How on earth are we now reaching the end of 2017? HOW?! I'm sure that I blinked and suddenly we had shot from May to December. 2017 has been a year of very extreme highs and very extreme lows for me but this blog is a happy place used for celebrating the beauty of travel, so I'll only focus on those nice elements! Everyone has a "bucket list" of some description, even if you may not call it that. Some people want to own a Ferrari, others want to get their dream job, I on the other hand want to travel to as many corners of the world as physically possible. This year, I've taken fewer trips but they have definitely been more extensive than in previous years. I was flicking through my Instagram photos recently thinking "wow, I've done some pretty cool things this year", so here's a big old round-up!

Morocco

The first adventure of the year took Callum and I to Morocco which was particularly exciting as it was my first time on the African continent (little did we know at this point that 2017 would feature two Africa adventures)! We were in Morocco for 5 days and every single day was filled with a different adventure; my favourites being:
  1. Camping under the stars in the Sahara Desert
  2. Riding into the Sahara Desert at sunset on camels
  3. Singing African songs around a bonfire in the Sahara Desert with new found friends
  4. Taking a boat ride under the Ozoud Waterfalls
  5. Exploring the gorgeous tiled palaces and architecture of Marrakech
  6. Getting lost in the sounds, smells and sights of the souks (and trying to resist buying ALL of the gorgeous plates)
  7. Taking lots of Instagram shots in the gorgeous Jardins Marjoelle (the previous home of Yves Saint Laurent)
  8. Driving through the winding roads of the Atlas Mountains enjoying the epic views

Isles of Scilly

Next up, two of my friends and I went to visit another friend who was living in the Isles of Scilly. While many won't have this trip on their "bucket list", it was the perfect trip to relax and spend time with some amazing people.
  1. Taking a road trip from the East to the West of the UK with my besties (with lots of singing obviously)
  2. Experience glorious sunshine and clear blue seas which I didn't think were possible in the UK!
  3. Spend some quality time with three incredible people
  4. For once, taking the time to relax and detox
  5. Eating ALL of the amazing food on the islands

Luxembourg

This was our spontaneous trip of the year. With cheap Ryanair flights and a whole bundle of Hilton hotel points at our disposal, we decided to have a quick Summer break to Luxembourg which exceeded all of my expectations!
  1. Managing to book flights and accommodation for a total of £20!
  2. Cycling through the vineyards of the Moselle Valley in the glorious sunshine
  3. Obviously also tasting the wines in the aforementioned vineyards...
  4. Wandering around the picturesque town of Vianden and exploring it's impressive castle
  5. Exploring Luxembourg City in the height of Summer and somehow avoiding all of the crowds (Luxembourg is a hidden gem)!

South Africa

2017 was the year that I became a Chartered Tax Advisor and no longer had to study whilst working full time. You know what this means? More spare time and more annual leave! I hadn't taken a holiday longer than a week for 4 years, so this was a real treat and of course, I picked my #1 bucket list destination!
  1. Loving every minute of 2 days on safari in Kruger National Park
  2. Managing to spot every animal possible (including a few rhinos and a leopard which I didn't think would be possible)!
  3. Road-tripping this stunning country with my #1 travel partner (and developing an unhealthy addiction to the podcast "My dad wrote a porno" during our long drives)!
  4. Exploring SO many gorgeous towns and cities along the Garden Route
  5. Wandering through a forest filled with rescued monkeys
  6. Eating some of the most incredible (and cheap) food
  7. Watching whales in awe while in Hermanus
  8. Facing my fears and zip-lining from mountain to mountain
  9. Falling in love with Cape Town
  10. Taking in the epic views from the top of table mountain
  11. Cramming so much adventure into a jam-packed 2 week itinerary

UK

Of course, this year hasn't only been filled with travels, here's some of my favourite things that I've got up to in the UK during the course of the year...
  1. Finally taking a trip to the Peak District whilst visiting some amazing extended family.
  2. Revel in the masterpiece that is the Lion King on the West End (and continue to sing "He lives in me" for months afterwards)
  3. Finally experience the West End performance of Aladdin and have it exceed all of my expectations my miles - the Genie in particular!
  4. Pleasing my sweet tooth at the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon tea at One Aldwych
  5. Helping a childhood American friend re-explore London
  6. Visiting Grace at uni in Portsmouth and having the MOST touristy fun-filled weekend possible!
  7. Having the most Instagram worthy afternoon tea at Sketch!
  8. Meet a whole bunch of new travel blogger friends in Leeds at the Ice Lolly "Blog at the Beach" event (and win a trip to Ibiza)!
  9. Taking a chocolate making class in London (and getting very messy)
Where have you travelled to this year? Has 2017 been fab for you?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

