Cultures Off The Beaten Track
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Last updated: 02/19/2009
Discover some of South Africa's best kept secrets. Visit the Pedi people of Tzaneen, horseback through the Mlilwane Park, explore the Xhosa village of Mgwali, ride an ostrich in Oudtshoorn & much more
Arrival in Johannesburg - Drive to Pretoria
Your flight is likely to depart from the UK in the evening and arrive in South Africa the following morning. After arrival you'll be able to pick up your rental car and talk through your itinerary with our local representative either at the airport or your first hotel. Once you have your car, you'll drive for approximately 60km to your hotel in Pretoria. Here, you'll have time to freshen up, rest up and visit a few of the sights in Pretoria such as the buildings of Parliament and their gardens, the Voortrekkers monument (to commemorate the Boers that trekked north into the heart of the African grassland) and the Paul Kruger house. Invigorated by all of the new impressions and surroundings, you should have enough energy to visit the bars, restaurants and stores in Hatfield.
Total distance on Day 1 is approximately 60km.
If you choose a direct flight to South Africa, you'll most likely arrive late at night. We'll make reservations for you to spend the night in Johannesburg, not far from the airport, so that you don't have drive all the way to the hotel in Pretoria at night.
Pretoria - Tzaneen
After a luxury breakfast, it's time to become acquainted with the Limpopo province culture. While driving north, towards Polokwane, the scenery will become greener and sometime in the afternoon you'll arrive in Tzaneen, in the middle of the Pedi territory. The name Tzaneen is derived from the Pedi-word "Tzana", which means "basket full of fruit". Tzaneen and its' surroundings are known for their abundance of citrus fruit, mango and lychee cultivation. Spend the night in a cosy, luxury lodge on the banks of the Letaba River.
Total distance on Day 2 is approximately 376 km.
TzaneenIn the Limpopo province, you'll encounter the culture of the northern Sotho, also known as the Pedi people. They are best known for the legend of Modjadji, "Queen of the Rain". To find out more about the Pedi heritage you can visit the Bakone Malapa Kraal today, a traditional northern Sotho settlement near Polokwane (Pietersburg).
If you'd like to spend your day more actively, there are also many outdoor activities that you can participate in near your accommodation such as quad rides, rafting, swimming, fishing, hiking in the Wolkberg, or a game of golf on the guest house golf course. We also recommend a visit to the Ebenezar dam or the Modjadji cycad forest. Feel like hugging a tree? Try to wrap your arms around the largest Baobab tree in the world (circumference of 46.8 metres) at the Sunland orchard. This tree is believed to be at least 6000 years old! You'll spend the night at the lodge in Tzaneen.
Tzaneen - Hazyview
Today you'll drive along the popular Panorama route past Blyde River Canyon to Hazyview. Be sure to park the car on the side of the road from time to time to enjoy a short or long walk to the must-see's along this route. For instance, you'll definitely want to visit the The Three Rondavels, Bourke's Luck Potholes and God's Window (although 'the curtains' are often closed at this look-out point due to fog). The Panorama Route also passes the goldmine town, "Pilgrim's Rest". A visit to this town is like stepping back in time to when gold miners dreamed of striking it rich! At the end of the afternoon you'll arrive in Hazyview, beautifully located between sugar cane and banana plantations on the border of Kruger Park. Spend the night right outside of town in a cosy guest house with a swimming pool and fine restaurant.
Total distance on Day 4 is approximately 270km.
Hazyview - Kruger National Park
Hazyview lies several kilometres away from Kruger Park's Numbi gate or Paul Kruger gate. Wake up early and try to reach Kruger right after sunrise; this is the best time to see wild animals and the Big Five in particular. At the park entrance you'll be able to purchase entrance tickets, maps etc. The speed limit in the park is 40km per hour, so please use caution when driving. Spend the night in a hut or rondavel with a braai/BBQ grill at one of the restcamps in the southern part of the park, such as Skukuza, Lower Sabie, Pretoriuskop, Berg en Dal or Crocodile Bridge. The camps have a bar, restaurant and a store (if you like you can prepare your own dinners!).
