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.
On the first morning of your escorted tour in South Africa, we travel to the Apartheid Museum, a truly fascinating exhibition describing the journey through the years of segregation to the first democratic elections. Afterwards we continue to the four-star Indaba Hotel in an affluent suburb in the north of the city. 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 2019 tours stay at the four-star Sanbonani Resort.
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.
Today we have the opportunity to do as we please. Some may wish to relax and use the hotel’s excellent facilities, whilst others may wish to try something a little more exciting – there may be opportunities for a helicopter journey or even some rafting.
After breakfast we will head south to the tiny country of Swaziland. A picturesque drive leads us to the capital Mbabane where we will pass the Royal Palace. We continue back to South Africa and on to Kwazulu Natal, where we will stay at the simple three-star Battlefields Lodge for two nights.
We will today head to South Africa’s Battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. Made famous by a number of films, these two battles were hugely significant for the British Empire. Our specialist Zulu guide will share thrilling stories of how masses of Zulu armies took on the British Army in 1879. Later this afternoon, 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 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 the 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. We’ll have the opportunity to see these fascinating creatures close up and learn about their habits. After an included lunch, we head back to Mossel Bay.
Today is a scenic travelling day as we head toward the country’s fine Winelands. Arriving late in the afternoon, we will check into the lovely four-star Devon Valley Hotel, which boasts wonderful views as well as lush gardens and a lovely shaded terrace area. Departures between July and November will take us via Hermanus, one of the best places onshore to witness whales playfully cavorting in the sea.
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.
Leaving Knysna behind, we will visit the incredible botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch, a stunning living gallery of the plant species native to the area. We then continue on to Cape Town, where we stay at the excellent four-star Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, ideally located a short walk from the historic V&A waterfront area.
Today we head towards the famed Cape of Good Hope after breakfast today. On our way we will pass by pretty fishing harbours, pristine beaches, and rugged seascapes. We will stop at the Cape of Good Hope, noted as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, before moving on to Cape Point, where we’ll see the point that the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. We will also call in at Boulders Beach, where adorable penguins can be seen. Later this afternoon, we head back to Cape Town.
Cape Town is a city of many influences – British, Dutch and Cape Malay most notably, but Mother Nature has left the legacy on the city in the form of the stunningly unique Table Mountain, where you can catch the iconic cable car ride to the top. The infamous Robben Island also comes highly recommended if weather conditions permit. We have plenty of time today to explore the city at our own pace, whether on your own or in the company of your new-found friends. Your expert tour manager will ensure that you have all the information you need to make the most of your time here.
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:
Included excursions are:
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|
Just brilliant. Matt was our guide and was superb beginning to end - knowledgeable, interesting to listen to and helpful in every way. Will use Riviera in future for all my holiday breaks in Europe and beyond. Suited me in every ...
gerald & rosemary wright
We have recently returned from another excellent Riviera cruise aboard the MS Oscar Wilde. The ship and all the crew were certainly 5*. The journey and the excursions were all very enjoyable. We have just booked another cruise on...