12-day Cape Town and Garden Route Self-drive Safari

Cape Town and Garden Route Self-drive Safari
Cape Town and Garden Route Self-drive Safari

By far our most popular South Africa holiday, this 12-day self-drive tour features the highlights of South Africa with a big five malaria-free safari for good measure. Driving is minimal, the sights varied and the game viewing excellent.

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12 days
South Africa, Cape Town, Garden Route, Garden Route Safari
11 nights accommodation; meals and drinks as indicated in the itinerary; 12 days car hire (Group A); vehicle drop off/delivery fee; vehicle insurance (maximum cover); safari and sight-seeing activities as indicated in the itinerary

Tour Brief

Starting in Cape Town or with a malaria-free Big Five safari in the Eastern Cape ( , this self-drive tour brings you the best of South Africa in 12 days of glorious scenery, spectacular sights, seaside fun and a magnificent wildlife safari.

Taking the self-drive option, along great roads in complete safety, makes this trip both affordable and flexible as you can go as fast or as slow as you like between destinations. Even if you intend to zip through to your next destination there are so many attractions en route that despite your best efforts you'll probably find a gentle, leisurely pace is the only one that fits. 

From the wonderful city of Cape Town with its beaches, bars, nature reserves and cultural wealth you head east along the coast. The Garden Route starts where the Cape Winelands end your first detour will be to meander along the scenic coastal road. During whale season - between June and November with calving in August/September - a stop at Hermanus is essential for the best land-based whale watching on the planet.

Continue along the coast to the charming seaside towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay (or Plett if you want to sound like a local) in the heart of the Garden Route.

From the Garden Route you continue eastwards into the Eastern Cape and the home of the Garden Route Safari. With the advantage of being in a malaria-free area, there are several excellent private game reserves with all the wildlife, big game and birdlife of the more famous - and hence more popular - Kruger Park .

After your safari, it's a short hour or so drive to Port Elizabeth airport from where you can connect to your flight home. The whole trip - excluding detours, zig-zags, backtracks and wrong turns - covers a distance of 800km in 12 days, which means less driving and more fun for you and your family.

Detailed Itinerary

  • Day 1, 2, 3 and 4: Cape Town

    Arrive at Cape Town international airport, collect your hired car and drive to your Cape Town hotel, which will be your travel base for the next four days. Explore Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula at your leisure: the roads are excellent and finding your way around, with the help of a friendly GPS, is a breeze.

    Our recommended Cape Town activities:

    • Robben Island
    • Township Tours
    • Table Mountain
    • Cape Point Nature Reserve
    • Boulders Beach
    • V&A Waterfront
    • Constantia Winelands
    • Museums, galleries and aquarium, planetarium, Company's Gardens…

    The list goes on and on and on. Talk to your travel expert about what to do in Cape Town while you're there (the season makes a difference and we can make all the recommendations and advance bookings you need).

    Our recommended Cape Town accommodation:

    • Standard: The Cullinan, Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, Townhouse Hotel
    • Mid-market: 2Inn1, Derwent House Boutique Hotel, An African Villa
    • Luxury: Cape Grace, Mount Nelson, Cape Royale, Table Bay, One&Only Cape Town
    • Exclusive: Kensington Place, Derwent Boutique Hotel, Dock House, Ellerman House

    And this list goes on and on and on. Where you stay depends on your budget, the type of accommodation you like (small and intimate or large and care-free) and what you want to do in Cape Town. If you want to laze on the beach all day, then a hotel on the beachfront at Camps Bay is the best option. If you want to spend time exploring the city and the waterfront or you prefer the gentle mink and manure countryside of the winelands or a family-friendly beach holiday.

  • Day 5 and 6: Hermanus, Garden Route

    Follow the Big Sur-style road along the coast to Hermanus about two hours from Cape Town.

    Hermanus is brimming with seaside activity from whale watching, boat rides, sea kayaking, swimming in the lagoon to wonderful restaurants, nature reserves and even wine tasting nearby.

    Spend two days in Hermanus where there is a good chance of seeing whales from June until November, which is South Africa's winter and the best time for game viewing. The crowds descend upon Hermanus during whale calving season, usually at the end of September, and though the whale watching is good at this time you must be prepared for a lot of slow-moving traffic and fully-booked everything. It is a fun and festive time if you can take the crowds.

    Our recommended Hermanus accommodation:

    • Standard: Abolone Guest Lodge
    • Mid-market: The Marine Hotel
    • Luxury: Birkenhead House
  • Day 7 and 8: Knysna/Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route

    Head inland from Hermanus over yet more impressive mountain passes and drive towards George of the Garden Route proper and then along the coast to either Knysna or Plettenberg Bay, the latter favouring the typical beach holiday while the former offers plenty of outdoor and nature activities.

    Spend two days at the beach, on the lagoons and rivers, exploring nature reserves, coastal hikes, forest canopy rides, whale-watching, boat cruises and the gamut of seaside attractions, cafes and restaurants.

