When you take a South Africa tour with Grand Circle Travel, you’ll discover cultural and natural wonders at a relaxed and leisurely pace. You’ll follow exotic wildlife on game-viewing drives through Kruger National Park and the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve ... enjoy visits to charming coastal towns along the famed Garden Route ... and explore cosmopolitan Cape Town, South Africa’s “Mother City.” You’ll marvel at the country's diverse landscape rife with verdant, grassy savannahs, balmy, white-sand beaches, and tranquil, flower-ringed lagoons. And in 2017, you'll experience our newly enhanced itinerary, featuring a new two-night stay in the lush Stellenbosch wine region, and new opportunities to engage in local culture in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
4 nights from only $1195
95% of our travelers rated this extension "Excellent" in 2015
Begin your South African discoveries with three days in Entabeni Game Reserve, an 85-square-mile private reserve located in South Africa’s UNESCO-protected Waterberg Biosphere—the perfect setting for a unique and enjoyable safari experience. You'll spend your days searching for the legendary "Big Five"—Cape buffalo, elephant, lion, rhino, and leopard—and your evenings sleeping under the thatched roof of your comfortable tented chalet. It's the perfect introduction to your South African experience.View Extension Itinerary
Board your overnight flight to Johannesburg to begin your South Africa tour.
A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and help you transfer to your hotel, where you'll meet the Grand Circle Program Director who will accompany you throughout your trip, and fellow travelers, including those who have just finished our optional pre-trip extension, Big Five Bush Safari, South Africa. Settle in, and get to know your surroundings.
This morning, tour South Africa's thriving metropolis of Johannesburg. You'll see the city skyscrapers, including the Carlton Centre, which is the tallest office block in Africa, as well as the Nelson Mandela Bridge.
You’ll also tour the historic Old Fort Prison, originally constructed by the Boers in the 19th century during colonial times. Through the ages, the fort has held prisoners of war, common criminals, and, during the apartheid era, political prisoners including Nelson and Winnie Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. After your tour of the prison, you’ll visit a local market to sense the pulse of daily life in Johannesburg.
After your city tour, you’re free to seek out lunch on your own in Johannesburg before returning to your hotel. This evening, get to know your fellow travelers during a Welcome Briefing, and enjoy a Welcome Dinner with wine.
This morning, you'll tour Soweto, a former shantytown on the city's outskirts. Today, Soweto is both a bustling center of black South African life and a poignant symbol of the struggle to end apartheid. On a walking tour, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture as you connect closely with the township’s residents, visiting them in their homes and where they work.
After your tour, you’ll enjoy an included lunch, and then partake in an exclusive Scars of Apartheid Discovery Series event to learn more about the tragic side of South African history. You’ll set off on a walking tour of the Dobsonville suburb of Soweto, visiting with residents in their homes as well as places of work, business, and leisure, and then settle in for a candid discussion of apartheid with a relative of Hector Pietersen—the young boy who was shot and killed by police during a protest in 1976, becoming an iconic image of the struggle for equality.
Following your discussion, you’ll see sites of anti-apartheid activity in Johannesburg, including the place where Hector was killed. You’ll then visit the Apartheid Museum, where the history of nearly 50 years of unequal rights affecting more than 20 million black South Africans is recounted here, in 22 exhibits spanning print, photo, and film. It's a fascinating and moving examination of an era that has since been replaced by a constitutional democracy that celebrates diversity.
Then, return to your hotel. Dinner is on your own tonight.
After breakfast, set off for Kruger National Park. Along the way, marvel at breathtaking views of the Klein Drakensburg escarpment, with its densely wooded canyons, sheer sandstone cliffs, and sparkling waterfalls. You'll stop for lunch on your own en route to your hotel in the province of Mpumalanga.
You'll travel the Panorama Route through Mpumalanga, where you'll look into God's Window—a spot with stunning views—and the Bourkes Luck Potholes at the mouth of the Blyde River Canyon.
Tonight, check into your safari camp, where dinner will be served.
Embark on a full-day Intimate African Safari game drive, during which you will explore Kruger National Park aboard a small, open-air vehicle. Perhaps you'll see one of the elusive "Big Five" safari animals during your journey.
Kruger is one of the largest and most notable among African game parks. Transvaal President Paul Kruger saw the need to protect the wilderness and its animals and first proclaimed it the Sabie Game Reserve before it became a national park in 1926. It is known for the chances it offers for spotting the Big Five—always elusive, but certainly present here: lion, elephant, leopard, Cape buffalo, and rhino. In addition to game animals, Kruger boasts an avian population of almost 500 species, some of which are found nowhere else in South Africa.
During your full-day safari, you'll have the opportunity to purchase lunch during a break at one of the park's rest camps. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your safari camp.
