South Africa. An artist’s masterpiece. Valleys, mountains, forests, deserts, coastlines, and grassy savannahs. Throw in vibrant towns and 2 major cities. This tour is a Johannesburg and Cape Town sandwich. The filling? Game reserves, the seaside, the Garden Route and even another country - the newly renamed eSwatini (Swaziland).
Day 1: Gauteng
( 1 night )
Jo’burg, Gauteng, your launch pad and South Africa’s biggest city in the heart of the country.
On the way: You’ll arrive at OR Tambo Airport and be transferred to your hotel for the night.
When you're there: Depending on what time you land you may have a chance to explore Johannesburg. The City of Gold has historic sites, art galleries, restaurants as well as sobering reminders of the country’s recent history at the Apartheid Museum. Book an activity with reception on arrival or simply relax for the remainder of the day. It's up to you.
You'll enjoy your breakfast in the morning with a view of the garden. What a way to start your holiday.
The Safari Club
Day 2, 3 & 4: Timbavati / Klaserie Game Reserve
( 3 nights )
All rested, it's time for breakfast and then you transfer back to O.R. Tambo International Airport for your onward flight to Hoedspruit (flight on own arrangement).
You’re heading into 60,000 hectares wildlife. The Klaserie Reserve was established in 1972 as part of the greater Kruger National Park and is one of the largest privately-owned reserves in South Africa. It shares unfenced borders with the Kruger and is rich in wildlife. You’ll be bouncing up and down in your seat snapping the zebra over there, the impala behind that tree, the wildebeest by your wing mirror.
On the way: On arrival at Hoedspruit Airport you will be met by your lodge guide and transferred to your accommodation for the next 3 nights.
When you're there: Home is nThambo Camp. Up, up, up in one of the 5 treehouses deep in the bush. The view from your balcony? The distant Drakensberg Mountains.
There’s an outdoor lounge and dining area from where you can watch a small waterhole. And a deck, boma area and pool.
Time to go on safari. So, there’s the Big 5 for starters. Plus giraffe, zebra, spotted hyena, baboon, hippo, kudu, vervet monkey, waterbuck, wildebeest, bushbaby and mongoose. Wild dog, cheetah, bat-eared fox, honey badger, porcupine, aardvark, civet, caracal and serval. There are also lots of antelope and birds. Game drives are led by experienced and professional game rangers. And they’ll escort you to and from your rooms at night as the animals are often in and around camp.
nThambo is a small lodge so activities are flexible. The reserve specialises in walking safaris led by bush experts and night safaris with powerful spotlights to spot the nocturnal creatures of the African bush.
Wake up to the wild and sleep to the sounds of the wild.
*Your stay is booked on a fully inclusive basis to include all your meals and your scheduled camp activities with your lodge guide.
nThambo Tree Camp
Day 5 & 6: Mpumalanga - Hazyview
( 2 nights )
After a last safari activity in the morning and breakfast you’re off to the banks of the Sabie River. For a date with a hippopotamus. These Greek ‘river horses’ have been hanging out since ancient times. You’ll see them basking on the banks or sleeping in the waters. Loads of hippos and all that grass munching means millions of tons of hippo dung gets propelled into Africa's rivers every year. Which sounds gross but is actually an ecosystem marvel. They fill the rivers with huge amounts of nutrients which support the fish. And those healthy fish feed the locals. They nourished the Nile in much the same way hundreds of years ago and thus, ended up stars of the ancient Egyptian art world. Good work hippos. Nature is a marvel.
On the way: You will be collected after breakfast for your transfer and full day Panorama Route Tour as you make your way to Hazyview, which is 17km west of the Kruger National Park.
You're off to explore the wonder of the Panorama Route. The Blyde River Canyon, the third largest in the world, is half an hour away, as is God's Window, a sweeping view over the Lowveld from high up on the escarpment, then there’s the Mac Mac Falls, Lisbon Falls and Bourke's Luck Potholes - great rock formations where the Blyde and Treur rivers meet. Also check out Pilgrims Rest the restored gold rush town and home of Jock of the Bushveld.
You'll be dropped off at your accommodation on arrival in Hazyview and the remainder of your time here is at your own leisure. Your vehicle will be delivered to you on the morning of Day 6 (the first section of your self-drive safari starts here).
There’s lots to do in Hazyview. Golf, tennis, bowls, horse-riding, squash, river-rafting, bird-watching, hiking and mountain biking. Helicopter flights and micro lighting too.
The Graskop Gorge Lift Company is very popular. It’s on the Panorama Route and offers a great view as well as the forest, food, adventure activities, hikes and guided tours.
You’ll be staying at the Hippo Hollow Country Estate. There are three on-site restaurants, a bar and lounge, gardens, two swimming pools and free Wi-Fi.
