An extensive expedition that brings to life a country with great diversity in almost everything from landscapes to cultures and wildlife.
Guests will be met on arrival at O R Tambo International Airport from where we travel in a northerly direction, following the National Highway to Polokwane as your 21 Day In-Depth South Africa Tour begins. En route to the overnight destination we pass Moria, the center of the Zion Christian Church where each Easter millions of followers congregate for the largest annual religious ceremony in South Africa. A visit is then made to the Modjadji Cycad Forest. Once the main diet of the prehistoric mammal-like reptiles that lived in the area, the Modjadji cycad (Encephalartos transvenosus) forms a unique natural forest which can be viewed in its prehistoric state thanks to its strict protection by succeeding generations of Modjadji ('rain queens'), the hereditary rulers in the area.
An early wake-up call by your guide is followed by a cup of coffee before we make our way to the northern part of the central Kruger National Park. A Kruger safari will typically include two game drives on a daily basis ; one in the crisp throes of the early morning and one during the dramatic afterburn of sunset. Whilst on a guided tour with African Sky, guests will enjoy the flexibility of deciding when to embark on a safari at their leisure. The Kruger National Park is South Africa’s premier conservation area, providing a wealth of game viewing opportunities to excite both the Big Five buff and the avid birder.
The day is devoted to two interpretive game drives in the company of your experienced guide. Kruger offers one of the greatest diversities in fauna and flora to be found anywhere in the world. It is home to 336 tree species, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. Your guide's intimate knowledge of the area and their insight into the habitat preferences of the different species will ensure that your sightings are maximized.
An early morning and late afternoon game drive in the company of your experienced guide will fill a day of wonder as the rhythms of the wilderness and the laws that govern life in this unique ecosystem become more apparent. The legendary Big Five, regarded as the most majestic and awe-inspiring mammals to be found anywhere in the world, are sure to be amongst the day's highlights. In addition to the lion, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard, the reserve is blessed with a rich diversity of antelope and other mammal species. The day will be completed with a night drive accompanied by one of the professional game rangers. Night drives become the highlight of the South African tour, offering glimpses of nocturnal animals often not seen during the day.
The Mpumalanga Panorama Route is the focus of the day. Here visits are made to the Blyde River Gorge , dominated by the triplet peaks of the Three Rondavels and Bourke's Luck, where the unique geological features of the potholes are admired. God's Window is then reached , a cleft in the edge of the escarpment from where magnificent views of the Lowveld can be enjoyed. God's Window is situated in a patch of indigenous forest, where many flowering and aromatic plants flourish. A visit is also made to the historical mining village of Pilgrim's Rest. It is one of the most perfect examples of a mining town born during the excitement of an alluvial gold rush. Gold was discovered here in 1873 and the town was declared a national monument in 1986. Guests will receive a gold digging and panning demonstration before traveling to the overnight destination.
After breakfast the tour traverses the towns of Nelspruit, Barberton, Carolina, Ermelo, Piet Retief and Pongola en route to the overnight destination. You will devote some time to exploring Barberton. Barberton was a boom town during the gold rush of the late 19th century. It was also home to the famous writer Sir Percy Fitzpatrick whose epic tale, "Jock of the Bushveld", has received international acclaim. A statue was erected in honor of this famous dog in front of the town hall. Splendid scenery, ranging from savanna grassland to forested hills and banana plantations, brings the diversity of South Africa to life as the road meanders south to the rolling hills of Zululand.
Breakfast and a drive to St Lucia are followed by a boat cruise on this coastal lagoon which has been declared a World Heritage Site. The cruise offers the opportunity to observe the many hippo and crocodile which inhabit Lake St Lucia. The area is also a bird watcher's paradise, with between 350 and 400 different species occurring in the area. The lake originated when a number of rivers combined their water to form a vast estuary system, roughly in the shape of the letter H and with an average depth of only one meter. Following the visit to St Lucia, you travel inland to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve . The game reserve was proclaimed in 1895 and its varied landscape, ranging from densely forested lowlands to open hill summits, provides a sanctuary for a considerable diversity of flora and fauna. An afternoon game drive is conducted in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.
