Explore the magic of South Africa on this nine-day, self-drive adventure. Start in Cape Town, where you'll take a cable car up Table Mountain and visit penguins on Boulders Beach. Then, it's off to the seaside town of Mossel Bay for a guided safari and close encounters with wildlife like zebras, elephants, and rhinos. Hop a flight to the beaches of Durban for some swimming and surfing, then finish your trip in St Lucia, where you'll cruise the St Lucia Estuary and see the hippos and crocodiles that live there.

Highlights

  • See breathtaking views of Cape Town from the heights of Table Mountain
  • Tour Robben Island and learn about its Apartheid-era history
  • Stroll Durban's sandy beaches and swim in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean
  • Get up close and personal with hippos and crocodiles in St Lucia

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cape Town, Table Mountain Tour, V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Day 2 Penguins at Boulders Beach, GOLD Restaurant Show Cape Town
Day 3 Visit Robben Island, Cape Town Walking Tour Cape Town
Day 4 Drive to Mossel Bay Mossel Bay
Day 5 Wildlife Spotting at Botlierskop Game Reserve Mossel Bay
Day 6 Fly to Durban Durban
Day 7 Drive to St Lucia, Hippo & Crocodile Boat Cruise St Lucia
Day 8 Free Day in St Lucia, Drive to Durban St Lucia
Day 9 Depart Durban  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town, Table Mountain Tour, V&A Waterfront

Table Mountain Tour
Ride a cable car to the top of Cape Town's Table Mountain

Welcome to South Africa! Upon arrival in Cape Town, pick up your rental car and head to your hotel. After check-in, it's time to start your South Africa adventure. Your first activity takes you to the iconic Table Mountain, where you'll travel by cable car to an elevation of more than 3,500 feet (1,084m) for a spectacular panoramic overlook of the city and sea below. 

Later this evening, you'll have the chance to experience some of the culinary offerings of the V&A Waterfront, one of Cape Town's most popular districts for both locals and visitors. This scenic harbor, which sits on the Atlantic shore, has a long and storied history. Construction on the 303-acre (123 ha) site began in 1860 on orders by England's Prince Alfred, son of Queen Victoria (hence the "V" and "A"). The waterfront has since become a gastronomic and commercial wonderland, where you can take your pick of a wide range of cuisines.

Day 2: Penguins at Boulders Beach, GOLD Restaurant Show

Penguins at Boulders Beach
Meet the endangered penguins of Boulders Beach

Today, you'll take a 40-minute drive to nearby Simon's Town, home to Boulders Beach—perhaps the most famous beach in this part of South Africa and one of the only places in the world where you can walk with African penguins. The rocky beach on a sheltered bay is home to a colony of thousands of these flightless birds, and today you'll take a stroll alongside them via a network of boardwalks and even on the sand.

African penguins are only found on the coast of South Africa and Namibia and are currently on the verge of extinction. As a result, the penguins are under the protection of Cape Nature Conservation. You'll be able to view the penguins in their natural habitat, and because they are used to visitors, don't be surprised if they walk right up to you! 

After you drive back to Cape Town from Simon's Town, enjoy an authentic African experience with dinner at GOLD Restaurant. A night at GOLD is an immersive experience that will take you on a 14-dish taste-safari paired with traditional stories and songs. See the archetypal African tales told through live entertainment, which includes praise singing, Mali puppetry, and dancing to the rhythms of the marimba percussion and djembe drums—you'll even get to feel the heartbeat of Africa yourself with a pre-dinner interactive djembe drumming session.

Day 3: Visit Robben Island, Cape Town Walking Tour

See the Castle of Good Hope on today's Cape Town city tour

Today starts with a tour of Robben Island, where you'll learn about the history of the island and surrounding areas. Board a ferry from the Nelson Mandela Gateway, located at the V&A Waterfront, and take a short ride to Murray's Bay Harbor, which is located on the east side of the island. From there, you'll tour the prison and learn about the island's 500-year-old-history, see the cemetery where leprosy victims were buried, visit the lime quarry and Robert Sobukee House, and step into the cell that housed Nelson Mandela. 

Back on the mainland, continue your journey through Cape Town's history with a guided tour of the city. Start at Cape Town Stadium and discover the different eras of its history and the people who shaped it. Visit the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood, which was originally part of the slave trade. When formerly enslaved peoples were finally granted the right to own property, they painted the white houses bright colors as an expression of freedom. The tour also includes Company's Garden, a park that dates back to the 1650s, and Iziko Slave Lodge, a museum dedicated to the history of slavery in the region.
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Nearby sits Green Market Square, which once served as a slave market, vegetable market, and center for political protests. Just down the street is the 17th-century Castle of Good Hope, South Africa's oldest existing Dutch East India colonial building. You'll also see several memorials and monuments, including the District Six Museum, commemorating the forced relocation under Apartheid. Tonight, head to vibrant Kloof Street for dinner, where you can take your pick of trendy bars and eateries.

