An epic overland adventure that explores the remote corners of South Africa's Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces.
Once you’ve arrived in Johannesburg and have cleared customs and immigration, you’ll find a representative from African Sky waiting for you as you enter the arrivals hall. First, we’ll take care of a few formalities. You’ll be handed a complete tour folder containing all necessary documentation for your upcoming holiday, including e-tickets for the included flight, accommodation and transfer vouchers, a detailed itinerary and our emergency contact details. Our representative, as an experienced guide, will gladly answer any questions you may have. Once formalities are completed, you’ll be escorted to the appropriate departure terminal where you’ll board a local flight to Upington in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. There, you’ll be met and transferred to your overnight accommodations. The remainder of your first day in South Africa is enjoyed at leisure on the banks of the Orange River.
After an early breakfast, you’ll be met and transferred to the remote !Xaus Lodge in a private concession of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. On arrival at the lodge, you’ll be warmly welcomed and assisted with settling in. The purpose of visiting !Xaus is to escape the world, to place yourself in a location so remote that nothing of the outside world remains or impacts your day-to-day activities. Later in the day, you’ll enjoy your first exciting activity into the Kgalagadi wilderness. The activity starts in the late afternoon, pauses at a remote location for sundowners, and then continues into the evening, lasting three to four hours in order to maximize your experience.
!Xaus, meaning ‘heart’ in the Nama language, was established in May 2002 after an agreement was reached with the South African government. The agreement restored a large tract of land to the people who once roamed or farmed the area. Named the !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park Agreement, it resulted in the transfer of ownership of 50 000 hectares of land within the boundaries of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to the Khomani San and Mier communities, helping them to improve the quality of their lives in the process. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is an immense desert with grass-covered sand dunes. At over 3.5 million hectares, it’s almost twice the size of the Kruger National Park and about the same size as the Netherlands, and is jointly managed by the South African and Botswana wildlife authorities.
A constant high-pressure cell forms a ‘lid’ over the interior, and as a consequence the long-term annual rainfall average is just 213mm, classifying the Kgalagadi as a true desert. Unusually, there is an abundance of desert grasses, giving the landscape the appearance of a semi-desert. The park is home to an abundance of wildlife including large, black-maned Kalahari lions, cheetahs, brown and spotted hyenas, a handful of desert-adapted leopards, and large numbers of gemsbok, springbok and wildebeest. The park is well-known for its huge population of eland, probably the largest herds in the world. While at !Xaus, your activities include game and after-dinner drives, guided dune walks, a visit to a bushman craft village and star gazing, made possible by clean air and zero light pollution.
After breakfast, you’ll be met and returned to Upington. On arrival at your accommodations you’ll meet up with your African Sky guide, who’ll remain with you for the remainder of the tour. The afternoon spent is at leisure.
Our destination today is one of the most unusual places in South Africa - Witsand Kalahari, approximately 160km from Upington. Witsand - literally ‘white sand’ - refers to a five-and-a-half mile long white sand dune, standing out in stark contrast to the typical red dunes of the Kalahari. Known as the ‘roaring dune’, a distinctive roaring may be heard as the wind blows. The sound is alternatively described as a bass, organ-like sound. Walking on the dunes produces a muted groan. Witsand is also home to a variety of animals including gemsbok, red hartebeest, duiker and steenbok, as well as a small herd of kudu. The entire reserve is open to hikers and there are no restrictions on where visitors may go. Dune boards and bicycles are available for rental, and it’s also possible to book a guided nature walk. We’ll spend one night here in the southern Kalahari under starry night skies.
After an early breakfast we’ll travel south to Groblershoop and then on to Upington, where a quick stop is made to refuel and replenish. Later we’ll join the national N14 route in a westerly direction as it follows the Orange River. Our first point of interest is the Augrabies Falls. The region’s original inhabitants, the Khoikhoi, named the waterfall ‘Ankoerebis’ or ‘place of big noises’, from which the Trek Boers - the first Europeans to settle southern Africa’s interior - derived the current name, ‘Augrabies’. Unusually for a waterfall located in a desert environment, Augrabies boasts some impressive statistics. The Falls recorded a peak flow of 280,000 cubic feet of water per second during floods in 1988, as well as 240,000 cubic feet of water again in 2006 - over three times the average high season flow of Niagara and more than four times Niagara's annual average. The flow varies greatly, however, between the high and low seasons, and the Falls are not always as impressive. After viewing the Falls at leisure, we’ll continue on to our overnight accommodations at Tutwa Desert Lodge. Tutwa is a 16,000-hectare private property located within the Riemvasmaak Community Conservancy, a region spanning 70,000 hectares of Kalahari Desert and inhabited by about 1,500 Khoisan or Nama peoples. These folks occupied this land for centuries until the Apartheid government dispossessed them of it. It was returned to them in 1994. Tutwa, while newly established, is mindful of the sensitivity of its location, and is committed to a greener lifestyle and energy-saving practices.
With direct access to 24km (15 miles) of exclusive Orange River frontage, the lodge is an oasis of calm and cool in a vast and untamed environment, offering a unique and private wildlife safari experience. Tutwa is actively engaged in a leopard protection project, in addition to other conservation initiatives aimed to conserve the natural flora and fauna of this fragile environment. Equally committed to conservation on the Orange River, Tutwa’s river activities and excursions offer guests world-class adventure in a pristine wilderness area. Surrounded by desert as it might be, Tutwa is home to many different species of animals, including leopard, giraffe, zebra, gemsbok (oryx), springbok, meerkat, klipspringer, and nocturnal animals such as aardvark, aardwolf and porcupine. Your stay at Tutwa Desert Lodge is fully inclusive of all meals, all alcoholic beverages (excluding premium brands), two game drives daily on open 4x4 vehicles, and one water-based activity on the Orange River during the course of your visit.
