In order to keep my blog post short, I’ve decided to separately sum up a few tips and tricks (personal experience).
Camping: When it comes to camping, I can only say that the ground at the Kruger National Park and also at Hlane NP is very hard (it might be because of the missing rain?). Therefore, it is quite difficult to set up a tent at this time of the year. At night it is also recommendable to have a better sleeping mat than you would normally need on grass. It was more chilly than we had expected, in particular early in the mornings. We were freezing in our thin sleeping bags covered with a fleece blanket.
Food supply: Restaurants and shops at the Kruger NP are a bit expensive. Especially the shops charged way more than you would normally pay at Spar and Pick’n’Pay.
Looking back, it would have been a good idea to buy snacks before entering the park. It also would have been good to have a pot and plates as they don’t always provide them on camping grounds. Normally they provide dishes at accommodations (given there is a kitchen), which makes it easier to bring and cook your own food. Still, it was hard to choose what to buy at the supermarket as the variety – at least in Eastern South Africa – is somewhat different from what we are used to. Very little fruits and vegetables, for examples. In the metropolitan area of Cape Town it was quite similar to home, sometimes they even sell the same brands 😉
Food (restaurants): Overall we thought the food was not very delicious. Very greasy, lots of fried stuff – you can tell that South Africans don’t really eat healthy food (many obese people). The prices are ok, though we didn’t always find a dinner for less than 100 Rand. Many of the accommodations in less central areas offer overcharged specials. At night you can’t order from the general menu, instead you have to book a buffet/ 3-course menu. This can be expensive (140-170 Rand), especially considering the quality and quantity is not that great. Towards the end of our trip we treated ourselves with visits at some expensive restaurants in Cape Town – a huge difference! This is probably why a lot of people say the food in SA is so amazing – they most likely travel on a different budget than us. Therefore, when backpacking don’t expect too much from the food.
Roads / Traffic: We rented a car the entire trip, so I cannot talk about public transportation. If I were you, I would always rent a car in SA. Otherwise, you might not reach beautiful spots or you might have to book an expensive tour every time. I think it saves a lot of money having your own rented car. Most of the times the roads are in good shape and not different from European roads. The exception to the rule is Swaziland, which we will remember as the country of road holes and speed bumps. You really need to calculate more time than the Google Maps estimation. Other than that we had no problems with our 2WD car. Only at the Hluhluwe NP it would have been nice to have a 4WD, but not really necessary like at the Hlane NP.
Security: We never actually felt unsafe during the three weeks of our trip. If so, it was more the stories we had in mind than an actual situation. In Sodwana, everyone told us about burglars. Our landlord gave us an alarm button that we could use, in case we had seen something suspicious around the house. It was surrounded by a big wall, barbed wire and an alarm system. I am always more concerned, when apparently everyone else is scared. In Cape Town locals often reminded us to take everything out of the car (even the smallest item) and to never keep the camera outside of your handbag, etc. It was a bit annoying, although they probably meant well. Yet, when people constantly scare you, one tends to turn around more often… We never found ourselves in a scary situation though! 🙂