Explore South Africa from the most indulgent lap of luxury, from Cape Town to the Greater Kruger, Garden Route to the winelands.
Guests are met upon arrival at O R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. The Jacaranda City (Pretoria) is the starting point of the 16 Day Grand South African Tour. Pretoria is so named for the thousands of Jacaranda trees which line its streets. In the middle of spring, the trees are in full bloom and the city is transformed into a purple wonderland. The agenda for the tour of the city's highlights will include a visit to the Union Buildings, which, due to its setting against the slopes of Meintjieskop, affords a commanding view of the city. The buildings currently house the office of the South African president. The building was designed by the famous British architect Sir Herbert Baker, and is regarded as one of the country's architectural masterpieces. Other areas of interest include the Voortrekker Monument, which bears testament to a nation's pioneering spirit, and the period museum commonly known as Melrose House. The significance of Melrose House is that it is the location where the Anglo-Boer War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in 1902.
The afternoon takes the group to the east of Pretoria and the town of Cullinan, where the world's largest diamond was discovered in 1905. This great diamond weighed in at an incredible 3106 carats in the rough. It was transformed by the Asscher Brothers in Amsterdam to the magnificent stones which grace the British Crown Jewels today. A tour of the mine provides significant insight into the process of how these precious stones were formed under great pressure and heat, millions of years ago. The tour will also demonstrate the full mining process, including the cutting and polishing process. The visit to Cullinan Diamond Mine is followed by a transfer to your overnight destination.
After breakfast, the tour passes through the coal-rich Highveld en route to the town of Dullstroom. Dullstroom is a quaint town dominated by colonial architecture and surroundings which are characterized by clear mountain streams and beautiful hills and dales. Before reaching the overnight destination of Walkersons, a visit is made to the Bird of Prey & Rehabilitation Center, which plays an important role in the protection of the raptor species through the creation of public awareness of the plight of these majestic birds.
The day is devoted to gentle country pursuits on the magnificent 1 500-hectare estate. The estate offers beautiful forest and river walks as well as walking trails into the nature reserve, where indigenous game abide in a mountain wilderness renowned for its bird life and prolific flowers. The estate is a haven for fly fishermen and, if you are so inclined, some time may be devoted to the pursuit of rainbow and golden trout in clear mountain streams.
We leave behind Walkersons Estate as the tour makes its way to the heavily wooded eastern escarpment, where the scenic Long Tom Pass leads the way to the town of Sabie. The pass takes its name from the Long Tom Cannon, which still stands on a hill where the Boer forces held one of their last stands during the Anglo Boer War. The tour then travels on to Graskop, exploring some of the escarpment's many waterfalls. A stop is made en route at Berlin Falls with its sheer 80m drop before visiting the Mac Mac Falls. The tour then crosses the escarpment and descends into the Lowveld and the heart of South Africa's Big Five country, where Lion Sands is reached during the mid-afternoon. The late afternoon is devoted to a first open 4x4 safari in the Kruger wilderness. The Greater Kruger National Park is home to the greatest diversity of different mammal species on the African continent and it is one of the world's largest and most important conservation areas.
A sky colored gloriously by the rising sun greets guests on an early morning game drive. Admire the antelope of Africa as they ready themselves for a day of grazing or browsing after the nervousness of night, when they are at their most vulnerable to the many predators in the area. Highlights of the day are sure to include sightings of one or more of the Big Five. The rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo and elephant received this well-known collective name in times past, when the first European hunters in Africa regarded them as the most dangerous animals on the continent. A game drive conducted during the late afternoon and early evening may offer the opportunity of spotting one of the big cats, readying themselves for the hunt. Both the leopard and lion are nocturnal and would mostly be more active during this period of the day.
The African dawn is filled with bird song and the sounds of a land awakening to the new day, as a first open 4x4 safari is conducted by your experienced ranger and tracker. The possibility of finding predators on a kill made during the night, adds to the excitement. The safari returns to the lodge for a late breakfast, after which guests are allowed some time for relaxation or a bush walk before embarking on an afternoon safari in the Sabi Sand which extends into the evening.
A last morning safari is followed by breakfast, after which guests are transferred to the Kruger Mpumalanga Airport for a flight to Cape Town. Guests will be met on arrival at Cape Town International Airport from where the tour makes its way to the hotel, which is situated on Cape Town's famous V&A Waterfront. The late afternoon is spent at leisure.
Breakfast is followed by a short drive to Table Mountain, where you embark on a cable car ride to the top of the mountain. Table Mountain has come to be synonymous with Cape Town and is one of the world's most recognizable landmarks. Standing 1 086m tall, the summit of the mountain offers guests unsurpassed views of the city of Cape Town, Robben Island and the peninsula. Unique species of fynbos are on display and the Table Mountain National Park is home to quite a few mammal species. After the descent from Table Mountain, some time is devoted to exploring South Africa's oldest city as you visit some notable landmarks and historic sites including the Cape Castle and the Rhodes Memorial.
