See just how many of southern Africa's animals you can spot over the course of 16 days. After four nights in Cape Town, which include encounters with penguins and whales, you'll set off on safari through three different national parks, with a stop at Victoria Falls on the way.

Highlights

  • Enjoy panoramic Cape Town views from Table Mountain
  • Spot whales breaching on a boat tour from coastal Hermanus
  • Learn the important history of Soweto township
  • Visit Victoria Falls, one of the wonders of the natural world
  • Search for wildlife on safari in three pristine reserves

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cape Town, City Tour, & Table Mountain Cape Town
Day 2 Cape Peninsula Tour & Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden Cape Town
Day 3 Cheese, Wine, & Chocolate Tour Cape Town
Day 4 Hermanus Tour - Whales, Wine, & Water Cape Town
Day 5 Cape Town to Johannesburg, Soweto Tour Johannesburg
Day 6 Johannesburg to Sabi Sands Safari Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Days 7-8 On Safari in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Day 9 Sabi Sands to Victoria Falls Victoria Falls
Day 10 Guided Tour of Victoria Falls & Sunset Cruise Victoria Falls
Day 11 Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park Hwange National Park
Day 12 On Safari in Hwange National Park Hwange National Park
Day 13 Hwange to Mana Pools National Park Mana Pools National Park
Days 14-15 On Safari at Mana Pools National Park Mana Pools National Park
Day 16 Depart Mana Pools via Johannesburg  

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: Cape Peninsula Tour & Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

Along Chapman's Peak Drive
Along Chapman's Peak Drive

Get an early start for your full-day 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. 

Start the day on Chapman’s Peak Drive along the scenic roads of the Atlantic Seaboard. You'll pass by Llandudno and Camps Bay beaches before reaching Cape Point (an hourlong drive from Cape Town.) Afterward, head to Simon's Town (a thirty-minute drive) and visit the penguin colony and naval base (South Africa's largest) before breaking for lunch at a local seafood restaurant along the water in the sleepy fishing town.

End your day with a visit to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens (a half-hour north in Cape Town,) one of the world's most exceptional botanical gardens. Set against the slopes of Table Mountain, this lush paradise houses thousands of unique species of indigenous and exotic plants. Walk along the curved steel and timber Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway (informally known as the 'Boomslang') to see the views from the treetop canopy. 

End the day with dinner in the city before returning to your accommodation for a relaxing evening.

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: Hermanus Tour - Whales, Wine, & Water

Hermanus coastline
Hermanus coastline

Get an early start today for your full-day adventure at the seaside town of Hermanus, an international whale-watching destination with a plethora of other activities on offer. 

Formerly known as Hermanuspietersfontein, the village shortened its name in 1902 to Hermanus. Over the years the small fishing community of the rugged South Cape coastline has grown to become one of South Africa's most well-known and loved destinations. The Voëlklip and Grotto Beaches offer unparalleled views of the ocean, while the Old Harbor Museum encompasses the former harbor, fisherman's hut, and the Whale House Museum. Stop here to see the suspended whale skeleton and other fascinating exhibits. 

Pick from the following suggestions to make the most of your time on the coast: 

  • Take in the spectacular vistas of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley on a wine tour of the award-winning vineyards
  • Visit Harold Porter National Botanical Garden in the heart of the Cape Fynbos Region to see a multitude of native and exotic plants
  • Check out one of the world's largest colonies of breeding penguins and other rare birds at the Stony Point Nature Reserve with a walk along the elevated boardwalk
  • Go on a whale-watching tour to see migrating Southern Right, Humpback, and Bryde's Whales (you'll also see dolphins, seals, and thousands of sea birds!) This option is available to travelers visiting from June-November

After a full day exploring the nature and culture of the coast, return to Cape Town for a relaxed evening.

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 Sabi Sands Safari

Lounging leopard
Lounging leopard

In the morning transfer to the OR Tambo International Airport and board your domestic flight to the Ulusaba Airstrip in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. The game reserve shares a border with Kruger National Park and is home to a remarkable number of wild animals, thanks to the careful conservation efforts of the reserve staff. The Sabi and Sand Rivers run through the reserve, further adding to the ecology of the region. 

Upon arrival in Ulusaba, you'll be met by a preserve representative and transferred to your lodge, where you'll spend the night. The resort is all-inclusive, so you don't have to worry about a thing—besides taking in the views and relaxing. Twice daily, in the mornings and afternoons, head out for big game drives or walking safaris. 

Keep your eyes open for the elusive leopard—one of the reserve's top predators. In the evening, sit down to a home-style meal as you listen to the nighttime sounds of the African bush around you.

Days 7-8: On Safari in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve

Bathtime for mom
Bathtime for mom

Spend the day on safari in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.

Sabi hosts a variety of wildlife, many of which also live across the park border in the Kruger National Park. Early European landowners used the land for recreation and hunting before transforming it into the luxurious Big Five safaris of today. 

In the 1960s the neighboring Kruger Park erected fences to prevent the transmission of diseases into the park. This prompted the Sabi Sands management to fence in the entire park to keep the wildlife contained within the park boundaries. Following a 1990s agreement between the two parks, the fence between Sabi and Kruger was removed to allow wildlife to once again roam freely between the regions. 

Many inter-park projects ensure the ecological diversity and health of the plants an animals. Invasive plant control, anti-poaching activities, and fire control management are all used to improve the quality of habitat for the animals. 

These days the park is famous for its luxury lodges and Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino). Make sure to keep to also keep your eyes open for the Sabi Sands Secret Seven (serval, African wild cat, aardvark, pangolin, civet, porcupine, and large spotted genet)—the park's most elusive nocturnal wildlife. 

