Location: South Africa Duration: 22 nights Price: From £5,800 per person in low season based on two adults travelling together and including all flights in economy class, accommodation, some meals, car hire, private transfers and taxes

With historic battles fought between empires, cultures that span thousands of years, a world-famous gastronomic scene and enough activities to keep you busy for the rest of your life, there is so much more to South Africa than a far-flung safari – though this can also be had. That is why this comprehensive exploration of South Africa delves deep into the game reserves of the north, explores the famous battlefields of KwaZulu Natal and rests along the iconic Cape, before hugging the coastal Garden Route to the very corners of the whale-padded Western Cape – packing this vast country’s highlights into one itinerary of epic proportions.

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Perfect for

Africaphiles and those who want an in-depth understanding of the fascinating Rainbow Nation.

In the know

If don’t have enough time to do this trip, then consider our Berg, Bush & Beach itinerary if you like the first half of this trip, or the Food & Wine itinerary if you prefer the second – alternatively, we can tailor-make any itinerary to whatever length suits you, just let us know.

Recommended for...
Landscapes & Scenery
Road Trip
Couples
Cultural Immersion

KRUGER– 3 nights

Flying into Johannesburg, you’ll transfer to Kruger National Park and then continue on to the Makalali Conservancy to start this comprehensive adventure through South Africa. Surrounded by 22,000 hectares of game-rich terrain, your base is the Garonga Safari Camp – an enchanting tented safari hideaway in the midst of ebony trees and passing game. Head out on game drives in the morning and afternoon to seek out the Big Five or go on foot with a tracker for close up encounters that’ll leave you reeling. Match exploration with relaxation and enjoy a soothing massage or refreshing dip in the pool. Immerse yourself into the landscape with a bush picnic, a bush bath or by spending one night in the sleep-out, where you’ll experience a night under the stars listening to the nocturnal wildlife prowling beneath you.

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HAZYVIEW – 1 night

Collecting your rental car in Hoedspruit, you’ll drive to Hazyview to stay one night in the warming and well-placed Rissington Inn. On your drive south, we’d recommend following the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world, to see the scenic landmarks of God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, World’s View and the Three Rondavels. Wind along the highset Panorama Route, stopping at the viewpoints for superb vistas of plunging waterfalls and canyons and mountains draped in greenery, as well as keeping an eye out for the wealth of animal life, including klipspringers, dassies, oribi, kudu, bush pigs, monkeys and bush babies. A patchwork of farms and plantations, all the roads around Hazyview lead to adventure. Once you’ve unpacked at the inn, you can hit the road again to explore more of the Drakensberg Escarpment, whizzing past banana, mango, coffee, spice and vegetable crops to climb the highest tarred road in the country. Or if you’d prefer to give your legs a bit of a stretch, play a round of golf at the Sabie River Golf Course, go for a gentle horse ride around the laidback area or spend the afternoon fishing for bass and trout.

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MLILWANE – 1 night

Next, you’ll cross the border into the Kingdom of Swaziland and stay one night at Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge, located an hour outside of the capital in the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. The wildlife sanctuary, created from what was once a private farm, is home to hippo, giraffe, crocodile, zebra, warthog and leopard, so game drives are certainly an option. Radiating tranquillity, this colonial lodge is ideal for wandering the hillside trails and catching glimpses of tiny antelope, such as blue duiker and suni. For a peephole into the Swazi culture, go on a village excursion  to the Mantenga Reserve, where you can witness the living museum of old traditions and see the classical Swazi lifestyle during the 1850s, or buy a colourful souvenir at the craft market nearby. Back at the lodge, relax among the bird-filled cycad and aloe gardens, taking in the spectacular views of the Ezulwini Valley from the terraced lawns, and then listen out for the faint thud of bush babies on the roof, as they return to their nests at sunset.

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ISIMANGALISO – 3 nights

One of the best places in the world for scuba diving, snorkelling and surfing, the lush Maputaland Marine Reserve will be your next stop, where you’ll bask in beachside wilderness for three nights. Tucked away in a coastal forest, the secluded Rocktail Bay Lodge offers tree-house chalets that are raised on stilts and sit amongst the forest canopy. The lodge’s location presents a rare combination of adventure, relaxation and action, where you can roam the untouched beaches spotting breaching whales and nesting turtles, explore the surrounding forests to listen to squawking birds and monkeys and then lounge on the deck by the swimming pool with a cooling drink in hand. Make sure you sign up for a few dives, which are conducted along a World Heritage Site and trace unspoilt reefs in the warm Indian Ocean – you’ll have exclusive access to these sites ticking off the clown triggerfish, powder-blue surgeonfish and butterfly fish that hang around the healthy soft and hard corals.

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HLUHLUWE – 2 nights

Situated on the western boundary of the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, you’ll drive to the Rhino Ridge Safari to spend two nights in Africa’s oldest proclaimed reserve. Formed initially to protect the previously endangered white rhino, the park now boasts over 1,000 of these animals, which can be spotted either on morning and afternoon game drives or on bush walks. As well as plenty of rhino, the park is home to lion, leopard, elephant and Cape buffalo, meaning you could check off the Big Five during your stay. As the lodge is poised over on a ridge, you can soak up the views from the infinity pool, expansive veranda near the funky bar, from your own private deck or from the organic spa, where you can have a divine massage overlooking the bushveld.

