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A trip to discover the highlights of South Africa, including understanding the turbulent history in Soweto, searching for wildlife in Kruger, travelling along the iconic Garden Route to see penguins and try delicious wines in the Cape Winelands, all before ending in colourful Cape Town.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights comfortable cabins
9 nights comfortable hotel
3 nights comfortable lodge
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, and once home to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. A city of stark contrasts and infamous history, Johannesburg is going through rapid change and urban regeneration.
For those arriving on time today our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 12pm for the welcome meeting and to take us on the afternoon Soweto tour. Soweto, originally an acronym for South Western Townships, played a prominent part in the fight against the former apartheid regime, notably the uprising of 1976; when mass protests erupted. We will take a tour of the area and meet residents to understand how life has changed since the end of apartheid. We will visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial, a museum that honours the vital role that the youth of South Africa played during the struggle. He was one of the first students to be killed during the uprising when he was just 13. We will also visit Nelson Mandela's former home (now a museum) which tells the story of Mandela and his family.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), which is just a short 10 minute drive from our hotel.
Please note that if you wish to join the Soweto tour today, you must arrive at the hotel by 12pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least 90 minutes to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around 10 minutes' drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 10.30am. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
Please note: A majority of flights will land into Johannesburg in the early morning and it's often too early to be able to check straight in to your room. However, early arrivals will have access to tea and coffee, toilets and the hotel lounge.
Town Lodge Johannesburg Airport (or similar)
After breakfast, we will depart for Timbavati Private Nature Reserve in the western region of Kruger National Park. Today is a long travelling day but there will be many rest stops as we drive through the airy uplands of Mpumalanga, an area that has been inhabited since the Stone Age. It's a beautiful region of rivers, waterfalls and craggy escarpments covered in lush vegetation, and we'll stop at several excellent viewpoints along the way. This includes the aptly named 'God's Window' to admire the breath-taking mountain views into the Blyde River Canyon.
We expect to arrive in Timbavati in the late afternoon and the evening will be free to relax. We will be staying in traditionally painted rondavels with thatched roofs set in shady spots under the indigenous trees, while friendly neighbours including zebra, wildebeest and warthog graze on the grass outside. The lodge sits just outside of the main Kruger park gates.
Timbavati Safari Lodge (or similar)
Rising with the sun, we will depart our lodge around 5.30am this morning with a local guide in open-sided safari vehicles to begin a full day of game-driving inside Kruger National Park, one of the premier wildlife viewing spots in southern Africa. Established in 1898, Kruger National Park was started to protect big game that had been hunted to near extinction, it is now one of the most prolific animal habitats in South Africa, committed to animal conservation.
During today's safari we will stop at various watering holes where buffalo and antelope are often spotted refreshing themselves, and other visitors may include the legendary 'Big 5'; lion leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo. We will spend the morning looking for wildlife before stopping at one of the park's restaurant or café options, and after a lunch break we will continue with an afternoon safari experience returning to our lodge in the late afternoon.
This evening will be free to relax in the communal bar area or perhaps enjoy time around the campfire under the stars.
Another early start this morning as we head back into Kruger for our second full day on safari. Depending on the animals we spotted yesterday we may choose to focus on searching for some of the park's more unusual and elusive wildlife such as the honey badger, black rhino and eland. After another busy day out on safari, tonight you can sit out under the stars and enjoy a glass of South Africa's best produce - wine.
This evening it is recommended that you check-in online for tomorrow's flight to Port Elizabeth (your e-ticket will be provided in your final documentation); it is possible to check in 24 hours before departure.
Today we say goodbye to the savannahs of Kruger as we depart for Johannesburg airport where we will take a flight down to Port Elizabeth in preparation to begin our journey along South Africa's famed Garden Route. We will spend the majority of today travelling, so your leader will ensure plenty of breaks to stretch legs.
We will arrive in Port Elizabeth in the evening and our final leg of the journey is a short 20 minute drive to our hotel. The city, locally known as the Windy City, was first populated as a stopover point on the way to Goa in India, and it was later populated by the British during the colonial period. There is a selection of restaurants just a short walk from our hotel, or alternatively a bar at the hotel if you prefer a quiet evening.
