South Africa for Solo Travellers
South Africans call their homeland ‘a world in one country’. It covers an area equivalent to five times the size of Britain, with a climate ranging from temperate, Mediterranean and sub-tropical to desert; it offers spectacular scenery with arguably the finest wildlife on earth and no less than eleven official languages. South Africa is truly a world-class destination! Firstly, a more naturally beautiful country would be difficult to find - from the serrated peaks of the Drakensberg mountains, to the contorted and timeless semi-desert landscapes of the Karoo and the forested sea-shores and mirror-like lakes of the Garden Route, the enchanting temperate valleys of the Winelands, the rare proximity to nature found in the national parks and the instantly recognizable symbol of the country, Table Mountain - all under an endless azure-blue sky. Quite remarkable! Then there is the wildlife, one of the main reasons visitors travel to Africa. One of the finest places in the world to experience this is the Kruger National Park, which is a similar size to Wales. It is exactly how you imagine the African bush to be, as depicted on countless TV documentaries: areas of sweeping savannah, bisected by rivers full of hippos, muddy waterholes lined with animals quenching their thirst, and the bush itself, home to zebra and antelope, studded by immense biscuit-coloured termite hills and towering above it all, instantly recognisable giraffes! The park is home to an incredible 150 mammal and 500 bird species including the ‘big five’: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Game-viewing is an intensely moving experience with nothing preparing you for the waves of emotion inspired by an encounter with these wonderful, almost regal creatures thriving in their natural habitat. Just to highlight the variety of flora too, the Cape Peninsula alone has twice as many plant varieties as Britain, which is 5,000 times bigger. But South Africa is not just about scenery and wildlife, fabulous as it is. The cities are amazing and highlight the country’s diversity. Brash Johannesburg, city of gold and South Africa’s cultural capital, with skyscrapers of concrete and glass separated by canyon-like streets contrasting with townships on its outskirts. Then there is the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town, overlooked by the vast bulk of Table Mountain and easily Africa’s most beautiful and sophisticated city. It is a real multi-cultural melting pot, with stunning Cape architecture, superb beaches, the best cuisine in the country, fabulous street musicians, mime artists and entertainers adding to its cosmopolitan atmosphere. Any country is shaped by its past - South Africa more than most with its recent history a constant struggle between the British, Afrikaners, and various indigenous peoples, the Zulus being the most well known. The British annexed the Cape from the Dutch during the 18th century, who then set out inland founding the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. However, with the discovery of the world’s largest gold deposits, British interest flourished! This culminated in the Boer War and unification of the country. We all inevitably associate South Africa with the inhumanities of the old Apartheid system, which needs no explanation. Our visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg takes us on a fascinating, horrifying, humbling and ultimately inspiring journey from the dark days of ‘whites only’ privilege, through to Nelson Mandela’s historic release. Documentary film, texts, sound clips and live accounts recapture life in the old South Africa. We also visit the famous battlefields of the Zulu Wars, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift – one a crushing British defeat sending shock waves throughout the Empire, the other a valiant stand of just 140 against 4,000 Zulus. Few tours visit these remarkable sites, a vital and deeply moving part of South Africa’s unique heritage. The Garden Route in the Western Cape is legendary. With a mild climate and facing the southern Indian Ocean, this unique region encompasses beautiful coastal and mountain scenery. Depending on the time of year, we’ll have the opportunity to travel to the beautiful seaside resort of Hermanus, the best place for on-shore whale watching. We also spend a most enjoyable few days surrounded by the seemingly never-ending rows of vines in fertile valleys, backed by the lofty mountains of the enchanting Winelands. This wonderful 16-day tour is designed to highlight South Africa’s truly amazing diversity of cultures, its curious blend of old and new, and its phenomenal scenery and wildlife. You leave with the feeling that the new South Africa, open to the world after years of isolation, is a land of superlatives which cannot fail to impress the welcome visitor!
- Return flights
- A welcome dinner on the first night to get to know your travelling companions
- Staying in excellent quality three and four-star hotels with breakfast, two lunches and four dinners
- Full day guided safari in the Kruger National Park, one of the world’s most outstanding game reserves
- Tour of the legendary Zulu War battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, immortalised in the classic film 'Zulu'
- Internal flight to the stunning 'Garden Route'
- Visit Hermanus, for the world’s finest on-shore whale watching (dependant on season)
- Stay in the heart of the fabulously beautiful Western Cape’s Winelands, with rolling vineyards and iconic colonial Dutch architecture, experiencing a cellar tour and tasting at a 300-year old wine estate
- Visits to the Cape of Good Hope and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
- Visit to Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum, a real ‘must’ in understanding contemporary South Africa
- Stay three nights in cosmopolitan Cape Town – one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities, dominated by the instantly recognisable Table Mountain
- Option to spend a night in a tented safari camp, experiencing a bushwalk with an experienced ranger
- Escorted by our experienced tour manager
- The price of this holiday is per person, based on one personoccupying a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at a supplement (date dependent) at the relevant supplement. Scheduled flights to Johannesburg and from Cape Town, all transfers, 13 nights accommodation on bed and breakfast basis, four dinners, all tours as mentioned, visit to Apartheid museum, visit to Blyde River canyon, full day Kruger safari, tour of Zulu battlefields including lunch, tour of the Featherbed Nature Reserve including lunch, whale watching depending on season (19 Apr - 22 Nov), winelands tour including a wine tasting, visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, tour of Cape Point, porterage of one item of luggage per person and theservices of an experienced Riviera Tour Manager.
