Kingdom of Swaziland + Cape Escape    *alt*

18 days, from £2299
Explore Worldwide
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Description

Discover the last true monarchy in Africa on this trip we get up close and personal with rhino in Mkhaya National Park, explore tranquil Mlilwane as zebras and nyala pass us by and drive up to Execution Rock for sundowners and incredible views. We fly to the iconic city of Cape Town, hike up the legendary Table Mountain and explore the ancient limestone Cango Caves. We also watch the penguins frolic on Boulders Beach and visit the heart of the winelands.

Tour comfort rating: standard

Tour pace rating: moderate

Itinerary


 Day 1 Join trip Johannesburg and drive into the Kingdom of Swaziland

We join our trip in Johannesburg where you will meet your Explore Leader and then we will make our way to the Kingdom of Swaziland. A scenic journey which takes us from the low plains of South Africa to the mountainous Highveld of Swaziland. Nestled between South Africa and Mozambique, Swaziland has somehow kept its independence and maintained its traditions and culture with the King leading the country as the last true monarch in the world; to the casual observer it would seem unchanged for centuries. However as we will find over the next 8 days, the country has been a leading light in conservation in Southern Africa. Our base for the next two nights are log cabins in the Malolotja Nature Reserve, one of the most impressive mountain parks in Southern Africa. We will have some time for an orientation walk after arriving.
Meals included: Dinner
Single room option


 Day 2 Morning walk to highest waterfall in Swaziland, afternoon optional zip line, hikes or ancient rock art

This morning we explore this beautiful nature reserve, we start by making our way through the park to the Malolotja Falls; at 95m they are the highest waterfalls in Swaziland. Whilst hiking across the green rolling hills your leader will be spotting some of abundant bird life found in the park, including endangered blue swallow, Denham's bustard and southern bald ibis. After lunch the afternoon is free for you to continue the exploration of the reserve and your leader will advise you of many short walking trails found in the area. For the thrill seekers there is the option of taking the famous Malolotja Canopy Tour, featuring 11 wooden platforms joined together by zip lines, an unforgettable experience. There is also an option to take a short excursion to the ancient Sangweni San Rock Art site just outside the reserve near Maguga Dam.
Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Single room option


 Day 3 Visit oldest mine in the world, afternoon walking safari in Mliliwane

We spend our last morning in the Highveld visiting the Lion Cavern, the oldest mine in the world. This iron ore mine has been dated by archaeologists to around 43000 years ago and we will have a tour with a local guide. From the mine we visit the Ngwenya Glass Blowing Factory where highly skilled artists blow amazing glass crafts which are for sale in the factory shop. This is an important site as the glass used is 100% recycled and collected from used glass bottles in Swaziland. Leaving the green mountains behind us, we make our way to the renowned Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Mlilwane is where conservation started in Swaziland and we will spend the afternoon on a walking safari through this beautiful park, looking for zebra, antelope, wildebeest and a myriad of birdlife.
Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
Single room option


 Day 4 Morning free for optional activities, afternoon sunset safari and trip to Execution Rock

The morning is free for you to choose how you would like to explore Mlilwane, by foot, by bike or by horseback. All are available and offer unique ways of viewing game or just enjoying the beautiful countryside. Of course you can also just relax in our traditional beehive huts if you desire. In the afternoon we will take a game drive around the park and as the sun starts to go down we will head up the iconic Execution Rock, the mountain that dominates the landscape. Legend has it that centuries ago those who committed serious crimes against the King would be hauled to this peak and thrown from the cliff edge to their death. The summit offers 360 degree views of the entire Ezulwini Valley and is a great way to end the day - for us at least!
Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
Single room option


 Day 5 Local craft markets, drive to community village for overnight stay

Leaving Mlilwane we stop at local craft markets and have a chance to either buy or just see what the local communities make and sell. This area is famous for its candle making and we will visit a local workshop before heading to the Savanna Research Camp in Mbuluzi Game Reserve. At the camp we will have a conservation talk with a local specialist, understanding the history of nature conservation in Swaziland and the challenges facing the country and its wildlife today. We then make our way up the Lubombo ridge to the Shewula Mountain community to stay with our hosts for the evening. Swaziland is famous for its pristine culture and this is a fantastic way to experience this and enjoy the company of the local community. At Shewula Mountain Camp we will have the opportunity to sample delicious traditional Swazi cuisine including "tinkuku" a kind of casserole and "mgomeni" a delicious Swazi bean dish. We will also try some of the locally home brewed sorghum beer that is popular in the area.
Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner


 Day 6 Shewula village walking tour; afternoon sunset safari

This morning we will have some time to wander through the local village on a guided tour and meet some more of the community and see their homes and livelihoods. We will also visit a traditional herbalist doctor, known locally as Sangoma. We journey south to Mkhaya Game Reserve, home to four of the "big 5" and a goldmine when it comes to tracking white and black rhino. Mkhaya is a refuge for many of southern Africa's endangered and rare wildlife and offers a good opportunity to spot animals such as sable and roan antelope, tsesebe, eland and of course the park's flagship rhino. We will game drive through the park to our lodge, our home for the next two nights where we can eat our dinner under the stars.
Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
Single room option


