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September 2, 2020

How to travel solo in South Africa (and make it epic)

Hi everyone! I’m Kellie, a solo traveller from Canada who is obsessed with South Africa. This article is my official plea to the government to grant me citizenship. Just kidding! This article is about my tips and tricks for travelling solo in South Africa. But if it comes with citizenship, I won’t complain.

I’ve been to Cape Town three times over the last two years (you could say I’m obsessed) and on my most recent trip I was able to see more of the country as well, as I journeyed along the Garden Route, up to Kruger, and to the Great Karoo. South Africa is an incredible country and will always have a special place in my heart.

Safety

As a solo traveller, the main question I get asked about South Africa is if it’s safe. I have personally never had a problem, although I know plenty of people who have, so my answer would be: it’s safe enough if you know how to navigate it to the best of your ability. The rest, like any travel destination, is out of your control.

But don’t let that hold you back for a second!

There are some very clear safety measures that I would advise for staying safe in South Africa. Don’t walk alone at night, book with a reputable tour company, be mindful of your belongings. I recommend getting a SIM card so you can always hop in an Uber after dark. Keep your wits about you and speak to trusted locals about the dos and don’ts of each area you’re in. Trust your gut. Most people who have told me they’ve had a problem, have also told me they could have seen it coming: they were walking alone at night, they forgot to lock the door, they were swinging their phone around, they had a bad feeling about that side of the neighbourhood.

Once you’ve got on board with abiding by the necessary precautions, you’re in for one of the most epic trips of your life.

So let’s dive into some of the amazing parts of South Africa I’ve been lucky enough to visit!

 

CAPE TOWN

Why you should go:

I’ve been to 43 countries and Cape Town is my favourite city in the world. It has everything. It’s a bustling city with trendy restaurants, fun bars, and awesome shopping, and it also has incredible nature from its epic mountains to its picture-perfect beaches. I mean, how many cities can say they have one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature as their backdrop (I’ll tell you how many: zero)? And don’t even get me started on Lion’s Head, a mountain with which I am in a long-term, committed, and loving relationship. Miss you boo.

In Cape Town, everything is in close proximity, the people are awesome, and you will never run out of things to do. If you do, message me and I will scold you, because you are obviously not doing it right.

Where to stay:

There are so many amazing neighbourhoods in Cape Town, and plenty of cozy/chic Airbnbs and amazing hotels (do my bucket list a favour and stay at the Silo Hotel in V&A Waterfront if you’re looking to splurge).

But my favourite place to stay in the city as a budget traveller who loves to meet people is Atlantic Point Backpackers in Green Point. It’s in a great location and has the best vibes and the best people. It’s truly become my home away from home and I would recommend it to travellers of any age!

What you cannot miss:

  • You MUST hike Lion’s Head at sunrise. Uber to the trailhead for about 1.5 hours before sunrise, bring a headlamp, snacks, and layers, and prepare for the most epic sunrise view of your life.
  • Cape Town’s markets are such a vibe. Go to the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock and Oranjezicht near V&A Waterfront.
  • Cruise the peninsula and see Chapman’s Peak (one of the most scenic drives in the world), try not to get blown away at the Cape of Good Hope, and go visit the African penguins at Boulders Beach.
  • Check out the surf scene and colourful huts at Muizenberg.
  • Llandudno is my favourite beach, and also the four Clifton beaches are unreal.
  • If you’re there during the summer months, you havvvveee to go to an outdoor concert at Kirstenbosch. BYOP (bring your own picnic and by picnic I mean wine).
  • Catch sunset at Camps Bay. I love the view from Tiger’s Milk or from sitting on the rocks at Maiden’s Cove.

 

GARDEN ROUTE

Why you should go:

The Garden Route is an iconic road trip for backpackers in South Africa. Running from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, the route is characterized by its lush vegetation, incredibly vast beaches, and rugged cliff-sides. It’s definitely a place to get lost from the real world and find yourself in nature.

For me, the standout theme of my Garden Route experience was adventure. It pushed me out of my comfort zone to do things I’ve never done before, resulting in an adrenaline rush that lasted my entire trip. But it was balanced out nicely by the serene natural beauty around me at every stop.

