From my previous post where I planned a friend’s honeymoon to South Africa, I planned another honeymoon for two of my readers from Israel, Niv and Adi. They also wanted to visit beautiful South Africa (who can blame them?) + Mauritius and had over three weeks to do it. With an email chain 100+ emails long, I helped them craft an itinerary that was perfect for their interests! The below post is written by Niv from his recount of his honeymoon!
- 1 Planning our honeymoon
- 2 Days 1 to 4: Cape Town
- 3 Days 5-7: Stellenbosch and the wine country
- 4 Day 7-12: Garden Route Road trip
- 5 Days 12-14: Safari #1
- 6 Days 14-17: Luxury Safari at 57 Waterberg
- 7 Days 18-23: Paradise in Mauritius
Finding Johnny’s blog
South Africa was always a country that had peaked our interest and it didn’t take long before we decided that we would visit the Rainbow Nation for our honeymoon. We were captivated by the towering peaks and colorful Cape Town sunsets. We wanted to see the Big 5 in their natural habitat. We wanted beautiful ocean views, palm trees and the like. We wanted to do the trip at our own pace as well, instead of catering to big groups or having too rigid of a plan in place.
Being from Israel, there are plenty of travel agencies that offer tours to South Africa. We wanted something different so we set off to do our own research. Before long, by the power of Google, we found Johnny’s blog and specifically his post about planning a honeymoon for his friends Brandon and Lauren. If you haven’t read their trip report, you have to do so! We were totally impressed with his planning style and the places he booked for them. Few minutes later, we decided to send him a message.
Planning our honeymoon
Johnny responded to our inquiry promptly. We are We felt that this was exactly the kind of style and feeling we wanted for our honeymoon, and knew that we needed someone that has seen much of the country. To see the difference between touristic traps and beautiful gems, and guide us to extraordinary places. Johnny was super helpful and highly responsive from the beginning, helping us with the smallest to biggest requests and inquiries. He really tailored the trip for our specific needs and interest. Johnny, you’re the best!
Also, Johnny is not a travel agent. He created an itinerary for us, chose the accommodations we’d stay in (which were all amazing), and gave us his personal insights into excursions that we were interested in. We paid and made the actual bookings on our own. If you are also looking for honeymoon planning help, whether it’s for South Africa, or any other part of Africa (as he has traveled all over the continent), be sure to contact him to help you out as well!
Johnny’s blog is a trove of information when it comes to South Africa travel. After reading all of his posts on Cape Town, the Garden Route, wine country, etc, we told him how long we wanted to travel for and he suggested an itinerary. We largely followed the itinerary that Lauren and Brandon did, but as we had many more days, we decided to also road trip the wonderful Garden Route.
He created a day by day travel itinerary for us using his wonderful travel spreadsheet template, which we came back to over and over again during our trip. All in all, our honeymoon looked like this:
- Cape Town for 4 nights
- Wine Country for 2 nights
- Garden Route for 5 nights
- Safari #1 for 2 nights
- Luxury Safari for 3 nights
- Mauritius for 5 nights
Our honeymoon was over three weeks so we had time to see a lot of South Africa, plus have some proper beach time in Mauritius to relax at the end. Like most people going on honeymoon, we were also budget minded and weren’t sure if we could fit everything in that we wanted. This is where Johnny really helped out big! We were totally fine not staying in the fanciest of places but we also didn’t want to rough it either.
With his experience navigating South Africa, he really knew how to plan our itinerary to maximize value and found fantastic accommodation options for cheaper but that were still amazing. In the end, excluding international flights from Tel Aviv to Johannesburg, he planned our three week honeymoon for under $8,000! This price included all our hotels, rental car, domestic flights within South Africa, and round trip flights to Mauritius. I don’t know how he did it, but we are so happy he did!
You can see a detailed day by day breakdown of our itinerary here.
In addition, Johnny has planned many more honeymoons since ours. Be sure to read the other trip reports to get an idea of what South Africa and the surrounding countries have to offer!
