South Africa Tour 2019: Cape Town Highlights & Untamed Safari

A 10 day trip to South Africa 
4.62 out of 5 stars
13 reviews

Fall in love with South Africa with this dream combination of city, nature, and safari. Landscapes set the tone, from untamed bush to majestic Table Mountain and the dramatic Cape Peninsula. Redolent storytellers fill the days: the ex-inmates of Robben Island, waddling penguins, and the Big Five animals of Thornybush Game Reserve. And then the country's unique soul provides a non-stop sensual indulgence...This really is a vacation of endless highlights.

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

General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Cape Town, Robben Island, Cape Peninsula, Boulders Beach, Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Johannesburg, Thornybush Private Game Reserve, Jackalberry Lodge

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Traveling to South Africa

Depart from North America on your Africa bound flight.

Day 2: Discovering Iconic Cape Town

Cape Town knows how to wow first-time visitors, the endearing shapes of the Table Mountain chain soaring above the city. On one side is the Atlantic Ocean, shimmering blue and counting down the hours until another evocative sunset. On the other are rolling mountains and valleys. It's Africa's finest city; packed with attractions, oozing color, yet gently encased in a relaxed atmosphere. After landing at Johannesburg International Airport, you'll continue on a domestic flight to Cape Town where you'll be met and transferred to the Commodore Hotel. You'll enjoy four nights in Cape Town, and four days that explore the very best of this majestic city.

The views start from your hotel, the Commodore neatly situated in the heart of Cape Town's Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Look one way for a stark beautiful mountain, and then turn around for the wonderful harbor and the endless ocean views. The Waterfront is the city's most vibrant upscale area, full of sailing ships, quaint steak restaurants, and the smells of fresh seafood. It's both a relaxed and a vibrant place to spend an evening, and the sunset views are unrivaled. Spacious luxury and tranquility make the Commodore one of Cape Town's very best hotels, and it offers a variety of piano bars, indulgent restaurants, and opulent lounges.

What’s Included: accommodation

Day 3: Exploring the Spectacular Cape Peninsula

A dramatic road clings to the mountain, dancing along the coastline to the very southwestern tip of Africa. It's only a 40 mile journey, but today's Cape Peninsula day trip reveals one of the continent's most beautiful landscapes. Pristine beaches pass by the window as the road winds down the Table Mountain chain. Go slow and savor the countless lookout points, secluded bays and old fishing villages standing in the shade of the peaks. Stop in Hout Bay for some of the country's best fish and chips, and enjoy a glimpse of its flourishing crayfish industry. If there's time, you can go searching for whales and seals on a boat cruise from here. Then watch the settlements disappear as you cross the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, winding ever southwards until you reach the Cape Point lighthouse. Gaze out onto the ocean. Behind the horizon the next landmass is Antarctica, so prepare yourself for a feeling of being on the edge of the world.

You'll take an alternative road back to Cape Town, first descending through fields of yellow flowers and zebra inhabited plains. Now, what's that faintly peculiar smell? And those strange yelping noises? A massive colony of jackass penguins live on Boulders Beach; their waddling antics available for all to see. Mating couples can be found beneath bushes; others are diving off the rocks, and many are just standing in the sand, gently rocking side to side like only a penguin knows how. If you're lucky, you can be seated on the beach and the penguins will be tottering and wobbling just a few meters away. Simon's Town completes your tour, a colonial gem that seems relatively unchanged since the 19th century.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast

Day 4: Experiencing Robben Island and Table Mountain

Today is about Cape Town's two most famous attractions. Robben Island has an eerie feel, whispers and secrets left behind in its soil, memories etched into the barren walls of the prison. Nelson Mandela spent 18 years incarcerated here in isolation. He's just the pinnacle of a long line of political prisoners who turned this hell-hole into a triumph of human spirit over adversity. Ex inmates conduct the tours, offering thought provoking stories to accompany the poignant sights. Ask questions because these old prisoners are keen to share experiences. You get a real feeling for the institutional brutality and prejudice that used to hang in the air. But a trip to Robben Island imbues everyone with even greater respect for Mandela and his counterparts, in particular, their dedication to reconciliation after apartheid. Reaching Robben Island involves a short boat trip from the jetty at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.

Table Mountain fills your afternoon, the iconic Cape Town landmark offering unforgettable views. It's a difficult and steep 90 minute hike to the summit. Fortunately, the journey can also be made in a revolving cable car. Easy walking trails cover the broad summit, allowing you to explore different viewpoints and take in a full 360º adoration of the landscape. Gaze south for an aerial view of the Cape Peninsula that you explored yesterday. Look out west for the Atlantic Ocean and its line of sandy beaches. The east brings green valleys and mountain passes. And standing beneath your eyes is Cape Town; pick out the waterfront and harbor, watch the highways cut across the city, and admire the two sister peaks: Devil's Peak and Lion's Head. A waterfall of cloud often descends over Table Mountain in late afternoon, blocking the views but looking majestic from below. If the weather isn't on your side, don't worry, the mountain is almost always clear in the mornings, so you have time to savor it all tomorrow.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast

Day 5: Immersed in the Colors of Cape Town

South Africa's Mother City could take up weeks on a travel itinerary. On your final day you can choose from an eclectic blend of attractions and experiences. Take a wine tour and indulge in the Cape Winelands, an area of lush valleys that teem with cute farmhouses and endless vineyards. Wander through the city's vivid streets and be shocked by the uninhibited use of color, like the terraced houses of Bo Kaap, the stalls of atmospheric street markets, or the tans of local Capetonians on Camps Bay beach. As always, a priceless sunset and wonderful dining experiences fill your evening.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast

Day 6: Old World Elegance in Johannesburg

The 5-star Michelangelo Hotel is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, and its sumptuous interiors offer a real throwback to Renaissance elegance. Every corridor screams “wow,” each room is a blueprint for luxury accommodation, and the graceful lobbies are as beautiful as anything on the continent. You'll be driven to the Cape Town airport for your Johannesburg bound flight, and will be transferred to this signature hotel. Situated in the exclusive business district of Sandton, and gazing out over Mandela Square, you'll have a day of indulging in old world luxury. Sandton reveals the energetic savvy hub of South Africa. It's also possible to explore more of Johannesburg, like the Soweto township or the Cradle of Humankind.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast

Days 7 – 9: Unforgettable Big Five Safari Experiences

Something is stirring on the Bushveld, loud grunting noises reaching your private patio. You look out and the culprit doesn't seem to be visible. Surely it can't be the zebra that stand by the chalet, or the impalas that seem to be skipping around. In the immediate vicinity of Jackalberry Lodge you can find the full Big Five safari animals, including the big cats. And they get wonderfully close. So what's making the noise this time? A white rhino suddenly emerges, vegetation rather comically stuck to its horn. It sizes up the lodge then ambles off in its own unique way, plodding a path through the untamed African bush. Safari isn't just about game drives, because for your three days in Thornybush Game Reserve you'll be surrounded by the wilds of Africa. Don't's all very safe.

You'll fly to Hoedspruit from Johannesburg, where you'll be met and transferred to the Jackalberry Lodge. This northeastern part of South Africa is a vast expanse of unspoiled bush, teeming with a wonderfully diverse collection of nature's greatest animals. The famous Kruger National Park is directly adjacent, but the advantage of Thornybush is the intimacy and lack of crowds. It has the same wildlife as Kruger, yet it offers a far more personal and relaxed safari experience. Jackalberry Lodge is one for the discerning traveler; the luxurious chalets, massive en-suite bathrooms and your own outdoor shower in the pristine African bush are something to write home about. Spend lazy afternoons around the idyllic pool, enjoy candlelit dinners accompanied by nature's soundtrack, and watch the wildlife from your patio.

And what wildlife there is to discover! Hippos frolic in the mud, bumping into each other as they jockey for position in the shallow swamps. Lions stick to their favorite haunts, a pride dominating its kingdom and looking resplendent on the savannah. Sometimes you see them out hunting, lionesses showing wonderful grace even when they're attacking a zebra. Elephants tower above the open-topped safari vehicle, their flapping ears and immense trunks making for unforgettable moments in the bush. Now the buffalo come clambering for attention, plodding a path towards the vehicle and always chewing on the lush long grasses.

Every morning you'll be out on a long game drive, enjoying the savannah at its most active time of day. As the sun begins to beat down most of the park goes to sleep, the big mammals resting in the shade during the early afternoon. However, now is a good time for the kudu and eland to graze with minimal interruption from the cats. Spend the hottest part of the day relaxing at the lodge, and then head out for another unforgettable game drive in the afternoon. Local guides and rangers adeptly understand the nuances of Thornybush, and their precious skills help you seek out the more elusive of Africa's animals.

Hiding in the trees are leopards, beautiful hunters that always stay away from the limelight. Cheetahs are less elusive and just as stunning, and they'll happily laze out in the open. Hyenas scurry past, hartebeest wander through the trees, and then you turn a corner and find hundreds of one ton buffalos covering a waterhole.  On the first game drive you're always eager and excited, anxious to catch all of these indelible sights. But safari is best enjoyed when you relax and wait for the natural world to slowly cast its spell.

Rhinos are quickly disappearing from the planet, but they've got one remaining haven. Over half of the world's wild rhino population lives in the area in and around Kruger National Park. That's over 10,000 according to recent estimates. Drive into Thornybush and the dusty path is blocked by four of them. They stand and wait without a care in the world. Then they walk on, a certain elegance contradicting their immense frames. But the safari truck doesn't move, because there's another gang of rhinos following the same route across the Bushveld. In the rest of Africa people go on safari hoping to get a glimpse of a rhino and lion. So savor the treats that are served up here.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 10: Fond Farewells to South Africa

After breakfast you'll be transferred back to Hoedspruit for the short flight to Johannesburg. Upon arrival you will connect to your international flight back home. The vacation may be over, but the memories will linger for many years.

What’s Included: 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.