Where to stay:

As I mentioned, as a social solo traveller, I love staying in hostels. They’re a great way to meet other travellers and make friends on your trip. And luckily, the Garden Route is stacked with some INCREDIBLE hostels.

Here were some of my favourites along the way:

  • Mossel Bay Backpackers, Mossel Bay
  • Beach House, Wilderness
  • Wild Spirit, The Crags
  • Tube n’ Axe, Storms River
  • Island Vibe, Jeffreys Bay

What you cannot miss:

  • THE BUNGEE. The Garden Route is home to the world’s highest bungee bridge and if you are looking for the ultimate adventure, this is it. The Face Adrenalin team is epic, lively, and always dancing, and will make you feel pumped and ready for your adventure.
  • Tsitsikamma National Park is breathtakingly stunning. Walk over to the suspension bridge and trek up to the viewpoint, and hike along the gorgeous Otter Trail to the waterfall (this one’s a bit challenging but you got it!)
  • Wild Spirit is an incredibly blissful (and Instagrammable) accommodation where you can sing by the campfire, eat delicious farm-fresh meals, and truly be at one with nature.
  • Canyoning with Africanyon is terrifying and will put you out of your comfort zone (speaking from experience here) — but if you like adventure, you will be so proud of yourself and glad you did it!

 

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK

Why you should go:

Kruger National Park is the ultimate safari spot in South Africa. I went with Brett Horley Safaris and I truly never could have dreamed up a better safari. The wildlife encounters, the hospitality, the lodging, the people, the whole experience — everything was just perfect. A safari is exactly what your soul is craving, whether you know it yet or not.

Where to stay:

A safari is a bucket list type of trip, and for this part of your South African adventure, you want to make sure you are living your best life. It’s all about you, nature, and wildlife, so having an amazing accommodation that is right in the bush will allow you to feel as connected as it gets.

I stayed at nThambo Tree Camp and Africa on Foot, both set in Klaserie Private Reserve, and I was pinching myself the entire time. This is safari livin’ at its most magical.

What you cannot miss:

Aside from the dreamy accommodations listed above, what you don’t want to miss is completely up to the animals and Mother Nature! You may see elephants playing in a waterhole, giraffes sliding against the sunset, lions hunting their next meal, a leopard slinking down a tree. You’ll see impala trotting into the light of day, a herd of buffalo staring you down, some rhinos soaking in the sun. Don’t miss the beautiful birds, the sound of the breeze through the grass, and the sunsets that will capture your heart. Go in without any expectations, and just let Mama Africa put on a show.

 

GREAT KAROO

Why you should go:

If you are looking for an authentic, luxurious, rejuvenating safari experience that is close to Cape Town, the Karoo is calling. It may not have the same level of wildlife as Kruger, but it still offers that amazing safari lifestyle: game drives, sundowners, impeccable hospitality, and peace and quiet in the African bush. The Karoo is a semi-desert region about a five-hour drive from Cape Town, and it is an incredibly relaxing escape.

Where to stay:

Roam Game Reserve is literal bliss. You’re the only lodge for as far as the eye can see, surrounded by nothing but the vast landscapes and the sounds of the bush. Stargazing here is next level, the decor and set-up are immaculate, and the pool area is Instagram goals. There is even a waterhole where you may see buffalo or baboons hanging around for a drink. The lodge hosts unique wildlife experiences like walking with habituated cheetahs or birding to provide a different type of safari.

What you cannot miss:

  • The cheetah walk — it’s so cool to have such an intimate experience with these amazing cats.
  • Sundowners looking over the epic canyon
  • A special surprise hosted by Roam that I won’t spoil for you here 😉
  • Soaking in the silence, the peace and quiet, and the magic. Let the Karoo woo you.

I hope I’ve provided some inspiration for your South African adventure! I have further tips, tricks, and stories on my blog at kelliepaxian.com and am always sharing my adventures on Instagram at @kelliepaxian. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. Happy travels!

September 2, 2020

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