A trip to discover the highlights of South Africa, including understanding the turbulent history in Soweto, searching for wildlife in Kruger, travelling along the iconic Garden Route to see penguins and try delicious wines in the Cape Winelands, all before ending in colourful Cape Town. Tsitsikamma National Park - A marine and forest park in the heart of the famous Garden Route Stellenbosch - World renowned vineyards overlooked by stunning, rugged mountains Hermanus - The best place in Southern Africa to admire whales (in season).
Arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, and once home to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. A city of stark contrasts and infamous history, Johannesburg is going through rapid change and urban regeneration. For those arriving on time today our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 12pm for the welcome meeting and to take us on the afternoon Soweto tour. Soweto, originally an acronym for South Western Townships, played a prominent part in the fight against the former apartheid regime, notably the uprising of 1976; when mass protests erupted. We will take a tour of the area and meet residents to understand how life has changed since the end of apartheid. We will visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial, a museum that honours the vital role that the youth of South Africa played during the struggle. He was one of the first students to be killed during the uprising when he was just 13. We will also visit Nelson Mandela's former home (now a museum) which tells the story of Mandela and his family. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), which is just a short 10 minute drive from our hotel. Please note that if you wish to join the Soweto tour today, you must arrive at the hotel by 12pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least 90 minutes to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around 10 minutes' drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 10.30am. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. Please note: A majority of flights will land into Johannesburg in the early morning and it's often too early to be able to check straight in to your room. However, early arrivals will have access to tea and coffee, toilets and the hotel lounge.
After breakfast, we will depart for Timbavati Private Nature Reserve in the western region of Kruger National Park. Today is a long travelling day but there will be many rest stops as we drive through the airy uplands of Mpumalanga, an area that has been inhabited since the Stone Age. It's a beautiful region of rivers, waterfalls and craggy escarpments covered in lush vegetation, and we'll stop at several excellent viewpoints along the way. This includes the aptly named 'God's Window' to admire the breath-taking mountain views into the Blyde River Canyon. We expect to arrive in Timbavati in the late afternoon and the evening will be free to relax. We will be staying in traditionally painted rondavels with thatched roofs set in shady spots under the indigenous trees, while friendly neighbours including zebra, wildebeest and warthog graze on the grass outside. The lodge sits just outside of the main Kruger park gates.
Rising with the sun, we will depart our lodge around 5.30am this morning with a local guide in open-sided safari vehicles to begin a full day of game-driving inside Kruger National Park, one of the premier wildlife viewing spots in southern Africa. Established in 1898, Kruger National Park was started to protect big game that had been hunted to near extinction, it is now one of the most prolific animal habitats in South Africa, committed to animal conservation. During today's safari we will stop at various watering holes where buffalo and antelope are often spotted refreshing themselves, and other visitors may include the legendary 'Big 5'; lion leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo. We will spend the morning looking for wildlife before stopping at one of the park's restaurant or café options, and after a lunch break we will continue with an afternoon safari experience returning to our lodge in the late afternoon. This evening will be free to relax in the communal bar area or perhaps enjoy time around the campfire under the stars.
Another early start this morning as we head back into Kruger for our second full day on safari. Depending on the animals we spotted yesterday we may choose to focus on searching for some of the park's more unusual and elusive wildlife such as the honey badger, black rhino and eland. After another busy day out on safari, tonight you can sit out under the stars and enjoy a glass of South Africa's best produce - wine. This evening it is recommended that you check-in online for tomorrow's flight to Port Elizabeth (your e-ticket will be provided in your final documentation); it is possible to check in 24 hours before departure.
Today we say goodbye to the savannahs of Kruger as we depart for Johannesburg airport where we will take a flight down to Port Elizabeth in preparation to begin our journey along South Africa's famed Garden Route. We will spend the majority of today travelling, so your leader will ensure plenty of breaks to stretch legs. We will arrive in Port Elizabeth in the evening and our final leg of the journey is a short 20 minute drive to our hotel. The city, locally known as the Windy City, was first populated as a stopover point on the way to Goa in India, and it was later populated by the British during the colonial period. There is a selection of restaurants just a short walk from our hotel, or alternatively a bar at the hotel if you prefer a quiet evening.
