The area in and around Johannesburg is full of history, from the rise of Nelson Mandela to the evolution of the first human ancestors. Discover it all on this eight-day itinerary covering the largest city in South Africa and one of the largest game reserves on the continent. Visit Mandela's home in Houghton, learn traditional cooking methods in Soweto, and see the "Big Five" in Kruger National Park before the week is out on this fascinating trip.


  • Visit the neighborhood where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu grew up
  • Spend a few days among the animals of Kruger National Park
  • Experience the Jazz Age at the Marabi Jazz & Dinner Club
  • Walk among humanity's ancestors at the Cradle of Humankind

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Johannesburg, Dinner at Sanctuary Mandela Johannesburg
Day 2 Visit Soweto & Apartheid Museum Johannesburg
Day 3 Transfer to Kruger National Park & First Game Drive Kruger National Park
Day 4 Spend a Day in the Kruger Bush with Two Game Drives Kruger National Park
Day 5 Kruger Bush Walk & Game Drives Kruger National Park
Day 6 Transfer to Johannesburg, Maboneng Tour, Marabi Jazz & Dinner Club Johannesburg
Day 7 Cradle of Humankind & Sterkfontein Caves, Yeoville Dinner Club Johannesburg
Day 8 Depart Johannesburg  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Johannesburg, Dinner at Sanctuary Mandela

Jo'burg's central Nelson Mandela Square

Welcome to Johannesburg! Known as the "City of Gold" and "Jo'burg," South Africa's largest city is also one of the world's largest urban areas, with a sprawling system of surrounding townships that date back to the segregation of Apartheid. After transferring from the airport, settle into your accommodations and get ready for an exciting week of history, nature, and culture—starting with an unforgettable dinner at Sanctuary Mandela.

Built on the site of Nelson Mandela's former home in the Houghton suburb of Johannesburg, Sanctuary Mandela is part boutique hotel, part tribute to the former president and human rights activist. The space includes thoughtfully designed exhibits, vestiges of the original house, and Insights Restaurant, where you will be dining tonight. The menu, prepared by his personal chef of over 20 years, Xoliswa Ndoyiya, reflects Mandela's favorite dishes. 

Day 2: Visit Soweto & Apartheid Museum

A "Welcome to Soweto" street sign with a few houses and a road in the background
A "Welcome to Soweto" sign

No trip to South Africa is complete without a stop in Soweto, a township of Johannesburg and perhaps the only place in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize winners—Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu—lived on the same street! Today, you'll tour Soweto by bicycle, and one of your stops will be at the open-air kitchen and restaurant Lebo's. Learn how to cook in traditional potjies (cast iron pots), blending together garden herbs and produce from the local market.

On your way back to Johannesburg, stop over at the Apartheid Museum, a museum dedicated to the history of 20th-century South Africa with a focus on Apartheid. With permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum offers guests the opportunity to learn about and bear witness to a particularly dark period in the country's history.

Day 3: Transfer to Kruger National Park & First Game Drive

Sunset with silhouettes of antelope
Sunset over Kruger National Park
Your driver will be waiting this morning to transfer you east into the savannas of Kruger National Park, where you'll spend the next three nights on a safari adventure. Kruger is Africa's oldest and largest national park, encompassing over 7,580 square miles (19,633 sq km) and six distinct ecosystems. It's also considered one of the best locations to spot the Big Five of African wildlife: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and Cape buffalo.
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Once settled in, prepare yourself for your first game drive. Dusk is one of the busiest times for the park's wildlife, as lions and hyenas begin their evening hunts and diurnal animals like zebras and antelope gather in numbers to sleep. During this twilight safari, you'll stop for drinks and continue with a night drive after sunset as the savanna comes alive with the sound of nocturnal animals. Dinner is served shortly after arriving back at camp, where your friendly guides will share stories of the park and its residents around the campfire.

Day 4: Spend a Day in the Kruger Bush with Two Game Drives

A Day in the Kruger Bush with Two Game Drives
Some of the animals you might spot in the national park
The best time to spot Kruger's famous residents (including the popular Big Five) is in the early morning and late afternoon, when the sun is not too hot, and the animals are more active. Today you'll embark on two game drives, starting at dawn as the sun rises over the savanna. Spend as much time as you like observing the flora and fauna of Kruger, stopping along the way to visit busy waterholes, scenic viewpoints, and beautiful picnic sites, where you can take a break from all the wildlife spotting and stretch your legs.
Return to camp late morning for breakfast and some relaxation, then enjoy a late lunch before heading back out for the afternoon/night game drive. After an unforgettable Kruger sunset and an evening of nocturnal animal spotting, you'll return to camp to enjoy another delicious dinner under the stars or in the camp restaurant.

Day 5: Kruger Bush Walk & Game Drives

Two young elephants playing in Kruger National Park
Two young elephants play in Kruger
On your last day in the bush, your guide will tailor your morning and evening drives to give you the best chance to see any animals that you haven't spotted yet. Besides the Big Five, Kruger National Park is home to mammals like cheetahs, zebras, and wildebeests, as well as plenty of birds, crocodiles, snakes, and other creatures. For a slightly different, but no less remarkable, experience, consider going on a bush walk to get a closer view of the park's mountains, bush plains, and tropical forests. 

Day 6: Transfer to Johannesburg, Maboneng Tour, Marabi Jazz & Dinner Club

Maboneng Walking Tour
The vibrant arts district of Maboneng

After breakfast at the lodge, your driver will pick you up for the transfer back to Johannesburg. Discover more of the eastern side of the Inner City today with a walking tour of Maboneng, a former industrial area turned thriving arts district. Meaning "Place of Light" in Sesotho, one of the official languages of South Africa, the neighborhood is home to former warehouses transformed into bars, boutiques, and art galleries. You'll pass by many points of interest today, among them the Southern Hemisphere's largest used bookstore and the city's oldest healer's market. 

In the evening, you're off to the Marabi Club, Johannesburg's premier jazz venue. Located downtown and tucked away in the basement of Hallmark House, a modernist boutique hotel, Marabi has a fun, speakeasy vibe. After all, the club has its origins as an illegal shebeen (bar) in the 1920s and 30s. Once you sit down inside, the impeccably dressed staff will be there to serve fine food and drink accompanied by the best live jazz in the city.

Day 7: Cradle of Humankind & Sterkfontein Caves, Yeoville Dinner Club

A view of the Maropeng Visitor Center
The Maropeng Visitor Center

Today, your guide will drive you north to the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage site that sits on a whopping 116,139 acres (47,000 ha) of land. The site boasts the highest concentration of human ancestral remains in the world. You'll tour some of the places where these remains were discovered, including the Sterkfontein Caves, where a 2.3 million-year-old fossil of Australopithecus africanus was uncovered in 1947, and learn more about the development of hominins, at the Maropeng Visitor Center.

Tonight, enjoy a meal that is at once welcoming and worldly when you visit Yeoville Dinner Club. Tucked away in an area of Johannesburg's inner city known for its diverse pan-African population, this private restaurant is owned by chef Sanza Sandile, who cooks and hosts dinner each night. Expect to share the table with folks from all over the world as you enjoy vibrant conversation and several courses of African dishes created with ingredients from the market just down the street.

Day 8: Depart Johannesburg

Sunset over Johannesburg

Your South African adventure draws to a close today as your private driver collects you from your hotel to transfer you to the airport for your flight home or to your next destination. Safe travels!

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Map of History & Wildlife in South Africa: Johannesburg & Kruger National Park - 8 Days
Map of History & Wildlife in South Africa: Johannesburg & Kruger National Park - 8 Days