The Kelway Hotel (or similar)
This morning we will pack up and set off on a two hour journey to the magnificent Tsitsikamma National Park. This marine and forest park stretches for 80km, from a lagoon at Nature's Valley to the mouth of the Groot River. Lush forest and sheer cliffs provide an ideal setting for hiking. Storms River is an area of rugged coastline with crashing waves and forest-covered cliffs that are simply spellbinding.
Along the way we will make a stop to purchase a picnic lunch and on arrival your leader will lead an orientation walk of the area. The rest of the afternoon will be free to enjoy a bite to eat by the water's edge, walk along the suspension bridge that spans the mouth of Storm's River, or perhaps choose another route to hike or viewpoint to visit. There are many different paths marked out with differing levels of difficulty, details on each trail can be obtained at the information hut. We'll then wrap up a day of exploring with a drink together just in time to enjoy one of Tsitsikamma's legendary sunsets! This evening's meal options include eating some great seafood in the park's restaurant perched just above the sea or perhaps have a group braai at one of the communal barbeque areas, before taking a short drive to our accommodation in Tsitsikamma Village.
Storms River Mouth Restcamp (or similar)
Tsitsikamma translates as 'place of abundant water' and this morning will be free to enjoy the area at your own pace. Perhaps choose to relax by the pool, take a walk around the village itself, or for the more adventurous explore the canopy walkways and zip wires suspended 30m up among indigenous rainforest where some trees are over 700 years old!
We'll have lunch in the Tsitsikamma area, before departing for Robberg Nature Reserve where your Trip Leader will lead a walk along the trails. The hiking here is moderate - it's uneven under foot in places and can be slippery so good walking shoes are advised, but the rewards are abundant: brilliant bird viewing, sweeping coastal views and the possibility to spot dolphins and seals in the waters below. From July to December, there's also the chance to see southern right whales that come into the calmer and warmer waters to calve and nurse their young.
Late this afternoon, we'll arrive at our accommodation and there'll be some free to time to relax before dinner. This evening's options are to eat at the hotel restaurant, or choose a water-front eatery in Plettenberg Bay, and enjoy local wine alongside fresh seafood.
Please note: Depending on your chosen departure date, the accommodation may vary. On some departures, groups will be centrally located in the town of Plettenberg, allowing for easy and convenient exploration of the town. Other departures will be located a ten minute drive away at a beach-side resort in the Keurbooms area of Plettenberg. Although not centrally located, this property boasts an onsite restaurant and bar, two swimming pools and private access to the Keurbooms beach.
Bayview Hotel (or similar)
Today begins with free time to explore Plettenberg. The region is well-loved for its unspoilt sweeping beaches and boasts an extensive 20km of Indian Ocean coastline, so take some time to relax on the sand or take a stroll along the shoreline. Alternatively, Plett Market is a daily occurrence in town popular with locals and visitors alike, where you can taste local foods and find a selection of traditional handicrafts, jewellery and second-hand wear. Also your Trip leader can help with booking additional excursions such as whale-watching (seasonal) or kayaking.
Later this afternoon we'll take a 30 minute drive away from the coast to visit a developing wine region; The Crags. Unlike the famed winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the Plett wine route is still up and coming but with its stunning views, lower visitor numbers and a handful of independent vineyards it is proving tough competition! We will visit a small boutique winery, located along the Crags trail among rolling vineyards for a tasting experience.
We'll return to our accommodation in the late afternoon and this evening will be free.
After breakfast, we leave Plettenberg behind and get back on the Garden Route to continue along the spectacular coastal road westwards for around 450km towards Hermanus, the whale watching capital of South Africa. Today is a long travel day so your leader will stop regularly for a chance to stretch legs. Our first stop will be at Knysna Heads; an icon of South Africa's Garden Route, this pair of large sandstone cliffs offer a wonderful viewpoint above where the sea meets Knysna Lagoon. Later, we'll stop in Albertinia for a lunch break before making our way to Hermanus, arriving in the late afternoon.
Home to the whale crier, Hermanus is a highlight of the Garden Route but retains its small fishing town charm and from June to November it is common to see southern right whales migrating right past the town from the shore!
Windsor Hotel (or similar)
Today, we have a full day in Hermanus. Depending on your chosen departure date, the day will either be spent with your leader whale watching from the coastal paths, or exploring the nearby Fernkloof Nature Reserve.
