11 Day Cape Town – Hermanus – Garden Route Tour:
Cape Town to Cape Townn
Day 1 – Cape Town
Upon your arrival at the “Mother City” of Cape Town you will be collected from the airport and taken on a short orientation tour of this magnificent city, before being taken to your hotel close to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront where you spend two nights. This is a city with a diverse range of attractions, sights and activities on offer - Cape Town has something for everyone. From the landmark beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay to the vibrant Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and Cape Town city centre, the scenery of the Cape Peninsula and more - time spent in Cape Town will not be forgotten.
For your own account, should you wish, and with weather permitting, we can visit Table Mountain before proceeding to the hotel.
We will overnight at the Holiday Inn Express (or similar). Take in Table Mountain views from the high-rise hotel, located in the heart of the city. They are set on a tree-lined street packed with bars, restaurants and cafes, and are conveniently close to the popular Loop Street.
From here you can take the scenic route to the V&A Waterfront. A regular ferry service takes guests to the world-famous marina with its up market shopping and entertainment choices in just 20 minutes.
Day 2 – Cape Point Cape Town
The Fairest Cape…and it surely is! You’ll soon see for yourself where and why it earned its name. Sit back and relax, we’re going to cruise along the exquisite stretch of coastline known as Millionaire’s Paradise – from Camps Bay and Clifton to the exclusive beach hamlet of Llandudno – towards the charming working harbour of Hout Bay, where, if you so choose, you can embark on an up-close-and-personal Seal Island cruise (for your own account). Once back on terra firma, we wind along the legendary Chapman’s Peak Drive, hugging the cliffs and relishing the breathtaking ocean views, before arriving at the wild and beautiful Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, an integral part of the world-renowned Cape Floral Kingdom. We meander back along the coast towards the City, visiting the historic naval port of Simon’s Town and the endearing penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach.
We will arrive back in the city in the late afternoon.
Day 3 – Winelands - Cape Town
A superb day dedicated to celebrating the glorious grape, the exceptional winelands region, and the heavenly scenery. The area’s rich with history, and we can’t help but feel it as we move through the region to experience a wine cellar tour, where you’ll learn all about the process of winemaking, from grape to goblet. We visit the exquisite little town of Franschhoek, pass by the impressive Huguenot Monument, and in a town with a reputation for gourmet fare, where else could we choose to enjoy lunch (for own account).
After lunch we wind our way to meet the charming university town of Stellenbosch. Ample time has been set aside to stroll through this little town, absorbing the quaintness, and sneaking into the odd shop or two! A trip to the winelands isn’t complete without a wine tasting, so we will do so at one or two different wine estates. And of course, you’ll be able to purchase your favourite wine to take back home!
Day 4 – Cape Town
This morning we visit Robben Island. From the 17th to the 20th centuries, Robben Island served as a place of banishment, isolation and imprisonment. Today it is a World Heritage Site and museum, a poignant reminder to the newly democratic South Africa of the price paid for freedom. The standard tour to Robben Island is about 3.5 hours long, including the two half-hour ferry rides. Thereafter we will visit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which is world-renowned for the beauty and diversity of the Cape flora it displays and for the magnificence of its setting against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Kirstenbosch grows only indigenous South African plants. The estate covers 528 hectares and supports a diverse fynbos flora and natural forest. The cultivated garden (36 hectares) displays collections of South African plants, particularly those from the winter rainfall region of the country.
Day 5 – Hermanus
This morning we depart for Hermanus along the most scenic route, along the coast and past Gordons Bay, Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond and on to Hermanus. We would take our time along this route, stopping frequently to see if we can spot any whales along this route, or just to drink in the magnificent scenery. We will stop for lunch at Kleinmond where you will have some time to wander around this quaint village. The remainder of the afternoon after our arrival in Hermanus is at your leisure. Every year southern right whales migrate from their icy feeding grounds off Antarctica to warmer climates, reaching South Africa in June. The coastal waters teem with the giant animals, mating, calving and rearing their young - and giving whale-watchers spectacular displays of raw power and elegant water acrobatics. The southern right gets its name from the simple fact it was once regarded it as the "right" whale to hunt - the animals are slow-moving, rich in oil and baleen, float when killed and provide an enormous yield. This "rightness" brought the animals to the brink of extinction in the early 20th century, as whalers killed an estimated 20 000 of the animals. Protected in South African waters since 1935, their numbers have slowly crept back to a world population of some 4 000, most of which visit the country's coastline every year.