- Marissa and Albert | South Africa and Zanzibar Honeymoon
- Lauren and Brandon | The Perfect South Africa and Mauritius Honeymoon
- Susana and Eric | The Perfect South Africa and Victoria Falls Honeymoon
We rented a car
We decided to rent a car, even though the driver seat and roads are on the opposite side of the road. With what we wanted to do, which was road trip the Garden Route, renting a car made the most sense. We were also completely comfortable driving a car on the opposite side of the road (if not excited to). In addition, some people may feel like they shouldn’t have to drive on their honeymoons but I say that is nonsense. Any concerns Johnny raised about renting a car, I quickly quashed.
Johnny did tell us that we would save an incredible amount of money if we decided to rent a car so I didn’t think twice. We paid extra attention to the road and got used to driving on the other side pretty quickly. The flexibility and freedom it gave us was total bliss. Johnny estimated we also saved about $1,500 in renting a car since we did not need taxis or tours to takes us around. Specifically, from Johannesburg airport to the luxury safari lodge would have been a $750 round trip transfer, but we spent a fraction of that in our car.
We recommend to at least not rule out this option too fast; it was a really nice experience for us.
Honeymoon in the summer season
The dates of our honeymoon were on the warmest and during the high season month of January. This is the peak of summer and the equivalent of July-August on the north hemisphere.
We really enjoyed the summers! The weather in Cape Town was warm but very comfortable and Johannesburg may see periodic rain showers accompanied by the most epic thunderstorms you’ll see. All in all, the weather was really nice and comfortable. Bring a mix of short summer clothes, and a few long sleeve shirts for the few windy days.
Days 1 to 4: Cape Town
Cape Town was the first stop on our trip. We flew from Tel Aviv to Johannesburg, and immediately transferred to Cape Town. We picked up the rental car here as well and drove towards the mother city. We paid roughly $250 for 11 days, and this included us dropping it off in George at the end of our Garden Route road trip (so we didn’t have to drive it all the way back to Cape town).
For Cape Town, we read Johnny’s Cape Town guide and he subsequently gave us a day by day breakdown of what we should do.
Staying at the Taj Hotel
We arrived at the beautiful and very high-end hotel Taj Cape Town. We were surprised and very happy to see that they upgraded our rooms! They even included a beautiful welcome pack with rose leafs on the bathroom floor and very nice sweats.
The hotel is very nicely located, and includs a complimentary 2 hour guided walk of the city center. The facilities we’re just flawless. This was a real indulging and nice experience for us, and we highly recommend the hotel. As we had a car, we could easily venture off to the nearby and incredibly beautiful neighborhoods of Clifton, Camps Bay, Seapoint etc. any time we wanted to. Alternatively, Uber is readily available in the city for nights when I was planning to drink.
We also absolutely loved the 3 minute walk to the restaurant “Addis in Cape Ethiopian restaurant”, which had a beautiful Christmas celebration the evening we came. The staff were so nice, and of course the food was amazing. Dinner was traditional Ethiopian dishes, including 8 different dips, served with injera bread, and eaten with only your hands (don’t worry, it’s fun and easier than it sounds).
Day trip to Cape Point
On our second day, we went Southwest bound to “The most Southwestern point in Africa”, the famous Cape of Good Hope. Because we were driving ourselves, we saved the roughly $75 per person Cape Point day tours and could stop anywhere we thought was nice. Our drive through the famous coastal road at Chapman’s Peak was nothing short of breathtaking. The road is narrow and hugs the coastline in the most dramatic fashion.
Around one bend, we saw an absolutely stunning beach that looked completely deserted. This was Noordhoek Beach which Johnny also recommended we stop at if we had time and we did just that. Afterwards, we drove to Boulders Beach to look at the cute penguins of South Africa congregating and enjoy the sun.
The Cape of Good Hope was marvelous (though windy at the time we came). We got to see a pack of Seals, as well as a few cheeky Baboons on the way to the very special light house on Cape Point. The light house was easy to reach, using The Flying Dutch funicular, or by foot (its only about a 15 min walk up, but pretty steep, so to each their own). All places visited this day were spectacular and full of stunning views and a pleasant atmosphere. We were also happy we did this drive ourselves as we made many little stops that otherwise would not have been possible.
