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Grand Tour of South Africa

20days from
£3,699*per person

Overview

20 Days - Classic Escorted Tours

Explore 'a world in one country' on a journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Travelling through national parks, verdant wine valleys, mountainous landscapes and along Route 62 with stays in South Africa’s biggest cities. What do you look for in a holiday? Beautiful coastal views? Incredible wildlife? Diverse culture? If the answer is all the above, our Grand Tour of South Africa is for you. From Big Five sightings in Kruger National Park to scenic drives along Panorama Route and visits to sites that give insight into the country's tumultuous history, there's so much to see. And let's not forget the cities - vibrant Johannesburg is full of cultural attractions and sophisticated Cape Town is known for its natural scenery. We'll see the country's most popular sights - the Cango Caves of Oudtshoorn and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens - and try a glass (or three) of its most famous wines in Wineland. We'll also journey to the unexpected along Route 62, visiting quirky towns and villages along the way. This tour is ideal for explorers who want to enjoy all the highlights of South Africa’s truly amazing diversity of cultures, its curious blend of old and new, and its phenomenal scenery and wildlife.

Itinerary

  • Depart for Johannesburg  Our adventure begins with a flight to Johannesburg so, today, you'll head to the airport for your overnight flight.
  • Johannesburg  We'll arrive this morning and spend the rest of the day at leisure in the city.  Free time in Johannesburg  Jo'burg, South Africa's largest city, is a city for style, art and music. You could learn more about the country's history with a visit to the Apartheid Museum - a fascinating, horrifying, humbling and ultimately inspiring journey from the dark days of ‘whites only’ privilege, through to Nelson Mandela’s historic release. It’s 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. Alternatively, you could stop by the Hector Pieterson Memorial and the former homes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Vilakazi Street. 
  • 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 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 breath-taking views in Africa. Our hotel for the next three nights is beautifully located in the midst of lush forest on the banks of the Sabie River, on the edge of Kurger National Park. Dinner is included tonight. Included experience Visit to Blyde River Canyon.
  • Kruger Game Drive  Our first day in the world-famous Kruger National Park, South Africa’s largest game reserve, will be spent on a full day's game drive. This is one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries on the planet. With nearly two million hectares of unfenced African wilderness, more mammal species roam free here than in any other game reserve. Travelling in specially adapted 4x4 vehicles, we'll be off to experience areas of sweeping savannah, bisected by rivers full of hippos, muddy waterholes lined with animals quenching their thirst, and the bush itself, studded by biscuit-coloured termite mounds. 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 African dawn, surrounded by the noise of a unique dawn chorus.  Which animal do you think we'll spot first? Perhaps an elephant or a family of warthogs or possibly even the elusive cheetah. The experienced game rangers know the best tracks and waterholes, their stories will amuse, inform and fascinate you. Most have lived here all their lives, accumulating insider knowledge you won't read in any book or article. Included experience A full day's game drive in Kruger National Park.
  • Kruger free day  We'll spend the day at leisure in Kruger National Park - you can take it easy by the pool at the hotel or do some hippo-spotting from the lovely lawn overlooking the river.  Alternatively, you could descend 60 metres down into the heart of one of Mpumalanga's last forested wonderlands on a visit to Graskop Gorge Lift. The glass-bottomed lift is the first of its kind in South Africa and offers knee-knocking views of the surrounding gorge and forest. Once at the bottom, you can stroll the series of elevated walkways at your leisure, exploring the local flora and fauna set against the craggy cliff faces that make up the gorge.  There’s also the opportunity for a morning game drive or a sunset safari with dinner. A sunset safari is perfectly timed to try and spot nocturnal animals as they become more active. 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 ‘glamping’ experience with comfortable beds, electricity and an ensuite 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'll rejoin the main tour on the morning of day six.
  • Eswatini   Today we'll leave Kruger on our way to the battlefields of Zululand. After breakfast we’ll drive south, entering the small but beautiful country of Eswatini. Formally the Kingdom of Eswatini, also known by its former official name Swaziland, is a landlocked country within Southern Africa. As the road climbs past the interestingly named Piggs Peak, we descend through lush green fields and rolling hills interspersed with small farms. Then, we’ll drive through the country’s small capital Mbabane, passing the parliament house and Royal Palace en route. Kwazulu Natal   We cross back into South Africa in the afternoon and enter Kwazulu Natal province. A region where glassy malls touch shabby suburbs, and the people are fiercely proud of their traditional Zululand culture.
  • The battlefields of the Zulu War   After breakfast, we'll visit the battlefields of the Zulu Wars, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift – one the site of a crushing British defeat that sent shock waves throughout the Empire, the other a valiant stand of just 140 against 4,000 Zulus. Brilliantly dramatized in films like 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 Rorke’s 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'll hear old Zulu stories of the battle to recreate the events of the day, as our guides explain how this battle was won, and give insight into the brave soldier warriors and Zulu chieftains who fought and died here.  We return to our hotel in the afternoon. Lunch is included today. Included experience Visits to battlefields of the Zulu Wars, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift.
