10 min readJun 25, 2023

Our first African Safari — May 2023

Africa has always fascinated me since my childhood. I remember watching the NatGeo videos of animals almost every day with my father when I was young. With my son being an animal lover too, it was an easy choice this year to go to Africa.


The tourist areas are very safe as long as we don’t venture to secluded areas after sunset. The big hotels have power backups and were not affected by water shortage when we visited.


  • Applied through Akbar Travels for 6.5 INR per person since VFS was not available in Chennai.
  • Visa took two weeks and you can only apply a few weeks before the travel. The process was smooth and the documents required were very similar to a Schengen Visa.
  • Yellow fever is required if transit time > 12 hours through the Yellow fever belt. We got vaccinated as we were transiting through Ethiopia.


  • Booked the below itinerary with 220500 United miles + 204.48 USD for the entire itinerary for 3 Pax with the Excursionist perk to cover CPT-GRJ. The revenue rate will be around 3OOk INR.
  • Got to experience the new Chennai International Terminal for the first time. While it is a decent upgrade there is still a lot of catching up to do with other airports in the country. A makeshift lounge was already functional. The TFS lounge which is under construction when operational can host 200 Business and 175 cc customers.
  • The MAA-ADD leg was in B737–8 and ADD-CPT was in 787–8. I was dreading the 737 leg but the first-row seats made the experience much better with extra legroom. I booked the first-row seats by calling Ethiopian customer care for around 3.5k per leg per seat (cannot be done online ). IFE (only on 787 leg) movie collection was not great but had a few good classics and Indian movies.
  • The crew was attentive with a smile. The food tasted much better than it looked and we mostly got the option of rice with Chicken/Fish/Mutton. I recommend pre-booking vegetarian meals if you require them by calling customer care.
  • There is internet available on 787 legs. It costs 25 $ for a full flight, 5$ for 1 hour pass and 9$ for a 2 hour pass.
  • ADD airport is not fancy but was very efficient. The security lines move fast and the security personnel are very helpful to assist passengers who need it. There are no Priority Pass Lounges but there is a lounge that accepts Amex Plat Charge cards. There are many coffee shops with comfortable seating to sample Ethiopian coffee.
  • On the return leg, we made it through a 50-minute transit easily.

Hotels and the Itinerary

Day 1–5

AC Hotel by Marriott — V&A Waterfront

  • Paid around 11.5k INR per night for 4 nights. As a Marriott Platinum benefit, I received $ 10 per night as F&B credit apart from other benefits and free breakfast.
  • It can also be booked for 66–85k MB points for 5 nights depending on the dates.
  • There are regular shuttles and Water Taxis to the V&A waterfront.
  • The hotel has good views of Table Mountain and excellent coffee for breakfast

Day 1

  • We landed at around 2 PM and the immigration took less than 10 minutes. For a change, it was nice to see an immigration officer friendly and smiling which made me think later about how it brightens the entire trip to come.
  • Got the MTN sim card at the airport which worked well even in remote locations.
  • I used https://www.welcomepickups.com/ for airport transfers. While Uber is available, I like the convenience of someone waiting and holding your nameplate after a long flight. They charge 25$ which is very reasonable.

Places Visited

  • Cape Wheel -I recommend going during the sunset to catch a good glimpse of the city.
  • V&A waterfront — It has a high end mall and plenty of excellent restaurants. African Choir Bands provide lively performances in the evenings here.

Restaurants in V&A that we enjoyed dining.

  • TANG Restaurant —They serve excellent Japanese Izakaya and Cantonese-style dishes.
  • Mozambique — Mozambique-style prawns were delicious.
  • Knysna Oyster Company — One of the best oysters that I had anywhere. They were fresh and succulent.

There is also an Indian restaurant “Raj” in V&A if you miss the Indian food.

Tip: Don’t miss trying the excellent craft Gins available in all of the restaurants in South Africa.

Day 2

Places Visited

  • Two Oceans Aquarium- Must do if you are travelling with kids. It is a beautiful aquarium wide variety of fishes, eels, jellyfish, giant stingrays and penguins.
  • Wine tasting at De Grendel Wines — There are many wine-growing regions in Cape including the famous Stellenbosch & Franschhoek. You can spend an entire day on many of these farms. Since we had limited time, we decided to go to De Grendel Wine Estate which is nearby. It is a beautiful farm with an excellent wine-tasting menu and glorious views of table mountain and the city.
  • Old Biscuit Mill — It is a neighbourhood market which has food stalls, live music and boutique shops for clothes. It provided us with the opportunity to try out different African cuisines at the same time for lunch. The Knysna oysters that I got here were delicious.
  • Gold Restaurant: It provides an interactive food experience with its African Set Menu, group drumming and dance experiences. It is touristy but we liked the ambience and the food.

Day 3

We took a day trip to cape peninsula on a double-decker bus from https://capetown.citypass.co.za/. The views of the city from the top decker of the bus were charming.