They can help you arrange a cultural experience at Shangaan River Club and encounters with Africa’s largest land mammals at Elephant Whispers. You could also visit Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park and the Cheetah Project or just watch the hippos, crocodiles and other wildlife at the river.
Hippo Hollow Country Estate
Day 7 & 8: Swaziland (Kingdom of Eswatini)
( 2 nights )
Time now for another country. In 2018, during celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Swazi independence from British rule, the king announced a name change. Swaziland would henceforth be called eSwatini. A move critics said was made without consultation. But this is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies and the king rules by decree. It’s not big, just over seventeen thousand square miles, but is home to a wide range of landscapes, from bushveld to forested ravines. It’s one of the few countries in the world where both black and white rhinos can be found.
On the way: Travel south and cross the border into Swaziland. It’s a 285km drive and will take 3 to 4 hours.
When you're there: Fingers crossed today’s the day for rhinos. Eswatini offers some of the best rhino encounters on the entire continent and prides itself on its rhino conservation work. They’ve lost just three this century compared with two to three a day in South Africa.
Eswatini is home to 132 species of mammal, 500 species of bird, 111 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 3,500 indigenous species of plants.
It’s also home to the world’s second largest rock. Sibebe Rock is a monolith in the runner up position to Australia’s Uluru.
Then there’s the Makhonjwa Mountains which date back 3.6 billion years and are thought to be one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world.
There’s an old mine called the Ngwenya Mine. It’s been mined since the Stone Age and is considered to be the world’s oldest.
You could visit the arts and crafts markets in the Ezilwini Valley and Malkerns, check out the glasswork at Ngwenya glass or do a canopy tour at the Malalotje Nature Reserve. Want more adrenaline? Try river rafting on the Great Usutu River.
You’ll be staying at the Summerfields Resort on a bed & breakfast basis. This is an award-winning, boutique hotel in a botanical garden.
The hotel offers guided nature walks and cultural tours. You can go golfing nearby or head to the shops. If you want to fish there are good facilities at several dams within the Usutu Forest. Lots of trout and lots of good bass fishing at Maguga Dam. Horse riding is a good option too. Some stables even offer overnight trails.
The hotel’s orchards are very pleasant and you can have high tea in the Grand Pavillion which is in the rose garden. Marvellously sedate and marvellously marvellous. Sit and bask in the excellent idea of holidaying here.
Day 9, 10 & 11: KwaZulu-Natal - St. Lucia
( 3 nights )
Goodbye Eswatini, it’s time to explore St. Lucia. You’re off to the coast. And what a stunner. This is one of South Africa's last great stretches of untouched coastline. And as the warm, tropical waters lap away the turtles come out to play.
On the way: This is a scenic drive - 4-5 hours, 320km. Enjoy the ever-changing landscape as you head towards the pristine coast.
When you're there: You are well located here to explore all that this beautiful destination has to offer from the beach and ocean to safari. The good news is that you have your wheels to get around and 2 full days here to enjoy it all. Splendid!
Look out for turtles on a night drive (between November and February) and whales (between July and December). Did you know that one Humpback whale is the size of 6 elephants? Speaking about elephants you can see them on safari here too. Hluhluwe/ Imfolozi is best known for spotting them along with lion, buffalo and rhino and the Isimangaliso Park is best for leopard, rhino and buffalo. If time allows, make sure you enjoy the eastern and western shores of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park.
When you get there you will see the miles and miles of perfect, undeveloped coastline. Clearly, you can chill here. Relaxing is in itself an activity in these parts, but for the rest, the lodge can help you book and plan all organised adventures.
Day 12: KwaZulu-Natal - Dolphin Coast
( 1 night )
Head to Salt Rock, a small town just north of Ballito and Shaka's Rock on the Dolphin Coast in KwaZulu-Natal. Once the home of King Shaka, ruler of the ancient Zulu tribes, it’s now a place for beach lovers and admirers of excellent tidal pools. And you’re only 40 minutes from Durban.
On the way: You will drive along the coast towards Salt Rock. Approximately 2 to 3 hours, 200km. If you don’t feel like going out to dinner when you get there, don’t - you’re staying at Sea-Rendipity Guest House and they serve meals.
When you're there: You are just 400 metres from the beach. It's just a short walk. Bliss.
Ocean pursuits galore. Dolphin boat rides, whale watching (sometimes from the beach), deep sea fishing. There are lots of spots to fish along the coast from Salt Rock, through Shaka's Rock to Ballito and Salmon Bay. Or take a microlight flight. Or quad bike. Ballito isn’t far where there are lots of restaurants and shops. If you like golf, there are good courses too.
Then there’s the Flag Farm Animal Farm which houses more than a thousand rescue animals including reptiles, birds, alpacas and wolves.
