It’s no wonder South Africa is known as a world in one country. Our travel partner, Brianna of Milk + Honey Travels, takes us on a road trip of a lifetime! She shares her experience exploring the Garden route – travelling through farmlands, forests, mountain ranges and coastal areas while staying at and seeing the best of the African Bush.
Over to you Brianna!
Firstly, how was driving on the opposite side of the road for a long stretch of your trip?
At first, it is a bit nerve-racking as you second-guess yourself on which way to look, what side you are supposed to be on, etc. It was also a lot of turning on the windshield wipers when I meant to turn on the blinker! But after a few days, it got a lot easier.
South African drivers are incredibly kind and helpful – very different from people on the road here in the States. We only got honked at once, and that was when we were first starting out and didn’t realize you don’t just stay in the left-hand lane, you only use it for passing. The great thing about this road trip, though, is that most of it is open roads with very little traffic, which makes for a really easy driving experience.
Did the Garden Route exceed your expectations, and what were your highlights?
Yes, absolutely. With my research, I knew it would be an enjoyable and very scenic experience, but it was better than I imagined. I love that we went at the time of year we did, as we mostly had blue skies and wonderful weather the entire time. The people we engaged with were incredible, the food was outstanding, and the views and scenery were breathtaking.
How was Shamwari Game Reserve vs the game reserves you have visited in the Greater Kruger area?
The safari at Shamwari Private Game Reserve was the part of my trip I considered important “research” more than anything else because I was curious if it would feel like a subpar experience compared to Kruger/Sabi Sands. Dollar for dollar, there is no way that the experience is less than a safari in the more well-known area of Kruger.
The lodge itself was spectacular, and the service was incredible as well. While both the Eastern Cape and Kruger National Park offer opportunities to see the Big 5 (lions, elephants, leopards, buffalos, and rhinos), the wildlife populations do differ between the two regions, from what I understand.
The Eastern Cape has a higher concentration of rhinos and elephants (we saw a ton of Ellie’s and white rhinos!), while Kruger National Park is known for its large populations of lions, leopards, and buffalos. We still got the opportunity to see lions during our game drives here, though – and this is always a highlight for me!
Who should consider a self-drive holiday, and do you have any advice for them?
Personally, I believe the Garden Route is a beautiful and diverse region of South Africa that caters to all types of travellers. If you are comfortable driving (on the opposite side of the road!), having a rental car gives you the freedom to explore and discover at your own pace.
This type of trip is best enjoyed when you believe the journey is as important as the destination. Have an itinerary that ensures you don’t miss any of the highlights, but realize that you should allow plenty of time to stop and explore the various towns, beaches, and attractions along the way. Sometimes, you need to see where the day takes you, which is certainly true along the garden route.
Did you learn any surprising facts?
I learned that the garden route is home to the largest bungee in the world, which compelled me to jump off a bridge for the first time.
What I find so incredible when I travel to Africa are the different ways many of the places you stay contribute to the environment and local people. I love this aspect of travel; learning more is always inspiring.