This morning we will pack up and set off on a two hour journey to the magnificent Tsitsikamma National Park. This marine and forest park stretches for 80km, from a lagoon at Nature's Valley to the mouth of the Groot River. Lush forest and sheer cliffs provide an ideal setting for hiking. Storms River is an area of rugged coastline with crashing waves and forest-covered cliffs that are simply spellbinding. Along the way we will make a stop to purchase a picnic lunch and on arrival your leader will lead an orientation walk of the area. The rest of the afternoon will be free to enjoy a bite to eat by the water's edge, walk along the suspension bridge that spans the mouth of Storm's River, or perhaps choose another route to hike or viewpoint to visit. There are many different paths marked out with differing levels of difficulty, details on each trail can be obtained at the information hut. We'll then wrap up a day of exploring with a drink together just in time to enjoy one of Tsitsikamma's legendary sunsets! This evening's meal options include eating some great seafood in the park's restaurant perched just above the sea or perhaps have a group braai at one of the communal barbeque areas, before taking a short drive to our accommodation in Tsitsikamma Village.
Tsitsikamma translates as 'place of abundant water' and this morning will be free to enjoy the area at your own pace. Perhaps choose to relax by the pool, take a walk around the village itself, or for the more adventurous explore the canopy walkways and zip wires suspended 30m up among indigenous rainforest where some trees are over 700 years old! We'll have lunch in the Tsitsikamma area, before departing for Robberg Nature Reserve where your Trip Leader will lead a walk along the trails. The hiking here is moderate - it's uneven under foot in places and can be slippery so good walking shoes are advised, but the rewards are abundant: brilliant bird viewing, sweeping coastal views and the possibility to spot dolphins and seals in the waters below. From July to December, there's also the chance to see southern right whales that come into the calmer and warmer waters to calve and nurse their young. Late this afternoon, we'll arrive at our accommodation and there'll be some free to time to relax before dinner. This evening's options are to eat at the hotel restaurant, or choose a water-front eatery in Plettenberg Bay, and enjoy local wine alongside fresh seafood. Please note: Depending on your chosen departure date, the accommodation may vary. On some departures, groups will be centrally located in the town of Plettenberg, allowing for easy and convenient exploration of the town. Other departures will be located a ten minute drive away at a beach-side resort in the Keurbooms area of Plettenberg. Although not centrally located, this property boasts an onsite restaurant and bar, two swimming pools and private access to the Keurbooms beach.
Today begins with free time to explore Plettenberg. The region is well-loved for its unspoilt sweeping beaches and boasts an extensive 20km of Indian Ocean coastline, so take some time to relax on the sand or take a stroll along the shoreline. Alternatively, Plett Market is a daily occurrence in town popular with locals and visitors alike, where you can taste local foods and find a selection of traditional handicrafts, jewellery and second-hand wear. Also your Trip leader can help with booking additional excursions such as whale-watching (seasonal) or kayaking. Later this afternoon we'll take a 30 minute drive away from the coast to visit a developing wine region; The Crags. Unlike the famed winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the Plett wine route is still up and coming but with its stunning views, lower visitor numbers and a handful of independent vineyards it is proving tough competition! We will visit a small boutique winery, located along the Crags trail among rolling vineyards for a tasting experience. We'll return to our accommodation in the late afternoon and this evening will be free.
After breakfast, we leave Plettenberg behind and get back on the Garden Route to continue along the spectacular coastal road westwards for around 450km towards Hermanus, the whale watching capital of South Africa. Today is a long travel day so your leader will stop regularly for a chance to stretch legs. Our first stop will be at Knysna Heads; an icon of South Africa's Garden Route, this pair of large sandstone cliffs offer a wonderful viewpoint above where the sea meets Knysna Lagoon. Later, we'll stop in Albertinia for a lunch break before making our way to Hermanus, arriving in the late afternoon. Home to the whale crier, Hermanus is a highlight of the Garden Route but retains its small fishing town charm and from June to November it is common to see southern right whales migrating right past the town from the shore!
