Where to Stay in (lower) Kruger

I did a lot of research before our trip on where to stay, and first narrowed it down to lower Kruger based on the current drought and where animals are most likely to be, and then finally decided to stay at Lower Sabie. It was a relief to have picked, but the relief only lasted a few minutes because when I went to book – three months before our trip – it was already sold out. Tip number one: book early!

My second choice was Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp, which still had a permanent tent available on our dates, so I quickly booked in. During our time in Kruger, we visited both Lower Sabie and Skukuza, as well as staying in Crocodile Bridge, and they are three quite different camps that I think would suit different people.

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Kruger

I chose Crocodile Bridge because I knew Gareth would like the more authentic feel. Crocodile Bridge doesn’t have a restaurant or pool, and only a little shop. You get a personal grill (remember to bring charcoal!) and a fridge, and otherwise it’s mostly just you on your own figuring things out. It feels like a real adventure and you never forget where you are or what you’re doing. I quite liked staying there, as most of the people around us were campers who’d been all over Africa on safari, but if I hadn’t had Gareth I think I would have felt isolated and overwhelmed. If you’re looking for a more “in the bush” feel, this is a good camp for you. It’s quiet, you’re roughing it, and coming home and grilling our dinner and hanging out just the two of us was really nice after long days of driving. It was easy not to cook for lunch because we were always on drives and could pop into a larger camp, but you must be back inside your camp by a certain time (during March, when we were there, it was 6:00 pm) which meant you had to eat dinner wherever you were staying.

Skukuza

Skukuza is the place to go for amenities. It is basically its own town. It has multiple restaurants, a spa, a large shop, a post office, even a doctor’s office! It’s huge, the closest thing to a resort, and where to go if the idea of being far from civilization makes you nervous. (If you go, make sure you go to the steakhouse and get their special – it is SO good.)  If what you’re looking for out of your safari is loads of big game drives, followed by an incredible steak dinner and a massage, Skukuza is for you.

Lower Sabie

Lower Sabie was a blend of the other two camps. Like Skukuza, tt had a restaurant, deck overlooking the river, a pool, and quite a big shop. We ended up going there for things we hadn’t packed thinking Crocodile Bridge may have (silverware, plates, etc), and had at least one meal there most days.

Verdict

If we were to go back to this same area of Kruger, my choice would still be Lower Sabie. The manageable size paired with the option not to cook every night, huge shop full of all the things we didn’t have, and the pool give it the edge to me. Crocodile Bridge and Skukuza are two extremes and would definitely appeal to certain people, but if you’re looking for the average, it’s Lower Sabie. That said, this is a personal choice based on what you’re looking to get out of your Safari, and even if the one you want is booked, they are all great in their own way.

Lion's Head, Cape Town

Hiking Table Mountain

When we first decided to go to South Africa, but before we had started planning, only one thing was certain – we’d be hiking Table Mountain. As we both love hiking, there was no way we could get to such an iconic mountain and take a cable car to the top.Table Mountain, Cape Town

Then we actually got there and man was it tall. I’m not going to lie, the first 10 minutes or so, I complained pretty much non-stop. I was hot, I was tired, I was sunburnt — bless Gareth for not leaving me behind and only mocking me a little.

Hiking Table Mountain, Cape Town

Then we actually got to the start of the Platteklip Gorge and I was too out of breath to keep complaining! It is steps the whole way up, under the baking sun. About halfway through I was using my arms as well as my legs to get me over each step. It wasn’t easy! (Unless you’re Gareth and then everything is easy!)

Hiking Hiking Table Mountain, Cape TownHiking Table Mountain, Cape Town

We took a lot of beaks, every time we reached shade. Our sun burns from our hike in Storms River and the fact that we were still on Malarone meant that halfway up my arms started to blister, and by the time we reached the top I was seriously concerned about the state of my skin. (I applied factor 50 about every five minutes, it was no match for the sun. Eventually I gave in and wore Gareth’s sweaty shirt.)

Hiking Hiking Table Mountain, Cape Town

so close to the top 🙂

Getting to the top was INCREDIBLE though, and made each difficult step worth it. It took us about two hours (I stopped a lot), and we hung out at the top for about the same amount of time. There’s a cafe/grocery store up there, as well as a little shop with souvenirs. There’s even a mailbox, where I sent myself and my momma a letter!

Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town Dassie at the Top of Table Mountain, Cape Town

We took in the views before finding shade, some beverages, and whipping out our trusty cards. It was such a lovely afternoon, marred only by the cable car down, which was too high for my liking. If you’re in relatively good shape, definitely consider climbing to the top. It’s hard but worth it and far more rewarding than standing in a line and letting an elevator do the work for you!

view from Table Mountain, South AfricaLion's Head, Cape Town

More Options

For keen hikers, there are many more options than just the Platteklip Gorge.

  • Lion’s Head offers incredible views of Table Mountain, takes about 90 minutes, and is not terribly difficult.
  • Skeleton Gorge is another path up the eastern side of the mountain that starts in the beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens. It takes about 4 – 4.5 hours
Betty's Bay, South Africa

Stony Point Nature Reserve – Penguins!

After our incredible day on the wine tram, we woke up early to head to our final destination, Cape Town! However, first we had to stop along the way Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay. We’d decided we weren’t going to make the day trip to The Cape of Good Hope, and you know I wasn’t going to miss penguins.

Betty's Bay, South Africa

Stony Point Nature Reserve

Stony Point Nature Reserve is filled to the brim with penguins, and I had no idea how awkward and hilarious these adorable little birds are.

penguin in Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa

I could have watched them waddling and hopping around for hours. And Stony Point Nature Reserve is so cute, it would be a lovely place to spend an afternoon.penguins in Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africapenguins in Stony Point Nature Reserve, South AfricaShipwreck and penguins in Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa   penguins in Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa

Alas we only had about twenty minutes with them before we had to get back on the road. Luckily, the drive fromStony Point Nature Reserve is perfectly picturesque — (I MEAN REALLY).

Betty's Bay, South Africa Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa

tips

  • There’s free parking (and a restaurant), so no need to worry about amenities
  • Entry is 20R for adults (about 1.15 GBP)
  • If you can, save enough time to pull off the road and jump in the (very inviting) water!
  • If you don’t have time to make it to the Cape of Good Hope, Stony Point Nature Reserve is a great alternative to ensure you get some penguin time. It’s one of the largest penguin breeding colonies of African penguins in the world.

One Week Road Trip through Croatia

Writing about our incredible trip to South Africa over the Easter holiday has reminded me that I haven’t posted about our one week road trip through Croatia during Semana Santa (Easter) last year. We packed a lot in but hit some of the best spots in Croatia (sans islands), and I think it’s time I share that itinerary!

One week Road Trip Itinerary

(croatia and bonus Bosnia)

Zagreb

St. Mark's Church, Zagreb, Croatia
Okay, this is kind of a cheat because I spent my time in Zagreb before our week long road trip started. But Zagreb is SUCH a great little city, and was one of my favorite parts of Croatia. I think some people might skip it and head straight to the coast, but this would be a huge mistake! I spent four days happily exploring Zagreb, and I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything! Unfortunately for Gareth, we didn’t know how great Zagreb would be when we were planning (though Lee tried to warn us!), so while I got to spend four days there, he landed at the airport and we immediately set off for the Plitvice lakes.

Plitvice Lakes (Day one)

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

The lakes are beautiful, so plan to spend a few hours walking around and taking pictures. It is visually stunning and not a place to miss.

Zadar (Day one)

Zadar, Croatia

To break up the drive we spent a night in Zadar. Zadar was cute but quite honestly, it was the least exciting of the places we stayed and I think skippable. If we were doing this again, we’d find somewhere else to stay, or just drive straight down to Split.

Krka (day two)

Krka, Croatia

The main reason we needed to break the drive up was so we could stop at Krka National Park, which was gorgeous (and would be even better during the summer months when you can swim!). We preferred this to Plitvice because while Plitvice was beautiful, Krka was more of an adventure.

Split (Days two and three)

Split, Croatia

We spent two nights in Split and could have stayed much longer! The city is gorgeous and full of great food (and such a great bar). Plan to spend at least two days here!

Mostar (Day Four)

Stari Most Bridge, Mostar, Bosnia

We couldn’t be so close to Mostar (another place I once saw in a picture and knew I had to visit), without popping in, and luckily it was (pretty much) on the way. We only spent one night in magical Mostar, but the town is tiny and honestly this felt like enough. However, Mostar is definitely a can’t-miss part of this itinerary.

