You should arrive at the airport to take your overnight flight to Johannesburg.
Day 2 - Johannesburg
After our morning arrival, we transfer to the four-star Indaba Hotel in a prosperous suburb, north of the city. On the way to our hotel we take the opportunity to visit the Apartheid Museum, a truly fascinating exhibition charting the apartheid years and the struggle against it, culminating in the first democratic elections. It is a superbly presented walk through contemporary history using original material, riveting eyewitness accounts, photographs and film. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to explore the pleasant leafy district of Fourways and nearby Montecasino shopping mall.
Day 3 - Blyde River Canyon & Kruger National Park
After breakfast we depart for the open spaces and farmlands of the highveld, following the Panorama Route to Kruger National Park, one of the most scenic drives in South Africa. We follow the spectacular rim of the Blyde River Canyon, an amazing 20-mile long and 2,300-foot deep gorge cutting a vast swathe through the Great Escarpment separating the temperate grasslands of the highveld and the drier savannah beyond. Deep circular rock formations created by years of erosion and many excellent vantage points offer superb photo opportunities of some of the most breathtaking views in Africa. Our hotel for the next three nights is the three-star superior Hippo Hollow Country Estate, beautifully located in the midst of lush forest on the banks of the Sabie River on the edge of the National Park. It has lovely gardens, two pools, a very cosy bar, an excellent restaurant and an open-air terrace overlooking the grounds and river where you can actually watch the hippos! A more relaxing spot would be difficult to find. Dinner is included tonight.
Day 4 - Kruger National Park
Today we have a full day’s game drive in specially adapted 10 seat 4x4 vehicles. There is simply nothing to beat that rising feeling of anticipation and excitement as we enter the nearby park in the half-light of the spectacular African dawn, surrounded by the noise of a unique ‘dawn chorus’. Which animal shall we spot first? Perhaps an elephant, a family of warthogs or possibly even the elusive cheetah. Our experienced game rangers know the best tracks and waterholes whilst their stories will amuse, inform and fascinate you. Most have lived here all their lives, accumulating a vast wealth of knowledge. One minute they can be talking about the constituents of elephant dung and the next about the mating behaviour of hippos or the latest UK football scores!
Day 5 - Free Day, Kruger National Park
This is a day at leisure for anyone who just wants to take it easy by the one of the pools at the hotel or do some hippo-spotting from the lovely lawn overlooking the river. Alternatively, you could try elephant-back safaris, exciting helicopter flights or even river rafting (all subject to weather conditions), as well as sunset safaris or night safaris where you can experience the unique thrill of an open 4x4 vehicle game drive by spotlight.
Exclusively for Riviera guests, there are also a limited number of places available to stay the night at a tented camp and go on a bushwalk ending in the bush. Our camp is a real ‘back to nature’ experience, with no electricity or en-suite facilities – we use portable ‘bush’ showers and toilets. Our chef will create excellent wholesome cuisine and you can listen out for any nocturnal visitors whilst sitting around the campfire! Prices from R 2700 ( around £180 per person) sharing a two-person tent, including an afternoon game drive, bush walk, dinner and breakfast. You rejoin the main tour on the morning of day 6.
Day 6 - Swaziland & Kwazulu Natal Province
Today we leave Kruger on our way to the battlefields of Zululand. After breakfast we’ll drive south , entering the small but scenically beautiful country of Swaziland. As the road climbs through the interestingly-named Piggs Peak we descend past lush green fields and rolling hills interspersed with small farms and drive through the country’s small capital Mbabane, passing the parliament house and Royal Palace en-route. We cross back into South Africa in the afternoon and enter Kwazulu Natal province, staying at the simple three-star Battlefields Lodge for two nights on bed and breakfast basis.
Day 7 - Isandlwana & Rorke’s Drift
After breakfast we visit the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. Brilliantly dramatized in the films Zulu Dawn and Zulu, these two battles, just a day apart, became a defining moment for the British Empire. In 1879 at Isandlwana, a depleted force of 1,300 were surprised and outmanoeuvred by a 20,000-strong Zulu army armed with cowhide shields and spears. Only a handful survived. The next day, just 9 miles away, about 140 British soldiers, some wounded, held off 4,000 Zulus for over ten hours at Rorke’s Drift, an action earning eleven Victoria Crosses, the largest number ever awarded in a single engagement. Isandlwana particularly, remains a haunting and lonely place, with mass graves marked by simple white stones. Our specialist Zulu guide will really make those desperate encounters come alive. We return to our hotel in the afternoon. Lunch is included today.
