Essence of South Africa Tour: Nature, Safari & Winelands

Wine region near Stellenbosch looking at Simonsberg in South Africa.
A 9 day trip to South Africa 
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South Africa is a land rich in culture, wildlife and jaw-dropping natural beauty. This tour offers you the perfect opportunity to experience some of her finest gems. Journey up the iconic Table Mountain, explore her rugged and breathtaking coastline, taste sensational wine in the Cape’s vineyards and come face-to-face with Africa’s Big Five in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve.

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Cape Town, Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands and the Timbavati Game Reserve

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Arrival in Cape Town

Arrive in Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest city. Sit back and relax as we transfer you to Welgelegen Guest House, your home away from home for the next three days. Located in the heart of the city, Welgelegen provides an ideal location from which to explore the key sights. Why not hop into your conveniently arranged rental vehicle, which has been delivered directly to your Guest House, to begin your vacation of a lifetime. 

Day 2: Explore Cape Town’s magestic natural scenery

Today you are free to explore Cape Town, or the “Mother City” as she is affectionately known. Hailed as one of the World’s most beautiful cites. Cape Town certainly doesn’t disappoint. With so much on offer, undoubtedly the best place to start is the majestic Table Mountain, which takes her name from the clouds that cover her peak and resemble a tablecloth. Notably, the city’s most prominent and well known landmark, Table Mountain is recognized as one of the World’s Seven Wonders of Nature, ranking alongside the likes of Argentina's Iguazu Falls and the Amazon rainforest. Head up the mountain by a trip on the Cableway, and be rewarded with spectacular views of the City Bowl, the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby peaks of Signal Hill and Lions Head. The cable car has been designed to turn 360º as it ascends the mountain, ensuring your views are enjoyed to the full. Once on the summit, relax at the tabletop restaurant or take a walk along one of the many paved pathways. For the adventurous, drop 112 meters below the summit on one of the World’s highest commercial abseiling tours. This descent includes abseiling past an overhanging cliff and aside from the adrenaline perks, this view is by far one of the most outstanding that the mountain has to offer. 

If exploring the mountain leaves you feeling peckish, then why not stop for a local favorite – bobotie (curry flavored beef with chutney, apricot jelly, raisons and bread). This traditional meat dish (similar to meatloaf) traces its origins to the Cape Malay community – whom historically worked as slaves in the Cape Colony. Cape Malay culture can also be experienced visually in the Bo-Kaap, the oldest Malay settlement and surely the most colorful – well known for its vibrant multi-colored houses. 

The picturesque Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, at the base of Table Mountain, provide the perfect scenery to end the day. Explore the Cape Flora in this region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and be on the lookout for proteas – the South African national flower. 

Day 3: Discover the History and Heritage of the City

A trip to Cape Town is incomplete without a visit to the City’s second World Heritage site - Robben Island. This iconic landmark has a vast history which can be traced back to the late 15th Century when Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama first landed on the Island. It has since been home to a leper colony and the mentally ill, while during WWII it served as a defense base. In May of 1963 the prison’s most famous inmate, Nelson Mandela, was incarcerated here. On clear days the island provides unique views of the “Mother City”.  

Proceed from here to feast your eyes on more of the rugged beauty that the Cape is so well known for. Visit the breathtaking white sand beaches in Camps Bay, Clifton and Llandudno. Afterwards, admire arguably one of the most scenic coastlines in all of Africa as you journey toward Cape Point, to witness firsthand the meeting of two oceans – the Atlantic and Indian. On the way stop in at the towns of Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town, perhaps grab some fresh fish and chips. Then head to Boulders Beach to catch a glimpse of bathing and nesting African penguins. These birds can be easily viewed from wooden boardwalks erected above the beach. If more wildlife is on your agenda, then visit the Ostrich farm close to Cape Point to get up-close-and-personal with Africa’s biggest bird. 

The remainder of your day could be spent exploring the nooks and crannies in the arty Kalk Bay, a charming fishing town. Be on the lookout for local seals who reside in the harbor. Then complete your evening by grabbing fresh seafood at one of the town’s local restaurants like the Harbour House, which is situated right on the water and offers unparalleled views of the ocean. 

Day 4: Travel to Franshhoek in the Heart of the Winelands

In the morning your journey of the Cape Winelands begins. You will be based at the Auberge Clermont, a fruit and wine farm in the historic town of Franschhoek - which offers beautiful mountain scenery coupled with rich history and world famous wine. Kick up your feet and relax by having a picnic on the farm, or horse lovers can explore the area on horseback. 

