Enjoy 11 days amid some of South Africa's most enticing attractions with this trip plan. You'll embark to Cape Town to start, with three nights in the urban environment to experiment with the city's culinary and cultural attractions. A brief intermission in Johannesburg will educate you on some of that city's expansive history, then go on to experience the ecological side of South Africa with three nights on safari in Kruger National Park and two more atop the sandy expanses of the Thonga Beach Lodge.


  • Take a scenic drive down the Cape Peninsula
  • Sip from the famous cellars of the Cape Winelands
  • See the urban sights of Johannesburg
  • Search for the Big 5 on a safari in Kruger National Park
  • Catch some sun or sea kayak at the Tonga Beach Lodge

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cape Town, City Tour & Table Mountain Cape Town
Day 2 Atlantic Seaboard, Cape Peninsula, & Wine Tasting Cape Town
Day 3 Cheese, Wine, & Chocolate Tour Cape Town
Day 4 Cape Town to Johannesburg, Soweto Tour Johannesburg
Day 5 Johannesburg to Kruger, Big 5 Night Drive Kruger National Park
Day 6 Transfer from Safari Lodge to Bush Camp Kruger National Park
Day 7 Safari Camp, Bush Walk Kruger National Park
Day 8 Transfer from Safari to Thonga Beach Lodge Thonga Beach
Days 9-10 Thonga Activities: SCUBA, Snorkeling, & Sea Turtles Thonga Beach
Day 11 Transfer to Johannesburg from Thonga, Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town, City Tour & Table Mountain

Cable car to Table Mountain
Cable car to 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: Atlantic Seaboard, Cape Peninsula, & Wine Tasting

Chapman’s Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive

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 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. 
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Day 3: Cheese, Wine, & Chocolate Tour

Overlooking the Winelands
Overlooking the Winelands

Enjoy a full-day cheese, wine, and chocolate tour—a heavenly combination. You'll sample dark chocolates, creamy cheeses, and superb wine while experiencing South Africa's stunning scenery and acclaimed hospitality. 

Start your day with a 1-hour drive to the Fairview Winery. With several hundred years of wine-making heritage originating on the farm, it's no wonder that Fairview wine has become a cornerstone of South African wine history. Enjoy a wine and goat cheese tasting in an intimate setting, then head outside to visit the winery's furry mascots (baby goats!) and take in the beautiful views. 

Your next stop is the Tokara winery in Stellenbosch for wine tasting, located on the southern slopes of Simonsberg Mountain about 20 minutes down the road. Round out your wine tour with a 20-minute drive to visit Bilton, on the foothills of the Helderberg Mountains. Here you can sample fine South African wines, accompanied by dark Belgian chocolates to complement the flavors of the wines.

Return to Cape Town in the evening.

Day 4: Cape Town to Johannesburg, Soweto Tour

Johannesburg skyline at sunset
Johannesburg skyline at sunset

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.

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 the South African comedian Trevor Noah. 

In the afternoon head out for a guided half-day tour of the Soweto Township. 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. 

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 art—the perfect excuse to stop for a mid-afternoon treat and a quick shop for souvenirs.

Today's tour includes a tapas-style lunch at a local joint and a visit to the Kliptown Youth Program, an after-school tutoring and personal development program for disadvantaged youth. After the tour, stop at a tavern for a beer or a soft drink to reflect on the day's experiences. 

Day 5: Johannesburg to Kruger, Big 5 Night Drive

Male lion at Balule Nature Reserve
Male lion at Balule Nature Reserve

Today you head to the Greater Kruger National Park, 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 and the adjoining private reserves that make up Greater Kruger, choose from a wide variety of accommodations, from rustic bush lodges and tent camps to 5-star luxury all-inclusive resorts. No matter what 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 biggest 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. 

Top off the evening with a drink as you listen to the sounds of the nighttime bush life.

Day 6: Transfer from Safari Lodge to Bush Camp

Giraffes on patrol
Giraffes on patrol

After a game drive in the morning and a filling brunch, transfer to your safari camp in an open 4x4 vehicle. 