Views from the bus

Tip: You can also take the Cape Town city pass which allows you unlimited access to the Hop On and Hop Off bus and allows you free entry to many of the attractions(https://capetown.citypass.co.za/attractions/) and 25% discount on the peninsula trip. This helps to save costs if you want to cover many attractions. We only got the one-day pass for the day-4 trip.There are 3 or 5-day pass available as well

Places Visited :

  • Boulders Beach — You can see the African penguins in their natural habitat.
  • Cape of Good Hope: It is the southwestern tip of Africa which is inside a natural park where you can spot Wild ostriches and Antelopes. The tour includes a 60-minute trek along the coastline. The views were magical during the trek.

Day 4

We got the day pass and covered most of the places using the Ho-Ho bus. The day pass also covers the entry to Table Mountain Cable Car and Kirstenbosch Gardens.

  • Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden — A big botanical garden with a nice view of the table mountain on the backdrop. It has a wide variety of botanical species and flowers.
  • Camps Bay Beach — Most popular beach in Cape Town with white sands and a promenade full of restaurants and clubs. It is a nice spot to spend an afternoon for lunch overlooking the beach.
  • Table Mountains: Being the Icon of the city, it did not disappoint. The views are magical from the top. You can check for the current wait times and visibility on this site before planning the visit. The cable cars do not operate when it is too windy or when there is heavy rain. https://tablemountain.net.
  • Bo-Kaap: Historical neighbourhood with colourful houses to mark the end of Slavery.

Day 5–6–7

Driving the Garden Route

  • After a short domestic flight from Cape Town to George, we got the rented car that I booked through Hertz which costed around 40k INR for a week after the corporate discount
  • You can compare the prices from different rentals at https://www.autoslash.com/ or use a corporate discount which can give a discount of up to 50% sometimes
  • We can use the Indian License in South Africa as long as it is in English. Driving is simple as they drive on the same side as India. The only thing that took time to get used to is the method of passing a 4-way intersection without working signals.
  • We drove approximately 600 km from George to Eastern Cape and with a stop in Knysna in between for 2 Nights.


  • We stayed in Protea by Marriott Hotel Knysna Quays which is a basic lodge near the Quay. The room was small but functional with easy access to restaurants and shops nearby. The boat tours also start from the getty nearby.
  • I paid around 15k INR for 2 Nights and it can also be booked for around 21k MB points per night.

Places Visited on the Garden Route

It is not without a reason why they named the southern coast “The Garden Route”. The Entire route seems like a big garden with mountains and valleys on the left and the coast and beaches on the right side of the road. It was so much fun driving this route.

  • Wilderness Beach- A long sandy beach which is part of a national reserve.
  • Map of Africa View Point —Landscape that resembles the map of Africa. You also get good views of the sea from the opposite end.
  • Knysna Elephant Park —We got to feed and interact with Elephants and Zebras at a close distance.

Birds of Eden: Beautiful aviary with a wide variety of colourful birds- Cockatoo, Macaw, Ibis, Flamingos, Cranes etc.

Knysna Head: They are a pair of sandstone cliffs that separate the Knysna Lagoon. It is the best spot to be in during sunset to catch the beautiful view of the cliffs and the Knysna Quay.

  • There are many more attractions where we just peaked during the drive without stopping including Plettenberg bay and Tsitsikamma National Park. I can easily spend a week on the Garden route if time permits.

Day 8–9–10

Stay and Safari at Mantis Founders

  • It is a coincidence that we had kept the best to the last.This is probably the best experience from a hotel anywhere.
  • This is a personal lodge of Adrian Gardiner who started the conservation efforts in the Eastern Cape,SA.
  • There is so much history to this place. Brad Pitt/Travolta and Tiger Woods are a few Celebrities who have stayed here.
  • There is an actual railway carriage that you can stay in . There are only 6 rooms so we get individual attention. They surprised us every day with meals and the places we dined.
  • Some of the best meals were Barbecue, Venison steak, Fish cooked in African Style . They also served excellent vegetarian options for my Wife and Son.
  • of-course, the best surprise was seeing the wildlife just outside the lodge. The landscape ( that is part of Shamwari Wildlife park) that you see during the safari is just magical. The rangers are very experienced and try their best to catch a glimpse of every wildlife at the park.
  • Some of the animals at the park are the Big Five ( Elephant, Lion, Leopard, African Buffalo and Black Rhino) , a variety of Antelopes ( Impala, Oryx, Springbok,Kudu), Giraffe,Hippos, Hyena , Fox , variety of monkeys among others.
  • The best part is that it is an all-inclusive property which includes
    1) All meals
    2) Coffee/Wine/Drinks
    3) Two Safaris Everyday
    I booked this with ~ 25k (+6k for 1 Child Supplement) Accor Points per night ~ 1K INR.

Day 11–12

We drove back to Port Elizabeth and spent a few hours before the flight in the Board Walk mall. We stayed in the same AC Marriott for a night to catch the flight back home the next afternoon.

When I look back, it is probably our best trip after visiting more than 25 countries. The landscapes were mesmerizing,the food and gin were amazing and people were very friendly. The Safari has to be the best part of the trip. It’s different from anything I imagined. The fun is in waiting patiently, searching for animals and finding it in front of your eyes at a close distance. It made me want to do more safaris and I am planning my next trip to Masai Mara later this year as I type this.


⛱️🏞️🗼Travel Inspirations ✈️🚁🏨 Airline and Hotel Loyalty Programs 🏏 CSK and Cricket .Twitter @travelsofram