 Day 7 Game drives and walking safari to spot rhino in Mkhaya Game Reserve

We are up early today and out game driving in open top land rovers, hoping to spot hyena, giraffe, hippo, kudu and many more. There is also an abundance of birdlife to find here, including narina trogon, pink-throated twinspot and nightjars. During the late morning we will join park rangers on a guided walking safari giving us the opportunity to be out of the vehicle, on foot and appreciating the Swazi bushveld and its wildlife from a more intimate perspective. After relaxing after lunch we will head out again this afternoon on safari in this private reserve. There is also a "hide" at our lodge, which we can try out tonight to get more great sightings of rhino and other game.
Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Single room option


 Day 8 Join tour Cape Town

This morning is our final safari in Swaziland before we make our way back to Johannesburg airport for our evening flight to Cape Town. Cape Town embodies the feeling of energy and hope that South Africans feel for the future of their country. It's a city of spectacular natural assets, with a high-tech city centre and a mixed population living peacefully together, whilst retaining their own customs. On arrival we will be transferred to our hotel in this beautiful city.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 9 Tour Cape Peninsula National Park

Today is spent enjoying a tour of the many points of interest on the Cape Peninsula. Our drive takes us via the glorious white-sand beaches of Fish Hoek and the important Naval base of Simon's Town. At Boulders Beach, we stop to see the resident African penguin colony, one of the only places in the world where this sea bird resides. Moving on to a major highlight, our next visit is to the Cape of Good Hope, first seen by a European in 1488 when Diaz sailed round it on his search for a sea route to the East Indies. We climb up to a viewpoint and watch the reputed turbulent clash of the warm Agulhas current from the Indian Ocean meeting the cold Benguela current from the Atlantic. If you're feeling active, a short trail leads down to Cape Point. Our return to Cape Town takes us via Hout Bay, an attractive fishing port once flanked by dense forest which gave it its name, translated as 'Wood Bay'. Here, you have the option of taking a short boat trip out to Seal Island - home to 1000 Cape fur seals and guarded by the impressive towering mountain of 'Sentinel'. Alternatively, you may chose to explore more on dry land. Hout Bay has an active tuna, snoek and crayfish industry and prides itself on offering some of the best fish and chips in the world.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 10 Ascend Table Mountain; drive Stellenbosch

This morning we plan to ascend Table Mountain. Weather permitting, you may choose to take the three to four-hour hiking trail up to the top, accompanied by your Tour Leader. Alternatively, an aerial cableway runs frequently to and from the summit, although it does close for 2 weeks for maintenance each year roughly from the end of July, the ticket for this must be purchased locally. This is our first encounter with some of the unique and colourful flowers from the Cape Floral Kingdom. This plant kingdom has more indigenous plant species per square metre than anywhere else in the world. As you would expect, the views from the top of Table Mountain are simply stunning. A network of trails criss-cross the plateau and provide a variety of vantage points. Later in the day we'll head out of Cape Town to stay for a couple of nights in Stellenbosch. This region produces some of the finest 'New World Wines', honed over several centuries by the Afrikaan wine growers. Should you wish to do so, you will have the opportunity to sample some of their latest vintages during an optional visit to a wine estate.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 11 Exploring the historic town of Stellenbosch and the winelands

To the north and east of Cape Town are the Cape Winelands, where rugged mountains rise above rolling green valleys, neatly planted with vineyards and dotted with whitewashed manor houses. Stellenbosch is one of the most beautiful and heritage-rich towns in southern Africa. A settlement was first established here in 1679 by the Governor of the Cape who recognised the benefits of the lush and fertile landscape. Today, we have the opportunity to stroll through this historic town, taking in the distinct architecture that reflects South Africa's rich and diverse history. You can choose to explore on your own following self-guided trails, or take an optional guided tour. If you are feeling energetic, you may like to take a walk on the Helderberg Mountains just behind Stellenbosch.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 12 Scenic drive to Oudtshoorn, stopping in wine country on route

We start early this morning for our scenic journey into the Little Karoo, as there are several points of interest worth visiting en route. After a short time, we will stop for a brief visit in Franschhoek. One of the oldest towns in South Africa, it is now renowned for its top restaurants and foodie offering, with property here among the most sort-after in the country. Worcester is our next stop. Located in the heart of the verdant Breede River Valley, it is surrounded by the largest of the Western Cape's fruit and wine producing valleys. Here, we will find the Karoo National Botanical Garden - a haven for rare and endangered plants. While our drive through the centre of town gives views of the fine Victorian town buildings. We continue our drive through the stark and arid landscapes of the Little Karoo, heading east through Barrydale and Ladismith. Finally, in the centre of South Africa's ostrich farming country, we reach our country lodge accommodation near Oudtshoorn, where we will spend the next two nights.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 13 In Oudstshoorn, exploring the Cango Caves

