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South Africa & Swaziland Safari 2016 Itinerary

Nothing like a last minute trip to skip the country, right?

We were originally scheduled to take this trip this year, and in June, we decided to move it to 2017. And then my travel partner-in-crime Vanessa decided to buy a house and get engaged. Since the wedding in now set for November 2017, the bride skipping the country a few weeks before the wedding is a really bad idea, and so back to this year it is! We're ticketed and confirmed, and leave in a month. I'm not ready!

We're taking this trip through Gate 1 Travel. You'll remember them from my Peru disaster trip of August 2015. This is their shot at redemption. In their defense, this time around, they were very patient with us changing dates multiple times. They even let us apply our $600 off coupon code that we had used when we originally booked this trip last year from Travel Zoo (fun fact: if you ever need to do this, you can actually call Travel Zoo, and let them know when you booked the trip and they'll find the archived deal and provide the coupon code for you!).

A few people have asked, so here is our tentative itinerary!

DAY 1, Monday - Depart for South Africa
Hello 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, 2 hour connection, and 2 hour, 10 minute flight to Cape Town (side note: FUCK MY BACK)

Protea Hotel Sea Point-where we'll be spending our first four nights in Cape Town

DAY 2, Tuesday - Arrive in Cape Town Arrive in Cape Town, undeniably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As you transfer to your hotel, you’ll see the towering symbol of the city - Table Mountain. The rest of the day is at leisure in this magnificent seaside city
Overnight: Cape Town

DAY 3, Wednesday - Cape Peninsula Tour Depart on a full day Cape Peninsula Tour with lunch along the way. Drive to Cape Point at the southwestern tip of the Cape Peninsula, passing steep mountains, secluded coves, and sweeping beaches en route. After a stop at the fishing village of Hout Bay, one of Cape Town's best-kept secrets, continue to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, comprising over 17,300 acres of indigenous flora and fauna, where you may see baboons by the roadside, rheboks, cape mountain zebras, bonteboks and the elusive eland. The native plant life, known as fynbos, forms one of only six floral kingdoms in the world. Following the coastline along False Bay, return to Cape Town after lunch by way of Simon's Town. Here, visit the penguin colonies at Boulders Beach, and continue with a scenic drive over Muizenberg Mountain. Lastly, visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, resting at the foot of Table Mountain, for a short walking tour of the beautiful gardens before arriving to Cape Town. This evening enjoy a Welcome Dinner at the hotel
Overnight: Cape Town

DAY 4, Thursday - Cape Town City Tour After a leisurely breakfast depart on a half day Cape Town city and Table Mountain tour. Driving to the city center, pass famous landmarks such as the Castle of Good Hope built in 1666 by the Dutch East India Company and City Hall, a splendid baroque building, and of course the Grand Parade. See St. George's Cathedral, the Anglican Diocese of Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Pass the Company Gardens and the Malay Quarter. The route then leads to Kloof Nek and the magnificent Table Mountain. Ascend to the top (weather permitting) by means of a cable car. At the summit, see wild flowers and the famous silver tree, and marvel at a birds-eye view of the city and its beaches. On a clear day it is even possible to see Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, on one side, and Cape Point on the other. Descend from the upper cableway station and proceed to the Milnerton Lighthouse. Later, you will have the opportunity to learn the three billion year old story of diamond while touring the prominent Shimansky Jewelers & Museum at Cape Town's famous V & A Waterfront. The 45-minute tour reveals the origins of diamond mining and includes explanations of color, cut and clarity. Following the tour (or for those who do not wish to participate) stroll through the adjacent V & A Shopping Mall with its endless shopping and dining opportunities before returning to your hotel or join the optional Townships of Cape Town Tour which provides the opportunity to experience authentic interactions with the city's many different communities.
Overnight: Cape Town

DAY 5, Friday - Full Day in Cape Town Day at leisure in Cape Town. Alternatively, thrill seekers (that would be us) will not want to miss the excursion to "Shark Alley" to experience great white shark cage diving.
Overnight: Cape Town

DAY 6, Saturday - Flight to Durban, Game Viewing Cruise on the St. Lucia Estuary This morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Durban. Upon arrival in the early afternoon, drive to St. Lucia. In the late afternoon, embark on a game viewing cruise that takes you on the St. Lucia Estuary. This tidal estuary is home to Nile crocodiles, hippopotami, sea turtles, and even sharks, making it a fascinating and uniquely diverse ecosystem. This evening, enjoy a dinner at the hotel
Overnight: Hluhluwe

