Hotel Review: InterContinental Johannesburg O.R Tambo Airport

Odds are that either arriving or departing, you will need an overnight stay near JNB airport.  Fortunately for the miles & points savvy travelers, the best option by far is the InterContinental Johannesburg O.R Tambo Airport…………….and it is readily available on IHG points!  Whether you use IHG points or a Chase Free night as we did, you will be getting a huge bargain as this hotel generally goes for over $300 a night!

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We got there pretty late at night, probably around 9pm as I am always very thorough about returning a car.  I want to watch them check it in and make sure they don’t have any problems with it and preferably get a written document that all is well.  The nice thing is that this hotel is right next to the garage where you return your car and right across the street from the airport.  You can’t get anymore convenient than that!

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The rooms are beautifully furnished.  I am not sure if we were upgraded, I was too tired to bother asking.  We just wanted a shower and to get some sleep!  I did spend some time on the wifi which was pretty good.  I tried the complimentary wine but didn’t like it, it was too sweet.

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Airport view out the window.

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In the morning while checking out, I could appreciate the beautiful waterfall decor.  This really is a nice hotel, I was sorry we didn’t have more time here to check out the facilities………….but Mauritius beckoned and we had an early flight!

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Avios Devaluation Won’t Affect Most Eco-tourists

I must admit to a bit of a panic when I woke up to a Feedly full of blog titles decrying the Avios devaluation.  I also got an email from Executive Club with the same information.  To make a long story short, it shouldn’t worry most eco-tourists.  The best use of Avios – short-haul economy class has been thankfully left alone.  The price has gone up on routes which are popular with many mainstream travelers, especially in business and first class.

Here is the old chart.

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And the new chart.

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They have introduced off-peak levels on British Airways flights.  This would have gotten me a good discount on the short-haul flights I booked on Comair last year.  Partner flights such as the ones I recommend for eco-tourists intra-South America and intra-Australia on Lan, Tam & Qantas respectively are still the same as before only now they are classified as “peak” since they are partners.

Bottom line:  If you earn miles from credit cards, not flying and redeem on short-haul economy, you have nothing to worry about!

A Few Cautions About Driving From Kruger To JNB

If you Google-map it, Kruger to Jo-burg doesn’t look like that big a drive, about 5 hours.

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What Google doesn’t tell you is just how slow the traffic can be!  We were lucky we left by 2pm and I was expecting to hit JNB by 7pm driving at a good speed.

We left through Malelane Gate and took advantage of the clean restrooms.  There is also a map here if you are just arriving and want to know where the latest sightings have been.

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The main highway passes through some pretty countryside, we even saw some birds but we were going too fast to stop.

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This is where it got fun (not).  The traffic was backed up over an hour with trucks coming from Mozambique heading to Jo-burg.  It may look benign for those people headed to Kruger but no such luck.  After we got past a small town, it was backed up even worse!  Remember, you have to be at your restcamp before curfew which varies around 6pm-6:30-ish so make allowances for bad traffic.  The jam was so bad I was wondering if some people would get there in time.  The yellow highlighting is where the traffic was backed up.

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The blazing sunset was awesome but knowing we would have to drive much of the road in the dark not so awesome.

IMG_4437 IMG_4438Expect to have to overtake lots of trucks any time of day or night.  It’s a good paved highway but usually one lane in each direction and trucks will NOT pull over and let you by.  You generally have to cross into the opposite lane to overtake and hope nothing comes out of a side road.  It was pretty nerve-wracking!   Petrol stations can be few and far between so fill up at the first one you see after leaving Kruger.  Some of them don’t take credit cards so be prepared to pay cash.

There are a few toll gates and you will need cash for the ones in the rural areas but once you get to the general Jo-burg/Pretoria area they will be electronic toll gates.  Your rental car will have a transponder and you should hear a beep as you go under them.  Don’t worry, they will be charged at cost a couple days after you return the car and most car hire companies don’t add an administrative fee.  Avis didn’t at least!

Lunch At Berg-en-Dal Restcamp

Even though we had only a short stay in Kruger this time, I wanted to check out one last restcamp because you never know when you may come back!  Berg-en-Dal is conveniently located near Malelane Gate and we got there around 1pm-ish.

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A Golden-tailed Woodpecker welcomed us in……………….and didn’t tell us to “G’waaaaayyy”!

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The restaurant has a beautiful setting overlooking a river.  The service was a bit slow but who cares when you have THIS to look at!  The food was good!

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Yummy milkshakes!

IMG_4425 IMG_4426 IMG_4428 IMG_4430This camp is supposed to be famous for Leopard so I wouldn’t mind a return visit here sometime!  After a quick wander around to see a few birds it was time to hit the road.  We needed to return the car by 8pm.

Final Game Drive – Pretoriuskop To Malelane Gate

We got a pretty late start since the birds were so engaging at Pretoriuskop restcamp, but luckily we didn’t have far to go.  In a pinch, we could have simply exited at Numbi Gate and driven back to JNB at normal speed.  But I didn’t want to miss one last chance to see more birds and animals in Kruger so we took the scenic route!  In the map below, a red road is paved and a yellow road is a dirt road but well-maintained.  Our route is in blue.