Ecotourism & Accommodation in
South and Southern Africa
14-Day South African Highlights Tour
Johannesburg to Cape Town
Day 1 –Drakensberg Escarpment
We will collect you from the O R Tambo International Airport or from your overnight accommodation in Johannesburg and travel through the Highveld industrial, mining and agricultural areas. Our guide will make this section interesting, adding value with his interpretation of the local history and sights. The scenery is pretty flat but changes as we approach the Drakensberg Escarpment, where we drop down to the Lowveld through scenic passes. This Drakensberg Escarpment area has scenic vistas over the Lowveld of the Kruger National Park. The fresh mountain scenery and panoramic views over the Klein Drakensberg escarpment are quite spectacular and give the area its name of 'Panorama Route'. The geology and climate of this high rainfall plateau results in masses of waterfalls. Some are hidden deep within some of the largest man-made forestry plantations in the world, with row upon row of pine and eucalyptus trees. We will visit the Panorama Escarpment and some of the view-sites such as God’s Window, Blyde River Canyon, Berlin and Lisbon waterfalls, etc. and overnight at Hannah Lodge (or similar). Hannah is a reflection of Africa in its entire natural splendour, a captivating tapestry of African sounds, smells and colours. The rising sun showers the valley with shades of pink, red and orange.
As an option, we can go directly to the Kruger National Park from Johannesburg on this first night, providing that your arrival flight arrives early enough for this (taking into account that sometimes aircraft experience a delay), or that we are able to collect you from your overnight accommodation early and lastly that we are able to secure accommodation inside the Kruger National Park at any one of the southern camps.
Should you choose this option, this means foregoing any visits to the Drakensberg Escarpment/Panorama Route.
Day 2, 3 – Kruger National Park
After breakfast we make our way to the nearby Kruger National Park. The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks among the best in Africa. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, this national park of nearly 2 million hectares is unrivalled in the diversity of its life forms and a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies.
Truly the flagship of the South African national parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. Kruger Park is an excellent venue with good sightings of lion, elephant, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, warthog, baboon, monkey, hippo and impala regularly seen. The more elusive animals like leopard and wild dog are an exciting find.
We will go on a night drive in an open safari vehicle on one of the evenings, this to enhance the possibility of seeing the nocturnal species such as leopard, lion, hyena, genet, bush babies and then the other nocturnal animals such as the smaller cats, owls and nightjars. You also get to see most of the diurnal animals, with their eyes lighting up like a little town in the reflection of the spotlights when you chance on a herd of Impala. These drives are conducted by SANParks, the organisation tasked with running this Park.
We will spend our nights in Kruger in bungalow accommodation inside the Kruger Park. Although not graded, these bungalows are of a two or three star standard. Here the rooms have twin beds, each with a private shower, toilet and hand basin en-suite. The brick under thatch rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, some also with ceiling fans and a fridge. There is insect proof screening on the doors and windows. You will be provided with bath and hand towels as well as soap. In the game reserve we will have breakfast and dinners in the restaurants.
We enjoy a full game-viewing programme for the balance of the days. Your guide in his vehicle conducts the remainder of the game drives. We encourage an early start to make the most of the best time of day to view the animals. We will try and be the first one out at dawn - this to see if we are able to sight some of the nocturnal predators returning to their daytime resting place and then to have breakfast, possibly at a different locality.
Day 4 - Swaziland
After our morning game viewing we leave Kruger Park and travel to Swaziland. We visit the Ngwenya Glass Factory before making our way to Reilly’s Rock (or similar). Situated in the Mliliwane Game Sanctuary, Reilly’s Rock’s unique lodge has been tastefully decorated in keeping with its colonial roots by Swaziland's leading conservation team. Notwithstanding the necessary subtle additions and renovations, the house still stands as it was built almost a century ago. Mliliwane Game Reserve is Swaziland's pioneer conservation area and is situated in a beautiful, secluded sanctuary in Swaziland's Valley of Heaven, the Ezulwini Valley, an area between Mbabane and Manzini.
