Kelly and I are always looking out for our next travel adventure, so we were really excited to book our first trip to South Africa to explore the South Coast.
With both of us being a tad fair skinned, we were a tiny bit hesitant about visiting at the height of summer. Luckily for us the temperatures were very reasonable at 25-30 degrees. Kelly did still managed to burn herself though!
I began planning the trip by researching the best places to visit and what route to take. The famous Garden Route was something we really wanted to do, so we hired a car for the whole two weeks to allow us flexibility. South Africans drive on the same side of the road as the UK which made things much easier.
Our trip consisted of:
4 nights in Cape Town
2 nights in Stellenbosch
1 night in Hermanus
1 night in Oudtshoorn
3 nights in Plettenberg Bay
2 nights in Port Elizabeth
We really wanted to do a Safari but didn’t think we would have enough time to travel up to Kruger near Johannesburg, so we decided to visit Addo Elephant Park instead which was only a hour from Port Elizabeth.
We arrived in Cape Town, collected the car drove the 35 minutes into the city to Cartwright’s Corner, where we’d booked a 1 bedroom apartment. The location was absolutely perfect – right in the centre of the city so easy to walk to places and experience local life.
We really wanted to see Table Mountain, Lions Head, Signal Hill, Robben Island, Chapmans Peak and Boulders Beach in our 4 days. We managed to do everything except the hike up Lions Head, I wish we’d had an extra day!
We were so lucky to go up Table Mountain as many people visit Cape Town and don’t get a chance to go up there. In high winds (which they have frequently) the cable car is closed for safety or in poor visibility where the mountain in covered in cloud, which is known as the Table Cloth.
We headed up an hour before sunset, as a photographer I’m always after the golden hour! It was a beautiful evening with great visibility, but within 35 minutes of being up there, the cloth rolled over the mountain and it turned freezing cold and wet!
Other highlights included the Chapmans Peak drive, with incredible views as you drive along a winding coastal road. A visit to Boulders Beach where we saw the incredible tiny Penguins made our day! We weren’t expecting to see so many of them, and so close to us too! It was quite spectacular to see them.
Kelly had been given some foodie recommendations (thank you Gerla & Katie!). We had a fabulous meal on the first night at the Chefs Warehouse. Great tapas food which was delicious and amazing value. CT has the best Sushi which we love, so we took advantage of that, eating at Willoughby & Co.
When I knew we were heading to South Africa, I wanted to try and tie in some couple shoots with the trip. I love to travel and love shooting in different countries. We met with Victoria and Sheldon for a shoot in Kirstenbosch Gardens one evening.
We set off on the start of our journey round the coast, heading first to Stellenbosch, famous for its (over 200) vineyards. Kelly had planned a half day wine tasting tour. She loves her wine! The day didn’t get off to the best of starts though. We were picked up by our tour guide and taken to Boschendal Winery which was totally beautiful, but within minutes of arriving we got a call to tell us we were with the wrong guide! Cue a few panicking phone calls and a lucky wait for the other tour guide to collect us!
Now on the right tour, we headed to the first of two vineyards Stellenbosch Vineyard. We had 5 different wines to try which was explained in great detail and matched with sweet treats. I am not a wine drinker at all but really enjoyed the Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc which surprised me! It was amazing how different the wines taste with the different treats you were given. Lucky for me the treats were chocolate!
The next stop was Neethlingshof Estate, an absolutely stunning place set in beautiful grounds. Again we had 5 different wines to try accompanied with 5 savoury treats this time. Kelly drank my reds here. It’s safe to say her head was a little tender the next day…
During our time in Stellenbosch we also visited some fab restaurants. Spec & Bone and the Fat Butcher were superb. I’m a sucker for a good brownie and the Fat Butcher’s was to die for!
A two hour drive the next day took us to Hermanus. We arrived midday at the Misty Waves Boutique Hotel and was just in time to take a walk along the coast and grab some lunch. This place impacted on us both and we loved how calm and peaceful it was. The late evening provided some beautiful light so I managed to get the drone up to take some footage of the coast line.
We were out of season unfortunately, but this is the best place to spot whales.
The next day we had a long 4 hours drive to the Old Mill Lodge in Oudtshoorn. This place was on the outskirts of Oudtshoorn which is full of ostrich farms, we even had a couple at the lodge, along with about 12 babies. The next morning we took a short trip to the Cango Caves. A great experience, some of the rock forms were just incredible!
Next stop was 3 nights at Piesang Valley Lodge a lovely rural place just outside of Plettenberg Bay. John the owner was incredibly helpful and provided us with plenty of information and advice of what to do while we were there. We both completely fell in love with this place and will definitely be visiting again.
The first day was a little overcast so we took a short trip to Knysna to see the Knysna Heads. A great vantage point of the beautiful landscape.
Next morning John laid down the gauntlet, suggesting a 10km hike around Robberg Nature Reserve. We were definitely up for the challenge but neither of us were expecting it to be so tough! We hiked for four hours solid, up and down hundreds of cliff steps and climbing up rocks at one point. It was 100% worth it though, the views were amazing and you could see seals and sharks in the water below. We were treated with an added bonus of seeing the most incredible beach within the reserve, and taking a dip in the ocean.
Our last stop was Port Elizabeth. We drove for two hours with a horrendous lighting and thunderstorm following us. Unfortunately the weather didn’t improve much while we were there which meant I had to cancel my other planned shoot 🙁
We made a stop off at Tsitsikamma National Park so we could hike down to the suspension bridge. A much gentler hour long hike this time with spectacular views. This is somewhere we wished we’d had longer to explore. Next time.
We did get manage to get to Addo Elephant Park when the weather cleared one morning.
After an early start to get there, we went out on a 9am game drive. The ranger explained the rainfall could affect the animals that we saw, so our expectations were quite low!
The ranger was brilliant though and braved the wet dirt track roads to take us close to where the lions could be. His radar was spot on and we were incredibly lucky to see two male lions sleeping quite close by.
This did have its consequences though as the truck got stuck with the back wheels spinning!
We were all asked to leave the truck to lighten the load but this still didn’t make any difference. The next option was for some of us to push! Lucky for us this worked and we managed to get out before the lions got us!
We then drove up to the top of the park where we saw lots of elephants, some with babies. They came extremely close to the vehicle, so close we could have stroked them. Zebra’s, warthogs, buffalo and a few hundred dung beetles all spotted. Amazing to see them all in the wild.
The last day of our trip we had a short flight back to Cape Town ready for our flight back to the UK later that evening. A quick pop back into Cape Town for a few hours so we could try out the best Sushi restaurant in the city, Willoughby & Co before catching our flight back home.
What an adventure! A fantastic experience, we already know we’ll be going back again soon.