  • Knysna  After breakfast we'll return to Johannesburg airport, flying to George in the Western Cape and at the heart of the gorgeous Garden Route, before the short drive to the Jewel of the Garden Route, Knysna.  Knysna sits within the unmatched beauty of the indigenous forests, miles of sandy beaches, rivers and lakes that border the town. There's also a picturesque lagoon which opens between two massive cliffs called The Heads. Standing on either head offers panoramic views over the lagoon to the mountains and out towards the ocean. The small but spirited town has a lovely harbour front lined with galleries, shops, restaurants and cafés - the perfect place to explore for dinner this evening overlooking the lagoon.
  • Featherbed Nature Reserve  Leaving our hotel this morning, we'll drive to Knysna where we'll take a ferry across the lagoon to the Featherbed Nature Reserve - a privately-owned reserve in the middle of a scenic lagoon. We'll board 4x4 vehicles to explore the area. Stopping at some magnificent viewpoints, our guide will describe the area’s fauna, flora, history and shipwrecks before an easy downhill guided walk and delicious buffet lunch under the canopy of the milkwood trees. (Note: Due to weather conditions over the winter period, departures between May and Aug will have lunch at a restaurant in Knysna). Free time in Knysna  After taking the ferry back to Knysna, you will have some free time to explore this small town, with its numerous art galleries, craft shops and the Knysna Quays marina shopping complex. Included experience Drive through Featherbed Nature Reserve and visit Knysna.
  • Hermanus This morning, we'll take the long scenic drive to the Cape’s beautiful Winelands before continuing to Hermanus, a lovely town that’s also the world’s best spot for onshore whale watching, usually between July and November. During the whaling season, the local 'Whale Crier' walks the streets to inform visitors when whales are present with a blast on their kelp horn. These gentle giants move in seemingly permanent slow motion and are a truly amazing sight as they playfully cavort in the water. Included experience Visit to Hermanus.
  • Winelands  Not far from Cape Town is the Cape Winelands, home to some of the most prestigious wineries in the world. Today, we'll tour 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, South Africa's second oldest town, established 300 years ago and home of South Africa’s most prestigious university. Its historical hub is home to period buildings and historic streets that reinforce the town’s dignified atmosphere, and we'll have time to explore this delightful town before a cellar tour and tasting at the award-winning Neethlingshof Wine Estate.  Franschhoek  After that, we'll visit the small town of Franschhoek, set at the head of a valley. As well as outstanding wines and fine foods, you'll also find some wonderful art. Tonight, we’ll enjoy an included typical South African BBQ or Cape Malay buffet dinner at our hotel. Included experience Tour of Winelands, visit to winery with tasting and visit to Franschhoek.
  • Cape Town  This morning we'll visit the amazing Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, located just outside Cape Town and set against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. With more than 7,000 plant species, most of which are unique to this part of the world (keep an eye out for all kinds of proteas, birds of paradise, wild gardenia, and much more). There are also artworks and sculptures scattered throughout its 1,300 acres. These incredible gardens are some of the best in South Africa - a gardener's paradise! Free time in Cape Town  We'll carry on to Cape Town. Our hotel is located right in the centre of this bustling city, within walking distance of the V&A waterfront, so you'll be well-placed for an afternoon at leisure exploring the city. Included experience Visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
  • Cape of Good Hope  This morning we'll drive out of the city past pristine beaches to the fishing harbour of Hout Bay, a former fishing village surrounded by mountains, ocean and quintessential South African wine farm. We'll continue on Chapman's Peak Drive, one of the most scenic drives in the world. From Hout Bay, it begins to climb and winds steeply up to Chapman's offering rugged coastal views out over the Atlantic and the sandy bays below before reaching lower levels again at Noordhoek. Then we’ll drive through Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site and protected Nature Reserve with rich biodiversity - be on the lookout for ostriches, baboons and several species of antelopes as well as 250 different bird species. Cape Point  Next, we'll see the rugged rocks and sheer cliffs of Cape Point itself, stopping to take in the views. We'll see the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean currents and the treacherous promontory of rocks and swells, the scourge of mariners for centuries. Boulders Beach  Finally, we'll visit Boulders Beach and its penguin colony. Here you can see a colony of African Penguins - formerly known as Jackass Penguins because of their distinctive braying - in their natural habitat from a series of wooden walkways. Watch as they dive in and out of the calm waters of this sheltered bay and waddle up the beach back to their sand-dune burrows. It's a fascinating experience that is cute enough to warm even the hardest heart - you won't be able to resist taking a picture! We'll return to the city during the afternoon and spend the evening at leisure. Included experience Scenic drive to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, and visit to the Penguins of Boulder Beach.
  • Free day in Cape Town   Cape Town, featuring British, Dutch and Cape Malay influences, is one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities with so much to offer! You could do some bargain shopping at the Waterfront, followed by a fresh seafood lunch or maybe go people-watching at fashionable Camps Bay.   We think no visit to Cape Town is complete without taking a revolving cable car ride to the top of iconic Table Mountain (assuming you're not afraid of heights). The mountain has welcomed generations of seafarers to the city as it rises on the horizon and the views from the top are fabulous. You could 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 – the choice is yours.