Exploring Cape Town
The third and fourth day in Cape Town were dedicated to making sure we saw all the must-visit spots of the city. This includes the historical and beautiful “Company Gardens” (the promenade where you can find all the main museums and government buildings, on a really beautiful garden full of wonderful flora), Table mountain, the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood; and the V&A Waterfront. It’s a rather posh shopping, art and food outlet, but one that is worth a visit for the nice sense of glitter and special food and small shops. Be sure to check out the tin box electrical guitar shop.
After these fabulous days in Cape Town, we continued on our way to see the famous Wine Route.
Days 5-7: Stellenbosch and the wine country
This is really an unbelievably beautiful and enchanting area (and very romantic of course). There is almost no possible way to go wrong here. Just visit the different wineries, have a wine tasting, and soak in the incredible views and centuries long traditions of fine wine making. Adi keeps Kosher, so Johnny found us a wonderful Kosher winemaker at Backsberg which was great so she could really enjoy the experience as well. The nicest wineries we visited were the Delaire Graff (very, very ritzy and high class but surprisingly cheap prices) and the Marianne Wine Estate. But as we said, you can’t go wrong anywhere here.
Staying at Molenvliet
The place we stayed in the wine country was nothing less than perfect and words cannot describe the beauty of the place. Johnny said he particularly liked the Helsghoote pass area for its breathtaking mountain views so he chose a beautiful winery here. The Molenvliet winery and lodge was absolutely wonderful. It had an old school romantic vibe, with polished Victorian design and modern furniture.
We stayed at the River Manor, but we really liked the other Manor that was on the premise. They have a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains that we stared at for hours a day. There is no dinner option at the Manor, so we had the chance to visit the nice town of Stellenbosch. We had a great dinner at the Stellenbosch Kitchen restaurant (recommended++, Adi is vegetarian and really enjoyed the Gnnochi dish, I loved the fillet mignon).
Day 7-12: Garden Route Road trip
From here we continued east through the wonderful wine region of Franschhoek. The road itself was a beautiful and fun experience (reminder – we rented a car and LOVED it). The same views we found breathtaking in Stellenbosch were also in Franschhoek and you could do no wrong staying in either area.
Now it was on to the next part of our honeymoon, to road trip the Garden Route! Make sure to read Johnny’s Garden Route Itinerary for a detailed recount of his experience traveling this epic coastal road.
Hermanus is a nice town, known for its whale watching tours and shark cage diving experiences (in nearby Gansbaai). It was not whale season in January so we decided to just enjoy the beautiful beaches and the beautiful sea. The ocean views from our hotel at the Hermanus Beach Lodge were absolutely breathtaking however, and I would highly recommend the ocean view suite at this hotel.
The city center had a wonderful restaurant, called The Pear Tree. It had a farm to table restaurant vibe to its dishes, wonderful service and big portions for this style of cooking (as well as nice vegetarian options).
After Hermanus, we drove through the mountains to the remote town of Oudtshoorn, which feels more like a desert than a coastal town. It is considered (at least by itself), to be the Ostrich capital of the world. This means that there are many nice ostrich farms where you can see them, as well as eat the meat and buy leather products (we didn’t like the irony in it that much).
There is also a beautiful cave, and a nice local zoo called “Cango Ranch” where you can pet a lemur, or a cheetah, or a lion, all for an extra fee.. we enjoyed the experience and the Lemur petting very much.
The hotel here – The Hlangana Lodge, was super nice. If possible, go for the more premium rooms (it wasn’t such a pricey hotel), where you have a very nice floor to ceiling glass entrance, covering the room with natural light. There is also a nice pool here but we did not have enough time to enjoy it.
We went to Su Casa Restaurant for dinner, located in the Surval Boutique Olive Lodge. This cool and secret-ish place was amazing for sunset drinks and had especially delicious food. The scenery with the rolling mountains is out of this world, especially when the sun sets.
We continued on the Garden route making stops at Wilderness Beach before finally arriving in the town of Plettenberg Bay. Another option for us would have been Knysna but Johnny recommended we stay in Plettenberg Bay and make day trips to Knsyna. Like everything else we had seen up to this point, Plettenberg Bay was a beautiful place situated by the sea. It’s unique for its big natural lagoon, and is a real eye pleaser.
