It’s been a busy and fun-filled few days in South Africa! It is spring break and I had 10 days off from school and decided it would be an awesome time to check out this country. David and I departed KAUST on midnight and headed to South Africa with a layover in Ethiopia. Our entire journey was pretty harmless, I think the first flight was 3 hours and the second was about 5. I slept quite a bit on both of them. We arrived to Johannesburg at 2 PM and quickly visited the ATM and bought a local SIM card so we could order Uber’s (cheap version of taxis) to get to various places. Our guest house owner, Chipo, picked us up at the airport and we drove to our accommodation fjor the next two days. I had read on the internet that Johannesburg has a super high crime rate and I was a bit nervous about it taxis were safe or where to stay that I would feel comfortable. I used booking.com so I can read reviews, so I went with the cheapest private room (not a hostel) that I could find, and ended up at Moye Guest House. If any of you ever find yourself in Johannesburg and want to stay in a beautiful, clean room super close to the airport this is for you. It was a 7 minute drive, but into a quiet and safe residential neighborhood. And the owner was seriously so kind and the breakfast was delicious (and they even set it up the night before because we had early mornings of 5 AM both mornings we stayed). After we arrived we unpacked in our lovely room, and looked on maps to try to determine what to do with our afternoon. We decided after sitting in a plane all day we wanted to walk around so we took an Uber to a nearby bird sanctuary. We walked around for about an hour and a half and gawked at the gorgeous mansions and cool birds.
There were benches setup along the way to sit and enjoy the views of nature. I’m not a big city girl so I do appreciate parks and enjoying fresh air, especially after a long travel day. After the sun began to sat we got an Uber to take us to a nearby mall for dinner (East Rand Mall). We found a nice restaurants with tons of options, so we had a local brew and enjoyed nachos and a veggie wrap. Not quite local food but I enjoyed it quite a bit! After the mall We went straight home to have an early night to prepare for an early next morning.
The reason why we stayed the night in Johannesburg instead of going straight to Cape Town was to do a safari. I debated for a while on which safari and how many days. The biggest park in South Africa is Kruger, but this took several days and a lot of money. I found that there was a closer one, about 2.5 hours from Johannesburg, called Pilanesberg . I thought about camping or staying the night there, but in the end decided to do a single day with transportation from out guest house. This worst best for my time and budget. If you ever do a safari my biggest recommendation is to opt for an “open safari” this may cost a bit extra but it is way better that watching animals from a closed van or car. It’s nice to be in the open air and you can see much more. We went for the “deluxe safari” which included round trip transportation, two open-air safaris, and lunch. This was a splurge because it was like $150 but it was the cheapest I can find and decided it was well worth it. We were picked up at 5 am right outside our guest house and enjoyed our scenic drive to Pilanesberg. Even before we entered the gates we saw antelopes! We lucked out on a beautiful day, which I was a bit nervous about because it looked like there was a rain cloud looming nearby, which quickly dissipated. We spent the morning driving around the park. One highlight were two cheetahs, not too far from our car. In the background we watched elephants playing in the water, which was also awesome! We saw a lion from far away, and also got to see zebra, warthogs, giraffes, springbok, wildebeests, etc. Our lunch included a large variety of options and I ended up getting a roasted veggie pesto wrap, which was delicious. After, we carried on with our afternoon game drive and lucked out to see a leopard, which was super rare in the park. It was far away but I was thrilled nonetheless to see it. Another highlight was a bull elephant that was drinking water super close to us. Elephants are extremely smart and beautiful animals, so they’re one of my top favorites to see. In addition to the animals it’s important to note that the park itself is extremely scenic. Every twist and turn presented a new gorgeous view. It reminded me a lot of Tanzania, which this trip has definitely made me miss.
We got back to our house around 8 pm and we headed to our room, ordered pizza delivery, and headed to bed. The next morning we woke up at 4 AM to take a flight to Cape Town.