  • Viljoensdrift  Today, we escape the bustle of the city and head out to the Winelands area of the Cape, stopping at Viljoensdrift.  Nestled on the south of the Elandsberg Mountain, on the banks of the River Breede, is the Robertson Wine Valley and our first destination of the day, the Viljoensdrift Wine Estate. Their winemaking heritage dates back over 200 years when their French Huguenot ancestors planted the first vines here. Five generations have lovingly toiled the fertile land and, today, the estate is still family-run, producing award-winning wines. Here we'll enjoy a tasting of their distinctive wines and take a boat ride along the river, flanked by indigenous Breede River Yellowwood and Wild Olive trees teeming with a variety of bird species. Montagu  Later, we'll continue on to Montagu, with its Wineland scenery, whitewashed farms and dramatic mountain backdrop - it's known for its springs and was a popular Victorian spa resort.  This small town is on one of South Africa's most popular road routes, Route 62, which meanders from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. The road follows winding mountain passes that unfold before your eyes, opening into green valleys, past crystal-clear streams and framed by distorted geological shapes and richly coloured rock faces dating back hundreds of millions of years. Included experience Visit to Viljoensdrift Wine Estate with a boat ride along Breede River.
  • Brandy Distillery  Make sure you have a hearty breakfast today as we'll start the day's exploration with a brandy tasting at a local distillery and learn all about Cape Brandy. It's a product of diverse cultural influences and a testament to the historical art of distilling - a process, legend has it, they've been honing since 1672.  It's made from grapes grown in the Cape Wine Regions. Each swig of the 38% proof spirit is aged for a minimum of 3 years and perfectly captures the flavours and aromas unique to the region, as well as the creativity and artistry of the people who produce them. Ostrich Farm  As we continue on Route 62, we'll visit an ostrich farm situated in the heart of “Ostrich Country”. This is an area of the Cape well known for its ostriches which are particularly valuable thanks to their lean, tasty meat; their feathers, which can be used for clothing, dusters and ornaments; eggs which can be eaten or decorated; and exquisite leather, perfect for bags, shoes, wallets and furniture. We'll take a tractor ride - the only ostrich tractor safari in South Africa - to see their flocks, including Kenyan (Massai), Zimbabwean Blue and South African Ostriches, and visit the chick-rearing area to see the adorable hatchlings. We'll also enjoy lunch in the farm's restaurant (yes, ostrich meat is available but optional, we checked). Included experience Tasting of Cape Brandy at a local distillery and visit to an Ostrich Farm.
  • Swartberg Nature Reserve  Today, we'll head to the Swartberg Mountains for a drive through the Swartberg Nature Reserve in 4x4 vehicles.   The Swartberg Mountains - or "Black Mountains" in English - runs east to west along the northern edge of the Klien Karoo. Most of the mountain peaks are above 2,000 metres high, making it the highest mountain range in the Western Cape - and the longest spanning at around 230km. The Swathberg has an interesting history, and the mountain complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Cape Floral Kingdom. It’s one of only six botanical kingdoms on earth, thanks to its vast and pristine environment. There are two official ranges here, Klien Swartberg and Sweseekspoor which, according to legend, were split by a spell and a bolt of lightning (although, we're guessing geologists might disagree with that story). Regardless of how they came to be, the diversity of the vegetation is very impressive. The soil is poor in nutrients and the slopes are steep, yet proteas, ericas, watsonias, gladioli, Haemanthus species as well as many lesser-known rare plants are scattered across the landscape in bright floral displays. It's also home to a wide variety of native animals, including baboons, various species of antelopes and more than 130 species of birds - there are even the occasional sightings of leopard and caracal. Cango Caves  We will continue to the 200-million-year-old Cango Caves, South Africa’s best-known caves. This underground cave system consists of a series of deep-cut, rugged limestone chambers brimming with unique rock formations and low passageways creating a labyrinth of kaleidoscopic colours. Our tour of the caves will reveal beautiful helictites, celestial crystals, aquamarine cave pools and grottos.  Later, we'll travel back to Oudtshoorn for an evening at leisure in the ostrich capital of the world. Included experience Drive through Swartberg Nature Reserve in 4x4 vehicles and visit the famous Cango Caves.
  • Matjiesfontein  We'll begin our journey back to Cape Town passing through the towns of De Rust and Prince Albert before stopping at Matjiesfontein. This tiny village on the edge of the Great Karoo was founded by legendary Scottish railwayman James Douglas Logan in 1884, establishing itself as a fashionable Victorian health spa. Today the village is a living museum and a national monument thanks to its historical architecture. Here you can enjoy a sense of peace that is rare in the modern world as you wander through the white-washed Victorian-era houses. Of special interest is the museum on the platform of the railway station, the station master's office, which dates back to the late 1800s, and the original signal room. Classic car enthusiasts can find a remarkable collection of vintage cars from the 1930s-1960s, including two Royal Daimlers from King George VI's 1947 tour of South Africa. Included experience Visit to Matjiesfontein.
  • Fly home  Say Totsiens (pronounced Tot-sens) to the Rainbow Nation. Today we'll transfer to Cape Town International Airport for our overnight flight home.
  • Arrive home Arrive home, with memories of this incredibly vast and diverse country, its epic landscapes and wonderful wildlife.