The different ecological areas, ranging from riverine brush to open savanna, support an abundance of wildlife, most notably the black and white rhino. This game reserve played an instrumental role in protecting both of these species from extinction. The current population of white rhino in South Africa has largely been re-stocked from this area. The white rhino is much larger than the black. It is a grazer, as opposed to the black rhino, which is a browser. Sightings of other large game, most notably the other members of the Big Five , are sure to make this day spent on safari in Zululand a day to be remembered.
Breakfast is followed by a drive to Durban from where we fly to Port Elizabeth. From Port Elizabeth, we travel to the Addo Elephant National Park . Addo Elephant National Park is situated 72km by road from Port Elizabeth. Established in 1931 to save 11 elephants on the brink of extinction, it is now home to more than 350 of them, along with 280 Cape buffalo, black rhino, a range of antelope species, and the rare flightless dung beetle. Addo Elephant National Park is a perfect destination for the adventurous outdoorsman and nature lover. We reach the park during the late afternoon to enjoy the sunset over the Zuurberg Bushveld.
Early morning and late afternoon game drives in this unique area is the focus of the day. From the graceful elephant, who embodies Africa in its own mysterious way, to the rare black rhino - much smaller than the white but reputed for its unpredictable temperament. The big cats and a large number of different plains game species that once again roam free in their ancestral grazing grounds afford a glimpse of Africa in all her glory. The focus is on interpretive game viewing, with the guide enhancing the understanding of the animals through their knowledge of the habits and behavior of the different species.
A last morning game drive is followed by breakfast after which we travel south to Knysna, the jewel of the Garden Route. We pass through the Tsitsikamma National Park and make a quick stop at Storms River Mouth and take a short walk to the famous Big Tree, a Yellowwood giant standing 36.6 meters high and estimated to be +/- 800 years old. The scenic route then makes its way south en route to Natures Valley, which is reached after descending the Grootrivier Pass into the valley below. This river also marks the western boundary of the Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve. Knysna is reached during the mid-afternoon.
Knysna is primarily built on the northern shore of a large warm water estuary fed by the Knysna River. The estuary opens to the ocean after passing between "The Heads", and has become infamous due to the loss of boats and fishermen passing through their treacherous and unpredictable waters. During the morning, you will board a ferry crossing the lagoon to the Featherbed Nature Reserve . The Featherbed Nature Reserve is a prime example of eco-tourism and, in order to protect the splendor of the natural beauty, visitor numbers are limited. During the afternoon the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary will offer guests a closer look at the African elephant by providing the opportunity to touch and feed these gentle giants.
After an early breakfast guests will travel to George and turn off to the town of Oudtshoorn by crossing the Outeniqua Mountains. The Outeniqua mountain range is characterized by gentle southern slopes and steep drops on the north side down to the low valley of the Little Karoo. Oudtshoorn is a large and modern town that relies mostly on farming and the ever-present ostrich industry. Guests will visit a local ostrich farm and, during their visit, will learn more about the world's largest bird. After an opportunity to take part in an ostrich ride race, you make your way to the Cango Caves. The extensive cave system of tunnels and chambers go on for over 4km of which only about a quarter is open to visitors. The cave exploration is followed by a visit to the Cango Wildlife Ranch . The ranch is one of the leading cheetah breeders in South Africa and guests are permitted to enter a fenced area to interact with a tame cheetah.
