Explore South Africa's diverse natural landscapes, cultural heritage, and abundant wildlife on this 16-day tour. Start in Cape Town, where you'll savor a 14-course African meal, wine taste in the Cape Winelands, and discover the V&W Waterfront. Spend two days whale and shark spotting in Hermanus, then pick up your rental car and drive to Ballito and St Lucia to snorkel in tidal pools and cruise for hippopotamus and crocodiles before ending with game drives to spot the Big Five in a private reserve.


  • Meet the locals on a cycle tour of a Cape Town neighborhood
  • Visit the African penguins of Boulders Beach
  • Step into a cage and descend into the waters of Shark Alley 
  • Snorkel, swim, and explore Kosi Bay's four lakes on a cruise
  • Go on morning and evening game drives in the Phinda Private Game Reserve

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cape Town, Dinner at GOLD Restaurant Cape Town
Day 2 Township Bicycle Tour, See Penguins at Boulders Beach Cape Town
Day 3 Take a Cable Car Up Table Mountain Cape Town
Day 4 Tasting Tour of the Cape Winelands Cape Town
Day 5 Transfer to Hermanus, Explore on Your Own Hermanus
Day 6 Shark Cage Diving Adventure Hermanus
Day 7 Fly to Durban, Transfer to Ballito, Explore on Your Own Ballito
Day 8 Snorkel Tour in Ballito Ballito
Day 9 Drive to St Lucia, Afternoon Bike Tour St Lucia
Day 10 Hippopotamus & Crocodile Cruise on the St Lucia Estuary St Lucia
Day 11 Boat Cruise Around Kosi Bay St Lucia
Day 12 Enjoy a Free Day in St Lucia St Lucia
Day 13 Drive to Phinda Private Game Reserve Phinda Private Game Reserve
Days 14-15 Explore Phinda Private Game Reserve Phinda Private Game Reserve
Day 16 Drive to Durban, Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town, Dinner at GOLD Restaurant

Enjoy a 14-course African-inspired meal with live entertainment at GOLD Restaurant

Welcome to South Africa and the picturesque port city of Cape Town! Meet your driver outside the airport and transfer to your hotel, where you can relax until dinner. In the evening, head to GOLD Restaurant for a 14-course dinner of dishes from around Africa accompanied by live entertainment. You'll be welcomed by praise singing, Mali puppetry, and dances to the rhythms of marimba percussion and djembe drums. Sit down for your first course and listen as your server highlights each dish's origins and regional ingredients. 

Work your way across the continent with each course, trying spicy curries, grilled meats, and fragrant tajines. No meal is complete without a sweet finish, so for your final course, choose from a seasonal selection of local desserts, such as Amarula cheesecake flavored with the South African cream liqueur or malva pudding, a traditional South African sponge cake. End the night by watching a tribute to African royalty as the Queen Mother from the Akhan tribe sprinkles 24-carat gold dust across the room as a symbol of wealth and power.

Day 2: Township Bicycle Tour, See Penguins at Boulders Beach

Visit the adorable African penguin colony on Boulders Beach

Delve into South Africa's rich culture and history this morning on a bicycle tour through one of the city's townships. Follow your guide through the colorful streets, stopping at a local school to meet the students and tour the facility. Visit a sangoma next, a traditional healer, to learn about their practices and watch an interactive dance and drum performance. Take a break from cycling and sit down for lunch at a local restaurant or in a resident's home to enjoy an authentic African meal. 

In the afternoon, transfer 1.5 hours south along the Cape Peninsula to Boulders Beach to visit the thriving colony of African penguins, also known as jackass penguins for their distinctive braying call. Stop at the visitor's center to learn more about this endangered species. Then, stroll along the wooden walkways and sandy shores to watch the penguins waddling about, frolicking in the crystal-clear waters, and basking in the sunshine.

