Is the Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device Worth It? The No BS Truth

Is the Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device Worth It? The No BS Truth

If you’ve never heard of the Skyroam portable hotspot device before, you’re about to hear everything there is to know about this powerful little device. After one use, I questioned how I ever travelled before without it. I love mine and am absolutely obsessed with it, it never leaves my side! So for me, it is 110% worth it. But is it worth it for YOU? That’s the question. I’ll get to that later after I tell you all about this incredibly handy little device!

Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device

In a Nutshell

The Skyroam is a portable hotspot device that allows you to stay connected to wifi all around the world.

It works in 100+ countries (and counting) and gives you unlimited and secure wifi for 24-hour periods.

What Countries Does the Skyroam Work in? I’m Glad You Asked!

The Americas

Argentina, Aruba,Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, El Salvador, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saipan, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Island, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela

Europe

Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican

South Pacific

Australia, Christmas Island, Fiji, Guam, New Zealand

Africa

Egypt, Kenya, South Africa

Asia

Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan,Tajikistan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Vietnam

Middle East

Israel, Qatar, Turkey

So How the Heck Does the Skyroam Work?

Does it really matter, it’s awesome. Just kidding, I’ll explain. The Skyroam connects to the best local wifi signal. It basically allows you to access local date, internationally!

Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device

Exploring the Bay of Islands in New Zealand with my Skyroam. I was able to provide live updates to Snapchat while on the go!

It’s SO simple. All you do is turn on the device and hit “start” and BAM, wifi works. Plus, it’s so compact and light you can just slip it in your pocket and take it with you wherever you go.

The bottom line: the Skyroam portable hotspot device is the most convenient way to access wifi when abroad. Period. There is no monthly contract. You pay for what you use, whenever you want to use it.

Some Other Awesome Features of the Skyroam:

  • Your phone doesn’t need to be unlocked to use it! For all those AT&T iPhone users, this is a Godsend.
  • You will no longer have to deal with SIM cards, contracts, or roaming/overage charges.
  • You can connect up to 5 devices: yep, you heard that right! You can hook up 5 devices to the Skyroam and enjoy unlimited international wifi. However, it’s important to note that once you hit the 1GB mark, the service slows down a little. So I wouldn’t connect more than 2-3 devices unless you want super slow service.
  • Use your Skyroam on road trips to access Google Maps! You have no idea how convenient it was to use this device during my New Zealand road trip. It was a life saver!
  • Always use a secure network! Skyroam uses an encrypted connection to keep your data safe and secure while using wifi. (In case you didn’t ever think about it…when you use local wifi in cafes, hotels, restaurants, these networks are not secure and you may be exposed to hackers).
  • The Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device is especially useful and cost effective when traveling through many different countries in a short amount of time.  When you cross borders, the pass does NOT reset and once it connects to the local service it’s good to go!
Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device

Using Google Maps through my Skyroam service saved my life during my New Zealand road trip!

I tested this traveling through the Baltics by bus. I thought maybe the day pass would reset and I would have to use another one once I crossed the border, but this was not the case at all! There was a short transition period of less than 20 minutes and then it picked up the local service of the new country after crossing the border. So easy!

Purchase Options:

Rent vs buy

Rent: you can rent the hotspot and pay $9.99 per day for shorter trips (or if you do not travel often).

Buy: you could buy the hotspot for $99 and then pay $8 for each day pass (which I highly recommend). On the days you don’t use it, you don’t pay!

Oh, and recently they have introduced Skyroam vending machines in San Francisco airport! How cool. You can also purchase the Skyroam in various airports throughout. Two popular airport stores selling the Skyroam include InMotion and Brookstone. To search for a resale stores near you, you can click here

Daily passes: you pay for a daily pass and this gets you unlimited global data for a 24-hr period. So simple!

You can purchase the daily passes anytime at a.skyroam.com.

If you travel even occasionally I would highly recommend buying the device and taking it with you on all trips in case of emergencies. It will come in handy sooner or later and you will be happy to have a backup when necessary (more on that below).

Is the Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device worth it?

Ok, so let’s get down to it. Let me provide a few different scenarios, which will help you decide if it’s worth it for YOU. 

Scenario 1: you’re going to Europe for one week and hitting up 3 different countries.

Is the Skyroam worth it? Hell yes.

Here’s why: getting a local SIM card for 3 different countries will not be very cost effective. It will also be a pain in the a** to waste time in each county finding a reliable SIM.

Example: I was just traveling through the Baltics and spend 2 days in 3 countries. I used the Skyroam with ease and even as I was crossing over the borders(as I just mentioned above). 

Scenario 2-You’re going to Portugal for a month.

Is the Skyroam worth it? No

Here’s why: it would definitely be more cost effective to pick up a local SIM and use that for the duration of your trip. Unless your phone is not unlocked (see below). 

Scenario 3: you’re going to Colombia for 5 days and your phone is NOT unlocked.

Is the Skyroam worth it? Yep

Here’s why: most carriers charge a sh*t ton for international data. Since you will only be there 5 days, use your Skyroam!

Scenario 4: You are traveling to Europe for one month, hitting up 4 different countries, and decide you will purchase a SIM card in each country.

Ok, that still sounds more cost efficient, so you don’t need a Skyroam, right?

Yes and no. My advice is to bring your Skyroam anyway, for emergencies.

Let me explain: let’s say for instance you land in a small airport in Croatia in the evening, all the kiosks are closed (or there is no place at the airport that sells SIM cards), there is no airport wifi, and you need to make it to your Airbnb. The easiest solution? Activate a day pass on your Skyroam to help navigate your way. Then the next day, go ahead and purchase that SIM. This scenario happened to me in New Zealand recently and it was a life saver to be able to cut on my Skyroam and use it to order an Uber. (The airport wifi wasn’t working..something that happens from time to time even if they have wifi!)

Scenario 5: you and a friend are traveling to Iceland for 4 days.

Is the Skyroam worth it? Yuppp.

Here’s why: remember that part above where you can connect up to 5 devices?  Yep. So you and a friend could split the costs and both use the Skyroam! But, I honestly would not connect more than 2-3 devices on this because it tends to slow it down a lot. But using 2 phones is perfectly okay and would make it super convenient for your trip!

→A quick note on Battery life: I read somewhere that the battery on the Skyroam lasts up to 9 hours, but it lasts me about 6 hours. I guess it depends on how much you use it (I use mine a lot). I always carry my awesome dual power bank by Jackery so it’s not a problem. I recharge several devices on this each day while travelling, and the power never runs out.

Crazy Travelista’s Overall Impressions:

I have personally used it on 2 continents and 7 countries so far including: Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Italy, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia.

Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device

How did I live without you before?

I have been extremely impressed with the quality of service, speed, and convenience of always having the option to have wifi wherever I go. I have no idea how on earth I ever traveled without it before. It’s light, compact, reliable and the most convenient way to access wifi abroad!

So is it worth it? In some instances it is not, as I highlighted above. But overall, the Skyroam is definitely worth it and something every traveler should own! I have a feeling this is going to revolutionize the way we travel and always being able to share our travels is really awesome. Kudos, Skyroam. Kudos.

To rent/buy, you can check out the Skyroam website here.

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I am a brand ambassador for Skyroam and absolutely love it! I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t truly love!

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Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device

Solo Travel The Galapagos on the Cheap (ish): How I Did 7 Days/Nights for $994, Including Flights!

