In December 2019, I spent an incredible 11 days exploring Southern Africa on Contiki’s Cape, Safari and Falls trip. From the bustling coastal cities of South Africa to the awe-inspiring vistas of Zimbabwe and Botswana, this trip was a dream come true.
The adventure begins
Contiki’s Cape, Safari & Falls trip begins in Cape Town, the oldest town in South Africa. I arrived early, met my roommate and explored the area around the hotel. At the welcome meeting, I met the rest of the group and our Trip Manager, Alfie who would be with us throughout the trip.
After a quick round of introductions, and a brief overview of the trip itinerary, we went next door to the Mojo Market to get to know each other. This market was a really cool spot with 30 food stalls and a handful of bars. The best part of the market was the ocean view – oh and the live music every night. Alfie had reserved a table for all of us beforehand, so we were able to sit together and get to know each other a bit more. It’s so hard to believe at that moment, surrounded by a group of ‘strangers’, that we would become as close as family during the next 11 days of our trip.
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The next day, we were off to a great start with a trip up Table Mountain by cable car. It was an amazing way to take in the views of Cape Town. After capturing the perfect Insta shots, we spent some time hiking around the trails. Our next stop included a visit to a local township. Townships are underdeveloped neighbourhoods in South Africa that were created as a result of Apartheid – a racial segregation policy that was only abolished in the 90s. The day ended with a marine cruise on the ocean and dinner at a local spot, Burger and Lobster.
Expect the unexpected
The next day was absolutely perfect! We started the day off with a beautiful drive along the cliffs of Chapman’s Peak to Cape Point. On the way, we stopped in at Boulder’s Beach for a hike. After spending some time hiking through some sandy trails, we reached a colony of penguins. Even though it was summer in South Africa, the water in December was quite cold, making it the perfect temperature for the penguins. We grabbed our fill of quacking, waddling, and wading (the penguins, not the people) and continued on to a winery to enjoy some of Africa’s best. If wine isn’t your thing, this trip is worth it just for the views, which were breathtaking and overlooked the Cape.
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The next day, we hopped on our first flight, which was included in our trip to Johannesburg. Eager to get to our safari lodge, we wasted no time hopping in our vehicles to head to Kruger National Park. The day was a longer drive day with about seven hours on the road. It was all worth it though, because we got to visit parts of the park that almost no other people go to. Instead of battling hundreds of other cars to see the same baboon, we got to enjoy all the wildlife as if we were the only people around for hundreds of kilometres (which we may have been).
Witness wildlife in Kruger National Park
Our Cape, Safari and Falls trip switched gears over the next two days to focus solely on wildlife. The early mornings meant that we were able to see animals when they were the most active.
On our safari drives we had expert Local Guides with us to keep us informed with facts. We quickly became really good at spotting the BIG wildlife. How can you not notice an elephant six feet away? Having spent their entire lives living in South Africa, the Local Guides could read the more subtle signs of the bush. They would share interesting facts like how the changes in the direction of the wind affects the behaviour of giraffes or why flocks of wading birds walk towards lions as they approach. We were even lucky enough to see an impala give birth! It was one of the most memorable experiences from my trip and something none of the locals we were with had seen before.
After squeezing out every last drop out of our safari drive, it was time to head back to Johannesburg. On our way there, we broke up the long drive with a stop at Protrack Anti-Poaching Centre at the edge of Kruger. During this Contiki Cares experience, we learned about the aggressive anti-poaching efforts in Kruger National Park. It was an eye-opening impactful experience – one that made us more appreciative of the issues facing wildlife in this area of the world.
Visit one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World
After spending a night in Emalahleni, we continued on to Johannesburg, where we caught our second included flight up to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Home to one of the Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls is a sleepy town with laidback vibes. Not only does the area attract tourists, it also brings in wildlife too. Warthogs, baboons, and elephants can be spotted wandering around, making for a true African experience.