After breakfast, you'll board a coach for a full-day game-viewing drive, with a break to purchase lunch at one of the park's rest camps.
Or, choose to take advantage of a second Intimate African Safari on our optional full-day outing. Today, you'll venture further afield to some of the park's most remote areas aboard 4x4 vehicles to discover South Africa's wildlife in a smaller group. Please note: A minimum of six participants is required to operate this tour.
Dine tonight at your camp.
This morning, spend time with the children of George Mhaule Primary School (when in session), supported by Grand Circle Foundation as part of the World Classroom initiative. After your visit, stop to enjoy an included packed lunch (provided by your hotel), then cross the border into the Kingdom of Swaziland, entering through its mountainous northwest. As you travel, admire a landscape of sloping hills and sugarcane plantations.
A fully independent nation since 1968, this African kingdom originated in the early 19th century and maintained its cultural identity as a British protectorate—never absorbed into South Africa—through much of the 20th century. Today, Swaziland has a population of about 800,000 and is a peaceful, agricultural country where ancient and modern ways mingle. Arrive at your hotel, near the capital city of Mbabane, in the mid-afternoon with a bit of time to explore the area or relax before dinner.
Today you'll enjoy a full day of a Swazi Cultural Experience. First, peruse the produce, local crafts, and wares of the Swazi people at the Mbabane Craft Market. Continue on to a local workshop to observe the artistry and precise techniques of glassblowing.
Then, behold the craftsmanship of local candle-makers as they work their magic in wax—using an age-old process—at a local workshop and market. Enjoy lunch here before returning to your hotel, where dinner is included this evening.
As you cross the border back into South Africa today, you'll enter Hluhluwe, a small town within the Kwazulu-Natal province. Here the great warrior-king Shaka unified many clans in the early 19th century under the name Zulu, which was the name of his own clan. Though mostly ceremonial today, the Zulu monarchy continues as a proud symbol of a living culture.
While in Hluhluwe, you'll spend an Afternoon With the Zulu during an exclusive Discovery Series event. You'll visit an authentic re-creation of a Zulu uzumi (homestead), where you'll meet modern-day warriors and witness fighting formations. You'll also enjoy lunch, taste Zulu beer, and take part in traditional activities such as rhythmic Zulu dancing. Learn more about Zulu culture as you discover some of the secrets of the mystical nyangas (herbal healers) and the Sangoma (a priest-diviner), who predict the future from the pattern made by ritual bones thrown upon the ground.
Tonight, dinner will be served at the lodge.
After breakfast, set off for a game-viewing drive through the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve—the oldest park in all of Africa.
Thanks to the efforts of conservationists, the once-threatened rhino population has soared—the park is now home to the largest concentration of white rhinos in the world. Be on the lookout for their signature horns, along with spottings of the “Big Five,” and the more obscure sightings of yellow-, pink- and orange-throated longclaws.
Later, after lunch on your own, you can spend the rest of the day at leisure. Or, if you’re eager for another look at the exciting wildlife of the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, you can opt to join a second tour in the afternoon. You’ll enjoy another opportunity to climb aboard a 4x4 game-viewing vehicle to seek out the residents of the reserve, seeing the animals in a new light at a different time of day.
Tonight you'll return to your lodge aboard a motorcoach for some leisure time before dinner.
This morning, after an early wake-up and breakfast, you'll drive to Durban. From here, you'll fly to George (transferring flights in Johannesburg)—the largest town on South Africa’s Garden route, and your base of exploration for this beautiful part of the world. Lunch and dinner are on your own today.
After breakfast this morning, begin your exploration of South Africa's famous Garden Route, the magnificent stretch of coastline that has served as an inspiration for artists and writers for centuries.
You’ll begin in Knysna, “Pearl of the Garden Route,” where you’ll board a ferry to depart for Knysna's famed lagoon, which is protected from the open water by two giant sandstone cliffs known locally as “the Heads.” A ferry takes you across the lagoon for an included tour of Featherbed Nature Reserve. On your guided nature walk, keep an eye out for a glimpse of the blue duiker, Africa's smallest antelope (named for the blue sheen of its back) and other wildlife. Here, you’ll enjoy an included lunch under the reserve’s milkwood trees.
Then, ferry back to Knysna to visit a Rastafarian community on the outskirts of the town for an exclusive Discovery Series event. You’ll have the opportunity to chat with the people who have carved out and built up a peaceful settlement here over the years, to learn more about their culture and the Rastafarian faith.
After your visit, you’ll have some free time to explore Knysna before returning to your hotel in George. Dinner is on your own tonight.
Depart George after breakfast this morning to begin your journey to Stellenbosch, the next stop on your tour of the Garden Route. Along the way, you’ll stop in Swellendam for an included lunch, as well as a tour of the Drostdy Museum.
