South Africa

Resort:South Africa
Operator: Riviera Travel
Destination: South Africa
Price From: £3099.00

Overview

South Africans call their homeland ‘a world in one country’. It covers an area equivalent to five times the size of Britain, with a climate ranging from temperate, Mediterranean and sub-tropical to desert; it offers spectacular scenery with arguably the finest wildlife on earth and no less than eleven official languages. South Africa is truly a world-class destination!

Firstly, a more naturally beautiful country would be difficult to find – from the serrated peaks of the Drakensberg mountains, to the contorted and timeless semi-desert landscapes of the Karoo and the forested sea-shores and mirror-like lakes of the Garden Route, the enchanting temperate valleys of the Winelands, the rare proximity to nature found in the national parks and the instantly recognizable symbol of the country, Table Mountain – all under an endless azure-blue sky. Quite remarkable!

Then there is the wildlife, one of the main reasons visitors travel to Africa. One of the finest places in the world to experience this is the Kruger National Park, which is a similar size to Wales. It is exactly how you imagine the African bush to be, as depicted on countless TV documentaries: areas of sweeping savannah, bisected by rivers full of hippos, muddy waterholes lined with animals quenching their thirst, and the bush itself, home to zebra and antelope, studded by immense biscuit-coloured termite hills and towering above it all, instantly recognisable giraffes! The park is home to an incredible 150 mammal and 500 bird species including the ‘big five’: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Game-viewing is an intensely moving experience with nothing preparing you for the waves of emotion inspired by an encounter with these wonderful, almost regal creatures thriving in their natural habitat. Just to highlight the variety of flora too, the Cape Peninsula alone has twice as many plant varieties as Britain, which is 5,000 times bigger. But South Africa is not just about scenery and wildlife, fabulous as it is.

The cities are amazing and highlight the country’s diversity. Brash Johannesburg, city of gold and South Africa’s cultural capital, with skyscrapers of concrete and glass separated by canyon-like streets contrasting with townships on its outskirts. Then there is the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town, overlooked by the vast bulk of Table Mountain and easily Africa’s most beautiful and sophisticated city. It is a real multi-cultural melting pot, with stunning Cape architecture, superb beaches, the best cuisine in the country, fabulous street musicians, mime artists and entertainers adding to its cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Any country is shaped by its past – South Africa more than most with its recent history a constant struggle between the British, Afrikaners, and various indigenous peoples, the Zulus being the most well known. The British annexed the Cape from the Dutch during the 18th century, who then set out inland founding the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. However, with the discovery of the world’s largest gold deposits, British interest flourished! This culminated in the Boer War and unification of the country. We all inevitably associate South Africa with the inhumanities of the old Apartheid system, which needs no explanation.

Our visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg takes us on a fascinating, horrifying, humbling and ultimately inspiring journey from the dark days of ‘whites only’ privilege, through to Nelson Mandela’s historic release. Documentary film, texts, sound clips and live accounts recapture life in the old South Africa.

We also visit the famous battlefields of the Zulu Wars, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift – one a crushing British defeat sending shock waves throughout the Empire, the other a valiant stand of just 140 against 4,000 Zulus. Few tours visit these remarkable sites, a vital and deeply moving part of South Africa’s unique heritage.

The Garden Route in the Western Cape is legendary. With a mild climate and facing the southern Indian Ocean, this unique region encompasses beautiful coastal and mountain scenery. Depending on the time of year, we’ll have the opportunity to travel to the beautiful seaside resort of Hermanus, the best place for on-shore whale watching. We also spend a most enjoyable few days surrounded by the seemingly never-ending rows of vines in fertile valleys, backed by the lofty mountains of the enchanting Winelands.

This wonderful 16-day tour is designed to highlight South Africa’s truly amazing diversity of cultures, its curious blend of old and new, and it’s phenomenal scenery and wildlife. You leave with the feeling that the new South Africa, open to the world after years of isolation, is a land of superlatives which cannot fail to impress the welcome visitor!

Itinerary Details

DAY 1DEPARTURE

DEPARTURE

You should arrive at the airport to take your overnight flight to Johannesburg where you will be met on arrival ready for your transfer.

DAY 2ARRIVAL IN JOHANNESBURG

ARRIVAL IN JOHANNESBURG

After our morning arrival, we transfer to the four-star Indaba Hotel in a prosperous suburb, north of the city. On the way to our hotel we take the opportunity to visit the Apartheid Museum, a truly fascinating exhibition charting the apartheid years and the struggle against it, culminating in the first democratic elections. It is a superbly presented walk through contemporary history using original material, riveting eyewitness accounts, photographs and film. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.

