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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 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.
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.
- Come face to face with great white sharks on a cage diving experience in Gansbaai, then watch from the boat as the ocean's greatest predator jumps clear from the water
- Watch whales breaching from your hotel balcony in Hermanus, then take a boat or kayak trip to get closer to their immense 50-ton frames
- Go on safari in an ecosystem that contains over half the world's wild rhinos and constantly bump into the graceful horned giants
- A 3-day safari in the Sabi Sands is all about the predators, and the experience isn't just about spotting lions and leopards, it's about seeing them in the thrill of the hunt
- Large elephant and buffalo herds complete the big seven experience, their thunderous footsteps reverberating across the savannah
- Explore the beauty of Cape Town on your first two days in South Africa, which include the summit of Table Mountain and the sensual vineyards of Constantia
South Africa is the land of nature's giants. Elephants move in large herds, their trumpeted calls resonating beyond the horizon. Buffalos march, rumbling footsteps echoing far across the savannah. Great white sharks leap clear of frothy ocean waters, often with a seal carcass hanging limply from razored teeth. In a calm bay, a little further around the coast, female southern right whales nurture their calves. The 50 to 60-ton males follow the scent of the hormones, filling the bay with further charms. Back on the savannah, and the predators rule their kingdom, lion prides who bask beneath trees and leopards who drape their spots across the acacia branches. Then there are also rhinos, over half the world's wild and endangered population residing in the savannah where you'll be going on safari. It's not just the big five. There are seven giants to intimately discover.
South Africa's dramatic landscapes provide the starting point to this tour, the vertical Table Mountain Chain casting a shadow across two different oceans. Spend the first two days in Cape Town and the mountain is almost always in view, including when you sip wine from the sensual vineyards of its hidden back slopes. Follow the waves two hours east, stopping in Gansbaai for a boat trip to Shark Alley. Great whites soar from the water then disappear into the depths, only to return and circle as they intercept seals out hunting for fish. From the safety of a half-submerged cage, you admire their haunting beauty, sometimes from barely one or two meters away. Continue 30 minutes further to Walker Bay and migratory southern right whales can be spotted from your hotel balcony. Next, you'll enjoy thrilling close-ups, choosing either a boat or kayak tour across the bay. Weighing over 50 tons, these are some of the largest mammals alive, and they're in frisky mood as the mating and calving seasons coincide.
Then it's onto the savannah, a flight taking you from Cape Town to the Sabi Sands and an airstrip that's surrounded by the drama of the wild. On the transfer to the lodge, there will be a series of encounters, Africa's big game roaming freely in a huge unfenced habitat. The land-based big five are here, and they're found in abundance; Sabi Sands isn't a place to glimpse the revered animals, it's where you're fully immersed in the rhythm of the savannah, from elephants wandering past at dinner time to lionesses and buffaloes clashing at sunrise.
Three days of safari means the experience isn't rushed, and you can explore in a variety of ways. Walking safaris bring intimate moments with the smaller animals while nighttime drives find the predators on the move. This is wild Africa, and you don't need to search for the big five; sometimes you're sitting on the verandah, and a herd of elephants or a small rhino family will wander past before your eyes. From the Sabi Sands, there are direct flights to Johannesburg, where you connect with your international flight, after seeing the big seven in just seven nights.
$3,195 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
Reviews of Zicasso's Referral Service
4.94 stars based on 856 reviews.
Reviewed By Stephanie G.
Reviewed By Kathy K.
Reviewed By Nathan P.
Reviewed By Michael G.
Reviewed By Katelyn W.
Reviewed By Bettisu C.
Get Weekly Inspiration and Expert Advice on Travel
during the COVID and post-COVID era