Sensational South Africa Vacation: Safaris, Cities & Vineyards

A 12 day trip to South Africa 
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Discerning travelers will find few packages more luxurious or elegant than this 12-day tour through South Africa. Beginning in the exclusive private game reserves on the outskirts of Kruger National Park, you will experience the raw and untrammeled wilderness from the comfort of the region’s most fabulous properties. Sensational cuisine, award- winning spas and unprecedented service will keep you fully pampered in this remote location, as you spend coveted moments with leopards, lions, elephants and rhinoceros. Round off the experience with a few final days in the dazzling city of Cape Town and her surrounding vineyards, to fully experience the magic of the continent. 

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General Information

South African safari tour following close behind an elephant  in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, Thornybush Private Game Reserve, Johannesburg   

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Welcome to Africa! Arrive in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve on the Border of Kruger National Park

This luxurious African experience begins in the heart of the bush in Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. Sharing an unfenced border with Kruger, this spectacular wilderness is the perfect combination of glamour, exclusivity and adventure. Landing on a dirt airstrip in a small private plane will summon visions of a bygone era of African adventure. After a few minutes of weaving along dusty roads in an open-air vehicle, you will arrive at an oasis in the bush: Dulini Lodge. Your private and expansive thatched cottage with massive glass windows will become a perfect first home for the coming days. Unwind and relax with an outdoor shower overlooking the river, maintaining an ever-watchful eye for curious elephants and leopards. Sip a celebratory arrival cocktail on your private porch, before wandering over to the outdoor dining area for lunch. Feasting on sophisticated salads and homemade breads will complete this luxurious welcome to the bush. 

Following a late lunch and coffee, you will be introduced to your ranger and tracker and embark together on your first afternoon game drive. Set out into fields of zebra, warthog and impala as you follow the tracks of a leopard or lion. Traffic within the reserve is strictly controlled, meaning you will see few vehicles as you move. The solitude and independence is a true rarity on safari, making your moments alone with an elephant a coveted moment. As the sun begins to set, pause in an open field for a picnic of cocktails and canapés. Indulge in a gin and tonic as you look out over a pond, scanning hippo eyes popping above the smooth surface. Carry on with an evening drive as you return towards the lodge, arriving just in time for a communal dinner in the boma (an enclosed open-air venue.) Be sure to sample a wide variety of bush meat, including the delicious impala loin, before sleepily returning to your cottage where a warm bath awaits you. Remarkably, this is only the end to your very first day.

Day 2: Set Out on Morning and Afternoon Game Drives in Search of Africa’s Big Five

Today will be your first full day in the bush, and you will quickly adjust to a familiar rhythm of early adventurous mornings and relaxing afternoons. Rising before the sun, you will set out with tea and coffee to catch the bush at its most active period. Following signs from the evening’s activity, you will set out perhaps in search of a pride of lions, suspected to have made a kill during the night. Otherwise, you may search for an enormous herd of buffalo, grazing happily in a large open field. Tracks and signs left roadside by wildlife will largely determine the schedule and events of the coming days, along with your personal wishes, of course.

You will return to Dulini mid-morning, where you will be ushered into an extensive breakfast served in the shade of an ebony tree.  Spend the morning in quiet reflection on the morning’s game drive, or sharing stories with other guests. With only six cottages, the guests of this intimate lodge will quickly become familiar. Following an afternoon beside your private plunge pool, you will return to the bush to continue the search for the Big Five. Known as a group due to the extreme difficulty and danger associated with hunting these species, moments with elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, leopard and lions often define the South Africa safari trip experience. While there are never guarantees in the bush, most guests of Dulini can anticipate a few quiet moments with a number of these species, in addition to the plethora of other creatures that call Sabi Sands home.

Day 3: Continue a Magical Exploration of Sabi Sands with your Private Ranger and Tracker

With every morning in the bush, the early wakeup call from your ranger will become a little less jolting. Today you will again meet your ranger and tracker after finishing a cup of coffee, and together you will venture back into the bush. On your third day, you will have spent much time seeking out the larger creatures. On today’s game drives, it may be interesting to focus on the smaller creatures and plants. Take time to step out of the vehicle, examining leaves that feel like velvet, and beetles with unbelievable strength. Your rangers will have an extensive knowledge of the bush, and a highlight of staying at a luxury lodge is your exposure to the country’s best guides. Asking questions inevitably conjures up stories and interesting facts that will be unique to your experience. 