DAY 3PANORAMA ROUTE

PANORAMA ROUTE

After breakfast we depart for the open spaces and farmlands of the Highveld, following the Panorama Route to Kruger National Park, one of the most scenic drives in South Africa. We follow the spectacular rim of the Blyde River Canyon, an amazing 20-mile long and 2,300- foot deep gorge cutting a vast swathe through the Great Escarpment separating the temperate grasslands of the Highveld and the drier savannah beyond. Deep circular rock formations created by years of erosion and many excellent vantage points offer superb photo opportunities for some of the most breathtaking views in Africa. Our hotel for the next three nights is the three-star superior Hippo Hollow Country Estate, beautifully located in the midst of lush forest on the banks of the Sabie River on the edge of the National Park. It has lovely gardens, two pools, a very cosy bar, an excellent restaurant and an open air terrace overlooking the grounds and river where you can actually watch the hippos! A more relaxing spot would be difficult to find. Dinner is included tonight.

DAY 4KRUGER GAME DRIVE

KRUGER GAME DRIVE

Today we have a full dayas game drive in specially adapted 10 seat 4×4 vehicles. There is simply nothing to beat that rising feeling of anticipation and excitement as we enter the nearby park in the half-light of the spectacular African dawn, surrounded by the noise of a unique adawn chorusa. Which animal shall we spot first? Perhaps an elephant, a family of warthogs or possibly even the elusive cheetah. The experienced game rangers know the best tracks and waterholes whilst their stories will amuse, inform and fascinate you. Most have lived here all their lives, accumulating a vast wealth of knowledge. One minute they can be talking about the constituents of elephant dung and the next about the mating behaviour of hippos or the latest UK football scores!

DAY 5KRUGER FREE DAY

KRUGER FREE DAY

This is a day at leisure for anyone who just wants to take it easy by one of the pools at the hotel or do some hippo-spotting from the lovely lawn overlooking the river. Alternatively, you could try some elephant encounters, exciting microlight flights or even river rafting (all subject to weather conditions), as well as sunset safaris or night safaris where you can experience the unique thrill of an open 4×4 vehicle game drive by spotlight.

Exclusively for Riviera Travel guests, there are also a limited number of places available to stay the night at a tented camp and go on a bushwalk. Our camp provides a aglampinga experience with comfortable beds, electricity and en-suite shower with WC. Our chef will create excellent wholesome cuisine and you can listen out for any nocturnal visitors whilst sitting around the campfire! You rejoin the main tour on the morning of day 6.Available to pre-book now for all 2018 departures through our reservations team. Price from A?239 per person.

DAY 6SWAZILAND & KWAZULU NATAL

SWAZILAND & KWAZULU NATAL

Today we leave Kruger on our way to the battlefields of Zululand. After breakfast weall drive south, entering the small but scenically beautiful country of Swaziland. As the road climbs past the interestingly-named Piggs Peak we descend through lush green fields and rolling hills interspersed with small farms and drive through the countryas small capital Mbabane, passing the parliament house and Royal Palace en route. We cross back into South Africa in the afternoon and enter Kwazulu Natal province, staying at the simple three-star Battlefields Lodge for two nights on bed and breakfast basis.

DAY 7ISANDLWANA & RORKEaS DRIFT

ISANDLWANA & RORKEaS DRIFT

After breakfast we visit the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorkeas Drift. Brilliantly dramatised in the films Zulu Dawn and Zulu, these two battles, just a day apart, became a defining moment for the British Empire. In 1879 at Isandlwana, a depleted force of 1,300 were surprised and outmanoeuvred by a 20,000-strong Zulu army armed with cowhide shields and spears. Only a handful survived. The next day just 9 miles away, about 140 British soldiers, some wounded, held off 4,000 Zulus for over ten hours at Rorkeas Drift, an action earning eleven Victoria Crosses, the largest number ever awarded in a single engagement. Isandlwana particularly, remains a haunting and lonely place, with mass graves marked by simple white stones. Our specialist Zulu guide will really make those desperate encounters come alive. We return to our hotel in the afternoon. Lunch is included today.