Day 3: Take a Cable Car Up Table Mountain

Take a cable car up Table Mountain for panoramic views of the city and glittering ocean

One of Cape Town's most iconic landmarks is Table Mountain, which became one of the official Seven Wonders of Nature in 2020. Today, you'll visit the summit by hopping on the picturesque Table Mountain Aerial Cableway for a five-minute ride to the top, where you can enjoy far-reaching views of the cityscape below and the vast Atlantic Ocean. Sit down for a snack at the café, visit the souvenir shop to commemorate your visit, or wander down one of the trails to admire the area's natural flora and fauna. 

Take the cable car back down the mountain and head to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (V&A Waterfront for short), named after Queen Victoria and her son Prince Alfred, who started construction on the harbor in 1860. Discover the waterfront at your own pace, stopping in one of the quaint boutiques, strolling along the scenic harbor, or exploring one of the vibrant markets showcasing handmade goods and artisanal products. You could even join a boat tour of the pristine coastline if you want to get out on the water. In the evening, sit down for a delicious dinner at one of the many waterfront restaurants. 

Day 4: Tasting Tour of the Cape Winelands

Enjoy a private tour of the thriving wineries in the Cape Winelands

Leave the city behind for the day and set off on a private tour of the Cape Winelands, South Africa's lush wine region. Your knowledgeable guide will tailor the tour to your preferences, but you'll likely visit a few award-winning wineries around the charming towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, or Paarl. Try to snag a window seat on the one-hour transfer so you can watch the rolling hills, verdant vineyards, and towering mountains pass you by. Ask your driver to stop for a quick photo break if you see any landscapes you want to capture. 

Sample an array of award-winning wines at each estate, from crisp sauvignon blancs to robust cabernet sauvignon. Learn about the meticulous winemaking process and the Winelands' terroir, which lends each wine its distinctive character, then sit down for lunch at one of the estate's restaurants or a local restaurant in a nearby town. After eating, follow the cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, art galleries, and cafés through town before transferring back to your hotel in the city. 

Day 5: Transfer to Hermanus, Explore on Your Own

Follow the Hermanus Cliff Path to look for breaching southern right whales

Say goodbye to Cape Town this morning as you transfer to the coastal town of Hermanus. The shortest route to town is 1.5 hours, but your driver will take you on a 2.5-hour scenic coastal route, stopping at landmarks along the way. Visit the seaside village of Kleinmond first to discover the scenic waterfront promenade, then continue to the nearby Stony Point Nature Reserve, home to the largest breeding colonies of African penguins in the world. Wander down the wooden boardwalks to see these charismatic birds thrive in their natural habitat. 

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Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Back in the car, complete the drive to your hotel in Hermanus, where you can refresh before venturing out to explore the town on your own. If you're visiting between July and November, you can trek part of the Hermanus Cliff Path to look for southern right whales from the coast. During the rest of the year, you can join a boat cruise to see sharks, dolphins, seals, penguins, or Bryde's whales who reside here year-round. In the evening, visit the old harbor area to enjoy a fresh seafood dinner with scenic views of the bay. 

Day 6: Shark Cage Diving Adventure

Dive with great white sharks in a secure cage 

Get an early start for what's sure to be a highlight of your trip—shark cage diving. Start with a 40-minute transfer to Kleinbaai, where you'll sit down for breakfast, try on a wetsuit, and complete a safety briefing and biology lesson to learn about the great white sharks you may see later. When it's time, walk down to the harbor and board a luxury boat with your expert crew and a marine biologist. Cruise 25 minutes to Shark Alley, a narrow channel between Dyer Island and Geyser Island, named for the abundant population of apex predators attracted to the area by resident seals.

Don your wetsuit and gear, and climb into the shark-proof cage, which is slowly lowered into the water to wait for the sharks to approach. As the cage only holds a limited number of people, wait your turn while the marine biologist on board shares how and where the sharks feed, breed, and breach. You may also spot dolphins, whales, penguins, seals, and a variety of birds from the boat. After two hours on board, return to land, where you can shower and debrief with hot soup and bread to warm you up before returning to your hotel in Hermanus. 