The drostdy is a house built in the 18th century by the Dutch East India company to be used for official and administrative purposes. Today, the building is owned by the South African government, and operated as a museum, which traces the history and heritage of this part of the country through the centuries.
After your museum tour, you’ll continue on to Stellenbosch, where, after arriving, you’ll set off on a quick panoramic tour for a preview of the discoveries that are to come tomorrow.
Today you will explore Stellenbosch, South Africa's wine-producing region, a scenic river valley of rolling hills, quaint farms, and mountain vistas, this area is also the heart of Cape Dutch culture. On an included tour of the town, you'll see fine examples of traditional architecture while learning about the history of early settlement here during a visit to the Stellenbosch Village Museum.
After an independent lunch in Stellenbosch, you’ll rejoin your fellow travelers for an exclusive Discovery Series event. No visit to South Africa’s famous wine country would be complete without a tasting of the local vintages, so that’s what you’ll do next as you visit a wine estate and sample their delicious offerings.
Following your wine estate visit, you’ll return to your hotel. Dinner is on your own tonight.
Depart Stellenbosch today for your final destination: Cape Town, South Africa’s “Mother City” on the southern edge of the continent. After a short drive, you’ll arrive at Cape Town in the morning and enjoy an included tour of the city’s sights, including the lush Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, home to a stunning variety of Cape Flora.
Following your city tour, you’ll have a free afternoon to seek out lunch on your own and explore Cape Town at your own pace before rejoining your travelers for a Home-Hosted Dinner. Enjoy a warm welcome, authentic local fare, and lively conversation during this exclusive Discovery Series event.
The whole of the day is yours to make your own discoveries in Cape Town. Perhaps you’ll revisit a site from yesterday’s city tour for a closer look, or you can set out for new discoveries among the sprawling city streets. Visit one of the city’s many museums to learn more about African art or history, or simply relax on one of the city’s stunning beaches. Your Program Director will be happy to offer you suggestions on how to spend your day.
Lunch and dinner are on your own today, giving you the perfect opportunity to sample the diverse cuisines that Cape Town has to offer. Being a proudly multicultural city, tastes from all over the continent and the world at large can be found here, including Xhosa, Cape Malay fare, and more.
Today, you’ll take in the breathtaking scenery of the Cape Peninsula, starting with a cable car ride up to the top of Table Mountain (weather permitting), a 3,563-foot sandstone mountain that is remarkable for its flat top. Enjoy the ocean views from the summit.
Then, head along the spectacular coast road, the Atlantic Ocean's crashing surf endlessly splashing the rocks below. Soon you reach the Cape Point Nature Reserve, with its wild fynbos landscapes, beautiful flowers, elusive bontebok, baboons, and ocean views.
Contrary to popular belief, the Cape Peninsula is not consistently where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Because of shifting currents, that distinction is shared with lesser-known Cape Agulhas, 100 to 200 miles east of the Cape Peninsula. Nevertheless, when you get to the tip of the Cape Point Nature Reserve, you'll see Cape Point, the technical "Cape of Good Hope." Rapidly changing climactic conditions and the Indian Ocean currents coming from Cape Agulhas make it a particularly dangerous spot for ships.
Your Program Director might tell you that more "sightings" of the legendary ghost ship, the Flying Dutchman, are reported here than anywhere else in the world. Who knows what you'll spy on the distant horizons as you gaze from the Cape Point viewing platform?
On the return trip to Cape Town, a stop along the False Bay coastline offers a chance to see the penguins at Boulders Beach.
End your tour with lunch at a local restaurant, then return to your hotel, where the rest of your day is at leisure. Dinner is on your own tonight.
After breakfast today, you’ll participate in an exclusive Discovery Series event to take another look at South Africa’s tragic apartheid history. In the 1970s, more than 60,000 residents of Cape Town’s District 6 were forcibly relocated by the apartheid government. You’ll learn about the events through discussions with District 6 residents, and during visits to infamous sites in the city itself. You’ll then visit the District 6 museum, which is dedicated to telling the story of the abuses that occurred here decades ago.
After your Discovery Series event, you have a final free afternoon to get lunch on your own and make your own discoveries. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, you'll have the morning at leisure to do a little more exploring in Cape Town, or to simply relax before you begin your journey back to the U.S. this afternoon. Or begin your optional extension in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
3 nights from only $1295
More than a third of our travelers have reserved this extension in 2016
Extend your discoveries of Africa's wonders with this optional extension to thundering Victoria Falls. You'll have ample time to view the Falls, twice as high as Niagara and one-and-a-half times as wide, perhaps taking an optional helicopter flight to witness its full grandeur. You'll also experience local culture at a traditional boma dinner and cultural show. During this extension, you'll have a variety of optional tours to choose from, including an all-day excursion to Botswana's celebrated Chobe National Park.View Extension Itinerary