Take 12 days to saunter through South Africa with this itinerary. You'll start in Cape Town, driving the scenic route out to the Cape of Good Hope and penguins of Boulders Beach, before you get in the water on a great white cage dive and sunrise sea kayak (separately, of course). From there you'll continue to Franschhoek for some time among the grape vines, followed by a safari through the Kalahari reserve before you return home.

Highlights

  • Drive the scenic route down Chapman’s Peak Drive
  • Take in the views from atop Table Mountain
  • Try out Cape Town’s extreme sports scene
  • Sample the world-class wines of Franschhoek
  • Search for wildlife on safari with Tswalu Kalahari

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cape Town Cape Town
Day 2 Guided Cape Peninsula Sidecar Tour Cape Town
Day 3 Shark Cage Diving Adventure Cape Town
Day 4 Guided Sea Kayak & Table Mountain Tour Cape Town
Day 5 Free Day in Cape Town Cape Town
Day 6 Cape Town to Franschhoek, Afternoon Free Franschhoek
Day 7 Guided Bike Tour of the Winelands Franschhoek
Day 8 Winelands to Kalahari Game Reserve Tswalu Kalahari Reserve
Days 9-11 Kalahari Safari Tswalu Kalahari Reserve
Day 12 Depart Kalahari via Cape Town or Johannesburg  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town

Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background
Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background

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. 

After checking in to your accommodation, spend the afternoon relaxing, taking in the views, and exploring the town. In the evening, head to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Shop for art and crafts at the expansive Watershed market, visit the Two Oceans Aquarium to explore underwater life, or enjoy a harbor cruise as you watch the sunset. Other options include the Diamond Museum, which explores the history of the diamond rush in South Africa, or a helicopter flight to see Cape Town's sights from the sky. 

For dinner,  choose from a variety of restaurant and bar options.

Day 2: Guided Cape Peninsula Sidecar Tour

Cape Point
Cape Point

Hit the road with your guide for a full-day sidecar adventure on this Cape Peninsula your. 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 Cape Peninsula has outstanding flora and fauna and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Cape Floral Region. 

Head out from Cape Town early in the morning, passing Cape Town University and Constantia before heading for Ou Kaapse Weg in Noordhoek. Stop here for a coffee break and some photos, then head to the Cape Point Nature Reserve where you will visit the Cape of Good Hope and the lighthouse.

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.

In the afternoon head to the scenic Boyes Drive above Muizenberg—famous for its surfing—then continue to the Constantia Winelands district. Pick from the many wineries to experience a South African wine tasting, then return to the city in time for dinner.

Day 3: Shark Cage Diving Adventure

This could be you
This could be you

Get an early start for your full-day shark diving adventure. Meet the rest of your group at the Great White House in Kleinbaai, a two-hour drive from Cape Town, where you'll gather for breakfast and a wetsuit fitting. Throughout the day, you'll be accompanied by a marine biologist and an expert crew, who will guide you on the whole experience. No previous diving experience is necessary.

Kick things off with a pre-trip safety briefing, as well as a biology lesson on the life history of great white sharks. From here, make the short walk down to the harbor to board Slashfin—a custom-designed, luxury boat named after a legendary shark with a unique dorsal fin. It's an exhilarating 20-25 minute boat ride to Dyer Island, which, together with the nearby Geyser Island, forms a narrow channel known as Shark Alley.  Keep in mind that depending on the time of year, the ride to Shark Alley can be quite cold and windy, so be sure to bring a jacket. 

After finding a suitable place to anchor, the adventure begins! You'll spend about two hours anchored, but this depends on shark activity, conditions, as well as the number of divers. After getting suited up, dive down to see the incredible animals close-up from the safety of a shark-proof cage. While you're waiting for your turn, spend time learning about the behavior of this misunderstood apex predator. You'll learn how and where the sharks feed, breed, and breach. 

