A comprehensive exploration of South Africa's unique combination of landscapes, cities and breathtaking wildernesses.
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Day 1-15: Private African Sky Guide and Vehicle.
Guests are met upon arrival at O.R. Tambo International Airport, from where the tour travels east through the coal-rich Highveld and the rolling hills of Mpumalanga to the village of Dullstroom. The area surrounding Dullstroom is a windswept grassland, which is dominated by the 2 332m high "Die Berg" (the mountain), which is the highest point between the Limpopo and Vaal Rivers. A visit is made to the Dullstroom Bird Of Prey & Rehabilitation Center, which was established in 1997 in order to promote awareness of the raptor species and their growing plight as endangered species. Then it's on to the overnight destination of Mount Sheba. The forest surrounding Mount Sheba is home to a multitude of small creatures and birds. It has numerous carefully worn exquisite forest paths, which reveal the quiet grace of the flora and fauna.
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 historic 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 enjoy a gold digging and panning demonstration before traveling to the overnight destination.
Splendid scenery abounds as the tour makes its way to the Shangana Cultural Village, where guests are led from the Marula Market by a trained guide. Your guide will explain how the Shangaan traditionally collect food from their environment and the way in which traditional farming is conducted. The route leads up to a traditional Shangaan village which is the residence of a headman, his wives, and his children. In the village, some time is devoted to gaining some insight into the history and culture of the Shangaan.
Kruger National Park is a short drive from the cultural village. The park is a world-renowned wildlife conservation site and offers some of the finest game viewing opportunities on the continent. Stretching across an African wilderness the size of Israel, Kruger is home to large concentrations of the 'Big Five' and myriad other species. Enjoy game drives at your behest in the company of an experienced African Sky guide.
A morning safari is conducted by your experienced guide. He will check the sightings of the previous day that have been logged by various groups, as this will increase your chance of seeing a pride of lion on a recent kill, viewing the imposing white rhino or the elusive African wild dog in an area where it was recently spotted.
During the late afternoon, guests embark on a night safari with a Kruger Park ranger. The night safari makes possible sightings of creatures like spotted genet, serval and aardvark, which are rarely seen during the day. The large predators are nocturnal hunters and are in general more active during this period of the day.
The area is a paradise for the wildlife enthusiast, with close to 150 different mammal species, ranging from Brant's climbing mouse, weighing no more than a few grams, to the mighty African elephant, which can weigh up to 7 000kg. The identified bird species in the area number more than 500 and the area is blessed with an abundance of flora. Early morning and late afternoon game drive in the company of your experienced guide affords the opportunity to enjoy the natural treasures of this part of Africa. The unique insight and knowledge of the guide are sure to add to the enjoyment and understanding of the habits and behavior of the different species.
Saying goodbye to the Kruger, the tour travels in a southerly direction towards the South Africa - Swaziland border at Jeppe’s Reef. Before entering the country a visit is made to the Matsamo Swazi Cultural Village. After a traditional breakfast in their restaurant, we’ll enjoy a guided tour of the village which will end with an impressive dancing display. Matsamo’s traditional dances are well-known and have traveled and performed in Europe in years past to great acclaim.
The tiny mountain kingdom of Swaziland is one of the smallest self-contained sovereign states in the world. The Swazi is a friendly and colorful people who are locally renowned for their traditional artistry. After clearing customs and immigration the tour traverses the scenic Komati River pass en-route to the country’s capital, Mbabane. A mid-afternoon stop is made at a popular local candle factory and curio market before traveling to your overnight accommodations, set in a renovated colonial house built on a ‘koppie’ in the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, from where sweeping views of the Ezulwini Valley may be enjoyed. The lodge grounds themselves are a haven to a number of tiny antelope, including suni and blue duiker.
It's off to an early start as the tour heads south. The Kingdom of Swaziland gives way to the rolling hills of Zululand and we enter the heart of the area which is home to the proud Zulu nation. Zululand was once led by the legendary King Shaka - one of Africa's greatest kings, who inspired fear and admiration in the hearts of his enemies and subjects alike. Shakaland is reached around lunch time. Shakaland is built on the site where the original Zulu clan settled in the 18th century. The village was also used in the epic Shaka Zulu film. The cultural experience highlights the traditional accommodation, food preparation and social structures which are traditionally adhered to by the Zulu. It is also a showcase for the traditional dress, weapons, and dance of South Africa's warrior nation.
Guests are transferred to Durban International Airport for a flight to George. From George Airport, they are then transferred to their overnight destination of Knysna where the late afternoon is spent at leisure.