You will be met at the airport before you take your overnight flight to Johannesburg.
After our morning arrival, we transfer to the four-star Indaba Hotel in a prosperous suburb, north of the city. On the way to our hotel we take the opportunity to visit the Apartheid Museum, 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. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to explore the pleasant leafy district of Fourways and nearby Montecasino shopping mall. This evening we will enjoy a wonderful, informal welcome dinner, where we can relax and meet our travelling companions.
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 spectacular 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 of some of the most breathtaking views in Africa. Our hotel for the next three nights is the three-star superior Hippo Hollow Country Estate, beautifully located in the midst of lush forest on the banks of the Sabie River on the edge of the National Park. It has lovely gardens, two pools, a very cosy bar, an excellent restaurant and an open-air terrace overlooking the grounds and river where you can actually watch the hippos! A more relaxing spot would be difficult to find. Dinner is included tonight.
Today we have a full day’s game drive in specially adapted 10 seat 4x4 vehicles. 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 spectacular African dawn, surrounded by the noise of a unique ‘dawn chorus’. Which animal shall we spot first? Perhaps an elephant, a family of warthogs or possibly even the elusive cheetah. Our experienced game rangers know the best tracks and waterholes whilst their stories will amuse, inform and fascinate you. Most have lived here all their lives, accumulating a vast wealth of knowledge. One minute they can be talking about the constituents of elephant dung and the next about the mating behaviour of hippos or the latest UK football scores!
This is a day at leisure for anyone who just wants to take it easy by the one of the pools at the hotel or do some hippo-spotting from the lovely lawn overlooking the river. Alternatively, you could try elephant-back safaris, exciting helicopter flights or even river rafting (all subject to weather conditions), as well as sunset safaris or night safaris where you can experience the unique thrill of an open 4x4 vehicle game drive by spotlight. Exclusively for Riviera 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 is a real ‘back to nature’ experience, with no electricity or en-suite facilities – we use portable ‘bush’ showers and toilets. Our chef will create excellent wholesome cuisine and you can listen out for any nocturnal visitors whilst sitting around the campfire! You rejoin the main tour on the morning of day 6.
Today we leave Kruger on our way to the battlefields of Zululand. After breakfast we’ll drive south , entering the small but scenically beautiful country of Swaziland. As the road climbs through the interestingly-named Piggs Peak we descend past lush green fields and rolling hills interspersed with small farms and drive through the country’s small capital Mbabane, passing the parliament house and Royal Palace en-route. We cross back into South Africa in the afternoon and enter Kwazulu Natal province, staying at the simple three-star Battlefields Lodge for two nights on bed and breakfast basis.
After breakfast we visit the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. Brilliantly dramatized in the films 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 return to our hotel in the afternoon. Lunch is included today.
After breakfast we return to Johannesburg airport, flying to George in the Western Cape and at the heart of the gorgeous Garden Route. We take the short drive to the coastal town of Knysna and our hotel, the charming three-star superior Knysna Hollow Country Estate. The comfortable rooms are all whitewashed and thatched and many overlook the two swimming pools. There is an excellent restaurant, with an extensive wine selection and a convivial bar. Dinner is included this evening.
Knysna has been called South Africa’s favourite small town and with its stunning lagoon location, numerous art galleries, craft shops and the excellent Knysna Quays marina shopping and dining complex, it’s not hard to see why. The Garden Route, as its name implies, really is a scenic treat! This magnificent stretch of coastline encompasses mountains, lagoons, pristine beaches, indigenous forests, wetlands teeming with birds, lakes and mountains, all blended together in a feast of sheer natural beauty: it really has it all. This morning we take a ferry across the lagoon to the Featherbed Nature Reserve, a South African Natural Heritage site which we explore by 4x4 vehicle. We stop at some magnificent viewpoints whilst our guide describes the area’s fauna, flora, history and shipwrecks, followed by an easy downhill guided walk and delicious buffet lunch under the canopy of the milkwood trees.
This morning, we take the long scenic drive to the Cape’s beautiful Winelands. During July to November we drive via Hermanus, the world’s best spot for on-shore whale watching. These gentle giants move in seemingly permanent slow motion and are a truly amazing sight as they playfully cavort in the water. You arrive in the Winelands by late afternoon, staying two nights on bed-and-breakfast at the excellent four-star Devon Valley hotel, which is a real find. This little property is set on the valley slopes offering breathtaking views, lush gardens, a relaxing shady terrace, a comfortable bar with dark leather armchairs, fireplace and a wide selection of single malt whiskeys. Some tours may stay at the nearby four-star Erinvale Hotel.