Sawubona! Welcome to South Africa. Johannesburg is a sprawling city of remarkable contrasts. In the townships, mansions stand alongside tin shacks and there are as many green parks on the outskirts of the city as there are conglomerations of concrete in the centre. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive in time, consider arriving a day early so you are able to attend. If you are going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so be sure to have these ready to provide to your leader. Perhaps arrive early and get an insight into South Africa's history.
Heading for Kruger National Park (approximately 11–12 hours), you will leave Johannesburg and travel through the Mpumalanga Province, journeying along the famous Panorama Route through some of the most stunning scenery South Africa has to offer. The sights along the way include God's Window, Bourke's Luck Potholes, Three Rondavels (Sisters) and the magnificent Blyde River Canyon. Kruger, your final destination today, is one of the largest game reserves in Southern Africa. It boasts over 500 bird species, 100 species of reptile and 150 mammal species, including the Big Five and the endangered African wild dog. Your wildlife odyssey begins as soon as you enter the park. Heading straight into some prime game viewing areas on your way to the camp, you'll have the chance to glimpse some amazing creatures. Your campground has shared facilities, hot and cold water, and upgrades are possible (subject to availability).
Rise early and enjoy a light breakfast of coffee and rusks before embarking on a morning game drive in the truck. Most of the day will be spent game viewing, birdwatching and stopping at various waterholes and viewpoints. Later on, there will be the option of a night drive with the park guide. This is a great chance to spot nocturnal animals and perhaps even a night-time predator or two – catch a lion or hyena out hunting, or perhaps impala out in search of a late-night feed.
Journey to Hlane Royal National Park today (approximately 6–7 hours). Take a final slow game drive of between 20 and 70 kilometres before exiting the park mid-morning. Travel south-east and enter the Kingdom of Swaziland, which is nestled snugly between Mozambique, Northern Zululand and Mpumalanga. The border crossing between South Africa and Swaziland is generally very smooth, but there may be some delays at certain times of the year. A vast expanse of bushveld with ancient hardwood trees, Hlane Royal National Park is home to the largest wild herds in Swaziland. Take the opportunity to explore this amazing park on a guided game walk. Tonight you will camp inside the national park. Upgrades are possible (subject to availability).
Travel to your Mozambique beach camp (approximately 7–8 hours). Departing from Hlane, you will head to the Golela border post and into Maputaland. Drive for a further stretch, then enter Mozambique. After crossing this border point, you will disembark the truck and jump into a 4X4 vehicle. From there, travel on to the beautiful seaside village of Ponta Malongane, your beachside oasis for the next two nights. Your campsite is basic but comfortable – the ideal base for seaside fun such as snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving. Facilities are shared.
Make the most of this gorgeous seaside getaway today. This is one of the many unspoiled beaches of Mozambique, and there is plenty to do here. Keen scuba divers can choose from many reefs, one of which is just 300 metres away from the shore. Alternatively, you can borrow some snorkelling gear and explore the blue waters of the Indian Ocean without the hassle of heavy equipment. A great optional activity is to take a boat cruise in search of dolphins – ask your leader about booking. Or you can simply relax on the beach with a coconut juice and wile away the afternoon.
Depart Kosi Bay, making your way to Zululand and Lake St Lucia, stopping at a shop for supplies along the way (approximately 4–5 hours). Declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, St Lucia Estuary is home to thousands of varieties of birds, mammals and reptiles, with its most popular residents being the hundreds of hippos and crocodiles. You'll take a boat cruise out on the St Lucia Estuary where you have the chance to spot such creatures basking on the banks – not to mention a diverse array of exotic birds soaring through the air on occasion. You will stay at a campsite with shared facilities (upgrades and WiFi are not available here).
Make an early departure to the Valley of a Thousand Hills (approximately 5–6 hours). This is the heartland of the Zulu nation. You will gain an insight into the daily life of the rural Zulu people by spending the night in a traditional homestay. Here you'll be treated to some traditional food, song and dance. Be sure to make the most of this rare opportunity to see a remote tribal culture from the inside. Interact with your hosts and perhaps impart some of your own culture and language in turn.
Travel on to Durban (approximately 3 hours). Durban is South Africa's second most populous city and a tourist magnet thanks to its wealth of golden, sandy beaches and glitzy nightlife. One of its main attractions is the Golden Mile, a stretch of fine sands bordered by frothy surf on one side and an attractive beachfront of shops, restaurants and cafes on the other. Stay in dorm rooms with shared bathroom facilities and a great rooftop bar.
Leave Durban and travel inland towards the majestic Drakensberg mountain range (approximately 5–6 hours). This highly fertile mountain chain, home to an amazing amount of flora and fauna, is Southern Africa's highest range (3,482 m). It forms part of the border between South Africa and Lesotho. The range is often referred to locally as the Barrier of Spears or the Dragon Mountains. Your accommodation here is in en-suited twin rooms at a unique backpackers lodge in Drakensberg. Sip on a refreshing sundowner in the thatched-loft lounge room. Here there is a book-swap and internet cafe. Other property facilities include a pool, jacuzzi, barbeque, fire pit, and WiFi. Upgrades are available (subject to availability).
Enjoy free time to go hiking through this incredible mountain range. It's up to you how much time you spend exploring. Feel free to take a short hike for an hour or so, or perhaps challenge yourself to a full-day hike with a local guide (this is optional). This is a great chance to learn more about the region from a local as you walk along. Regardless of how deep you delve, there are sure to be some amazing views and excellent photo opportunities.