During the afternoon game drive, you may have the chance to witness your ranger’s superb off-roading skills as you enter into thick bush and through riverbeds in search of intimate wildlife encounters. The capabilities of your safari vehicle are always impressive, and there are few feelings that seem more perfectly African than crossing a deep river in an open-air vehicle. Returning to the lodge in the evening, tonight’s meal may be served under the stars at a candlelit table. Be sure to pop by the private wine cellar on route to the romantic dinner location, perusing the lodge’s private collection of South African and international wines. As your eyelids begin to droop, return to your cottage and slip into a warm bed, thoughtfully heated by an electric blanket.

Day 4: Fly from Sabi Sands to Thornybush Private Game Reserve, Arriving at the Sensational Royal Malewane

This morning you will have the option of a final game drive in Sabi Sands, or a leisurely morning at your cottage prior to departure. Following a breakfast filled with tropical fruit and homemade granola, you will be driven back to the airstrip where a private plane will await you. It will be a quick hop from Sabi Sands to Thornybush Private Game Reserve, where you will stay at the extravagant Royal Malewane.

The impossible beauty of the lodge first hits you as you step off the boardwalk and into the expansive lounge, perfectly decorated with worldly antiques and splashes of Africa. Sip a fresh fruit juice as you walk through the library and dining areas towards your private thatched cottage. Adorned with the same unique style, the elegance of these cottages in the bush is beyond impressive. Treat yourself to a glass of champagne beside your private plunge pool, before wandering to the deck overlooking a watering hole for a spectacular three-course welcome lunch. Supremely talented chefs will present the menu, with a variety of options and alterations available to suit your particular needs. Wine pairings from an expansive cellar are always suggested, making this a truly decadent lunch.

After progressing through the courses, you will then set out into the bush with a new ranger and tracker. Talented and knowledgeable, Royal Malewane is quickly earning a reputation for having some of the best guides in the country and this afternoon they will begin to impress you. Wildlife within the area is just as plentiful and diverse as Sabi Sands and over the coming days you will continue to learn and explore this magical region. Return to the lodge in the early evening and sip a glass of sherry as you exchange stories with lodge staff and guests. Slip into a warm bath in preparation for what is sure to be yet another phenomenal meal. 

Day 5: Explore a Second Private Game Reserve, Returning to Malewane for a Culinary Adventure

Following the same routine as Dulini, you will rouse yourself out of your Ralph Lauren sheets when your ranger makes the wakeup call. Your day will follow a similar pattern of adventure and relaxation, though at Royal Malewane, you will continually indulge in culinary adventures. Each evening meal has a different theme, be it a traditional South African barbeque or a six-course tasting menu. Inventive, fresh and inspired by global flavors, meals will become just as much an event as game viewing. Having sampled homemade bush bread, impala loin, berry soufflés and rich cheese, you will inevitably be ready for an indulgent soak in the bathtub with a final glass of sherry before slipping into a bed warmed by a hot water bottle. Sink into plush pillows and luxurious Ralph Lauren sheets and drift off to sleep listening to sounds of the bush.

Day 6: Continue the Search for Leopards, Lions and Zebra, Taking Pauses for Spectacular Spa Treatments

A visit to the Royal Malewane would be incomplete without a handful of treatments at their award-winning spa. Discretely tucked away in the bush, this sophisticated retreat is the perfect way to decompress and refresh following a series of game drives.  Try a treatment inspired by indigenous plants and techniques, as you drift into the serenity of the sanctuary. A team of internationally certified therapists provides a wide range of treatments, using Dermalogica products and mineral-rich water sourced from an underground reserve in Thornybush. Extend the bliss by spending time in the steam room or Jacuzzi while sipping on a nutrient-rich fruit juice. These treatments, in addition to a fantastic day of game viewing, will perfectly round out the Royal experience. 