     

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South Africa Table Mountain Girl View Did I mention that I spent 2 weeks in South Africa recently? Of course I blimmin' did, I think the entire world knows now. I was squealing with excitement before our trip and then shouting from the rooftops about how fab it was as soon as we got home (and over a month later... hence this post). South Africa is such a huge country with so many amazing things to do, I was so overwhelmed with information when it came to planning our trip.  So if you're planning a trip to this amazing country, here's what you can fit into a 2 week South Africa itinerary!

Day 1 - Flying & Driving

While there are direct flights to South Africa from the UK, we opted for a layover in Istanbul (with Turkish Airlines who were great) to save on a bit of cash! We flew overnight and landed in Johannesburg at around 10am. After a quick customs and baggage reclaim experience, we were headed to pick up our car. The 4 and a half hour drive to Kruger National Park was upon us. Our entertainment of choice for the journey was the podcast "My Dad Wrote a Porno" (which you should definitely listen to if you're not to prudish) and the time flew by! It was late afternoon / early evening by the time we arrived at our accommodation (Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge) and after around 24 hours of flying, layovers and driving, we were completely knackered, and hit they hay shortly after dinner.

Day 2 & 3 - Kruger National Park Game Drives

South Africa Kruger Rhino South Africa Giraffe Kruger Now for the moment I'd been waiting for - two days of game drives Kruger National Park! I couldn't fly all the way to South Africa without ticking this dream experience off my wishlist. This was without a doubt one of the highlights of the trip and I've written about it extensively if you're interest in hearing more about it:

Day 4 - Driving and Flying

After two amazing days, it was time for us to head back to Johannesburg Airport for the next part of our journey. The 4.5 hour drive flew past again and after a long lunch at the airport, we flew down to Port Elizabeth for the next leg of our South Africa adventure.

Day 5 - Tsitsikamma National Park & Storms River

South Africa Storms River Kayaking South Africa Storms River Hiking Tsitsikamma National Park Unfortunately, we weren't able to spend any time exploring Port Elizabeth and instead jumped in the car to head to our first activity on the Garden Route. 2 hours later, we were in Tsitsikamma National Park ready to kayak and lilo on Storms River with Untouched Adventures. Unfortunately due to bad weather conditions, our kayaking tour was cancelled so we instead enjoyed the day hiking around the beautiful area. South Africa is a hub for adventure activities, you could easily spend days setting your adrenaline racing with activities such as kayaking, climbing, hiking, zip-lining, abseiling, paragliding, shark cage diving, surging, hang-gliding etc! Well... whenever the weather co-operates. Less than an hours drive later, we were arriving in our hotel in Plettenberg Bay ready for the next day.

Day 6 - Plettenberg Bay & Kynsa

Monkeyland

Plettenberg Bay Monkey Land Monkeyland Monkey eating tree Monkeyland baby lemur Our first activity of the day was Monkeyland (which sounds cheesey but I can confirm that it's not). Monkeyland is  home to 700 free-roaming rescued primates. These monkeys all come from captivity and after a rehabilitation period are released into the forest. You will be taken on a guided hour long walk through the HUGE forest observing the monkeys roaming freely (there is a strict look but don't touch policy). When in South Africa, I strongly urge visitors to research the "sanctuaries" they are looking to visit, Monkeyland appears to be a good one!

Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary

Jukani Albino Lion Jukani Sleeping Cheetah We then visited Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary (which is owned by the same company as Monkeyland). Jukani is home to big cats rescued from people's homes (where individuals thought that they would be able to keep them as pets) or canned hunting facilities (where they are kept in confined conditions and individuals pay an extortionate amount of money to shoot them). While I think Jukani do an amazing job in educating visitors (particularly on the point that any "sanctuary" which allows you to touch the wildlife is not a true "sanctuary"), resources are obviously tight and the enclosures aren't as large as I would have hoped. That being said, these cats have come from awful conditions and are unable to be released into the wild again; Jukani is the best option for them.

Lunch on the Beach

Plettenberg Bay Beach Plettenberg Bay Bungalow It wouldn't be a trip to South Africa without some epic food and epic views. On recommendation from our hotel owner, we headed to The Bungalow in Plettenberg Bay for lunch. Sitting on the rooftop in the glorious sunshine with a view of the beach wasn't too shabby!

