Classic South Africa and Mauritius: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kruger Safari, & More - 19 Days
- Taste the diverse flavors of Cape Town on a food tour
- Explore Johannesburg’s historic Soweto Township
- Seek out the Big 5 on a safari through Kruger National Park
- Visit Chamarel Waterfall and the dunes of 7-Colored Earth
- Enjoy a tropical island rum tasting on Grand Baie
|Day 1||Arrive in Cape Town, City Tour & Table Mountain||Cape Town|
|Day 2||Wine Tour in the Cape Winelands||Cape Town|
|Day 3||Atlantic Seaboard & Cape Peninsula||Cape Town|
|Day 4||Cape Town Township & Robben Island Museum||Cape Town|
|Day 5||Fauna & Flora at Kirstenbosch Gardens||Cape Town|
|Day 6||Guided Cuisine & Culture Tour||Cape Town|
|Day 7||Cape Town to Johannesburg & African Dinner||Johannesburg|
|Day 8||Soweto Township Visit, Traditional Dinner, & Local Storytelling||Johannesburg|
|Day 9||Safari Arrival Day, Big 5 Night Drive, & Bush Braai||Kruger National Park|
|Day 10||Big 5 Sunrise Bush Walk||Kruger National Park|
|Day 11||Full Day in Kruger National Park||Kruger National Park|
|Day 12||Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre||Kruger National Park|
|Day 13||Blyde River Canyon with Three Rondavels||Johannesburg|
|Day 14||Arrive in Mauritius, Beach & Bras d’Eau National Park||Mauritius|
|Day 15||Luxury Speed Boat to Ile aux Cerfs Island||Mauritius|
|Day 16||Grand Baie & Island Rum Tasting||Mauritius|
|Day 17||Aquarium & Mauritius Botanical Gardens||Mauritius|
|Day 18||Full Day Chamarel Tour & 7-Colored Earth||Mauritius|
|Day 19||Depart Mauritius|
Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town, City Tour & Table Mountain
Welcome to South Africa! Arrive at Cape Town International Airport and transfer to your accommodation to unpack and unwind. After you settle in, spend the rest of your day exploring the city.
Known as the 'Rainbow Nation,' Cape Town and South Africa have a long and complicated history involving a multitude of ethnic and cultural groups. The area's history starts with the indigenous Khoisan and Bantu people, who were the primary residents of the area until the Portuguese and Dutch arrived in South Africa, beginning a centuries-long occupation.
These days, South Africa is home to a diverse population. Roughly 80% of South Africans are of Bantu ancestry from a variety of ethnic groups, each with a distinct language. The remainder of the community is made up primarily of European, Asian (Indian, Chinese, and others from the formerly enslaved and indentured population), and mixed-race (Cape Coloured) ancestry.
Meet your local guide in the city center for a 4-hour walking tour of the historic city. You'll explore the different eras of Cape Town and learn about South Africa's history, as well as the people who shaped it. Stops along the tour include the Company's Garden, Parliament, Green Market Square, The Castle of Good Hope, and the Slave Lodge.
The Company's Garden dates back to the 1650s when European settlers farmed the land to grow fresh produce to replenish ships rounding the cape. Around the corner is the Iziko Slave Lodge, a national history museum dedicated to exploring the history of slavery at the Cape. Since its construction in 1679, the building has functioned as a center for the bustling slave trade (primarily operated by the Dutch East India Company) as well as a government building and supreme court.
Nearby sits the historic Green Market Square, which has served as a slave market, vegetable market, and center for political protests under Apartheid. These days it hosts a flea market with African souvenirs and crafts for sale.
Just down the street is the Castle of Good Hope, South Africa's oldest existing Dutch East India colonial building. On the way, you'll pass by several memorials and monuments, including the We Are Still Here Street Memorial to destitute children and the District Six Museum, which commemorates forced relocation under apartheid.
After strolling the streets of Cape Town, stop for lunch in the city center. In the afternoon, give your legs a rest with a hop-on-hop-off tour aboard the distinctive red open-top bus. Start at the Cape Town City Center Terminal, then take the bus to Table Mountain. From the bus stop, continue to the summit on the cable car for spectacular views of the city, mountains, and ocean. Return to Cape Town in time for dinner at the bustling Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, where you'll find a variety of fine dining restaurants and pubs with views of the ocean.