The Sanctuary covers 4,560 hectares and comprises of a southern and northern section. The southern section is predominately open grassland plains with middleveld vegetation, stretching up onto the striking Nyonyane Mountain with its exposed granite peak known as the "Rock of Execution". Nyonyane is where ancient San once lived and where Swazi Royal graves are situated giving historical significance.
The Kingdom of Swaziland is a country located in Southern Africa and is relatively small in area, similar in size to Kuwait. Swaziland is a landlocked country, bordered by South Africa on three sides except to the east, where it borders Mozambique. The country, inhabited primarily by the Swazi people, is named after the 19th century King Mswati II, from whom the people also take their name.
Day 5 – Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park
We leave Reilly’s Rock travelling through rural Zululand and proceed to the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park where we would spend the night at Hilltop Camp. The accommodation here is in a brick under thatch chalet, each bedroom with its own private bathroom/wash-basin and toilet. Each chalet is also equipped with a fridge.
Our game viewing commences immediately upon entering the gates into the park.
This first evening we go on a night drive in an open game-viewing vehicle with staff from KZN Wildlife, the organisation that is tasked with running this reserve. This is to improve on your chances of seeing some of the nocturnal species such as leopard, lion, hyena, genet, bush babies and then the other nocturnal animals such as the owls and nightjars. You also get to see some of the diurnal animals, with their eyes lighting up like a little town in the reflection of the spotlights when you chance on a herd of Impala.
Day 6 – Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park
Today will be spent on extended game drives to various areas of the Park, with an early start to make the most of the day and to possibly chance upon one of the predators returning to their day-time lair. Set in the heart of Zululand, this is the oldest game reserve in Africa, where Zulu kings such as Dingiswayo and Shaka hunted and put in place the first conservation laws, where today the "big five" of African legend stalk the verdant savannah. Established in 1895, game viewing is the prime attraction.
As the home of Operation Rhino in the 1950s and 60s, the Park became world renowned for its white rhino conservation. The Park covers some 96 000 ha and contains an immense diversity of fauna and flora. Hluhluwe is characterised by hilly topography, and this northern section of the park is noted for its wide variety of both bird and animal life. Sightings of rhino, giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, warthog, baboon, vervet monkey, and antelope such as impala, nyala and kudu are seen frequently and with the possibility of seeing lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, black rhino, hippo, crocodile, monitor lizard, hyena and antelope such as red duiker, steenbuck, waterbuck, bushbuck and then the rare Samango monkey and wild dog, much less frequently. These drives are conducted with your guide in his/her vehicle.
Day 7 – St. Lucia - Durban
This morning we depart the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park after breakfast and make our way to the village of St. Lucia where we board a boat for a two hour cruise on the lake in this proclaimed World Heritage Site. Here you are guaranteed to see hippos, and a very good chance of seeing crocodiles and a vast array of bird-life.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has both one of the largest estuary systems in Africa and the continent's southernmost coral reefs. In granting it World Heritage status in 1999, the World Heritage Committee noted the park's "exceptional biodiversity, including some 521 bird species". Situated on the central Zululand coast of KwaZulu-Natal, the park is made up of 13 adjoining protected areas with a total size of 234 566 hectares. Its remarkable biodiversity is a result of the park's location between subtropical and tropical Africa, as well as its coastal setting. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has its origins in the St Lucia Game Reserve, declared in 1895 and made up of the large lake and its islands. St Lucia Park was proclaimed in 1939, containing land around the estuary and a strip of about one kilometre around most of the lake shore.
After our two-hour cruise and lunch we make our way back to Durban, arriving in the late afternoon where we overnight at the City Lodge, Umhlanga Ridge (or similar). Ideally situated next to the upmarket Gateway shopping and entertainment complex, City Lodge Umhlanga Ridge blends into the surroundings of its modern environment.
The five-storey hotel is in the heart of the new business district that has emerged in the Umhlanga area and is a short drive from Umhlanga’s popular promenade and beach front.
