Welcome to South Africa. We gather at the airport and take a one-hour drive to Amakhala, a private game reserve in the Eastern Cape. The Amakhala crew will welcome you and help you settle into this spectacular safari lodge. In the late afternoon, we embark on our first game drive for a chance to see the spectacular wildlife and topography of Amakhala. During the drive, we stop for a cheese and wine sundowner, a quintessential safari experience to round off your first day. Stay: Amakhala Safari Lodge, Amakhala Game Reserve (four-star) (D).
Amakhala Game Reserve is spread across 18,000 acres (7,280ha), hosting five of the seven biomes in South Africa and a large diversity of wildlife. Sightings here may feature lions, buffalos, rhinos, elephants and leopards, plus giraffes, cheetahs, zebras, wildebeest and many species of antelope. Using open-air 4WD safari vehicles, we begin with an early morning game drive to search for wildlife at the time when the reserve is most active. There will be moments to relax and enjoy the incredible facilities at the lodge over lunch as well as visit the spa or take a dip in your private plunge pool overlooking the bush.
Later, we head back into the reserve for an afternoon game drive, searching for species we may not have encountered yet. Another wine and cheese sundowner will feature on this afternoon's game drive.
In the evening, we enjoy a traditional braai (South African barbecue) under the southern hemisphere night sky (weather permitting). Stay: Amakhala Safari Lodge, Amakhala Game Reserve (four-star) (B/L/D).
Our day begins with a final game drive in Amakhala before we head west to the official start of the Garden Route – Storms River in Tsitsikamma National Park. Getting its name from a local word meaning ‘place of abundant water' and encompassing land and sea, Tsitsikamma National Park is a diverse wilderness of lush forest, epic canyons and magnificent coastal views. In the park, we enjoy a walk in the forest and along boardwalks and suspension bridges.
This is a great opportunity to encounter abundant birdlife, with sea, forest and scrubland species all present. Our accommodation is a short transfer away in the relaxed seaside town of Plettenberg Bay, where there are great restaurants close to our lodge for dinner. Stay: Christiana Lodge, Plettenberg Bay (four-star) (B/L).
Today is about enjoying the Plettenberg Bay area. A short drive away is Robberg Nature Reserve, a peninsula of rugged cliffs, secluded beaches and scenic hiking trails that we have the morning to explore. As a World Heritage site and National Monument, this is one of the quintessential Garden Route destinations and home to seals, dassies (rock hyraxes) and abundant bird life. The rest of the day is free to relax at our beautiful lodge, enjoy local cuisine in one of the many excellent restaurants or explore the nearby white-sand beach. Stay: Christiana Lodge, Plettenberg Bay (four-star) (B).
Continuing along the Garden Route, we visit one of its most picturesque points, Knysna Heads – a pair of sandstone cliffs that form a channel separating the calm waters of Knysna Lagoon from the turbulent Indian Ocean. Our next stop is for lunch at Mossel Bay, a quaint coastal town home to The Post Office Tree, a landmark where seafarers once left letters to be taken home by Portuguese sailors. We end today's journey at De Hoop Nature Reserve and will arrive at our secluded accommodation within the reserve this afternoon, leaving time to discover this amazing setting before dinner. Standard accommodation: De Hoop Collection, De Hoop Nature Reserve (three-star) (B/L/D).
De Hoop Nature Reserve is a World Heritage site and home to 86 mammal species, more than 260 bird species, and the smallest and most threatened plant kingdom on the planet: the Cape Floral Kingdom. The reserve stretches some 84,000 acres (34,000ha) and includes 3mi (5km) of marine reserve, one of the largest in Africa. This is one of the best locations in South Africa to see migrating southern right whales from shore (from late August to November) and is far less busy than nearby Hermanus. We have the day to discover this unspoilt environment and enjoy some of the many optional activities on offer, such as a guided eco-boat tour, an interpretative marine walk, birdwatching, and mountain biking.
In the afternoon, we walk along the beach boardwalk to a lookout point that is a great place for whale watching in season. Standard accommodation: De Hoop Collection, De Hoop Nature Reserve (three-star) (B/D).
A short transfer takes us to Cape Agulhas, a rocky headland that is officially the southernmost point in Africa. We continue to Hermanus, the whale-watching capital of South Africa, where southern right whales arrive from Antarctica between late August and November to calve in the sheltered waters. After lunch, we walk from the harbour and along the cliff edge, hopefully spotting these magnificent animals as they come close to shore. Heading inland, our destination for the day is the historic town of Stellenbosch, at the heart of the South African winelands. Stay: Cultivar Guest Lodge, Stellenbosch (four-star) (B/L/D).
In the Western Cape, Stellenbosch has fertile soil and a temperate climate – the perfect winemaking conditions. Our day will feature two of the best wine estates in Stellenbosch. We begin at the Waterford Estate, where we pair the regional cabernet sauvignon and shiraz with dark and milk chocolates. Next is the Middelvlei Estate to pair their chardonnay, merlot and pinotage with Boerebraai tapas.
In the afternoon, we return to our accommodation to unwind in the pool or gardens and take in the wonderful views of the Stellenbosch mountains and vineyards. Stay: Cultivar Guest Lodge, Stellenbosch (four-star) (B/D).
After a relaxing start to the day, we make our way down to Simon's Town in time for lunch at a restaurant next to Boulders Beach. At the beach is a colony of approximately 2,000-3,000 African penguins, a protected species that is sadly endangered. The granite boulders offer shelter from the elements and the beach falls under a protected area that is part of the Table Mountain National Park, making this a haven for the colony. This is the only place in the world where you can get close to African penguins in this way, and it makes for a heart-warming experience. After time to enjoy the colony, surrounding dunes and boardwalks, we have a short drive to our centrally located hotel next to the harbour. Stay: Quayside Hotel, Simon's Town (four-star) (B/L).
We start early today and drive to Cape Point Nature Reserve for a two-hour walk along this ruggedly beautiful coastline. Starting with the Old Lighthouse, a short climb is rewarded with panoramic views of False Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Our route follows the boardwalk along the coast, past hidden beaches and jagged cliff faces, before reaching the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula. The nature reserve is home to elands, bonteboks, grysboks, springboks, wildebeest, baboons and ostriches, and we may be lucky enough to see a few of them. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is our next stop.
After lunch, we have the afternoon to discover the abundant bird and plant life of this highly acclaimed botanical garden, as well as appreciate its full grandeur from the canopy walkway. Our day ends in Sea Point, an upmarket suburb of Cape Town between the Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain National Park. Stay: Blackheath Lodge, Cape Town (four-star) (B/L).
The Cape Town skyline is one of most recognisable in the world with Table Mountain towering over the city. The views from the top of this 3,495ft (1,065m) mountain are spectacular. Fortunately, there is a cable car to take us there, saving us a hike up the steep mountain slopes. Looking out from the summit is the best way to appreciate Cape Town; from here it is possible to see Lion's Head, Robben Island and the city centre. The rest of the day is free to stroll along the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, join a township tour or learn about Nelson Mandela's incarceration on a visit to Robben Island. Stay: Blackheath Lodge, Cape Town (four-star) (B).
Depending on flight schedules, there may be additional time to explore Cape Town or simply unwind in the beautiful grounds of our hotel. If you'd like a bit more time in this captivating city, speak to your sales representative about extending your stay (B).