We will overnight at the Quarters Hermanus (or similar) which is located on the historic Hermanus Harbour. The suites are tastefully decorated in a modern style. The rooms feature splendid views of the mountain cliffs or the magnificent ocean below. The hotel offers many leisure facilities and modern room amenities.
The remainder of the day is yours to enjoy – your guide will be available with his vehicle, should you wish to drive to any location near this town, but most amenities in Hermanus are all within close walking distance. Please note that any activity costs or entrance fees is for your own account.
Day 6 - Hermanus
This morning you continue where you left off! You may want to go shark-cage diving at Gansbaai, acknowledged as the largest breeding ground for the famed Great White Shark, the apex predator of the oceans. Another option is to visit the new harbour in Hermanus and take a boat-based whale watching trip to see these magnificent mammals from close up. Please note that this too is for your own account. The shark diving expedition (and you can just go along for the ride in the boat if you don’t want to get into the cage) is about a five-hour long excursion, the boat-based whale watching is about an hour.
A typical shark diving trip entails the following: Every trip is preceded by a brief introductory talk about the route and what to look out for. Passengers are fitted with comfortable inflatable life-jackets. Safety is of the utmost importance and the operator has extensive public liability insurance. They usually launch around 9:00 am in the morning (note that launching times may vary due to tide and weather conditions), arriving at the anchoring spot in 20 to 25 minutes. The anchor is lowered, the cage goes into the water, a scent trial is made, and you settle down. Final preparations for the diving are made, and the rest of the day is spent watching, diving and enjoying the day. After spending time with the sharks, they make their way to Dyer Island, if possible. At Dyer Island they can approach close enough to view African penguins, Cape cormorants and many other species. They also often spot giant petrels, Cape gannets, white chinned petrels and storm petrels. Neighboring Dyer Island is Geyser Rock, home to thousands of Cape Fur Seals. The stretch of water between the two islands is Shark Alley. They visit Shark Alley to view the seals. The colony is thriving and there is always lots of activity, especially around November time when the tiny pups are born.
Day 7 – Oudtshoorn
After breakfast we make our way to Oudtshoorn via Villiersdorp and along “Route 62”, the tourist route that meanders between Cape Town and Oudtshoorn, offering the scenic alternative to the N2 highway. It's an area of magnificent landscapes and towering cliffs, crystal clear streams and the abundance of trees and indigenous flora. The ever changing colours of the majestic mountains, scenic passes, rivers, vineyards and orchards, as well as the multitude of attractions, will offer you an unforgettable adventure — whether this is in the physical sense or simply a kaleidoscope of scenic tranquility. Innovation and pride, combined with a terrain and mild climate that are harmoniously balanced, results in the prominence of this region's wines. Route 62 will take you along the longest wine route in the Western Cape and most likely the whole world. You reach Oudtshoorn in the mid-afternoon, a town that is known as the "feather capital of the world”.
We will overnight at the Turnberry Boutique Hotel (or similar). The four star Turnberry Boutique Hotel in the centre of the picturesque Klein Karoo town of Oudtshoorn. A warm welcome, awaits visitors to this tiny piece of Scotland set in the heart of the Klein Karoo. Relax in the comfort of one of the well appointed air-conditioned bedrooms (each with satellite television, a coffee station and a mini bar), all with en-suite bathrooms, and cosy double beds fitted with crisp white linen. Each room also has wireless Internet connection.
Day 8 – Oudtshoorn
Today we visit the Cango Caves near Oudtshoorn, which are among the biggest stalagmite formations in the world. Some of the sandstone formations are colourfully illuminated and the bizarre shapes in the caves are mainly composed of calcium carbonate. They develop as limewater drips from the stones and evaporate. The structures growing down from the cave ceiling are called stalactites, while those that grow from the ground to the top are called stalagmites.
We will also visit a working ostrich farm where one can learn more about these fascinating birds. Commercial ostrich farming started during the late 1880's in South Africa; this was also the start of the ostrich industry worldwide. The fashion demand in Europe for ostrich feathers inspired the growth of the industry, with the Oudtshoorn district quickly being established as the “ostrich capital of the world”. During the first decade of the previous century, ostrich feathers gained record prices on foreign markets, ranking 4th on the list of South African exports, after gold, diamonds and wool. The consequence of this newly found opulence meant that ostrich farmers were able to build beautiful sandstone mansions. A unique feature of the farm experience is a visit to the Ostrich Palace "Welgeluk" which was built at the height of the feather boom in 1910. The homestead is a National Monument and is a superb example of the type of architecture that was used at the time. Safari Ostrich Show Farm was established more than 40 years ago. Lunch will be enjoyed at this farm.