Kruger National Park
Be prepared to make an early start today. An hour before sunrise, you'll take off in a group of a maximum of 8 participants (above the age of 12) on an adventurous 3-4 hour walking safari (game walk) lead by two armed rangers. You'll cross through the park on foot in search of large and small wild animals and find out all there is to know about Kruger. The game walk ends at camp, where breakfast will be waiting for you. We can't guarantee that you'll see (large) wild animals (you won't be walking for dozens of kilometres); however you will receive a proper 'bush' introduction from a trail-tracking ranger. Afterwards you're off on your own adventures in your rental car! Be sure to check out the notice-board to see which animals have been spotted recently and then head off to unleash your own 'spotting' talents. The roads through the park are excellent, mostly paved and there are many possible rest areas along the way in order to enjoy the view and the animals of course. You'll be spending the night in the same restcamp.
Kruger National Park - Swaziland
From the southern part of Kruger Park it's about a 275 km drive to Mlilwane National Park. Once you leave Kruger behind you it won't be long until you reach the Swaziland border. A scenic road leads through the mountain passes of Piggs Peak and along the Malotja reserve to the busy, somewhat chaotic capital city of Mbabane. After a visit to the Swazi market stands, where all types of art and other products can be purchased, you'll reach Mlilwane National Park. This is the largest natural park in the country. After you've passed the entrance, head for the camp where you'll spend the night in a traditional âbeehive' or beehive hut in a small Swazi village. These accommodation are very basic, featuring 2 single beds, electricity, mosquito netting and basic plumbing. But then again, what else do you really need?
At your request you can also stay in nearby wooden chalets with private facilities for the same price. The colonial lodge 'O'Reillys', home of the founder of the park, is a more expensive and exclusive option.
Total distance on Day 7 is approximately 275 kilometres or 3 hours.
Swaziland - Mlilwane
Wake up early and have a hot bath in the warm springs just outside of camp. Floating around in the warm water at sunrise, under the watchful gaze of impalas and zebras, is such a pleasant start of the day. Looking for a little less unconventional start of your day? How about a dip in the 'regular' pool?
Today you'll have all the time you need to unwind from your long road trips. Make reservations (the evening before) and go on an early morning horseback ride straight through the park (for beginners and intermediates). Perhaps you would prefer a mountain bike ride to âExecutioners Rock'? In the past, unlucky criminals were thrown to their death from this elevated rock formation.
There are also several hiking trails available to you near camp. Walking through nature, leaving all forms of motorized transportation far behind, has an incredibly calming effect on people. Although you won't see any lions or other large predators, there are plenty of crocodiles and hippos in the lakes, streams and banks of the river. Be sure not to get to close to these areas. If you like, you can also hike towards a nearby Swazi village, accompanied by a guide. Visiting these villages is a great way to learn more about the Swazi culture, not to mention a fun chance to dance and sing with children living in these villages.
Swaziland - St .Lucia
Once you've left Milwane, you can stop by the candle factory in nearby Malkerns or the glass factory in Ngwenya. Then drive further south past Manzini and Big Bend along the Mozambique border to Golela, on the KwaZulu Natal border. The landscape will become flatter and more arid here. Once you reach South African territory, take the highway to Hlhuhluwe and then take the exit to the village of St. Lucia. The village is nearby a lake and reserve both known by the same name, St. Lucia. Spend the night in a small, pleasant accommodation (with a pool) near main street, restaurants and stores. There are several bars nearby that would be great for a drink and some music in the evening.
You'll have two entire days to explore Lake St. Lucia and the beautiful Hluhluwe National Park. A boat leaves from the village of St. Lucia several times a day for an approximately 2 hour cruise on the lake. Aside from crocodiles you'll also see hippos, flamingos, pelicans and other fish-eating birds. This trip can easily be booked on location. While your here, visit the beaches at Cape Vidal which are only a short drive away. The trail past a large number of cut down trees is unique and on route to the beach you may even run into the white rhino!
The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve is about an hour drive away from your accommodation. Aside from lions, (many, many) elephants and giraffes this park is also known for being the home of the nearly extinct black rhino. You can easily use your own rental car to go on a game drive. The best time for seeing wild animals is right after sunrise or around sunset, so try to plan your game drives around these times of the day. If you'd like a professional ranger to guide you through the park, your accommodation can arrange an open land rover game drive for you through Hluhluwe park. This usually costs about Â£38 per person for a half day experience (morning coffee and muffins included) or Â£55 per person (lunch included). You'll spend the night in St. Lucia again.
