Discover the pulse and heart of South Africa with in-depth tours of dynamic Johannesburg and thrilling game drives in the Timbavati Game Reserve. Bookend your luxury wildlife camp experience with stays in "Joburg," where you'll tour the Apartheid Museum, cycle around Soweto, and sample some of the city's best fine dining. As a kicker, you'll enjoy multiple safaris that go beyond the nation's famous wildlife to include its music—that's right, jazz is a part of this adventure, too.


  • Take a "jazz safari" through Johannesburg's colorful music scene
  • Spot African wildlife on game drives and bush walks in the Timbavati Game Reserve
  • Cycle around colorful Soweto, a bastion of history and culture in Johannesburg
  • See the origins of human evolution at the UNESCO-listed Cradle of Humankind

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Johannesburg, Afternoon Jazz Safari Johannesburg
Day 2 Fly to Timbavati Game Reserve, Sunset Game Drive Timbavati Game Reserve
Day 3 Kruger & Timbavati Safari Game Drives Timbavati Game Reserve
Day 4 Timbavati Safari Game Drives & Guided Bush Walk Timbavati Game Reserve
Day 5 Fly to Johannesburg, Dinner at Sanctuary Mandela Johannesburg
Day 6 Soweto Bicycle Tour & Traditional Lunch, Dinner at Marble Restaurant Johannesburg
Day 7 Apartheid Museum & Cradle of Humankind Tour, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Johannesburg, Afternoon Jazz Safari

Experience the best of South African jazz, from the clubs to the street

Welcome to South Africa! You'll arrive in Johannesburg, the nation's largest city, a bastion of history and anthropology, and a convenient safari hub for the nation's best game reserves and parks. From the airport, you'll transfer by private car to the Houghton neighborhood and Sanctuary Mandela, an all-in-one boutique hotel, cultural center, and gourmet restaurant.

Mixing comfort and history to captivating effect, this was the residence of the former South African president Nelson Mandela (affectionately referred to as Madiba) between 1992 and 1998. This period was marked by vital events in South Africa's history, including its democratic rebirth. The hotel and its grounds feature exhibits that pay tribute to Mandela's life and legacy. Also, the staff are trained as storytellers, ready to share the history behind each corner.

After checking in, you'll meet a local guide and head out for your first safari adventure. But rather than searching for lions and giraffes, you're off to discover Johannesburg's best jazz venues and experiences. During this half-day tour, you'll enjoy a private concert in the homes of jazz musicians, a home-cooked dinner, and sit down for a late set at a local jazz club. It's a great introduction to the city, its people, and its rich musical heritage.

Day 2: Fly to Timbavati Game Reserve, Sunset Game Drive

The views from your safari lodge are as epic as those in the reserve (photo courtesy of Walkers Plains)

Say goodbye to Johannesburg (for now), as this morning, you're off to the famed African bush. A driver will transfer you to the airport, where you'll board a charter flight to the airstrip at Ubabat Nature Reserve. Located in northeastern South Africa, Ubabat is right next to your ultimate destination: Timbavati Game Reserve. Covering approximately 207 square miles (536 sq km), this relatively small protected area shares an unfenced border with the massive (and iconic) Kruger National Park. As such, there's free movement of wildlife between the two areas, making for world-class safari expeditions.

You'll arrive at the edge of the reserve and Walkers Plains, a family-owned bush camp sitting on the African savanna. Expect personal attention from twin brothers Steve and James Walker, whose decades of combined experience as guides have resulted in an intimate connection with the African bush. As for the amenities, don't let the word "camp" fool you. You'll be staying in a comfy, spacious bungalow equipped with all creature comforts and a plunge pool. From the deck, you'll enjoy views of the resident wildlife and the vast savanna plains out to the famous Drakensberg Mountains.

Though you'll arrive in the late afternoon, you won't miss any safari fun. After dropping off your bags, you and your guide will hop in a 4WD vehicle for a private game drive. This twilight safari begins with sundowner drinks before continuing with a night drive. After dark, the savanna comes alive with the sound of nocturnal animals like African wildcats, honey badgers, porcupines, and even leopards out for their nightly hunt. Dinner will be served shortly after returning to camp, where your friendly guides will share stories of the park and its wildlife denizens around the campfire.

Day 3: Kruger & Timbavati Safari Game Drives

Leopards and other Big Five animals are on the safari itinerary for today (photo courtesy of Walkers Plains)

Both Timbavati and Kruger are home to hundreds of species of animals, including the famous Big Five: lions, leopards, black rhinos, African bush elephants, and Cape buffalo. After yesterday's twilight drive, you'll set out again for a full day of private game drives to spot these magnificent creatures.