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DUNDEE – 2 nights

There is no battlefield more scenic than that of the great clash of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. Presided over by a flat-topped hill, the famous battlefield, where 22,000 Zulu warriors defeated a British contingent of 1,350 in one of the first engagements of the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879, is incredibly atmospheric. Marked by graves and cairns, you will be able to walk around the battlefield with a guide, listening to the thought-provoking tales and detailed stories of what occurred around the land. Take in the sweeping views of the vast plains with a walk accompanied by a Zulu guide, go fishing along the calm rivers or horse ride along the dirt track roads, passing friendly local villages and even some wildlife. Situated overlooking the heart of the Natal battlefields, Fugitive’s Drive will be your comfortable base for the two nights, a celebrated country lodge steeped in history and home of the renowned Battlefields storyteller, David Rattray.

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BERGVILLE – 2 nights

Hugging the peaks that border Lesotho, you’ll drive west into the northern Drakensberg mountains for two nights at the Montusi Mountain Lodge. With magnificent views of the Amphitheatre mountain from every building, you can hop between your suite, the gardens and the restaurant and never take your eyes off of the stunning cliff face – considered the most impressive on Earth. Set on a 1,000 hectare estate, there are plenty of pretty streams, plunging waterfalls and pockets of indigenous forests to discover and there are two dams that are well-stocked with trout. Practice your swing, either on the golf course or on the tennis courts, or improve your front crawl in the swimming as you catch glances of the escarpment between breaths. You can go hiking to see bushman cave paintings in ancient caves or follow the 100km network of bike trails through the mountains, good for any level of cyclist. If your legs get tired, jump on a quad bike with a tour of the river or go horse riding around the estate.

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CAPE TOWN – 3 nights

Having extensively explored South Africa’s north east and KwaZulu Natal regions, you’ll drive to Durban and fly across the length of the country to Cape Town. Staying in the Kensington Place, you’ll be sleeping right on the slopes of the iconic Table Mountain. Take the nearby cable car up to the top of the peaks to see some of the best views of the city and then descend on the other side to burrow through the famous plant beds and unique flowers of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Spot the red and pink leaves of the national flower, the beautiful king protea, before seeking out Cape Town’s other vibrant colours, particularly that of the bubble-gum palettes of the historical houses in Bo Kaap, the city’s Cape Malay area. When you become hungry from smelling all of the delicious Indian and Malaysia influenced street food, we’d recommend sampling a few tidbits before meandering down Kloof Street to weave between the hip bars and restaurants – a great place to set yourself for an evening of fine food and wine.

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FRANSCHHOEK – 2 nights

From Cape Town, enjoy the leisurely drive to the town of Franschhoek, where you’ll stay for the next two nights at the working wine estate, La Petite Ferme. The beautiful grounds overlook the picturesque valley and surrounding mountains, making it ideal for quiet afternoons sipping on the chilled Sauvignon Blancs and elegant Merlots made from the estate’s vineyard. The on-site tasting rooms are open daily and you can be guided through the ‘from vine to bottle’ process by the knowledgeable winemakers. We highly recommend exploring this spectacular wine region, either by foot, tram, bike or horse, and tasting the many excellent South African wines and cheeses that it’s famed for. As you are minutes from the town’s centre, indulge in the mouth-watering dishes prepared by the fine-dining restaurants in Franschhoek or, with its acclaimed restaurant and destination-inspired tapas, eat at the estate – removing the stress of deciding who will be designated driver during the ‘spirited’ meals.

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HERMANUS – 2 nights

Next, you’ll travel along the Western Cape’s beautiful coastal road to Hermanus, one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world. With the world’s only whale crier alerting you to creatures in the bay, you’ll be sure to catch sights of the southern right whales if travelling in-season (June to November). Facing Walker Bay, the Marine, your base for two nights, is close to the central buzz, with the town’s seafood restaurants and popular bars and cafes within easy walking distance. For good snorkelling at low tide, have a dip in the tidal pool right in front of the hotel or if you are looking for a real thrill, dive beneath the waves in a cage to come face to face with a great white shark. There’s a 24km hiking trail that hugs the coastline, which is just perfect for afternoons catching some sun and there are plenty of protected coves and sandy beaches for quiet reading sessions lulled by the waves of the sea.

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SWELLENDAM – 1 night

From Hermanus, you’ll head to Swellendam for one night, a peaceful stopover on your way to Plettenberg Bay. On the drive east, follow the cliffs past Gansbaai to L’Auglhas, in order to see where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet at the southern-most tip of South Africa. Once you’ve taken in the views from the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, leave the coast and head inland to the graceful Victorian guest house, Schoone Oordt. With just one night, we’d suggest putting your feet up by the pool or enjoying a pampering treatment to relieve any residual tension.  If you want to explore the area but not be too active, consider visiting the Drostdy Museum, which showcases a series of historically significant buildings and houses a fine collection of 18th and 19th century Cape furniture. Alternatively, you can set foot on the tracks through the Marloth Nature Reserve, dominated by mountain fynbos and patches of forest, or swing a club around the golf course overlooking Hermitage Valley.

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PLETTENBERG BAY – 2 nights

This comprehensive holiday to South Africa comes to a close, when you drive to Plettenberg Bay, located at the very edge of the Western Cape. You’ll find your lodge, Emily Moon, just outside of town set above a winding river, which fish eagles and malachite kingfishers regularly visit. Canoe the Bitou River to see the water birdlife in the riverine bushes, go tubing down the Storms River or hit the deep sea with a fishing safari. Nearby Robberg and Keurboomstrand beaches offer stretches of sandy beach for pleasant, long walks, while the forests slightly inland provide epic adventures, including bungee jumping, canyoning and zip-lining through the treetop canopies. If you didn’t get enough of the whales in Hermanus, you can take a cruise around the bay and get close to these gentle giants or try your own luck by kayaking from the Central Beach to Robberg Nature Reserve – you might also see furry seal pups and playful dolphins along the way.

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Best time to go

Best time to travel

Good time to travel (but some limitations)

Travel is possible (but it’s not the best time)

Travel is not recommended

  • Jan
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Best time to go
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