Whale watching season is typically between June and December with sightings most frequent in September, October and November. We will take a walk along the 12km cliff path in the hope of spotting southern right whales in the surrounding waters after their long migration from the Antarctic. There will be free time to either continue whale watching along the coastal paths or if you prefer spend some time in the town.
For departures operating out of whale watching season, we will visit the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, a protected area situated above Hermanus with stunning views out over the town and bay. The reserve has recorded over 1400 species of flora, over 90 species of birds, as well as resident baboons and dassies along the hiking trails. Your leader will guide us along the reserve's red trail through evergreen forest which takes around 90 minutes to complete with a gentle ascent and descent. Upon returning to Hermanus there will be free time to explore the town.
This morning we will depart early to make our way to the Winelands of the Cape and drive to Stellenbosch, a beautiful town surrounded by vineyards and mountains.
After an hour's drive, we will make our first stop in the Betty's Bay area where we will have an included visit to Stony Point Nature Reserve, home to one of the world's largest African Penguin colonies. The reserve sits on the site of a historic whaling station and thanks to its distance from Cape Town offers excellent penguin viewing without the crowds. We'll be able to follow the boardwalks over the craggy outcrops, allowing us to see these flightless birds up close without disturbing their habitat. Although humans are not allowed to wander beyond the boardwalks, it does not always stop the penguins joining the trail and setting a slow walking pace!
Later this morning we'll continue and make a stop at the Somerset Village Community Garden for a short orientation tour. This inspiring project has been set-up by a resident of the area to start an 'employment scheme' among the homeless community allowing them to develop skills while earning food vouchers, as well as promoting community gardening and running a weekly farmers market.
Around lunchtime we will arrive in Stellenbosch, where we'll check-in to our guesthouse before enjoying a free afternoon. You may choose to relax in the town, take a walk around the university grounds or maybe visit the museum to learn more about the history of the town. You may like to join a walking food tour to learn about the spices, teas and flavours of South Africa. Alternatively, if you have a taste for South Africa's produce, there will be the option to go wine tasting to two local wineries. Stellenbosch has a reputation for excellent Chenin Blanc, perfectly matched with seafood, caught fresh from the Indian Ocean that morning. If you are more of a red fan, then expect big earthy reds, a great companion for a sumptuous steak or meat on a braai. There is also the local phenomenon of Pinotage, created in South Africa as a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, the wine has now achieved global recognition and the best place to try it is here in South Africa.
Stellenbosch Hotel (or similar)
After a relaxing start, we will drive through rolling green slopes, filled with vineyards as we make our way to Cape Town, our final destination and one of the most iconic cities on earth. We can see the towering Table Mountain from miles away, though if the day isn't clear we will see the cloud rolling over the top of the precipice, either vision is equally impressive.
This afternoon, we will ascend the iconic Table Mountain by cable car. After a heady ride up to the top, there will be time to explore the network of trails which criss-cross the plateau and provide a variety of vantage points over the city, the coastline and the Twelve Apostles mountain range. In the distance you can see Robben Island, the former home of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's favourite son and most famous hero. Apart from its obvious geographical attractions, Cape Town is also famous for its food and drink culture, with an abundance of restaurants choices, from the trendy downtown to the more touristy but beautiful V&A waterfront.
Please note: The Table Mountain cable car closes for 2 weeks of maintenance each year usually around the end of July.
Cresta Grande Cape Town (or similar)
Today is left free for you to choose one of the many optional activities available in the area. If you wish to visit Robben Island, we recommend booking this in advance (please see under optionals for more details). For those wanting to get out of town and see the surrounding areas, another option is to visit Cape Point, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. This trip will also visit Boulders Bay and its resident penguin colony. Or you may prefer to just take a stroll around the city, take in one of the many museums and wander past the colourful houses in the Bo-Kaap (Malay quarter). You could explore District Six and learn about its troubled past or just relax and enjoy the coffee culture of Cape Town.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Cape Town.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Cape Town at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Cape Town International Airport (CPT), which is around a 30 minute drive from the hotel.
Mild throughout the year and can thus be visited year round. The Western Cape has a Mediterranean-type climate, with warm, dry summers and cold winters with rainfall. Summer runs from November to March, with temperatures averaging 22oC to 34oC. The months of April and October are generally warm and sunny. Winter is also a good time to visit as towns and sites are not so crowded and the countryside is more verdant, but it can be cold. Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable.