Solo Travel The Galapagos on the Cheap (ish): How I Did 7 Days/Nights for $994, Including Flights!

Visiting the Galapagos is a dream for most and I honestly didn’t think I would ever make it there as it is known to be extremely expensive. Due to it’s remote and isolated nature of the Galapagos, as well as its endemic animal species which aren’t found anywhere else in the world, it’s clear why this is such a sought after destination.

Visiting the Galapagos is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and one that people usually plan for years in advance. But I decided to go on a whim and got my plane tickets less than 3 weeks before. Because that’s how I roll.

how to do the Galapagos on the cheap

In all honesty, I wanted to see if I could challenge myself to do this destination for under $1000, without a cruise, just on my own. And when I found out I could use miles to fly there, I was sold.

The entire trip ended up costing me $994 total, true story (I even surprised myself). But I was determined to prove that it CAN be affordable.

So here’s how I did it…

Solo Travel the Galapagos on the Cheap

Plane Tickets

I used airline miles for this trip and I thought it was a great deal for the amount of miles it required. It required 40,000 miles roundtrip (using Mileage Plus/Star Alliance) from Washington Dulles, to Baltra Island, Galapagos. The regular ticket price is around $750 and up. I picked multi destination and flew into Baltra island and out of San Cristobal island. This worked out well since I didn’t have to waste time  (and money) backtracking back to Baltra.

Total cost: 40k miles + $88.16 in taxes

Visas/National Park Fees

The Galapagos is one of the most protected areas on earth. 97% of the islands are protected to be exact. In order to enter, you must pay a few mandatory National Park fees and for a tourist card. There is no way around these fees so make sure to bring enough cash to cover them.

how to do the Galapagos on the cheap

One of only 1,200 penguins on the Galapagos

Fees I paid to enter the Galapagos:

  • $20 for a tourist card (upon departure in Guayaquil or Quito)-they don’t tell you this and I got all the way to the gate without it. I had to run back to the check in area to get one real quick and go all the way through security. The only reason I didn’t miss my flight is because it ended up being delayed. Make sure you get your visa card BEFORE boarding your flight to the Galapagos.
  • $100 National Park fees upon entrance to the Galapagos
  • $10 to enter Isabela island ($5 for locals)

Total: $130

Accommodation

I always thought accommodation on the Galapagos would cost a fortune. But it’s the complete opposite. You can do it super cheap if you want. I saw hostels for $15/night. They also have some super fancy eco resorts that are very pricy as well. But overall, it was very affordable to stay on the islands.

I went on the cheap (ish) side and paid an average of $30 a night, including a mixture of hotels, a private room in a hostel, and an Airbnb. The standards are not as high as one might be used to, but overall it wasn’t a problem. The only problem I had was the presence of little tiny bugs (smaller than ants) that were in almost every place I stayed. I think they just have a problem with bugs being a tropical climate.

Oh and the wifi….the wifi. Wifi on the Galapagos was officially the worst wifi I had ever experienced. It hardly every worked in my room (although the hotels claimed wifi in all rooms) expect for Iguana Hotel on Isabela island. And when it did work, it was so slow you couldn’t even open anything if more than a few people were on the network. I couldn’t open any videos at all while I was there. It was kinda nice to disconnect, but at some points I really needed wifi to look stuff up so it was an annoyance for sure.

Where I stayed in the Galapagos:

Puerto Villamil, Isabela island

Hotel Iguana ($40/night).

This was the cleanest and best place I stayed in the Galapagos. It was also the only place I didn’t see many bugs and the wifi actually worked (slowly) in my room. It was the most expensive accommodation on my trip, but well worth it.

solo travel to the Galapagos on the cheap

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Hostal Vista al Mar ($30/night)

I got a private room here right near the port and good dining options. However, it wasn’t as clean as I would have liked, it had NO air conditioner (only a fan), the wifi was the worst I had experienced, and there were many bugs. I wouldn’t recommend this place honestly.

Hotel España ($30/night)

A cute little hotel with a chill lobby filled with hammocks. When I alerted them of the many bugs in my room, they sprayed it while I was out and it got rid of the problem. The staff was super nice and helpful!

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal

Airbnb San Cristobal ($18/night)

I rented a room in a huge house and was very large and spacious. It had 3 double beds and could have slept 6. It was an 8 minute walk from the main port in a quiet neighoborhood. The host gave me snorkel gear to wear to the beach, which was nice.  Oh, and it was a 5 minute walk to the airpot! The only problem was the huge black beetle bugs I found the first night. When I arrived, all the windows were open so I’m sure thats where they came from. I kept all the windows closed and only saw one more the next day. You can view the listing here

Total $206

Tours

Tours in the Galapagos are highly regulated and not every tour company will operate every day. The reason is they limit the amount of people that can visit each island to a small number per day. This prevents damage to the environment from mass tourism. I wish more places would adopt this method because you can really see how clean and well preserved the environment is over there.

how to do the Galapagos on the cheap

Tours in the Galapagos are not cheap and this is where you will spend a majority of your budget. BUT, the key is to book LAST MINUTE on arrival. DO NOT book tours online, as they are up to 3 times as much! I was quotes as much as $325 for a tour that I eventually went on for $160, by booking last minute.

It can be a little nerve wrecking getting there without any booked tours, especially ones you really want to do. But you will save a shit ton doing it this way. Don’t forget to bargain down about 20% of the asking price as well. They are more negotiable last minute.

Note: they were fully booked for my tour to Bartoleme when I inquired the day before. Apparently tho is one of the most popular tours and not every company will operate daily. I really wanted to do this tour, so I had to move my schedule around and change 2 hotel dates (which both hotels surprisingly let me do free of charge!).

Recommended Tours To Do in The Galapagos:

Bartoleme Island (day trip from Santa Cruz Island)

→(10-hour tour including pickup from hotel, breakfast, and lunch)

solo travel to the Galapagos on the cheap

This tour takes you to the infamous Pinnacle Rock lookout and to snorkel on a nearby beach on Santiago island called Sullivan Bay. It requires light hiking up to the summit for the viewpoint, but it isn’t hard at all.

  • Regular tour price in-person: $180-$200 (and up to $325 online in advance!)
  • Price I received last-minute: $160 (I found one company that offered me as low as $150, but the day didn’t work out)

Los Tuneles (day trip from Isabela Island)

→(5-6 hour tour including lunch. Usually leaves twice a day at 7:30am and 11:30am)

how to do the Galapagos on the cheap

This tour takes you to some great snorkelling spots where we saw sharks, turtles, and sea horses. It also takes you to the otherworldly Los Tuneles, underwater tunnels formed from volcanic lava. It’s like no other landscape you will ever see! We also saw blue-footed boobies here as this is a popular nesting site for this species.

  • Regular tour price in-person: $120
  • Price I received last-minute: $100

I went with the Pahoe Hoe tour company and I was really impressed! Our guide Juan Carlos was super friendly and showed us all the cool animals, including a sea horse! I would have never seen it on my own. He even went down into the caves to find sharks for us to see! Lunch was yummy chicken and yellow rice in an individual tupperware jar.

Kicker Rock (day trip from San Cristobal Island)

→(6 hours and leaves at 9am)

solo travel the Galapagos on the cheap

This tour takes you to the iconic Kicker Rock, a popular spot for viewing sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks, manta rays, and sea lions. We saw ALL these and it was incredible! From the second I jumped into the water and looked down, I saw 2 white tip sharks! If you only do one tour in the Galapagos, do the Kicker Rock. It was hands-down my favorite tour and a day I will never forget.

