Tswalu Kalahari Reserve Safari Itinerary & Cape Town Tour

A 13 day trip to South Africa 

South Africa's diversity is legendary. Admire Cape Town, the iconic city nestled beneath majestic Table Mountain. Explore the vast Kalahari desert with a complete range of safari activities, including horse riding and hot air ballooning. Then get lost in the magnitude of Kruger National Park, a place of long game drives and wilderness camps. Relish a scintillating Tswalu Kalahari Reserve Safari experience. By connecting Cape Town, Kruger, and the Kalahari, you explore the three colorful extremities of an iconic country. 

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Two lionesses staring off into the distance with their male lion lying down behind them
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Cape Town, Table Mountain, Robben Island, Bo-Kaap, Khayelitsha, V&A Waterfront, Cape Winelands, Kalahari, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, Blyde River Canyon

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Admiring Cape Town from the Top of Table Mountain

Arrive in Cape Town and you can't escape admiring Table Mountain, its famous precipitous slope dominating the cityscape. On the journey from the airport, you'll probably want to be leaning toward the window to take an iconic photo. But there's no need to rush. After the overnight flight, enjoy an early check into your five-star Cape Town hotel and a couple of hours of recuperation. Table Mountain is famous for its “tablecloth,” a layer of mist that rolls over the mountain as the afternoon slowly turns to evening. A driver takes you to the cable car station, and you ride a revolving glass-fronted car to the summit, a couple of hours before the tablecloth arrives. An easy walking trail reveals dozens of viewpoints once you're on the mountain, combining city suburbs, Atlantic waves, and the rugged spine of the mountains. From up here, you can truly discover how the city is nestled amongst nature. After the inspiring introduction to Cape Town, you return to the hotel and the evening is at your leisure. Consider reading some of our travelers safari reviews for Africa, and gain some inspiration to further refine and perfect your own African Safari itinerary. 

What's Included: accommodation, transfers

Day 2: A Customized Tour of the City and Robben Island

Stories are etched into every Cape Town brick. Today is about uncovering them. Out on Robben Island, you experience the solitude of Nelson Mandela's incarceration. An ex-inmate guides you around, revealing the conditions and chronicles of the island Mandela was never supposed to leave. After a ferry back to the city, there's an even older Cape Town history in Bo-Kaap, the colorful houses that harmoniously mix religions and backgrounds. Vibrant and welcoming, Cape Town is filled with friendly faces who want to show you their home. This is epitomized in the township of Khayelitsha, where your local guide unravels the history and brutality of apartheid and the hopes and dreams of the future. Khayelitsha unashamedly reveals the truth of township life, and it's far more optimistic than most people imagine. This full day tour includes lunch, and you return to your hotel in the late afternoon.

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

Day 3: Elegant Journeys Through the Cape Winelands

Lines of Pinotage grapes flow from whitewashed farmhouses, Chenin grows on the valley's slopes, and unusual soil helps create vast vineyards of Shiraz and Merlot. South Africa's international wine reputation is centered on the produce of the Cape Winelands, an area with hundreds of different vineyards. Today's private tour offers a customized journey through the elegant estates and sensual tasting rooms. Sample your way through award-winning wines, famous vintages, and various unexpected combinations. There are cheese and wine pairings of course, but also chocolate and wine, and the rare fusion of biltong (cured meat) and wine. A complimentary lunch is served on a luxurious terrace, with panoramas that reveal the entire Winelands valley. Visit five different farms, meet a couple of winemakers, then return to Cape Town and enjoy the sunset views.

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

Day 4: A Helicopter Ride Across an Iconic City

Cape Town intricately finds a balance between nature and urban life. Empty beaches spill out for dozens of miles, different mountain peaks stand above the city, and ocean colors mix with the green fynbos of the Cape. A helicopter tour enables you to appreciate fully this balance, sweeping you down the coast and above the Table Mountain chain. On this Cape Peninsula helicopter ride, you're propelled south, flying down to the southeastern tip of the continent, then swooping back across the mountain chain. There's a natural glory to the Cape, the mountains rough and rugged and the ocean waves continually crash against the shore. An aerial journey captures it all as it showcases a surreal landscape.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Swapping the City for Endless Sand

Yesterday you were engrossed by mountain chains and ocean rollers. Today you're getting lost in the Kalahari Desert. If the Kalahari ware a country, it would be within the biggest 30 on the planet. Surreal and seductive, it's a desert that reveals nature's perennial cycles. Elephant herds constantly roam for water; black rhinos hide in the rare shadows, black-maned lions bite into zebra carcasses, and there's always competition for water and prey. After the direct flight from Cape Town, you have a few hours to enjoy the serenity and settle into the luxurious camp. When the heat of the day has dissipated, head out on a game drive through the reserve. First impressions are timeless on an African safari. Every mammal enchants, from the skipping springbok to the giraffe that lopes around in search of trees. Don't worry if you don't see everything straight away. You've got a full four days in Tswalu.

What's Included: accommodation, domestic flight, airport transfers, all meals

Day 6: Game Drive Adventures in the Wilderness

Out in the desert, it seems silent. You're standing on a dune, surveying the natural realm and nothing appears to break the serenity. Stop. Wait. Keep looking. A lone springbok emerges over the horizon and wanders over. Now a herd of eland slowly rumble past. Next comes an elephant bull, a lone tusker in search of water. Now some buffalo, rumbustious as ever as they seek out fresh grass. Tswale is never silent, and there will always be wildlife if you're prepared to stop and wait. Tonight you dine on the sand dunes, on a picnic table erected with a premium view over the landscape. With afternoon rolling into dusk, it's a wonderful time to take in the 360-degree panorama and admire the wildlife that appears then disappears beyond the horizon.

