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What to see and expect. Which route to ride when booking a hired coach for a group bus tour with in this part of South Africa
When you plan a minibus or coach trip around the Western Cape area your group is heading to one of the world's great travel destinations. Few places can boast such diverse scenery and experiences and the excellent N2 highway connects them all. With a coach tour you'll likely be travelling east to west or west to east along the coast, starting at either Cape Town or Port Elizabeth. A dozen different people could create a coach itinerary in the Western Cape, all stopping in different places.
With so much on offer it's impossible to fit everything in, but this video gives you a glimpse at some of the diverse experiences on offer. Watch it before fixing your bus tour itinerary!
For example, there are the animals. Like stroking lions at a private game reserve near Wilderness or admiring majestic elephants in Addo Elephant National Park. Local transport includes canoeing in Wilderness National Park or sand boarding down the dunes in Jeffrey's Bay. Now some adrenalin! Go diving with great white sharks in Gansbaai or take on the world's highest bungee jump at Bloukrans Bridge. For something a little less dangerous you could always try surfing at Jeffrey's Bay, a town that's on the Billabong Pro Surf Tour. Most people finish their bus trip with some more African wildlife, like ostriches, cheetahs, or riding elephants in Outdshoorn. As you can see group travel with a rented bus can be realy an adventure.
The Western Cape is a large province located in the south west of South Africa. It's the most visited province in South Africa by tourists and includes Cape Town as well as most of the Garden Route. This is one of the world's most diverse provinces, containing indigenous forest, arid desert, stark mountains, the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, as well as many different cultures. Visitors can get a lot of everything, whether that's pristine beach, mountain hikes, serene landscapes, or adrenalin fuelled adventure. However, most often say that the highlight to a trip to the Western Cape is the ongoing interaction with different locals.
Most visitors to the Western Cape are very surprised by the quality of the transport connections. If you come expecting dirt roads, buses for of squawking chickens, and painfully slow journeys then you are in the wrong place. That's elsewhere in Africa. The Western Cape's travel connections are easily comparable to the rest of the western world.
Almost every road is paved and kept pothole free by a never ending army of local workers. The N2 highway connects almost all destinations along the Garden Route, and the only disadvantage to these roads is that there is always a section being repaired and you might have to wait 10 – 15 minutes in roadworks. While the infrastructure is excellent, traffic seems to be uninhabited by road laws: reversing down a highway is acceptable, one way signs should be ignored, and the speed limit is determined by the car engine not the signs.
Cape Town International Airport (CPT) is the third largest in Africa, although it's still small and easily manageable. All departures leave from upstairs, and both arrival gates are on the ground floor of the terminal. International flights from Africa, Europe and the Middle East land in Cape Town, as well as a large number of domestic flights from all corners of South Africa. When going through customs in Cape Town don't try and import any foreign food delicacies. While this is legal, the customs officials have a terrible reputation for confiscating food from arriving passengers.
From Cape Town airport it is a 20 minute drive to the centre of Cape Town. There are a number of touts waiting at the arrivals gate, trying to get you to sign up for their taxi. While this can be convenient there are some bogus touts and companies who take advantage of tourists and charge way over the going rate. You also need to watch out for illegal taxis which aren't safe. A pre booked airport transfer ensures a safe good value fare and all companies offer a meet and greet service as standard. An experienced smiling driver will be waiting for you with a name board and a handshake. Drivers know exactly which jokes to tell on the journey and a transfer will cost around ZAR250 ($25) for 1-2 people and ZAR350 ($35) for 3-4 people. Also transfers to elsewhere in the Western Cape can be negotiated easily.
You can compare travel and transport companies and pre book your airport transfer using our east to use tool.
The Western Cape does have a railway system but in general the trains are not recommended for foreigners. Passengers hang out of the doors, carriages grown under the human weight, and sweat drips from everyone's face. Trains in the Western Cape are for local commuters and get so full you can't see the floor. There are only two exceptions: the long distance sleeper trains that go to Johannesburg and Durban, or the single line route that skirts the ocean from Cape Town to Simonstown.
Asking a local to predict the length of a road journey is always fun in the Western Cape. How long to Plettenburg Bay you ask. “It's 500km, so you should make it in 3 hours.” What about to Johannesburg? “Well it's only 1700km so you can drive it 8 hours.” Eternally optimistic, South Africans believe every journey is being made in a formula 1 car. However, part of their optimism is down to the pothole free fully tarred highways. These roads are kept in excellent condition and there is limited traffic, so covering long distances between destinations is short and straight forward.