What's Included

Holiday Highlights

  • Experience the country's varied flora and fauna on visits to Featherbed and Swartberg Nature Reserves and enjoy a full day's game drive in Kruger National Park searching for lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos. 
  • Discover Wineland, South Africa's famous wine-growing region, with visits to local wineries and taste their delicious wines. 
  • Explore South Africa's epic landscapes as we journey along Chapman's Peak Drive through the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, and travel on the famous Route 62 and Panorama Route.  
  • Tour the legendary Zulu War battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift with a specialist guide. 
  • Visit some of South Africa's most famous sights, including Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, the amazing Cango Caves and an ostrich farm. 

Our Price Includes

  • The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability (date dependent) at the relevant supplement. Price includes:
  • Return UK flights 
  • Scheduled flights to Johannesburg and from Cape Town 
  • All transfers 
  • 17 nights’ accommodation  
  • Daily breakfast, 4 lunches and 3 dinners 
  • All tours as mentioned  
  • Porterage of one item of luggage per person  
  • The services of an experienced Riviera Travel Tour Manager 
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Departure Airport:
London Heathrow (LHR)

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Price from:£3,699
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Accommodation

4* Indaba Hotel - Johannesburg -

★★★★

The four-star Indaba Hotel lies in a quiet and prosperous suburb, north of the city. The low-rise buildings are surrounded by lush gardens with two outdoor pools. The Epsom Terrace offers a range of local and continental cuisine, whilst the Courtyard is ideal for an al fresco lunch and the Chief’s Boma is perfect for a more authentic African ambience in the evening. And to relax after your long-haul flight, book a treatment at the hotel’s excellent spa. The 260 comfortably-furnished rooms are all air-conditioned, with en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, cable TV, safe and tea/coffee-maker.