Day 2: Wine Tour in the Cape Winelands
Start the morning with a pick up from a local guide for a laidback, full-day wine tour through the Cape Winelands. From the minute you step out the door, your experience today is perfectly curated so you don't have to worry about a thing—besides sipping wine.
The Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, which extends from the Kogelberg Reserve in the south along the Cape Fold Mountain Chain to the north, is an internationally recognized area within the Western Cape's Floral Kingdom.
You'll spend the day exploring the rolling hills of the Winelands, visiting wineries in the Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, or Elgin Wine Regions. Today will be spent eating mouthwatering foods and drinking some of the best wines South Africa has to offer. The region's wineries offer a variety of whites and reds, as well as their own blends and styles. Enjoy the scenery and the beautiful vineyards and white-gabled farmsteads that dot the landscape, then return to Cape Town in time for dinner.
Day 3: Atlantic Seaboard & Cape Peninsula
Today's excursion is the ultimate driving tour. Hit the road with your guide for a full-day adventure on this Cape Peninsula Tour. The Cape Peninsula is a rocky peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean at the south-western extremity of the African continent. At the southern end of the peninsula are Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. On the northern end is Table Mountain, overlooking Cape Town. The southernmost point of the Cape Peninsula has outstanding flora and fauna and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Cape Floral Region.
Afterward, head to Simons Town and visit the penguin colony before breaking for lunch at a local seafood restaurant along the water in the sleepy fishing town. Head over to Chapman’s Peak Drive along the scenic roads of the Atlantic Seaboard. You'll pass by Llandudno and Camps Bay beaches, then stop at the iconic Maidens Cove for a quick dip in the water before ending the day.
Day 4: Cape Town Township & Robben Island Museum
Get an early start today for a full day of sightseeing. You'll start your day at one of Cape Town's iconic townships to get to know the local history and meet with residents. Visit with key community leaders to discuss history, culture, politics, as well as current and future socio-economic challenges facing the township.
If it's a Sunday, you're in for a treat—on Sunday mornings, the tour includes a stop at a local church where you can join the congregation in a joyful celebration of community and faith. The South African spiritual experience emphasizes music and gratitude for the people around you—a powerful start to the day.
After lunch, make your way to the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront to catch the ferry across the water to Robben Island, located 4.3 miles (6.9 km) west off the shore of Cape Town. Here, the tour guides are former political prisoners who served time at Robben Island.
Robben Island, which means "seal island" in Dutch, has a long and complicated history that spans millennia. Historic use of the island dates back to the indigenous Khoikhoi and Bantu people, with Dutch settlers using the island as a prison since the 17th century. Later, it was used as a whaling station and as a colony for people diagnosed with leprosy, and as a defense station during World War II. The island is also home to a religious pilgrimage site for Muslims—the Moturu Kramat, built to commemorate Sayed Abdurahman Moturu, Prince of Madura, one of Cape Town's first imams who was exiled to the island in the 1740s.
From the middle of the 20th century until the 90s, Robben Island served as a prison for criminals and anti-apartheid political prisoners during South Africa's apartheid years. Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 years of his 27-year term for his anti-apartheid activism. Two other Robben Island political prisoners—Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma—have gone on to become President of South Africa.
In addition to being a political and cultural site, the South African National Heritage Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site is also a recognized wildlife sanctuary and serves as a safe haven for about 132 species of birds, including some endangered species. Crowned cormorants and black-crowned night herons breed on the island in large numbers.
Tour the prison to see learn about the island's history. You'll see Nelson Mandela's former prison room and go for a short drive to see other notable landmarks, like the rock quarry and outbuildings.
After the 3.5 hour tour, return to the mainland in time for dinner.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Fauna & Flora at Kirstenbosch Gardens
Spend the morning enjoying nature in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, one of the world's most exceptional botanical gardens. Set against the slopes of Table Mountain, this lush paradise houses thousands of unique species of indigenous and exotic plants. Walk along the curved steel and timber Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway (informally known as the 'Boomslang') to see the views from the treetop canopy.
