Safari trip in South Africa with a rental car

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This week Sunday post does not become a work-related one without holiday related - about our safari trip in South Africa! About booking a safari on your own, renting a car in South Africa and of course all the incredible animals we saw ♥

I have received LOTS of questions Instagram when I posted film clips from the trip and several have wanted an entire post - so I thought I would dedicate this Sunday to it! :)

It is complicated to post videos in the blog so there will only be pictures here, but I have uploaded video clips from the trip if you click on "South Africa" under highlights on my Instagram @helenaamiley if you want to see more.

safari trip in south africa

Book a safari trip in South Africa on your own

First of all, I thought I would go through some practical things for you who are also hungry for a similar journey, because that's mostly what I've been asked. Then come more fun pictures of all excursions etc.! You who just want to read about the trip itself can scroll down :)

I have had a safari trip in South Africa as a life goal for a long time and thought it was terribly expensive and something I had to wait "for the future" to do, but it is possible to do very cheaper (!) if you do not book a package tour. We booked everything separately.

Flights with Qatar
We flew Arlanda-Johannesburg with a stopover in Doha. The flight time was about 16 hours. We went with Qatar Airways and it was SO good so 16 hours did not feel hard at all but became part of the holiday :)

You are used to paying a lot of money for disgusting flight food and then not even water is included but you can buy it for 40 bucks. But here the food was great, all drinks were included and they came with pieces of chocolate and snacks during the flight. You got a kit with toothbrush, lip balm, eye mask, earplugs, etc. The toilets were cleaned all the time and all the staff were so nice. The film selection was huge! Both old goodies and really new movies. There was also more legroom than regular flights, even though we rode the cheapest economy class. And the stopover went without a hitch as well. Everything was smooth with Qatar simply!

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car hire south africa

Rental car in South Africa - left-hand traffic
We rented a car with AVIS at the airport and it also went smoothly. The car we had booked did not exist so we got a bigger and better one at no extra cost.

It is left-hand traffic in South Africa, where you have to judge for yourself whether you can do it or not, but Miska got used to it very quickly in any case and there were very divided roads when you left the airport so it was basically impossible to go wrong. The only thing he had a problem with was that he happened to turn on the windshield wiper when he was about to blink because it was on the wrong side of the steering wheel haha.

TIP! Fly there / home on holidays. We landed on a Sunday and then it was gallant to go through Johannesburg, we were really shocked at how smooth it was to drive! However, when we went home it was not as fun to drive in Johannesburg on a Wednesday at 17 with a time to fit .. Smock full of cars, I have never seen Miska be so tired in the head and it has never been so nervous to be a map reader Lol. And then we are still "used" to driving in major Spanish cities.

GPS & internet in South Africa
We have a mobile modem at home that we took with us and bought a SIM card directly at the airport. Then we had wifi in the car so gps in the phone was no problem! On the other hand, we then noticed that I who have Tele2 apparently surf just like at home in South Africa (thought it was like that in Europe so had not checked it out). So check your subscription before you go, you may have mobile data as usual!

Tolls in South Africa
We did not exchange money at home but took it out at the airport in Johannesburg and it went very well. But make sure you have cash before you go out on the roads because for some reason none of our cards worked in the tolls (although it worked to pay with in all other places) so it is safest to have cash. Some customs duties are stuck on the car and come to the car rental company (deducted from our card later) but some have barriers that you have to pay immediately. Did it cost SEK 20?

Pay by card in South Africa
Speaking of cash, it is good to have in reserve even though they take cards everywhere, in Europe there are a lot of restaurants and shops that do not take cards but in South Africa they do it everywhere! Even in a small hut with a thatched roof where we traded small crafts. She needed to make sure to get out of the hut, stand on a park bench and hold the card reader up to the sky to make it work - but it worked;)

But, in many places it is common with power outages and then it is not possible to shop with cards or withdraw money, so then you are stuck in the glue if you do not have cash.

In a place where we would withdraw cash in a vending machine at a store, this note was up:

travel south africa

Wonder how many times it has happened before they got tired and put up a note hahaha!

Hotels in South Africa
We booked via booking.com, we always do it when we travel and find it easy! We stayed in three hotels in total and all were incredibly good!

The first and last night we took in a hotel 3.5 hours from the airport, in Piet Retief. Because it was 6 hours to our first "real" hotel, which is a bit too long a journey to take after flying for 16 hours;)

Pre-book a safari
We booked most of them on site, but we booked three guided tours remotely by emailing the hotels. They were very helpful and gave recommendations for what "a couple celebrating 10 years on a romantic trip" will like :)

But it was just as well to book on the spot! At the place we were at, they said that it is quite even with bookings all year round, no direct high season or low season, so do not think you need to worry about it being fully booked provided you are quite flexible with times once you are there.