Today, we have a full day in Hermanus. Depending on your chosen departure date, the day will either be spent with your leader whale watching from the coastal paths, or exploring the nearby Fernkloof Nature Reserve. Whale watching season is typically between June and December with sightings most frequent in September, October and November. We will take a walk along the 12km cliff path in the hope of spotting southern right whales in the surrounding waters after their long migration from the Antarctic. There will be free time to either continue whale watching along the coastal paths or if you prefer spend some time in the town. For departures operating out of whale watching season, we will visit the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, a protected area situated above Hermanus with stunning views out over the town and bay. The reserve has recorded over 1400 species of flora, over 90 species of birds, as well as resident baboons and dassies along the hiking trails. Your leader will guide us along the reserve's red trail through evergreen forest which takes around 90 minutes to complete with a gentle ascent and descent. Upon returning to Hermanus there will be free time to explore the town.
This morning we will depart early to make our way to the Winelands of the Cape and drive to Stellenbosch, a beautiful town surrounded by vineyards and mountains. After an hour's drive, we will make our first stop in the Betty's Bay area where we will have an included visit to Stony Point Nature Reserve, home to one of the world's largest African Penguin colonies. The reserve sits on the site of a historic whaling station and thanks to its distance from Cape Town offers excellent penguin viewing without the crowds. We'll be able to follow the boardwalks over the craggy outcrops, allowing us to see these flightless birds up close without disturbing their habitat. Although humans are not allowed to wander beyond the boardwalks, it does not always stop the penguins joining the trail and setting a slow walking pace! Later this morning we'll continue and make a stop at the Somerset Village Community Garden for a short orientation tour. This inspiring project has been set-up by a resident of the area to start an 'employment scheme' among the homeless community allowing them to develop skills while earning food vouchers, as well as promoting community gardening and running a weekly farmers market. Around lunchtime we will arrive in Stellenbosch, where we'll check-in to our guesthouse before enjoying a free afternoon. You may choose to relax in the town, take a walk around the university grounds or maybe visit the museum to learn more about the history of the town. You may like to join a walking food tour to learn about the spices, teas and flavours of South Africa. Alternatively, if you have a taste for South Africa's produce, there will be the option to go wine tasting to two local wineries. Stellenbosch has a reputation for excellent Chenin Blanc, perfectly matched with seafood, caught fresh from the Indian Ocean that morning. If you are more of a red fan, then expect big earthy reds, a great companion for a sumptuous steak or meat on a braai. There is also the local phenomenon of Pinotage, created in South Africa as a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, the wine has now achieved global recognition and the best place to try it is here in South Africa.
After a relaxing start, we will drive through rolling green slopes, filled with vineyards as we make our way to Cape Town, our final destination and one of the most iconic cities on earth. We can see the towering Table Mountain from miles away, though if the day isn't clear we will see the cloud rolling over the top of the precipice, either vision is equally impressive. This afternoon, we will ascend the iconic Table Mountain by cable car. After a heady ride up to the top, there will be time to explore the network of trails which criss-cross the plateau and provide a variety of vantage points over the city, the coastline and the Twelve Apostles mountain range. In the distance you can see Robben Island, the former home of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's favourite son and most famous hero. Apart from its obvious geographical attractions, Cape Town is also famous for its food and drink culture, with an abundance of restaurants choices, from the trendy downtown to the more touristy but beautiful V&A waterfront. Please note: The Table Mountain cable car closes for 2 weeks of maintenance each year usually around the end of July.
Today is left free for you to choose one of the many optional activities available in the area. If you wish to visit Robben Island, we recommend booking this in advance (please see under optionals for more details). For those wanting to get out of town and see the surrounding areas, another option is to visit Cape Point, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. This trip will also visit Boulders Bay and its resident penguin colony. Or you may prefer to just take a stroll around the city, take in one of the many museums and wander past the colourful houses in the Bo-Kaap (Malay quarter). You could explore District Six and learn about its troubled past or just relax and enjoy the coffee culture of Cape Town.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Cape Town. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Cape Town at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Cape Town International Airport (CPT), which is around a 30 minute drive from the hotel.
13 Break Fast(s)
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