In the cities it's a different story. Drivers flaunt all rules to beat the traffic, stopping only when they've found an illegal parking space. Red lights mean you can go if no other traffic is coming. Green lights mean the speed limit has doubled. And it's important to keep your hand firmly pressed on the horn. For those who are uneducated in the peculiar driving habits there is little chance of getting anywhere, that's why we recommend a local chauffeur or driver.
The Western Cape offers a little bit of everything. From secluded beaches to vibrant cities, mountain hikes to stark deserts, wine tasting to drinking maize beer in a squalid shebeen. The main challenge visitors have is choosing what to fit into their itinerary.
With so much to choose from you don't want to lose valuable time stuck on public transport. Most visitors choose to take a tour with a private driver, as this allows them to move quickly between attractions and tailor makes an itinerary. Furthermore, many places aren't accessible by public transport so private transport is the only way to see them.
Your entry point will almost certainly be Cape Town, one of the world's most iconic cities. Dominated by the stunning Table Mountain, Cape Town is situated on the south western tip of Africa. Wherever you go the mountain stands over you, and hiking up the +1000m vertical slope is an essential experience. Check out Africa's most energetic night out in Long Street, take a tour through one of the city's vivid townships, surf some waves, or relax in one of the fine restaurants of the Waterfront. Each suburb has a different feel, so you can explore the expensive beachfront neighbourhood of Camps Bay, trendy Green Point, or multicultural Observatory, which was an official 'grey area' during apartheid.
Cape Town has some fantastic beaches but the best sand in the Western Cape can be found further afield. The cold Atlantic Ocean hits a whole stretch of deserted beach that runs north from Cape Town all the way to Namibia. Be warned, anyone who can spend 30 seconds in the water without a wetsuit must have drunk a litre of vodka beforehand. But along the southern coastline the Indian Ocean brings warm water and seaside towns. Charming and relaxing, places like Plettenberg Bay and Knysna can gently lull you into hibernation. Want more seclusion and tranquility? Check out the huge stretches of interrupted sand at Sedgefield or Wilderness. In these places, there is very little other than you, a good book, and a pod of dolphins swimming past.
It wouldn't be Africa without an up close and personal view of wild animals. Some visitors are disappointed to find that lions aren't found on the airport runway, or elephants roam around towns. But all over the Western Cape you will find the authentic big 5 safari experience. The Big 5 animals are so called because they're the ones that would charge back when attacked by hunters. So don't do what the Chinese normally do and get too close when taking photos - there are many stories of rhinos and elephants flipping vehicles in South Africa. These two beasts as well as lions, leopards, and buffalo all await in places like Aquila Private Game Reserve and the Garden Route National Park.
Remember the film jaws? Well, you can be lowered into the ocean in a metal cage and get within touching distance of great white sharks. Just remember not to poke your hands through the bars when you're shark cage diving in Gansbaai. It's a little extreme, so we would forgive you for wanting to see marine life from land. Hermanus is the best land whale watching spot in the world and you can see 12metre beasts barely 15 metres from the cliffs. The southern right whales that frequent these waters are so large that they're testicles weight 500kg, each. Out on Boulders Beach is another natural phenomenon. A whole colony of Jackass penguins live here, and if you're lucky you can sunbathe beside them and challenge them to a swimming race.
Diverse and spectacular, the Western Cape landscape is a world of superlatives. Hike along Table Mountain and take in where the ocean meets the city. Go mountain biking through the indigenous forest of Tsitsikamma, or take a canoe along the pristine rivers of Wilderness National Park. Some of the highlights to the Western Cape are the mountain road passes, and with a private vehicle you can traverse some awe-inspiring mountain ranges. In particular the journey to Outdshoorn is one to remember, as the pass separates lush greenland on one side with desert on the other.
The Western Cape has become one of the world's adrenalin capitals. With a regular hotline to the Guinness World Record team the region has claimed the world's highest bungee jump, highest commercial abseil, and most surfers surfing one wave. Add to that list skydiving, ostrich riding, abseiling down waterfalls, and the world's number one kite surf beach. But it's not all about being a participant. These activities are all spectator sports. Stop at Bloukrans Bridge and listen to the screams of scared bungee jumpers, or watch the hilarious attempts of people unsuccessfully riding an ostrich. If you don't dare take part, you've still got plenty to experience.
You can plan group travel in Western Cape with our online quote request system and plot your entire route. For example, you can plot the entire route of the tour we describe above. Travel in Western Cape province has never been easier: start today!
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