Hotels in Mkuze

Now for the fun - the journey itself! :)

This trip was because we celebrate 10 years together, so we started with 4 nights in a suite of 122 sqm! ♥ Here we enjoyed your faith!

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The hotel is called Ghost Mountain Inn & Safari and is located in Mkuze.

safari trip south africa ghost mountain

Miska had ordered a bubble that was in the room when we arrived!

ghost mountain inn south africa

All these three patios are ours :) The right is the living room, the middle is the bedroom and the left is our huge bathroom!

south africa travel ghost mountain inn

Last day we ordered breakfast in bed, luxury, luxury luxury!

We are pretty good at spending money on the "right" things so that everything feels luxurious even though you are not rich. Room Service cost +20 kroner but you feel like a rock star haha. We ordered lunch and dinner sometimes too :) If you have such a nice suit, you should use it! We were a lot out on the fan otherwise.

Safari trip in South Africa with guide

The first safari was a guided tour in Manyoni Private Game Reserve in 4 hours. WOW! 4 hours in a car has never been so fast haha.

safari on your own

You really got the Jurassic Park feeling! So you drive around in a jeep and see "fantasy animals" that you have only seen in the picture before. Giraffes, then, how is it even a real animal? And rhinos even look like dinosaurs haha ♥

safari in south africa

So these two ♥

Manyoni is the reserve with the greatest chance of seeing lions. They are not chipped but the guides are very good at following fresh footsteps (lions often walk along the roads) and they have regular contact with each other so if another guide has seen a lion then everyone knows in which areas they are.

south africa road trip safari

We saw a lioness and 3 babies !!! I think this is the time of year when many people have children because we saw lots of baby animals, so cute!

If you go here, you must not miss Manyoni! :) It is the most expensive safari we did but extremely worth it!

We also booked one boat trip via Ghost Mountain Inn. Then we rode very close to hippos and even saw a crocodile! In this lake:

roadtrip in south africa

I have a really funny movie about a hippopotamus that kind of attacks the boat, but unfortunately all the pictures were a bit boring, so they skip in the post. Can post that movie on Instagram!

Another absolutely amazing guided tour was Private Sunset Safari in the reserve iSimangaliso Wetland Park in the city of St. Lucia.

south africa safari

Before it got dark, we saw, among other things, rhinos right next to the car and a huge buffalo bull standing on the road and panting for us. The buffalo is classified as the most dangerous animal of the entire Big 5!

They remove the horn on the rhinos to keep them safe from poaching.

safari in the evening in south africa

Coffee break ♥ Below we saw (and heard!) Hippos quarreling with each other, so cool!

sunset south africa safari

Nants ingonyama bagithi baba, Sithi uhm ingonyama"I googled the text for the Lion King intro for a little mood for you, but do not know if it could be interpreted;)

When we googled, we also found other types of parks that I should not comment on without having been there, meen that felt like a mixture of nature reserves and zoos. Type a reserve with chipped animals (so they can see on gps where they are and go there with the tourists) where you could also pet and be photographed with lions. I'm not that interested in that, I want to see completely wild animals!

The only thing we did on our safari trip in South Africa where the animals were not 100% wild was to meet the two elephants Rambo and Rachel in Bayete Zulu Game Reserve! They have tried to get them together with wild elephants but they were not accepted because they were too much with people (they were saved by a place where they would be ridden by children…) so they had not learned all the "elephants' social codes" properly . Rambo and Rachel are free and go completely free in the reserve but get food and water from animal keepers at 11 :)

elephant bayete zulu game reserve

So fine! GENUINE LOVE right away!

Tip! Something that I did not think about how dirty elephants are, and that they like to spray water and pat you with the trunk;) So do not put on your nicest dress and then have plans for the rest of the day without changing with you - I learned that me the hard way. I did not want to let a dress sabotage the experience either, so I was not careful right away;) But it's just soil so nothing is ruined!

bayete zulu game reserv

We got to feed! Mys!

Hotels in St. Lucia

After 4 nights in Mkuze we stayed in St. Lucia on the coast. We stayed at the Lidiko Lodge hotel which I can recommend!

St. Lucia is located by the sea but also has a river around it that has a lot of hippos and crocodiles. At night, hippos come up and walk around the city! We saw someone standing and chewing grass in a garden :) Movie clips of it can be found on my Instagram.

beaches of south africa

We took a relaxing day at the beach too!

However, it blew so much that it blew sand, so I lay on the wet sand instead - then it was great! Miska had a hard time taking a nice picture of me because (I quote) I looked like a dead fish that floated ashore;) I did not feel that way though, I thought I looked very graceful.

However, I looked less graceful when I tried to get rid of our blanket that had been buried in the sandstorm:

good beaches south africa

SO heavy with sand! You see on my toffs how much it blew too haha!