Franschhoek is well positioned along the wine route and numerous wine farms are easily reachable. For those keen to sample the region’s best wine without the concern of driving then boarding the wine tram which runs through Franschhoek is a viable opportunity. This optional tour includes stops at the Huguenot Memorial Museum, five wine farms and the village itself. 

The Huguenot Memorial Museum documents the French settlers who arrived and began farming here in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, some local South Africans can trace their genealogies back to these pioneering Huguenot families. History and art fanatics can also revel in the area’s Cape Dutch Architecture, which began in the 17th century, and is distinctive to the Western Cape. 

Complete the day admiring the sunset from the scenic Franschhoek Pass. 

Day 5: Wine-tasting in Stellenbosh and Paarl

With the winelands at your fingertips consider exploring the nearby vineyards of Stellenbosch and Paarl. Just 30 minutes from Franschhoek is Stellenbosch, a charming and arty town established in 1679. Visit a couple of boutique wine estates in the area such as Meerlust and Kanonkop – renowned for award winning wines.   And a visit to the Spier Wine Estate is a must. Aside from award winning wines this farm also rehabilitates birds of prey, and offers intimate eagle encounters. For art lovers various collections are also exhibited. 

For those keen, and in a group, try your hand at making your own wine at the Stellenrust Wine Farm. From crushing the grapes to bottling the final product you walk away with your own creation. Another unique flavor experience which will go down a treat with all you chocoholics can be found at the Waterford Estate. Here wines are paired with various dark and milk chocolates to offer a sublime wine tasting opportunity. Further, tantalizing wine pairings are on offer at the Fairview Wine Estate in Paarl, renowned not only for its wine but also its award winning cheese. 

Consider spending the afternoon at Groot Drakenstein Prison (formally the Victor Verster Prision) where Mr Mandela Nelson was held from 1988 until his release as a free man on the 11th of February 1990. He had spent a total of 27 years behind bars. 

If you ever wanted a chance to hold a Nile crocodile then why not end your day at the Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm and learn more about these prehistoric reptiles. 

Day 6: Travel from Cape Town to the Timbavati

Today, after enjoying breakfast, you leave for Cape Town International Airport. Return your rental vehicle then catch a domestic flight via Johannesburg to Hoedspruit - a small town close to South Africa’s game viewing Mecca (flight fare not included). At Hoedspruit Airport, you will be warmly greeted by your driver and transferred to the four-star Simbavati River Lodge, primly situated on the banks on the Nhlaralumi River, within the Timbavati Game Reserve. Kick up your feet on the lodge deck which has perfect views of the nearby river. From the safety of this elevated deck, you can take in the sights and sounds of the African bush – and witness the game literally come to you, as they venture down to the water for a drink. Look out for resident hippos and crocodiles. Don’t be surprised if this becomes your favorite spot at the lodge. In the evening take in the majestic sky and surrounding bushveld as you dine around a blazing bonfire in a traditional African boma (originally used by locals to enclose and protect their livestock).     

Day 7: Search for the Big Five

The next day, consider setting out early for a morning game drive. Leave just before sunrise and witness the light rise up to bathe the bush in her golden touch. Established in 1956, the Timbavati Game Reserve encompasses over 53, 000 hectares of private land which includes Africa’s Big Five as well as two additional predators, Wild Dog and Cheetah – making this a Big Seven reserve. The Timbavati is, however, more famously known for white lion - first sighted here in 1975. These big cats, magnificent and almost entirely white, are known to occur naturally in this region due to a rare color mutation.  This area’s breeding population with their unique recessive gene can be linked to white lions found in zoos and parks across the globe.  

Enjoy the allure of the bushveld as your informative game ranger and tracker take you on a bushveld safari of wonder and discovery. Spend the evening enjoying cocktails and relaxing on the Lodge deck before enjoying another hearty boma meal. 

Day 8: Feel the Pull of the African Bush

Wake up to coffee and rusks (a delicious traditional hard biscuit), before choosing to head out on a morning game drive or perhaps read a book on the deck. Grab a pair of binoculars and do some bird watching. In the afternoon take a refreshing dip in the swimming pool. Then round up your day by taking a night safari complete with sundowners under the African sky. This drive leaves just before sunset and delivers a variety of nocturnal creatures – offering a uniquely different safari experience from the morning drive. 

Day 9: Leave the Timbavati to return home

Today head out on one last morning game drive and soak in your last few breaths of African air. You can also take some memories home with you by visiting the Lodge’s curio shop, before boarding your flight at Hoedspruit Airport (fare not included). You might be leaving Africa but she will forever remain in your heart. 


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.

What's Not Included 

All accommodation not mentioned
Meals and drinks other than specified
Activities other than specified
Car rental additional charges
Items of a personal nature
All flights
Park Fees