Your daily program is customizable and includes two activities, one in the morning and late afternoon. This coincides with activity in the desert, as these cooler hours are ideal for lionesses to hunt and big mammals to prowl around. The following description is just as an example of how the program might look. Game drives are a great introduction to safari as they enable you to cover large distances and seek out the complete range of wildlife. By crossing into different habitats and touring the waterholes, you get close to the famous wild. In Tswalu, that means an opportunity to spot a rare black rhino. Recent estimates suggest that only around 1000 of these majestic animals remain in the wild. Horns proudly pointed, they bashfully wander across the desert in search of food and water. Then there are the prides of black-maned Kalahari lions. Of all of Africa's feline subspecies, it's these powerful hairy lions that most capture the imagination. Resembling a seemingly fictional image, these lions are an elegant and unforgettable find on your game drives. If you're lucky, you'll see them tucking into a carcass or prowling menacingly nearby the waterhole.

What's Included: accommodation, all meals

Day 7: Unique Horse Riding Safari

Today brings a different angle as you ride a horse through the desert landscape. Routes are carefully planned, steering clear of the predators and following the ungulates across the sand. Canter alongside herds of zebra, walk slowly to wild oryx and kudu and keep a respectful distance from a buffalo herd. On the back of a horse, everything seems bigger and closer. Wildlife becomes inquisitive, stopping to inspect the unusual creature (the horse) that shares its landscape. Note that this horse riding safari is just part of the Tswalu offer, and you can tailor your own itinerary of different activities upon arrival in the reserve.

What's Included: accommodation, all meals

Day 8: Hot Air Balloon Safari and Walking Safari

As the sun pierces the horizon, you're already soaring, rising above the Kalahari in a hot air balloon. Only from the air can you appreciate the scale of the landscape; dunes twisting skyward, scorched ground covered in nomadic animals, the giraffes and elephants on a long dusty journey. Sunrise colors enhance nature's show, long beams of yellow and red tumbling across the horizon. Arrive and it's still morning, so enjoy an extended breakfast before your next safari activity. Walking safaris are an intimate way to explore, with a local bushman tracker taking you to Kalahari's secrets. Meerkats pop out of the ground, fascinating rock art is painted into caves and overhangs, and slowly you learn how to recognize different animal prints.

What's Included: accommodation, all meals

Day 9: Overnight in a Surprising City

A final morning game drive in the Kalahari and you depart for a new landscape. Sprawling Johannesburg might not have the charm of the desert at first glance, but give the city a chance and there are some intriguing attractions to find. A local guide will customize your city tour, and there's a wealth of choice. Explore the national Apartheid Museum, visit Soweto and Nelson Mandela's former home (Desmund Tutu still lives on the same street), dine in the creative suburb of Maboneng, and find the secret to human evolution at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cradle of Humankind. With another safari adventure to come, today is a quick chance to reconnect with the urban world and check out a very cultural side to South Africa.

What's Included: accommodation, domestic flight, airport transfers, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Lost in the Enormity of Kruger

Sweeping across the northeast of South Africa is Kruger National Park, a mammoth enclave of wilderness and a haven for a huge proportion of Africa's most famous mammals. It's estimated that half the world's rhino population roam freely here. Then there's a stunning abundance of lion prides, leopards, and cheetahs. With its range of habitats, Kruger also supports the small and unusual, like aardwolves or diminutive antelopes that barely rise above the grass line. In Tswalu, you used a single base to enjoy a variety of different safari activities. Offering a new experience, your time in Kruger revolves around long game drives and spending each night at a different remote camp. For these three days, you're deep within the savannah, savoring every animal that wanders past. For its sheer scale and diversity of life, this three-day experience authentically reveals the best of an African safari.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, all meals

Days 11 – 12: Game Drives Through Nature's Untouched Realm

Wake to a breathtaking soundtrack, the birds chirping to warn impala of a lurking cheetah. Enjoy breakfast with a view of the savannah, with elephants occasionally passing through the trees and hippos returning to their daily waterholes. Set off on the drive and you go slowly, taking in all the clues and taking a detour whenever something special appears close by. While you have a destination in mind, it's the journey that makes the experience in Kruger. Dozens of rhinos are spotted, this time, from the white subspecies, larger and less shy when compared to their cousins. Stop for lunch en route, with a picnic enjoyed with a premium view. On some days, this might be beside a pool of fighting hippos. On another, you could be perched on a rock surveying the Kruger kingdom.

The roads are rugged, and it truly feels like a remote bush adventure. You head north and east over days 10 and 11, before looping back south along the western corridor of the park. Rarely do you move at more than 20 – 30 mph. Driving slowly means you spot the clues and find the hidden sights. Foliage rustles and when you look closely, there's a leopard hiding within. Fresh dung takes you on a sandy trail, towards a big herd of elephants shooting jets of water around the river. Circling vultures alert you to a fresh kill and hyenas that are already tearing up the leftovers. On most days, you should arrive at camp in the late afternoon, having time to shower and refresh before sunset and the enchantment of night. At these remote camps, you're surrounded by resonance, with so many different animals leaving their pitched tones on the landscape. By the end of the day, you're camped back in the southwest of the park, along a river that's populated by rhino sightings.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, all meals

Day 13: Departure

As you leave Kruger, it's not quite time to relive South Africa through your vacation photos. There are still lions and other spectacular animals roaming wildly as you drive out of Kruger. Think of it as an airport transfer with a twist. Arrive at Nelspruit for a flight to O.R Tambo International in Johannesburg, where you continue onto your return international flight back home.

What's Included: airport 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.