South Africa is a microcosm of the wonders of the African continent—from its rich cultures and dramatic landscapes to its legendary wildlife. Hike to the summit of Table Mountain in Cape Town and wind your way along dramatic coastal trails in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. Cycle among centuries-old vineyards and admire Cape Dutch architecture on a walk through European-influenced Franschhoek. In KwaZulu-Natal, witness colorful Zulu customs and encounter an amazing array of animals. Take a wildlife cruise on a lake teeming with elephants, hippos, and crocodiles. Then set out on safari in one of Africa's top private game reserves, Sabi Sands, and stay at a stunning safari lodge included in the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection.
Arrive in Cape Town and transfer to our hotel situated at the foot of Table Mountain. Gather for a welcome dinner on the waterfront.
Enjoy a scenic drive to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. Walk along winding coastal trails through flowering shrublands, and hike to the iconic lighthouse at Cape Point. Observe hundreds of African penguins on Boulders beach, then discover the exotic blossoms of the Cape Floral Kingdom at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. When available, have lunch with a representative of the National Geographic-funded Cape Parrot Project, a community–based conservation program founded by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Steve Boyes that aims to reduce threats to the endangered Cape parrot. (1–2 miles hiking, 1 hour; 4 hours driving)
The Cape Milner
This morning, hike up iconic Table Mountain, and take in incredible views from the top. After lunch, ride the cable car back down to town. Explore the city’s highlights, including the historic Company’s Garden and the bustling cobblestoned plaza of Greenmarket Square. Tonight, join local drummers to try your hand at playing the djembe, one of Africa’s oldest instruments. Then partake in a traditional feast accompanied by singers and puppeteers. (2 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Explore the Winelands by bicycle, starting in oak-shaded Stellenbosch. Cycle through a patchwork of verdant farmland, stopping at vineyards and enjoying lunch at a country restaurant. Later, in Franschhoek (Dutch for “French corner”), stroll cafe-lined streets and admire the whitewashed gables of Cape Dutch houses. (3 miles biking, 3 hours)
On a guided walking tour of the Kayamandi township, encounter artists and entrepreneurs and learn about community development projects. Over lunch in the home of a local woman, hear about the customs of the Xhosa people—Nelson Mandela’s ethnic group—and sample traditional dishes. Then, travel over the rugged Helshoogte Pass for wine tastings at two beautiful wine estates.
Fly to Durban, the largest city of KwaZulu-Natal province, and drive north into Zululand, the 19th-century kingdom of the Zulu people. Settle into our inn below legendary Ghost Mountain. During an afternoon walk in the Lebombo Mountains, visit a homestead to witness everyday life in Zulu country. Stop for a sundowner and experience the rhythmic energy of a Zulu dance performance. (1 mile walking, 1 hour; 3–4 hours driving)
Explore Mkhuze Game Reserve, a wonderland of savanna, riverine forest, and waterholes that is home to abundant wildlife. Accompanied by naturalist guides, track black and white rhinos, leopards, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, and more with naturalist guides. Go for a walk in the park’s fig forest, where hundreds of bird species have been recorded. The next day, take a wildlife cruise on sprawling Lake Jozini, a watering hole for hippos and crocodiles. (1–2 miles hiking, 2 hours)
Fly to Sabi Sands Game Reserve, adjacent to Kruger National Park, then take 4x4 vehicles to our welcoming safari lodge, part of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection. An incredible array of wildlife can be found on this private reserve, from the “big five” to rare creatures like pangolins and aardvarks.
Get immersed in the wild habitat of the lowveld. With a game ranger and local Shangaan tracker, find leopards lolling in the shade or wild dogs gearing up for the hunt. Go on bushwalks to discover more about the flora and fauna of the savanna, and learn to identify footprints and other traces left by wildlife. End each day with a sundowner and a meal overlooking the bush.
After a final morning safari, head to the airstrip and fly to Johannesburg to connect to your overnight flight home.