  • Regular tour price in-person: $100-$120
  • Price I received last-minute: $90

I went with Scuba Eden company and I highly recommended them! They have awesome/upbeat tour guides and very small group sizes. We only had 6 people in our group! They also take GoPro footage of you and give you the footage for free if you want it!

Total spent on tours: $350

Rentals

For the days I didn’t do an organized tour, I rented a bike one day on Isabela island and snorkel gear on Santa Cruz.

solo travel the Galapagos on the cheap

Galapagos “traffic”

  • Snorkel rental: $8/day in Puerto Ayora
  • Bike rental: $15/day Isabela island

total: $23

Transport

Ground transport on the islands is very cheap (although you can walk to lots of places as well). There are taxis readily available and I paid $1-$2 for each ride.

On Isabela and Santa Cruz, the boats can’t dock and you will need to take a water taxi to the boats. Each ride costs $.50-$1.

A word about ferries…

The so-called ferries are actually little speed boats they pile a bunch of people into. It wasn’t the most comfortable situation, especially when the boats are full. The sea can get choppy so make sure to take some Dramamine and sit at the back of the boat to avoid sea sickness.

Ferries between the islands cost $30 one-way. You can only travel to Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal by ferry (the only 3 inhabited islands on the Galapagos). All other island require a day trip or cruise to get to.

Note: there is no ferry between Isabela and San Cristobal. If you want to travel between these islands, you must go back to Santa Cruz first and then buy another ticket. So essentially, it would cost $60 to go from Isabela to San Cristobal and vice versa.

Buy tickets as soon as you can because they can fill up, especially in the peak season.

What I spent on transportation in the Galapagos:

  • Taxis: $10
  • Water taxis: $4
  • Ferries: $90

Total: $104

Food

How much I spent on food:

  • Dinners: $52
  • Grocery store snacks/lunch/bottled waters: $37
  • Coffee: $3.50

Total: $92.75

How I did it so cheap:

I brought 2 boxes of protein/granola bars from home which I ate for my breakfasts. I went to the local markets for lunch foods (I never sat down for lunch once, mostly due to no time…but I usually don’t eat a big lunch anyways because it makes me tired and lethargic).

I also inadvertently cut back on 2 of my usual (expensive) habits: coffee and wine. It was so hot and humid that I couldn’t drink much coffee and I was too dehydrated and hot to drink any alcohol. Being hot saved me a lot of money!

There was also one day when my awesome tour guide bought me dinner right after the tour at a local stand that only costed $2 for a fried plantain stuffed with salsa and tuna (sounds like an odd combo, but it was actually really good!)

solo travel the Galapagos on the cheap

Through my research, most online sources said that food will be your biggest expense in the Galapagos. Well, that might be true if you go to the super touristy places on the waterfront. I walked past menus where the average prices were $18-25 per dish. Oh hell no, that’s absurd!

Out of all my expenses, I spent the LEAST on food. And honestly, it’s one of the cheapest places I’ve ever eaten dinner.

The key to eating cheap in the Galapagos is to eat where the locals go. The 2 words you’re going to want to learn are ALMUERZOS and MERIENDAS.

  • Almuerzos (what it’s called at lunch time)
  • Meriendas-(what it’s called at dinner time)

This is a pre-set type of menu that the locals indulge in. It usually consists of soup, fresh juice, rice and main dish of seafood, beef, etc. One place even served dessert with it! And the greatest part is that you can have dinner or lunch for $4-$7. True story.

Where to Eat in The Galapagos:

Kiosco Voluntad de Dios (Santa Cruz): cheap eats from $4.50. I decided to order something off the more “expensive menu” and tried an awesome shrimp with coconut sauce dish (it was $9.50 and well worth it). It’s also a cool spot where you eat at big community tables.

I met some really cool Austrian traveler’s this way. They offered me a bite of fresh fish they had ordered, and it was one of the best fresh fish I ever tried! It was so meaty and huge so definitely try the fish here if you want to splurge on a great meal.

Encanto de la Pepa (Isabela island): it’s on the main strip but super cheap and had a cute little vibe. They offered a $7 set menu consisting of soup, papaya juice, choice of one main (fish, beef, calamari,etc) and one side (rice, salad, fries), plus banana cake. I ordered the calamari in coconut sauce and it was delicious.

Lucky’s (San Cristobal): the cheapest dinner I had in the Galapagos for $4. Included is juice, chicken and veggie soup, chicken or beef and rice, and salad. I couldn’t believe I had all that for dinner for only $4! Ecuador for the win!

Free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos:

Santa Cruz island

  • Charles Darwin Research Station (free)-learn more about the amazing ecosystem of the Galapagos and Darwin’s impact left on it. There is also a turtle center and some colourful iguanas to see.
  • Tortuga Bay (free)-a beautiful bay to relax at or swim/snorkel in. It requires a 40 (ish) minute walk to get to. There are boats that can take you there too if you are too lazy to walk. When you get there, walk 15 minutes to the right for a place to swim and snorkel. Along the way, you will see a gorgeous blue/green wading pool that is very picturesque. They should really call this Iguana bay because you literally will see hundreds of iguanas on the beach and in the water.
solo travel to the Galapagos on the cheap

The gorgeous little lagoon on the way to Tortuga Bay

  • Las Grietas(free-ish)-the taxi is $1.60 round trip to get there, hence the “ish”. It’s a great place to snorkel and cool off. It is also the clearest water I saw in the Galapagos. Las Grietas is regulated by an attendant and you must sign in upon arrival. You have a limit of 40 minutes and they allow only up to 48 people max at a time.

Isabela island

  • Self-guided bike tour ($15/day)-rent a bike and go along the path to the Wall of Tears. It takes about an hour to get to, and there are many awesome spots on the way to stop off. Try to go early in the morning to beat the heat, because the last 1-2km is going uphill and it’s not fun in the heat (trust me). Make your stops on the way back.
  • Wall of Tears (free)-the wall of tears was constructed by prisoners in the penal colony, many of whom died during the construction due to harsh conditions of being in the heat all day. The wall was left there as a testament to these people and to highlight the abuse of power.
  • El Estero (free)– a little estaury leading to the ocean covered by trees, mangroves, and a little creek. I was the only one there and really enjoyed walking through the creek in the shade. It’s a beautiful setting.

solo travel the Galapagos on the cheap

  • Playa del Amor (free)-here you will see a little natural wading pool surrounded by lava rocks and the ocean in the backdrop. If you’re lucky, you will be joined for a bath with a marine iguana.

solo travel the Galapagos on the cheap

  • Las Salinas (free)-a lagoon that is frequented by pink Flamingos. They weren’t out when I went unfortunately, but it wouldn’t hurt to stop by on your way back to town to check!
  • Concha la Perla (free)-a place to snorkel near the port and has many sea lions and sometimes penguins/manta rays. I didn’t see penguins or manta rays, but I did see a bunch of sea lions.

