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The Classic Tour Of South Africa
After your overnight flight, arrive in the morning at Johannesburg International Airport, pick up your rented car and drive to your choice of destination. Johannesburg or Tshwane (Pretoria).
Johannesburg International Airport to to city centre Johannesburg (N12, 25km). Visit Gold Reef City, a replica of an early mining town where you can descend 220m into the old Crown Mine, which today still contains gold. Bars, restaurants and shops all reflect the old, pioneer town atmosphere – this is a good place to buy exquisite jewellery. For a fascinating insight into the culture history of South Africa pay a visit to MuseumAfrica near the Market Theatre.
Suggested side-trips: A guided tour of Soweto – with its Mandela Museum as well as jazz clubs and bars known as shebeens. Visit the Lesedi Cultural Village to get a real impression of the diversity of African culture. It’s a 40-minute drive from Johannesburg north of Lanseria airport on the R512. Just follow the signs.
As an alternative, drive to Tshwane (previosly known as Pretoria) (R21, 50km)
Take a city tour through the administrative capital of South Africa also known as “the Garden City” or “Jacaranda City”. In October more than 60,000 mauve-blossomed Jacaranda trees are in full bloom.
At the Voortrekker Monument the story of the ‘Great Trek’ is depicted on a 93m marble frieze. There are breathtaking views of the city from the Union Building, the seat of Government. Other interesting sights include Paul Kruger House (home of the famous president of the former Republic of the Transvaal); Melrose House, the Victorian-styled villa where, in 1902, the Anglo-Boer War peace treaty was signed; the Transvaal Museum; and the City Art Museum.
From Johannesburg take the R22 to Waterval Boven, then on to the N4 to Nelspruit, just before Nelspruit is the R40 turning for White River. Before White River turn left onto the R537 for Sabie. From Pretoria take the N4 to Nelspruit. Then follow directions above. The drive along the N4 passes mainly through the grass-covered plains of the highveld, until you arrive at Waterval Boven, where you begin the descent of the Great Escarpment. After only a few kilometres the opulent green lowveld opens into the valley of the Eland and Crocodile Rivers. Nelspruit, the provincial capital of Mpumalanga, lies in the middle of a charming landscape. Here the Botanical Gardens are worth a visit before coming back out of town to head for Sabie.
Suggested side-trips: About 18km before the approach to Nelspruit (six km beyond Montrose) are the Sudwala Caves (14km from the N4), huge stalactite caves, of which only 600m are open to the public. Nearby you find a Dinosaur-Park with life-size replicas of these prehistoric animals. If you do this excursion, from here you can take the R539/R37 for Sabie.
Pilgrim’s Rest, Blyde River Canyon
Sabie, MacMac Falls – (R532) Pilgrim’s Rest – (R533) Graskop – (R534) Pinnacle Rock, God’d Window (R532) Berlin – Lisbon Falls – Bourke’s Luck Potholes – Blyde River Canyon – Hazyview (210km).
The small city and holiday resort of Sabie is set against the impressive backdrop of the 2,284m high Mount Aderson. Here you will find the world’s biggest plantations of eucalyptus and pine trees. Some 11km from Sabie are the impressive MacMac Falls. A few kilometres further on is Pilgrim’s Rest, a picturesque former mining village has been proclaimed a national monument. Returning on the R533 agter the little town of Graskop (10km) you reach the R534, which takes you along the rim of the lowveld from the granite outcrop of Pinnacle Rock, and from God’s Window. Back on the R532 (18km) take the trip to the 150m high Berlin Falls, before reaching Bourke’s Luck Potholes (28km), named after the gold prospector Tom Bourke, who discovered them. They are part of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. The canyon tat the river has gouged out is 20km long and up to 700m deep – the third largest in the world. Take the R532 to Graskop, then the R533/R535 to the R40 and head south for Hazyview.
Kruger National Park
Hazyview (R536) – Paul Kruger Gate (approx 43km) – Skukuza. Head for the Paul Kruger gate of the Kruger National Park. Established in 1898 and open to the public since 1927, this is the country’s largest National Park and contains the world’s greatest variety of wildlife species. Information leaflets on all aspects of the park can be obtained at the gates of each camp. The maximum speed limit in the parks on tarred roads is 50km/h amd pm all the other tracks is 40km/h, but to make the most of the game viewing opportunities it is best to drive slower – and remenber, animals have the right of way. Overnight at Skukuza or one of the other rest camps within the park.
