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Follow the coastal trail to Cape Town on an adventurous 14-day Lonely Planet Experience along the Garden Route and Wild Coast of South Africa. Hit up all the region's hotspots - elephant spotting in Addo Elephant National Park, wine tasting in the Hermanus Wine Region, hiking in the Lesotho Highlands, meeting local Xhosa communities in Cintsa, and wildlife viewing in Tsitsikamma and Bontebok national parks. Get a sprinkling of safaris thrown in with wine tasting and fig farming, creating a whole South African smorgasbord. When will you sample the local delights?
Day 1: Durban
Sawubona! Welcome to South Africa. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm this evening. If you arrive early, why not get out and explore Durban – teeming with golden, sandy beaches and glitzy nightlife. The Golden Mile is an essential spot – a stretch of fine sands bordered by rolling surf on one side and an attractive beachfront of skate parks, restaurants and cafes on the other. For dinner, perhaps grab your group and head to Florida Road for traditional Bunny Chow or some fresh seafood – your group leader will be able to recommend their favourite spots.
Day 2: Drakensberg
Leave Durban and travel inland towards the majestic Drakensberg mountain range (approximately 5–6 hours). Stop along the way at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site and learn of the history of this great man. Then stretch your legs on a short hike along the Drakensberg mountain chain. Home to an amazing array of flora and fauna, Drakensberg is Southern Africa's highest range – sitting at 3482 metres – and forms part of the border between South Africa and Lesotho. The range is often referred to locally as the Barrier of Spears or the Dragon Mountains. Your accommodation here is in twin rooms with an ensuite at a unique backpacker lodge in Drakensberg. After you’ve settled in, enjoy a drink with your travel group in the thatched-loft lounge room, where there’s a book-swap and internet facilities. You’ll also be able to check out the onsite pool, jacuzzi, barbeque, fire pit and wi-fi.
Day 3: Drakensberg
Enjoy free time to go hiking through this incredible mountain range. It's up to you how much time you spend exploring. Feel free to take a short hike for an hour or so, or perhaps challenge yourself by booking into a full-day hike with a local guide. This is a great chance to learn more about the region from a local as you walk along. Regardless of your level of hiking or exploring today, there are sure to be some amazing views and excellent photo opportunities.
Day 4: Lesotho Highlands
Leaving Drakensberg behind, head into the mountain kingdom of Lesotho (approximately 7–8 hours). Nestled like a small island in the middle of South Africa, Lesotho is commonly known as the 'Kingdom in the Sky' and has beautiful mountain ranges and endless hiking trails. Generally, the border crossing into Lesotho is quite smooth, but you may experience some delays, depending on the time of year. Drive past the Golden Gate Highlands National Park which is famous for its extraordinary sandstone rock formations. The park is also home to elands, zebras, mongooses and hundreds of bird species – keep your eyes peeled along the way.
Day 5: Lesotho Highlands
Today you’ll have a variety of hikes to choose from. The Lesotho Highlands offer excellent hiking for all levels of skill, so depending on your experience and level of fitness, you should be able to choose one that allows you to get the most out of these stunning landscapes.
Day 6: Wild Coast/Cintsa
Head to the stunning Wild Coast of South Africa and the charming little coastal town of Cintsa (approximately 10–12 hours). Cintsa and its surrounding region are home to Xhosa communities, whose lifestyle is deeply rooted in tribal traditions and customs. You'll soon discover that these warm and friendly people can provide you an insight into their enduring cultures. Arriving in the late afternoon, you will have time to relax and freshen up before an optional group dinner.
Day 7: Wild Coast/Cintsa
Enjoy some free time to explore the town, relax on the stunning beaches or book one of the many optional activities on offer. You might like to go hiking or mountain biking in the hinterland, hire a canoe to explore the Cintsa River or book in for surfing lesson! Be sure to check in with your group leader to get their recommendations. You can even whip out your Lonely Planet app and see what else there is to do at this coastal hotspot.
Day 8: Addo Elephant National Park
Travel on to Addo Elephant National Park (approximately 7–8 hours). Addo Elephant National Park was created in 1931 to protect the region's eleven remaining elephants and is a true success story in conservation. Today there are over 450 elephants in the park, as well as Cape buffalo, black rhinos, all kinds of antelopes and even the unique flightless dung beetle. On arrival, you'll take an afternoon game drive with your group and try to spot some of these resident creatures, among others, from your truck.