Day 7: Fly to Durban, Transfer to Ballito, Explore on Your Own

Watch the sunset from the Dolphin Coast in Ballito

Transfer to Cape Town this morning to catch a two-hour flight to Durban and then a transfer to the tropical paradise of Ballito on the north coast, also known as the "Dolphin Coast" because of the abundant population of bottlenose dolphins. Check into your Ballito hotel, and, after refreshing, venture out to explore the area on your own. If you want to relax, head to one of the picturesque beaches, such as Thompson's Bay Beach or Willard Beach. Swim in the gentle waves, soak up the warm African sun, and enjoy a picnic lunch on the golden sands.

Those who prefer a more active adventure can visit the Harold Johnson Nature Reserve for a trek through the native forests. Explore a variety of ecosystems, from dense coastal forests to open grasslands, and encounter a diverse array of plant and animal species while you walk. You'll most likely see the reserve's avian inhabitants, including kingfishers, sunbirds, and raptors, but you may also spot monkeys, antelopes, and reptiles like snakes and lizards. In the evening, head to the coast to watch the sunset, then enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants along the beachfront promenade.

Day 8: Snorkel Tour in Ballito

Set off on a snorkeling tour to some of the tidal pools around Ballito this morning

Today, you'll set off on a snorkeling tour to discover the colorful coral reefs and diverse marine life of Ballito's coast. With warm water temperatures year-round and relatively calm conditions, this is one of the best places to snorkel, especially for beginners. Hop on board and cruise down the coast to explore safe and shallow tidal pools and natural rocky reefs, home to a kaleidoscope of tropical fish, including butterflyfish, parrotfish, and clownfish, darting among the corals. Don your gear and jump into the warm water to discover the underwater world below.

Besides fish, you may also spot rays gliding along the ocean floor or turtles grazing on seagrass. Back on board, keep an eye out for whales or playful dolphins who sometimes make an appearance. After a few hours on the water, cruise back to shore and transfer to your hotel to dry off. In the evening, visit the Ballito Lifestyle Centre on your own, a bustling shopping complex of boutiques, specialty stores, and eateries serving local and international cuisine. Grab an early dinner before returning to your hotel. 

Day 9: Drive to St Lucia, Afternoon Bike Tour

Enjoy the spectacular scenery on your drive up the coast to St Lucia

It's time to pick up your rental car for a road trip north and your first stop is St Lucia, just two hours up the coast. Navigate the lush countryside, passing through charming villages and farmland. When you reach the town of Mtunzini, the route takes you inland, winding through rolling hills and verdant valleys with occasional glimpses of towering mountains in the distance. As you approach St Lucia, the landscape transitions to wetlands and estuarine ecosystems, where animals like hippos and crocodiles thrive. 

Check into your hotel and relax for the afternoon, or choose a three-hour bicycle tour with a local Zulu guide to stretch your legs. With its flat terrain and network of scenic routes, St Lucia provides the perfect setting for a leisurely ride through lush coastal forests, along pristine beaches, and past picturesque wetlands. Stop along the way to enjoy refreshments, take in the view, and look out for various bird species, such as herons, egrets, and kingfishers. While the sun slowly sets around you, return to town to drop off your bikes and return to your hotel.

Day 10: Hippopotamus & Crocodile Cruise on the St Lucia Estuary

Get up close and personal with St Lucia's resident hippopotamus population on a two-hour boat cruise
Today, you'll explore the St Lucia Estuary, one of the world's most biodiverse wetland ecosystems. Transfer to the dock and jump on a boat to cruise through lush mangrove forests and sweeping wetlands teeming with wildlife. Learn about the region's crocodile and hippopotamus residents while you watch for them on the riverbanks or submerged beneath the surface. Listen for the distinct cry of the African fish eagle and see a variety of birds, such as kingfishers and herons. Snack on biscuits and tea while you cruise, then return to the dock after two hours on the water and transfer back to the hotel to unwind.

Day 11: Boat Cruise Around Kosi Bay

Swim and snorkel in the tranquil waters of Kosi Bay

Set off on another boat cruise today to explore Kosi Bay, four interlinked lakes that form part of the UNESCO-listed iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Transfer to the jetty and hop on a boat to navigate the tranquil channels surrounded by towering mangrove trees and lush vegetation. Look out for more colorful birds and small mammals, like vervet monkeys, galagos, and various antelope species. You may even see dolphins frolicking in the waves or sea turtles nesting on the beaches. Whenever your captain stops, jump in the water with your snorkeling gear to explore the underwater world below. 

