We leave the airport and make our way, on good roads, to the old gold rush town of Pilgrim's Rest on the eastern escarpment. En route we travel through South Africa's highest town, Belfast (1,970m) and the scenic Robbers Pass. We overnight in Graskop (Mpumalamga), with views over the Graskop Gorge. Our driving time today will be approximately 5 hours plus sightseeing.
Today we explore the aptly named Panorama Route. We drive through some spectacular countryside and we stop at scenic places like Bourke's Luck potholes and Blyde River Canyon, the third largest of its type in the southern hemisphere. From here we continue to a private game reserve, Edeni, well known for its leopard population. This evening we will have the opportunity to go on an open game-vehicle sunset game drive (optional).
Day 4 - 5
This morning we head out looking for wildlife on foot as we head on a game walk through the reserve. From here we continue to Kruger National Park, justifiably one of the most famous wildlife parks in the world. It is also one of the oldest, established by the president Paul Kruger in 1898. It has arguably the greatest variety of animals of any park in Africa, with lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, black and white rhino, as well as cheetah, giraffe, hippo and many species of antelope and smaller plains' game. The total census includes 147 mammals, 507 birds and 114 reptiles as well as 336 different trees. The campsites are also excellent and the general infrastructure good. If you see all the predators you will be very lucky, however you will almost certainly see some of the big five and a huge variety of smaller mammals. We game drive through the park to the campsite, where there will be a chance for a swim and hot showers. We have two days in the park and on Day 4 both morning and afternoon game drives are included to maximise our chances of seeing the plentiful fauna of this great Park.
We enter Swaziland and overnight in the Kings old hunting grounds, now the beautiful Hlane Royal National Park. In the afternoon there is the opportunity to leave the vehicle and enjoy a nature walk (optional). Seeing animals and tracks outside of the confines of a vehicle is a thrilling experience and gives us the chance to see and hear the variety of smaller animals and birds that are often passed by on game drives.
This morning we drive south towards the town of Big Bend on our way to the border and back into South Africa. We continue towards the small town of St. Lucia between the Indian Ocean and Lake St. Lucia. It is not uncommon to come across stray hippos in the centre of town and the nearby lagoon is a haven for crocs, hippos, birds and even sharks!
This morning we head out on a boat on the lagoon making our way to the eastern shore. Here we go on a game walk accompanied by a local guide. We return to town and have the rest of the day free to relax or take part in one of the optional activities on offer. These includes visiting a local crocodile farm, snorkelling, whale watching (in season - June-November), going to the beach and doing sunset and night game drives on the western shore of the lake.
We leave St. Lucia today and drive through the Natal midlands and on to Dundee. En route we stop at Rourke's Drift and have a chance to learn about the famous battle at the local museum. Immortalised by Hollywood in the film Zulu! The events that took place here are well known and the small cluster of buildings isolated in the enormity of the African Bush are a moving reminder of this troubled time.
We continue through the Natal midlands and on to the Northern Drakensberg, our base for the next 2 nights. The Drakensberg is a basalt escarpment forming the border between Kwa Zulu-Natal and Lesotho and continuing into the Free State. It means 'Dragon Mountains', but the Zulu named it Ukhahlamba ('the barrier of Spears'). This is a more accurate description of the sheer, forbidding, jagged escarpment. The walking takes us through the lowland areas with magnificent views.
Our route will have us walking into the natural amphitheatre, past Protea trees. The Protea is the national flower of South Africa, as well as the name of their cricket team.
Today is a long day's drive as we travel through the eastern farmlands of the Free State and enter Lesotho at the Maseru border post. This mountainous kingdom has been shielded from outside influence over the generations and the Bastho people historically used this strategic location as a defence against events on the plains below. The lodge situated in this rugged mountainous region provides us with an ideal opportunity to experience the Lesotho culture. Our driving time today will be approximately 7 hours.
The day is free to relax and experience the unique culture that Lesotho has to offer. Mountain ridges protrude into the town and an optional day walking with local guides and their ponies to a local village is recommended. Alternatively the craft shops and markets can be an enjoyable way to pick up some African souvenirs.
On the road today as we drive south to Graaf-Reinet, the oldest town on the Eastern Cape founded in 1786. Our driving time will be approximately 8 hours passing through the desert landscape of the Great Karoo.
We drive down to the coast over the Baviaanskloof Mountains and the Kouga Mountains before arriving at Tsitsikamma National Park at Storms River mouth. This national park protects the indigenous forests as well as the marine life 50km out to sea. We camp on a beautifully positioned campsite with the waves breaking a stone's throw away.
Our second day in the Tsitsikamma N.P. is free to enjoy the beautiful setting. There are a range of optional activities including walks to the Storms River gorge and along the rocky coast, snorkelling, sea and river cruises and a tree canopy tour through the forests. In season, approximately August to October, the marine park becomes home to a population of migratory whales.
We drive along the beautiful Garden Route coastline via George and the rolling cultivated fields of the Western Cape Boland to Hermanus. The route is stunning and follows the ragged coast passing through small fishing villages and seaside resorts. Hermanus is an interesting little town, rightly famous for its delicious seafood and a visit to one of the great restaurants in the evening is highly recommended. It is also widely regarded as the best place in the world for land-based whale watching from August to November.
In the morning we leave Hermanus and, hugging the coastline (there is always a good chance to see whales in season), we drive along this scenic route to Gordon's Bay and then onto Stellenbosch. The afternoon will be spent visiting a few of the vineyards, which make this area world famous. Having enjoyed the local produce, wine tasting is optional. We then take a short drive to Cape Town.
After an early morning breakfast we drive via the coastal suburbs of Clifton, Camps Bay and Hout Bay and then over Chapman's peak drive to the famous Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, which covers an area of 7,680 hectares. The reserve is home to eland, bontebok, grysbok, springbok, wildebeest, baboon and ostrich. Rugged cliffs, unspoilt beaches, shipwrecks and beautiful flora are the main features of the reserve. We will also visit the famous Cape Point lighthouse. In the afternoon we take a short (1 hour) walk that is almost entirely downhill. Our destination is the Cape of Good Hope with a detour to Diaz beach. The trail ends at the famous signboard 'Cape of Good Hope'. We then return to Cape Town passing through the former Royal Navy base town of Simonstown and a visit to the resident Penguin Colony (optional).
The day is free and an optional trip to Robben Island, site of Nelson Mandela's incarceration during the apartheid period, is highly recommended. Weather permitting a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain is a must for any visitor to this picturesque city. Alternatively the beaches of Cape Town are a great place to relax and unwind.
The morning is free for some last minute shopping or sightseeing. Depart Cape Town