One of the most culturally and geographically diverse places on earth, South Africa, fondly known by locals as the 'Rainbow Nation', boasts 11 official languages, and its inhabitants are influenced by a fascinating mix of cultures. Discover the gourmet restaurants, impressive art scene, vibrant nightlife, and beautiful beaches of Cape Town; enjoy a local braai (barbecue) in the Soweto township; browse the bustling Indian markets in Durban, or sample some of the world’s finest wines at the myriad wine estates dotting the Cape Winelands. Some historical attractions to explore include the Zululand battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and Robben Island, just off the coast of Cape Town. Above all else, its untamed wilderness is astonishing: wildlife roams freely across massive unfenced game reserves such as the world-famous Kruger National Park.
Days 1 - 4
Cape Town is one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world. Cradled by Table Mountain, it has immense charm and historical interest. We never tire of soaking up the beauty & buzzy atmosphere of this relaxed city with its cosmopolitan dining options.
No Cape Town visit is complete without taking the cable car up Table Mountain. You can even abseil off the top for the ultimate adrenalin rush. In the city, you can visit the colourful Bokaap quarter, an ecletic array of museums from District Six to the Museum of Gold or browse through the vibey street markets such as Greenmarket Square. Alternatively meander through the wonderful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, head out to Robben Island by boat or simply relax on the golden beaches of Camps Bay or Llandudno.
When you want to range further, the Cape Peninsula offers one of the finest coastal drives in Africa – Chapmans Peak Drive - to the Cape of Good Hope. Here you might see whales breeching just off the bay or quirky penguins on Boulders Beach.
Days 4 - 5
Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa – and certainly one of the prettiest! This historic university town began in 1685 and still has a number of charming Cape Dutch streets lined with water furrows and shaded by oak trees. The architecture of Stellenbosch is simple in style and character with white limestone walls, thatched roofs and wide avenues. Amble up the picturesque Dorp Street, or head into the Stellenbosch Village Museum, a collection of four preserved houses that give insight into the lives of the early settlers.
Foodies can indulge in mouth-watering cuisine and fine wines at one of its chic restaurants or buzzing bistros. Stellenbosch is also the ideal base from which to explore the renowned local wine route, with a high proportion of the country’s leading wine estates in the vicinity.
Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve
Days 5 - 8
A safari is nearly always an important part of a trip to South Africa - words cannot describe the thrill of tracking a leopard on the hunt or observing a breeding herd of elephants at a waterhole. The 65,000ha Sabi Sands is one of the premier wildlife destinations in Southern Africa, offering superb game-viewing and stylish lodges. It shares an open border with the Kruger so animals move freely between the two reserves.
Two perennial rivers, the Sabi and the Sand flow through this game reserve, sustaining the diverse fauna and flora of the area. Due to a long history of sensitive game-viewing, the animals are generally relaxed around game vehicles, especially leopard. So diverse is its habitat and wildlife that you have an excellent chance of experiencing close encounters with the 'Big 5' - elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard - as well as many species of antelope, several dog-like species including spotted hyena, wild dog and jackal.
The Sabi Sands comprises a number of private game lodges which cooperate in conserving their valuable heritage. Some of the world's finest game lodges are found here, together with some less well-known bush camps.
A Sabi Sands safari is an intimate and informative experience. You enjoy game drives in open-vehicle game drives with an experienced ranger and a local Shangaan tracker who work together to give you a deeper understanding of the wildlife and the natural cycles of the bush. Drives are in the early morning and late afternoon when game is most likely to be active. The evening meal is often enjoyed in a 'boma' or even in the bush around an open fire, which many guests feel is a particularly evocative treat.
Days 8 - 10
Johannesburg is one of Africa’s biggest and most vibrant cities. It is economic capital: the pulsating heart of South Africa's industrial and commercial life where gold mining still continues.
If your itinerary needs an overnight stay here, there is plenty on offer. Choose from a range of truly superb hotels, usually in the prosperous leafy suburbs of Sandton, Sandhurst and Rosebank. There are also some fascinating tours and excursions such as visits to Soweto, the excellent Apartheid Museum or even a working diamond mine. More adventurous can choose a bike tour through Soweto or enjoy the Magaliesberg treetop canopy tour.
Johannesburg has some very good museums and art galleries as well as a lot of urban art installations. If you’d like to get out of the city to explore further, Sterkfontein and Maropeng in the Cradle of Humanity World Heritage Site are well worth a visit. Finally Johannesburg is a great place for shopping for African arts and crafts as well as diamonds of course.
A nation of spectacular natural beauty, friendly people and rich culture, Zimbabwe’s status as one of Africa’s leading safari destinations was dampened for years by its political instability. But now that the country is transcending its strife and returning to a state of equilibrium, it is once again emerging as a vacation highlight of the continent. Victoria Falls – known to locals as ‘The Smoke That Thunders’ – is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the sheer power of this massive body of water plunging into the Zambezi Gorge is awe-inspiring and unforgettable. Lake Kariba, with its game-rich shores and islands, is an idyllic safari spot featuring mind-blowing sunsets; Hwange National Park is known for its huge herds of elephants; and a kayak trip down the Zambezi through the Mana Pools National Park will appeal to the intrepid traveller, providing close encounters with crocodiles, hippos and a host of other wildlife.
Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)
Days 10 - 13
The Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is a sight not to be missed. Especially when the Zambezi river is in full flow (April to June/July) when over a mile of unbroken surging water plunges into the Zambezi gorge below. The pleasant town is compact enough to walk around and the Falls are within easy walking distance.
The Victoria Falls is bordered by Zimbabwe and Zambia and each country offers a different viewing perspective. Towards the end of the dry season, from late September to January, the spectacle is best seen from the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria Falls.
A host of activities are on offer centred around the Falls themselves, the magnificent Zambezi River and the Zambezi National Park. Enjoy guided tours of the Falls and then a languorous sunset boat cruises. To gain an overall impression of the Falls, the helicopter 'Flight of Angels' is essential. A microlight ride and bungee jumping are available for the more daring. The wide gentle river above the Falls is the perfect place for canoeing and fishing, whilst below the Falls, the serious white-water rafting or jet-boating is on offer. Game drives and horse riding are offered in the Zambezi National Park to view elephant and buffalo, or you can take a day safari to nearby Chobe National Park. You can also sample elephant back safaris and interactions.