Knysna Heads

Knysna Boy View Knysna Heads Couple Knysna A quick 30 minute drive later, we were in Knysna, another gorgeous sea-side town (South Africa is FULL of them). We obviously drove up to "Knysna Heads" view point and took some photos and a stroll around the area. The drive up is gorgeous and filled with lots of amazing houses - this is where my dream house would be!

Drive to Oudtshoorn & Watch The Sunset

South Africa Landscape South Africa Sunset An hour and a half drive inland through varied terrain lead us to Oudtshoorn where we would be spending the night. Oudtshoorn is in a semi-desert area and Callum regularly asked "where on earth are you taking me?" as there didn't appear to be any form of civilisation nearby for the majority of the drive! On arrival in a truly lovely guesthouse (Karoo Soul), we ate food and played cards whilst watching the sun set from a cosy outdoor communal area.

Day 7 - Cango Caves, Roadtrips & Swellendam

Cango Caves

South Africa Cango Caves Cango Cave Formations One of the main attractions in Oudtshoorn is the Cango Caves. There are two different options for visiting the Cango Caves, one being the normal tourist route and the other being the "adventure route". We opted for the normal approach as the adventure route will see you climbing and crawling, taking on tight spaces and generally facing a whole host of challenges. The caves are super impressive and definitely worth a visit! This area of South Africa is also renowned for it's ostriches. We didn't partake in any of the ostrich based activities while we were there - but you'll be sure to see hundreds standing by the roadside!

Roadtrip

South Africa Roadtrip South Africa Roadtrip Views Ronnie's Sex Shop After visiting the caves, we spent a fair amount of time weighing up our options on what to do next. We knew that we had to be in Swellendam for our hotel that night but had two options on how to get there. The inland journey on the "R62" takes around 2 hours 30 minutes and we were told it passed through plenty of wine estates that we could stop at for lunch etc. The alternative would be to head to the coast (Mossel Bay) before heading to Swellendam, with the entire journey taking around 2 hours 45 minutes. We tried to take this route but our sat-nav was showing a much longer journey time - no idea what was wrong with the roads on this day! So with that, we started our journey inland. We didn't see many places to stop but did stumble across the cutest little rural farm shop and restaurant for lunch - win! Of course, a stop at Ronnie's Sex Shop was in order too - don't worry, it's not an actual sex shop. Just a bar!

Bontebok National Park

Bontebok National Park On arrival in Swellendam, we checked into our hotel and quickly headed out to self-drive around Bontebok National Park before it closed. The park is home to the Bontebok (an unusual antelope type) but unfortunately we only had an our to quickly drive round the park and then leave - so only spotted a few Bontebok from afar.

Day 8 - Hermanus

Whale Watching

Baby Southern Right Whale HermanusHermanus Whale Swimming Tail After an early wake up call and an hour and a half drive to Hermanus, we were ready to do some whale watching! We visited in late September which is one of the optimum times to spot Southern Right Whales off the coast of South Africa - it's safe to say that I was excited! I'd recommend booking a later whale watching cruise than we did. So many people told us to go and see L'Agulhas (the most Southern point in Africa) but it just wasn't possible for us to drive there before heading to Hermanus without missing our pre-booked whale watching spot. We booked a two hour trip with Hermanus Whale Watchers who were amazing. Warning - if you get seasick, take some medication beforehand or you'll end up with your face in a bag for the entirety of the journey (just like Callum).

Exploring Hermanus

Hermanus Landscape We didn't realise that we would be visiting Hermanus on the day of "Hermanus Whale Festival" meaning the town was a hive of activity and we weren't short of things to do or see! With live music and plenty of market stalls set up along the sea wall, we spent the day pottering around in the sunshine and eating good food before driving to Elgin for our final stop on the Garden Route.

Day 9 - Elgin and Cape Town

Cape Canopy Zip-Lining

We stayed in Elgin solely for the fact that we were then a short drive away from our 9am Cape Canopy Zip-lining Tour. There is another Cape Canopy Tour in Tsitsikamma National Park that we could have gone to, but of course Callum picked the biggest and scariest zip-lines (11 in total shooting from mountain to mountain). With my fear of heights not going anywhere soon, I'd cried before the safety briefing was over and din't think that I would be able to do any of the zip-lining. Thankfully, the guides are super reassuring and a few zip-lines in, I was loving it! The entire experience lasts for around 4 hours. Unfortunately I didn't have any zip pockets in my clothes, so couldn't take my camera/phone with me. The kind guides did film some elements though which I will upload at some point!

