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Embark on an action-packed Lonely Planet Experience through some of the most stunning scenery in southern Africa. In 22 days, head from Johannesburg to Cape Town on the spectacular coastal route, with plenty of epic stops along the way. Track down elusive wildlife on game drives in Kruger National Park, relax on golden beaches in Mozambique, visit remote Zulu to learn about tribal culture and mix it up with modern cities. From the savanna of Kruger and the lush wetlands of the St Lucia Estuary to the dramatic ocean vistas and fertile vineyards along the Wild Coast, see the best of southern Africa's blessed natural beauty, joined by a local leader with all the best advice and a group of likeminded adventurers keen to explore.
Day 1: Johannesburg
Sawubona! Welcome Johannesburg, the sprawling South African capital. In Joburg (unlike a lot of city nicknames, this is one people actually use) mansions stand alongside humble tin abodes and there are as many green parks on the outskirts of the city as there is concrete jungle in the centre. Your Lonely Planet experience begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you can’t wait to begin exploring and arrive with time to spare, why not make your way to the Apartheid Museum and start your journey with some crucial history before you meet up with your group.
Day 2: Kruger National Park
Rise and shine for a long day’s drive to Kruger National Park (approximately 11–12 hours). Leave Johannesburg and travel through the Mpumalanga Province and along the famous Panorama Route through some of the most stunning scenery South Africa has to offer, such as God's Window and Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Southern Africa. It boasts over 500 bird species, 100 species of reptile and 150 mammal species, including the Big Five and the endangered African wild dog. Drive through some of Kruger’s prime game viewing areas on your way to camp and try to spot some of these amazing creatures straight away! Set up camp and get settled for the evening.
Day 3: Kruger National Park
Rise early and enjoy a light breakfast of coffee and rusk (twice-baked bread) before heading out on a morning game drive. Most of your day will be spent spotting game from your overland vehicle, birdwatching and stopping at various waterholes and viewpoints to rest along the way. In the evening, choose to relax at camp or perhaps head out on an optional night drive with the park guide. The optional night drives are a chance to spot nocturnal animals and perhaps even a night-time predator or two – maybe catch a lion or hyena out hunting, or perhaps impala out in search of a late-night feed.
Day 4: Eswatini (Swaziland)/Hlane Royal National Park
Start the day with a slow game drive through Kruger, covering between 20 and 70 kilometres (depending on what animals you see along the way) in the park then exiting by mid-morning. Hit the road towards Hlane Royal National Park (approximately 6–7 hours). Travel south-east and cross the border into the kingdom of Eswatini, a country nestled between Mozambique, Northern Zululand and Mpumalanga. Arrive at Hlane Royal National Park, a vast expanse of bushveld with ancient hardwood trees, and begin exploring immediately on a guided game walk. Spend tonight at a camp within the national park.
Day 5: Mozambique Beach Camp
Set off this morning to your Mozambique beach camp (approximately 7–8 hours). Departing from Hlane National Park, head to the Golela Border Post and cross into Maputaland. After a little while, cross another border into Mozambique. Change vehicles to a 4WD for the drive to the beautiful seaside village of Ponta Malongane – your beachside oasis for the next two nights. Your campsite is the ideal base for seaside fun such as snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving.
Day 6: Mozambique Beach Camp
Make the most of this gorgeous seaside getaway with a day to explore at your own pace. This is one of the many unspoiled beaches of Mozambique, and there is plenty to do here. Keen scuba divers can choose from many reefs – one of which is just 300 metres off the shore. Alternatively, you could explore the blue waters of the Indian Ocean on an optional boat cruise in search of dolphins – ask your leader about booking. Of course, you could always find a spot on the beach and chill out.
Day 7: St Lucia Estuary
Depart southern Mozambique and drive to Lake St Lucia, part of the St Lucia Estuary. stopping at a shop for supplies along the way (approximately 4–5 hours). Declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, St Lucia Estuary is home to thousands of varieties of birds, mammals and reptiles, including hundreds of hippos and crocodiles. You can either explore on your own or join an optional boat cruise on the wildlife-filled waters for the chance to spot creatures basking on the banks.
Day 8: Zululand
Rise early and head to the Valley of a Thousand Hills (approximately 5–6 hours), the heartland of the Zulu nation, for a unique homestay experience. Gain insight into the daily life of the rural Zulu people with a night in a local’s house, where you'll be treated to some traditional food, song and dance. Explore the village on foot and make the most of this rare opportunity to see a remote culture from the inside. Interact with your hosts and perhaps share some of your own culture and language in turn.
Day 9: Durban
Travel on to Durban (approximately 3 hours). Durban is South Africa's second most populous city and a tourist magnet thanks to its wealth of golden, sandy beaches and glitzy nightlife. One of its main attractions is the Golden Mile, a stretch of fine sands bordered by frothy surf on one side and an attractive beachfront of shops, restaurants and cafes on the other. Stay in dorm rooms with shared bathroom facilities and a great rooftop bar.
Day 10: 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 11: 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 12: 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 13: 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 14: 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 15: 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 16: 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 17: 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 18: 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 19: 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 20: 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 21: 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 22: 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.
- Panorama Route - God's Window Viewpoint
- Panorama Route - Bourks Luck Potholes
- Kruger National Park - Overland Vehicle Game drive
- Hlane Royal National Park - Bush & Wildlife Walk
- Kruger National Park - Overland Vehicle Game drive
- Zululand - Community Centre Visit
- Zululand - Traditional Healer Visit
- 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
21 Breakfast(s) Included
7 Lunch(es) Included
17 Dinner(s) Included
Question: How many suitcases can I take with me on my trip?
Question: Is Airfare Included in the Price?
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
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
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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