The Ultimate South Africa Experience
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Last updated: 02/19/2009
Take to the road on our most popular break, a whirlwind tour of the best South Africa has to offer. Game drives, beehive huts, sandy beaches, hiking, ostrich-riding, the Garden Route, penguins & more!
Arrival in Johannesburg and drive to Pretoria
Your flight from the UK is likely to depart in the evening and arrive in South Africa the following morning. After arrival, you'll pick up your rental car at the airport and you'll talk through your itienrary with our local representative either here or at your first hotel. In your shiny rental car, you'll drive for approximately 60km to your hotel in Pretoria. When you arrive, 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'll probably have enough energy to visit the bars, restaurants and stores in Hatfield in the evening.
Total distance on Day 1 is approximately 60 km.
Note: A few direct flights to South Africa arrive late at night. If your flight arrives at night, we'll make accommodation reservations for you in Johannesburg, near the airport. This way you won't have to drive all the way to the hotel in Pretoria in the dark.
Pretoria - Hazyview
You'll hop in your rental car and leave Pretoria early this morning, taking the N4 to the eastern province of Mpumalanga. Slowly but surely, the countryside will become more meadow-like, you'll see more hills and traffic will become scarce. After a while the Drakensberg peaks will loom in the distance and you'll reach the impressive, in some areas 700 meter deep, Blyde River Canyon. Your trip will end in the village of Hazyview, beautifully situated between sugar cane and banana plantations, at the Kruger Park border. Spend the night just outside of the village in a cosy guest house with swimming pool amidst fields. Restaurants in Hazyview are easily accessible for dinner in the evening.
Total distance on Day 2 is approximately 400 km.
Hazyview - Blyde River Canyon - Private Game Park Bush Lodge
When morning comes it's time to get back behind the wheel of your car; you'll have plenty of time to explore the spectacular surroundings. Take a drive along Blyde River Canyon and have a look at the uniquely shaped hills at the Three Rondavels, see the result of wind and erosion at Bourkes Luck Potholes and enjoy the view at Gods Window (see picture above). You can see all the way to Mozambique if the skies are clear! There are several other possible fun stops along the way such as the quaint village of Sabie or former mining town Pilgram' s Rest with its historic houses, facades and stores. Be sure to visit one of the many friendly cafÃ©'s in the area for lunch.
Just short of Klaserie lies the exit to Kruger Park's Orpen Gate. During our search for South African 'gems' we found several private game reserves with small scale lodges and tented camps in this area. These camps are located in intimate and secluded areas in the middle of the bush and consist of only a handful of rooms or comfortable safari tents. You'll spend two nights here. At the end of the day you'll be able to enjoy a roaring campfire, a glass of wine and thousands of twinkling stars shining above you. This is undeniably the best way to truly experience the African bush.
Total distance on Day 3 is approximately 200 km.
Private Game Park Bush Lodge
Your stay at the bush lodge is based on full board. This includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 game activities. Take part in a morning or afternoon game drive in an open LandRover (see picture). It's also possible to go on a bush walk lead by a professional ranger who will let you in on all of the secrets of the bush. Additionally you can choose to book other activities on location such as an ultra light flight, which will allow you to search for wild animals by air. On arrival at the property, the owners will let you know which activities are possible and you can decide whether or not you'd like to participate in them. Of course, you can also always decide to pull up a comfortable chair, grab a good book and enjoy the sounds of the many wonderful birds serenading you.
Private Bush Lodge - Kruger National Park
After breakfast, say goodbye to your friends and drive on to the Kruger Orpen Gate. As you pass by Satara and the Orpen dam you will head deeper and deeper south through Kruger. The roads are excellent and you'll encounter all kinds of interesting animals along the way. Stop at one of the many camps or rest stops along the way to stretch out for a bit.
Keep in mind, the speed limit in this area is 40-50 km/hour. Spend the night in one of the southern camps: Skukuza, Lower Sabie, Pretoriuskop, Berg-en-Dal or Crocodile Bridge. Take into account that the park is larger than you would imagine it to be and that at 18.00 all camp and park gates are closed.
Kruger National Park - Swaziland
If you feel like going on a game walk or game drive in Kruger this morning let us know and we'll arrange for an armed guide to accompany you through the park. Most of the time these game walks are completely booked full by the time you arrive at the reserve, therefore it's better to book these activities ahead of time. Coming 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 Natural 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 small Swazi village in a traditional âbeehive' or beehive hut. These accommodation are very basic, featuring 2 single beds, electricity, mosquito netting and basic plumbing. But then again, what else do you need?
At your request you can also stay in nearby wooden chalets with private facilities for the same price. If you prefer a little more luxury, you can also stay in one of the nearby wooden chalets with private bathrooms. The colonial lodge 'O'Reillys', home of the founder of the park, is a more expensive and exclusive option. When you enter the lodge you'll be walking into colonial times of days gone by.
Total distance on Day 6 is approximately 275 kilometres or 3 hours.
Why not get an early start 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 warthogs, impalas or zebras..... what a pleasant start of the day. Looking for a little less unconventional start of your day? How about a dip in the 'regular' swimming 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). Or 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 predators, there are plenty of crocodiles and hippos in the lakes, streams and banks of the river. Be sure not to get too 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
Leave Mlilwane and drive further south past Manzini and Big Bend, along the Mozambique border to Golela, the KwaZulu Natal border. The landscape will become flatter and more arid. 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 a reserve both known by the same name, St. Lucia. Spend the night in a small, pleasant accommodation with swimming pool near the main street, restaurants and stores. There are several bars nearby that would be great for a drink and some music in the evening hours.