    Our recommended Knysna accommodation:

    • Standard: Tranquility Lodge, Nature's Valley
    • Mid-market: Periwinkle Guesthouse, Plettenberg Bay; Knysna Quays, Knysna
    • Luxury: Pezula Hotel and Spa, Knysna
    • Exclusive: Tsala Treetop Lodge, Plettenberg Bay
  • Day 9, 10, 11 and 12: Garden Route Safari

    Drive along the coast through Cape fynbos toward Port Elizabeth - capital of the Eastern Cape Province - before heading inland into the hilly regions of the Garden Route Safari  area for genuine big five malaria-free safari.

    We recommend dropping your hired car off in Port Elizabeth and hopping on a transfer to your safari lodge. Once there your guided activities include afternoon game drives into the night; early morning game drives; walking safaris and a whole lot of relaxing in between.

    The Eastern Cape Garden Route safaris are truly first-class and some of the best game viewing in South Africa. With exclusive access, the private game reserves can manage visitor numbers and wildlife movements making for quality wildlife and bird sightings daily.

    The scenery is gentle, timeless and wild; the game guides are exceptional and your safari lodge is pure luxury regardless of whether you opt for the standard or exclusive accommodation.

    The game reserves we recommend include: 

    • Addo Elephant Park
    • Shamwari Game Reserve
    • Kwande Game Reserve
    • Kariega Game Reserve
    • Blaauwbusch Game Reserve

    All of them have safari lodges within ranging from standard to ultimate luxury. Talk to your Travel Expert for the Garden Route safari to suit you.

    Our recommended Garden Route Safari lodges:

    • Standard: Elephant Lodge, Addo Elephant Park; Riverdene Lodge, Shamwari Game Reserve
    • Mid-market: Great Fish River Lodge, Kwandwe Game Reserve; Bushmans River Lodge, Shamwari Game Reserve
    • Luxury: Gorah Elephant Camp, Addo Elephant Park; Ecca Lodge, Kwandwe Game Reserve; Eagles Cragg, Shamwari Game Reserve

    On your last day transfer back to Port Elizabeth Airport about 90 minutes from your safari lodge and connect to your flight home via Cape Town or Jo'burg and the end of a wonderful South Africa Garden Route holiday.

Just Booked!

Customers who enquire about this tour end up making many changes to the standard itinerary. Below are the most recent variations of this base tour booked by us for our clients. Have a look at their itineraries, see what changes they requested, what the final cost was and read what they have to say about their holidays.

Recent Reviews of This Tour

We don't have any reviews of this exact tour but here's what people have said about their holidays. If you want to read more reviews, visit our client comments section. If you would like to submit your own review please use the contact form on this page.

“Thanks for all your work putting together a holiday we truly loved”

We would like to commend the high service received from Namibian Tours and Safaris especially taking into account the short length of time you had to arrange this holiday for us. The recommendations and itinerary were ideal with the majority of our stay in each location being the right duration. The whole process of booking this holiday was hassle free and we would not hesitate in recommending your services to others.

We would specifically like to thank you, Alison, for all of your hard work which resulted in a truly fabulous holiday for us. Also, it was great to meet up with you in Solitaire where you expressed so much love for your country and this was clearly mirrored in the schedule and service you presented to us allowing us to experience this fantastic country. It will not be the case of 'if' we return to Namibia, it is more the case of 'when' we will return as we enjoyed it so much.

Nik Stevenson, UK

“Edward did a super job”

A special mention for Edward he did a super job – vouchers and maps were with our car hire agency at the airport – book presentation of whole trip was clear, easy to follow and complete. He even gave us his mobile No in case we encounter some problems. Really to recommend as Tour Operator and will use them again next time.

Road – all went well and thanks to have recommended a 4Wheel Drive Car – due to rough road conditions we appreciated – you could do it with a normal car and met tourists with B type cars but they took much longer for the journeys – had more issues with flat tyres and most admitted next time they will take a 4Wheel Drive Car.

Would like to thank you for all your time spent and hard work to find best places, difficult tasks due to budget restrictions. I will recommend you and your agency whenever I can – actually already did in Joburg – hope brings you some new customers - and of course will come to you for my next trip this time to South Africa hopefully in 2012.

Germaine Comin, Switzerland

“Thank you again for planning a perfect vacation for us”

Dear Wilmari,
Back home and I wanted to take a moment to thank you again for planning a perfect vacation for us. I was especially pleased that for the accommodation with dinner all knew about my allergies and cooked accordingly. The Cheetah experience made my daughter very happy and they were so kind to not even charge me for taking pictures.

Highlight of our trip was the stay in Onguma The Fort and we are determined to return one day.

As pointed out before, the Namib Desert Lodge I cannot recommend to anybody (fined for driving on their property and below average dinner buffet) and also the Olivia Guesthouse was a letdown when it came to the food (lunch and breakfast).

I have posted some pictures on Flickr, maybe you want to have a look and I'm always happy to read comments.

Last but not least: Could you please send us the itinerary you prepared for us and we received at arrival electronically? Some of my friends are interested to book the same trip with you.

Dr Andreas Koester, USA
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