’ve only scratched the surface. Now I have a much better idea of what South Africa has got to offer, I’ll certainly be going back!

Have you been to South Africa? Where would you suggest I go on my next visit? I’d love for you to tell me in the comments below! 

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48 hours in Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world. It’s no surprise, then, that there’s a hell of a lot to see and do – cat cafes, owl cafes, maid cafes, robot cafes… And that’s just cafes! With that in mind, is 48 hours in Tokyo enough to do it justice? And more importantly… Is it worth the 24 hour round trip to get there?

Firstly, let me explain before you think I’m as mad as the inventor of the owl cafe (I still don’t get it…) Every year, my company sends a few of its staff away on an all expenses paid holiday to say thanks for their hard work. This year, people wanted to go somewhere a bit different from their usual Cancun and Vegas party type holidays and chose Tokyo. Not wanting us to be out of the office for too long, we did it over a long weekend – hence the 48 hours.

We had an awesome itinerary planned that would pack a lot of the main sights in, but was I left wanting more? I’ll let you decide:

Thursday
15:00 We arrived in Tokyo airport after a 12 hour flight from London. It was our first time flying Japan Airlines and apart from the man sat next to me that complained to the air steward that my colleague and I were making too much noise, it was pleasant enough. Just for the record… we were most definitely talking at a normal volume – he was just expecting the flight to be silent!
Despite a bit of a kerfuffle at customs when one of our group tried to unknowingly smuggle in an acorn, everything went smoothly. We were met by our tour guide and coach driver in Arrivals, and were then taken to our hotel in Shinjuku.

17:30 Our hotel was incredible. We stayed at the 5* Keiyo Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku, which is primarily a business hotel but I guess we were there on business?? We had a couple of hours to settle in, shower and admire the view out the window of our 45th floor room.

Misono Teppanyaki restaurant, Tokyo

19:30 The whole group met in the hotel lobby for dinner. We had a whole teppanyaki restaurant to ourselves on the top floor of a Shinjuku skyscraper, where we all sat on the floor around a teppanyaki grill watching skilled chefs cook up fried vegetables, scallops, red snapper, lobster and the biggest steak I’ve ever seen. Everything was washed down with Asahi beer and sake. The whole experience was a fantastic way to start our trip.

22:30 It was back to the hotel bar for a few drinks before I finally admitted jet lag defeat and headed to bed at midnight. Some of my colleagues were out clubbing until 5am the next day! No idea how they managed that…

Friday
8:30 I allowed myself a bit of a lie in before getting ready for our full day of sightseeing. There are 4 different hotel restaurants where you can eat breakfast – some typically Japanese and some Western to keep everyone happy. I tucked in to my usual holiday breakfast of whatever I can fit on my plate (or two) before meeting the bus and our tour guide.

Asakusa Tokyo

10:00 Our bus drove us to Asakusa – the oldest temple and one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. Unaware of the Japanese holiday we had just interrupted, we were shocked to see so many people crammed into the temple complex. The temple itself is a beautiful sight, and probably my favourite place in the whole of Tokyo. Our guide told us all about the history of the temple and then showed us some Buddhist rituals that we could join in with. After that, we had 45 minutes free to take photos and explore the sprawling markets for souvenirs.

12:00 Lunch! Most of the hungover group was dreading this part of the day… Raw fish and dumplings on a queasy stomach? I, however, couldn’t have been more excited. I love trying new foods, especially if they are ‘native to the country I am visiting. I feel it gives such an insight into the ordinary lives of others, right? And I often wonder what visitors must think of British people when they try our food.
We (some of us) tucked into sashimi, dumplings and ramen served by smiling waiters that wondered what on earth they had done to deserve us as guests.

Tokyo Skytree

13:00 We met the bus again to take us to Tokyo Skytree – a 634m tall structure with a viewing platform at the top where you can see over all of Tokyo and (if you’re extremely lucky) as far away as Mount Fuji. The view really put perspective on the size of the city and made me wonder whether we were really doing it justice.
Because of the national holiday, the queues back down to the bottom were huge, meaning we didn’t get long at the top, but we still managed to get all the way round once and were satisfied we had spotted everything we wanted to.

Maiddreamin' Cafe, Tokyo

15:00 In need of a rest after such strenuous activity (I’m joking) we headed to Akihabara to visit… a maid cafe! Seriously, you can’t come to Tokyo without visiting some kind of weird cafe.
We had the whole of Maiddreamin booked out for drinks and a private show (that makes it sound really dodgy, but I promise it’s not!) of maids talking in high-pitched squeals at how cute everything is. Their drinks and foods are decorated with animal faces drawn on with sauce, so I couldn’t resist an ice cream float made to look like a cat.

Maiddreamin' Cafe, Tokyo

The show was… Interesting. The girls sang teenybopper songs on a stage with pink flashing lights. They even grabbed some of the older guys in our group and got them to prance around with them. I loved it!

