In this latest series, I will be going through all the countries I’ve travelled to on my mission to visit every single country in the world. In this article, we will be covering country #10: South Africa. If you haven’t gotten a chance already, read this story first to find out why I’m trying to visit all 193 UN-recognized countries.
If you didn’t know, South Africa is my most favourite country I have ever visited in my entire life!
VIDEO – Country #10: South Africa
South Africa articles
- My Complete Three Weeks South Africa Spending Breakdown
- Table Mountain in Cape Town South Africa – A Dream Come True
- How to Save Money on Great White Shark Cage Diving in South Africa
- Punch a Shark in Jeffreys Bay (Why You Should Do A Stopover In This City)
- Escaping a Mob of Hostile Rural South Africans in Coffee Bay
- Exploring the Sterkfontein Underground Excavation Site in South Africa
- The Cradle of Humankind – South Africa’s Gift to Science Nerds
- The Complete Review of All The South Africa Hostels I Stayed At
- My Frightening Night Drive Back to Johannesburg
- How To Do A Self Driven Safari in Kruger National Park
- Three Weeks South Africa Road Trip Itinerary
- The Best Hostel Customer Service in South Africa
- 8 South African Road Trip Info You Must Know Before Starting Your Journey
Arriving in South Africa
After travelling in Egypt which is one of the countries I hated the most because of the never-ending scams and harassment, Karen and myself were mentally drained.
By the time we landed in Johannesburg, South Africa, we were dead tired and badly needed to get our composure back.
The lineup to get through immigration was ridiculously long. I think it took one hour for us to get stamped in the country. This definitely didn’t help our situation.
After getting through immigration, we found a payphone and called our hostel for pickup service.
Rob, the hostel owner, picked us up and drove us to the hostel.
We’ve heard many bad things about South Africa. Violence, murder, theft, you name it, Johannesburg was supposed to be the capital of it. But so far, after leaving the airport, things are actually going well so far.
My first two days in South Africa
We decided to hole ourselves up in the hostel just to rest up for our first two days in South Africa. The owner of the hostel, Rob, is a fantastic guy and he helped us figure out how to approach travelling within the country.
South Africa is definitely not the safest country in the world but if you know what you’re doing, you should be okay.
After our debriefing with Rob, he gave us some great advice on which route to follow based on what we wanted to see in the country.
South Africa travel route
Johannesburg to Kruger National Park
Our first drive out of Johannesburg was a really interesting one (we rented a car from the airport on this day). It took me some time to get used to driving on the left side of the road and often times almost drove into the wrong lane by accident.
Once we were out of Johannesburg, the drive was easier and was quite fun. We stopped at this one random burger place that had rhinos and other animals eating just outside of it. My eyes couldn’t believe the awesomeness of seeing wildlife eating relatively close to us.
As we drove through towards Kruger National Park, the scenery would often change. Sometimes, you feel like you’re in Hawaii with all the tropical plants around you. While on other times when you feel like you’re in North America in places with a relatively cooler climate.
I love landscapes and scenery so this was a real treat for me.
Kruger National Park
Karen and I stayed at the Protea Kruger Gate. I used I think 7,500 Marriott points per night which were a fantastic deal. It was literally right outside Kruger National park!
To get in Kruger National Park, we paid 264 Rand (about $20 CAD) to get in the park back then, I think the price has been increased recently.
I absolutely loved Kruger National Park. The moment we saw the first giraffe ran out of the bushes, I was hooked! I love watching wildlife and there were areas that felt like I was in Lion King. Tons of animals everywhere!
When I saw the elephants, zebras, rhinos, buffaloes, hippos, monkeys, waterbucks, impalas, and warthogs, I was blowing up in excitement.
Kruger National Park to Eswatini (Swaziland)
After an amazing time in Kruger National Park, Karen and myself were off to Eswatini. The drive there displayed some of the most amazing landscapes I have ever seen.
I even left the car a few times just to go outside and gaze at the scenery.
I’ll talk more about my adventures in Eswatini in another article.