San Cristobal island (all free activities)

  • Cerro Tijeretas Hill-about 15-20 minutes past the Interpretation Center you will come up to Cerro Tijeretas Hill with a great lookout point over the island. This is also a major breeding ground for Frigate birds so keep an eye out! On the bottom of the hill there is a little cove where several sea lions are laying around on the rocks and swimming. The water is super blue/green and gorgeous and it’s worth a snorkel.
  • Punta Carola-if you follow the trail back to town you will come to Punta Carola beach, which has a little lighthouse on the lava rocks. This is where I saw a mini baby sea lion laying on the sand alone and I almost died! I want to take it home with me, it was so stinking cute.
  • Playa Mann beach-a small local beach that’s nothing special, but its super close to town so it’s a nice place to go to cool off real quick.
  • La Liberia-a more secluded beach about a 40 minute walk from town. The little bay is filled with black lava rocks and is a popular place for sea lions and iguanas. I saw many sea lions playing in the shallow waters and rolling around in the sand. Go here if you want an up close encounter with sea lions!
  • Interpretation Center(about a 20 minute walk from town)-sorta like the Charles Darwin center but different. I stopped in here on my way up to Cerro Tijeretas Hill and learned a lot about the Galapagos. I didn’t have time to go through the full center, but it’s definitely worth stopping by if you’re walking up to the hill anyway!

Summary of Costs in the Galapagos

  • Airline tickets $88
  • Visas/National Park Fees $130
  • Accommodation $206
  • Tours $350
  • Food $93
  • Rentals $23
  • Transportation $104

Grand total of $994

Other Things to Note About the Galapagos

  • Ecuador uses the dollar
  • Ecuador uses the same outlets and voltage as the U.S., meaning no need for a convertor/adaptor
  • They charge an absurd amount of interest in credit card purchases so try to pay cash
  • There are ATMs on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal but none on Isabela island (try to bring cash because sometimes the machines are empty)
  • Wifi is virtually non-existent so expect to be “disconnected” during your time there. Some hotels have wifi but in my experience it never worked in the room and only in the lobby. If more than a few people were on at the same time or didn’t work. When it did work it was slower than dial up internet and I couldn’t watch any video of any type, couldn’t view Snapchat, etc. It was ok for sending WhatsApp messages
  • It’s hot AF (the islands are located right around the equator after all) so re-apply sunscreen every few hours. I got burnt bad and I re-applied about 5 times a day
  • Bring bug spray or repellent bracelets (I got eaten alive)
  • Don’t feed or touch the animals…just don’t (please practice responsible tourism)
  • They charge 22% credit card fees to book tours! Wtf

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solo travel to the Galapagos on the cheap

how to do the Galapagos on the cheap

Have you been to the Galapagos? Were you able to do it on a reasonable budget? If you can add any budget tips, please do!

Light Packer Essential Travel Gear (How To Pack Light AF)

Light Packer Essential Travel Gear (How To Pack Light AF)

I used to be the world’s worst packer, basically trying to fit my whole life into my suitcase for a one week trip. Oh how the times have changed. I have learned to simplify to the max and now ONLY travel with a carry-on, even on 1-2 month trips. It’s not easy (and it’s not for everyone, I get it), but I seem to have worked out a method using some key travel gear to help me to travel light.

The last thing I want to do is struggle with huge bags dragging over cobblestone streets in Europe or dirt roads in Africa. Oh, and those hefty checked bag fees for budget airlines? #Fuggedaboutit #aintnobodygottimeforthat

Below are the only bags I take with me on my travels: a small backpack and a spinner carry-on. (Oh, and my pillow). That’s it! There’s a lot of shit in there, trust me…♥

travel light gear

Light Packer Essential Travel Gear

(P.S. Click on the product photos for more info)

Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera: I made the switch from my huge DSLR and I wouldn’t go back. It’s light, compact, and takes amazing photos!

Sony 10-18mm Wide Angle Zoom Lens: this wide angle lens is the key to landscape shots. It basically takes a panoramic photo. I use this lens more than the original factory lens and am super happy with it. It’s not cheap, but super worth it if you want to get those special outdoor nature shots. Honestly, I would purchase the Sony alpha 6000 camera body only and save up for this lens to go with it.

The gorgeous seaside of Cascais

Both shot with my wide-angle lens. Look how much of the landscape fits in the frame!

the unique landscape of Meteora

E Bags Packing Cubes: the biggest life changer to keep me packing light! This is my biggest travel gear obsession and I have NO idea how I traveled without them before.

Eagle Creek Compression Packing Cubes: These are my new editions to my packing gear and I’m obsessed. Once you pack them full, you can zip then down further to compress the cubes. You have no idea how much stuff you can fit in these cubes, it’s amazing!

 

Skyroam Mobile Hotspot Device: How did I travel without this before? This mini hotspot is portable and gives you access to wifi wherever you are, and works in 100+ countries. Skyroam saved my life during my recent road trip through New Zealand, allowing me access to my Google maps for navigation. The way it works: you can either rent or buy the hotspot device, and then you buy 24 hour day passes. This gives you unlimited wifi for 24 hours, no need to worry about using all your data! This is going to revolutionize travel, just wait and see! ♥

♥Oh, and until April 7, you can get 15% OFF by using the code: CONNECTED15♥

Skyroam mobile hotspot device

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light packer travel essentials

The many times my Skyroam came in handy in New Zealand!

DJI Mavic Pro Drone: I mean, who doesn’t want a drone? It’s the hottest new tech gadget for 2017! It’s not cheap, but it’s totally worth it. If you’re going to get a drone, this one is the best for transporting as its SUPER compact (the size of a water bottle basically) and pretty light. This fits in my backpack which I have outline below, along with ALL my other gadgets including the drone remote, camera, extra lenses, GoPro’s, tripod, and more!

LifeProof NUUD Waterproof Case (iPhone 6): this helps protect my phone from water, sand, dirt, and the numerous drops that incur while I travel. I love it!

GoPro Hero 4 Session: I am a proud GoPro ambassador and obsessed with GoPro selfie pics if you didn’t notice! (I have recently upgrade to the 5, but this is the one I used in all my travel photos from 2016). It’s super small, compact, and easy to travel with. Plus it’s so much fun to use! 🙂

light packer essential travel gear

These were both shot with my GoPro Hero 4 Session. Notice how GoPro’s signature fish-eye lens gets everything in?

light packer essential travel gear

GoPro Hero 5 Session: My newest addition and I’m already obsessed. The quality of pictures is noticeably better and it’s voice controlled activated! How cool is that?

The first shot is a completely unedited underwater shot I took recently in the Galapagos. Look how clear it is!

Gopro Hero 5 Session underwater

Gopro Hero 5 Session light packer essential travel gear

Joby GorillaPod Tripod: This little bendable tripod is awesome. You can bend and mold it to fit around small things/objects wherever you may be. I mostly use it with my GoPro to wrap around the branch of a tree or a railing (as I did in the pic below). This allows me to go hands-free and get photos of myself when I’m traveling alone. It’s super lightweight and small so it easily fits in my little travel backpack with all my other gear.

 

Laptop/Accessory Backpack: This is the best travel backpack ever! I literally fit ALL my tech & camera gear in here, including my MacBook Air, camera, extra wide angle lens, GoPro, all GoPro accessories, selfie stick, travel tripod, all my cords, chargers, converters, extra SD cards, and even my new Mavic Pro drone with remote and charger! Not only does it fit all my cool gadgets, it’s super thin and when it’s on my back, even budget airlines skip weighing it because it looks so small. Little do they know that it weighs more than my actual suitcase. Oh, and the best part? It has a pouch on the back that slides onto your suitcase handle so you don’t even have to carry it. #score

External Hard Drive (My Passport): This super lightweight external hard drive is perfect for backing up all my thousands of photos I take each trip. I’ve had mine for almost 3 years now and it’s nowhere near full. The 2TB of memory will last you quite a long time!