On our first day, we enjoyed a hike on the Robberg Nature Reserve, a large and diverse peninsula on a mountain. There are beautiful sand beahces, rocky cliffs, greenery, and fantastic hiking trails here. Dolphins, seals, antelopes, and even whales (if you’re lucky) can be spotted from the top of the reserve. We took the 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) hike, and we enjoyed it very much. This is the middle tier hike and we were glad we made the decision. It covers all the must see destinations in the reserve and the hiking itself was not overly challenging.
On the second day we went to the famous Monkeyland – a conservation center full with different kinds of primates. The place is quite big and has a rain-forest like feel to it, so to immerse you in what may be the monkeys natural habitat. Beware of the swarm of mosquitoes covering the place! We did a tour and the guide will give you mosquito repellent so apply this generously. They will bite you anyway! We saw so many monkey species, most that I’ve never even heard of. We got close to lemurs too which Johnny has told us was one of his favorite things while visiting Madagascar.
A few kilometers away, Niv jumped from the highest commercial bungee jump in the world and the Bloukrans bridge. It is 216 meters high, and home to the Guinness record highest bungee jump. This is a must for adrenaline junkies. For the partners of those junkies, be aware that accompanying your partner to the jump (a suggestion made by the staff for an extra 10 USD aprox.) requires walking on the 300 meters high steel-net bridge for a few minutes, which is just as frightening as the jump itself!
This was a wonderful, high adrenaline experience, and we loved the staff and the atmosphere very much. If you are scared of heights, I would recommend taking a few shots at the bar on the premise!
Days 12-14: Safari #1
From Plettenberg Bay, we drove to the town of George where we took an early morning flight to Johannesburg. This was the hub for our next adventure, which is safaris and animal encounters! While Kruger Park is the most famous and one of the biggest reserves in the world, it is further away from Johannesburg (and would have required many hours of driving or another flight). This is also the most touristy park within South Africa and is therefore priced accordingly.
Johnny advised us to go to the closer areas in the Limpopo province, which to us felt nothing else but completely wild and untouched. This means you need to travel more than a few miles on gravel roads, a nice experience in itself involving Zebras, Ostrichs and more sights along the way.
Staying at Ukutula Lodge
We started the wild experience in Ukutula, about a two hour drive from Johannesburg (be ready for heavy traffic in the Joburg metropolitan area), near the small town of Brits. This is a research and conservation center dedicated to lions, as well as other carnivores such as cheetahs, tigers and hyenas.
The room price included a 2 hour interactive experience, that involves playing and petting lion cubs, adult cheetahs(!) And baby hyenas (they are cuter than you might think). This was a very special and fun experience, and we got to hear about the research taking place at the center. The tours were heavy into the science, and absolutely shows that the center takes care of their animals, with no cruelty involved.
The rooms here are more basic in style than what we knew before in the honeymoon. The place was still quite nice however, and gave us a sense of a small community. Two highlights for us was firstly the chance to hear the packs of Lions roar (just like in the movies) all throughout the night. This was absolutely amazing!
The second, more ‘hard core’ experience, was walking with young adult Lions in the wild (extra fee of about 40 USD per person). The staff made us feel very safe, but there is no denying that this was on the more extreme side of our trip as these lions were enormous. The Lions were majestic (of course), and we had such a memorable experience walking with them. It truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
All in all, we were very glad to have had this experience, as opposed to going somewhere like the Lion and Safari Park. The basic accommodations were still quite nice, and provided the perfect contrast to what was to come next…
Days 14-17: Luxury Safari at 57 Waterberg
The last part of our trip to South Africa was celebrated in the beautiful Safari Lodge at 57 Waterberg. The region, named after the special phenomena in which the mountains of the area look like they are sweating from water. It is a 3 hour drive from Johannesburg very nice roads and scenery. Set in the heart of the magnificent Welgevonden Game Reserve, Fifty Seven Waterberg, is the type of place you only dream of visiting. The 5* lodged screams of luxury but at the same time maintains a rustic and remote feel to it that we absolutely loved
Professional Pictures of the lodge:
The place accommodates only 5 couples at a time so you never feel like you are being disturbed. Each meal was introduced and explained by the chef himself. We had special dietary needs that we and they were met flawlessly. The place has plenty of special surprises, that we don’t want to ruin for future guests, but are super fancy, super romantic and special (a hint – the porch in your suite can be used for more than just a nice sun bath). There’s a very nice infinity pool here with expansive views of the surrounding Welgevonden reserve.
