South Africa Trips

South Africa is one of my favorite places I have traveled to! That is probably why I have been there six times. Although, that also has to do with the fact that I had family living there. With each visit I saw something new or even went to a new country! Here is what I did each time I was there:

First trip

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February 2010, my first trip to South Africa.  It was amazing and beautiful! We saw so many things in that one short week. We stayed in Johannesburg which became a headquarters of sorts, but we also went to the Kruger National Park  and Cape Town. 6 years later and I still can’t believe we managed it all.

Second trip

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My second trip to South Africa was in the summer of 2010. This trip was very similar to the first, because I went to all the same places, Kruger Park and Cape Town. I did get to experience a couple of new things though.

Here is a more detailed account of our trip to Cape Town!

Third Trip

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On this trip, we took advantage of being in Africa, and we decided to go to some new places. We always wanted to see the Victoria Falls, so we headed up to Zimbabwe and Zambia, details of that trip to come :)! It was a great adventure, including lots of dead insects in our open hotel room, elephant rides, helicopter rides and sunsets over the river. Back in South Africa we went to some museums and Soweto!

Fourth Trip

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This trip was very different from the ones before. In 2012 I went to South Africa with my friends and we tried to make a difference. For the first time, we got to see the real Africa, the small villages, the citizens of which have nothing. The schools in tents and the students that walk four hours to get to those schools, but they are so dedicated, they don’t mind. It was a very different Africa. It was the poor side. The empty side. The type of place where you could drive for hours without meeting anyone at all.

Fifth trip

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On my fifth trip to South Africa, I spent barely any time in Johannesburg and in South Africa in general. Mostly we were in Mozambique, again the details of which will come later! We spent a large portion of the week in the car, but the three days in Mozambique were so worth it! We were in the middle of nowhere and that was perfect. For three days we were separated from the world, completely off the grid. It was the best way to de-stress from school and work. It reminded me how great it is to get away from everything sometimes.

Sixth and last trip

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The last time I went to South Africa was, yet again, a more relaxing trip. We didn’t feel like we needed to go to new countries or cities, we just needed to relax and warm up, especially in the midst of the worst, record-breaking winter in Boston.

South Africa is an amazing place to visit! I recommend it to anyone. Some people are afraid to go there, because it is not safe. You have to be careful in South Africa, there are definitely times when you feel uncomfortable and you do get worried. You have to use common sense, don’t go to places where you don’t feel safe. South Africa is beautiful and it is definitely worth visiting! I have been there six times and I would still go back and there would still be hundreds of things for me to see!

For more photos visit our photo gallery here!


South Africa: Sixth and last trip

The last time I went to South Africa was, yet again, a more relaxing trip. We didn’t feel like we needed to go to new countries or cities, we just needed to relax and warm up, especially in the midst of the worst, record-breaking winter in Boston.

This trip we focused on good food and some local museums, but mostly food. We went to some great restaurants and we even went to a bar one night. I definitely did not mind spending my last trip to Johannesburg soaking up the sun, drinking wine and eating delicious food!

DSC_9189   Since we were in Africa, we did go on a shorter safari to Pilanesberg again. It wouldn’t be a trip to Africa without visiting at least one national park. We had a slight adrenaline rush when we stopped by a really nervous rhino. It wouldn’t take its eyes off of us and when we tried to leave, the rhino looked like it was going to run at us. The situation didn’t improve when another car zoomed by, making the rhino feel even more threatened. We took our time and left slowly. So, just a tip for you guys, be careful when driving through a park, these animals can be nervous and territorial. Don’t drive too fast and don’t do anything that might anger the animals, they are strong and some are much bigger than you are. Other than that, enjoy and keep your eyes out, the animals might be just a couple of meters away from you, hiding in the bush.DSC_9519

On the occasion of visiting Pilanesberg we also went to Sun City, which we have never been to before. This is truly something I have never seen before. It was a huge resort that offers all sorts of activities. Literally you can do anything from ziplining to elephant rides. There you can also walk through a maze that lets you out at a bar, now there is motivation to get through! At the beginning of the maze you could either go left or right. There were four of us, so naturally we broke off and decided to race. Sadly, Alena and I lost.

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At Sun City we also went to an African dance performance as well as a “get to know” African tribe huts. There we saw how different tribes dress, how they live and what some of their traditions are. We even got to try on some of the traditional clothes and we were kind of forced to try to dance. Our “teacher” also tried to teach us some phrases from the different languages, but he was quite unsuccessful.

We ended the trip with the traditional trip to the Lion Park and cuddled with some cubs, fed a giraffe and even tried running away from some vicious looking ostriches, exactly the way a trip to the Lion Park should be. Just keep in mind, when going through the different enclosures for the lions, don’t lean out of the car! Those lions are sneaky and they might appear right behind you, without you even noticing.DSC_9827

South Africa is an amazing place to visit! I recommend it to anyone. Some people are afraid to go there, because it is not safe. You have to be careful in South Africa, there are definitely times when you feel uncomfortable and you do get worried. You have to use common sense, don’t go to places where you don’t feel safe. South Africa is beautiful and it is definitely worth visiting! I have been there six times and I would still go back and there would still be hundreds of things for me to see!


READ MORE:

South Africa Part 1

South Africa Part 2

South Africa Part 5

DSC_1815On my fifth trip to South Africa, I spent barely any time in Johannesburg and in South Africa in general. Mostly we were in Mozambique, again the details of which will come later! We spent a large portion of the week in the car, but the three days in Mozambique were so worth it! We were in the middle of nowhere and that was perfect. For three days we were separated from the world, completely off the grid. It was the best way to de-stress from school and work. It reminded me how great it is to get away from everything sometimes.