Eswatini to Johannesburg
After a fun and stressful side trip to the country of Eswatini, Karen and myself started driving back to Johannesburg. We did run into one big problem. We stayed in Eswatini much longer than we anticipated and it would be dark by the time we reached Johannesburg.
This is a very bad thing because Johannesburg is extremely dangerous at night. This was one of the most tense driving experiences I have ever had in my life. I think it took us seven hours to get back. Many times, I was so scared I started driving at 140 km just to scare anyone that might attempt to carjack us.
We also ran low on gas during our drive back and had to stop to eat because we were starving. It’s definitely not one of our better days.
Flying over to Zambia and returning to South Africa
Thankfully, we made it back to Johannesburg safely. It was also important that we got back that evening because the next day, we flew over to Zambia.
It would be seven days later when we would fly back from Namibia after overlanding to Zambia.
Visiting the Cradle of Humankind
Upon returning back to Johannesburg, our next mission is to visit the Cradle of Humankind.
The Cradle of Humankind was amazing as hell. There, you get to learn how humans came to be and there was a cool boat ride before you entered the museum!
After checking out the Cradle of Humankind, we checked out the Sterkfontein excavation site which felt like an Indiana Jones movie exploring deep underground.
The drive back to our hostel was scary because Karen accidentally pressed the wrong button on our GPS and it led our car to drive through the middle of Johannesburg. Luckily, we knew this was dangerous and found a way to steer out of that direction; otherwise, we would have been carjacked for sure.
Johannesburg to Drakensberg
The following day, we started our big South African road trip going all the way to Cape Town. Our first stop on our drive westward is Drakensberg.
The drive there was pretty smooth sailing. Thank god because I had enough scary moments from the last few days I was driving in the Johannesburg area.
We stayed at a hostel called Amphitheater backpackers and we met some Europeans from the Netherlands and Austria. The couple, Asti and Mathjis have done year-long backpacking trips before and actually met in Thailand. I actually ended up visiting them in the Netherlands near the end of my one year trip.
Amphitheatre Backpackers to Lesotho
We decided to book 3 nights in Ampitheatre Backpackers just because it was such a relaxing place to stay. On the second day, we joined a tour going to the country of Lesotho which I’ll talk about another article.
I highly recommend this tour should you ever stay in Amphitheatre Backpackers.
Drakensberg to Durban
After our relaxing stay in Drakensberg was over, we were now heading towards Durban. The drive wasn’t too bad except by the time we got to Durban, there was a big race happening.
This meant they closed down many of the roads and we had to do a weird detour just to reach our hostel.
Apparently, Durban isn’t very safe so we actually stayed in our hostel for the most part.
Durban to Coffee Bay
The drive to Coffee Bay sucked. It was a long drive and the road wasn’t paved. We were driving on a dirt road with lots of potholes and rocks.
It was also a heartwarming experience because we saw African kids running after our car and waving at us happily. I can’t even describe what it felt like to be greeted by these African kids. It’s one of those moments that forever stays with me.
Our hostel in Coffee Bay was a rondavel with three bunks up. We actually had one of the best sleep there despite the weird setting.
Escape from Coffee Bay
This was hands down the worst day of our trip so far in South Africa. On the way out of Coffee Bay, the locals barred the road. And then, one woman came by and told Karen and me that if we don’t get out, they’re going to hurt us.
We were so damn scared and didn’t know what to do. Thankfully, some local white South Africans came to our aid and told us to follow them on an alternate route out of Coffee Bay. After driving on horrible roads for the next three hours, we finally got out.
We were so stressed out and exhausted after that ordeal and our day was nowhere near over yet.
Coffee Bay to Jeffreys Bay
After escaping Coffee Bay, we still had a seven-hour drive before reaching Jeffreys Bay.
I normally don’t drink caffeine but I was so dead tired from the Coffee Bay experience that I actually loaded up on coffee during the drive. We also went to a local grocery store and stocked up on food to keep us alive during this massively long drive.
I think after driving in South Africa, I am now conditioned to drive at very long distances without any problems.
The drive to Jeffreys Bay was very scenic which I enjoyed. For example, when we drove through Port Elizabeth, it was so mesmerizing to watch the Ocean slam against the shores of the city. It was a breathtaking sight.