We head off early this morning to make the most of the stunning variety of landscapes in this region. We start by exploring the massive limestone caverns of the Cango Caves, where we have the option of joining one of the guided tours which run regularly throughout the day. The caves are an underground wonderland of extraordinary structures, millions of years old. The combination of dripping rainwater and limestone has led to the creation of some of nature's most breath-taking natural arrangements. A local European farmer first discovered the caves late in the 18th century. Ever since then, they have been enjoyed and explored by professionals and amateurs alike. This afternoon, you have the option of a visit to a local Ostrich Farm, where you can see Zimbabwean Blue, Kenyan Red and South African varieties of this bird, along with the rare and beautiful white ostriches.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 14 Drive to Knysna, walk on pensinula looking for Seals and Dolphins

After leaving Oudtshoorn, we travel along the dramatic Outeniqua pass through the Outeniqua Mountains. These mountains form a formidable barrier between the dry interior and the lush coastal strip known as the 'Garden Route'. Our next two nights are spent in Knysna, which is a popular artists' retreat and adventure activity base, twice voted South Africa's favourite town. It was originally a lucrative harbour, forestry and mining centre, established as a commercial town by the reputed illegitimate son of King George III, George Rex. Its wealth was built on its lagoon from which goods could be easily transported. Later today, it may also be possible to take an easy walk on the magnificent Robberg Peninsula. Named after the seal colony found there by Dutch sailors, it offers stunning views of the coastline. From the peninsula, you may well see seals and dolphins. From June to late November, you may also catch sight of southern right whales that come into the calmer and warmer waters to calve and nurse their young.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 15 Visit Tsitsikamma National Park, optional walks and short treks

No visit to the Garden Route would be complete without a visit to the magnificent Tsitsikamma National Park. This marine and forest park stretches for 80 kilometres, from a lagoon at Nature's Valley to the mouth of the Groot River. Whilst in the park, you have the option to join a canopy tour, during which you can 'fly' through the forest on a zipwire. The lush forest and sheer cliffs also provide an ideal setting for trekking and we are likely to go on a short walk to the suspension bridge that spans the mouth of Storm's River. Here, the rugged coastline with its crashing waves and the forest-covered cliffs are simply spellbinding. Whist in this area, we also recommend sampling the excellent local seafood.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 16 Game drive in Boteilierskop reserve, drive to Swellendem

This morning, we have an early start to drive to Botelierskop Private Game Reserve for our three -hour game drive. Here, a local guide will accompany us as we explore the 3000 hectare reserve in an open four-wheel drive safari vehicle. There are around 1800 animals in the reserve, across 26 species, including rhino, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, eland, bontebok and black impala. The reserve also attracts over 200 species of bird. During our visit, we are also likely to meet orphaned elephants and lions. This afternoon, we will continue to follow the garden route into an important farming region where we will find Swellendam - our base for the night.
Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
Single room option


 Day 17 Along the 'Whale Route' to Cape Town

On our penultimate day of the tour, we follow the acclaimed 'Whale Route' along the dramatic south coast to Cape Town. Our first stop is wild and dramatic Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point in Africa. It is also the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. We then drive on to the small seaside resort of Hermanus, regarded as one of the premier spots for whale-watching in Africa, if not the world. Every year, between June and December, southern right whales mate and calve in this area. Hermanus is one of the best places to see them as they come very close inshore and the cliff top coastal walk offers many convenient viewing points. A 'whale crier' keeps everybody informed of the whereabouts of the whales by blowing his kelp horn and is as much a part of the whale watching experience as the whales are. Finally, we return to Cape Town via Betty's Bay and Gordon's Bay, affording spectacular views across both Walker Bay and False Bay. On your final evening of the tour, you may choose to go to a traditional African drumming performance, or simply enjoy one of the many excellent restaurants in the city. Please note: Final timings of today's itinerary are flexible and depend on seasonality and the likelihood of spotting whales. Out of whale season, we may arrive in Cape Town earlier in the day, allowing us free time to spend as we wish.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 18 Tour ends Cape Town

The tour ends today after breakfast. Depending on the schedule of your flights, you may have enough time to visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. The gardens lie on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and consist of landscaped gardens of indigenous plants and trees. They are a living display of floral beauty and feature 4700 of the estimated 20000 species of indigenous South African flora, and close to 50 per cent of the Peninsula's floral wealth! Alternatively and depending on the schedule of your flights, you may opt to take a boat trip to visit Robben Island, if you haven't already had the chance to visit it on Day 1. It is here that Nelson Mandela served most of his prison sentence under the South African government and is now a worthy and powerful symbol of the optimism and hope for the future of South Africa. If this all sounds far too strenuous, you could just soak up the vibrant and colourful atmosphere at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and just wander or do some last minute shopping!
Meals included: Breakfast


Tour Map