3 Pin Round
Kruger National Park (Day 3 and 4): Sunset Safari at Kruger NP - R605 pp Plettenburg Bay (Day 8): Dolphin encounter boat trip - R600 pp Close Encounter Whale Watching (in season) - R850 pp Hermanus (Day 10): Seasonal Whale watching boat trip R900 - R1100 pp depending on number of participants Stellenbosch (Day 11) Guided wine tour available from R65 to R125 depending on number of participants and vineyard Dylan Lewis sculpture park R200 pp Cape Town (Day 13) Full day Cape Peninsula tour including Hout Bay, Cape of Good Hope and Boulders beach - R1765 pp Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens R210 pp If you would like to book an excursion to Robben Island, the former prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated please use this link: http://www.robben-island.org.za It is very important that you book the 9am ferry for day 13 of the tour. If there are spaces it is possible to book this excursion locally, but this is subject to availability. Prices are R600 pp All prices are per person in South African Rand and subject to change.
Clothing should generally be lightweight for the day and layers are recommended but remember to also take some warm clothing for the evenings and early mornings especially between May - November. All year round long trousers, a waterproof and windproof jacket are recommended. Take swimwear and quick-dry towel.
Comfortable walking shoes or lightweight boots for the walks, trainers or sandals for relaxing/travelling.
We recommend a tough soft bag or holdall (or rucksack with detachable frame) suitable to be carried, however if you prefer to take a rigid framed suitcase on wheels, this is fine. Also take a daypack for items needed during any short walks and game drives (20-30 litre).
Bring a torch, water bottle, sunhatunscreen and insect repellent. Binoculars are essential for game viewing and a 300mm lens is recommended for photography. Mosquito nets are not required as the accommodation provides screening where necessary. While tap water in South Africa's urban areas is drinkable, we recommend for you to travel with a reusable filtered water bottle such as the ones featured at Water-to-Go: http://www.watertogo.eu/
South Africa has a good tourism infrastructure and generally good service standards. Our accommodation throughout this trip varies in style to reflect the regions we are in. We use a combination of guesthouses, comfortable hotels and lodges. Some of the properties are owner-occupied and give a real taste of traditional South African hospitality and we love supporting these small local businesses. Please note, due to high seasonal-demand accommodation may vary from what is listed on the main webpage and trip description. We will always endeavour to offer the same or higher standard of property and ensure it has minimal impact on the included itinerary. Please ask an Explore Sales Consultant or refer to your final documentation for a final hotel list. Load shedding is the term used to describe short term electricity outages, used as a last resort to balance the demand and supply of electricity across the South African electricity market. Power outages typically last between two to four hours per day and can occur at any time, little notice is given to hotels and guesthouses. Whilst some of the properties we use have their own generators, most do not. Please be prepared for electricity outages during your stay in South Africa.
Dietary requirements: Most restaurants and hotels in South Africa do not have a wide selection of vegan and vegetarian choices. There is usually a choice of salads and one main vegetarian and/or vegan main dish on the menus, but choice will be limited especially in more remote locations. If you have specific dietary requirements we do recommend for you to bring some food with you.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
South Africa: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, US and Canadian citizens. New Zealand ordinary passport holders do not require a visa, all other passport holders please consult your local consulate for full information. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. Please ensure you have the correct multiple entry visa, especially if you are visiting another country on your itinerary and will need to re-enter South Africa - this includes visiting Swaziland. All visitors should ensure their passport is machine readable, has a minimum of 6 months validity from your arrival date into the country and has two blank pages when entering and leaving South Africa. The South African Immigration officials will not allow child/ infant pages to be used for this purpose and visitors without the stipulated blank pages will be denied entry. There are special requirements for travelling to South Africa with children under 18 who hold South African nationality, and for unaccompanied children entering South Africa. The South African Department of Home Affairs has more information. All visa information is subject to change. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Please note that you will be required to supply a yellow fever certificate that has been issued at least 10 days prior to arrival in South Africa if you have travelled from or via a country where yellow fever is endemic. We recommend protection against hepatitis A, tetanus, typhoid, polio and diphtheria. According to various travel health sources, the Western Cape is not regarded as a malaria risk area. If you are travelling to other areas in South Africa please check with your doctor about malaria requirements. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.