Self Drive Safari - Car rental Safari trip in South Africa

What we did most, however, was to go to different nature reserves with our own rental car! No bookings and no times to consider, so cozy!

animals in South Africa

You have to drive carefully though because there are little friends on the roads too :)

We did self drive in MkuzeGame ReserveHluhluwe Game Reserve and in iSimangaliso Wetland Park (same as our sunset safari).

Hluhluwe Game Reserve is my favorite because there were a lot of elephants and rhinos there and it is so heavenly big! 96,000 hectares, so we went around for two half days and still did not see the whole. In addition, Hluhluwe has a restaurant with great views as well so it's nice. However, it was a bit stingy on giraffes, but there were plenty of them in Mkuze :)

iSimangaliso was nice too because they also have a beach where you can swim! All the reserves we were on are big 5 reserves except iSimangaliso which is big 4, they do not have lions.

zebra south africa safari

How nice zebra? ♥ Stood right next to the car!

rhinos south africa safari by car

And this cutie was standing right in front of the car :)

south africa big five

There are places where you (at your own risk) can get out of the car, this was certainly not one of them hehe. In front of Miska you see a water hole with two rhinos and a buffalo.

There are toilets, park benches and lookout points that are in "safer" places, although nothing is within a fence like any animal can you come.

road trip south africa

Here we take a break from driving at a park bench!

safari trip south africa lion king

The Lion King on a safari trip in South Africa.

Here we had to stop for the worst crossing for a huge number of giraffes, a huge number of zebras and a wildebeest! Like half the cast of The Lion King came and went :) Have videos of it on my Instagram!

elephants on the road in south africa

Unlike Rambo and Rachel, you are not allowed to pet the wild elephants;) It was the only animal there were warning signs that you should stay at a safe distance from elephants so that they can overturn cars. What is a safe distance did not appear, however, hehe.

Other animals that stood in the way you could drive slowly, slowly towards, so they moved. But we did not dare to do so with the elephants and they went towards the car all the time, so we backed and backed a little at a time for 40 minutes before we gave up, managed to turn the car and had to take another road :)

Safari & security

I have received many questions about safety, many are shocked when they see rhinos and other large animals so close to the car and that we are there all by ourselves with our own car. Did you get any instructions? Weren't we scared? Are they not dangerous?

We received no instructions except for warning signs and that you do everything at your own risk.

However, we started with guided safaris before we went on self drives so then you learned a bit from it, most animals hardly care that there is a car because they do not understand that it is humans. And you have to drive slowly and carefully and have respect. Sometimes we turned off the engine completely and just slid forward. If you drive fast, they can feel attacked and then they do not hesitate to defend themselves!

But accidents definitely happen from time to time when tourists are careless. 3 months before we went there, it was the one who got rid of his legs in St. Lucia because he was bitten by a hippopotamus.

goods south africa safari

I'm afraid of everything else, insects, heights, darkness… but I'm not afraid of big animals at all! I would no doubt have dared to pet a rhino, even though my head understands that I should not;)

I'm more "oh a big warning sign, here we go!"

beaches in South Africa

Cheap safari trip in South Africa - things to keep in mind:

A short summary with tips if you want to book a cheap safari trip in South Africa:

  • Book everything separately instead of taking a package tour.
  • Rent a car, reason #1: To get you to the hotel cheaper, all the reserve is a pretty good distance away from the airports.
  • Rent a car, reason #2: To be able to do a "self drive" through the reserve. Of course you also want to take guided tours, but self drive with your own car means that you can afford a safari every single day if you want. We paid between 100-300 kronor for two people + car and then you get to be in the reserve for a whole day. Compared to guided tours that were between 1000-3000 for two people depending on the reserve.
  • Go 4 pieces if possible. There are many great lodges and cottages in the reserve that will be cheap if you share 4 people! The rental car cost will also be cheap if you divide by 4.

Otherwise, it is relatively cheap to live and work in South Africa, our dinners went for about 100-150 kronor per person (with drinks) and even hotel rooms are cheap if you book it separately. It is of course possible to book expensive luxury, but it is also possible to get away much cheaper without having a bad standard :)

wild elephants safari south africa

Ends our safari trip in South Africa with this finish that was right next to the car ♥

As I said: watch videos from my Instagram trip @helenaamiley by clicking on South Africa under "highlights" in my profile :)

If I have missed any info about our safari trip in South Africa and you still have questions, just shout out of course! There is so much to tell but did not intend to make the post huur far at all hehe. But I am happy to answer questions!

Hug hug!

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Helena Amileyhttps://www.imakeyousmile.se
I write mostly about beauty but also offer glimpses from the entrepreneurial life and the construction of our own camper van. Vanlife here we come!

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