A beginner's Guide and Itinerary to South Africa

15 nights of South African adventure

We were in South Africa for a total of 15 nights during their winter of '15. Since South Africa is so far away, for us at least, we decided to stay for longer. That’s also the reason why we decided to go for two safaris instead of one.

We did book with a travel agent, Joyce from Jacada Travel, because this was effectively my first trip to Africa (shock and horror! Will it be like in those UNICEF commercials?). After doing a lot of research and discussion with Joyce, we decided that our best plan of action was to split the safaris as well, just in case we missed civilization. Jacada was absolutely amazing though, we loved their attention to detail and restaurant recommendations. They made our trip absolutely seamless! 

Nights 1-4: Phinda Private Game Reserve, Mountain Lodge

baby cheetah

We started the day with a half day tour around Johannesburg before catching our flight to Richards Bay. It was then another 2 hour drive to Phinda. This was an excruciatingly exhausting day, especially since our luggage was lost initially in Johannesburg airport. Not fun.

It went uphill when we arrived in Phinda Mountain Lodge, an &beyond property. This was where we saw cheetahsnosy giraffeszebrasbuffalos, the critically endangered black rhino, horny elephants and were almost eaten by lions! Phinda is home to the famous big five and offers excellent game viewing with spectacular backdrops.

Basically, I wanted to do one safari in Kruger and something different somewhere else. We also looked at Tsuwalu which is in the Kalahari (they have Meerkats!) but unfortunately, they did not have family rooms which really put us off.

Nights 5-8: Cape Town, Sea Five Boutique Hotel

cape town

We took a 3 hour car die to Durban airport. Did nothing at Durban and flew to Cape Town where we checked into Sea Five Boutique Hotel. Camps Bay was a wonderful area to stay in but Airbnb might be a better (and cheaper) option for accom. Here are some that I was eyeing for future visits: a Spanish villaa 3-bedroom villa and this amazing villa with sweeping views

Click here to get $30 off your first stay

Cape Town was a diverse and interesting place. When in Cape Town, you could take a hike up Table Mountain, stroll alongV&A waterfront, do a walking food tour, visit the Cape of Good Hope and boulders beach, the list goes on!

Nights 9-11: Winelands, La Cles de Montagnes


The winelands were especially nice that time of the year, the leaves were a myriad of red, brown and yellow hues. It didn't help that La Cles de Montagnes was so beautiful. I also got drunk a fair bit with two full days of tastings. With more than 700 wineries, you can definitely find something that you like. The only problem is time.

Nights 12-15: Kruger National Park, Ngala tented camp


Kruger national park is one of South Africa’s largest game reserve, it is quite different from Phinda in terms of landscape and the sheer number of animals (Kruger has more). We stayed in Ngala tented camp, one of those Glamping shenanigans, also an &beyond property. It was quite enthralling to be able to sleep next to roaring lions but also quite daunting to shower in the open.

There, we hung out with hyenas who really just wanted to eat us, and spotted some spotted wild dogs who savagely ripped up an impala.

So, there you have it! South Africa in 15 nights! I hope you'd find this sample itinerary useful, tell me how you would do it differently!