Cape Town

Cape Town V&A Wheel After a 1 hour drive (which was much busier than any of the drives we'd done so far), we were in Cape Town for the last leg of our trip. After checking into our amazing hostel (The BIG Backpackers), we walked over to the V&A Waterfront to explore for the rest of the afternoon.

Day 10 - Chapman's Peak, Cape Point, Simon's Town & Boulder's Beach

Chapman's Peak

Girl Camera Car Chapmans Peak Drive Day 10 was our last day with the car, so we made sure to drive own to Cape Point. The journey takes just over an hour and is super scenic. Over the course of the two weeks, we had seen a tonne of gorgeous landscapes but there's definitely a reason why the Chapman's Peak drive is so famous!

Cape Point

Cape Point Girl View Cape Point Sign Our top tip would be to set off in the morning fairly early. We had no issues getting into Cape Point National Park, but as we were leaving, the queue was really starting to build up. You could spend as little or as much time as you want in Cape Point. Some guided walks take around an hour, or you can simply jump on the funicular and do minimal walking - either way, it's a gorgeous area and well worth you time.

Simon's Town & Boulder's Beach

Boulders Beach Penguins on Rocks Boulders Beach On the way back up to Cape Town, we stopped off at Simon's Town for lunch and some exploring. This is of course home to the famous Boulder's Beach! I could have spent hours watching the penguins, who knew they could be so entertaining. Simon's Town is also a great place for lunch. We decided to eat at Seaforth Restaurant (which is right by Boulder's Beach) and it was incredible! The restaurant has amazing views of the sea and the food is even better. I don't eat fish, but it looked really good and even I considered eating it! Instead, I opted for the Cape Malay curry, which I highly recommend. We then obviously hopped back in the car for the hours drive back to Cape Town for the night.

Day 11 - Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch Wine Cheese Stellenbosch Wine Chocolates With the car safely returned, we decided that the best way for us to visit the Winelands would be on an organised tour (don't drink and drive kids!), our Cape Town hostel arranged this for us and despite it being an overcast and cold day, we had a great time! The tour took us to 6 vineyards in Stellenbosch and it's safe to say that most of our group were fairly tipsy by the end of the journey! While this was a great introduction to the wine region, this is one area that I'd definitely like to go back to and maybe stay the night.  Especially if the weather is better, it's meant to be a truly stunning area - not that we could tlel that through the clouds!

Days 12 to 14 - Cape Town

Kirstenbosch Gardens Girl Bo Kaap Colourful Houses Cape Town Hall We spent the next 3 days exploring the City of Cape Town. Of course, this is a huge city with SO much to do, but here's a brief outline of our highlights!
  • Table Mountain
  • V&A Waterfront
  • Free walking tours
  • Bo'Kaap
  • Camps Bay
  • Hop On Hop Off Bus
  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
  • The Old Biscuit Mill Market
  • District 6
  • Greenmarket Square
And with that, our two amazing weeks in South Africa were over and it was time to make the long journey back to the UK. If you're thinking about visiting South Africa, do it. It's a country filled with hundreds of activities, gorgeous scenery and incredibly hospitable people. Have you ever been to South Africa? What was your favourite activity?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

     

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Kruger Safari Baby Giraffe Kruger Safari Kudu Hiding If there's one thing I can't stop writing about at the moment, it's my recent safari trip. Safari has been on my bucket-list for longer than I can remember and it definitely lived up to my expectations. But as with any experience, there were both highlights and lowlights...

SAFARI HIGHLIGHTS

Spotting Lions Immediately After A Kill

One stretch of road was completely covered in animal faeces which apparently is a result of a pack of buffalo quite literally "shitting themselves" with fear. Laying on a rock hidden behind some plants were two male lions sleeping after their almighty breakfast with a devoured buffalo carcass in plain sight. While I am slightly glad that we missed the kill (I'm not even very good at watching the kill scenes in David Attenborough documentaries), it was interesting to see exactly how feeding occurs for carnivores in the wild. A very different experience to seeing a zookeeper chuck a lump of meat over a fence.

An Elephant Family Crossing

Elephants will always be impressive. From their sheer size to their wisdom and strength, elephants are special creatures. While we did see a few lone elephants during our time in the park, for the most part, they travelled in large packs. One particularly special moment was stopping the car and watching a HUGE heard of elephants cross the road behind us. From dominant adults to playful babies, the whole family were there and it was so special to see them interact with one another.