The first outing is a morning drive at dawn to spot the animals when they're most active. Leading this memorable wildlife tour will be one of the camp owners, who will act as a guide and seek out the most impressive specimens at locales where they congregate in the mornings, like watering holes and riverbanks. Other incredible specimens you can photograph here include elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, impalas, and more.

After a break for lunch back at the camp (and some time to relax), you'll head out again in the afternoon. During this late-afternoon game drive, you can see the animals as they wind down for the day, plus witness a spectacular Kruger sunset over the savanna. It's also a great opportunity to spot the park's over 500 species of birds, which include starlings, hornbills, and the occasional ostrich. Afterward, you'll return to the lodge.

Plan your trip to South Africa
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 4: Timbavati Safari Game Drives & Guided Bush Walk

See more exotic animals on both safari drives and guided bush walks
Rise early for another full day of safari drives. The schedule will be similar to yesterday's, but you'll also have the option to embark on a guided bush walk to experience Africa's exotic wildlife up close. During this three to four-hour private excursion led by safari rangers, you'll hike across beautiful savanna grasslands in search of exotic wildlife. As you go, your guide will impart interesting facts about the surrounding flora and fauna, including bush survival skills like the medicinal use of native plants and tips on tracking animals.

Day 5: Fly to Johannesburg, Dinner at Sanctuary Mandela

Fly back to "Joburg" for a new hotel and more culture and city fun (photo courtesy of Peech Boutique Hotel)

Enjoy one last morning game drive before saying goodbye to your new bush friends and returning to the airstrip. There, you'll board a plane for the flight back to Johannesburg. Your accommodation this time is located in the chic suburb of Melrose.

The 4-star Peech Boutique Hotel features spacious, individually decorated rooms and suites outfitted with king beds and private balconies looking out over lush gardens. Upon arrival, you can take the edge off the flight with a nice long soak in your French tub, relax by the shimmering courtyard pool, or grab a seat at the bar in Basalt, the hotel's intimate fine-dining restaurant. In the evening, return to Sanctuary Mandela for a very special dinner. The menu at Madiba's former residence reflects both his favorite dishes and the recipes used by his personal chef. 

Day 6: Soweto Bicycle Tour & Traditional Lunch, Dinner at Marble Restaurant

Hop on a bicycle and experience the authentic side of South Africa

After breakfast, you'll travel to Soweto, located on the city's western outskirts. The history of this township is infamous in that it was founded in the 1930s by the white government of South Africa as a segregated residence for the Black population of Johannesburg. You'll learn all about Soweto's contentious history plus experience its rich culture on a private 2.5-hour cycling tour. During the ride, you'll stop at some of its most interesting historical sites, including a workers' hostel, Nelson Mandela's former home, and a local shebeen (pub), where you can mingle with locals over a beer.

The tour ends with a home-cooked lunch in Soweto. This traditional meal is called "bunny chow" and includes either stew or curry cooked over fire over fire, then served in a hollowed-out loaf of fresh bread or with pap, an African cornmeal porridge. After the bicycle tour, you can choose to spend the remainder of the afternoon at the community park or enjoy activities with kids at the local youth club.

The theme of cooking over flame continues tonight, albeit in a fine dining atmosphere. For your last dinner in South Africa, you'll snag a table at Marble Restaurant. The "meat and flame" aficionados at this exclusive eatery celebrate the quintessential South African tradition of cooking over an open flame, be it meat, poultry, seafood, or even bread. You'll feast on such delicacies, which range from seabass and salmon to lamb and rib-eye, all fresh, local, and cooked to perfect over wood fire. Expect a great night out, with delicious food paired with top South African wines, amid some of the city's best views.

Day 7: Apartheid Museum & Cradle of Humankind Tour, Depart

The literal "Cradle of Humankind" is located just outside Johannesburg

Conclude your grand tour of South Africa with a deep dive into its history, both recent and ancient. First up is a private tour of the Apartheid Museum. Though the main focus is the country's apartheid policy of forced segregation, it also offers an overview of 20th-century South African history. It does this through fascinating exhibits, both permanent and temporary, which allow visitors to bear witness to a particularly dark period in the nation's history.

Later, travel 31 miles (50 km) northwest of the city to the Cradle of Humankind. This massive paleontological site (recognized by UNESCO) features the highest concentration of human ancestral remains in the world. Your private guide will lead you to 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. Continue to the Maropeng Visitor Center, where you'll learn more about the development of Hominids. Afterward, you'll transfer to the airport in time to catch your flight home. Until next time!

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Map of Luxury South Africa City & Safari Adventure: Johannesburg & Timbavati Game Reserve - 7 Days
Map of Luxury South Africa City & Safari Adventure: Johannesburg & Timbavati Game Reserve - 7 Days