Hanging Toiletry Bag (small): I can’t tell you how helpful this little toiletry bag is, especially when staying at an Airbnb and I have to share a bathroom. I throw all my face creams, face wash, soap, etc in here and hang it up on a hook and have everything easily accessible.

Moldable silicon earplugs: I am the world’s lightest sleeper so ear plugs are a MUST, especially with those thin walls in Europe and Africa. These are the best ones I’ve found and they block out a lot of noise. The key is to only use them for 2-3 days and then get some fresh ones so they suction to your ears.

GoToob Non-leak Silicone 3oz. Travel Tubes: these are by far the BEST travel size bottles out there, period. I’ve tried so many, believe me. I used to buy the 3-pack of travel size tubes at Target on every trip, but they would leak every damn time. Not to mention the bottles would warp and I would have to buy a new set for each trip. I’ve had these GoToob bottles for 3 years and they have never once leaked or broken. They are SO worth it!

X-Shot Selfie Stick (I use w/ my GoPro): I’ve used this selfie stick for the past 2 years and I love it! It’s not bulky like most other selfie sticks and it’s super lightweight and folds up small. And it’s NOT flimsy. I use it daily on my travels.

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used before on my own and that I truly love 🙂

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Light packer travel essentials!

What to Do in Cape Town: 6 Can’t Miss Activities

What to Do in Cape Town: 6 Can’t Miss Activities

Cape Town is one of the greatest cities in the entire world. Bold statement, but absolutely true. I have never met someone who didn’t like it and the hype it gets it truly deserves.

My expectations were high, and surprisingly I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, Cape Town blew me out of the water and the bar has been set very high. My only disappointment was that we only stayed there 5 days. I could have stayed for weeks!

Cape Town has everything your imagined ideal city would have: natural beauty of the mountains and beaches, vibrant city life, some of the best wines in the world, reasonable prices, and endless high quality food.

Cape Town quickly became one of my top 3 favorite cities in the world, along with Rome and Istanbul.

So what to do in Cape Town? I could write a book about it, but here are my top pics:

What to do in Cape Town

1. Take a Hike

what to do in Cape Town

Cape Town is for fitness and nature lovers. Hike both Table Mountain or Lion’s Head in a matter of hours with a spectacular view along every step of the way

what to do in Cape Town

We hiked Lion’s Head during golden hour and it was spectacular. You could see the entire city, Table Mountain, and Camp’s Bay in the distance.

what to do in Cape Town

View of Table Mountain on the hike up to Lion’s Head

We didn’t have time to do the Table Mountain hike unfortunately, so we took the cable car instead. The panoramic views over the coastline and city are spectacular.

what to do in Cape Town

2. Grab a Bite to Eat

Hold crap! I wasn’t expecting Cape Town to have such great food! I can honestly say in terms of quality, Cape Town had the most consistently good food out of any country I had ever been!

There are 2 open air markets that you can’t miss on your trip to Cape Town: Hout Bay and Old Biscuit Mill.

Where to eat in Cape Town

The Hout Bay Market (officially called Bay Harbor Market) runs Friday through Sunday and is the place to be on the weekends for good food and live music. Food and specialty shops line the cozy inside market and one could spend hours there. Make sure to go on an empty stomach because there is so much to try!! (There were also many gluten free options for those with allergies like me).

Where to eat in Cape Town

Tip: try the Springbok meat, it’s just like beef but a little sweeter. The springbok is the national bird of South Africa so a nice way to taste the local flavors.

Where to eat in Cape Town

Another favorite is the Old Biscuit Mill that’s only on Saturday mornings. This is another open air market with endless vendors offering a variety of foods. This was probably my favorite food experience in Cape Town, most likely because I found a number of gluten free tables offering delicate treats to satiate my cravings. It’s also another cool hangout spot!

what to do in Cape Town

Gluten free pastry..aka heaven in my mouth 🙂

Bombay Bicycle-order the Choco chili steak (signature dish that’s not on the menu). This was seriously one of the best meals of my life, if not the best. It sounds like a weird combo, but the flavors perfectly complemented the melt-in-your-mouth juicy steak. It was the most tender steak I’d ever tasted and I could have died a happy girl after my last bite. It’s that good. The restaurant also had a great ambiance and intimate setting.

Tip: you must make a reservation in advance as it’s a very popular place!

Bacini’s for pizza-right across from Bombay bicycle is Bacini’s. It’s nothing fancy inside, this is more of a local spot. The pizza was outstanding and they even had gluten free crusts! Avocado on pizza is a thing in Cape Town and it was friggin’ amazing! I’m hooked and now I’m always going to expect avo on my pizza wherever I go.

→An added bonus: we ran into Davos from Game of Thrones here! For extreme fanatics of the show, this made our whole trip!

Tiger’s Milk-another great restaurant downtown with that had the best gluten free leg of lamb pizza with a dallop of hummus and feta. Omg was it good.

V&A Market on the Wharf –this was the 3rd market we went to in Cape Town and it didn’t disappoint! It was great for fruit juices, shakes, pastries, and also lactose free froyo!

3. Take a Road Trip Down the Coast

what to do in Cape Town

The plunging coastlines around Cape Town are nothing short of spectacular. You can’t leave without getting to explore the area on a road trip! Drive down the Cape Peninsula all the way down to Penguin Beach. If you have time, stop in Muizenberg Beach to photograph the row of colorful beach shacks.

what to do in Cape Town

Penguin heaven 😉

If you have even more time, make sure to head down to Hermanus, a quint little seaside town a 2-hr drive from Cape Town, known for whale watching and shark tank diving in its neighbor city Gansbaii.

what to do in Cape Town

How pretty is Hermanus??

On the way back to Cape Town, drive along False bay, which I thought was prettier than the actual Cape Peninsula honestly.

Tip: on your drive back from Hermanus, stop at Betty’s Bay, the less-touristy version of Penguin Beach. There was hardly anyone there when we went and we got up close and personal with the little guys!  The cost is 10 rand for a parking permit but no one was there to enforce it.

what to do in Cape Town

4. View Cape Town from Above

One of my favorite things to do in a new city is get an epic aerial view. No view can get more epic than from a helicopter! We had 360 degrees of unobstructed views of the beautiful city, coast lines, beaches, peaks, and mountains. It was absolutely breathtaking.

what to do in Cape Town

Unedited GoPro pic from the helicoptor

We decided to go with NAC Helicopters for our flight over Cape Town, mainly due their almost perfect reviews as well as their impeccable safety record (100% accident-fee). The perfect safety record alone is a deciding factor when it comes to putting my life into someone else’s hands in the air.

what to do in Cape Town

NAC Helicopters also offers tailored destination flights, so if you really want to ball out and show up somewhere in style, this would be a fun thing to splurge on!

The staff was super professional and kind, and I felt safe from the minute I walked into the door greeted by their warm smiles.

Tip: make sure to schedule the helicopter tour early in the trip in case of cancellations due to weather. We actually had our first flight cancelled so ended up re-scheduling it on our last day luckily.

