DAY 1 Durban – Pietermaritzburg – Drakensberg Mountains
This tour highlights excellent contrasts of landscape including excellent scenery and flowers of Namaqualand during the months of July to September after good rains. You are collected at 09h00 and we drive inland to Pietermaritzburg, the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, for a brief city tour. Stop at the railway station where Mahatma Gandhi was thrown off the train because of the colour of his skin, and see the waiting room where, in the silence of the night, he formulated his philosophy of passive resistance.
Continue to Howick where we visit the 100m high Falls, and stop at the monument erected on the spot where Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962. Continue through an area of gentle pastoral beauty called the Natal Midlands. Pass through grassy plains scattered with villages and lush farmlands where plump cattle and thoroughbred horses graze. We stop at the place where Winston Churchill was arrested by the Boers during the Anglo-Boer War. Enter the Spionkop Game Reserve and have a good chance of seeing, amongst others, white rhino, giraffe and zebra.Then we travel to our hotel from where you can enjoy magnificent views while enjoying sundowners.
DAY 2 Drakensberg Mountains – Bloemfontein
After breakfast, we visit the Royal Natal National Park with magnificent views of the Amphitheatre. Take a short hike to the Cascades Falls. We might even be joined by the odd baboon with the same idea. Mid-morning we commence our drive via the Oliviershoek Pass, with beautiful views onto the Sterkfontein Dam, to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Through the ages water has modelled the sandstone into spectacular formations, and has interacted with iron oxides to produce a brilliant range of yellows, oranges and reds.
On our way we may encounter red hartebeest, black wildebeest, zebra and springbok. Clarence that lies beneath high sandstone hills, is known for its art shops and restaurants. The route to Bloemfontein leads through vast maize fields. Bloemfontein originated at a spring which, at various times, was a source of water for the ancient San people, Sotho farmers and Settlers exploring the inland from the then Cape Colony. Bloemfontein is the capital of Free State Province and the judicial capital of South Africa. Overnight in City Lodge Bloemfontein.
DAY 3 Bloemfontein – Kimberley
This morning we drive through the city with its many historic buildings, and visit the National Women’s Memorial and War Museum, commemorating the Anglo-Boer War. Then we leave for Kimberley, the world’s diamond capital, a modern city with broad, tree lined streets and attractive parks and gardens. During the world’s greatest diamond rush, hordes converged on the region and dug the world’s biggest manmade hole in search of diamonds. On our city tour we visit the impressive and very interesting Big Hole Museum, where history comes to life.
DAY 4 Kimberley – Kalahari Desert – Upington – Augrabies Falls
We travel further westwards towards the Kalahari Desert. We drive past sites where prospecting for diamonds, with primitive tools is still a way of life for some of the local people. Further north, we see the rich iron deposits in the Sishen mining area. Before we turn west again towards Upington, a town established around a Dutch Reformed Church mission station. All South Africa’s dried sultanas are processed here for export to the rest of the world. The town lies next to the majestic Orange River and the lush green vineyards and palm trees stand out as an oasis in the lunar like landscape.
The route along the river through Keimoes and Kakamas with their water canals and ancient water wheels that are still in use, provide good opportunities to sample some of the locally produced dates and dried fruit. We reach Augrabies Falls, the fifth largest in the world, before sunset to provide great photo opportunities. Walks to the edge of the falls and along the edge of the ravine, are rewarding. Augrabies in San means “the place of great noise). We overnight in the reserve where hyrax will probably give you a curious look while you enjoy your sundowners.
DAY 5 Augrabies Falls – Springbok
After breakfast we do a game drive in the Augrabies Falls National Park. We visit one of the greatest of all gorges cut through granite by the mighty Orange River. Springbok, klipspringer, suricate (meerkat), etc. roam the semi-desert landscape. Then we commence on the pencil straight road to the West Coast. The vast expanses of space and silence, drought, and blazing sunshine on the arid landscape, have kept this mineral rich region sparsely populated. This was the home of the San (Bushmen) and now only a few remaining families live in remote areas.
We turn off the highway to Pella on the Namibian border. This delightful mission station boasts a magnificent cathedral built by two priests from plans in an encyclopaedia. It is one of two places in the country where dates are produced commercially on a large scale. We overnight in the town of Springbok. Springbok is the capital of Namaqualand and was established as a result of the copper mines in the area.
DAY 6 Springbok – Goegap Nature Reserve – Namaqua National Park – Lamberts Bay
Breakfast provides a good start to the day, and we visit the Goegap Nature Reserve right on the doorstep of the town. Springbok and Gemsbuck (Oryx) are frequently seen here. The reserve is also known for its scenery and flowers, especially succulents. Depending on the rainfall, from August to October this area turns into an exquisite display of colourful flowers. Now we drive south through Namaqualand. Flowers are prolific here during the flower season (August to September) transforming the area into brilliant colours from one horizon to the other.
In season, we visit the Namaqua National Park to view this spectacle of the amazing scenery and flowers. We continue past Garies, Van Rhynsdorp and Vredendal with its many vineyards, and reach the coast a little further west – we have made it across the subcontinent! What a welcome sight the Atlantic Ocean is! We skirt along the coastline with brilliant white sandy beaches and the flat, cold seas.
The Sishen iron ore railway line runs parallel to the road and we may see the world’s longest train passing us. Lamberts Bay, also known as the Rock Lobster Capital of South Africa, is our overnight stop. You have the rest of the afternoon at leisure to do penguin and bird watching. Joined to the mainland by a pier, Bird Island is one of only six breeding colonies of the Cape gannet in the world. Large numbers of Cape cormorants and a small population of African penguins also breed on the island.
DAY 7 Lamberts Bay – St Helena – Saldanha – West Coast National Park – Cape Town.
After a hearty breakfast, we travel southwards past Elands Bay and Baboon Point. A short walk into the mountain takes us to well hidden, but also well-preserved Bushman paintings on the rock-face of an overhanging cliff. We continue to Velddrif, situated at the mouth of the Berg River. Pelicans and flamingos are often seen here. White rocks and a cobalt sea greet us driving along the coastline to St Helena Bay. We stop at the site where one of the Portuguese seafarer Vasco da Gama’s men was involved in a brawl with a group of Khoikhoi (Hottentots) in 1497. This was the first clash on the shores of Southern Africa between Europeans and Africans. St Helena Bay is the only place on the West Coast where the sun rises in the east. Here fisheries, fishing vessels, dolphins and luxurious homes exist side by side.
We visit a few small fishing villages such as Stompneus Bay and Paternoster, renowned for the rock lobster found here. Then further to Saldanha, the largest natural bay in South Africa and the country’s iron ore export harbour. We visit Langebaan Lagoon and surrounding area, which comprise the West Coast National Park. This park is internationally recognised as one of the world’s great wetlands. In summer, some sixty thousand birds populate this park. Ostriches curiously look at us through the fynbos (fine bush), and if we are lucky, we may even see zebra and small antelope. In spring, this is also a flower paradise. We continue southwards to Cape Town and are greeted with some magic views of Table Mountain in the distance. The experience ends in Cape Town and the tour will be in your memory as an extraordinary and a once in a lifetime experience.
NOTE: another tour that may interest you is the countrywide Wildlife and Flowers package