Kruger National Park
Start the day with a early morning game drive, but remember you are only allowed to stop in special areas designated on the map. Skukuza, the largest camp, is known as the “capital” of the Kruger national Park. The central location allows you to explore the park from all directions.
Kruger National Park-Badplaas
Kruger National Park – (R40/38) Baberton – Badplaas (220km). Early birds still have the opportunity of a game drive and have breakfast before leaving the Kruger Park at the Numbi gate (58km). After eight km you reach the R538 which takes you to Nelspruit (51km). Here you take the N40 to Baberton (45km). This charming lowveld town became famous for the great gold rush of 1884. The finds were son eclipsed by the new discoveries on the Witwatersrand but a few mines are still operational. Old houses and a museum still bear witness to those heady times. Drive via the 1,554m high Nelshoogte Pass to Badplaas, a charming little town with healing, hot spot spas where the temperature of the water reaches 50’C. Overnight.
Badplaas (R541) – Lochiel (N17) – Warburton – (R33) Amsterdam – (N2) Piet Retief – Pongola – Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park (approx 400km). Today you drive through the south of Mpumalanga to the neighbouring province of KwaZulu-Natal. The approach road to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park is a right-hand turnoff from the N2 as you reach Hluhluwe. From the park entrance it is around 15km to the Hilltop Lodge – situated on high ground, providing spectacular views of the lush green hills and, on clear days, even the distant Indian Ocean. The park is the oldest South African wildlife reserve, established in 1895 to save the rhino from extinction. Once two separated parks, Hlhuluwe and Umfolozi were amalgamated and expanded to form one of South Africa’s largest reserves. The park has many good (although not tarred) roads (maximum speed 40km/h) offering views across the wooded hills and grasslands. The southern Umfolozi region is mostly dry and flat. You might see white rhino, elephant, zebra, giraffe and various antelope species such as nyala (rarely seen in Kruger) as well as more than 300 bird species.
Day Eight & Nine
St Lucia Wetland Reserve
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park/ St Lucia Wetland/ Hlhluwe-Umfolozi Park. Only an hour’s drive from the park is the greater St. Lucia, combinding this with a visit to the Mkuzi Game Reserve, where game can be viewed from a hide. Another worthwhile excursion is to cruise around the bay of Lake St. Lucia – simply drive along the N2 a few kilometres to the north and the take the turn off to Charters Creek. Further on (approx 30km) and you’ll come to DamaZulu, a cultural village, demonstrating the cultural traditions and daily life of the Zulu people.
Suggested side-trip: The nearby Itala Game Reserve offers enthusiasts a rich game-viewing experience. Return to Hilltop Lodge to spend the night.
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park-Umhlanga Rocks/Durban
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park – nyalazi Gate (R618) – Mtubatuba – (N2) – Umhlanga Rocks/Durban (approx 260km). Driving south from Hilltop Lodge through the park you once again have the opportunity of viewing the wonderful landscape and wildlife. From the Nyalazi gate (37km) take the R618 in the direction of Mtubatuba (30km) and then the N2 to the south all the way through to Umhlanga Rocks (187km), an attractive, modern seaside resort just north of Durban boasting lots of good hotels. Overnight - Umhlanga Rocks or Durban.
Suggested side-trip: If you make an early start there may be time to visit Shakaland, a replica Zulu village. Near Eshowe, turn off the N2 at Gingindlovu onto the R66 to Shakaland. You can even stay the night in a typical Zulu be-hive shaped hut, yet fitted out with all modern amenities.
Days Eleven & Twelve
Umhlanga Rocks – Durban
There’s time to relax on the wide, sandy beaches of Umhlanga Rocks. But a trip to Durban, only 18km to the south, is a must. South Africa’s holiday playground is known as ‘the place where the fun never sets’. The Indian influence, in particular, is unique to this city. Wander round the frenetic Victoria Street Market with stalls selling a fascinating variety of spices, fruit, jewellery, wooden carvings and many other goods of the Orient and Africa. Durban is also the place to enjoy an authentic Indian meal.
More than 1,000 species of fish, including sharks, can be seen at the Sea World Aqaruim while shows featuring dolphins and seals are the attraction at Sea World.
The Botanical Gardens are famouse for their orchid house, in which over 3,000 different types of this flower are exhibited from all over the world. There are several interesting museums and the African Arts and Culture Centre is also worth a visit.