What to do in Cape Town

5. Hop On Hop off Bus (seriously)

I never in a million years thought I would recommend a “touristy” Hop on Hop off Bus, but this is definitely an exception! The public transportation in Cape Town and vicinity is not that great so this is actually a great way to see all that Cape Town has to offer! You can buy a one-day pass for around $12 and a 2-day pass for around $20.

Kirstenbosch gardens

Spellbound in the enchanted forest inside Kirstenbosch gardens

The Hop on Hop Off bus has 3 different color-coded routes and I recommend all 3 if you have time! It’s no surprise my favorite was the purple route since this was the wine route!

what to do in Cape Town

Camp’s Bay-what I called the Malibu of Cape Town

If you’re short on time like we were, we only had a day to do the bus tour. Our favorite can’t miss stops included:

  • Kirstenbosch Gardens
  • Camp’s bay
  • Purple wine route (the entire thing)
  • Table Mountain
  • Hout Bay

6. Drink World Class Wine

South Africa is known for its Pinotage red blend, distinctive to this area of the globe. Make sure you try a glass (or 5) of this delicious red wine, as this blend is not grown anywhere else in the world!

what to do in Cape Town

There are SO many vineyards within an hour or so drive from Cape Town and I recommend spending an entire day in Stellenbosch, and if you have time Franchoek as well.

what to do in Cape Town

The wine tasting crew! Carebear Abroad and I, along with our friend Nick, who lives in Cape Town. We met Nick on our 12-day Turkey trip 2 years before. #travelfriends

Our favorite winery was Vergelegen Estate. The property grounds were impeccably gorgeous and the staff was extremely interactive and fun. Oh, and apparently you can have a picnic in the camphor forest, which sounds amazing! Unfortunately it was closed when we went, but if you end up going, please let me know how it is!

 

If you’re planning what to do in Cape Town, hopefully these 6 recommendations are at the top of your list! There is so much more to discover in this unique city and we only just cracked the tip of the iceberg.

I cannot wait to get back to Cape Town and stay longer next time to enjoy more of the local life. Until then, I’ll keep dreaming about it. ♥

 

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what to do in Cape Town

Disclaimer: I was a guest of NAC Helicopters. However, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to leave positive feedback. I thought the helicopter tour was awesome and the best way to see the city!

Have you Been To Cape Town? What were Your Highlights? Did I miss Anything? Do tell! ♥

Top 4 MUST-DO Adventure Activities in Victoria Falls (+ VIDEO)

Top 4 MUST-DO Adventure Activities in Victoria Falls (+ VIDEO)

Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It’s also rated as the biggest waterfall in the world (based on combined width of 5,604 ft and height of 354 ft.).

Victoria Falls goes by the nickname “the Smoke that Thunders”. After my first glimpse of the falls, no explanation was needed as to how it got that nickname. The power of the falls is overwhelming.

But who knew Victoria Falls was so big on adventure activities? I sure as hell didn’t. I thought it was just a big epic waterfall honestly. But no, there is so much more! It’s like a mini adventure capital of the world! Adrenaline junkies, take note!

So, what to do in Victoria Falls? A crap load!!! Here is a quick video recap taken from my YouTube channel. (In case you don’t want to read and just want to watch a video).

From the numerous high wire activities on the Zimbabwe side such as gorge swinging, zip-lining, bungee jumping, the flying fox, to the microlight and Devil’s pool activities on the Zambia side, you most certainly will not be bored with the endless amount of adventure activities in Victoria Falls.

With only 2.5 days there, we decided to pack as much in as we could. Here are the top 4 adventure activities in Victoria Falls that you must do!

What to Do in Victoria Falls

1. Microlight Flight (best activity of my life, no joke.)

So what exactly is a microlight flight? A microlight flight is basically like a hang-glider but with a motorized engine. That’s the best way I can describe it. It fits one person at a time and it’s just you and the pilot.

Livingstone’s Adventure is the company we went with, who subcontracts out to Batoka Sky. Batoka Sky prides itself on its 100% safety record since opening in 1993. Meaning, no one had ever died during their flights!!!

Adventure Activities in Victoria Falls: Microlight Flight

The pilots also have the most flying hours out of anyone in the world. After learning that, my fears gradually subsided. Flights start at $155, which isn’t cheap. But where else in the world can you fly over the biggest waterfalls in the world in a tiny little motorized hang-glider thingy? The answer is nowhere!

Their signature flight is called “Flight of the Angels”, and rightfully so! If I could describe my experience in one word, it would be HEAVENLY.

While I was up in the air and the pilot was asking me how I felt, I had an unexpected moment. I burst into tears, I couldn’t even answer him. And I don’t mean just tears filling my eyes, I mean uncontrollable balling. For those that know me, I hate crying, I won’t ever show it and I like to remain calm and collected. But this time, it was out of my control and I just let myself feel it. Sometimes we just need to let ourselves FEEL! ♥

I wasn’t expecting to be that overwhelmed by emotions, but the power and beauty of mother nature overcame me. As I was soaring over the falls, there was a stillness, a silence. Despite the loud engine and wind blowing in my ears, I didn’t hear anything. It was as if someone picked up a controller and put the world on mute. The power of the falls showed themselves and I felt so small in the world.

On the way back, we saw elephants grazing in the water and a heard of buffalo traversing the land. It’s EXACTLY what I envisioned Africa to be. A land that is wild and free, and more radiating than anything I had ever seen. 

If you do ONE activity in Victoria Falls, please make it the MicroLight Flight!!

2. Flying fox

(I like to call it Superman) since you’re strapped in face down and your arms and legs are free to soar through the air. When I got to the platform, the guide said nonchalantly, “just run and jump off”. WHAT?! Had I known about this before I might have chickened out. But once you’re up there it’s too late and you’re too deep in it to back down.

Victoria Falls Activities: Flying fox

He counted down from 5 and away I went! I catapulted into the air and over the canyon gorge. For someone afraid of heights, my heart was racing but the adrenaline kicked in and I relaxed slightly for the ride. Once you’re done, they let you sit there for a minute and you have time to take in exactly where you are. Dangling over a 100 meter drop, no worries, right? It was quick, but incredible! (TWSS?) 🙂

3. Gorge Swing

The gorge swing is similar to a bungee jump but there is no buoyancy in the rope so you basically swing back and forth. I don’t ever like to recommend something I didn’t experience personally, but I was with my travel partner Carebear Abroad who did it simultaneously as I was doing the Flying fox and she highly recommends it! I remember seeing her face when she came back and she could barely speak she was so hyped on adrenaline. She even told me it might even be scarier than bungee jumping! I think her face in the photo below explains everything, haha. 

3. Devil’s Pool

The Devil’s pool is a little pool directly on top of the falls where you can swim and sit on the ledge of the actual falls. Think infinity pool…with a 355 foot drop. No big deal!

There is nowhere else in the world like it and it’s something you don’t want to miss. In fact, this was our main reason for visiting Victoria Falls! It was I-N-S-A-N-E! I have no idea how we didn’t fall off the ledge, it was unbelievable!

The Devil’s Pool must be reserved days in advance. We had no idea and were told it was fully booked the 2 days we were there. We were super bummed until we were told there were spots at 7:30am with Tongabezi Tours on the day of our departure. Our flight was not until 1pm so we jumped on the opportunity. Plunging into that frigid water that early in the morning definitely woke us up! It was a kick of energy we definitely needed as exhaustion was kicking in at this point. Who needs coffee after that?