Total distance on Day 8 is approximately 350km or 4 hours.
Over the next two days, you can 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 2 hour cruise on St Lucia lake. Aside from the crocs, you'll also see hippos, flamingos, pelicans and other fish-eating birds. This trip can easily be booked on location.
The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi park is about an hour's drive from your guest house. 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 for a game drive. The best time for seeing animals is right after sunrise or around sunset, so try to plan your game drives around these times of day. If you'd like an experienced ranger to guide you through the park, the staff at your accommodation can arrange an open landrover game drive for you through Hluhluwe park. This usually costs about Â£38 per person for half a day (with morning coffee and muffins included) or Â£55 per person (with lunch included). This evening will be spent in St. Lucia once again.
Total distance on Day 10 is approximately 150 km.
St Lucia - Durban / Umhlanga
Drive further south today over quiet, well paved highways. Reach the Indian Ocean coast effortlessly, with its' 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 has the largest harbour in southern Africa and has an interesting city centre with beautiful buildings. For the best fish restaurants, visit the harbour area. 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 the beach town of Umhlanga. This gives you the choice of simply chilling out on the beach or visiting the city. You'll spend the night in a charming bed and breakfast near the beach.
Total distance on Day 11 is approximately 300km.
Tip: Have some free time to relax in SA? Why not stay at the sandy beaches of Umhlanga for a few extra days? This is particularly worthwhile during November-April. The average temperature during this time of year is 28 degrees Celsius.
Umhlanga - Durban - Port Elizabeth
At some point during the day you'll drop off your car at Durban airport and catch a short flight to Port Elizabeth. When you arrive, you'll pick up another rental car. Port Elizabeth is located on the Algoa bay and is the fifth largest city in South Africa. PE (as it's known by locals) is a friendly, but also 'windy city'. There are several main beaches in and near the city: King's, Humewood, Hobie and Pollock. You'll spend the night in a comfortable hotel with swimming pool near the beach.
Port Elizabeth - Knysna
Today, you'll drive from Port Elizabeth to Knysna. If you like you can stop at beach town of Francis Bay or surfing hotspot Jeffrey's Bay along the way. Later in the day you'll reach the Tsitsikamma National Park, where you can choose to stop for a while and follow one of the shorter hiking trails. Perhaps you'd like to 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 fine restaurants and the waterfront.
Total distance on Day 13 is approximately 290 km.
You'll have the whole day free to explore Knysna and the surrounding areas. 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, but there are plenty of fun bars, pubs and restaurants that feature live-music until late at night. Possible daytime activities include hiking, dolphin-spotting or whale-watching, kayaking on the Knysna lagoon, diving and snorkeling, mountain biking, rock climbing, a visit to Tsitsikamma, a visit to the Robberg reserve and much more.
Tip: If you add two extra days to your trip you'll have time to take our Hiking the Otter Trail module.
Knysna - Oudtshoorn
This morning, you'll drive from Knysna lagoon through George and the arid region of Small Karoo. Here, you'll find the centre of ostrich farming, Oudtshoorn. This is a sprawling town with broad lanes and lovely old buildings. You'll spend the night just outside of town, surrounded by ostrich farms, in a cosy guest house with a swimming pool. Breakfast is included.
In the afternoon, you'll have several activities available to you, such as a visit to the nearby Cango limestone caves.
If you prefer to stay outdoors, you can 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 PM. 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 create an atmosphere of days gone by. Once you leave the Karoo, the scenery will change dramatically, becomes far more green and hilly. You'll follow the famous Route 62 past rugged mountains, friendly villages, wine vineyards and ostrich pastures. Once you've arrived in Swellendam, you'll spend the night in our cosy bed and breakfast.
Swellendam - Hermanus - Cape Town
Today, you'll drive through flowering fields along the N2 from Caledon to Hermanus. Keep a close eye on the coast - you may be able to spot dolphins here and if the season is right you may even see a whale. You'll continue on along the coast towards the Cape Peninsula and eventually you'll reach Cape Town. If you're running late today, simply skip the peninsula and head straight to Cape Town. You can drive the peninsula trail easily tomorrow. Your visit to the peninsula can also be combined with a visit to the wine territories Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. This area is far too beautiful to miss.
Total distance on Day 17 is approximately 225 km.
Cape Town, Cape Peninsula, Cape Winelands... Cape Town is often regarded as the most beautiful city in South Africa. It features a mix of the Western and the Third World, with luxurious suburbs and extreme poverty in the townships. It is also well known for Table Mountain, the sweeping winelands surrounding the city and the many outdoor activities available.
Cape Town, Cape Peninsula, 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 Peninsula, 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 unlimited kilometres, taxes and full insurance coverage, domestic flight Durban - Port Elizabeth, accommodation with breakfast (Kruger accommodation only, bush lodge full board and 2 game activities) and trail information
- Exclusions -
- All additional car expenses on location, such as 2 x one-way fee, 2 x contract expenses and 2 x deposit). Park entrance fees, optional excursions and international flights.
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Email the tour operator - The Ultimate South Africa Experience
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.