After saying goodbye to our hosts, we’ll depart this desert environment and return to civilization - at least for a moment, anyway! After rejoining the paved N14, we’ll travel to Springbok, and later to one of South Africa’s most remote regions. Namaqualand is an arid environment along Southern Africa’s West Coast, covering an area of approximately 440 000 square kilometers. Here, you’ll find the semi-desert Succulent Karoo biome, a biodiversity hotspot with the largest concentration of succulent plants in the world - more than 5 000 species - which is more than a third of the world’s total. At least 40% are endemic. The region is extremely dry in summer and the temperature often rises above 40°C. At the onset of the rainy season, thousands upon thousands of wildflowers bloom in spectacular fashion, and the otherwise drab environment is transformed into an extraordinary display of purple, yellow, orange and white. We’ll spend three nights exploring the Namaqualand environment.
The luxury mobile Namaqua Flowers Beach Camp is located, as its name implies, on the beach, with impressive views in every direction. Every dome tent offers full-size beds with soft comfortable duvets, hot blankets and electric lights, as well as the convenience of a hot shower, spacious dressing room and chemical flush toilet. Breakfast and dinner are included daily. The Daisy Diner is available for lunch, as are lunch baskets (pre-order required), both at an additional cost. Our primary activity here is to experience the Namaqua wilderness in all its glory. Hiking is the primary activity and is permitted throughout the reserve, offering guests the opportunity to explore this unique biome at leisure and in all its glory. If available, a guided tour to a seal colony and local caves can also be booked.
Naries Namakwa Retreat is located approximately thirty minutes from Springbok under the Spektakelberg mountain, and will serve as a luxury base as you explore the barren Namaqua plains of the Northern Cape. Your stay includes breakfast and dinner daily, and lunch is available at an additional cost in the Manor House dining room. Activities include day tours to the Richtersveld, dedicated flower tours, and a diamond and shipwreck tour.
Note: Some activities are seasonal and might not be available at the time of your visit. Activities must be pre-booked. Any activities not included in the cost of the accommodation come at an additional expense. Please ask for details.
After an early breakfast, we’ll head off in a southerly direction. As we travel, you’ll experience several small settlements and villages typical of South Africa’s dry western region.
We’ll make stops en route as and when required, to stretch our legs and possibly explore a few local attractions. Our final destination is Melkboomsdrift, a working wine farm located along the banks of the Olifants River, which some consider to be the southern extent of the Namib Desert. Melkboomsdrift offers great country cooking and warm hospitality and is the perfect farm-style retreat for weary travelers. Aside from wine tasting at their large cellar at Lutzville, other activities include hiking or simply strolling through the vineyards, bird watching along the river, or a visit to the ocean at Strandfontein or Doringbaai. Fishing and golf are also possibilities.
Note: Any activities not included in the cost of the accommodation come at an additional expense. Please ask for details.
The Riebeek Valley is one of the oldest settled European districts in Southern Africa after Cape Town. The valley was discovered in 1661 by Pieter Cruythoff who, under instruction of his Commander in the Cape, Jan van Riebeek, conducted an expedition of discovery into the interior. Finding this fertile valley after crossing isolated mountains, he named it Riebeek Kasteel in honour of his Commander. On arrival, Cruythoff reported seeing thirteen horses (probably quagga, a now extinct sub-species of common zebra) five rhino and thousands of hartebeest, and also lions. Nowadays, no lions exist here, of course, but what you will find is a valley of great scenic beauty, filled with vineyards and olive groves. After Cruythoff’s discovery, farmers moved into the district, and finally in 1900 a town was laid out around an existing church and the already-established Royal Hotel, the oldest hotel in South Africa. Today, Riebeek Kasteel is popular for its beauty and rural atmosphere. Worthwhile visits include De Oude Kerk (the Old Church), the Olive Boutique, The Gallery (representing mostly local artists) and Le Petit Chocolat. The town and district have many interesting shops and attractions, and your guide will be at your disposal as you explore at leisure.
Note: Any activities not included in the cost of the accommodation come at an additional expense. Please ask for details.
Today, we’ll visit the Cape winelands before bringing your tour to an end in Cape Town. Franschhoek, literally ‘French Corner’, owes its existence to a small group of French Huguenots who settled here in the latter half of the 17th century and began working the Drakenstein Valley. Many of the settlers named their farms after the areas in France from where they originated. La Motte, La Cotte, Cabriere, Provence, Chamonix, Dieu Donne and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms - most of which still retain their original buildings to this day. Nearby Stellenbosch is one of the most historically well-preserved towns in Southern Africa. Water furrows along oak-lined streets complement the many fine examples of elegant Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture - all part of this unique ‘Town of Oaks’. Throughout the course of the day, we’ll visit several fine wine estates in the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek districts. The region is renowned internationally for the exceptional quality of wines produced by its fertile soils. Most noble cultivars and classic styles are represented here, from superb whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Chenin Blanc, to rich reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot. During the late afternoon, you’ll be delivered to a location of your choice in Cape Town, bringing to an end a tour of some of South Africa’s less traveled regions.
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