Total distance on Day 11 is approximately 150 km.
St. Lucia - Durban/Umhlanga
Today you'll drive further south over quiet, well paved highways. Reach the Indian Ocean coast effortlessly and before you know it you'll be passing by beach towns and country cottages owned by people in the cities. Eventually you'll arrive at beach town Umhlanga and nearby Durban. Durban is a large, hectic and exotic harbour city. Durban is the largest harbour in southern Africa and it has an interesting city centre with beautiful buildings. For the best fish restaurants, visit the harbour district. The climate is subtropical and the city is ideally located at the Indian Ocean beaches. Your accommodation is located slightly to the north of Durban in beach town Umhlanga and the location lends itself perfectly to either 'do' a day at the beach or visit the city. Spend the night in a charming bed & breakfast near the beach.
Total distance on Day 12 is approximately 300km.
Tip: Have some free time left and want to have a relaxing break? Stay at the sandy beaches of Umhlanga for a few extra days. This is particularly enjoyable during November-April when the average temperature is 28 degrees.
Durban/Umhlanga - Coffee Bay
Today you'll travel from Durban (or one of the locations above) to Coffee Bay. You'll have to travel in a somewhat roundabout way to reach your destination. First you'll drive for approximately 100km to the hectic, slightly rundown, yet typically African capital city of Umtata (exchange currency here if necessary). Then, head off towards the sea for approximately 80km until you reach Coffee Bay, one of the most beautiful coastal towns along the Wild Coast. You'll find a long sandy beach here, idyllically situated between green hills and the turquoise sea. The bay was named in 1893 when a ship full of coffee beans wrecked here. Some of the coffee beans sprouted, however the plants did not survive and you won't find any coffee bean plants in the area these days.
Spend the night in a cosy hotel with pool near the beach.
Total distance on Day 13 is approximately 480 km.
Today is completely free, so you can spend the day relaxing at the beach or by the pool. Prefer to unwind from your long drives in a more active manner? How about a horseback ride or surfing? Be sure to visit the Hole in the Wall, a spectacular rock formation created by centuries of waves and erosion (see the picture to the left). It's also possible to go dolphin-spotting or whale-watching (when in season). There are also organized township tours that leave from the village. You'll spend the night in Coffee Bay.
Coffee Bay - Stutterheim
Your next stop, Stutterheim, is located at the foot of the Amatola Mountains. While you're here you can visit the Mgwali Village and learn about the Xhosa population of South Africa. The language spoken by these people is also called Xhosa, which is known as a 'clicking' language. The X is pronounced with a click, which is quite difficult to master, but perhaps you can learn for the Xhosa themselves!
Spend the night in a guest house where you'll receive a warm welcome from the staff. There is also a swimming pool if you fancy a quick dip.
Total distance on Day 15 is approximately 300km.
Stutterheim - Addo Elephant National Park
Today, you'll head towards the Addo Elephant Park. This extremely wooded bush field is located at the Sundays River Valley on the eastern Cape. Addo was declared a National Park in 1931, when there were only 12 elephants left in the area. These days the ecosystem has been restored and you'll find more than 350 elephants, 300 buffalos, black rhinos and all kinds of antelopes throughout the park. There are plans to expand the 125.000 acre park by approximately 4 times its current size.
You'll spend the night in park chalets owned by the National Park. If you like, you can organise to go on an organized game drive in the Schotia game reserve this evening. Your accommodation can give you more information about this activity.
Total distance on Day 16 is approximately 200km.
Addo National Park - Knysna
Today you'll travel from Addo to Knysna. Along the way you may want to stop at the beach towns Francis Bay or Jeffrey's Bay. A little further down the road you'll reach the Tsitsikamma National Park, where you can go on one of the many hikes or trails set out through the area. For instance, go on a one hour walk to the wobbling Suspension Bridge. At the end of the day you'll reach your home base for the next few days, Knysna. Your hotel is centrally located near restaurants and the waterfront.
Total distance on Day 17 is approximately 300km.