In the afternoon head to La Colombe in Constantia, one of South Africa's several internationally acclaimed fine dining establishments. Enjoy a late lunch, a fusion of Asian and French cuisine made from the freshest seasonal produce. Pair your dinner with the perfect wine from the restaurant's award-winning wine list for an unforgettable experience.
Spend your evening strolling along Cape Town's waterfront, or return to your accommodation to relax.
Day 6: Guided Cuisine & Culture Tour
Spend the day exploring Cape Town's incredibly diverse cultures through an international medium—food. South Africa's multi-cultural culinary influences are as vibrant as the communities where they originate. A lot of the food in South Africa is sourced fresh, so the tastings will depend on the time of year and season.
To understand South Africa's cuisine, you need to understand the country's history. From the indigenous Bantu and Khoisan people to the Dutch and English colonists, the formerly enslaved Indonesian, Madagascan, and East African peoples, and the Indian and Chinese indentured workers and immigrants, the country has a wide variety of ethnic and culinary diversity.
It was South Africa's colorful cultures that prompted Nelson Mandela, a leader of the anti-apartheid movement and the country's first black president, to coin the term 'Rainbow Nation' to describe the country.
One of South Africa's many ethnic groups are the Cape Malays, a name that's derived from the Cape of Good Hope and the Malay people, originally from Southeast Asia and the East Indies. The Cape Malays are the only cultural group of their kind in the world. Originally brought to South Africa from Dutch colonies as enslaved people, political prisoners, or exiles, they trace their origins to communities from India to Eastern Indonesia.
Multiple groups make up the Cape Malay ethnicity, but the commonality which ties them all together is the maize (corn) that serves as the primary food staple. You'll spend part of the day exploring Cape Town's Cape Malay cuisine, as well as others.
Start your guided tour with a walk through the Company's Gardens, established by Dutch colonists as a supply station, to sample Rooibos Tea and Rusks, an Afrikaaner biscuit. Continue to the Earth Fair Market on St. George's Mall to sample local treats from a variety of vendors, then head to the Bo Kaap, the colorful Cape Malay district, for a traditional Cape Malay lunch. Stop in and visit Atlas Trading, a family-owned spice shop that's been in operation since 1946.
From here take the city bus to the trendy suburb of Woodstock to sample craft beer and locally produced gin, then round out the day with a visit to an artisanal chocolate factory.
Return to your accommodation in the late afternoon to enjoy a free evening in the Cape Town city center.
Day 7: Cape Town to Johannesburg & African Dinner
Today you will transfer from Cape Town to Johannesburg with a short but beautiful domestic flight. Check in to your accommodation in Johannesburg, then head out for a full day in the city. Your overnight options range from the historic township of Soweto to the trendy suburbs and city center that are packed with various art galleries, restaurants, markets, and buzzing nightlife.
Johannesburg (also called Jozi, Jo'burg, and eGoli) is South Africa's largest city and one of the world's largest urban areas. The town dates back to 1886 when workers arrived to mine the large deposits of gold. Within a few years, the population of the city had ballooned, with thousands of native African and Indian workers working in the gold mining industry. Due to racial segregation during the Apartheid era, the workers were forced to live in separate townships outside of the city limits. The most famous of these are Soweto (short for South-West Township) and Lenasia, which was home to a large population of South Africans of Indian descent. Several prominent individuals have called the districts home, including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and comedian Trevor Noah.
In the afternoon go on a walking tour of the Maboneng Precinct, a former industrial zone that has been transformed into a vibrant part of the city. Maboneng, a Sotho word for 'Place of Light,' is a fitting name for a neighborhood that has quickly become a center for creative urban artists. Visit art galleries and historical museums, then head to the 50-story Carlton Center for a bird's eye view of the city.
Alternately, spend the afternoon visiting the sprawling Johannesburg Botanical Gardens which grew out of a large rose garden to cover an area of 310 acres.
