South Africa Itinerary + Victoria Falls: 7 Bucket List Items to Check Off

by | Last updated Apr 5, 2024 | Africa Itinerary, South Africa

Africa will be unlike any other place you have visited. It will seep into your soul, and you will be craving to come back before you even leave. Our South Africa itinerary included a lot of “firsts” for us. These “firsts” were bucket list items that were incredibly unique. Are you a foodie trying to score reservations at one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and experience the best wine a country has to offer? Or maybe you are the adventurous type who would love to experience swimming on top of the world’s largest waterfall or coming eye to eye with a great white shark? South Africa has it all. Here is my personal itinerary and top bucket list items of one of the most epic trips I have ever done!

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Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel Room
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DAY 1: ZIMBABWE

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Arrive in the afternoon at Victoria Falls Airport. Obtain your Kaza Univisa on arrival, which allows multiple entries into Zambia and Zimbabwe and also day trips into Botswana. The Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel will pick you up.

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You will be exhausted but try to push through and visit Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side that afternoon, which is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World! Then you can come back to the hotel, eat a quick dinner on-site, and go to sleep early since jet lag will be settling in quickly.

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Dinner: At hotel (delicious gourmet a-la-carte meals!) 

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Overnight: Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel. This beautiful African chic hotel is stunning and is the perfect base for your Victoria Falls adventure! If interested, check out my full hotel review.
Swimming in Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls
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DAY 2: ZAMBIA IN AM + ZIMBABWE IN PM

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Arrange through the hotel to cross over into Zambia to do one of the most epic bucket list experiences. 

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10:30 am: Bucket list Item #1. Swim in Devil’s Pool on top of the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls. Read more about our epic Devil’s Pool experience. Lunch/2nd late breakfast included.

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Afternoon: At your leisure. We decided to relax and drink champagne by the pool. Other options: Afternoon safari drive at the hotel property or a sunset Zambezi River Cruise.

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Breakfast: Watch the giraffes on the dining terrace while you eat a delicious made-to-order breakfast, which is included in your hotel rate 

Dinner: At hotel

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Overnight: Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel

Bull elephant near Chobe River at Chobe National Park
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DAY 3: BOTSWANA FULL DAY TRIP

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Arrange through the hotel to transport you to the Wild Horizon’s office in Zimbabwe. This is the tour operator, who will take you to Botswana. Why are we going to Botswana? ELEPHANTS!

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7:30 AM – 6:30 PM: Be prepared for a long day, but it will be well worth your time. Chobe National Park is home to 120,000 elephants. You will have the unique experience of doing a safari drive by BOTH boat and jeep. To find out more about this incredible experience, check out my article on Chobe National Park.
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Breakfast: Request a to-go breakfast box provided by your hotel

Lunch: Chobe Marina Lodge in Botswana (included in your tour rate)

Dinner: At hotel

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Overnight: Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel

Cape Vue Country House in Franschhoek
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DAY 4: CAPE WINELANDS (FRANSCHHOEK)

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Fly 3 hours nonstop from Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe to Cape Town International Airport through South African Airlink.

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Land at 2:40 pm if taking the nonstop flight from Victoria Falls. Rent a car with Cabs Car Hire. Drive 1-1.5 hours to Franschhoek for Bucket List Item #2, the Cape Winelands. Plan your wine country getaway by reading my comprehensive guide on South Africa wine country. Arrive around 4:30 pm. Relax for the remainder of the evening.
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Breakfast: One last delicious meal at Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel

Dinner: Casual dinner at Tuk Tuk Microbrewery in Franschhoek. 5 min. walk from the hotel. No reservations are required.

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Overnight: Cape Vue Country House, an adorable B&B within walking distance of all the shops and restaurants in Franschhoek

Multi course lunch with wine pairing at Creation Wines
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DAY 5: CAPE WINELANDS (HEMEL-EN-AARDE VALLEY)

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All-day wine tour with La Rochelle Tours to Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (Pinot Noir country!). 1.5 hour scenic drive from Franschhoek.