Dubrovnik (Days five, six, and seven)

Dubrovnik, Croatia

After some trouble getting back into Croatia (some border crossings are only for locals!), we arrived in Dubrovnik for our final three days in the country. We loved Dubrovnik and it was definitely the highlight for us. Had we had more time, or been less in love with Dubrovnik, we discussed doing a day trip into Kotor, Montenegro, but we decided to enjoy as much time in Dubrovnik as we could and do a separate trip to Montenegro some day.

overall

While we would have absolutely loved to spend more time in each place, and to visit some of the islands, given our one week road trip time limit this was the perfect itinerary for us. We moved around a lot but the infrastructure was top notch and the drive one of the most beautiful I’ve ever taken.

Franschhoek Wine Tram

Up until this point in the trip, we had been sleeping in tents, on planes, or roughing it along the Garden Route. We a holiday from our holiday, as annoying people say. Luckily we were on our way to Franschhoek, which is maybe one of the most gorgeous and relaxing places in the world.

Franschhoek Mountains

The drive in was out of this world, actually. The landscape was stunning – it felt a bit like I was back in Spain in the Picos de Europa, but even more gorgeous. The couple we met and ended up spending most of our time with had hiked up these mountains, and they said it was one of the most exhausting hikes they’d ever done, but also one of the most beautiful. It’s easy to understand why.

Buzzing from our drive in, we got to our Airbnb and were pleased to find a big, beautiful space, along with a bottle of local wine, waiting for us. Our host was amazing, even offering us an extra night for free because no one had booked!

Franschhoek Mountains

We took the first night easy, walked into town for a chill one and after a bit of an exploratory wander we decided on pizza at Col’Cacchio Pizzeria. There was live music, good pizza, and a lively vibe. We loved Franschhoek instantly.

franschhoek wine tram

We woke up early the next morning to do what was a huge highlight of the trip – the wine tour on the Franschhoek wine tram! Imagine this… you’re in one of the world’s best wine regions. The sun is shining, the landscape is out of this world gorgeous, and you have nothing to do all day but sip on wine and maybe snack on a cheese board or two. What could make it better? Perhaps a beautiful tram that picks you up and drops you off a new location each hour, ensuring you pack as much into your day as possible without ever having to worry about logistics!

Franschhoek Wine Tram

It lasts for about 6 hours, and be sure to pace yourself – they don’t pour taster sizes and it would be so easy to overindulge. Luckily our group kept it mostly together, and it was an INCREDIBLE way to spend the day. We linked up with another couple from Finland but who were living in the UAE, and had such a great time seeing the absolutely gorgeous wineries and sipping the insanely delicious wine. We brought one bottle back to London with us (it was all we could fit in our bags!) and it’s still there, waiting for us to drink it.

Franschhoek Wine Tram

There are a few different routes, and we chose the Red Line because it focused on wines that are sold in the international market – there’s a chance we could find some of the wines we loved so much right here in London! Our highlights were Eikehof, Chamonix, and Dieu Donne. They all had very different vibes. Leopard’s Leap had the best wine, but was very modern and hotel-y, which was a less charming ambiance than Eikehof which was family run with gorgeous outdoor seating. Dieu Donne had incredible views, and the drive in and out to Rickety Bridge was the best of the trip (it becomes a wine tractor at one point!). We had to skip a few, and missed out on Franschhoek Cellar and Maison. I can’t think of one I’d have swapped out, so I think we made the right plan!

Franschhoek Mountains Wine Tram

Franschhoek Mountains Franschhoek MountainsFranschhoek Mountains

It ends early enough to grab dinner, and we were home with enough time to have a completely relaxing evening full of rehydration and He’s Just Not That Into You, a perfect way to end our time in the wine region.

DETAILS:

  • It cost about £12 per person for the tram, which included a welcome wine at most of the stops.
  • The set tasting menus varied, but you were generally about £5 per winery. While not inexpensive, it doesn’t break the bank!
  • It departs at 10:30 and 11:30 every morning. There are 8 stops and if you leave at 10:30 you can fit in six of them max, and at 11:30, five.
  • Eat a lot of food! Most wineries offer a cheese board, some do a full lunch. Get breakfast at BICCCS which is delicious and has outdoor seating, and we obviously liked Col’Cacchio for a cheap and cheerful dinner.

You can find more details on the tram here here, but trust me that if you enjoy wine, camaraderie and incredible scenery, you do not want to miss this!