Somewhere, over the rainbowwww🎶 #victoriafalls #zambia #devilspool #goprogirl #gopro #adventuregirls

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We arrived to the airport with wet hair and probably didn’t smell the best after being in that water. But what we took with us are memories that will last a lifetime. Worth it 100%!!!

The staff is awesome and were doing backflips into the little pool on top of the falls. A little crazy if you ask me, but they seemed to have a lot of experience with it! They were also great with taking lots of pictures for us with our phones and keeping them nice and dry. They gave us a mini photo shoot up there and we were eating it up!

An added bonus was the luxurious breakfast we were served. I wasn’t expecting that given that we were on a tiny island with nothing around. On the menu was eggs benedict, coffee, biscuits, and scones.

The tour is pricy at $90 but don’t let that deter you. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat if I could! Yes, it’s completely worth the $90 if you’re wondering.

Note: only do this activity if you can swim against a moderate current. To get to the pool, you must walk across slippery rocks and swim through deep parts of the falls against a moderate current. Water shoes with traction would have been helpful as well. Do people still wear those?

So…Should You Visit Victoria Falls?

HELL YES!!!

If you’re even thinking about going to Victoria Falls and wondering if it’s worth it, let me tell you that it completely blew me away and quite frankly I think it’s underrated AF. My only regret is not spending an extra day there.

I recently spent some time in Queenstown, New Zealand, the “adventure capital of the world”, and honestly Victoria Falls gives it a run for the money when it comes to unique adventure activities on offer.

If Victoria Falls wasn’t on your radar before, hopefully I have convinced you to check it out! Stay tuned for another post soon detailing all you need to know about traveling to Victoria Falls.

Have you been to Victoria Falls? What was your Favorite Activity? Do Tell!

Note: Carey and I were guests of Livingstone’s Adventure/Bakota Sky for our MicroLight Flight. My opinions, however, remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and was completely life-changing. I would highly recommend this company! All other activities mentioned were paid for in full on our own. ♥

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What to do in Victoria Falls

What to do in Victoria Falls

What to Expect on Your First Safari in Kruger National Park

What to Expect on Your First Safari in Kruger National Park

Who doesn’t have “doing a safari in Africa” on their bucket list? This girl sure did! I have always dreamt about doing a safari, since I was young. In fact, it was at the very TOP of my bucket list. However, this dream never seemed like a reality as I was always told safaris cost like 5 grand. WRONG!

If you’re not too high maintenance and don’t mind “roughing it” a little (and by roughing it I mean glamping), they can totally be affordable for most budgets!

As my friend CareBear Abroad and I would be in South Africa, we really wanted to visit Kruger National Park, the biggest safari park in South Africa!

Searching for a tour company can be extremely overwhelming because there are SO many tours in Kruger National Park. The one thing we did know is that we wanted a safari with a SMALL group size for a more personalised experience. This is a once-in-a-lifetime-experience and we wanted it to be perfect!

We found a tour company called Africa Spear Safaris that offered small group safaris. It got great reviews and had a very reasonable price. Bingo! We chose the 4day/3night option with a pickup from Johannesburg.

I think I can speak for Carey as well and say this was one of the best experiences of our lives! NOTHING can compare with being in the wild in Africa on a safari!

Note: Please don’t go on a safari unless you have a nice zoom lens. I made the mistake and have literally no good pics to show from it. Thankfully, my travel partner Carebear Abroad was with me on this trip and she was able to supply most of the wildlife pics for this article (as marked). Thank you Carey!!! ♥

Kruger National Park Safari

 

So, What Exactly do you DO on a Safari?

This may sound stupid, but I have always wondered what you do all day on a safari. Well, I can tell you that you go out searching for animals on a game drive LITERALLY ALL DAY LONG!

Our mornings started at about 5am with a small pre-brekkie snack and coffee at 5:45am. I am so NOT a morning person and nothing can get me out of bed at 5am…except animals! I love animals to death. Maybe even more that people. Is that bad? 

 

The first morning game drive starts at 6am sharp, prime time for large feline viewing! After brekkie, you embark on another game drive in the afternoon, followed by lunch and then a final late afternoon game drive.

Dinner usually commences at 7 or 8 and then it’s time to pass out. It was an exhausting schedule, but 100% worth it. The adrenaline and excitement kept us awake all day! That and coffee…lot’s of it!

The first night we had a BBQ dinner with choice of steak, chicken, or pork. It was really tasty and we were were even offered seconds!

We brought our own wine into the safari camps, which saved us money. I recommend stocking up if you plan to engage in consuming any alcohol (and I fully support this action ♥).

Does a Small Group Size Really Make a Difference?

OMG, HELL YES it does! Carey and I were accompanied by a lovely British family of 3, making a total of only 5 people in our vehicle. I cannot tell you how much of a difference this made! We were really able to bond with this family and now have some new friends in the UK!

Kruger National Park Safari

Our small safari crew and awesome guide Dave. We miss you guys!!

As we were driving through Kruger, we saw so many other bigger safari vehicles jam packed with people. The people in the middle had a crappy view and couldn’t really get in position for great photos. I am SO glad we chose the smaller group as it made the experience so much more memorable!

Are you in Danger During a Safari?

A traditional safari vehicle is an open vehicle, meaning the sides and sometimes the top are fully open and exposed. The guide will explain to you on day one to avoid loud noises, sudden movements, or sticking any body part outside of the vehicle as wild animals can see this as a threat.

So really, you aren’t guaranteed full safety, but don’t let that deter you. Nothing is guaranteed in life. They take out 100’s of vehicles daily and the chance of something bad happening is slim. Just follow your guide’s precautions and you will be fine! The fear of a dangerous animal encounter is half the thrill! Trust me on this one.

What Kind of Close Animal Encounters Did We Experience?

Here is s quick clip straight from my iPhone that I put on IG, just to give you a little idea of what you will see…

Our first morning started out with a sunrise over the dewy/foggy land. Out of nowhere, the mysterious elephants appeared in the distance. It was so eerie and beautiful, it’s something I will never forget!

The scariest part was when one huge bull elephant came within 10 feet of our vehicle, stopped and stared us down for a good 5 seconds, and then went on his way. I’m not going to lie, I was trembling as I realised the power of this humungous being weighing a few tons. At any moment he could have charged and trampled us.

Kruger National Park Safari

Photo by @CarebearAbroad

The most thrilling animal encounter came when we spotted a pack of lions and adorable (yet ferocious) baby cubs. There were about 4 lionesses and 6 cubs laying around being lazy.

We stayed for awhile until they started to get up and attempted to cross the street. At this point, there were about 15 other vehicles at this spot trying to get a better glimpse.

Kruger National Park Safari

My favorite safari photo shot by @CarebearAbroad

We had a prime location on the road and the lions started to cross RIGHT beside our vehicle. They literally came within 2 inches of the car. At any point, they could have jumped up and mauled us to death and my heart was racing like I had never experienced before.

We were able to see the whole pack of lions cross with a front row seat! Our guide Dave said that in 30 years that was the second best lion encounter he has ever witnessed.

The thrill and adrenaline that runs through your veins when you’re up close and personal with a deadly wild animal is the most exciting thing I have ever experienced in my life. It’s something hard to explain and you would only understand once it happens to you! It gives me goosebumps just thinking of it.♥

What kind of animals do you see at Kruger National Park?