Day 8 – Addo Elephant National Park
Today we fly from Durban to Port Elizabeth, and from here travel to the Addo Elephant National Park. Deep within the shadows of the dense valley bushveld of the Sundays River region of the Eastern Cape is the Addo Elephant National Park. Here, the evenings are punctuated by the strident howl of the black-backed jackal, and the francolin's call heralds each new dawn. Safe from relentless persecution in the past, the grey leviathans of the bush now roam in peace. This park conserves no less than five of South Africa's seven biomes, is also home to one of the densest African elephant populations on earth and is home to the unique flightless dung beetle.
The remainder of the day will be spent on game drives into the various areas of this park which offers some of the most spectacular elephant viewing in the world.
Now the third largest national park in South Africa, Addo Elephant National Park has expanded to conserve a wide diversity of biodiversity, landscapes, fauna and flora. Stretching from the semi-arid karoo area in the north around Darlington Dam, over the rugged Zuurberg Mountains, through the Sundays River valley and south to the coast between Sundays River mouth and Bushman’s river mouth, Addo covers about 180 000 hectares (444 700 acres) and includes the Bird and St Croix Island groups.
The original elephant section of the park was proclaimed in 1931, when only sixteen elephants remained in the area. Today this finely tuned ecosystem is sanctuary to over 550 elephants, lions, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, a variety of antelope and zebra species, as well as the unique Addo flightless dung beetle, found almost exclusively in Addo. And their story has only just begun, with plans to expand the Park into a 264 000 hectare (652 300 acre) mega-park. In addition, plans include the proposed proclamation of a 120 000 hectare (296 500 acre) marine protected area that includes islands that are home to the world's largest breeding populations of Cape gannets and largest breeding population of endangered African penguins. In addition, plans include the proposed proclamation of a 120 000 ha (296 500 acre) marine reserve that includes islands that are home to the world's largest breeding populations of Cape gannets and second largest breeding population of African penguins.
Day 9 – Knysna
Today we travel from Addo to Knysna, which is in the heart of the Garden Route. Along the way we stop at the Paul Sauer Bridge over the Storms River to take a stroll onto the bridge and for a refreshment break. A place of "People, Beauty and Mystery" is what comes to mind when describing Knysna. The exceptionally equitable climate with rain falling throughout the year ensures it remains perennially green. The town nestles between the impressive Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean, with the world-renowned forests encircling it like a protective mantle. At the heart of Knysna is the 21 ha lagoon protected from the sea by the monolithic sandstone "Heads" - silent sentinels looking down on the centuries of the rich history of this unique part of "paradise on earth".
We will 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
Today we go on a tour to 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 guides 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, guests can enjoy a spectacular 12 dish buffet lunch.
The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to enjoy what Knysna has to offer. For those adventurous folk there are many activities, from canoeing, paragliding, hiking, and much more - these activities are for your own account.
Day 11 – Oudtshoorn
Today we travel to Oudtshoorn, stopping at Dolphin Point to view this stunning beach and hopefully see some dolphins before making our way up the scenic Outeniqua Pass to the town of Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo. Oudtshoorn is a fairly short drive from Knysna and is known as the "feather capital of the world”. Here we visit the Cango Caves near Oudtshoorn, which are among the biggest stalagmite formations in the world. One can go for extensive subterranean walks in the widely branching caves. 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. A unique feature of the 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 a superb example of the type of architecture that was used at the time. We will enjoy lunch 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.
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 12 – Cape Town
After breakfast we make our way to Cape Town along “Route 62”, the tourist route that meanders between Cape Town and Oudtshoorn, offering the shorter, 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 tranquillity. 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.
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 13 – 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 14 – Cape Town
Today is yours to enjoy. Your guide will be available to advise you and is available for transport. You may wish to take a drive to Hermanus to do some whale-watching in season, or take a tour to Robben Island or maybe a meander along the West Coast. All activities, except for the transport, are for your own account and it should be stressed that the distances and times travelled should be reasonable – your guide can advise you.
You will be dropped off at the airport in time for your return flight, or at your preferred hotel if you are staying on in Cape Town.
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