Rhino Watching

I bloody love rhinos and I knew that it would be hard to see one in the wild as Kruger National Park is larger than some countries and rhinos are solitary creatures that don't enjoy the loud sounds of cars. When we managed to spot FIVE during our two days, I was over the moon! At one point, we were the only car that had spotted a particularly active rhino. We sat and watched him moving gracefully for around 20-30 minutes enjoying the peace. How anyone could hurt these creatures is absolutely beyond me.

Lions Having Naps In Peculiar Places

As we were trying to leave the park, a queue of cars were starting to form and we had no idea why. As we edged closer, it was apparent that a lion had decided to fall asleep in the middle of the road. Our guide warned us to be quiet as we approached the sleeping killer (lets just say that if he woke up and stood up, I could have easily been his next meal). Even with a heartbeat much faster than usual, seeing such a majestic wild creature at arms length was incredible.

RELATED: Of course the main highlight is seeing animals in their natural habitat, acting as they should. If you want to see more of the animals, make sure you have a look at my Kruger photo diary!

  Kruger Safari Rhino Kruger Safari Lion Sleeping

SAFARI LOWLIGHTS

The Cold

Strong cold winds should not be underestimated when you're in an open safari jeep. On our first day, moving my body would have meant letting wind potentially penetrate the perfectly formed human-blanket-burrito I had created, so photo-taking became difficult. After the end of the first day, I questioned whether I'd be able to sit through another day of that intense coldness but thankfully day number two was filled with glorious sunshine and we ended up stripping off all of our extra layers of clothing! Safari in the sun is DEFINITELY more enjoyable!

A Baboon Attack!

Okay, so the baboon didn't actually touch me (or anyone else for that matter) but one particularly crazy baboon did try and attack our jeep. Luckily, our amazing guide knew exactly how to handle the situation and everything was fine! I was on edge around ALL baboons for the rest of the trip but it turns out that I'm not the only person with a fear of baboons - a girl in our hostel even had a story about a family of baboons taking her 6 month old cousin!

Having to Leave

Even with another 10 days of South African adventures ahead of us, safari truly was incredible and I was SO sad to be leaving. I'd have happily spent much longer in Kruger and would return in a heartbeat! Have you experienced any bucket-list moments? Did they live up to your expectations?

RELATED: Most people think that the cost of a safari trip will be a major low. If you want to plan a Kruger safari on a budget, make sure you read my guide!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

     

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Girl Kruger Safari Jeep There's no denying that I'm a words, facts and figures girl. I use this blog to provide information which will help plan another person's trip rather than show staged, picture-perfect moments which don't reflect what travelling is really like. But, when I was editing my photos from Kruger, I fell in love with TOO many photos and couldn't resist sharing them all with you! Words don't do a safari trip justice and it's always been known that pictures speak a thousand words. So here's a big old round-up of our time in Kruger National Park! Kruger Giraffe Looking At Camera Kruger Kudu Looking Into Distance Kruger Kudu Kruger Elephant and Baby walking towards cameraKruger Elephant and Baby crossing road Kruger Wild Zebra Blue Bird Glossy Starling Kruger Kruger Eagle Sitting in Tree Kruger Warthog Pumba Kruger Small Antelope Kruger Eagle Sitting By Water Kruger lion sleeping in road Kruger Bird in Trees Kruger Anxious AntelopeKruger Giraffe and Vulture

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK - DAY ONE 

To be sure that we were in Kruger National Park at the time the gates were opening, we set off early after a 4.30am wake up call (which sounds horrid but is TOTALLY worth it for a safari). The joys of being on an organised safari jeep is that you can skip the big long queue of ordinary cars trying to enter the park. Our guide quickly sorted out our conservation fees and before we knew it, we were face to face with antelope, wildebeest and giraffe right by the entrance gate! Within 5 minutes we had our first sighting of one of the "big 5" as a herd of buffalo were standing by the side of the road - I took this as a sign that we were in for a good day (spoiler: I wasn't wrong). Throughout the course of the day, I was continually surprised by how many animals we managed to spot. With all of the usual suspects (lions, giraffe, zebra, elephants, buffalo, wildebeest, antelope, kudu, crocodiles, hippos, warthogs, a plethora of bird types) and even a lone rhino now ticked off our list, we wondered how on earth there could be more to see?! Every safari jeep driver that we passed on this day was VERY excited as the elusive leopard had been spotted on multiple occasions. We went on a very long drive searching for it in one particular hot spot to no avail. Normally, this would have been fine, but our first day in South Africa was FREEZING and we were all huddled under blankets in the open top safari jeep. Then, just as we were about to leave, our incredible guide managed to spot the very well camouflaged leopard through some bushes. Lets just say that leopards are very well disguised and very fast, any photographic evidence I have of this beauty is poor but I feel very lucky to have even caught a glimpse of him! To then have our exit blocked by a male lion who decided to sleep right in the middle of the road meant that the big cats really stole the show at the end of the day! Kruger Crocodile by water Kruger giraffe looking into the distance Kruger bird Kruger Kazoo Lion King bird Kruger Lizard on tree trunk Two zebra in Kruger Kruger warthog by watering hole Kruger zebra by watering hole Kruger bird whispering to antelope Kruger elephants playing in water Kruger antelope eating from tree Kruger hippo yawning in water Kruger baboon sitting in tree Kruger kudu in the treesKruger four elephants under tree Kruger lions sunbathing on rock Kruger giraffe packKruger baby giraffe crossing the roadKruger baby giraffe Kruger rhino with horn

