It’s difficult to put two weeks of travel into one concise stream of thought. Our time in South Africa was the perfect blend of relaxation and action-packed adventure. This trip was an especially satisfying one because it exceeded all of our expectations. Between the four of us, we’ve visited dozens of countries around the world, but each of us walked away from this experience feeling like South Africa surpassed them all.
If we had to compile our top pieces of advice for you if you’re looking to plan your South African holiday, here’s what we would recommend:
● Buy firewood. Almost every campsite sold it, but that was one of the best things about traveling by van – sitting by a fire, under the stars on the South African coast with your favorite people
● Carry plenty of cash. Tips are a regular thing here and you’re going to feel like a jerk if you can’t tip someone for a service they’re providing you. They have attendants who pump your gas, security in parking lots that keep an eye on your cars, etc. Thank them for their time and service with tips!
● Spring for the extras. Happy Campers has tables, chairs, and even tents you can rent with your van. These are things that will take your camping experience to the next level. We really made a home out of our campsites and these extra things made that possible.
● Eat at local restaurants. Originally, we planned to cook most of our meals. By the time the second week rolled around, we ate dinner out almost every night. Prices are very reasonable and it allows you to experience each town in a different way.
● Trust your instincts. If you’re driving through an area that seems unsafe or you feel uneasy, keep moving. If you feel the urge to buy a fishing pole so you can go fishing at the campsites, buy a fishing pole.
One of the coolest parts about visiting South Africa was the way we got to experience it. Traveling in camper vans allowed us to be flexible and adjust our schedule easily to make the most of our holiday. If we wanted to spend an extra day somewhere, no problem – we didn’t have to worry about cancelling reservations or adhering to check-in or check-out times. Van life offers a sense of freedom that more traditional travel experiences might not. The vans were equipped with everything we needed to be comfortable, whether we were in the middle of Cape Town or out in the bush. Each van has a camping stove, utensils and plates, and more so you can easily cook on your own if you prefer not to eat out at the local restaurants (though we would definitely recommend giving them a try – go find yourself some ostrich steak!).
One of our favorite things to do when we first arrived at our campsites each evening was to get a fire going in the braai pit and then cook our meals on the camping stove while the sun went down. Then, we spend the rest of the night around the fire with a few beers, some good music, and fantastic company. Then we say goodnight and head to bed in our cozy vans!
The Happy 1 is the perfect size for a couple (but we recommend you keep it tidy!). The back seat that runs longways through the camper unfolds into a cozy, snug bed. The camper has curtains for each window for privacy, with additional storage for your luggage under the back seat. When the bed is unfolded, there’s no additional space in the back to move around – so once you’re in bed, you’re in for the night.
The Happy 3 is more than enough space for two people, and then some. We liked having the extra space because we had a lot of luggage and camera gear, so the roomier option was a little more comfortable. All of the vans come with pillows, sheets, and plenty of blankets.
We visited South Africa at the very beginning of the winter season, so the nights were a bit chilly, but we were more than comfortable. One of our favorite things to do in the morning was to open the back doors of the vans while we laid in bed and drank our coffee. A lot of our campsites were by the water, so the view was hard to beat. We did quite a bit of planning before we reached South Africa and had our two week travel mapped out pretty thoroughly. The staff at Happy Campers was gracious enough to take a peek at our schedule and make their own recommendations of things we see and places we should stay along the way.
Although we enjoyed every second of our holiday, these are what we consider our five top “must see/do” experiences:
1. Cheetah Outreach in Somerset West. Just a walk across the parking lot from Happy Campers headquarters, you can’t miss this! We recommend the Encounter with Cheetah Cubs experience, and make sure you stick around for enrichment time to see the cubs play!
2. Great White Shark Tours in Gansbaai Brian McFarlane and his crew deliver the quintessential shark cage diving experience. This is an unforgettable experience whether you’re up close and personal with sharks in the cage or just observing from the boat deck!
3. Kayak and Lilo at Storms River Mouth in Tsitsikamma. A great way to spend time on the water, no matter the time of year. You’ll spend a few hours exploring the Storms River gorge and get some solid exercise in, too!
4. Safari at Lalibela Game Reserve. Located close to Port Elizabeth, this was the perfect halfway stop for us. 10,500 hectares where you can view the Big 5 up close, enjoy incredible cuisine, and relax in a luxurious lodge – even for just one night, it’s worth it!
5. Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn. Rich in history, this experience is unlike any other. The guided Heritage tour is informative and fascinating, but you can also opt for the “Adventure Tour” if you’re looking for something more intense (claustrophobic? This probably isn’t for you 😉
Overall, two weeks in South Africa wasn’t nearly enough time. We would have stayed forever if we could (and we can’t even count how many times we joked about never going home) and we will definitely be visiting again.
The team at Happy Campers goes above and beyond to make sure your experience traveling with them is the best it can possibly be. They are the friendliest group of individuals who are passionate about their country and helping people like us experience it.