Suggested side-trip: A trip through the charming area known as “Valley of 1,000 Hills” inland from Durban is a scenic treat.
Umhlanga/Durban – Port St John’s
Umhlanga Rocks/Durban (N2) – Port Edward (R61) – Bizana – Flagstaff – Lusikisiki – Port St John’s (approx 365km). On the N2 you drive from Umhlanga Rocks/Durban along the Hibicus Coast with its many holiday resorts. Just after Port Edward you cross the Umtamvuna River, entering Eastern Cape Province. Travelling through the homeland of the Xhosa you drive along the R61 to Port St John’s on the famous Wild Coast. Overnight at Port St John’s.
Port St John’s – King William’s Town
Port St. John’s (R61) – Umtata (N2) – Butterworth – Komga (R63) – King William’s Town (365km).
From Port St. John’s you drive through the Xhosa hill settlements on a charming route (R61) to Umtata. Travel onwards in westerly direction on the N2, until you reach the Komga turnoff to the R63, which takes you into King William’s Town. This alluring little town used to be a missionary station.
Look at the Kaffrarian Museum with its exhibits on cultural history plus a huge collection of dissected and stuffed animals and the Missionary Museum, which highlights the work of a South African missionary station. The Xhosa Gallery, housed in the former Post Office, illustrates the culture of the Xhosa people.
King William’s Town / Grahamstown / Port Elizabeth
King William’s Town (N2) – Grahamstown – Port Elizabeth (255km). Grahamstown, located at the centre of the so-called “Settlers Country”, was established as a British military post in 1812, playing a major role in the “Xhosa Frontier Wars”. Today this quaint town is an important cultural centre with a university, many schools and more than 40 churches. The annual National Festival of Arts, the most important cultural event in South Africa, takes place here in July. You can see an authentic Camera Obscura at the Observatory Museum, while the International Library of African Music, part of the university, has a very large collection of African musical instruments (visit arranged by appointment).
Suggested side-trip: On leaving King William’s Town take the R63 to Alice. On the outskirts is Fort Hare, home of South Africa’s first university for black students. Formerly a British fort, this is where Nelson Mandela and many other blsck leaders studied. The univeristy owns a fantastic collection of Modern African Art, exhibited in the “De Beers Gallery”. Continue along the R63 to Fort Beaufort, then take the R67 to Grahamstown. From Grahamstown the fastest route to Port Elizabeth follows the N2 (128km). More interesting is the route that follows the Indian Ocean coastline , known as the “Sunshine Coast”. Take the R67 to Port Alfred on the coast, then follow the R72 which passes beautiful beaches and resorts like Kenton on Sea. Return to the N2 at Ncanaha and head for Port Elizabeth. PE, on Algoa Bay, was established in 1799 as a British garrison. Today this city is one of South Africa’s largest commercial and industrial centres with an important harbour and university. Thanks to broad, sandy beaches and warm water (21-25’C) throughout the year, this is also a popular seaside resort. The city retains strong British influences, with many interisting buildings and museums. Special attractions include the Port Elizabeth Museum, with its exhibits of natural and cultural history, the Snake Park and the Oceanaruim, with aquatic shows featuring seals and dolphins. In Port Elizabeth you have the possibility to end this journey, return your rented car, and fly back to Johannesburg.
Day Sixteen & Seventeen
The Garden Route
Port Elizabeth (N2) – Tsitsikamma National Park – Plettenberg Bay – Knysna- Wilderness – George (approx 350).
Today you embark on a journey along the famous Garden Route, loved by tourists and South Africans alike. An area of dense forests, unique flora, wide bays, rocky cliffs, numerous rivers, set against a dramatic mountain backdrop, it stretches from the mouth of the Storms River to Heidelberg. The Paul Sauer Bridge over the canyon (130m deep) of the Storms River is the first of several great bridges along this route. After 12km you encounter the approach road to the Tsitsikamma National Park, with its forest of 800-year –old Yellowwood trees towering to heights of 50m (about 150 feet). South Africa’s favourite hiking trail, the “Otter Trail”, begins here.
A popular resort along the Garden Route is Plettenberg Bay, farmed for its white, wide sandy beaches. Sixteen kilometres behind the resort is the so-called ‘garden of Eden’, a wilderness of giant indigenous Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Ironwood trees.
