Explore South Africa's culture and wildlife on this 10-day trip, starting in the vibrant city of Cape Town with a tour of the Cape Peninsula, a visit to Boulders Beach to view the penguins, and a whale-watching cruise near Walker Bay. Then hop aboard the luxury train Rovos Rail to traverse the country, stopping in Matjiesfontein, Kimberely, and Pretoria along the way. End your trip with a flight to Thornybush Game Reserve for daily safaris and dinners under the stars in a luxury tented camp.

Highlights

  • Visit the penguin colonies at Boulders Beach and go whale watching in Hermanus
  • Ride through South Africa aboard the luxury Rovos Rail
  • Enjoy morning and evening safaris in Thornybush Game Reserve
  • Sleep and dine under the stars at a luxury tented camp
  • Explore the small, historic towns of Kimberely and Matjiesfontein

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cape Town - Enjoy the city Cape Town
Day 2 Enjoy a tour of Cape Peninsula - Visit penguins at Boulders Beach Cape Town
Day 3 Go whale watching near Hermanus and Walker Bay Cape Town
Day 4 Board the Rovos Rail - Visit the Victorian town of Matjiesfontein Pretoria
Day 5 Continue on Rovos Rail and stop in the town of Kimberely Pretoria
Day 6 Settle into your historic guesthouse in Pretoria and explore the city Pretoria
Day 7 Fly to Thornybush Game Reserve near Kruger National Park Thornybush
Day 8 Enjoy safaris in Thornybush and Timbavati Game Reserves Thornybush
Day 9 Track the Big Five species and more in Thornybush - Relax at camp Thornybush
Day 10 Depart Johannesburg  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town - Enjoy the city

Aerial View of Cape Town
Aerial View of Cape Town

Welcome to Cape Town!

Upon arriving at Cape Town International Airport, your private driver will transfer you to your accommodation at the Cape Grace Hotel. Situated on a private quay between Cape Town’s bustling V&A Waterfront and the tranquil yacht marina, the hotel is an excellent place to experience the natural beauty and vibrant energy of the city. After settling into your room, feel free to rest at the hotel, enjoying the mountain and sea views or relaxing at the spa. Although you'll explore Cape Town over the next couple of days, you can also spend your first afternoon discovering the city.

Resting at the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic oceans, and sandwiched between the slopes of the iconic Table Mountain and the sapphire waters of Table Bay, the city of Cape Town is bustling with activity. You can enjoy its buzzy harbor, stroll along its beaches, or escape into nature and hike in the surrounding mountainous, filled with diverse flora and fauna. If you prefer to stay within your neighborhood, there's plenty to do at the V&A Waterfront, including shopping, exploring the marina, visiting a museum, and riding the Ferris wheel.

In the late afternoon, you can return to your hotel to enjoy personalized experiences, such as sumptuous tasting menus for dinner, rare whiskey pairings, and indulgent Afternoon Teas.

Day 2: Enjoy a tour of Cape Peninsula - Visit the penguins at Boulders Beach

The Penguins of Boulders Beach
The Penguins of Boulders Beach

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll explore Cape Town's most scenic area, the Cape Peninsula. Extending into the Atlantic, the rugged Cape Peninsula marks the southwesternmost point of the African continent. It features white-sand beaches met by craggy mountains, as well as little coastal towns. Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope can be found along the southern end of the peninsula, while the northern tip is crowned by the world-famous Table Mountain which towers over the city.

To start, you'll head to Kalk Bay to experience the fishing culture, mingle with the resident seals, and try your luck fishing over the harbor wall with the help of friendly, local fishermen. Next, you'll make your way to Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach where you'll find the rogue penguin colony. Weather permitting, you can opt for an active experience, such as snorkeling in rock pools, paddling a stand-up-paddleboard, or kayaking. All activities will give you a unique perspective of the penguins.