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK - DAY TWO

We opted for a half day game drive of Kruger on our second day and as nobody else else had booked this option, we got to choose our departure time and of course gave ourselves a bit of a lay-in! Having the entire jeep to ourselves proved to be a blessing as we could dictate exactly what we would like to try and see - in our case, rhinos! Our second day was MUCH warmer than the first and we ended up stripping off all of the extra layers of clothing we had brought after the previous day's freeze-fest! I can confirm that there is NOTHING better than driving through beautiful African bush-land with the sun shining on your face. With the weather being much warmer, the animals were displaying completely different behaviours to the previous day. While we were very happy after our first day on safari and thought that there wasn't anything further we could witness, I am so glad we chose to do a second day. We may have seen the same animals, but the experience couldn't have been more different. Today we really got to see the animals mingle with each other. At one large watering-hole, huge packs of zebras, wildebeest, giraffe and antelope lived in harmony bathing and drinking. While on the other side of the lake, the crocodiles and hippos were keeping cool. Four huge elephants all gathered under one tiny tree, fighting for shade (maybe the heat affects an elephant's ability to live up to their wise and intelligent stereotype). After watching so many animals peacefully co-existing, it was a shock to the system when we encountered a group of baboon. One baboon was a little bit cray-cray and displayed very aggressive behaviours towards the other animals before turning his attention to our truck. Thankfully he jumped at the driver's door (who obviously knew how to deal with the situation) - there's no way I would have been able to take him on! Towards the end of our day, our driver made a sudden stop and we we left wondering what on earth he had seen.  Low and behold a lone rhino could be seen in the distance and he appeared to be walking straight towards us! Safari drivers have INSANE vision and should not be underestimated! We spent around 30 minutes watching this slow giant plodding towards us (but never quite reaching us). With no other cars around and the sun beaming, it couldn't have been more peaceful and perfect. It is so hard to understand how anyone can hurt these incredible creatures causing them to be near to extinction. All in all, I have come back from my safari trip with more respect for animals than I could have ever imagined (apart from that nasty baboon). Have you ever been on safari? What's your favourite photo?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

   

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Kruger Safari Scenery on a Budget Kruger Zebra Watering Hole To experience animals in their natural habitat, not confined by cages or domesticated via human interaction is something that everyone should try to achieve in their lifetime. Safari appears on many people's "bucket lists" but is largely unattainable due to the (expected) sky high costs. While planning our recent trip to South Africa, we almost never made it to Kruger National Park given that is is on the opposite side of the country to the rest of our plans (Cape Town and the Garden Route). In the end, we decided that it would be silly to fly that far (UK to South Africa) and not tick off a bucket list experience.

RELATED: You can view the rest of my African bucket list here

Re-jigging our itinerary to include Kruger was an overwhelming experience, there are so many options, so many choices and so many people giving their opinion on the "right" or "wrong" way to experience this magical land. It goes without saying that the prices of some options were also terrifying - so the aim of this post is to de-bunk the myths of Kruger safaris and help you plan a trip within YOUR budget. The bird in the photo below is basically me whispering into your ear, spreading the secrets of "cheap" safaris... Kruger Bird Antelope Whisper Kruger Kudu Camouflaged

