South Africans call their homeland ‘a world in one country’. It covers an area equivalent to five times the size of Britain, with a climate ranging from temperate, Mediterranean and sub-tropical to desert; it offers spectacular scenery with arguably the finest wildlife on earth and no less than eleven official languages. South Africa is truly a world-class destination!
Firstly, a more naturally beautiful country would be difficult to find - from the serrated peaks of the Drakensberg mountains, to the contorted and timeless semi-desert landscapes of the Karoo and the forested sea-shores and mirror-like lakes of the Garden Route, the enchanting temperate valleys of the Winelands, the rare proximity to nature found in the national parks and the instantly recognizable symbol of the country, Table Mountain - all under an endless azure-blue sky. Quite remarkable!
Then there is the wildlife, one of the main reasons visitors travel to Africa. One of the finest places in the world to experience this is the Kruger National Park, which is a similar size to Wales. It is exactly how you imagine the African bush to be, as depicted on countless TV documentaries: areas of sweeping savannah, bisected by rivers full of hippos, muddy waterholes lined with animals quenching their thirst, and the bush itself, home to zebra and antelope, studded by immense biscuit-coloured termite hills and towering above it all, instantly recognisable giraffes! The park is home to an incredible 150 mammal and 500 bird species including the ‘big five’: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Game-viewing is an intensely moving experience with nothing preparing you for the waves of emotion inspired by an encounter with these wonderful, almost regal creatures thriving in their natural habitat. Just to highlight the variety of flora too, the Cape Peninsula alone has twice as many plant varieties as Britain, which is 5,000 times bigger. But South Africa is not just about scenery and wildlife, fabulous as it is.
The cities are amazing and highlight the country’s diversity. Brash Johannesburg, city of gold and South Africa’s cultural capital, with skyscrapers of concrete and glass separated by canyon-like streets contrasting with townships on its outskirts. Then there is the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town, overlooked by the vast bulk of Table Mountain and easily Africa’s most beautiful and sophisticated city. It is a real multi-cultural melting pot, with stunning Cape architecture, superb beaches, the best cuisine in the country, fabulous street musicians, mime artists and entertainers adding to its cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Any country is shaped by its past - South Africa more than most with its recent history a constant struggle between the British, Afrikaners, and various indigenous peoples, the Zulus being the most well known. The British annexed the Cape from the Dutch during the 18th century, who then set out inland founding the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. However, with the discovery of the world’s largest gold deposits, British interest flourished! This culminated in the Boer War and unification of the country. We all inevitably associate South Africa with the inhumanities of the old Apartheid system, which needs no explanation.
Our visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg takes us on a fascinating, horrifying, humbling and ultimately inspiring journey from the dark days of ‘whites only’ privilege, through to Nelson Mandela’s historic release. Documentary film, texts, sound clips and live accounts recapture life in the old South Africa.
We also visit the famous battlefields of the Zulu Wars, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift – one a crushing British defeat sending shock waves throughout the Empire, the other a valiant stand of just 140 against 4,000 Zulus. Few tours visit these remarkable sites, a vital and deeply moving part of South Africa’s unique heritage.
The Garden Route in the Western Cape is legendary. With a mild climate and facing the southern Indian Ocean, this unique region encompasses beautiful coastal and mountain scenery. Depending on the time of year, we’ll have the opportunity to travel to the beautiful seaside resort of Hermanus, the best place for on-shore whale watching. We also spend a most enjoyable few days surrounded by the seemingly never-ending rows of vines in fertile valleys, backed by the lofty mountains of the enchanting Winelands.
This wonderful 16-day tour is designed to highlight South Africa’s truly amazing diversity of cultures, its curious blend of old and new, and it’s phenomenal scenery and wildlife. You leave with the feeling that the new South Africa, open to the world after years of isolation, is a land of superlatives which cannot fail to impress the welcome visitor!
Fly to London Heathrow where you will be met by a member of the team before your overnight flight to Johannesburg.
Arrive in Johannesburg, where you will be met and transferred to the four-star Indaba Hotel in a prosperous suburb north of the city. On the way to our hotel we take the opportunity to visit the Apartheid Museum, a truly fascinating exhibition charting the apartheid years and the struggle against it, culminating in the first democratic elections. It is a superbly presented walk through contemporary history using original material, riveting eyewitness accounts, photographs and film.