You'll keep driving south to Cape Point, where you'll enjoy time exploring beaches and shipwrecks. Stop here for a gourmet picnic lunch set in a secluded spot. As you continue to explore the peninsula, keep your eyes open for the Cape Five, which include ostrich, baboons, mountain zebra, bontebok, and tortoise.

End the afternoon with a visit to the local Noordhoek Farm Village where you can all enjoy artisanal ice cream, then make your way back to Cape Town along one of the area's most scenic drives, Chapman's Peak at sunset. You'll make one final stop in Hout Bay, which was originally a small fishing village and now a popular suburb of the city. Enjoy your evening exploring the shops, art galleries, restaurants, and cafes. 

Day 3: Go whale watching near Hermanus and Walker Bay

Whale Watching Near Hermanus
Whale Watching Near Hermanus

Today's adventure takes you along the Garden Route and on a whale-watching cruise in the Overberg area near the small town of Hermanus. Situated 86 miles (140 km) from Cape Town and built between the shores and cliffs of Walker Bay, Hermanus has grown from a small seaside resort town to possibly the best-known place for whale watching in the world. This town is also famed for its natural beauty, with long stretches of beaches. Here, you'll spend the day tracking the Marine Big Five (southern right whale, shark, dolphin, seal, and penguin).

You'll start with a drive through mountain vistas, following Sir Lowry's Pass through Elgin Valley, ending on the coast where you'll enjoy a seasonal whale-watching cruise. Keep an eye out for these graceful mammals that frequent Cape Town's coastlines, particularly from June to November.

After your boat trip, you'll venture to the small villages of Overberg, perched on the cliffs above the bay. From this vantage point, you'll have a bird's-eye view of the whales, possibly seeing some calves. Make your way to the base of the cliffs to explore the underground caves. The crashing waves have carved a series of caves, featuring an array of stalactites and stalagmites, as well as ocean-filled rock pools. Enjoy an optional swim, if you'd like.

For lunch, you'll stop in the Overberg village of Stanford, then continue to Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay. This area is home to a breeding colony of seabirds and penguins. You'll return to Cape Town via a scenic coastal route with incredible ocean views at sunset.

Day 4: Board the Rovos Rail - Visit the Victorian town of Matjiesfontein

The Lounge Car on Rovos Rail
The Lounge Car on Rovos Rail

After breakfast, you'll transfer to Cape Town Station, where you'll board the Rovos Rail for your 2-night journey to Pretoria. Rovos Rail has earned an international reputation for its world-class travel experiences. Their exceptional train safaris combine some of South Africa’s most magnificent scenery with authentically refurbished Edwardian-style trains. You'll enjoy luxury accommodation, as well as all your meals, drinks, and full room service.

You'll depart Cape Town midmorning and arrive in the town of Matjiesfontein in the evening. Matjiesfontein is a remote railroad town situated on the fringe of the Karoo District. It's been proclaimed a National Heritage Site as the entire town consists of well-preserved Victorian buildings. You can enjoy the old-world charm of the Lord Milner Hotel, ride on the Old London Bus, or explore local history in the Transport and Victoriana museums. Other attractions include the Old Post Office, the Travellers Chapel, the Railway Station, and the picturesque Pink Church.

Later in the evening, you'll depart in time to settle back into your train accommodation for dinner.

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

Day 5: Continue on Rovos Rail and stop in the town of Kimberley

The Big Hole in Kimberely
The Big Hole in Kimberley

Today you'll continue to Kimberley, a picturesque little town known as the first settlement to install electric street lights in the southern hemisphere. It's currently the capital and largest city of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. Kimberley is renowned for the Big Hole, which is the largest man-made excavation in the world.

Kimberley was an important township during the Anglo-Boer War when it was besieged by the Boers. You'll arrive in the town in the afternoon, giving you time to explore the most famous battle sites of the war. You can also visit some museums, such as the Mine Museum and the William Humphreys Art Gallery.