Day 7: Welcome to Cape Town! Fly into the Dazzling City and Arrive at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

Today you will transition out of the bush and into the city as you fly from Thornybush to Cape Town. Having witnessed the vibrancy of the African bush with near exclusivity, the second portion of your trip will introduce the country’s prized city and her surroundings. Upon arrival, you will be met by a representative who will transfer you to the One&Only on the edge of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Modern and chic, this will be a perfect place to decompress from the bush and adjust to the rhythm of Cape Town. This city is internationally famed for its incredible restaurants. One incredible restaurant, Nobu, is located in the hotel itself. Renowned for having the best sushi in the city, the Asian flavors may be a welcome change from the previous nights. Alternatively, reservations will gladly be made for you at a favorite place slightly further afield. 

Day 8: Depart on a Guided Tour of Cape Town and Her Picturesque Surroundings

Having adjusted to the environment and scenery of the South African bush, the landscapes that surround Cape Town may come as a surprise. Jagged cliffs and glittering ocean stand in perfect contrast to dense and dusty bush. Today you will embark on a guided tour of the region in a private vehicle. While the itinerary is entirely yours to design, we often urge guests to drive to the Cape of Good Hope for stunning views of where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Follow the scenic road to this south-eastern peninsula, pausing to explore the multitude of beaches and cliffs that line the shoreline.

Trips to the World of Birds and to a Cape fur seal colony are often popular detours, as is time spent wandering through the trendy neighborhood of Camps Bay. Consider a detour through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where you can wander uninterrupted for hours, if not days, through endemic, endangered, extinct and simply stunning plants and trees. Make your way along the wooden bridge that snakes along the rocky coast, and move up into the densely wooded rainforests for the entire experience – if time permits.

Day 9: Drive to the Breathtaking Delaire Graff Estate in the Heart of the Winelands

Following a leisurely breakfast, you will depart Cape Town and venture out into the winelands with a private driver. An hour weaving along scenic mountain roads will carry you to the painstakingly beautiful Delaire Graff Estate, located between the towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Arriving in the late afternoon, you need only schedule a time and location for champagne and canapés before sinking into your private cottage with panoramic views of the vineyards below. Dip your toes in your private infinity pool as the sun sets in front of you, illuminating the fields and mountains surrounding you.

Day 10: Sample South Africa’s Finest Wines on a Day Long Wine Tasting Tour

With over 160 wine estates surrounding Delaire, you will easily fill today with a series of tastings, cellar tours and meals. Move through the valleys of Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, exploring this world famous wine route which produces approximately 80% of the country’s wine. Sample award winning labels, classic vintages and inventive blends as you learn to distinguish the nuances and flavors that define this new-world region. Detour to artisan food boutiques to add cheese, chocolate and olive oil tastings into the day before settling in at one of the continent’s best restaurants. Nobel Hill is a world-renowned favorite, however, it exists alongside a number of other unique ventures including Bread and Wine and the Salmon Bar. Whether your day begins or ends with a tour of Delaire’s elegant reds and fresh whites, this particular vineyard will be a definitive highlight.

Day 11: Pamper Yourself with a Day of Indulgence at the Spa and World Renowned Restaurants

As a Relais & Chateaux, it will come as no surprise that the spa at Delaire is simply outstanding. Just as at Malewane, a visit here would be incomplete without some indulgence. The perfect way to complete your tour may just be a series of treatments in the sun-soaked spa overlooking the vineyards. Highly skilled therapists offer a number of treatments aimed at holistic wellness and beauty. Combinations of local and international products are used, creating the ultimate personalized spa experience.

While a spa day is highly recommended, a number of other activities can be organized in the area. A series of fantastic golf courses are located within minutes of the lodge, as are a number of stables that offer horseback riding through the winelands. Art collectors may appreciate a day trip to Stellenbosch or Franschhoek, where a number of galleries feature emerging South African artists. All that is important is that your final day in Africa is spent entirely as you desire.

Day 12: Return to O.R. Tambo for your International Outbound Departure

This morning marks your departure day from South Africa. After a simultaneously invigorating and relaxing tour through the country, you will return to Cape Town International Airport for your return journey home. However, if you crave just a few more days in the country, your travel specialist will gladly organize a bespoke trip extension to satisfy that desire.  Be sure to visit travel reviews for South African safaris for ideas and traveler reviews.

While any extension is possible, a few days seaside at the sister property to Royal Malewane, Birkenhead House, is recommended. Located outside the picturesque town of Hermanus, this ocean retreat is the perfect way to round out the adventure. 


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 accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.