8 am: Pick-up time

10 am: Storm Wines

11:30 am: Creation Wines (multicourse lunch + wine pairings)

2:15 pm: Hamilton Russell

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Breakfast: Wonderful made-to-order breakfast at the hotel

Dinner: 7:30 pm reservation at top restaurant La Petite Colombe

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Overnight: Cape Vue Country House

Kanonkop Award Winning Pinotage
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DAY 6: CAPE WINELANDS (FRANSCHHOEK + STELLENBOSCH)

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We did a self-guided wine tour using Uber.

9 am: Pick-up time via Uber

10:30 am: Kanonkop Wine Estate to try the quintessential Pintotage!

12:30 pm: The Table at De Meye (farm to table lunch + wine). See 5 Must-Try Franschhoek Restaurants & Beyond for details.

4 pm: Moreson Wine Farm

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Breakfast: At the hotel. Always eat a big breakfast before a wine tour.

Dinner: 7:30 pm reservation at Chefs Warehouse at Maison

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Overnight: Cape Vue Country House

The Test Kitchen in Cape Town
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DAY 7: CAPE TOWN

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Drive 1 hr. to Cape Town. Drop off luggage/rental car at the hotel.

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12 pm: Uber to Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill. Saturdays from 9am – 2pm.  Lots of vendors to try local food.
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1:30 pm: Uber over to V&A Waterfront to walk around the harbor.

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3 pm: Take the aerial cableway to Table Mountain, one of the best Things to Do in Cape Town.
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Breakfast: One last breakfast at Cape Vue Country House

Dinner: Check off Bucket List Item #3. Dine at the famous The Test Kitchen, one of the Best Restaurants in Cape Town.

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Overnight: Derwent House Boutique Hotel, an incredibly warm and friendly hotel
South Africa penguins at Boulders Beach
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DAY 8: PENGUINS + HUTS + GARDENS

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Drive around the Cape Peninsula. Lots of sites to check out! 

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10:30 am: Check out the brightly colored huts at Muizenberg Beach.
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12 pm: Swim with these cute penguins at Boulders Beach.
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2:30 pm: Have the best fish & chips for a late lunch at Fish on the Rocks at Hout Bay. Even Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix thinks so.
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4 pm: Walk along the spectacular Tree Canopy Walkway at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

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Breakfast: At the hotel

Dinner: Soup and snacks at hotel. You are waking up early tomorrow!

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Overnight: Derwent House Boutique Hotel 

Bronze Whaler Shark seen while shark cage diving in South Africa
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DAY 9: GREAT WHITE SHARK CAGE DIVING

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4:30 am: Pick up. Why are you getting up this early? To cross off Bucket List Item #4.

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8 am – 5 pm: Shark cage diving with Great White Shark Tours! Nothing can prepare you for staring eye to eye with a 4,000-pound great white shark. All you need to know is in my shark cage diving guide.
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Breakfast: Continental breakfast at the Great White Shark Tours headquarters. Don’t eat too much in case it comes up later!

Dinner: 6:30 pm at Thali, a lovely restaurant focusing on modern Indian tapas. No reservations are required.  

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Nightcap at The (not-so-secret) Gin Bar located in a chocolate shop.
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Overnight: Derwent House Boutique Hotel 

City of Cape Town as seen from the Lion's Head Hike
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DAY 10: LION'S HEAD HIKE + BO-KAAP

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Uber to the start of the trailhead of the Lion’s head hike.

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10:30 am: Witness the beauty of the city of Cape Town from Lion’s Head, Bucket List Item #5. This gorgeous city is surrounded by both mountains and ocean. Details can be found in Lion’s Head hike guide.

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1:30 pm: Have some of the best coffee in the world at Truth Coffee, and you must try their eclairs.
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4:30 pm: Stroll around the vibrantly painted Cape Malay neighborhood known as Bo-Kaap.

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Breakfast: At the hotel

Dinner: 8:30 pm at another top restaurant, The Pot Luck Club

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Overnight: Derwent House Boutique Hotel 

Lion Sands River Lodge Fire Pit
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DAY 11: SABI SANDS SAFARI

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Drop off the rental car and take the 10:35 am 2.5 hr. nonstop flight via SA Airlink to Skukuza Airport.

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4:30 pm: 3 hr. afternoon safari drive. They do not waste any time. You arrive at the safari lodge early in the afternoon. A few hours later you are riding around in a jeep scoping out all the wildlife. 

