Big Seven in Seven Nights: A Journey to Cape Town & Sabi Sands Safari

A 8 day trip to South Africa 
5 out of 5 stars
3 reviews

Lion prides basking on the scorched African savannah, great white sharks leaping from the waves with a seal carcass, white rhinos marching past your lodge verandah. South Africa is the home of nature's giants, both on land and in the ocean. On this 7-night South Africa tour, you see all seven of the most revered African animals, including exquisite leopards, rumbustious elephant herds, boisterous buffalo, and 50-ton southern right whales. 

Customize This Trip For Me
Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

South African wineries.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Cape Town, V & A Waterfront, Constantia, Table Mountain, Gansbaai, Hermanus, Walker Bay, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, Johannesburg

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Cape Town – Sunset at the Waterfront

Land in Cape Town and its most famous monument is easily found, Table Mountain rising majestically above a city of colorful houses and a relaxed coastal ambiance. Nothing is rushed here, the towering mountain a reminder that the passage of time can't be interrupted or cheated. You'll be greeted at the airport, and it's a 30-minute private transfer to the V & A Waterfront, the city's premier coastal address. Your five-star hotel stands over the harbor, offering prime views of the ocean sunset as well as angles towards the rugged mountain. Within a five-minute walk, you can find boutique craft markets, exceptional seafood restaurants, unusual public artwork and the welcoming atmosphere that the city is renowned for. It's all in a large fully-pedestrianized space that provides a charming welcome to the country.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfer

Day 2: Cape Town – Table Mountain and the Vineyards of Constantia

From the bottom it's imposing, from the summit it's delightful; Table Mountain provides a sublime view from 3000 feet, two oceans cascading before your eyes and the city stretching out beneath your feet. Ascend in a glass-fronted revolving cable car then take a short walk to the flattened summit, gazing out in all directions. Especially in the calm morning air, it's hard to find a more majestic panorama anywhere in Africa. After descending, you explore a mostly hidden side of the mountain, a twisting road taking you onto lower slopes that are flush with vines. Nine vineyards can be found here, their wine a product of the endless sunshine and cool ocean air. Wine tasting comes with a lunch platter and a pairing of flavors, each wine accompanied by a local cheese or dried meat. Cape Town extends on the slopes below, and it's easy to spend the rest of the afternoon indulging on the local delicacies and admiring the view.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, transfer, breakfast, lunch

Day 3: Gansbaai to Hermanus – Great White Shark Cage Diving

Down in the depths, you can spot a great white, roving slowly, a quick flick of the tail taking it in another direction. Suddenly it explodes with energy, an effortless surge and it flashes through the water, snapping its jaws towards a lonely seal. The hunted escapes. But for how long? Another three sharks are circling, also juveniles who are perhaps too eager to snatch at their prey. Every day the seals must swim the gauntlet of Shark Alley in order to feed, and every day many of the ocean's greatest predators circle and wait. A great white comes to the surface, moving effortlessly past the cage, one-ton of raw power just a few meters from your eyes. Shouts come from above, telling you when to put your head beneath the surface and watch the great whites shimmy past.

With great white shark cage diving, there is no actual diving involved. You stand in a cage that is partly submerged on the edge of the boat. Hear the signal and put your masked face under; you're so close that sometimes the sharks accidentally barge against the cage as they pass. Short spells of ten or so minutes in the water are complemented by watching the show from the boat. The sharks' bulk looms large in the water and then it surges towards the surface, leaping from the waves with a seal carcass that's been half devoured in a single gulp. It's over in an instant but the experience is memorable for an eternity, the predators' snarls and razored teeth a thrilling show of power.

Gansbaai is a 90-minute transfer from Cape Town, and you'll leave early, arriving for a second breakfast and a shark diving excursion. Return from the boat and the guide takes you to a local seafood restaurant before the 30-minute drive to Hermanus, one of the world's premier whale watching destinations. Southern right whales migrate here from the Antarctic, filling Walker Bay from June to November. Throughout this season, you can spot them from your hotel balcony, especially when the local crier alerts the town to a whale by blowing on a handcrafted kelp horn.

What's Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 4: Hermanus – Intimate Encounters with Southern Right Whales

Whales breach barely 50 meters from the shore, their ginormous frames visible from the cliffside walking trail across Walker Bay. They're mostly mothers, arriving to raise their calves in the calm waters. Such an abundance of females inevitably attracts a surge of testosterone, in the form of competing males who seek to mate as soon as the calves are a few weeks old. Being 15 feet long and over 50 tons in weight, these whales are an unmissable sight even when a mile away from the cliffs.