A shit ton! Here is a list of animals we saw:

  • impalas
  • steinbock
  • elephants
  • giraffes
  • rhinos
  • leopards
  • lions
  • birds
  • hippos
  • crocodiles
  • mongoose
  • water bucks
  • kudu
  • warthogs
  • monkeys
  • baboons
  • wildebeests
  • vultures
  • hyenas

What is the Big 5?

The coveted big 5 consists of the elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard. This is why most people go on safaris, to see the prized big 5!

Kruger National Park Safari

Photo by @CarebearAbroad

How Likely Are you to See the Big 5?

You are never guaranteed to see the Big 5 quite honestly. But I’d say you have a good chance in Kruger. We were lucky enough to see the big 5 twice! We actually saw the big 5 on one single game drive in the afternoon. It was incredible!

Kruger National Park Safari

Photo by @CarebearAbroad

“Oh my God, oh my God, go back, go back…..leopard…in..tree”.

I could barely speak as I saw this beautiful creature lounging high up in the tree. The above photo is of the leopard I spotted with my own eyes after we were eagerly searching for the last of the Big 5 animals.

At one point I thought we might not get to see one as the leopard is the most elusive and difficult to spot out of all the Big 5. My crazy cat lady instincts kicked in big time and of course I would be the one to spot this gorgeous large cat. #catwhisperer ♥

What Should You Wear During a Safari?

We had our safari in August, which is technically their summer. Winter is their dry season, and we were told by our guide that August and September were the best months to visit Kruger National Park.

Anyway, winter in South Africa means frigid mornings and evenings and very hot afternoons. I would definitely recommend bringing a jacket, hat, gloves, wool socks. It was also a little windy when were were driving, adding to the cold.

We always brought a change of clothes for the afternoon as it got super hot. You will have time to change during lunch hour so keep that in mind! We were bundled up for winter in the mornings and evenings, and in tank tops and shorts in the afternoons.

You also want to keep in mind that you will want to wear something comfy as you will be sitting in a vehicle literally all day. I wore my gym pants/leggings every day and it worked out perfect. When it comes to safaris, comfort definitely wins over style!

Note: you definitely want to bring some bug spray and/or mosquito repellant bracelets for your safari. I didn’t want to take malaria pills due to the possible side effects (personal choice) so I made sure I covered myself from getting eaten alive. I used a combo of natural bug spray and bracelets. I also do NOT like Deet chemicals so I went with the natural alternatives which worked out excellent! I didn’t get ANY mosquito bites on my entire 4-day safari so I highly recommend the below products I used.

Is Kruger National Park too Touristy?

Yes and no. But for the most part no. Let me explain. At some points, especially with the lion viewings, there were way too may vehicles there than we would have liked. Our guide Dave informed us that there are even FaceBook group dedicated to spotting the big cats (lions and leopards). With real time updates, these vehicles were able to get to the scene very quickly. But half the fun of a safari is spotting the animals on your own! So I don’t get it.

Kruger National Park Safari

Photo by @CarebearAbroad

On the other hand, the fact that there are daily vehicles cruising through the park, the animals are used to the noise of the engines. Therefore, they never get scared away and you can view them in their natural habitat! A huge plus! I would also assume they are less likely to attack humans due to this, but hey, that’s just my opinion.

What are the Accommodations Like?

Let me start by saying I am SO not a camper. It doesn’t mean i’m high maintenance. It just means I like electricity and NO bugs. So I knew this would be a challenge for me.

Have you heard of glamping? Welp, this was kinda like that and it ended up being not that bad! We were able to try out 3 different accommodation types on this safari.

1.Simple “tent cabin”: this was basically like a little hut with 2 beds, a fridge, and a small dresser, and thats about it! The communal bathrooms/showers were about a 50 meter walk from our place. It was scary at night and we were warned of possible monkeys and/or hyenas, so once it got dark, we decided to hold it until the morning.

 

2.Cabin with ensuite bathroom: this was definitely the best of the 3 and consisted of 3 single beds, a fridge, and in-house bathroom and shower. It also had the most space of the 3.

Kruger National Park Safari3. Cute little circular cabin: this was very similar to the first cabin, with the exception of a sink inside the room. It was very small and cramped so minimal luggage is recommended!

Kruger National Park Safari

Note: most the cabins had only one or 2 outlets, so keep that in mind if you have a lot of electronics to charge. In the last cabin, there was only ONE outlet so we had to share, which really sucked seeing as we both had our phones, cameras, Gopro’s, and extra power banks to charge. We made it work, but barely!

I have been using the Jackery dual power bank for the past year and it was a total lifesaver on this trip! It has 2 USB ports to charge and it charged my iPhone and camera batteries at least 3 full charges each. This power bank is slightly heavier than I would like it to be, but it’s by far the BEST I’ve ever used and a must have for my travels.

*You also have the option to upgrade accommodations so make sure to check when booking your safari!

The Importance of a Great Safari Guide

Iv’e said this many times before: a tour guide can really make or break a tour! We got lucky with the BEST guide named Dave.

He had been a park ranger for 25+ years and his passion for it seeped through his skin. A plus was that he knew a bunch of secret spots for viewings and never let us down!

Kruger National Park Safari

Photo by @CarebearAbroad

He was highly engaged with us and always made sure were were comfortable and having a good time. He had a soft demeanour and was the nicest guy! We miss you Dave!

He was constantly informing of us animal behaviours, pointing out each and every bird species, and telling us some crazy stories. If you happen to get a tour guide named Dave, please ask him about the elephant whisperer story! Pretty creepy!

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • small group size (5 total)
  • private transport all the way from Johannesburg
  • our awesome guide Dave
  • 3 game drives a day
  • high chance of seeing the big 5 (we saw them twice!)
  • BBQ dinner was great
  • thrilling animal encounters
  • accommodations were basic, but much better than sleeping in a zip-up tent!

Cons

  • not many gluten free options (story of my life)
  • not many food options in general
  • lack of outlets (hey, this is supposed to be roughing it, isn’t it? Haha)

Note: I must mention one of the cons specifically was that the owner forgot about my gluten allergy (not cool). I was able to eat the BBQ, but the early morning snacks of muffins, etc I couldn’t eat so I was literally starving and hangry. On the other hand, Dave was awesome and went with me to a little shop and personally bought me some snacks to eat in the mornings, so it worked out. Forgetting about a food allergy is NOT something to take lightly because some people DIE from it. (My condition is not life or death, but some are…). So ya, I have had some bad luck with tour companies “forgetting” about my allergy and it seems to be happening more often. I would recommend double checking a few days before your tour to make sure they have note of it! It didn’t ruin my time or anything, but I had to mention it because I can’t just highlight all the good.

The Final Verdict

Overall, you must do a safari once in your life before you die. You just have to! It is one of the top 3 experiences of not just traveling, but of my life!

The thrill of findings these animals and then to have a close encounter is the most thrilling thing I have ever experienced. At some moments, I cried tears of joy because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

I am so glad we chose to tour with Africa Spear Safaris on our first Kruger National Park Safari and I would 100% recommend them! This one goes down in the books! Thanks guys!♥

Note: Carey and I were guests of Africa Spear Safaris during our safari. My opinions, however, remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. This experience was AMAZING and I would highly recommend this company. 

Full disclosure: the few Amazon products in this article are affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission if you purchase these products, at no extra cost to you. This is what keeps the blog up and running so a special thank you for that! ♥

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Kruger National Park Safari