Depending on the day, you'll likely also see at least two or more members of the Marine Big Five—dolphins, whales, penguins, seals, and sharks, as well as a variety of bird species. After the dive, if the weather permits, take a quick trip through the infamous Shark Alley. 

Arrive back at the Great White House, and debrief with soup and bread to warm you up. Showers are available here if you want to freshen up before heading out for your next adventure.

Return to Cape Town in the evening.

Day 4: Guided Sea Kayak & Table Mountain Tour

Looking down the cableway
Looking down the cableway

Start your morning off with a sunrise kayak on the Cape Town coast. Meet your guide at Moullie Point, then cruise on comfortable and stable kayaks as you keep watch for dolphins, sunfish, and whales. Depending on your ability level, enjoy a relaxed morning paddle or test your skill on the water as you cruise around looking for wildlife. 

In the afternoon, let your arms rest with a hop-on-hop-off tour aboard the distinctive, 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 rotating cable car for spectacular views of the city, mountains, and ocean. Once at the top, take in the scenery from the walking paths. Keep an eye out for the playful dassies sunbathing in the sun (surprisingly, the little creatures are actually the elephant's closest living relative). 

Take the cable car down the mountain, then return Cape Town in time for dinner at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, where you'll find a variety of fine dining restaurants and pubs with views of the ocean.

Day 5: Free Day in Cape Town

Paragliders over Sea Point
Paragliders over Sea Point

Today is a free day in Cape Town. Take the day to explore at your own pace, with plenty of museums, sightseeing, and adventure options available. 

  • Browse seven floors of contemporary African art at the Zeitz Museum, which collects and exhibits 21st-century art from the African continent and its diaspora
  • Fly high over the farmlands and rolling hills of the Winelands on a sunrise hot air balloon ride
  • Soar above the city with a tandem paragliding flight. Launch from Lion's Heads to enjoy a bird's eye view of Table Mountain, Signal Hill, and the Twelve Apostles
  • Take an urban running tour of the city to explore neighborhoods, park trails, and the township of Gugulethu
  • Get an adrenaline rush on a static-line parachute jump or a tandem skydive high above Cape Town
  • Wind down the day with drinks and a sunset cruise aboard a chartered boat

Day 6: Cape Town to Franschhoek, Afternoon Free

Franschhoek wine tram
Franschhoek wine tram

In the morning, transfer to Franschhoek, an hourlong drive from Cape Town. One of South Africa's oldest European towns, Franschhoek is nestled in the Franschhoek Valley in the mountains of the Cape Winelands. This area is the heartland of South Africa's food and wine, with award-winning wineries around every corner. 

The original inhabitants of this region are the herder Khoikhoi and the hunter-gatherer San people. In the late 17th century, French Huguenot refugees arrived in the valley, bringing wine agriculture and establishing family farms. 

After checking in, spend the afternoon exploring the region and everything it has to offer. 

  • Franschhoek boasts several of South Africa's 'Top 100' restaurants and is renowned as a culinary capital. Choose from one of several excellent options and enjoy a decadent meal and world-class wine
  • Tour the area's wine cellars, many of which are housed in original Cape Dutch homesteads complete with towering oaks and rolling vineyards. From small boutique wineries to extensive cellars, the options are as varied as the wine they produce
  • View local and national art at the art galleries which line Huguenot Road, the town's main shopping street
  • Recharge and relax at one of the area's many luxurious spas
  • Go shopping for gifts and treasures to bring home in the town's shops and boutiques. Browse for wine, jewelry, artwork, chocolates, and more to bring back. Many of the area's wine estates also feature bakeries where guests can purchase baked bread, fresh olive oils, charcuterie, and much more
  • Visit the luxurious Val de Vie resort for a game of polo or golf at the award-winning Paarl Valley golf course 
  • Rent a bicycle and explore the area on your own, or opt for a horseback wine-tasting tour
  • Explore the Franschhoek Valley with a hike on the trails in nearby Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve
  • If you're having a hard time deciding where to spend your day, join a local tour to visit a curated selection of wineries, with options for all tastes and palates
  • For a wine tasting you'll never forget, take a ride on the Franschhoek Wine Tram as it winds its way through the lush valley vineyards. Hop off when you reach your preferred winery, then enjoy a world-class picnic in the vineyards before catching the tram to the next winery