Protea Hotel Umfolozi River, Richards Bay, Hluhluwe

DAY 7, Sunday - Game Drive in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, Travel to Swaziland After an early breakfast, travel to the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, situated in northern KwaZulu Natal, which contains an immense diversity of fauna and flora and is particularly famous for its conservation of black and white rhinos. Home to Africa's "Big Five," you may have a chance to see elephant, Cape buffalo, lion and leopard, in addition to rhino during your morning game drive through the reserve. The park also boasts warthog, crocodile, and antelope. Following the safari, continue to the border of the Kingdom of Swaziland. This independent kingdom within the borders of South Africa is known for its lovely scenery and vibrant indigenous culture. Stop at a handicraft market this afternoon before arriving to your hotel in the early evening
Overnight: Swaziland

Mountain Inn, Mbabane, Swaziland

DAY 8, Monday - Swaziland Sightseeing and Matsamo Village Visit After breakfast visit the Ngwenya glass factory, where visitors can watch talented glass blowers create a range of enchanting African animals, birds and fish, as well as tableware, made from recycled glass that is collected by the children of Swaziland. Transfer to the South African border and visit Matsamo Cultural Village where you can learn more about the Swazi traditions and customs. Enjoy traditional dance and song performances with authentic African instruments as well as traditional Swazi cuisine. You may wander through the village with its many traditional huts and interact with the locals. Later, continue to the hotel where you will enjoy dinner
Overnight: Hazyview

Premier Hotel The Winkler, Nelspruit, Hazyview-our home for two nights

DAY 9, Tuesday - Kruger National Park Game Drive The day begins at dawn with coffee, tea, and rusks, a South African dry biscuit. Upon departure from the hotel, a pre-packed breakfast will be provided for you. Then, on to Kruger National Park for a thrilling full day open-vehicle game drive. Larger than the state of Connecticut, the park offers some of the best game and wildlife viewing opportunities in the world, and early morning is an optimal time of day. You may have a chance to see lion, elephant, giraffe, or zebra in their natural habitat. After stopping at a rest camp for lunch (on your own) continue your game drive. With any luck, you may even see cheetah and leopard. After the day's excitement, relax by the pool and later enjoy dinner at the hotel
Overnight: Hazyview

DAY 10, Wednesday - Panorama Route to Johannesburg Depart after breakfast and travel to Mpumalanga Province, known as "Paradise Country", driving the spectacular "Panorama Route." Stop to admire the views of amazing scenery along the 16-mile-long Blyde River Canyon, cut deep into red sandstone, and God's Window (weather permitting), a breathtaking, edenic vista at the edge of the escarpment overlooking Kruger National Park. Visit Bourke's Luck Potholes, a series of waterfalls and distinctive rock formations created by countless millennia of water erosion before proceeding this afternoon to Johannesburg
Overnight: Johannesburg

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Melrose Arch, Johannesburg-our home for two nights

DAY 11, Thursday - Soweto Tour After an early breakfast depart on a half day tour of Soweto. Experience a fascinating glimpse of the bustling neighborhood life of Soweto, the most metropolitan township in the country, setting trends in politics, fashion, music, dance and language. Drive by the former residence of Bishop Desmond Tutu and visit Nelson Mandela's former home, before proceeding to the Hector Peterson memorial, dedicated to one of the first casualties of the Soweto uprising of 1976. Return to the hotel for lunch on your own before departing for the Apartheid Museum. On your guided tour of the museum you will journey through the racial segregation experienced by millions of South Africans just over a decade ago. This evening enjoy a Farewell Dinner at the hotel
Overnight: Johannesburg

DAY 12, Friday - Depart South Africa Transfer to the airport for your departure flight. But first, I'm thinking of throwing myself off of the Orlando Towers for a round of bungee jumping since our flight doesn't leave until 8:55pm. Nothing like a rush of adrenaline before climbing onto a 16 hour non-stop flight back home right? In case you aren't familiar with Orlando Towers:

I'm also trying to finalize a trip to a baby lion, tiger, or elephant sanctuary so we can play with baby animals. Because, you know, it's us. And Vanessa still holds a grudge for not getting enough photos of her feeding the lambs in Ireland. So I need to get on that ASAP. Find safari clothing (yes, you really do need to adhere to a dress code of certain colors). Find time to organize, make a list, check it a few times, charge the GoPro's, and pack. All while booked solid pretty much from now until the day that we leave.
I'll also be following up this trip with another epic trip in November to....Iceland! The trip itself is booked, but I'm still plotting out the excursions. There will be craziness-that much I know. I'll update you with that as soon as I finalize everything.

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