For your own account you may have time to visit the Cango Wildlife Ranch and Valley of Ancients, an endangered species breeding facility extraordinaire. The oldest and biggest cheetah contact centre worldwide offers visitors the rare opportunity of interacting with hand reared cheetahs and getting actively involved in saving this species and others from extinction. For the adventurous there is an opportunity to come face to face with wildlife in the Natural Encounters programme where you can touch a cheetah, enjoy the closeness of a tiger cub, wrap yourself in a python and even dive with Nile crocodiles.
Day 9 – Knysna
After breakfast we go on the Swartberg Pass, which is considered one of the most impressive mountain passes in the world - an untarred road that winds to the summit 1583 meters above sea level in steep zigzags and sudden switchbacks with breathtaking views at every turn. The road is supported in places by hand-packed stone walls, a trademark of Thomas Charles Bain, the brilliant road engineer of the 19th Century. Along the way there are relics of old prisons, tollhouses, and Way stations that bear historic testimony to past adventures. Often covered with snow in winter, the mountain's microclimate supports fynbos and a rich bird life, in contrast with the arid-zone flora and fauna outside its cool shady kloofs. The Swartberg Pass was declared a National Monument in its Centenary year, 1988. Those who have crossed the pass will never forget it. Once we have summitted the Pass, we do a lunch stop at the quaint little town of Prince Albert and then go onto Meiringspoort.
Meiringspoort is a deep cleft through the seemingly impenetrable Swartberg Mountain range. This natural passage forms a convenient link between the Great and Little Karoo. Soaring cliff walls with spectacular rock formations line the 25 km tarred road, which winds along the floor of the gorge, crossing the Groot River 25 times. Entry to the Poort is via Klaarstroom, 55 kms east of Prince Albert, en route to Oudtshoorn and the coast. Hardy plants, including indigenous pelargonium, cling to the precarious rock faces while birds, baboons and smaller fauna abound in the protected kloofs and crevices. Among the most scenic spots is the waterfall tumbling into a dark pool that, according to legend, is bottomless. In Meiringspoort one feels insignificant against the overwhelming grandeur of the surroundings. Driving through this Poort with its winding road, the traveller is enchanted by the scenery with a kaleidoscope of every changing colour. The richness of the vegetation along the river will intrigue plant lovers and birdwatchers will be amazed at the bird life. Meiringspoort was originally opened to traffic on the 3rd March 1858. Please note that this trip is only possible if the pass has not been closed. This usually happens when there has been heavy snowfall or very heavy rain, making the road dangerous.
From here we will make our way to Knysna, where we overnight at the Knysna Hollow (or similar). The Garden Chalets and Rooms are set in lush gardens and have been tastefully decorated with a Knysna forest feel. Room amenities include televisions, tea and coffee making facilities and private patios
Day 10 – Knysna
This morning after breakfast we visit the “Featherbed Nature Reserve”. This spectacular four-hour eco-experience includes a return ferry, walk and lunch and a 25-minute ferry trip on the Knysna Lagoon to the Western head (The Reserve is only accessible by ferry.) Upon arrival, guests board a Unimog drawn trailer and drive up to the top of the Reserve. While stopping at a scenic lookout point, our specialist guide will share with you some fascinating tales about Knysna and the surrounding area while you enjoy the panoramic views. An optional 2,2 km guided nature walk takes you through the forest, onto the cliffs, into the caves and along the scenic coast. Once back in the Food Forest, a unique outdoor restaurant situated under the Milkwood Trees, you will enjoy a spectacular 12 dish buffet lunch.
Later this afternoon you are at leisure to stroll around the town or the cute Knysna Waterfront to catch up on some shopping or relaxation.
Day 11 – Cape Town
This morning we make our way to the nearby town of Mossel Bay where we visit the Diaz Museum. Of the five National Monuments on the museum grounds, four are buildings dating between 1830 and 1902. The museum grounds themselves, situated on the shores of the Indian Ocean, are a magnificent historical setting. They are situated at the very site where European explorers came ashore and made contact with the indigenous people. Information about the Khoi-Khoi and explorers can be seen in the Maritime Museum. After our museum visit we make our way back to Cape Town where we drop you off at your hotel or at the Cape Town International Airport in time for your flight.