Today you get much closer than a mile, exploring the bay on a boat safari or taking the unique option of a guided whale watching kayak safari. Both can get you to within 30 meters of the southern right whales, an inspiring proximity, especially when mother and calf are breaching in unison. The whales rise and fall across the water, occasional flumes expelled from their blowholes and soft scents left across the water. Particularly in September and October, the volume of whales is staggering, such a huge collection of giants in a small bay tucked along the southern coast of South Africa. Both options are half-day excursions, and Hermanus is a quaint town for spending the afternoon amongst craft shops and coastal cafes.

What's Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast

Day 5: Cape Town to Sabi Sands – A Game Drive on the African Savannah

The thought of an African safari evokes so many promising images; elephants, rhinos, buffalo charging around and zebra galloping into the sunset, but how much is real and how much is fiction? Touch down in the Sabi Sands and the revered preconceptions are just the starting point. It's almost impossible to imagine how raw and authentic the safari experience is going to be. Step from the plane and it's often possible to see elephant tusks and giraffe necks. You don't glimpse a rhino in the trees; you find half a dozen on the drive to the lodge. Over the next three days, you don't count how many lions you see, but how many prides you encounter. Nothing is ever seen in isolation. Those zebra are galloping away after being alerted of a leopard's presence; the elephant herds are clashing at the floodlit waterhole; buffalos are charging towards a lioness, attempting to scare the hunters away from the herd's youngsters.

This first day of safari often passes in a blur, every few moments bringing an intimate encounter with another of the savannah's enchanting cast. Hartebeest grazing with a sense of calm, springbok skipping across the dusty plains, raucous baboon troops shouting from the trees, clashing with the warthogs who scurry onwards. So many animals, so many impressions, so many photos on the first excursions into the untouched savannah; this is the great appeal of the Sabi Sands, a large unfenced reserve that borders Kruger National Park. The diversity of habitats enables a huge range of mammals to coexist, and it creates continual scenes of drama, most exquisitely when the big cats search for their meals.

From Hermanus, you'll drive back to Cape Town for a direct flight to the Sabi Sands, where the airport transfer is also a game drive. Check into a luxurious lodge with sweeping views over the savannah. A permanent waterhole is just meters away, and it brings a wide cast of animals throughout day and night. In the afternoon, you take a dedicated game drive through the reserve, seeking out the full big five, watching how they roam through a landscape that screams of wild, untrammeled Africa.

What's Included: accommodation, transfer, domestic flight, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 6 – 7: Sabi Sands – Thrilling Big Five Safari in the Kruger Area

Diversity provides the first impression of the Sabi Sands, and the abundance keeps you fully entertained for the next two days. The numbers are baffling. Within the wider ecosystem, you can find over half the world's wild rhino population. Elephants are found in their thousands, and the buffalo are too widespread to even think about counting. The suite of ungulates makes it a predator haven and the Sabi Sands is a prime place to spot lions and leopards on a hunt. Guides have an intimate knowledge of the home range of different cats, understanding exactly where to seek them out on the savannah. In some places, you might glimpse a leopard in a distant tree; with three days in the Sabi Sands, there's a good chance of watching one walk straight past the safari vehicle.

During these two days, the safari itinerary is flexible and inclusive, enabling you to pick from a wide range of activities. Game drives are the mainstay for experiences with the big five, the vehicles able to cover the large distance and get exceptionally close to rhinos, elephants, lions, leopards, and buffalo. That proximity feels enhanced after nightfall as nocturnal wanderings are illuminated by the guide's flashlight. Perhaps leopards are mating, lionesses are hunting, or rhinos are congregating around a waterhole in the gloom. Walking safaris with armed rangers provide another intriguing angle and by walking slowly, you can approach many of the plains animals. Stay silent, respect their space, and there's a spine-tingling thrill to standing just a few meters from a zebra or springbok herd. Between activities you relax at the lodge, watching the procession of wildlife pass by and allowing the sounds of the wild to lull you to sleep each evening.

What's Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Sabi Sands to Johannesburg – Departure

Fly from the Sabi Sands to Johannesburg, between two airstrips that couldn't be more different. One is surrounded by buffalo and elephants, the other surrounded by Africa's largest airport. After the short domestic flight to O. R Tambo, you connect onto your international departure, leaving South Africa after seven nights and a thrilling array of giant animal encounters.

What's Included: transfer, domestic flight, breakfast


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.