Highlights of South Africa 15 days
Days 1 & 2
Depart for Cape Town, South Africa
Leave your home city on Saturday for Cape Town, arriving on Sunday. Upon arrival, you will be greeted and transferred to your luxury hotel located at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a working harbor and shopping/entertainment district. If you are not too tired, you can explore the Waterfront complex on your own.
The impressive variety of entertainment options includes a boat cruise, IMAX Theater, boutiques, arts and crafts and a number of great restaurants. Built on its own promontory (Quay West), the hotel is surrounded by water on three sides. Known as one of the world’s finest hotels, it presents the elegance of a luxurious small hotel with Table Mountain as the majestic backdrop.
The breezy and relaxed ambiance of the hotel’s waterfront restaurant provides the setting for a menu that presents a fusion of Mediterranean, Eastern and local dishes. Your luxury room exudes distinction with its fresh-cut flowers, lounge area, French windows and balcony opening out to a delightful view. It also features a separate dressing room and bathroom, with double vanities, fluffy bathrobes, Charlotte Rhys bath products and a separate bath and shower. Voted Condé Nast Traveler's “Readers’ Choice Award” for Best Hotel in the World 2000, this is indeed a place to be thoroughly pampered.
Largely due to its inspiring location, Cape Town is steeped in a rich history and is a cultural melting pot with its diverse and vibrant character being derived from Khoisan and other African tribes from the North, and Indonesian, French, Dutch, British and German settlers.
The present-day cosmopolitan nature of Cape Town offers a multitude of experiences in a bustling and beautiful waterfront setting. This evening meet your Travcoa Travel Director and fellow travelers for welcome cocktails and a festive dinner party, where you will learn more about the exciting events ahead.
Cape Grace Hotel
The Cape Peninsula
Today you’ll spend the whole day touring the remarkable Cape Peninsula. First visit the exclusive suburbs of Sea Point, Clifton and Camps Bay. Continue along the scenic Atlantic coastline to Llandudno and the fishing village of Hout Bay. If the weather permits, you’ll embark on a 40-minute boat ride to Seal Island.
Explore Hout, one of the most beautiful and popular places on the Cape Peninsula and a highlight of any visit to Cape Town. The town sits picturesquely in a wind-protected bay, surrounded in the west by the Karbonkel Mountain—the famous Mount Sentinel as the outpost in the sea—and in the east by the Constantia Mountains and Chapman's Peak. The name " Hout Bay" ( Wood Bay) was given by Jan van Riebeeck, who, after his landing in Table Bay in the year 1652, found dense forests providing the timber needed for the construction of ships and of the Castle.
Then drive over spectacular Chapman’s Peak Pass, a narrow pass that was etched into the mountainside between 1915 and 1922. This is one of South Africa’s most spectacular roads. From there you’ll enter the Cape Point Nature Reserve, where indigenous flora and fauna are conserved in this priceless wilderness area. Here, you’ll see the most powerful lighthouse in the world beaming an electric light of 19-million candlepower across the ocean.
A monument to Vasco da Gama commemorates his historic voyage around the Cape in 1497. At Cape Point, take the funicular to the top of the mountain for a panoramic view of the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans “meet.” After lunch at a restaurant overlooking False Bay, proceed to the incredible Jackass Penguin Colony, home to a growing colony of the vulnerable African penguins.
Wooden walkways allow you to view the penguins in their natural habitat. Continue driving to the naval hamlet of Simon’s Town and then via Fishhoek and Kalk Bay to Muizenberg. In the early afternoon visit the world-renowned Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens at the base of Skeleton Gorge and home to over 5000 indigenous plants.
Here you’ll discover an explosion of color, along with the unique Fynbos floral biome, the world’s smallest and richest floral kingdom. There are more plant species found in the Table Mountain range than in the entire continent of North America. Return to the city via Rhodes Drive that bisects the plush suburbs of Bishopscourt, Claremont and Newlands. The day’s journey ends at your hotel in late afternoon.