Get ready to be amazed by Victoria Falls. I was surprised to find that the approach to Victoria Falls was almost as impressive as the falls themselves. The pathways leading you to the falls are lined with dry African bushes that transform before your eyes into a lush rainforest – thanks to the constant mist of the thundering falls. Finishing off our first day in Zimbabwe, we took a sunset cruise down the Zambezi river, spotting hippos, birds and other wildlife, while enjoying snacks and drinks.
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Get ready for adventure in Victoria Falls
The next day was all about pumping your adrenaline with adventure activities. There were so many options to choose from. You could go white water rafting on the Zambezi River or bungee jumping and zip-lining from the bridge that connects Zimbabwe and Zambia.
We then got to spend some time exploring Victoria Falls. The town itself is beautiful and one of the safest towns in Zimbabwe. Make sure to shop the markets and visit the famous Victoria Falls Hotel. If you’re looking for a place to eat, head over to River Brewing Company, a craft beer brewery and eatery just a stone’s throw from the hotel. That night we were treated to a traditional Boma dinner and dance, the perfect way to spend our last night in Zimbabwe.
The next day, you can take a breathtaking helicopter flight over Victoria Falls. On the ride, you might even be lucky enough to spot wildlife in neighbouring Botswana’s National Parks. Speaking of Botswana, it’s time to say goodbye to Zimbabwe and head over to its neighbour, Botswana. The drive is a quick one, so there’s lots of time to enjoy an afternoon game drive through Botswana’s Chobe National Park.
Get your safari gear for Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is home to the highest density of elephants in Africa. With so many animals in such a relatively small area, Chobe gave us some of the most jaw-dropping experiences of the whole trip. You can spent your last day in Chobe however you’d like. Most of us spent our time around the pool, recounting our favourite moments from this epic adventure.
At night, you can opt in to take a cruise along the Chobe river, spotting hippos and crocodiles in the water, and countless wildlife species along the shores. I couldn’t have dreamt of a better way to spend to say goodbye. The next morning is full of goodbyes, tears, hugs, and promises to stay in touch. You can finish your trip at the nearby Kasane Airport or pick up a free transfer back to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
Tips for the best Cape, Safari and Falls trip
Bring good binoculars. Spend as much on them as you’re able to, they’ll be essential to a good experience. When people ask what they’re for, you can tell them that they’re ‘binos for the rhinos’. When everyone laughs, you can take the credit for yourself – I’m not going to lie, I stole it from someone else on the trip.
Pack smart. Take half the amount of clothes and twice as much money as you think you’ll need. Check your adaptor to see if it has Africa’s power shape. I foolishly grabbed my international adaptor and packed it without looking at it. Turns out it fits plugs in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas, but not Africa! Don’t forget to bring bug spray and sun screen as you’ll need it on this trip.
In Cape Town, the Trip Manager will have reusable water bottles that filter water from any tap making it safe to drink. They’re an amazing way to avoid single-use plastic water bottles, so buy one at the beginning of the trip. Another tip is to give yourself a night or two at the beginning and end of the trip to adjust to the time change and relax. Use the last few nights to return to a favourite local spot or walking around, taking in the moment for yourself before heading home. You can even visit a neighbouring country like I did and return to Zambia.
A TRUE trip of a lifetime
Overall, Contiki’s Cape, Safari and Falls trip has the perfect balance of everything. You have the city life in Cape Town with shopping, nightlife, restaurants, penguins, and wine. There’s wildlife in Kruger National Park and Chobe National Park, giving you enough time to catch sight of the Big Five. Then you can unleash your wild side in Victoria Falls with zip-lining, bungee jumping, white water rafting, and helicopter rides. Southern Africa is home to some of the friendliest, most hospitable people I’ve met in the world. A trip here will be one you won’t soon forget. So if you’re thinking of travelling to South Africa, check out Contiki’s Cape, Safari and Falls trip for a trip of a lifetime.