Route 62 passes the towns of Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Barrydale, Ashton and Robertson before reaching Franschhoek. A few kilometers from Robertson, we turn off on a dirt road and make our way to the Sheilam Cactus Gardens, also known as Little Mexico. It is home to about 3000 of the strangest and most interesting exotic cactus plants. After visiting the Cactus Gardens, we visit two of Robertson's most respected wineries. The wine industry in Robertson has grown from less than 25 cellars to more than 50 registered wine cellars as of today. There are a number of wine cellars that have received the highest awards both locally and internationally every year. Robertson wine cellars include Graham Beck, Springfield, Bon Cap, Majors Hill and the Excelsior Estate. The tour then makes its way to Franschhoek.
The Cape Dutch architecture in Franschhoek is unspoiled, with restrictions having been placed on the extent of renovations and new construction in order to preserve the spirit of the original settlers to the area. You visit the Huguenot Museum, with its three high arches symbolizing the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The French Huguenots brought their knowledge of viticulture with them and, upon receiving land from the Dutch East India Company, many vineyards were established which still produce some of the world's finest wines. After visiting the museum, you visit three of the finest wine estates in the region. Here guests will enjoy some insight into the production of wine in South Africa and will have the opportunity to sample some of South Africa's finest.
Breakfast is followed by a journey via Wellington and a few imposing passes to the South African West Coast . The West Coast is a region with a unique charm and character. The area's population density is much lower than on the east coast, primarily as a result of the low rainfall enjoyed by the area. The region is characterized by sparse vegetation and harsh rocky beaches which line the shores of the Atlantic. The tour travels north to the town of Langebaan. You will devote the afternoon to visiting the West Coast National Park where a rich diversity of bird species can be observed in great numbers. Over 250 species have been recorded in the area. During spring the area is transformed into a flowering tapestry which creates a remarkable display.
The tour makes its way north as you visit first the coastal village of Paternoster. This part of the coast is rich in rock lobster, perlemoen and other seafood. Three kilometers down the road from Paternoster, you reach a lighthouse called Cape Columbine, named after the shipwreck which occurred here in 1929. The 9 million candle-power lighthouse and radio beacon is a major navigational point for ships approaching the coast of Southern Africa from Europe and America. This stretch of coastline features many isolated coves and a one kilometer walk will bring guests to Titus Bay. Wild flowers, fresh air and a rugged seascape make up the beauty of this part of the world.
After breakfast, the tour travels south from where the rest of the day will be spent exploring the 'Mother City' of South Africa - Cape Town. First on the agenda is the oldest garden in South Africa, namely the Company Gardens. It was established in early 1652 by Jan van Riebeeck as a vegetable garden, originally closer to the coast. In a bid to plant in more fertile soil and on ground sheltered from the wind, he moved his garden with its northern boundary on Wale Street, and this is where it stands today. The large public park and botanical garden is home to a rose garden, Japanese garden, fish pond and aviary. You then visit the Cape Town Castle, before taking a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain. From Table Mountain, one of the most impressive views of the world can be enjoyed. Upon descending Table Mountain, guests are assisted with check-in at their hotel.
For nearly 400 years, Robben Island was a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment. It was here that rulers sent those that they regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of society. The most well-known of the discarded or political prisoners is former president Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned by the former apartheid government. The island is a living museum reached by a return boat trip leaving from the waterfront (half an hour each way). A guided tour around the museum by an ex-inmate is an unforgettable experience. The afternoon will be spent exploring the V&A Waterfront.
A spectacular road, known as Chapman's Peak Drive, hugs the near-vertical face of Chapman's Peak between Hout Bay and Noordhoek. Cut out of the face of the mountain between 1915 and 1922, the road was, at the time, regarded as a major feat of engineering. The road leads to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and Cape Point. Cape Point is often mistakenly claimed to be the place where the cold Benguela current of the Atlantic Ocean and the warm Agulhas current of the Indian Ocean collide. There are, however, strong and dangerous swells, tides and localized currents around the point and in adjacent waters. These troubled seas have witnessed countless maritime disasters in the centuries since ships first sailed here.
The morning will be spent at leisure before guests are transferred to Cape Town International for a flight back to their country of origin after a memorable 21 Day In-Depth South Africa tour.