See tropical fish, such as angelfish, parrotfish, and clownfish, and, if you're lucky, you may also see sea stars, rays, eels, and even reef sharks. In the afternoon, moor at Bhanka Nek, an untouched stretch of coastline on the southern shore of the bay. Enjoy a packed lunch, then go on a short walk over the forested dunes to reach a golden beach, where you can spend an hour or two swimming in the crystal-clear waters. Once you've had your fill of the sun, sea, and sand, walk back to the boat and return to the launch point to disembark and transfer to your hotel. 

Day 12: Enjoy a Free Day in St Lucia

Follow the Igwalagwala Trail through the coastal forest

The day is yours to spend as you wish. You could relax on one of St Lucia's pristine beaches, such as Cape Vidal Beach, to swim, sunbathe, or enjoy water sports like snorkeling and kayaking. Those who want to explore the area can choose from several excursions, such as a heritage tour, a safari through the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, or a trip to see leatherback and loggerhead turtles. For a self-guided active adventure, trek the 6.8-mile (11 km) Igwalagwala Trail through coastal forests, grasslands, and wetlands.

As you walk, you'll be treated to spectacular views of Lake St Lucia and the surrounding wetlands, providing ample opportunities for wildlife sightings and bird-watching. Stop to read the signs offering insight into the area's diverse flora and fauna to enhance the experience and learn more about the area. No matter how you spend the day, you can end the night on McKenzie Street in the center of St Lucia, where you'll find a variety of cuisine options, from seafood and traditional South African dishes to international fare.

Day 13: Drive to Phinda Private Game Reserve

Look out for the nocturnal African civet on your first game drive in the Phinda Private Game Reserve

Bid farewell to St Lucia this morning as you drive 1.5 hours north to your final destination, the Phinda Private Game Reserve. Trade the pristine beaches and tranquil waters for dense woodlands and open savannas as you make your way inland. Once you arrive, check into your lodge, where you can relax until this evening's game drive. When it's time, join your experienced guide in the safari vehicle to traverse the rugged terrain.

Watch the sun slowly set over the savanna as you look out for nocturnal creatures emerging from their daytime hideouts, such as lions, leopards, and hyenas beginning their nightly hunts. You may also spot small mammals, like genets, civets, or African wildcats, so keep an eye out for the glowing eyes of nearby creatures. After three hours, return to the lodge to enjoy dinner al fresco around the campfire. Remember to look up to admire the stars uninterrupted by city lights. 

Days 14-15: Explore Phinda Private Game Reserve

Look for members of the Big Five, such as the lion, on your twice-daily game drives

Spend the next two days exploring more of the reserve on early morning and late afternoon game drives. Wake up before dawn both days to spot the awakening wildlife before they hide from the heat of the sun. Listen as your guide teaches you about the reserve's diverse habitats and wild residents as you look for the Big Five game animals, which include lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffaloes. You may also spot rarer species, like the endangered black rhino or elusive cheetah.

When it starts to get too hot around midday, return to the lodge for lunch and to rest after your early start. In the evenings, set off on another game drive to spot more nocturnal mammals and birds, as the reserve is home to a variety of owl species, including the African scops owl, spotted eagle owl, and pearl-spotted owlet. End both nights with dinner back at the lodge under the stars.

Day 16: Drive to Durban, Depart

Leave the reserve behind as you drive yourself to the airport in Durban

After spending 16 days discovering South Africa's rich culture, natural landscapes, and abundant wildlife, your journey draws to a close today. Enjoy breakfast at the lodge, then start the three-hour drive south to the airport in Durban. Get one final look at the scenic coastline, offering glimpses of sandy beaches, crashing waves, and swaying palm trees. You'll know when you're close to Durban, as the city skyline dominated by high-rise buildings comes into view. When you arrive, drop your rental car off and head into the airport to catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Journey Along South Africa's Coast - 16 Days
Map of Journey Along South Africa's Coast - 16 Days