COSTING

We flew into Johannesburg O.T International Airport and began our trip to Kruger from here. This is what many people that we met along the way were also doing, so for the purposes of this guide, I  have assumed that you will be doing the same (but of course, Kruger is accessible from other South African cities and even other neighbouring countries!) We spent 4 days in the Johannesburg/Kruger area, with the first and last days being mainly driving days and the middle two days being filled with game drives. Obviously, the time that you spend in Kruger will increase/decrease the price as appropriate! Costs are shown in South African Rand (ZAR) and where we actually incurred these costs, I have shown the GBP figure incurred on our credit card statements (September/October 2017), otherwise the prices have been converted using the approximate exchange rate of October 2017 (0.056). Kruger Giraffe Kruger Elephant Baby Crossing Road

HOW TO GET THERE

£ Drive from Johannesburg O.T Airport

Without a doubt, the cheapest way of getting to Kruger National Park (KNP) is to drive from Johannesburg O.T Airport. Car hire is cheap in South Africa and we weren't charged any surcharge for being below the age of 25 (which is always good)! Road conditions from the airport to Kruger are fantastic and there are plenty of places to top up your petrol or grab a bite to eat (although we did find that these places were closer to Kruger than the airport, so on the return journey, make sure you re-fuel early! The journey is easy as the entire journey is a straight line but it is long. Kruger is larger than many European countries and therefore the length of the journey will depend on where you are staying within the park. We were driving to Crocodile Gate which took around 4 and a half hours. Make sure you have plenty of snacks, a good playlist and maybe a few podcasts to keep you going! Our total car hire costs were R1,140.99 (approximately £73). We rented a brand new Ford Fiesta from Bidvest Car Rentals (booked through Drive South Africa) and this price included hiring a GPS, registering a second driver (even though I ended up doing none of the driving!) and the usual car hire costs such as topping up petrol when you return. We also spent R491.50 on filling up with petrol (approximately £27). Our total costs = R1,632.49 (approximately £100 per car = £50 per person).

££ Baz Bus 

Baz Bus is a South African backpacker's dream! If you aren't comfortable driving from Johannesburg to Kruger by yourself (I certainly wouldn't be if I wasn't travelling with Callum as I HATE driving), the Baz Bus 4 Day Kruger Park Safari Tour is certainly a good alternative! The price for this option can't be directly compared to the other journey options given the fact that the Baz Bus tour also includes open vehicle game drives, meals as specified in the detailed itinerary and accommodation in permanent erected 2-person dome tents for the duration of the trip. Advantages of this option obviously include having everything planned for you and meeting lots of new people, however if you enjoy the freedom of exploring at your own pace and making your own decisions, maybe this isn't the right choice for you. Total cost = R8,000 (approximately £445 per person).

£££ Fly to Kruger National Park

If the 4.5+ hour drive to Kruger is too much for you to handle, there are regular flights leaving Johannesburg to three Kruger-serving airports. Depending on the area of Kruger that you are visiting, the airports you need are as follows:
  • Northern Kruger Park: Phalaborwa Airpor
  • Central Kruger Park: Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport
  • Southern Kruger Park: Nelspruit Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
We had the option of flying from Johannesburg to Nelspruit but at approximately R2700/£150 - R3600/£200 per person for a return flight (50 minutes each way), it didn't seem worth it to us. Especially as we would have had to wait in Johannesburg for a few hours between flights meaning the flying/waiting time would have been equal to the driving time! Once you arrive at your chosen airport, you will need to hire a car to take you to the park (Nelspruit is approximately a 1.5 hour drive to Crocodile Bridge Gate). The costs of which would have been largely the same as in option 1 (with less petrol usage - therefore estimated R1,140.99 per car (approximately £73 per car or £36 per person). Alternatively, our accommodation offered a transfer for R400 per person from the airport (approximately £23) Total costs would therefore be R3,100-R4,170 per person (approximately £173-£236 per person). Kruger Lion Sleeping Road Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge Affordable Accomodation

ACCOMMODATION

£ SAN Parks Lodging

South Africa National Parks (SAN Parks) have an incredible range of accommodation located in the heart of each of their national parks. This is originally the accommodation that we tried to book but availability was seriously low (at the time, we didn't know that we would be visiting the park on a South African public holiday). I would advise that if you want to take advantage of these cheap and cheerful lodgings, you book at least 6 months in advance. There are 12 main rest camps in Kruger National Park and the two which were of interest to us (due to their location in proximity to Johannesburg) were Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp and Lower Sabie Rest Camp. There are lots of different choices of accommodation within the rest camps including a patch of land to pitch your tent, "safari tents" which are permanent basic buildings, adorable little bungalows fully kitted out with kitchen facilities for two people and larger guest houses for bigger groups. Prices vary depending on the type of accommodation, the number of people staying in the property and the rest camp chosen. We entered Lower Sabie Rest camp a few times to use their toilets/restaurant facilities and would have been more than happy to stay here! Rates for Lower Sabie Rest Camp can be seen here and vary from R305-R2,320 per night for 2 people (approximately £16-£128 for two people or £8-£64 per person).