DAY 8MOSSEL BAY

MOSSEL BAY

After breakfast we return to Johannesburg airport, flying to George in the Western Cape and at the heart of the gorgeous Garden Route. We take the short drive to the coastal town of Mossel Bay and our hotel, the charming three-star superior Diaz Hotel & Resort with breakfast. The comfortable rooms all boast excellent sea views. Dinner at a local restaurant is included this evening.

DAY 9CANGO CAVES & OUDTSHOORN

CANGO CAVES & OUDTSHOORN

Today we head inland, through stunning mountain scenery of the Ruitersbos Nature Reserve to the foot of the Swartberg Mountains. Here weall visit the spectacular Cango Caves, formed over millions of years in the soft limestone and South Africaas best-known caves. Next we head to the small town of Oudtshoorn, a centre of ostrich farming since the 19th century. Weall have the opportunity to see these fascinating creatures close up and learn about their habits. After an included lunch, we head back to Mossel Bay.

DAY 10HERMANUS

HERMANUS

This morning we take the long scenic drive to the Capeas beautiful Winelands.A We drive via Hermanus, and during July to November is the best time for on shore Whale watching. These gentle giants move in seemingly permanent slow motion and are a truly amazing sight as they playfully cavort in the water. You arrive in the Winelands by late afternoon, staying two nights on bed-and-breakfast at the excellent four-star Devon Valley Hotel, which is a real find. This little property is set on the valley slopes offering breathtaking views, lush gardens, a relaxing shady terrace, a comfortable bar with dark leather armchairs, fireplace and a wide selection of single malt whiskeys.

DAY 11WINELANDS

WINELANDS

Today we tour the awesomely beautiful Winelands. Set in a valley backed by majestic mountains, rows of manicured vines and orchards stretch into a distance studded by lime-washed, often thatched, 300-year-old wineries built in the unique Cape Dutch style, seemingly mirroring the undulations of the surrounding countryside. Our first stop is elegant Stellenbosch, established 300 years ago and home of South Africaas most prestigious university. Period buildings and historic streets reinforce the townas dignified atmosphere. We have time to explore this delightful town before enjoying a fascinating cellar tour and tasting at the Neethlingshof Wine Estate. After that, we visit the small town of Franschoek, set at the head of a valley. Tonight weall enjoy an included typical South African BBQ or Cape Malay buffet dinner at our hotel.

DAY 12CAPE TOWN

CAPE TOWN

This morning we visit the amazing Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, located just outside Cape Town and set against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.

These incredible gardens are some of the best in South Africa, with numerous fascinating endemic flora and orchid varieties. We soon arrive in Cape Town and our hotel, the four-star Southern SunA Waterfront Hotel, staying three nights on bed and breakfast. It is located right in the centre of this bustling city within walking distance of the V&A waterfront. The afternoon is spent at leisure when you can start to explore this beautiful city.

DAY 13CAPE OF GOOD HOPE

CAPE OF GOOD HOPE

This morning, we visit Cape Point and the legendary Cape of Good Hope, firstly driving past pristine beaches to the picturesque fishing harbour of Hout Bay. We continue along the breathtakingly scenic Chapmanas Peak Drive, full of rugged seascapes, to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, one of the worldas biodiversity hotspots, then on to Cape Point itself. We see the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean currents and the treacherous promontory of rocks and swells, the scourge of mariners for centuries. Finally we visit Boulders Beach and its penguin colony, returning to the city during the afternoon.

DAY 14FREE DAY IN CAPE TOWN

FREE DAY IN CAPE TOWN

Cape Town, featuring British, Dutch and Cape Malay influences, is simply one of the worldas most naturally beautiful cities with so much to offer the visitor! You could do some bargain shopping at the Waterfront, followed by a sumptuous seafood lunch. Or maybe go people-watching at fashionable Camps Bay? Obviously no visit to Cape Town is complete without taking a revolving cable car ride to the top of iconic Table Mountain which has announced the city to generations of sea-farers. The views are fabulous. You should also visit Robben Island (weather permitting and based on availability), where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27-year incarceration, and whose visitors since its opening have included Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Gates and even Nelson Mandela himself. Perhaps though, simply wander where your feet take you, or relax a little, taking afternoon tea in beautiful colonial splendour at the Mount Nelson hotel a the choice is yours.

DAY 15RETURN FLIGHT

RETURN FLIGHT

Our final day in Cape Town is at leisure before a transfer to the airport, at the appropriate time, for our return flight via Johannesburg to the UK.

DAY 16ARRIVE HOME

ARRIVE HOME

We arrive back in the UK after a truly unique tour.

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