By the time we arrived in Jeffreys Bay, it was already getting dark. But, we weren’t worried. We saw white South African kids riding their bikes outside which indicated to us that this place was safe.
Finally, we got a chance to rest when we arrived in Jeffreys Bay. All this paranoia when driving in South Africa has left me mentally drained. We actually stayed here for three days in one of the best hotels we’ve ever stayed at (Cristal Cove Lodge).
We were the only tourist in one of the areas so we basically had the entire place all to ourselves. Karen and I did normal people stuff here like buy groceries, cook our own meals, lounge around, relaxed and played at the beach. I loved every minute of it.
The locals were also teaching us some words in Xhosa and we absolutely loved interacting with them.
Jeffreys Bay to Gansbaai
Before long, it was time to leave Jeffreys Bay and we were now stopping over Gansbaai.
This city is the launching point for the Great White Shark cage diving. I actually scored an awesome deal for this activity when I booked online.
By the time I got to my hostel, turns out this company cancelled my bookings. Thankfully, the hostel owner in Gansbaai offered me the same price which was super awesome.
We also made friends with this dutch couple, Ronald and Mikea, and their hyper son. Later on, I would end up visiting them in Rotterdam in The Netherlands.
Great White Shark cage diving in South Africa
During the day of our Great White Shark cage diving, I was advised to take a pill that would prevent motion sickness. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bad idea.
When we arrived at the place where we would be boarding the boat that would take us for the cage diving, the hostel owner told me not to tell anyone the price I paid for the activity. Turns out I paid 300 Rand less than everyone else did which goes to show the importance of doing thorough research.
By the time we got to the place where we would be cage diving, half the people on board already puked their guts out of the boat. It was definitely a gross sight to see and it made me want to puke seeing them puke.
The diving experience was a once in a lifetime experience. I don’t regret it at all. After all, seeing a Great White Shark coming right at you was a thrill that I will never forget.
Gansbaai to Cape Town
So on the drive out of Gansbaai to Cape Town, I noticed something weird. I felt horrible and I couldn’t think straight at all. The pill that I took to prevent motion sickness had some terrible side effects.
It was one of the worst driving experience I had because I just felt really sick. Thankfully, we made it to our hostel in Cape Town safely but I had to spend the rest of the day just resting.
On a side note, Cape Town has a horrible high crime rate. I ended up picking a hostel called “The Backpack” because they offered a guarded parking service for your vehicle when you parked overnight.
Going up Table Mountain was an absolute dream come true. When Karen and myself first started dating, we dreamed of going to Table Mountain in South Africa.
Finally, at that moment, we made it to the top together. It was one of the couple goals that we set out and we actually made it happen.
To be honest, I didn’t think Table Mountain was spectacular. But because of our couple’s goal, it was a beautiful moment to share that experience travelling to the top together.
And of course, Table Mountain is the first of the 7 Wonders of Nature that I visited.
Haircut and Bo-kaap
When we got back down Table Mountain, I wanted to get a haircut from Africa before we left the continent. Immediately, we went for a hunt for a barber who gave me a haircut.
Afterwards, we checked out the colourful homes at Bo-kaap before wrapping up our trip in South Africa.
Returning our car and flying out of South Africa
The next day, we returned our car to Hertz which was a painless experience. We were advised by Rob when we first entered South Africa to rent with them to avoid any headaches on the return. And we were glad we took his advice.
We boarded our plane that connected through Johannesburg. Finally, we left Johannesburg via a connecting flight through Perth Australia.
Travelling in South Africa brings the extremes of emotions to the table. You get excitement, nervousness, wonder, gratitude, emotional, distress, and amazement.
Because of the range of emotion, I felt during my trip to South Africa, it was definitely mentally tiring to travel within the country.
With that being said, the positive emotions greatly outweigh the negative ones, and never in my life have I felt so much amazement and a sense of wonder. South Africa was the first sub-Saharan country I have ever visited and it has a special place in my heart. And to this very day, I still rank it as my number one most favourite country I have ever visited in my life.