££ Off-Site Mid-Range Lodges

With the SAN Parks accommodation fully booked, we panicked thinking that there were no other affordable options. Various google searches showed results that would a) give me a heart attack and b) bankrupt me beyond belief. Then I turned to my trusty Booking.com to see if there were ANY alternatives - it turns out there is! We settled for Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge which is located in Marloth Park (a quick 10 minute drive South of Crocodile Bridge Gate to Kruger National Park). Our booking included both breakfast and dinner every day (both of which were absolutely gorgeous) and we were very happy with our choice! The lodge was absolutely stunning and really felt like a "safari lodge" but without the hefty price tag! In September 2017, we paid R2240 per night for 2 people (approximately £124 per night for 2 people or £62 per person).

£££ Luxury Private Reserves

I am a member of many travel groups on Facebook and the number of people that think luxury private reserves are the ONLY option when booking a safari is unbelievable. With safari being a bucket-list luxury, prices can be hiked accordingly (and in many instances, extortionately). My lovely fellow travel blogger Lucy recently had the opportunity to stay at a luxury private reserve called Klaserie Sands and boy did it look gorgeous! There are plenty of these private reserves available throughout safari destinations in Africa and a quick google will help you find the lodge of your dreams. Prices at Klaserie Sands are currently R10,200 for two people per night (approximately £566 for two people or £283 for one person). Kruger Safari Jeep Girl Kruger Kudu

GAME DRIVES

£ Self Drive

The cheapest way to view the animals is to self-drive around the park. If you are on a strict budget, this is without a doubt the best way to view the animals. You don't need a 4x4 to access the park but be warned that the roads do get quite bumpy! The downside to self-driving is that you don't have the knowledge and expertise of an experienced guide and being in a car (which is much lower than a safari jeep) means that the animals are often harder to spot as you may not be able to see over bushes/plant life. On the plus side, you can spend your time exactly as you wish. Self-drive is as expensive as you decide to make it - Free! (Other than petrol)

££ Guided Drive

With only two full days to explore Kruger, we decided to splash out and join guided game drives (despite the fact that we had a car). Our accommodation (Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge) arranged the game drives for us using their trusted guide (Solomon - you're the best!) and they were AMAZING. I would highly recommend doing a guided drive if it is within your budget. Safari guides are very talented at spotting wildlife (you don't realise how well camouflaged animals truly are until you see them in their natural habitat) and know the best spots to see certain creatures. Our accommodation charged us R670 for a full game drive plus conservation fees of R306 for each day. This price was applicable whether you did a full day (around 5am to 5pm) or a half day (times dependent on availability). The total cost for a full days game drive would therefore be R976 per day per person (approximately £54). Kruger Warthog Pumba Kruger Baboon Sitting in Tree

SUMMARY OF OUR COSTS & VERDICT

ZAR GBP
  Total  Per Person Total  Per Person
Car Rental + petrol R1,632.49 R816.25 £100.00 £50.00
3 x nights accommodation & food R6,720.00 R3,360.00 £372.00 £186.00
2 x full day game drives R3,904.00 R1,952.00 £215.00 £107.50
R12,256.49 R6,128.25 £687.00 £343.50
£343.50 for a once in a life time's experience - was it worth it? ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY. Of course, that price is still out of reach for many people, but remember, you could make it much cheaper! Pitch a tent in the SAN Parks accommodation to ensure you're not wasting money on a hotel you won't spend much time in and self-drive to save on guide fees. We did debate doing the Baz Bus 4 Day Kruger Park Safari Tour and if I was travelling on my own, this definitely would have been my choice. However, when travelling as a couple, it was cheaper for us to drive ourselves, stay in a mid range lodge and pay for guides (£343.50) vs pay for a tour (£445). The tour does look truly great however and takes you to some other points of interest during the driving days such as Blyde River Canyon (which looks amazing). I also feel that our accommodation was incredible and I'm glad that we didn't pay another £100 for the Baz Bus tour to sacrifice our gorgeous lodge for camping. Have you ever been on a safari? Was it as expensive as you thought?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

  Safaris are crazy expensive right? Think again! We recently did a trip to Kruger on a budget and it was amazing! Here I outline all of your options, how much we spent and how you could make it cheaper!