We had two game drives a day (5.30 AM And 4:30 PM). The Safari drives were mesmerizing and the reserve was teeming with life. We witnessed a lioness hunting and catching a poor baby Wildebeest, as well as cheetah cubs! Every drive was special in its own way. Oh and of course we were able to tick off the Big 5 from our list!
Be sure to bring warm clothes as it is very cold during the early morning drives, but they do provide blankets. All in all, this was a great experience! The staff was amazing, and we enjoyed the stay so much. Absolutely amazing 4 days.
The price, while expensive on the surface, is actually very affordable compared to other luxury level lodges in South Africa. You can book your stay at 57 Waterberg here, with rates running around R4000 per night per person
Days 18-23: Paradise in Mauritius
From our unforgettable stay at 57 Waterberg, we continued on for a relaxed drive back to Johannesburg Airport where stayed overnight before our early morning flight the next day. Destination? Beautiful Mauritius!
Mauritius was probably our most “traditional honeymoon” style destination. Think Maldives style beautiful Sandy beaches, towering mountains, beautiful resorts, and an eclectic Indian-Asian mix in the small towns around the island. There are an abundance of high end resorts here that we could choose from and we ultimate settled on a 5* luxury resort (as anyone should for their honeymoon!)
Staying at the Lux Belle Mare
The Lux Belle Mare hotel was beautiful. The staff, including the hotel manager and the vice manager, were so attentive and caring for our entire stay. Whenever we had the slightest issue or question, they jumped through hoops to make sure we are fully satisfied.
We took the honeymoon package, and it was obvious from the beginning that they wanted to make sure we remembered the experience. They got us an assortment of complimentary gifts, services, meals and much more.
The restaurants on site were amazing! Be sure to try the Asian restaurant Duck Laundry and the Indian restaurant called Amari, which is run by a 2 star Michelin starred chef. The beach here was so incredibly beautiful. Think idyllic white sandy beaches with crystal clear water. It is too hard to describe in words so we will let the photos do the job.
To our understanding, the most common package here is B&B (only breakfast). The food at the resort is as you would expect, quite pricey so be prepared for this. We ate here for most of our meals as the resort was just beautiful, but you can easily venture into the towns where food will be a fraction of the price (but still delicious).
Exploring the island
We rented a car here as well so we had the opportunity to explore some of the island (Also this saved us €90 in taxi fares from the airport). Our favorite experience was eating in a nearby local village. Our concierge recommended a restaurant for us called Chez Manuel. The food here was amazing and be sure to try the sizzling dishes.
The second experience we enjoyed very much was visiting the Ile Aux Cerfs Island, which is accessible by speedboat leaving from the nearby town of Trou d’Eau Douce. You may not be alone on this beautiful small island, but it is very much unspoiled and the beaches here are much nicer than on the Mauritian mainland.
We finished our honeymoon with a very special and romantic dinner at the Amari restaurant. We received a custom made menu that was printed just for us! The food and service were impeccable here, and it was the perfect dreamy end to a dreamy honeymoon.
Our trip would not have been possible and we wouldn’t have been able to experience many of these beautiful places if it wasn’t for Johnny. He was amazing, from the moment we first spoke, to the way he answered all our questions and tailor made the trip for our needs and preferences. He was genuinely interested in our trip and experience (probably because he wanted to be traveling himself!). He contacted us along the way to make sure everything was good, while giving us advice on things to do. This was one of the best decisions we made and we full heartedly recommend everyone who is considering going on vacation or honeymoon to use his services! Thanks so much Johnny!!!!
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