The Outeniqua Mountains form the barrier dividing 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 situated in the great valley known as the Little Karoo, with the Langeberge and Outeniqua ranges forming its boundary to the east and the Swartberge forming its western boundary. Our first stop is the Cango Caves which lie in the foothills of the Swartberge. A great cave system and amongst the world’s largest, they are blessed with elaborate dripstone formations, the highest of which stands 12.6m tall. The caves extend to about 1600m into the limestone-rich hills and are truly an impressive sight.
After a tasty lunch, a short drive brings guests to a working ostrich farm, where the focus is on the farming of the largest birds in the world. Great fortunes were built in the heyday of the industry when ostrich feathers where prized fashion accessories. Today the meat with its low-fat content is a sought after product in a world ever-more preoccupied with healthy living, and the leather is a prized raw material in the production of fashion accessories. The brave may even endeavor an ostrich ride before we return to our overnight destination.
After breakfast, the tour crosses the Knysna Lagoon by ferry to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. The reserve is a unique 150 ha private reserve which encompasses the entire Western Head of Knysna with 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 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 makes its way back to the overnight destination after a wonderfully relaxing afternoon.
After breakfast, the tour travels to the coastal city of Mossel Bay. It is here on these shores that the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz set foot in 1488, and where we dedicate some time to visiting the museum which bears his name. In the gardens of the museum is the Milkwood Tree and fountain which served respectively as a post office and watering hole to seafarers in centuries past. At the museum, we pay a visit to the life-sized replica ship donated to the South African government by the Portuguese before traveling on to the town of Swellendam, set in a well-watered valley at the foot of the Langeberge.
A visit to the Drostdy Museum, which housed the magistracy of the area and is today a fine period museum, is followed by a trip through rolling wheat fields to Arniston. The village takes its name from a tragic shipwreck which occurred in these treacherous waters in 1815. The village is situated a stone’s throw from the southern tip of Africa. The coastline surrounding the village is noted for its bizarre marine erosions, of which the most famous is the ‘Waenhuiskrans’, an enormous cavern eroded into the cliffs and within walking distance of Arniston. After a visit to the Waenhuiskrans along the beachfront, we retire to the hotel for some rest and relaxation.
Your tour travels via the scenic Overberg countryside along country back-roads and passes the small towns of Napier and Stanford before reaching the popular seaside village of Hermanus. The village is generally accepted as one of the best places in the world from which to enjoy land-based whale watching and has since August 1992 had the world’s only ‘whale crier’, who sounds his kelp horn to announce when whales have been sighted. Zakes Mda wrote the novel The Whale Caller, in which the ‘whale crier’ of Hermanus is the main character, a man who becomes enthralled by a Southern Right Whale he names Sharisha. From Hermanus, the tour then follows the coastal route via Betty’s Bay to the Strand and then on to Cape Town and your overnight accommodations.
The day is spent exploring one of the world's most beautiful cities. The looming Table Mountain was first summited by António de Saldanha in 1503 when he named it ‘Taboa do Cabo’ or ‘Table of the Cape’. Send a postcard from the upper cable station post office, take a mountaintop walk along one of the established walkways or simply enjoy the fantastic panoramic views across the Cape Peninsula. During the cooler part of the day, enjoy a leisurely stroll through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens under Skeleton Gorge. Established in 1913, these gardens attempt to provide a comprehensive display of the region’s indigenous flora and include an impressive Baobab Tree in the new greenhouse. The recently completed ‘Boomslang’ treetop canopy walkway in the Enchanted Forest now provides folks with the opportunity to experience life in the treetops.
The Cape Winelands are the focus of the day as the tour makes its way along the N2 to Somerset West, where you visit the Vergelegen Estate set on a hill not far from town. This wine estate is steeped in history and still produces some of South Africa's finest wines. A short introduction to winemaking by a local expert is followed by an opportunity to sample some of South Africa's finest. From here we make our way to Stellenbosch and the wine route surrounding the town. Stellenbosch is the oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town and is also one of the most historically well-preserved in Southern Africa. Water furrows along oak-lined streets compliment the many fine examples of elegant Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture - all part of this unique ‘Town of Oaks’. 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; they're gabled, whitewashed Cape Dutch homesteads, rolling vineyards and shade-dappled grounds lovely beyond measure. Some time devoted to exploring the town is followed by visits to two more wine farms in the district before returning to Cape Town during the late afternoon.
During the morning the tour explores one of South Africa's most notorious historical sights. Your trip to Robben Island begins with an informative video screening at the V&A Waterfront, after which you will board a ferry. The ferry ride is around half an hour long, with beautiful views of the mountain and city enriching the voyage. A sobering visit to the cell where Nelson Mandela spent the majority of his 27 years in prison will prove the highlight of the excursion. The duration of the Robben Island excursion, including the return ferry trip, is about four hours, which would bring guests back to the V&A waterfront around lunch time. Guests are then transferred to Cape Town International Airport for a flight back to their country of origin after enjoying one of our most comprehensive South African tours.
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