Day 1 - Keep your wits about you!
While it may have a (somewhat) bad name, Johannesburg is a South Africa’s largest and wealthiest city. Known locally as ‘Jo'burg’, the city isn’t anything too different to one you would find in America. Most of South Africa’s cities have been Americanised.
Unlike other cities around the world (including Cape Town), not many of the city’s hostels are in the city centre. This is primarily due to the high levels of crime in the city. One of the northern suburbs Kensington, and areas just kilometres from the airport are where many of the hostels can be found.
Visitors are usually advised to steer clear of the city. There is no escaping the fact that there are endless amounts of muggings in the city centre. If there are a few of you travelling together, and you are adamant to go in, ask your hostel first of all exactly where is safe and where isn’t. It is up to yourself whether or not you want to take the risk.
If you do make it in, something which should not be missed is Museum Africa. For a true understanding about this country’s troubled past this is the best place to go to.
If you don’t feel like taking the risk of delving into the city centre, one of the safer and more colourful areas in the suburbs is Randburg Waterfront. It is easy to while away an afternoon here with bargain-filled markets during the day time and many bars and restaurants for lots eating and drinking at night!
Day 2 - Soweto
Soweto is the most famous township in South Africa. It is also the richest, largest and most political one. Unfortunately, it also has the highest crime levels in the world so, rather than simply get a bus there, it is advised that you get yourself on to one of the organised tours which visit Soweto, an acronym of ‘South West Townships’.
As South Africa’s largest township, there is a population of between three and four million people here, and they are all nearly exclusively black. That is how the township originated – everybody who wasn’t white was moved away from the city centre to their own ‘township’.
Tour guides bring you through the markets where you can witness the open-air butchers and other businesses which you are unlikely to find anywhere else in the world. You are also likely to be brought to one of the ‘squatter camps’, the local church and the Nelson Mandela House Museum.
Upon your return to Jo'Burg, you may feel the need to unwind or maybe even some shopping! The perfect place to do so is at Rosebank in the northern suburbs. Over the last two decades shopping malls have been erected all over this relatively safe area. Elsewhere, Bruma Lake in the eastern suburbs is home to a vibrant flea market which is open from Tuesdays through to Sundays.
Day 3 - Some deserved relaxing on the beach
Durban is South Africa’s city seaside resort. Since the 1970s it was had nearly exclusively white population but since the cease of apartheid in the 1980s it has become increasingly integrated with the country’s black population. This resulted in a number of shanty towns and townships popping up on the outskirts of the city.
Another characteristic of Durban’s is the number of bazaars and temples, and in particular mosques around the city. This is due to the large Indian population in the city – approximately 800,000.
As Durban is one of the main point for which to stay in when visiting Hluhluwe and Umfolozi National Parks (3-day safaris) the best thing to do before your expedition is to do some high quality lazing on its beach(es). Stretching for 6 kilometres and known as The Golden Mile they are Durban’s most enjoyable features and easily its biggest attraction for tourists.
Starting at The Point in the south-east of the city and running up to Blue Lagoon Beach, the Golden Mile incorporates a number of beaches including North Beach, Battery Beach and Tekweni Beach.
There is only so much tan management you can do before you get a little agitated and bored. Thankfully, when this boredom sets in there is plenty to do on the promenade which runs parallel to the beach. Along with people watching, there is a Seaworld where you can see dolphin shows, an amusement park, and The Whale Complex, a huge development with a shopping centre, cinemas, bars and restaurants, in particular Joe Cool's.
With this itinerary the plan is that you go on a 3-day safari on day 4. This requires peeling yourself from the sheets of your bed at the timely hour of 5am as most tours leave sometime around 6am. Due to this, going out on a big night isn’t ideal. But if you do fancy a few ‘quiet beers’, along the promenade is the place to down them.
Day 4 - Safari - Day 1
Leaving at Durban at 7am, the Zulu Grassroots Safari, which is operated by Tekweni Ecotours, drives along the Dolphin Coast and heads straight for Zululand, crossing the Tugela River.
En route to the town of St Lucia, you pass by some rural villages, getting a better view of the South African countryside. In this town is a 260,000 hectare reserve and it is from here that the boat cruise. Taking approximately 2 hours, crocodiles and hippopotami swim through the musky waters of the river so ensure you have enough roll in your film as you might not be so close to these threatening animals.
After the cruise, where you will also have excellent opportunities for pictures of the area’s very active bird life, you are given some time to explore St Lucia which has the second highest sand dunes in the world and 5 different ecosystems. Here you also enjoy your lunch on the beach.
After a bite to eat you travel north to your accommodation and then down to the nearby floodplains to hopefully catch view of the remaining zebra and antelope and then a sunset you aren’t libel to forget for a long time.
Day 5 - Safari - Day 2
After a very early start you are brought off to the reserve in the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Park, one of the oldest proclaimed reserves in Africa. Thanks to getting up at the crack of dawn you have a better chance of catching a glimpse of the nocturnal animals before they return to their den for the day. Some of these include ten cheetahs, lions and leopards.
Once the skies brighten up is when you can expect to see a variety of wildlife such as African Plains elephant, white and black rhinoceros, giraffe, zebra and many species of antelope.
After scouring the plains for some of the wildest animals you are bound to see in South Africa (which will bring you up to lunchtime), you leave the park and go to the sand forest to study some ancient fossils. If you don’t fancy yourself as a paleontologist, you can travel horseback for a while (at an extra cost).
Your second day on the safari ends up with a few drinks watching the sun go down sitting over the floodplains – true bliss.
Day 6 - Safari - Day 3
The final day of the safari begins even earlier than the previous. This is to make sure you get a glimpse of the cats which roam the plains of the reserve just in case you are unfortunate enough to miss them on the second day. After that you are brought to be amazed once more at the animals on these plains.
Leaving that afternoon the tour arrives back into Durban city centre in the evening at approximately 8pm. Upon arrival you are brought to the hostel where a banquet is held for everybody on the tour.
Day 7 - Another day of deserved relaxing
After getting up at the crack of dawn for three days in a row the best thing to do to ensure your batteries is give yourself a bit of a lie in. This may mean you staying in bed until 10am, for others it may mean not getting up until midday. Either way the best thing to do (as is with any day in Durban) is go to the beach again – there are enough to choose from after all!
You can’t leave Durban without giving it a big one some night. Morningside, which is just north of central Durban, is one of the city’s hubs when it comes to bars, restaurants and nightclubs.