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Breakfast: At Derwent House Boutique Hotel before your early flight 

Dinner: At Lion Sands River Lodge. All gourmet a-la-carte meals are served at the lodge and are mouthwatering. All meals and drinks included.

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Overnight: Lion Sands River Lodge, a beautiful contemporary safari lodge. I have written a full review of Lion Sands River Lodge if you want to know more.
Leopard seen on a safari drive in Sabi Sand
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DAY 12: SABI SANDS SAFARI

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5:30 – 8:30 am: Morning safari drive

8:30 am – 4:30 pm: At your leisure. Swim, work out in the gym, or get a massage or facial at the spa. I opted for the massage.

4:30 – 7:30 pm: Afternoon safari drive

Check off Bucket List Item #6, the safari! If you feel overwhelmed in planning the best safari experience, don’t miss my tips on how to plan your South Africa safari and how to choose a safari lodge.

What animals are you going to see? Everything. Lions, leopards, elephants, zebras, buffalo, rhinos, giraffes, wild dogs, hippos, and more.

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Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner: At Lion Sands River Lodge

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Overnight: Lion Sands River Lodge

Chalkley Treehouse at Lion Sands River Lodge
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DAY 13: SABI SANDS SAFARI + TREEHOUSE

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5:30 – 8:30 am: Morning safari drive

8:30 am – 4:30 pm: At your leisure

4:30 – 7:30 pm: Afternoon safari drive

Another spectacular safari day out in the African bush

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Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner: At Lion Sands River Lodge

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Overnight: Chalkley Treehouse at Lion Sands River Lodge. You have to reserve this experience ahead of time. No walls. No roof. No Wi-Fi. Just you and a starlit sky.

Sleeping in a treehouse is Bucket List #7. Please check out my article on the Chalkley Treehouse to read about our experience.

Lion snuggling in Sabi Sand
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DAY 14: FLY HOME

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5:30 am: Last morning safari drive

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Take the 2:50 pm 1 hr. nonstop slight via SA Airlink to Johannesburg Airport.

Take the 9:45 pm 8 hr. 25 min. flight from Johannesburg Airport to London Heathrow Airport and then home to the United States via Virgin Atlantic.

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Breakfast: At Lion Sands River Lodge

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One last martini at the gorgeous Lion Sands River Lodge bar before the long flight home.

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MAP VIEW OF SOUTH AFRICA ITINERARY + VICTORIA FALLS

2 week South Africa Itinerary
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WHO WILL LIKE THIS SOUTH AFRICA ITINERARY

  • Foodies
  • Casual wine drinkers and serious wine connoisseurs
  • Outdoor enthusiasts
  • Animal/nature lovers
  • Thrill-seekers
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BEST TIME TO VISIT SOUTH AFRICA + VICTORIA FALLS

The best time to do this 2-week Victoria Falls + South Africa itinerary will depend on what activities you want to do.

  • Best Time To Swim in Devil’ls Pool in Zimbabwe: mid-August – late September
  • Best Time To Do Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai: June – September
  • Best Time To Do a Safari in Sabi Sands: May – early October (dry season)
  • Best Time to Be in Cape Town: December – early March (summer months). During the spring months (September – November), the weather gradually starts to warm up, and the chance of rainfall decreases.

We decided the best month to accomplish all of our bucket list items was SEPTEMBER. Now that I have done the trip, I can say it was a good choice.

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NUMBER OF NIGHTS IN EACH PLACE

  • 3 nights in Zimbabwe
  • 3 nights in Cape Winelands (Franschhoek)
  • 4 nights in Cape Town
  • 3 nights in Sabi Sand
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ACCOMODATIONS

  • Zimbabwe: Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel
Stanley and Livingstone Boutique Hotel Canopied Bed
  • Cape Winelands: Cape Vue Country House
Outside Terrace of Cape Vue Country House in Franschhoek in South Africa
  • Cape Town: Derwent House
Derwent House Boutique Hotel in Cape Town South Africa
  • Sabi Sands: Lion Sands River Lodge
Lion Sands River Lodge Gorgeous Bar
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AIRLINES & LOUNGES

Ethiopian Airlines

  • United States to Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe via a short layover at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia (booked with United points)