For dinner head to the Chiefs Boma African Dining Experience Restaurant for an interactive culinary experience that spans the African continent. Enjoy sundowners or craft beer on the deck overlooking the Boma Dam, then meander through the herb garden before sitting down to enjoy your meal to the music of the African Marimba Band. With over 120 options ranging from North African Moroccan Dishes to a "Big 5 Game Kebab" made from five kinds of antelope, you're sure to find something to suit your tastes. After dinner, enjoy a glass of wine and roasted marshmallows over a cozy fire.
Day 8: Soweto Township Visit, Traditional Dinner, & Local Storytelling
In the morning head out for a half-day tour of the Soweto Township. Take a bicycle or yellow tuk-tuk, or stroll around the Orlando West area with your local guide. You'll pass by historical sites and learn the history of this vibrant community.
Soweto's history stems back to the early 1900s when the government began forcibly separating blacks from whites by removing the black population from the city and relocating them into separate areas. These were separated from the white neighborhoods by a cordon sanitaire (sanitary corridor) like a river, road, or industrial area.
Several prominent individuals have called the district home including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and the South African comedian Trevor Noah.
The area experienced civil unrest during the Apartheid era, with the most notable riots occurring in 1976. The riots followed a rule that Afrikaans should be the official language for schools of black Africans in the area (most of whom spoke indigenous African languages). Tens of thousands of black students took to the streets to protest the decision. The demonstrators were met with police violence and brutality; several hundred students were killed, and many more were injured.
One of the murdered students was 12-year-old Hector Pieterson. His story became the face of the student uprising after a photo of his body being carried by an older student gained international fame. The Hector Pieterson Memorial Site commemorates the students' bravery.
After stopping by the memorial, enjoy a quiet stroll down Vilazaki Street to see the former homes of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu and visit the Nelson Mandela Museum. Along the way, you'll pass street vendors selling fresh fruit, snacks, and various African arts—the perfect excuse to stop for a mid-morning treat and a quick shop for souvenirs. Enjoy lunch at a relaxed outdoor restaurant.
Spend the afternoon exploring on your own. In the evening, experience first-hand accounts of Soweto's history from the township's residents. You'll listen to stories of freedom fighters, students from the 1976 uprising, and other key historical figures. Enjoy live art performances and music as you feast on a traditional African dinner under the starry night skies.
Day 9: Safari Arrival Day, Big 5 Night Drive, & Bush Braai
Today you head to the Greater Kruger National Park Reserve, one of South Africa's most remarkable safari destinations. Depending on your preference and timing, you may choose to fly, shuttle with a driver, or rent a vehicle to complete the drive yourself.
The park was created in 1926 when Sabi Game Reserve joined with the adjacent Shingedzi Game Reserve and local farms to create South Africa's first national park. With a rich history and vast landscapes, the park is a must-see destination for unforgettable wildlife experiences.
Within the park, choose from a wide variety of accommodations, from rustic bush lodges and tent camps to luxury all-inclusive resorts. No matter your budget, you'll find unique lodging in a breathtaking landscape.
After arriving at the lodge, take some time to freshen up and relax. Have a drink at the bar to unwind, go for a swim, or stroll around the lodge to stretch your legs after the day's travel.
In the evening, board an open Land Cruiser for your first game drive in the park. The three-hour drive is a thrilling and exciting opportunity to see Africa's big wildlife up close. The Big 5 include elephants, buffalo, rhino, lion, and leopard, and were named by big-game hunters for being five of Africa's most dangerous animals to hunt. Keep your eyes peeled for nighttime animals as you cruise around the park in the comfort of the Land Cruiser. When darkness falls, the tour guides use spotlights to scan the nighttime for nocturnal animals.
Dinner is a bush braai—a South African take on a barbecue. Mouth-watering meats are sizzled to perfection atop an open wood fire—the perfect ending to a long day. After dinner, continue the night drive before returning to your lodge for the night.
Day 10: Big 5 Sunrise Bush Walk
Get an early start this morning for a drive to a remote location along the Olifants River for a four-hour sunrise bush walk. Surges of adrenaline will come aplenty as you spot wild African animals, but your adequately armed ranger will ensure your complete safety. Follow the area's big animals, including elephants, rhino, and lions on foot as you learn about the African bush and observe animals in their natural habitat.