3* Superior Hippo Hollow Country Estate - Hazyview -

The three-star superior Hippo Hollow Country Estate is beautifully located in the midst of lush riverine forest on the banks of the Sabie River, just a10-minute drive from the gate to the National Park. It has lovely, extensive gardens with sun-loungers and hammocks under the trees, two pools, a very cozy bar, an excellent restaurant with an open-air terrace overlooking the grounds and river where you can actually watch the hippos! The 109 rooms are in low-rise buildings or thatched chalets with garden views. Hotel rooms have TVs and are air-conditioned, with en-suite shower/wc, safe and tea/coffee-maker.

3* Battlefields Lodge - Dundee -

★★★

The simple three-star Battlefields Country Lodge is situated near Dundee and lies in the heart of the battlefields in Kwazulu Natal. The lodge is nestled in a green valley overlooking rolling hills and the famous Talana Hill which is the site of the first battle between the Boers and British soldiers! The Lodge has a restaurant, an open-air pool and 50 rooms set in beautiful gardens.

4* Pearl Valley Hotel - Franschhoek -

★★★★

The four-star Pearl Valley Hotel is a luxury hotel situated in the picturesque Paarl-Franschhoek Valley and forms part of the award winning Val de Vie Estate estate. The estate features its own wine cellar, an equestrian and polo centre, luxury spa and the award winning Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf course. There are a selection of lounges, bars and restaurants to choose from on the estate, the Valley restaurant located in the Clubhouse offering signature dishes and a selection of award-winning wines or the Polo restaurant with spectacular views over the polo fields. There is an outdoor swimming pool where guests can relax and enjoy a cocktail and light snacks from the pool bar. The 31 one-bedroom studio rooms all have a balcony or terrace, a kitchenette with fridge and tea/coffee facilities, safe, hairdryer, satellite TV and complimentary Wi-Fi.

4* Southern Sun Waterfront - Cape Town -

★★★★

  About the hotel The stylish Southern Sun Waterfront is a short walk from the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town with easy access to the main attractions of Cape Town like Table Mountain. All rooms are comfortable and well-appointed with air-conditioning, a bath, shower, hairdryer, safe, satellite TV, tea and coffee-maker and complimentary Wi-Fi. Eat in the hotel’s Yizani Restaurant, serving both African-inspired and international cuisine, or relax with a cocktail at the popular and comfortable Waterfront Bar. There’s an outdoor swimming pool to take a refreshing dip after a day’s sightseeing, plus a fitness centre. Location The hotel is perfectly located less than a 10-minute stroll from the heart of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and its huge selection of restaurants, bars and shopping outlets. A shuttle service also operates to the waterfront.

Montagu Country Hotel -

★★★★

Montagu's iconic Art Deco hotel is a true architectural gem. First opened in 1875, it's been lovingly restored with original Art Deco and Victorian furniture. During time at leisure, you could pamper yourself with a range of beauty and relaxation therapies at the spa, which is complete with a sauna and jacuzzi. You can relax in your choice of two swimming pools or explore the beautiful gardens. The hotel also offers a coffee and cocktail lounge and a restaurant that serves breakfast and a country cuisine-style dinner.  Then, after an unforgettable day in South Africa, you can retire to your air-conditioned room featuring a TV, a seating area, tea and coffee-making facilities, a hair dryer and complimentary Wi-Fi.    Location description: Montagu, South Africa. Situated between the Langeberg Mountains on Route 62, the Montagu Country Hotel is conveniently located halfway between the Cape Winelands and the Garden Route. 

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Other Information

Holiday code

R615

Holiday provided by Riviera Travel

BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE: change your booking for free, Covid-19 cancellation protection included as standard and 100% protection with ABTA & ATOL. This holiday is sold and operated by Riviera Travel (ABTA V4744, ATOL 3430). These ABTA and ATOL bonds mean that, when you book a Riviera Travel holiday, you can be 100% sure that your money is safe.

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