Leaving the Drakensberg behind, head into the mountain kingdom of Lesotho (approximately 7–8 hours). Nestled like a small island in the middle of South Africa, Lesotho is commonly known as the 'Kingdom in the Sky' with beautiful mountain ranges and endless hiking trails. Generally the border crossing into Lesotho is quite smooth, but you may experience some delays, depending on the time of year. Drive past the Golden Gate Highlands National Park which is famous for its extraordinary sandstone rock formations. The park is also home to elands, zebras, mongooses and hundreds of bird species – keep your eyes peeled along the way.
Today you will have a variety of hikes to choose from. The Lesotho Highlands offer excellent hiking for all levels of skill, so depending on your experience and level of fitness, you should be able to choose a suitable one that allows you to get the most out of these stunning landscapes.
Head to the stunning Wild Coast of South Africa and the small town of Cintsa (approximately 10–12 hours). A charming little coastal town, Cintsa and its surrounding region are inhabited by the Xhosa people, whose lifestyle is deeply rooted in tribal traditions and customs. You'll discover that they're a warm and friendly people who can give you a great insight into rural South African life. Arriving in the late afternoon, you will have time to relax and freshen up before an optional group dinner. Your campground has shared facilities, an ATM, and WiFi. Upgrades are possible (subject to availability).
Enjoy free time to explore the town, relax on the stunning beaches or pursue the many optional activities on offer. You might like to go hiking, swimming, mountain biking or surfing. Ask your leader about these optional activities.
Travel on to Addo Elephant National Park (approximately 7–8 hours). A true success story in conservation, Addo Elephant National Park was created in 1931 to protect the region's eleven remaining elephants. Today there are over 450 elephants in the park, as well as Cape buffalo, black rhinos, all kinds of antelopes and even the flightless dung beetle which is unique to the park. On arrival, you'll take an afternoon game drive and try to spot some of these resident creatures, among others, from your truck. Your campground here has basic shared facilities and WiFi. Upgrades are possible (subject to availability).
Wake early and enjoy another game drive in Addo in our overland vehicle. Spend the next few days discovering the most superb stretch of the Garden Route. Your first stop is the Tsitsikamma National Park (approximately 4–5 hours). Protecting both land and sea, steep ancient forests meet the breakers of the Indian Ocean at this park. It's a spectacular place for walking and viewing wildlife. Your leader will take you to a local activity centre where a range of activities will be on offer. The accommodation tonight is a campground with basic shared facilities, an ATM and WiFi access. Upgrades are possible (subject to availability). Notes: Intrepid has not risk-assessed all optional local activities. Only those listed in the trip notes are recommended. If you are unsure about any, please check with your leader. It is against company policy for leaders to facilitate the booking of any activities that have not been risk-assessed or do not adhere to Intrepid's Responsible Travel ethos. This includes organising transport to and from these activities in our vehicles.
Explore this magnificent national park further. Cape clawless otters, dolphins, tortoises and southern right whales (in season) are all visitors here, along with baboons, monkeys and myriad birds. See how many of them you can spot!
Head out across the arid Karoo region bound for Oudtshoorn (approximately 4–5 hours). Stop off on the way at Knysna to stretch your legs and explore this quaint little hamlet with a gorgeous lagoon. A short drive then takes you to the Cango Caves, where you explore the weird and wonderful rock formations – one is ‘Cleopatra's Needle’, 29 feet high and at least 150,000 years old. Your local guide will give you all the ins-and-outs of their formation and history. Continue on to Oudtshoorn, which is the ostrich capital of the world. At the turn of the 20th century it was full of 'feather barons' that grew rich from the popularity of ostrich feathers. Today there are thousands of ostriches here being farmed for their meat, leather, and on a smaller scale, their feathers and eggs. Your campsite has hot showers and flush toilets. Upgrades are possible (subject to availability).
Travel from Oudtshoorn to Swellendam (approximately 4–5 hours) on the scenic Route 62. Drive through towering mountain passes on this impressive journey, crossing some of the most beautiful and rugged alpine scenery in the Langeberg. You should arrive in Swellendam by early afternoon. Set up camp and have the remainder of the afternoon for your white water rafting adventure. The river is an easy grade 1 & 2 suitable for all experience levels. Ride the rapids, taking in the impressive scenic spots along the route. Keep an eye out for any wildlife, if you can take your eyes off the foaming path ahead! After this wet and wild afternoon, return to relax at the camp, which has Wi-Fi access, limited upgrades and a bar.
Get up early this morning for your journey to Africa's southernmost point – Cape Agulhus (approximately 5 hours). You'll travel along the famous R320 winery route, visiting two or three wineries along the way, before heading onto the beach side town of Hermanus. This region is highly influenced by the cooling Atlantic Ocean that sweeps up past Cape Town and brings with it a nice breeze that cools down the grapes that are grown here. The predominant local grape varieties are French, German and northern Italian – such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Mourvedre, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage. You'll camp with shared facilities tonight and have the opportunity to go into town for a farewell group dinner.
Enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Hermanus before driving back to Cape Town via the scenic bay route (approximately 4 hours). With its stunning coastline, dramatic surrounding mountains and modern cityscape, Cape Town is one of Africa's most appealing cities. It's a great place to end your trip, with vineyards, adventure activities and plenty of good restaurants and cafes at your doorstep. You'll be dropped at the finishing-point hotel in Cape Town.