The rest the afternoon is at leisure. This evening we will enjoy a lovely welcome dinner that includes some local specialities, where you have the chance of meeting and getting to know your dedicated tour manager, as well as the like-minded solo travellers of the group.
After breakfast this morning, we follow the wonderfully scenic Panorama Route to Kruger National Park. One of the most stunning drives in the world, we follow the rim of Blyde River Canyon – a gorge over 600 metres deep, where intricate rock formations created by centuries of erosion separate temperate grasslands from dusty savannahs. We continue to our three-star superior hotel, Hippo Hollow Country Estate, set in a lush forest on the edge of the park, where we will stay for the next three nights.
Our early morning venture into the Kruger National Park will be rewarded with a most spectacular safari experience. Expert rangers will take us around in specially adapted four-wheel-drive vehicles to the best spots for catching a glimpse of the amazing wildlife that call this place home – elephants, cheetahs, leopards, warthogs, zebras, and numerous more species. Make sure you have your camera on hand to seize the very moment when these magnificent creatures make their wonderful appearance.
This is a day at leisure for anyone who just wants to take it easy by one of the pools at the hotel or do some hippo-spotting from the lovely lawn overlooking the river. Alternatively, you could try some elephant encounters, exciting microlight flights or even river rafting (all subject to weather conditions), as well as sunset safaris or night safaris where you can experience the unique thrill of an open 4x4 vehicle game drive by spotlight.
Today we leave Kruger on our way to the battlefields of Zululand.
After breakfast we’ll drive south, entering the small but scenically beautiful country of Swaziland. As the road climbs past the interestingly named Piggs Peak, we descend through lush green fields and rolling hills interspersed with small farms and drive through the country’s small capital, Mbabane, passing the parliament house and royal palace en route.
We cross back into South Africa in the afternoon and enter KwaZulu-Natal province, staying at the simple three-star Battlefields Lodge for two nights on bed-and-breakfast basis.
After breakfast we visit the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. Brilliantly dramatised in the films Zulu Dawn and Zulu, these two battles, just a day apart, became a defining moment for the British Empire. In 1879 at Isandlwana, a depleted force of 1,300 were surprised and outmanoeuvred by a 20,000-strong Zulu army armed with cowhide shields and spears. Only a handful survived. The next day just 9 miles away, about 140 British soldiers, some wounded, held off 4,000 Zulus for over 10 hours at Rorke’s Drift, an action earning 11 Victoria Crosses, the largest number ever awarded in a single engagement. Isandlwana, particularly, remains a haunting and lonely place, with mass graves marked by simple white stones. Our specialist Zulu guide will really make those desperate encounters come alive.
After an included lunch we return to our hotel.
After breakfast we return to Johannesburg airport, flying to George in the Western Cape and at the heart of the gorgeous Garden Route. We take the short drive to the coastal town of Mossel Bay and our hotel, the charming three-star superior Diaz Hotel & Resort with breakfast. The comfortable rooms all boast excellent sea views.
Dinner at a local restaurant is included this evening.
Today we head inland through the stunning mountain scenery of the Ruitersbos Nature Reserve to the foot of the Swartberg Mountains. Here we’ll visit the spectacular Cango Caves, formed over millions of years in soft limestone and South Africa’s best-known caves.
Next we head to the small town of Oudtshoorn, a centre of ostrich farming since the 19th century, where we enjoy an included lunch. We’ll have the opportunity to see these fascinating creatures close up and learn about their habits. We head back to Mossel Bay in the evening.
This morning we take the long scenic drive to the Cape’s beautiful Winelands. We drive via Hermanus – during July to November is the best time for on-shore whale-watching. These gentle giants move in seemingly permanent slow motion and are a truly amazing sight as they playfully cavort in the water.
We arrive in the Winelands by late afternoon, staying two nights on bed-and-breakfast at the excellent four-star Pearl Valley Hotel, which is a real find.