Make sure you wear comfortable shoes or boots and protective clothing against the brush. Don't leave your camera and binoculars at home for this one—there's plenty to see as you follow the river's edge.
Return to the lodge for brunch, then spend a few hours resting and catching up on sleep after your early rise. In the afternoon, head out for another afternoon game drive.
Return to your lodge for dinner and a relaxing evening.
Day 11: Full Day in Kruger National Park
Spend the day exploring the park. The open-sided game vehicle allows for excellent wildlife viewing and photographic opportunities, so keep your camera on hand. Scores of giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, lions, hyenas, and countless other animals call the park home.
An incredible 517 species of park reside in the park, and over 300 Stone Age archaeological sites have been located in the area. You'll also see plenty of evidence of San and Iron Age people from 1,500 years ago in the park, with San art found throughout the entire park.
After a full day of viewing wildlife, return to your lodge for dinner and a relaxing evening.
Day 12: Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre
In the morning head to the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center, established for the medical care of injured and orphaned animals and birds. The center offers a unique experience to its visitors, allowing nature lovers to get close to the center's charismatic residents, such as lions and leopards.
The center's main philosophy centers around the idea that awareness is key if we are to save our rapidly disappearing wildlife, and to that end, Moholoholo's work has been featured in many TV shows and series. Wild Orphans, a popular show about young animals at the center, was shown internationally on the National Geographic Channel.
After lunch return to a game lodge for an afternoon game drive. After a long day, return to your accommodation for dinner and an early bedtime.
Day 13: Blyde River Canyon with Three Rondavels
Enjoy a pre-breakfast sunrise walk, then check out of your accommodation and hit the road for your journey back to Johannesburg. Make your way to Blyde River Canyon, one of the world's largest canyons and home to a wide variety of lush subtropical plants. Deep precipitous cliffs set a dramatic stage for the landscape, with the Three Rondavels—huge round rocks that form part of the Panorama Route—towering over the surrounding countryside.
Take in the sweeping views then keep driving to Johannesburg, arriving around 5:00 PM. Spend the night relaxing at your hotel, or head out for dinner at one of the many world-class restaurants in the heart of the city.
Day 14: Arrive in Mauritius, Beach & Bras d’Eau National Park
Arrive at the airport in Mauritius and transfer to your accommodation. The island is small, so no matter which overnight location you pick you'll still have access to all that Mauritius has to offer. From luxury boutique lodges on the shore to fully inclusive resorts and trendy downtown accommodations, there's a place for everyone.
After checking in, spend a few hours relaxing on the beach where the fresh sea breeze blows year-round. While Mauritius has earned a reputation as a top holiday destination, few visitors know how many different activities are on offer. Kite-surfing, hiking in nature preserves, sea cruises, beach walks—the possibilities are endless.
The paradise island has a long history of sugar and rum trading, much of which was produced by imported slave labor. During the French occupation of Mauritius, enslaved people from Africa and Madagascar provided labor to support the sugar, rum, and tea industries on the island. Later, after the abolishment of slavery, indentured servants from India and elsewhere arrived to bolster the workforce.
Although the former slaves and Indian workers far outnumbered white colonists, most lived in extreme poverty in conditions that barely exceeded slavery. Many escaped the sugar plantations, seeking refuge on the island's rocky coast and densely forested mountains. Those that didn't were subject to cruel and inhumane treatment, including the indefinite prolonging of working contracts, lack of government support, and little to no legal protections for working conditions. The 1900s brought civil unrest, with a sharp decline in sugar cane production, economic hardship, and problems with overpopulation. Today, the population of Mauritius is incredibly diverse, with a variety of ethnic groups.
The East Coast of Mauritius is famous for its beautiful beaches and emerald-colored lagoons, dotted with luxurious hotels and small towns. This area is less traveled, and the small fishing villages and stunning views of the Grand Port mountain range are well worth the trip.
Alternately, head to Bras d'Eau National Park for a guided hike through the thick bush and shaded forest. Follow an old railway line to the lava caves to see the ruins of a former sugar factory, then visit the local Milky Way observatory. Return to town in time for dinner.