Next on the itinerary is Knysna – a vibrant town clustered around a picturesque lagoon which can be explored by water-taxi. Now boasting its own waterfront development, arts and crafts around and it is also a great place for shopping. Knysna is famous for its home-grown oysters which can be enjoyed in local restaurants, washed down with the local brew.
Leaving Knysna you cross the Wilderness National Park with its lakes and sand dunes. Twice a day (except Sundays) there’s a chance to see the steam train, Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe, crossing the much-photographed railway bridge over the Kaaimans River just outside the pretty holiday resort of Wilderness.
Overnight in George.
George – Oudtshoorn
George (N2) – Mossel Bay (N2/R328) – Oudtshoorn (R62) – Calitzdorp (140km).
From George continue along the N2 to Mossel Bay. Here is the place where, in 1488, the Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias became the first European to set foot on the site. Nearby is the Old Post Office Tree, used by 16th century seamen as a “post box” for depositing and collecting mail as they passed through on voyages to the Orient and back.
Return along the N2 and take the R328 to South Africa’s ‘ostrich capital’ Oudtshoorn. Visitors can take a guided tour of an ostrich farm, finding out how its feathers were once worth more than their weigh in gold. Visit the fabulous Cango Caves, with their aweinspiring stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Leave Oudtshoorn along the R62 to overnight in the cosy town of Calitzdorp (R62, 50km).
Swellendam – Hermanus
Calitzdorp (R62) – Landismith – Barrydale (R324) – (N2) Swellendam (N2/R319)- Bredasdorp/Cape Agulhas/Bredasdorp (R316/R326/R43) – Hermanus (approx 430km).
The R62 leads through a fantastic landscape, with splendid views to the north of the impressive Swartberg Mountains rising over 2,000m high. From Barrydale you can continue along the R62 on a popular, very scenic tourist route called ‘Route 62’, via the Breede River Valley, the largest wine producing region in South Africa. This route will take you through the guaint villages of Montagu and Ashton, along the very ptetty Robertson Wine Route, past road-side gardens to Worcester. This town is home to the Kleinplasie Museum as well as the largest brandy cellar in the world. You carry on to Tulbagh, beautifully restored after a major earthquake, then through Wellington and Paarl to Cape Town.
Hermanus – Franschhoek – Stellenbosch – Cape Town
Hermanus (R43) – Botrivier (N2/R321) Elgin – Theewaterkloof Dam (R45) – Franschhoek – (R310) Stellenbosch (approx 135km) on to Cape Town.
After passing the Theewaterkloof Dam you enter the Franschhoek Pass, which provides spectacular views of the Franschhoek valley. Franschhoek – the name means “French Corner” – was found by Huguenots, French Protestants who were forced to leave their country to escape Catholic persecution. They arrived in South Africa in 1688 and made a major contribution to wine estates nearby bear witness to these pioneers.
Day Twenty One
Cape Town – City Tour – Victoria & Alfred Waterfront – Tabel Mountain. Cape Town is best discovered on foot! South Africa’s “Mother City” was found in 1652 as a ship’s supply base by Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch-East India Company. The city spreads out in front of Table Mountain, which rises more than 1,000m high, flanked by Devil’s Peak in the east and Lion’s Head and Signal Hill in the west. Andderley Street is the city’s main thoroughfare from which you can turn into Government Avenue. Here you will find the Company Gardens, on the original site of the garden planted by van Riebeeck to supply fresh fruit and vegetables to mariners sailling from Europe to the East and vice-versa. Here also are the House of Parliament and the De Tuynhouse, built in 1751. Nearby are the South African National Art Gallery and the South African Museum, which houses archeological collections, including fascinating exhibits illustrating the life of this region’s indigenous people, the San.
Also worth a visit is the Castle of Good Hope, built as a fort in 1666 – 1679. Never attacked, it originally served as a residence for the first governors of the Cape and is now a museum.
Not to be missed is the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, with its shops, bars, restaurants, luxury hotels and streets entertainers. Boat trips round the harbour or visiting the former prison of Robben Island are offered.
On the N1 highway, a 10 minute drive from Cape Town’s city centre, you’ll find Century City – a new leisure attraction. At its heart is Canal Walk, a spectacular shopping mall. For nature-lovers there’s Intaka Island a wetland conservation area for family fun, the Ratanga Junction Theme Park.
Highlights of a visit to Cape Town is the cable car trip up to the top of Table Mountain. The breathtaking view of the sea and one of the world’s most beautiful cities is unforgettable.