Who hasn't dreamt of riding across the African savannah in an open vehicle, checking out the elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras, and a few big cats? I think everyone had this dream as a child, but for many Canadians, an African safari has always seemed too far, too expensive, too dangerous, or just too much to seriously contemplate.
Well, TravelMaven wants to make your dream a reality. Here’s our plan.
The first step is getting to South Africa. There are no direct flights from Canada to South Africa, so everyone has to make a connection somewhere. Options include the United States, Europe, the Middle East or northern Africa. On the upside, these connections also create the opportunity to build in a stopover. For example, previous guests have spent a few days in Amsterdam, Paris, London and even Dubai. (Ask Barry for suggestions & details.)
In most cases, guests arrive the day after leaving Toronto. Barry will be at OR Tambo airport to meet flights and walk guests over to the City Lodge Hotel (attached to the terminal). Depending on your flight plan, you may have time to relax at the hotel, take a swim in the pool or eat at one of the many restaurants in the airport.
The next morning we will be picked up by private transport and head east towards Kruger National Park. Our home-away-from-home 'in the Kruger' will be the lovely Rio Vista Lodge overlooking the Crocodile River. While there, Charles & Debbie from CD Tours will show us the best of their region. First and foremost, we will enjoy 3 safaris into Kruger National Park. The first is a 10 hr safari that departs early enough to catch sunrise in the park. The second is a relaxing sunset safari with National Park staff, and the third is morning-only on our last day.
In addition to safaris, there are also two full-day tours and multiple other stops. The first day trip is along the Panorama Route to see the awesome Blyde River Canyon. The second is to nearby eSwatini (a.k.a. Swaziland), an independent country located between South Africa and Mozambique, where we will enjoy the rugged mountains and cultural experiences. Other attractions include Jane Goodall's Chimp Eden (a rehabilitation and research centre for abused primates), and the Sudwala Caves (for an amazing geology lesson).
After a week on safari, we will take a 2 hour flight west to Cape Town, the historic port city and perennial candidate for 'most beautiful city in the world'.
While there, we will stay in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, a spectacular development that links an active harbour with dozens of cafes. restaurants, galleries and shops. In this area, visitors from around the world walk the streets and paths safely, enjoying the works of art, soaking up the vibe and breathing the salt air. There is also a great African curio shop in the Waterfront for authentic and surprisingly affordable souvenirs.
While in Cape Town, nobody should miss Robben Island. This prison, where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years, has become the #1 attraction in South Africa. To access other sights and attractions, our hotel is conveniently located across the street from the main 'Hop On Hop Off' bus station, making exploring the city and region easy and convenient for everyone.
While Cape Town is amazing, so is what lies beyond it in the rest of the spectacular Western Cape. We will explore the Cape of Good Hope and visit the Boulder Penguin Colony. We will spend a morning at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and ascend Tabletop Mountain by cable car or hiking (for the more adventurous) to look out over the city and Atlantic Ocean.
In terms of meals included in the Land Package, the tour really has two parts. During the first week at Rio Vista Lodge, breakfasts and dinners are provided daily, and lunch is provided during our two day tours. During our second week in Cape Town, guests will have more freedom to choose from among the dozens of awesome eateries in the Waterfront District. Breakfast is included daily, as are 2 group dinners.
Fortunately, the cost of living in South Africa is very reasonable for Canadians. Lunch can be found for less than $10, dinner for less than $20 and a beer or glass of wine is usually less than $5. As a result, I think guests should budget about $300 for meals not included.
I first visited South Africa in 2015 with my family during our six month around-the-world tour. Believe it or not, when asked afterwards which country was our favourite, all four of us chose South Africa from amongst 15 countries (and there was plenty of stiff competition). Ask around, it seems like everyone who goes to South Africa loves it.
In terms of researching this tour, I went to South Africa in February 2019, and returned twice with groups in early 2020. At this point, I am not sure if I will be able to visit in 2021. As a result, I am confident that whomever goes on this tour will have an unforgettable 'bucket list' experience. Why don't you join us?