Day 15: Luxury Speed Boat to Ile aux Cerfs Island
After breakfast, head out for a full day on the water. You'll take a speed boat to the privately-owned Ile aux Cerfs Island (Deer Island in English), a paradise of lush vegetation and white sand beaches. Spend the day snorkeling in the crystal blue waters of Eau Bleu, exploring the lagoon and Grand River Waterfall, and relaxing on the beach. For lunch, stop at the exclusive Ilot Mangenie, a small resort island, for delicious local barbecue and refreshing drinks. After the meal, enjoy a guitar and jambé show.
Today is all about relaxing and soaking in the coastal views: enjoy maximum comfort while taking in the breathtaking scenery from aboard the luxury speed boat.
Day 16: Grand Baie & Island Rum Tasting
After breakfast, your guide will meet you at your accommodation and transfer you to the north of Mauritius. Northern Mauritius is synonymous with Grand Baie, a premier tourist destination, and that's where you'll head today. It's the launch point for nautical adventures to the northern islands and has a variety of local boutiques, cafes, and tour operators who organize trips for the nearby archipelago.
One of the town's two beaches, La Cuvette, is a discreet hideaway from the hustle and bustle in the town center. Head here for some serenity by the water.
After, stroll through the narrow streets behind the main road, where small shops, bars, and a variety of restaurants line the charming streets.
After checking in to your hotel and grabbing lunch in town, hit the road for a rum tasting tour. You'll have the opportunity to taste three different rums, paired with carefully chosen local ingredients to bring out unique notes of each spirit. Try the island's classic cocktail, the "Gold-Fashioned"—a delightful combination of Gold of Mauritius rum, sugar cubes, finished with chocolate and tawny port.
Day 17: Aquarium & Mauritius Botanical Gardens
In the morning head to the Pointe aux Biches aquarium, an awesome family-friendly destination that houses over 200 species of Mauritian fish, invertebrates, corals, and sponges. The aquarium also features a tank with large predators like sharks—a favorite with visitors of all ages. There's also a touch pool, where kids can safely interact with some of the harmless species that live in the coastal waters around Mauritius.
In the afternoon, make your way to the National Botanical Garden of Mauritius for a guided visit. The garden is home to a wide variety of tropical plants, many of them indigenous to the island. Conveniently located in the Pamplemousse district, the garden (formerly Sir Seewoosagur Botanic Garden) is one of Port Louis' most visited attractions.
With over 300 years of curated exhibits and an endless array of colorful plants, it would take most visitors over a week to explore the entire park. Make sure to check out the highlights: the famous baobab trees, giant water lilies, dozens of medicinal plants, a large spice garden, and much more. One of the park's best exhibits is the collection of 85 different palm trees, collected from all corners of the world.
Day 18: Full Day Chamarel Tour & 7-Colored Earth
Spend the day exploring nature near the small village of Chamarel, which sits on the west coast of Mauritius. The town is renowned for its proximity to a variety of incredible natural features including the Ebony Forest, Chamarel Waterfall, 7-Colored Earth landmark, and others.
Start your full-day tour with a visit to the Ebony Forest, a small rehabilitated preserve that features thousands of planted endemic species (most notably the ebony tree, which the Dutch and British harvested for export). The preserve offers walkways and short tours that educate visitors on flora and fauna of the western coast.
Cool off with a dip in the shallow waters at the base of the thundering Chamarel Waterfall (the highest in Mauritius), then make your way to the 7-Colored Earth geologic formation. These striking dunes rise from the lush forest and are renowned for their vibrant colors, which formed as a result of uneven cooling of the lava rock. As the colorful sand settles on the dunes, it creates surrealist patterns that visitors can view from an elevated wooden walkway.
Choose between lunch at the Varangue sur Morne or the restaurant at the Rhumerie de Chamarel. After lunch, get a behind the scenes look at Mauritius' rum-making process at the Rhumerie, then end your day with a visit to the Curious Corner of Chamarel—a fun gallery featuring dozens of interactive optical illusions.
Day 19: Depart Mauritius
After breakfast, head to the airport for your connecting flight home.