Day 8 - Knysna
After breakfast we return to Johannesburg airport, flying to George in the Western Cape and at the heart of the gorgeous Garden Route. We take the short drive to the coastal town of Knysna and our hotel, the charming three-star superior Knysna Hollow Country Estate. The comfortable rooms are all whitewashed and thatched and many overlook the two swimming pools. There is an excellent restaurant, with an extensive wine selection and a convivial bar. Dinner is included this evening.
Day 9 - Knysna & Featherbed Nature Reserve
Knysna has been called South Africa’s favourite small town and with its stunning lagoon location, numerous art galleries, craft shops and the excellent Knysna Quays marina shopping and dining complex, it’s not hard to see why.
The Garden Route, as its name implies, really is a scenic treat! This magnificent stretch of coastline encompasses mountains, lagoons, pristine beaches, indigenous forests, wetlands teeming with birds, lakes and mountains, all blended together in a feast of sheer natural beauty: it really has it all. This morning we take a ferry across the lagoon to the Featherbed Nature Reserve, a South African Natural Heritage site which we explore by 4x4 vehicle. We stop at some magnificent viewpoints whilst our guide describes the area’s fauna, flora, history and shipwrecks, followed by an easy downhill guided walk and delicious buffet lunch under the canopy of the milkwood trees.
Day 10 - Winelands & Hermanus
This morning, we take the long scenic drive to the Cape’s beautiful Winelands. During July to November we drive via Hermanus, the world’s best spot for on-shore whale watching. These gentle giants move in seemingly permanent slow motion and are a truly amazing sight as they playfully cavort in the water. You arrive in the Winelands by late afternoon, staying two nights on bed-and-breakfast at the excellent four-star Devon Valley hotel, which is a real find. This little property is set on the valley slopes offering breathtaking views, lush gardens, a relaxing shady terrace, a comfortable bar with dark leather armchairs, fireplace and a wide selection of single malt whiskeys. Some tours may stay at the nearby four-star Erinvale Hotel.
Day 11 - Franschoek, Stellenbosch & Winelands
Today we tour the awesomely beautiful Winelands. Set in a valley backed by majestic mountains, rows of manicured vines and orchards stretch into a distance studded by lime-washed, often thatched, 300 year-old wineries built in the unique Cape Dutch style, seemingly mirroring the undulations of the surrounding countryside. Our first stop is the small town of Franschoek in a magnificent setting at the head of a valley, then to elegant Stellenbosch established 300 years ago and home of South Africa’s most prestigious university. Period buildings and historic streets reinforce the town’s dignified atmosphere. We have time to explore this delightful town before enjoying a fascinating cellar tour and tasting at the award-winning Boschendal Wine Estate. Tonight we’ll enjoy an included typical South African BBQ or Cape Malay Buffet dinner at our hotel.
Day 12 - Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Table Mountain & Cape Town
This morning, you visit the amazing Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Located just below Table Mountain, these are considered the best in the country. You soon arrive in Cape Town and your hotel, the four-star centrally located Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, staying three nights on a bed-and-breakfast basis. The afternoon is spent at leisure, when you can begin to explore this beautiful city, within walking distance of the V&A waterfront.
Day 13 - Cape Point & Boulders Beach
This morning, we visit Cape Point and the legendary Cape of Good Hope, firstly driving past pristine beaches to the picturesque fishing harbour of Hout Bay. We continue along the breathtakingly scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive, full of rugged seascapes, to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, then on to Cape Point itself. We see the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean currents and the treacherous promontory of rocks and swells, the scourge of mariners for centuries. Finally we visit Boulders Beach and its penguin colony, returning to the city during the afternoon.
Day 14 - Free Day, Cape Town
Cape Town, featuring British, Dutch and Cape Malay influences, is simply one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities with so much to offer the visitor! You could do some bargain shopping at the Waterfront, followed by a sumptuous seafood lunch. Or maybe go people-watching at fashionable Camps Bay? Obviously no visit to Cape Town is complete without taking a revolving cable car ride to the top of iconic Table Mountain which has announced the city to generations of sea-farers. The views are fabulous. You should also visit Robben Island (weather permitting and based on availability), where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27-year incarceration, and whose visitors since its opening have included Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Gates and even Nelson Mandela himself. Perhaps though, simply wander where your feet take you, or relax a little, taking afternoon tea at the beautiful colonial splendour of the Mount Nelson hotel - the choice is yours.
Day 15 - Free Day, Cape Town
Our final day in Cape Town is at leisure before a transfer to the airport, at the appropriate time, for our return flight to Heathrow via Johannesburg.
We arrive back after a truly unique tour.