You could also head to one of the many heritage sites in the area where you can learn about the Zulu culture and King Shaka.
Or just grab one of the B&B’s books, switch off and head to the swimming pool. Each room has a private entrance which leads straight into the gardens and pool. Perfect.
Sea-Rendipity Guest House
Day 13, 14 & 15: Garden Route - Plettenberg Bay
( 3 nights )
You'll be staying about 20 minutes from town near Nature's Valley. If you’ve timed it right, you may be about to run into one of nature’s mightiest beasts. The whale. The Southern Right to be specific.
On the way: Durban Airport is a 30 km drive so it will take about half an hour. Drop off your car and fly to George - you have to arrange these flights yourself. When you arrive you’ll collect your new rental car and drive to Plettenberg Bay. This town is bang in the middle of the Garden Route. 125km, approximately 1-2 hours.
When you're there: Nature's Valley is picturesque and you're right on the beach. Spend the day catching a tan, taking a stroll and exploring the forest. Of course there's time enough to enjoy Plett as well. A town built on the hillside so most of it is on a steep slope leading down to the sea. Consequently you get marvellous vistas. The bay, the hills, the mountains. Take a long, deep breath.
The waves below surf 12 feet high off the Indian Ocean. There’s sand for miles. Southern right whales can be found in very shallow water including estuaries and bays. If you get very lucky, you may even see mothers and calves playing together. It’s an important time for the calf, mum is teaching it the skills it will need to make a success of returning to the Antarctic. You can learn more by going on an ocean safari or a sea kayaking trip.
The Garden Route is also excellent if hiking is your thing. There are many different trails from easy to difficult. The Robberg Nature Reserve is definitely worth heading for.
If you’re hungry there are lots of restaurants and cafés in the town.
Your bed and breakfast is Lily Pond Country Lodge. Enjoy relaxing overlooking the gardens and the yellowwood forest. Bask in the sun at the swimming pool, grab a book in the library with views over the lily ponds (hence the name).
Lily Pond Country Lodge
Day 16 & 17: Garden Route - Hermanus
( 2 nights )
Did you see a Southern Right? Hermanus is whale capital of world so you have another chance.
On the way: Today you drive for 5 hours, 445km. It's scenic and beautiful. If you decide to go wine tasting the route is R320. Look out the window. See that? Woah. Stunning, uninterrupted views of the valley.
When you're there: Book a whale cruise or whale-watch from land - this is the best land-based whale-watching in the world.
You’ll be staying at Whale Rock Lodge in Hermanus. Lovely gardens, two pools, one block back from the sea. You get a distant sea view if you stand in the front garden and an excellent view of the New Harbour. It’s across the road and the place where all the whale watching charters board. You’ll also be right beside the cliff path which meanders along the whale coast.
Whale Rock Lodge
Day 18, 19 & 20: Cape Town
( 3 nights )
It’s the final stop of the ultimate tour. The big guy. Beautiful Cape Town.
On the way: On a non-stop highway drive, you could be there in under two hours, it’s about 120km. Or, you could take the route which hugs the coast, guaranteeing spectacular views across False Bay and some worthy stops along the way.
When you're there: Cape Town is a sprawling beast which oozes natural splendour. The craggy beauty of Table Mountain is in your face, the beaches are white and positively smashing. This city is known for its harbour and for its natural setting in the Cape Floristic Region.
Explore on your own or with the red hop-on, hop-off buses. Or let the hotel organise a professional guide for you.
There’s the V&A Waterfront, Robben Island, SA Museum and Bo-Kaap, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Point, the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. The list goes on and on and it’s all good.
Cape Town also has a cool urban edge. Good art galleries, hip bars, world-rated restaurants and boutique shops.
Your B&B is in Sea Point. The Hyde Hotel has a rooftop pool, a fitness centre and a courtyard restaurant with a bar. Free WiFi and secure parking is also available. This is an independently-owned boutique hotel with 36 luxury suites.
The Hyde Hotel
Day 21: Cape Town
( Departure / End of Tour )
And that, my friend, is it. The 21st day of this holiday sees you handing in your rental car at Cape Town Airport and checking in for your flight. You’ll need extra baggage for all those memories. Sunrise, sunset. The smell of the storm, the smell of the wild, the smell of the open road. The ultimate, South Africa.
"NTS organized the trip wonderfully!"
We felt that the trip kept getting better every day
"The trip of our lives!"
Everything was excellently planned by Ashlee at Namibia Tours & Safaris.
"A truly wonderful and memorable trip"
Namibia, it's countryside, people and wildlife really should be on everyone's bucket list of places to visit!
"Absolutely a five star experience with this great company!"
Super clear communication, great recommendations and just really clear logistics.