South African Airlink

  • Nonstop flight at 11:45 am from Victoria Falls Aiport in Zimbabwe and arrived in Cape Town International Airport in South Africa at 2:40 pm
  • Nonstop flight at 10:35 am from Cape Town International Airport in South Africa and arrived at Skukuza Airport in Sabi Sand at 1:05 pm
  • Nonstop flight at 2:50 pm from Skukuza Airport and arrived at Johannesburg Airport at 3:50 pm

Virgin Atlantic

  • Johannesburg Airport back to the United States via a layover in London Heathrow Airport (booked with Virgin Atlantic points)

Dzimbahwe Executive Lounge

  • Victoria Falls Airport

Bidvest Premier Lounge

  • Cape Town International Airport

Shongololo Lounge

  • Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport

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CAR RENTAL & HOW TO GET AROUND

We used Cabs Car Hire (Cape Town/Cape Winelands). Our hotel in Cape Town recommended this company, and they did not disappoint. Incredibly efficient and reliable. Drive your rental car to the Cape Winelands and on the full-day trip to the Cape Peninsula. 

Otherwise, when you are in Cape Town, use Uber. Super cheap and reliable.

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TOUR OPERATORS

  • Tongabezi (Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls)
  • Wild Horizons (Chobe National Park day trip)
  • Since we went, there is another highly-rated company (5.0 on TripAdvisor) offering Chobe day trips called Maano Adventures.
  • La Rochelle Tours (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Wine Tour)
  • Great White Shark Tours (Shark cage diving in Gansbaai)
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LUNCH/DINNER RESERVATIONS

  • La Petite Colombe (Franschhoek in Cape Winelands)
  • The Table at De Meye (Stellenbosch in Cape Winelands)
  • Chefs Warehouse at Maison (Franschhoek in Cape Winelands)
  • Creation Wine (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in Cape Winelands)
  • The Test Kitchen (Cape Town)
  • The Pot Luck Club (Cape Town)
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WINERY RESERVATIONS

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7 BUCKET LIST ITEMS

  1. Swim in Devil’s Pool on top of the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls
  2. Drink the best South African wine in the Cape Winelands
  3. Go shark cage diving
  4. Dine at The Test Kitchen, one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 
  5. Hike Lion’s Head to get the most epic view of Cape Town
  6. Go on a South Africa safari 
  7. Sleep in a treehouse 
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TRAVEL INSURANCE

  • Explorer Plan by World Nomads Insurance. It covered 2 people for 2 weeks and all of the higher-risk activities. Cost: $291.82 USD.
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WHAT I WOULD HAVE CHANGED

  • Staying 1 less night in Franschhoek and adding 1 night in the seaside town of Hermanus

 

  • Staying 1 extra night in Zimbabwe to take advantage of the hotel’s safari drives and having time to do a sunset Zambezi River Cruise

  • If I had another 5-7 days, I would have loved to explore the Garden Route. Next time!

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Questions about our South Africa itinerary?

Let me know in the comments below!

4 Comments
  1. susan claxton

    This is AMAZING and exactly what i’ve been looking for as we contemplate this exact trip. Now i feel very confident about September as the month we go. My question for you is the order you did the trip in. Why did you start in Zimbawbe and then go down to cape town and then back up to sabi sands? I was thinking Hermanus to decompress and do shark diving…into the winelands…into cape town…into sabi sands and end in Zimbabwe but would love your insight.
    thank you!

    Reply
    • Nichole

      Thanks for reaching out! We picked to start in Zimbabwe in mid-September because Devil’s Pool only runs through late September (didn’t want to chance not being able to do it).

      Also, the later you wait to do Cape Town in the year, the better (warmer, less chance of rain). That’s why we picked Cape Town at the end of the trip. We wanted to end the trip on a relaxing/epic note, so we booked the safari in Sabi Sands as the last part of the itinerary.

      We walked around Hermanus. Cute town! If you stay there a few days, that will definitely make it feel more relaxed. Then you can enjoy South Africa wine country a little more.

      Reply
  2. susan claxton

    One more question! Did you plan this all yourself or did you use a travel agent?

    Reply
    • Nichole

      We planned this trip ourselves. I’m one of those who actually enjoy the researching/planning process. 🙂

      Reply

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