If you are renting a car, which you need to, rent a big and durable car. You don’t know what kind of roads you will take and you don’t want to get stuck somewhere!

It is important to mention, again, that for a trip across South Africa, planning is very important. You should know where you are going, because getting lost a) is not fun and b) isn’t really safe. You never know where you can accidentally end up, so planning well is just safer in general. Another tip, plan a backup route. Even though the backup route is more important for Mozambique, you never know what roads might be flooded or closed or if a cows will block your path. Bring your GPS, but don’t rely on it too much. It is always better to actually know where you are going and some roads don’t even show up as actual roads on a GPS.

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Also, when crossing borders, plan for spending a lot of time and prepare your nerves for complicated discussions with the border control if you are getting tourist visa into Mozambique. Be prepared for the fact that they either barely speak any english or they don’t speak it at all.

When we got back to South Africa, we were so exhausted from our relaxing trip to Mozambique, to the point where none of us actually wanted to do anything. The last couple of days we spent relaxing. The only new place we visited was Sandton City Shopping Centre, which is a huge mall, great for clothes, shoes, jewelry and they have great places for brunch!


READ MORE:

South Africa Part 1

South Africa Part 2

South Africa Part 3

South Africa Part 4

 

South Africa Part 4

This trip was very different from the ones before. In 2012 I went to South Africa with my friends and we tried to make a difference. For the first time, we got to see the real Africa, the small villages, the citizens of which have nothing. The schools in tents and the students that walk four hours to get to those schools, but they are so dedicated, they don’t mind. It was a very different Africa. It was the poor side. The empty side. The type of place where you could drive for hours without meeting anyone at all.

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We chose a school in Ubhevu, and small town in the eastern part of South Africa, because of connections we had to the school. Ladysmith is the closest major town. It is about 20 minutes from Ubhevu.

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As we approached the school we just stared for a little bit, until we remembered the cameras we were holding in our arms. They had three tents and they used a church as classroom space. On the first day there we got to know the head of the school, some of the teachers and some of the students. We found out what they would need the most and what how we could help with the budget we had. To help them, we bought them a fridge, a freezer, paint for the building and sports equipment. The fridge and the freezer was the most important thing we could get for them, because the students at the school were very dependant on the food they served at the school. Their options were limited, since it was usually the director of the school who brought the food in every day, because they had no way to store it there. The sports equipment was a way to bring a little bit of fun to the academic day, since their PE classes were very limited without any equipment. The paint was a way to bond with the students. One of the days we spend just painting their one building and putting the handprints of all of the students and us on the walls to mark our time there.

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On our last day there we gave the best students some gifts to support academia in the school. After a long day of hard work, we walked around their village, met new people and saw some of the houses they lived in. We got to walk with some of the students to the well, where they all had to go each day to get water. They tried to teach us some Zulu, their language.

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This was a very important trip for me, since I got to find out how schooling works in South Africa. I could only help a little bit, but they were so grateful for the little help we could give.

Come back soon for more stories from South Africa!


READ MORE:

South Africa Part 1

South Africa Part 2

South Africa Part 3

 

South Africa Part 3

On this trip, we took advantage of being in Africa, and we decided to go to some new places. We always wanted to see the Victoria Falls, so we headed up to Zimbabwe and Zambia, details of that trip to come :)! It was a great adventure, including lots of dead insects in our open hotel room, elephant rides, helicopter rides and sunsets over the river.

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In Johannesburg we went to some new places too! For one, we went to Soweto, a very important place for the history of apartheid and how it got overthrown. Nelson Mandela lived in Soweto, his house is open to the public and should definitely be on your “to see” list if you go to South Africa. You will get some background information on the area in the museum, but most importantly about Mandela’s life. There are several museums in the area, each dedicated to something else, I suggest you visit some of these because the history is so rich and important for everyone to know.

_DSC1153We also drove around downtown Johannesburg and found some tucked away markets. Eventually we made our way to chinatown and got some Chinese food!

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Another new place we went to this time was a crocodile farm in Johannesburg. There they have several large rather evil looking crocodiles. Over their enclosure is a rickety wooden bridge that you can cross and imagine all the great ways the crocodiles would chew you up if the bridge collapsed. Ok, I might be exaggerating a little bit, it wasn’t that rickety. They also have large snakes and lizards that you can hold. This time they even had a baby crocodile that they let us hold and pet. On top of all of these reptiles, they also have tarantulas and yes, you can hold them, if you want to. I personally refused to do that, but my little, then 6 year old, brother wanted to hold one. Apparently they are very fragile and can’t be dropped, because that would instantly kill them, so the caretakers make sure the people that want to hold them don’t drop them. So if you decide to hold them you have to be certain you won’t freak out too much. On top of having some lectures about the animals they take care of, the farm also offers dance shows where dancers perform traditional African dances. Also a great show to go to, if that is something you are interested!

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Lastly, we went for safari to Pilanesberg. The drive there is beautiful, through some small rich towns and by some shantytowns. It’s quite a long drive from Johannesburg, so I suggest you leave really early in the morning, so you have the full day there to drive around the park, but so that you aren’t too tired to drive back. If you time the trip back well, you can see the sunset over the Hartbeesport Dam. That view is priceless! With that I concluded my third trip to South Africa.

After my third trip, I knew there was still much more to see, so I was already planning my next visit. An article about my fourth visit, during which my friends and I helped out at a school in Ubhevu, is coming soon! Check back to read about it!


READ MORE:

South Africa Part 2

South Africa Part 1