You'll depart in the late afternoon and continue your train journey to Pretoria. Enjoy drinks, dinner, and relaxation onboard.

Day 6: Settle into your historic guesthouse in Pretoria and explore the city

City Hall in Pretoria
City Hall in Pretoria

In the morning, you'll enjoy your final breakfast aboard the train, then arrive in the city of Pretoria by 12:00 pm. At the train station, your hosts will transfer you to your accommodation at the historic villa, Illyria House. This historic colonial villa is set in a garden teeming with birds and featuring a wellness spa. You'll receive your own personal butler who can assist you throughout the day. After settling into your room, you'll learn a bit about Pretoria and have time to explore the city.

Pretoria is situated in the province of Gauteng and functions as one of three capitals of South Africa. It's been dubbed ‘The Jacaranda City’, thanks to the annual bloom of the blossoming Jacaranda trees that line the avenues of the city. As you explore the streets of Pretoria, you can visit several sites, such as the Transvaal Museum, a natural history museum showcasing an ancient dinosaur fossil found at the nearby Cradle of Humankind. There's also the Pretoria Botanical Gardens, which offers a glimpse of different biomes, and the Voortrekker Monument, a National Heritage Site. Don’t miss the nearby Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary as well as the beautiful Wonderboom and Groenkloof Nature Reserves

In the evening, you'll settle into Illyria House for dinner.

Day 7: Fly to Thornybush Game Reserve near Kruger National Park

Landscape of Thornybush Game Reserve
The landscape of Thornybush Game Reserve

Enjoy an early breakfast before transferring to the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.  Here you'll board your flight to Eastgate Airport in Hoedspruit, Limpopo. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to the Thornybush Game Reserve, where you will spend the next three nights at Saseka Tented Camp for your all-inclusive stay.

Located in the northeastern portion of Thornybush Nature Reserve, Saseka Camp is set on the banks of the Monwana dry riverbed, which sweeps through the reserve. The spacious lodge blends a modern look with natural materials and textures, influenced by the romantic narrative of tented camps from yesteryear. Enjoy your stay in a luxury tent, complete with air-conditioning, an outdoor shower, and a plunge pool. 

After settling into your accommodation, you can enjoy the amenities of the camp, as well as your first dinner under the stars.

Day 8: Enjoy safaris in Thornybush and Timbavati Game Reserves

Viewing Zebras on Safari
Viewing Zebras on Safari

After breakfast at the camp, you'll begin your safari experience in Thornybush Game Reserve and the neighboring Timbavati Game Reserve.

Thornybush Game Reserve covers nearly 30,000 acres (12 000 hectares) of pristine wilderness. Lying adjacent to the world-renowned Kruger National Park, Thornybush is home to the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo), as well as an array of other African wildlife. The landscape is characterized by open savanna and woodlands interspersed with shrubland and thorny scrub.

You'll enjoy both day and night safaris to best view the reserves' wildlife, as well as guided bush walks. In between safaris and in the evening, you'll relax at your accommodation and enjoy experiences such as massages, wine tastings, and the sampling of regional cuisine.

Day 9: Track the Big Five species and more in Thornybush - Relax at your camp

Wild Cats in Thornybush Game Reserve
Wild Cats in Thornybush Game Reserve

Enjoy another full day of safaris, bush walks, and relaxation in Thornybush Game Reserve and Saseka Tented Camp. You'll track the Big Five species, as well as other African wildlife, such as zebra, giraffe, and numerous bird species. Pamper yourself at your accommodation with a massage and an afternoon by the pool, then enjoy your final dinner in South Africa. 

Day 10: Depart Johannesburg

Early-morning Safari
Early-morning Safari

It's time to say goodbye to South Africa. After one last early-morning safari and breakfast, you'll transfer back to the Eastgate Airport where you'll board your flight back to Johannesburg.

Upon arrival in Johannesburg, you'll catch your connecting flight home or onto your next destination.