Cape Grace Hotel
Cape Town, Paarl, Franschhoek Valley & Stellenbosch
After breakfast, you’ll ascend Table Mountain by cable car. Then journey out of Cape Town to see the Afrikaans Taal Monument on the outskirts of Paarl. Stop at the entrance to the infamous Victor Verster Prison from which President Nelson Mandela was released from detention. A scenic drive takes you to the Franschhoek Valley to visit the Huguenot Monument erected in memory of the French Huguenots who settled here about 150 years ago and planted the first grapes in the valley.
Visit the historic Vergelegen Wine Estate in Somerset West, where you’ll enjoy wine tasting in a unique underground cellar. You’ll take a walk through the well-established gardens and old Cape Dutch Manor House with its many antiques. Cross the Helshoogte Pass (Hell’s Heights) and descend into historic University town of Stellenbosch, center of learning, rugby and the wine industry.
The stunning backdrop of the Hottentot Holland Mountains, the oak tree-lined lanes in the streets and the white gabled Cape Dutch homesteads all blend in to give you an unforgettable visual experience. Vibrant Stellenbosch is the oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, and it is probably the most scenic and historically preserved town in Southern Africa.
Oak-lined streets next to water furrows compliment the many fine examples of elegant Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture—all part of this unique "Town of Oaks." Ideally situated in a magnificent mountain valley, Stellenbosch offers a mild Mediterranean climate and is the home to the world-renowned Maties' University. You’ll enjoy a scenic flight by helicopter from Stellenbosch back to the Waterfront in Cape Town via Blouberg and the City Bowl.
Cape Grace Hotel
Board The Blue Train for an unforgettable trip to view spectacular scenery not visible by any other means of transportation. The Blue Train is unique—it is not merely a train but combines the luxury of the world's leading hotels with the charm of train travel. Think of it as an all-inclusive luxury rail cruise with an opportunity to view South Africa's spectacular landscapes and visit interesting tourist attractions along the way. Follow on the northbound tracks of Cecil John Rhodes, who dreamed of a railroad from Cape to Cairo.
Pass through the wine lands of the fertile Hex River Valley, in the shadow of imposing mountains, up and inland to the endless sweeping landscapes of the Karoo. Here, between high road and railroad, is the tiny hamlet of Matjiesfontein. The Blue Train guests are invited for a short ride back in time, on a historical London double-decker bus.
Stop a while and savor the vastness and the silence of the surrounding plains. The Victorian buildings and original 19th-century London lamp posts impart the uncanny sense of entering a colonial time warp—an oasis suspended in a different age. Stretch your legs, breathe in the dry clear air and walk in the footsteps of those who over the years have been enchanted by this place—among them, Lord Randolph Churchill, Cecil Rhodes, Olive Schriener and the Sultan of Zanzibar.
Sip a drink at the renowned Lord Milner Hotel—refurbished in the 1970's by the visionary hotelier and designer David Rawdon, who bought the entire village. Board The Blue Train once more for the journey northward into the interior. Before you drift to sleep, glance through the window at a sky filled with a trillion stars. And when you awake, you will be approaching the mining centers on the Gold Reef, and will soon end your journey in the jacaranda city— Pretoria.
The Blue Train
The most direct route between Pretoria and Cape Town is an overnight journey is 994 miles long. The Blue Train rivals many five-star hotels in terms of elegance, grace, comfort and style. The suites have been superbly redesigned to offer discerning you the best that modern technology and superior craftsmanship can provide. The Blue Train suites have a fully appointed en-suite bathroom, featuring either a bath or a shower. All suites are equipped with telephone, television monitor and individually controlled air-conditioning. A video channel allows you to access short documentaries about the area through which the train is traveling.
A sophisticated, opulent atmosphere, gourmet menu and the finest South African wines sourced from boutique vineyards, make dining on The Blue Train a magnificent experience. The Blue Train's own creative team of chefs has created a menu to delight the most discerning palate. Disembark The Blue Train in Pretoria, certainly one of the most beautiful cities in South Africa and its’ administrative capital. It was the site of the historic presidential inauguration of South Africa's best loved national hero, Nelson Mandela.
On arrival at Pretoria Station, you’ll be met by a guide who will take you on a Pretoria sightseeing tour. Pretoria's city center is a compact grid of wide, busy streets. Its central hub is Church Square, where you can see some fascinating architecture, and there are other historic buildings and museums close by around the Museum Mall.