Day 7: Guided Bike Tour of the Winelands

So many views
So many views

Start your morning with a pickup from your accommodation for your full-day biking tour. Spend the day riding a mountain bike through the vineyards of the Franschhoek Valley, stopping along the way for wine tastings. End the tour with a picnic lunch in the shade of centuries-old oak trees at a wine estate. 

Although the biking distances are short (maximum 12 miles/ 20 km), there's always an option to ride along in the support vehicle if you need a break.

Return to Franschhoek afterward for a relaxing rest of the day. 

Day 8: Winelands to Kalahari Game Reserve

Flamingos above the dunes
Flamingos above the dunes

In the morning make your way to the Cape Town International Airport for your domestic flight to the Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Reserve, located in the northern region of the country, near the border with Botswana

Although the word 'desert' often conjures images of a desolate landscape, the Kalahari is anything but that. Semi-arid grasslands, open savannahs, and a remarkable range of habitats characterize this landscape.

Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa's largest private game reserve, with a wealth of natural resources and abundant game. Spend your time here exploring the green Kalahari and relaxing in the oasis-like resort. The reserve is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the area's grasslands and mountains, with no more than 30 guests allowed on the property at a time. Because of this, the preserve feels like a complete wilderness experience, with plenty of opportunities to explore the savannah alone.

Within the park boundaries, the rolling Kalahari dunes meet the Korannaberg Mountains, creating a unique ecosystem that shelters a remarkable variety of wildlife. Familiar animals like zebra, buffalo, springbok, and kudu call this landscape home. White rhinos and critically endangered desert black rhinos roam free within the park, as do the remarkable black-maned lions. 

The unique landscape provides shelter for several other rare animals: breeding herds of endangered Roan and Sable antelope, Hartmann's mountain zebras, and cheetahs. Keep an eye out for the smaller and more reclusive park residents—aardvark, elusive pangolin, aardwolves, bat-eared foxes, and African wildcats.

To experience the park's smallest creatures up close, visit the local meerkat colonies to see the charismatic animals in their natural habitat. Dedicated park researchers have gradually habituated two colonies to accept human presence without altering their behavior. Visit the colony and experience natural meerkat behavior firsthand.

Days 9-11: Kalahari Safari

Gemsbok antelopes at sunrise
Gemsbok antelopes at sunrise

Spend the day experiencing the Kalahari landscapes. Go for a guided game drive on your schedule—there are no set timetables here. Enjoy the scenery from up close on a bush walk, touching the vegetation and fully immersing yourself in the savannah. Inspect bird nests and animal burrows, examine insects, and learn about each plant's unique properties from the experienced bush guides. 

At night, a walk through the bush brings a new set of sights and sounds as nocturnal animals like the brown hyena come out to scavenge and hunt. 

For a different perspective of the bush, head out for a horseback ride through the savannah. On horseback, animals react differently, giving you an insider's view of local wildlife habits. Explore the grassy plains and rolling plains in the late afternoon sun, enjoying views of the arid savannah as you become part of the landscape. 

The horses here are trained to accommodate riders of all abilities, including children. Young guests are also welcome in the reserve stables, where they can spend the day learning to care for the horses.

Day 12: Depart Kalahari via Cape Town or Johannesburg

Kalahari sunset
Kalahari sunset

After your final morning board a flight to Cape Town or Johannesburg, then continue your journey home.

Map

Map of Discover South Africa: Cape Town, Winelands, & Tswalu Kalahari - 12 Days
Map of Discover South Africa: Cape Town, Winelands, & Tswalu Kalahari - 12 Days