A morning visit to Robben Island offers guests some unique insight into the history of this infamous island, which has played such an important role in South Africa's past. It is most famous for the fact that president Nelson Mandela spent a large part of his 27-year incarceration on the island. The prison has since been turned into a museum and is the focus of the Robben Island excursion. Other highlights include a visit to the limestone quarry and the views of Cape Town which can be enjoyed from the island. Upon returning to the mainland we devote the afternoon to exploring the famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.
Chapman's Peak drive, cut from rigid mountains which line the Atlantic, leads the tour to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, ending at Cape Point. It is reputed to be the place where the stormy waters of the Atlantic meet the calming influence of the Indian Ocean. The reserve is home to several species of fauna and a great diversity of flora. Upon returning to Cape Town, the tour traces the Indian Ocean and you stop at Boulders Beach, which is home to a large colony of African penguins. Some time spent admiring these endangered flightless birds is followed by a return trip to Cape Town.
We travel to the town of Somerset West situated at the foot of the Helderberg Mountains, where a visit is made to Vergelegen. The estate is one of South Africa's oldest, with a magnificent setting that enjoys views of the surrounding mountain ranges, as well as False Bay in the distance. Guests enjoy a tour of the cellars as well as a short introduction to wine making, which is followed by a sampling of some of South Africa's finest. The tour then makes its way to the town of Stellenbosch, which includes a visit to one of the wine estates close to town. After time spent enjoying some of South Africa's finest wines, we make our way to the overnight destination in Paarl.
The stark contrast between vineyards and harsh mountains creates the perfect backdrop to a tour of the historical town of Stellenbosch. The town is the oldest in South Africa after Cape Town and is undoubtedly the most scenic and historically-preserved town in Southern Africa. Oak-lined streets along water furrows complement the many fine examples of elegant Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture - all part of this unique "Town of Oaks".
The town, ideally situated in a magnificent mountain valley, boasts a mild Mediterranean climate. The Stellenbosch Wine Route is the oldest, largest and probably the most visited of the Southwest Cape's wine routes. Many of the estates are very old, with their gabled, whitewashed Cape Dutch homesteads, rolling vineyards and shade-dappled grounds lovely beyond measure. We visit two of these fine estates where the art of wine-making in South Africa is experienced first-hand. A large variety of cultivars can be sampled and a specific cultivar which appeals to your palate is sure to be found.
After breakfast, the tour travels through the town of Somerset West and over Sir Lowry’s Pass to Swellendam, situated at the foot of the Langeberge. Unique architecture set against the backdrop of mountain scenery endows the town with a special character. Following the N2 highway in a northerly direction, we reach the town of Mossel Bay. It is generally regarded as the southern entry point to the beautiful Garden Route region. The Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz first set foot on these shores in 1488 and we dedicate some time to visiting the museum which bears his name. The museum stands not far from the Milkwood Tree and fountain, which served respectively as a post office and watering hole to seafarers in centuries past. It is also home to a replica of the vessel in which Bartholomew Diaz reached these shores, a gift from the Portuguese to South Africa upon the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of his voyage. We reach the overnight destination during the late afternoon.
After breakfast, the tour crosses the Knysna Lagoon by ferry to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. It is a unique 150 ha private nature reserve which encompasses the entire Western Head of Knysna. The reserve boasts spectacular views across the lagoon and the ocean, as well as the treacherous passage between the two, which claimed many a ship during Knysna's days as an exporter of timber. The reserve is one of South Africa's heritage sites and is one of the highlights of the Garden Route tour. It is home to two of the Garden Route's natural icons, namely the Knysna Loerie and the Blue Duiker, one of Africa's smallest antelope species. The afternoon brings the tour to Plettenberg Bay, where the finest beaches in the Garden Route offer the perfect sunning experience. Relax in the sun or brave the waves of the Indian Ocean. The tour then makes its way back to the overnight destination, after a wonderful sun-soaked afternoon.
The Outeniqua Mountains form the barrier which divides the semi-arid interior from the lush coastal plains of the Garden Route. The tour crosses this barrier via the Outeniqua Pass to Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world. The town is located in the great valley which is known as the Little Karoo, with the Langeberge and Outeniqua ranges forming its boundary to the east and the Swartberg Mountains forming its Western boundary. Your first stop is the Cango Caves, which lie in the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains. It is a great cave system which is amongst the world’s largest and is blessed with elaborate drip stone formations, the highest of which stands 12.6m tall. The caves extend up to about 1 600m into the limestone rich-hills and are a truly impressive sight. After a tasty lunch, guests will be taken on a short drive to an ostrich farm, where they will focus on the farming of the largest of the world's birds. Great fortunes were built in the heyday of the industry when the feathers where prized fashion accessories. Today, the meat, with its delicious low-fat content, is sought-after in a world evermore preoccupied with healthy living. The leather is a prized raw material in the production of fashion accessories. The brave can even endeavor an ostrich ride before we return to the overnight destination.
After breakfast, guests will be transferred to George Airport for a flight to Johannesburg, where they will be met and assisted in transferring to a flight back to their country of origin after a memorable - and grand! - tour of South Africa.
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