To the north lies the vast Zoological Gardens, while the Arcadia district is the site of the city's famous Union Buildings. On the southern fringes of the city is the remarkable Voortrekker Monument, as close as the Afrikaner race has to a sacred site.
Day 7, Friday
Pretoria & MalaMala Game Reserve
This morning drive from Pretoria to Johannesburg, where you will take a direct one-hour flight to MalaMala’s own private airstrip. MalaMala is situated in the eastern part of South Africa in the province of Mpumalanga and shares a common border with the Kruger National Park.
The unfenced border between MalaMala and the Kruger National Park allows herds of animals to migrate unhindered to the perennial Sand River, which flows year round through the MalaMala Game Reserve for 20 miles, providing a water source for the Big Five and other wildlife. This area is known to have the greatest diversification of animal species on the African continent. Over 200 different species occur in abundance, while the ever-changing bird life provides even the most experienced ornithologist with rare finds.
This phenomenal rate of viewing success is directly attributed to the fact that MalaMala comprises 33,000 acres of pristine game viewing land, making it the largest privately owned game reserve in South Africa, with human density and impact on the land being kept to an absolute minimum. Only guests accommodated at MalaMala may traverse this immense tract of privately owned game land. The MalaMala Main Camp is the finest environmental camp on the African continent. The luxury and comfort of the camp, combined with the exhilarating game drives and guided walks in beautiful unspoiled wilderness, is incomparable.
MalaMala Main Camp
MalaMala Game Reserve
MalaMala Main Camp is set in beautiful surroundings on the banks of the Sand River. The buildings with their thatched roofs blend harmoniously with the large shady trees. All of this is set in a low lying region of flat bush country containing habitat types ranging from riverine thicket to open savannah.
Your photographic safaris are conducted in open 4-wheel drive vehicles, which allows for total freedom of movement and the ability to leave the road and track down Africa's Big Five—lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. They are the most sought after and dangerous of the world's big game. In previous centuries, it was these five species which gripped the imagination of hunters, drawing them to Africa to hunt the Big Five. Today the hunting is done by rangers and trackers, and the shooting is done with cameras.
Apart from the Big Five, cheetah and wild dog may also be seen. General game like giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, a variety of antelope and the nocturnal species like civet cat, genet cat, honey badger and mongoose occur throughout the reserve. Night drives, with the aid of powerful spotlights, bring the bush to life at night and provide the opportunity to view nocturnal creatures and carnivores on the hunt. Walking safaris with an armed ranger can be arranged on request.
Regardless of how big a game reserve is and how many animals it contains, you may still not see the elephants for the trees unless you are accompanied by experienced game rangers and trackers. Your MalaMala Game Ranger will be your host in camp and take care of your every need while sharing his knowledge and love of the bush with you. These highly qualified, formally trained men, with university degrees in the natural sciences, are thoroughly conversant with all aspects of ecology.
They are ably assisted by Shangaan trackers who accompany the game drives. The trackers are equipped with an intimate bush knowledge and instinct, which will give you a fascinating insight and bring you into closer contact with the African bush.
MalaMala Main Camp
MalaMala Game Reserve
MalaMala Main Camp is about safari tradition, and the camp has for many years been one of South Africa’s most well-known safari camps. It consists of 25 African-styled rooms, each of which is air-conditioned and enjoys views of the surrounding bush. The lounge leads onto a veranda, providing an elevated view of the Sand River. A refreshing breakfast and lunch are served in an air-conditioned dining room, allowing you to escape the heat of the day.
Dinner is announced by the beating of African drums and is served beneath the stars in an enclosed-reed boma. Tonight you will enjoy a farewell cocktail and dinner party with your fellow travelers.
MalaMala Main Camp
DAYS 10 & 11
MalaMala Game Reserve & Depart Johannesburg
Enjoy your last morning game drive and then re-pack or spend time in the MalaMala Main Camp doing some passive game viewing from the verandah or relaxing next to the sparkling pool with a drink in hand.
After lunch prepare for your return flight to Johannesburg, where you will have a day room at the airport hotel to freshen up or relax prior to your return flight home or on to your next destination this evening.
Per person is $9,299. Trans-Atlantic flights extra.