Day 9: Garden Route / Tsitsikamma National Park
Wake early and enjoy another game drive in Addo Elephant National Park in an overland vehicle. Afterwards, begin your journey along the Garden Route, the first stop being Tsitsikamma National Park (approximately 4–5 hours). Steep ancient forests meet the breakers of the Indian Ocean at this park, protecting both land and sea. It's a spectacular place for walking and viewing wildlife. Your group leader will take you to a local activity centre where a range of activities will be on offer, some of which you may like to book for your free day tomorrow.
Day 10: Tsitsikamma National Park
With another day in Tsitsikamma, you’ll have more time to explore this magnificent national park. Cape clawless otters, dolphins, tortoises and southern right whales (depending on the season) are all visitors here, along with baboons, monkeys and a heap of birdlife. See how many of them you can spot on a range of hiking trails, including those to the Stormsriver Mouth and waterfalls.
Day 11: Garden Route / Oudtshoorn
Head out across the arid Karoo region bound for Oudtshoorn (approximately 4–5 hours). Stop off on the way at Knysna to stretch your legs and explore this hamlet with a gorgeous lagoon. Next stop is Weltevrede Fig Farm where you learn how to farm, dry and preserve figs. A short drive then takes you to the Cango Caves, where you’ll have time to explore the weird and wonderful rock formations – one is ‘Cleopatra's Needle’, standing at 29 feet high and at least 150,000 years old. Your local guide will give you all the ins-and-outs of their formation and history. Continue on to Oudtshoorn, known as the ostrich capital of the world. At the turn of the 20th century, it was full of 'feather barons' that grew rich from the popularity of ostrich feathers.
Day 12: Bontebok National Park
Rise and shine very early this morning to spend some time with wild meerkats, part of the so-called Shy 5. Head to their burrow, pull up a chair and sip coffee while the sun comes up and the meerkats climb out into the sunshine. You’ll have time to watch these habituated wild animals, which are never fed or handled by humans, go about their daily routine of foraging and frolicking. Then travel onto Bontebok National Park (approximately 3-4 hours) – the smallest of South Africa's 18 national parks and named after its unusually marked antelopes. Drive towards Swellendam, through towering mountain passes and crossing some of the most beautiful and rugged scenery around. On arrival, take an leader-led orientation walk, perhaps grabbing some lunch afterwards. Swellendam, South Africa’s third-oldest town, has over 50 provincial heritage sites. After lunch take the short drive to set up camp in Bontebok, with the remainder of the afternoon to hike one of the three nature-hiking trails, all starting and ending in the rest camp area. Trail maps are available at the campsite.
Day 13: Cape Agulhas / R320 Winery Route / Hermanus
Get up early this morning for your journey to Africa's southernmost point – Cape Agulhus (approximately 5 hours). You'll travel along the famous R320 winery route, visiting two or three wineries along the way, before heading onto the beach side town of Hermanus. This region is highly influenced by the cooling Atlantic Ocean that sweeps up past Cape Town and brings with it a nice breeze that cools down the grapes that are grown here. The predominant local grape varieties are French, German and northern Italian – such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Mourvedre, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage.
Day 14: Cape Town
Enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Hermanus, perhaps with a walk from Grotto Beach along the cliff and beach path or along the local shopping strip. Afterwards, drive back to Cape Town via the scenic bay route (approximately 4 hours). With its stunning coastline, dramatic surrounding mountains and modern cityscape, Cape Town is one of Africa's most appealing cities. It's a great place to end your trip, with vineyards, adventure activities and plenty of good restaurants and cafes at your doorstep. You'll be dropped at the centrally located hotel in Cape Town at approximately 3 pm if your group doesn’t encounter any delays. With no activities planned after arriving in Cape Town, you are free to leave at any time.
- Drakensburg - Royal Natal National Park Hike
- Howick - Nelson Mandela Capture Site
- Addo Elephant National Park - Overland Vehicle Game drive
- Addo Elephant National Park - Overland Vehicle Game drive
- Oudtshoorn - Cango Caves Guided Tour
- Weltevrede - Fig Farm visit
- Oudtshoorn - Meerkat Experience
- Hermanus - R320 Route Wine Tour
13 Breakfast(s) Included
3 Lunch(es) Included
12 Dinner(s) Included
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
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Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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