Day 4: Transfer to Mossel Bay

Views of Mossel Bay
It's onto to your next destination today, as you travel from Cape Town to Mossel Bay. The 238-mile (384 km) drive takes approximately four hours, traveling along highway N2. Along the way, you'll pass through the town of Swellendam, where you can stop for lunch, visit one of the museums in their "museum precinct," or stroll through the Sulina Faerie Sanctuary in search of fairies amidst charming mushroom rings and wishing wells.
 
After you arrive in Mossel Bay and check in at your hotel, you're free to enjoy some of the activities offered here. Explore the bay's more than 37 miles (60 km) of beaches, such as Hartenbos and Klein Brakrivier, both awarded the coveted international Blue Flag status for safety, cleanliness, and environmental standards. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, check out Mossel Bay Zip Line, the world's longest ocean zip line, taking you across ocean waves at 80 mph (50 kph). Later, enjoy a meal at a local restaurant before resting up for tomorrow. 

Day 5: Wildlife Spotting at Botlierskop Game Reserve

Lions at Botlierskop Game Reserve

Switch gears today as you head into Botlierskop Game Reserve, home to over 26 different species of animals and over 200 resident bird species. For a true safari experience, opt for a guided game drive and enjoy close encounters with rhinos, lions, elephants, buffalo, giraffes, rare black impalas, golden wildebeest, mountain zebras, hippos, and more! You can also try your hand at fishing with an experienced guide or take off time on your own and ask your guide to arrange a fishing rod and tackle. Fish species you are likely to catch include blue carp, largemouth bass, and freshwater eels. 

If your idea of relaxation is fresh air and exercise, you can get in a game of tennis at the Botlierskop tennis court, located below Botlierskop Main Lodge. Guests can rent the tennis court for an hour or more, day or night, and rackets and balls are provided. Birdwatchers shouldn't miss a visit to Moordkuil River Dam, where you can take a paddle up Moodkuil River for views of the nearby mountains and a remarkable array of birdlife. Later, you'll drive back to your hotel in Mossel Bay for the evening.

Day 6: Fly to Durban

The beaches of Durban
This morning, drive from Mossel Bay to nearby George Airport, drop off your car, and hop on a flight to the city of Durban. Located on the coast of eastern South Africa, Durban is known for its amazing beaches and Afro-Indian culture. Upon arrival, you'll grab your rental car and get checked in at your hotel, after which the rest of your day is free.
 
For an introduction to Zulu culture, South Africa's largest ethnic group, visit Shakaland and PheZulu Safari Park. Walk through replicas of Zulu beehive huts, watch tribal dances, and try traditional beer. If you'd rather hit the beach, enjoy the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean on Durban's Golden Mile, a 3.7-mile (6 km) stretch of shoreline that is perfect for swimming, surfing, or relaxing on the sand. You'll find vendors peddling crafts and souvenirs here, and you can even rent a rickshaw to take you for a ride along the beach. Later, visit one of Durban's many restaurants for a traditional South African meal.

Day 7: Drive to St Lucia, Hippo & Crocodile Boat Cruise

Hippo and Crocodile  Boat Cruise
See hippos up close at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Get back on the road today and make the two-hour drive up the coast to St Lucia. This small settlement is primarily a hub for the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which is where you'll have your next adventure! Head to the St Lucia jetty and board a double-decker cruiser passenger ferry for a tour of the park via the St Lucia Estuary. This guided cruise gives you an overview of the estuary's ecosystem and all the animals in it, providing you with the opportunity to see hippos, crocodiles, and other wildlife in their natural habitat. 

Afterward, you can see more of what the park has to offer, with a self-driving safari along the park's western shores for views of more wildlife such as elephants and zebras, or take a visit to Ingwe Beach, where you can walk for miles along the peaceful shoreline. 

Day 8: Free Day in St Lucia, Drive to Durban

A zebra at iSimangaliso Wetland Park

For your last full day in South Africa, you can head back into the wetland park for more wildlife viewing and tours such as kayaking, horseback riding, and deep sea fishing. Or, if you'd like to see some of the country's history brought to life, visit Veyane Cultural Village, where you can learn about traditional Zulu dance, storytelling, and foods. There are walking tours and biking tours of the village, both of which provide great insight into South African culture and its people. 

Later, you'll make the drive back to Durban, where you can relax at your hotel for the evening, or see a bit more of the city before your flight tomorrow.

Day 9: Depart Durban

Beaches of Durban

Your trip comes to a close today as you say goodbye to South Africa. After checking out of your hotel, you'll return your rental car to the airport and board your flight home. Safe travels! 

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Map

Map of South Africa Highlights: Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Durban & St Lucia - 9 Days
Map of South Africa Highlights: Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Durban & St Lucia - 9 Days