Today you'll spend the day in Knysna and the surrounding area. Knysna is one of the most important towns on the Garden Route. Everything you could ever need is nearby, including a beautiful lagoon. The town itself isn't very large; however there are fun bars, pubs and restaurants that feature live-music until late at night. There's plenty to do during the day: hiking, dolphin-spotting or whale-watching, kayaking on the Knysna lagoon, diving and snorkelling, mountain biking, rock climbing, a visit to Tsitsikamma, a visit to the Robberg reserve and much more.
Knysna - Oudtshoorn
This morning you'll travel from Knysna lagoon to George and through the arid region of Small Karoo. Here you'll find the centre of ostrich farming, Oudtshoorn. This is a stretched out town with broad lanes and lovely old buildings. Spend the night just outside of town, in the midst of ostrich farms, in our cosy guest house with pool. Breakfast is included.
In the afternoon, you'll have several different options available to you, such as a visit to the nearby Cango limestone caves.
If you prefer to remain outdoors, drive a little further until you reach the beautiful 'Rust en Vrede' ('Rest and Peace') waterfall. It's located in a small natural park that closes at 16.30. Another option is to visit the Cango wildlife ranch. This is a small zoo where you not only can look at animals, but you can also pet a lion, hold a snake and go cage diving between crocodiles.
Oudtshoorn - Swellendam Today, you'll travel on to Swellendam with its' broad, oak-lined streets and historic houses that bring back an atmosphere of days gone by. Once you leave the Karoo, the scenery changes dramatically and becomes green and hilly. Follow the famous Route 62 past rugged mountains, friendly villages, wine vineyards and ostriches in pastures. After arrival in Swellendam you'll spend the night in our cosy bed & breakfast.
Total distance on Day 20 is approximately 230km.
Swellendam - Hermanus - Cape Town
Drive through flowing fields along the N2 from Caledon to Hermanus today. Keep a close eye on the coast, you may be able to spot dolphins from here and if the season is right you may even be able to spot a whale. While driving along the coast head towards the Cape Peninsula and eventually you'll reach Cape Town. If you run out of time, skip the peninsula and head straight to Cape Town. You'll have plenty of time to drive along the peninsula trail tomorrow. This route can also be combined with a visit to the wine territories Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. This is a trip you wouldn't want to miss!
Total distance on Day 21 is approximately 225km.
Cape Town, Cape Point, Cape Winelands
Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the world to many people, and in any case it is the most frequently visited city in South Africa. The city features a mix of the western world and the third world, with luxurious suburbs and extreme poverty in the townships. It is also well known for the Table Mountain, the Cape Winelands surrounding the city and the many outdoor activities available.
Cape Town, Cape Point, Cape Winelands
The city has a wonderful, exciting feel to it - anything is possible! Visit the city centre and the stylish V&A waterfront, ride the cable-car to the top of the Table Mountain, relax at Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, drive the Cape Peninsula Coast Road, and head to the vineyards for a glass (or two... or three) of SA wine. Be sure to add Robben Island to your itinerary - this is where Nelson Mandela, among others, was imprisoned for so many years during the Apartheid regime.
Cape Town, Cape Point, Cape Winelands
On Day 20 you'll return your car to the rental office at the airport and board a plane back home. If you have time, a final visit to the beautiful Camps Bay beach for a stroll on the sand will help you relax before your flight.
- Inclusions -
- Rental car category B (with air conditioning) including all mileage, taxes and full insurance coverage, accommodation with breakfast (Kruger and Addo accommodation only) and trail information
- Exclusions -
- All additional car expenses on location, such as 1x one-way fee, 1x contract expenses and 1x deposit. Park entrance fees, optional excursions and intercontinental flights
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Email the tour operator - Cultures Off The Beaten Track
Important Notice : Avoiding Fraud
It's rare, but some helpful hints to watch out for with regards to fraud:
- It is important to NEVER wire funds or use/employ other fund transfer mechanisms such as western union: Always use a credit card to protect yourself against fraud. If owners pressure you into providing a deposit or refuse to accept credit cards, there is a high probability that this is a scam.
- If at all suspicious of fraud, ask to see their website, or any other literature they can provide or send to you. Ask them for contact details for guests who have previously stayed on their property insisting on telephone numbers. Be suspicious of emails that originate from free email services (yahoo, hotmail, gmail, etc)
- Research the property thoroughly on the internet to see if there is any history or mention of scams associated with the property.