Today we tour the awesomely beautiful Winelands. Set in a valley backed by majestic mountains, rows of manicured vines and orchards stretch into a distance studded by lime-washed, often thatched, 300-year-old wineries built in the unique Cape Dutch style, seemingly mirroring the undulations of the surrounding countryside. Our first stop is elegant Stellenbosch, established 300 years ago and home of South Africa’s most prestigious university. Period buildings and historic streets reinforce the town’s dignified atmosphere. We have time to explore this delightful town before enjoying a fascinating cellar tour and tasting at the Neethlingshof Wine Estate. After that, we visit the small town of Franschoek, set at the head of a valley. Tonight we’ll enjoy an included typical South African BBQ or Cape Malay buffet dinner at our hotel.
This morning we visit the amazing Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, located just outside Cape Town and set against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. These incredible gardens are some of the best in South Africa, with numerous and fascinating endemic flora and orchid varieties.
We soon arrive in Cape Town and our hotel, the four-star Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, staying three nights on bed-and-breakfast. It is located right in the centre of this bustling city within walking distance of the V&A waterfront.
The afternoon is spent at leisure when you can start to explore this beautiful city.
This morning, we visit Cape Point and the legendary Cape of Good Hope, firstly driving past pristine beaches to the picturesque fishing harbour of Hout Bay. We continue along the breathtakingly scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive, full of rugged seascapes, to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, then on to Cape Point itself. We see the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean currents and the treacherous promontory of rocks and swells, the scourge of mariners for centuries.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we visit Boulders Beach and its penguin colony before returning to the city.
Cape Town, featuring British, Dutch and Cape Malay influences, is simply one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities with so much to offer the visitor! You could do some bargain shopping at the Waterfront, followed by a sumptuous seafood lunch. Or maybe go people-watching at fashionable Camps Bay? Obviously no visit to Cape Town is complete without taking a revolving cable car ride to the top of iconic Table Mountain which has announced the city to generations of sea-farers. The views are fabulous. You should also visit Robben Island (weather permitting and based on availability), where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27-year incarceration, and whose visitors since its opening have included Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Gates and even Nelson Mandela himself. Perhaps though, simply wander where your feet take you, or relax a little, taking afternoon tea in beautiful colonial splendour at the Mount Nelson hotel – the choice is yours.
At the appropriate time we will transfer to the airport for our flight home
We will arrive back today after a journey of wonder and discovery with memories that will last a lifetime.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on one person in a twin/double room for sole occupancy. Price includes return Dublin flights - scheduled flights to Johannesburg and from Cape Town, all transfers, 13 nights’ accommodation on bed and breakfast basis, three dinners, two lunchs, all tours as mentioned, porterage of one item of luggage per person and the services of an experienced Riviera Travel tour manager.
Included excursions are visits to Blyde Canyon, Swaziland, Rorke’s Drift, Knysna, Hermanus whale watching, Swellendam, Stellenbosch, Franshoek, Winelands, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point, Boulders Beach plus the Talana museum, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Apartheid Museum, Wine Tasting and Cellar Tour, tour of Zulu battlefields and full day Kruger safari and jeep tour
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitabilty of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
Visas and Passports
Irish passport holders do not currently require a visa. However, please ensure that your passport is valid for at least thirty days after the intended return date and there are at least two completely empty pages. Please consult your GP regarding the appropriate inoculations required for South Africa at least a month before departure. The Kruger National Park is considered a malarial zone, although the risk is reduced during the South African drier ‘winter’ months of May to August. Please consult your GP regarding the appropriate medication well before departure and ensure you use a strong mosquito repellent.
As of June 2015, if you are travelling to South Africa or transiting through a South African airport with a minor, new documentation requirements apply. Please visit the following website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa/entry-requirements for more information.
Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information provided relating to visa requirements is true and correct at time of publication, changes in requirements after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information. Therefore, whilst we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, we strongly suggest that you re-confirm requirements with the relevant embassy prior to application.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
En route to the hotel in Johannesburg, we spend 2 hours at the Apartheid Museum.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Johannesburg - O.R. Tambo International Airport||Johannesburg||1 hr||Cape Town||Cape Town International Airport||45 mins|
Mairead and Patrick McGrath
We have just returned from our holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia, which included a 7-night cruise upstream on the Mekong from Saigon to Siam Reap. The experience exceeded our expectations and we thoroughly enjoyed our exposure to th...
This was our second visit to India with Riviera. We had an great holiday and saw some fascinating places and wonderful scenery. India is an amazing place with so much variety. What a contrast between the North (our first trip), ...