Wind your way through South Africa with this 12-day trip plan. Your start in Cape Town will walk you through the city views and varietals with wine tastings and scenic tours. Head up to the Winelands to sample their winning wines, then keep going through Johannesburg and all the way to Kruger National Park for a walk on the wild side. Wind down amid the waves on the west coast at Tonga Beach Lodge.

Highlights

  • Meet the populous penguin colonies of Boulders Beach
  • Hop in a cage next to Great White sharks
  • Search for the Big 5 on a safari in Kruger National Park
  • Spot the marine life surrounding 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 Shark Cage Diving Adventure Cape Town
Day 4 Cape Town to Franschhoek Franschhoek
Day 5 Cape Town to Johannesburg, Soweto Tour Johannesburg
Day 6 Johannesburg to Kruger, Big 5 Night Drive Kruger National Park
Day 7 Transfer from Safari Lodge to Bush Camp Kruger National Park
Day 8 Safari Camp, Bush Walk Kruger National Park
Day 9 Transfer from Safari to Thonga Beach Lodge Thonga Beach
Days 10-11 Thonga Activities: SCUBA, Snorkeling, & Sea Turtles Thonga Beach
Day 12 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. 

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: Cape Town to Franschhoek

Franschhoek wine tram
Franschhoek wine tram

After breakfast you will be collected and transferred via Stellenbosch to your overnight in Franschhoek.


On route to Franschhoek you will enjoy a full day eagle encounters at Spier Wine Farm. Eagle Encounters is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism centre.

Enjoy our interactive flying shows and all-day personal interactions with African Wood Owls, our famous dancing Barn Owls, Bengal Eagle Owls, snakes, Bearded Dragons, tortoises, rabbits, guinea pigs and more at Spier. Also enjoy one-on-one time with Wally, our friendly Wahlberg's Eagle and meet Leo personally, a majestic Verreaux's Eagle.


11:00   Stars in Training (interactive)

On a potluck basis, we welcome you to observe as we utilize age-old falconry techniques to train various birds. The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest living creature on earth. And nowhere in the wild would you find the opportunity to witness and photograph Africa's largest eagles in flight, close-up. Watch in awe as our experienced handlers put these majestic raptors through their paces.

Between “stars in training” and “falconry display” you can enjoy a picnic style lunch on the lawns at Spier (lunch for own account).

14:00  Falconry Display (interactive)

You are invited to spectate and participate as we fly a selection of owls, kites, buzzards, hawks and falcons around and to you. This ever-popular, interactive show is a unique and thrilling experience for all ages!


15:00  Out to Lunch with the Secretary

Our long-legged lady is always keen for a lunch date.  Not just a pretty face, this elegant bird hunts deadly snakes in its natural environment. We simulate a hunt to demonstrate the deadly accuracy of the Secretary Bird's powerful kick.

16:00     Built for the Kill (interactive)

Nature has equipped each raptor species with its own unique adaptations for individual hunting styles. We set the stage and provide the props for our performers to display their spectacularly distinctive natural talents.

After your full day at Spier Wine Farm you will be transferred to your accommodation in Franschhoek where you will enjoy 01 night (Alternatively you can spend the night at Spier).

Day 5: 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 6: 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 7: 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 8: 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 9: 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 10-11: 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 12: 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

Map of Explore South Africa: Cape Town, Winelands, Johannesburg, Safari, & Beach - 12 Days
Map of Explore South Africa: Cape Town, Winelands, Johannesburg, Safari, & Beach - 12 Days