Over 145 mammal species, 500+ bird species, and hundreds of amphibian, reptile species, fish, and plant species call the park home. Thanks to the limited farming practices in the area, the environment appears a lot like how it did hundreds of years ago.

Day 9: Sabi Sands to Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls

Get an early start today with a transfer to the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit. Catch a flight to Livingstone Airport in Zambia, then transfer across the border to the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya in Lozi). From here continue to your hotel. 

The town of Victoria Falls in western Zimbabwe is a gateway to the incredible nearby waterfall of the same name. The native Lozi name for the falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya, means "The Smoke that Thunders". Here, the Zambezi River plunges over a cliff and into the Boiling Pot (a permanent whirlpool) before rushing through a series of steep gorges. The incredible Devil's Pool, a natural infinity pool, sits on the edge of a sheer drop. 

Victoria Falls Bridge, which was built in 1905, spans the river. Nearby, Zambezi National Park is home to spectacular Africa wildlife like white rhinos, elephants, hippos, and more. 

In the late afternoon transfer to the jetty for a dinner cruise along the Upper Zambezi. Relax on deck as you take in the views of the surrounding landscapes, then sit down to dinner as you experience an African sunset. After dinner, cruise back to the jetty and transfer to the hotel.

Day 10: Guided Tour of Victoria Falls & Sunset Cruise

Zambezi and Falls from above
Zambezi and Falls from above

In the morning, depart for a guided tour of the falls. Your first stop is the Big Tree—a  massive several-hundred-year-old baobab tree with a 72-foot (22 m) circumference. From here the tour continues to the falls themselves. Start at the statue of Livingstone, the Scottish explorer who gave the falls their European name.

Continue to Devil's Cataract, the lowest of the five falls, and proceed through the rainforest toward Danger Point—an exposed, rocky promontory. Devil's Cataract sits apart from the rest of the falls, separated by Boaruka Island, the Tonga name for "divider of waters" (the island is also known as Cataract Island). The walk to reach the point is approximately 1.9 miles (3 km) with plenty of spectacular views along the way. Please note: due to the seasonal rains, the falls are fullest in June and lowest in November. 

In the afternoon, head out for another sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Take in the sights and relax as you enjoy drinks and snacks on board. In the evening, return to the jetty and transfer to your hotel.

Day 11: Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park

Elefrolic
Elefrolic

In the morning, transfer from Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park located a 1.5-hour drive to the south in western Zimbabwe. 

The national park is covered in grasslands and mopane woods which are home to the "Big 5," along with African wild dogs and numerous other species. The park is especially famous for its large population of elephants. In the northwest region of the park, animals gather in large numbers at the Mandavu and Masuma Dams, where concealed lookouts enable visitors to get up-close without being seen. 

Bumbusi National Monument, located within the park boundaries, has been protected since 1946. It includes ruins of meticulously planned 18th-century homes and rock carvings. The monument also serves as a sacred and spiritual center for the living descendants of the Bumbusi builders. 

In the southeast of the park, waterholes like the Nyamandhlovu Pan feature elevated viewing platforms, offering visitors unparalleled views of the surrounding countryside and herds of wildlife.

Day 12: On Safari in Hwange National Park

Wild dog
Wild dog

Today is a full day on safari in Hwange National Park. Enjoy game drives, guided wildlife walks, and bird watching. You'll also have time to relax and take in the sights and sounds of the African plains. 

In the afternoon, pay a visit to the local Painted Dog Conservation Center to visit the animals. Also known as African wild or hunting dogs, these unique and highly social animals enjoy much less fame than their trunked, horned, or maned neighbors. Nevertheless, they are fascinating to study and observe.

The center is home to roughly 700 painted dogs, which live in small pockets across a handful of countries including Zimbabwe. The Conservation center's work revolves around building relationships with local communities through education and outreach programs to help the painted dogs not only survive, but also thrive. 

In the evening, enjoy dinner and a fire under the stars.

Day 13: Hwange to Mana Pools National Park

Elephant in pool
Elephant in pool

In the morning, transfer to the local airstrip to board your small aircraft to transfer to Mana Pools National Park, located in far northern Zimbabwe. (Please note that as a result of access restrictions during the summer months, the camp operates seasonally between April and mid-November.) 

Spend your time at the park soaking in the incredible nature and views on game drives, morning walks through the park and lazy afternoons at camp. 

The park is an international destination for wildlife and fishing enthusiasts, and fishing is a popular activity for visitors. Try your hand from the bank or by boat to net local bream (tilapia), barbel (catfish), and tigerfish. For dedicated fishermen and fisherwomen, rented boats and fly fishing gear are available for you to set your sights on a more serious catch.

Days 14-15: On Safari at Mana Pools National Park

Lioness with cubs
Lioness with cubs

Spend the day on safari in Mana Pools National Park.  The park includes the south bank and islands of the Zambezi River, which forms the border with Zambia. The park is famed for its wildlife sightings along the river banks and in the flood plains.

Large populations of elephants, hippos, and Nile crocodiles gather at sunrise at Long Pool. In the park's southern region, lions and other predators wait for prey around the waterhole at Chitake Spring.

At night, enjoy a fire under the stars before falling asleep to the sounds of the African bush at nighttime.

Day 16: Depart Mana Pools via Johannesburg

Take flight
Take flight

Get an early start for your full day of travel. Transfer back to the airstrip, then board your flight back to Victoria Falls International Airport. From here, board your outbound flight to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Here you'll connect with your flight home.

Map

Map of South Africa and Zimbabwe Safari: Cape Town, Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Mana Pools, & More - 16 Days
Map of South Africa and Zimbabwe Safari: Cape Town, Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Mana Pools, & More - 16 Days