Settle into your tent and explore the camp, then enjoy tea time followed by a brief introduction to bush walks by your guide. The guides in the park pass strict requirements to lead tours and hold the highest possible qualification. After the informational meeting, head out with your armed guides for an introductory walk. Return to your vehicle in time for sundowners and a short night drive, then enjoy dinner at camp under the starry skies. 

Day 7: Safari Camp, Bush Walk

Hippo gathering
Hippo gathering

After an early morning wake-up, enjoy coffee with rusks (a South African tradition) then head out with your guide for a safari walk. Nothing is predictable in the bush, so each new walk offers a unique opportunity to see African wildlife. Your guides will share specialized knowledge about the park's birds, animals, and medicinal plants. They'll also share local folklore, basic tracking, and traditional survival techniques.

Walking trails in the bush are best enjoyed in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday heat. Return to camp in time for brunch and relax during the heat of the day. Cool off with a dip in the pool and enjoy the views of the plains where zebra, buffalo, giraffe, elephant, rhino, and lions gather. 

In the afternoon head out for another game drive followed by a short walk, then return to the vehicle for sundowners before returning to camp for dinner. 

If you want the ultimate African Bush experience, opt for an overnight tent sleep out. The giant treehouse and tall elevated platforms provide safety from the wildlife while giving you unparalleled views of the sunrise. Head out in the late afternoon for the one-hour walk to the tents, arriving in time for dark. Enjoy sundowners by the watering hole as your guides prepare the fire and a traditional South African braai (barbecue).

Day 8: Transfer from Safari to Thonga Beach Lodge

Kruger at sunrise
Kruger at sunrise

After one final morning bush walk, return to camp for brunch and a shower before packing up. Drive to Skukuza or Nelspruit Airport, then catch your charter flight to Mazengwenya Airstrip. The flight is incredible, with views of Kruger, Swaziland, and northern Zululand. 

From the airstrip, you'll take a 4x4 ride to Thonga Beach Lodge, a scenic half-hour drive on sandy roads. 

On arrival, you'll be welcomed with a refreshing drink and ocean breeze. Take some time to relax and sunbathe on the deck, or enjoy afternoon coffee and cake before treating yourself to a pamper session in the Sea Spa. 

In the evening, head to the bar for a drink before ending the night with dinner under the stars.

Days 9-10: Thonga Activities: SCUBA, Snorkeling, & Sea Turtles

Whales from above
Whales from above

Spend the day exploring the coastal area, enjoying all the activities the resort has to offer. 

Go SCUBA diving at Mabibi, with diving options ranging from beginner to advanced. A myriad of fish, dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles inhabit the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. If SCUBA diving isn't your thing, board a boat for a trip out to the open ocean for snorkeling and incredible views. 

Explore the coast on a sea kayak, take in the sunsets from the beach decks, or visit beautiful Lake Sibaya. Learn about the local indigenous people on a Tsonga cultural tour, go for a nature walk in the forest, or simply relax with a spa treatment at the resort. 

If you're visiting from November to January, join a nighttime beach walk to see sea turtles laying their eggs. You'll witness the culmination of an incredible open ocean journey as giant leatherback and loggerhead turtles come ashore to carefully dig nests in the sand and lay their precious eggs. In December, tiny baby hatchlings emerge and make their frantic dash to the water. 

The turtles' safety is threatened by a variety of factors throughout their lives, so every precaution is taken to ensure that they are not disturbed during the laying process. Information collected during the turtle walks and drives is submitted to the Ezemvelo Turtle Monitoring Program to aid in research projects.

Day 11: Transfer to Johannesburg from Thonga, Departure

Wave to the waves
Wave to the waves

After breakfast, check out of your Thonga resort and hop into a 4x4 vehicle to meet your transfer for your trip back to Richards Bay Airport

Board a short flight back to O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, then meet your connecting flight back home. Safe travels!


Map of Explore South Africa: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Safari, & Beach - 11 Days
Map of Explore South Africa: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Safari, & Beach - 11 Days
Written by Sonya Pevzner, updated Feb 18, 2021