17:00 Time for our tour to finish! We headed back to our hotel via Shibuya where we saw a huge number of people crossing the famous pedestrian intersection. I remember last time I was in Tokyo, I saw a total of 20 or so people doing it, which wasn’t nearly as impressive. Today, with it being a holiday, there must have been hundreds, if not thousands. Great to see.

Tempura restaurant, Tokyo

18:00 Back at the hotel, we had a free night to spend as we wished. I have an old friend in Tokyo that met me at the hotel before we headed out on a night to see what Japanese people do in the evenings. She works in Shinjuku so knew the area quite well. She took me to a restaurant nearby that was famous for its tempura. I am famous for my love of tempura! It was perfect. The tempura was served individually on a stick, and each piece was different. We must have tried about 8 each (they’re surprisingly filling!) – prawn, okra, cream cheese and seaweed (this was AMAZING), some kind of omelette, fish, baby squid, and I wish I could remember the rest!
All around me were friends and family chatting happily in Japanese while tucking into their meal. This shows the benefit of having friends all over the world- there is no way in hell I would have stumbled across this place, and if I had, there would be no way of deciphering the menu. My friend made it possible, and that’s awesome.
When our bellies were full of tempura and beer, we visited an arcade to re-enact what we did when I last visited Tokyo. We played a drumming game that’s a bit like guitar hero but with big Japanese drums, and then went to a photo booth where you can decorate your pictures and turn yourselves into anime characters! It was so much fun, and even better to do it with a local.

23:00 Bed time. I know, I know, I should have been partying, but I had a very early start in the morning and I wanted to be fresh for it.

Saturday
5:30 Wake up!! Today was a free day, and what do you do if you only have 48 hours in Tokyo? While most of the group headed into the centre to explore some more, a like-minded colleague and I were off to… DISNEYLAND!

6:30 We were already in a taxi and feeling like children on Christmas morning. We had asked our taxi driver to take us to DisneySea – a separate theme park only found in Tokyo that is dedicated to rides and characters centred around the theme of water (pirates don’t count apparently, gutted.)

DisneySea, Tokyo

8:00 The park opened and we headed in. We spent the day going on rides, meeting characters and not understanding anything that was going on. We only counted 7 or 8 other western tourists while we were there, so if you want to be immersed into Japanese life, go to Disneyland. Honestly! That explains why none of the cast members spoke English or why there were no subtitles on any of the rides! We had to guess what was going on in a magic show and use the locals around us as a cue for when to laugh. It was actually really funny 🙂

13:00 We ate lunch in a New York diner and found it fascinating to see what their choice of ‘American’ dishes would be. Still, the food was delicious and kept us going for the rest of the day. There were a few rides we didn’t manage to go on because it was just so busy. Instead, we were quite happy to finish off in the gift shops and explore the shopping precinct outside the park.

15:00 We took the metro back to central Tokyo and headed to our hotel to get ready for the night’s festivities. The canny ones among you will have noticed that I’m over my 48 hours now, but I’m flying home first thing tomorrow morning, so it’s only a little over…

Tokyo boat cruise

17:00 With the group all glammed up, our bus took us down to the river to meet our private boat. It was a traditional long boat with Japanese lanterns down the side that took us down river all the way to Rainbow Bridge, passing Tokyo Skytree and hundreds of other skyscrapers all magically lit up. It was a beautiful sight!
While we were on board, we were served more food than I care to remember: sashimi, salads, tempura, miso soup… And it just kept coming! The beer and champagne was flowing when one member of the group spotted a karaoke machine in the corner… Uh oh! People sang their favourite songs, clearly preparing for our night of karaoke at a club later on.

22:00 Our boat trip finished back where it started, and we made our way to Rapponghi for a wild night ahead. We were allowed in! We had VIP wristbands giving us entry to private karaoke rooms where we sang the night away to classics like Livin’ On A Prayer and Born In The USA. The club was full of young locals who treated us like rock stars- everyone wanted to hold our hands and dance with us, and we even had bouncers follow us across the dance floor to make sure we didn’t attract too much attention. It was all a bit… weird, but fun all the same.

Sunday
02:00 Some people stayed out until the club closed and even beyond that. But, knowing I had an early flight, I was on my way at 2am – heading to my room to pack.

06:00 It was an early start for all of us to make our morning flight home. Leaving early last night definitely paid off – most of my group was hungover on the flight so I bounded up to them with a cheery ‘Good morning!’ that just might have made it worse. Mwahaha.

11:00 At the airport, we had enough time to buy some last minute souvenirs before boarding our 12 flight back to London and onward journey.

48 hours is rarely enough to do anywhere justice, and in Tokyo’s case, 48 hours in Tokyo was a bit of a stretch. Luckily I had been before, otherwise I would have passed up Disneyland to see more of the sights and local haunts. Despite the lack of time, we managed to cram a lot into our trip and, like any decent city, Tokyo left us wanting more. All in all, I wouldn’t recommend such a short stay, but if you’re not paying for it, then why would you say no?

~~~

Have you ever been somewhere that you wished you could spend more time at? What’s the smallest flight:holiday ratio you’ve ever experienced? Was it worth it?

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48 hours in Tokyo