TYPE: Bucket List
HOTEL: 4 star & 3 star
LENGTH: Two weeks
GROUP: max 12 guests
City Lodge Hotel, Johannesburg Airport
Rio Vista Lodge, Malelane (Kruger)
Kruger safaris (2 or 3)
Eswatini day tour
Panorama Route day tour
Jane Goodall's Chimp Eden tour
Portswood Waterfront Hotel, Cape Town
Visit to Robben Island prison
Cape Town Hop on Hop Off Pass
Cape Point & Penguins full-day tour
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens visit
Stellenbosch winery tour
Cycling tour in wine region (optional)
1 night at City Lodge Hotel, 6 nights at Rio Vista Lodge, 6 nights at Portswood Hotel, breakfast daily, 4 lunches, 8 dinners, 2 Welcome Receptions, 10 hr Kruger safari, 4 hr Kruger sunset safari, Swaziland tour; Panorama tour; Jane Goodall Chimp Eden tour; Robben Island tour, Unlimited 5 day Hop On Hop Off bus pass; Cape Point & Penguins full-day tour; Tabletop Mountain cable car or hike;TravelMaven Tour Concierge, all ground transportation and taxes.
Tours are guaranteed to depart regardless of group size. This Land Package price is quoted in Canadian dollars, based on double occupancy, and is only guaranteed when a $250 deposit is received.
Pre-Day #1 Early Arrival in Toronto
Guests from outside Toronto may wish to take advantage of a special rate TravelMaven has arranged at the Holiday Inn that includes 16 days parking. Ask about this option when booking your tour.
Pre-Day #2 Depart Toronto
There are many flight options to South Africa, but we suggest one of two. The first is with Ethiopian Airlines which departs Toronto at 10:00 and arrives in Johannesburg at 13:05 the next day. The second is with KLM Airlines which departs Toronto at 18:40 and arrives in Johannesburg at 22:05 the next day.
Day 1 Arrive in South Africa
Barry will meet travellers upon arrival at Johannesburg Airport and walk them over to the CityLodge Hotel (attached to the terminal). Depending on their flight plan, travellers may enjoy some free time, possibly taking a swim in the pool or enjoying a meal at one of the many restaurants available.
Day 2 Overland to Kruger, Sudwala Caves (B,D)
After breakfast, our group will head east towards Kruger National Park. Along the way, we will make two stops. The first is the Alzu Welcome Centre for lunch. The second is Sudwala Caves, an amazing geological feature that provides great context for all of South Africa. After check-in at Rio Vista Lodge, we will enjoy a Welcome Dinner and presentation highlighting the history of Kruger National Park.
Day 3 Kruger Full Day Safari (B,D)
For many, this will be the most exciting day of the tour. We will leave our hotel at 5 am in open safari vehicles to catch sunrise in Kruger National Park. This is a full-day safari includes morning coffee and a lunch stop at Skukuza Camp. Before returning to Rio Vista, we will visit a local supermarket to stock up on snacks & drinks.
Day 4 Panorama Route & Blyde Canyon (B, L, D)
On this day we will head north to experience the magnificent Panorama Route. This spectacular drive overlooks the Blyde River Canyon, sometimes called Africa's Grand Canyon. There will be several stops for photographs, and lunch will be provided.
Day 5 Chimp Eden & Kruger Sunset Safari (B, D)
In the morning, we will visit Jane Goodall's Chimp Eden. This mountain-side facility rehabilitates and provides a refuge for abused chimpanzees. After a lunch stop in Nelspruit, we will return to the Rio Vista for some free time before heading back to Kruger for a Sunset Safari with National Park staff.
Day 6 eSwatini (aka Swaziland) Day Tour (B, L, D)
This is a long day. A private coach will take us to nearby eSwatini, an independent nation situated between South Africa and Mozanbique, to learn about their unique culture and way of life. Lunch and several stops are included, and there are great opportunities to pick up unique souvenirs.
Day 7 Kruger Half Day Safari (B,D)
On this day, guests will experience their third Kruger safari in the morning, followed by a free afternoon at the Rio Vista Lodge. In the evening, we will treated with a South African braai (bbq).
Open safari vehicle in Kruger National Park
Day 8 Fly from Kruger to Cape Town (B, D)
After breakfast and check out, we will be transfered to nearby Mpumalanga Airport, where we will catch our 2 hr flight to Cape Town. Upon arrival, our private transfer will take us to the Portswood Hotel in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront District. After check in, we will enjoy a Welcome Dinner in a lovely Belgian style restaurant nearby.
Day 9 Robben Island & Sunset Tour (B)
A short walk from our hotel is the ferry that takes us to Robben Island, site of Nelson Mandela's imprisonment for 18 years. At the end of the organized tour, guests will have the option of returning to the Waterfront, or staying longer to explore the island. Later in the afternoon we will reconvene for a Sunset Tour to Signal Hill, where we will watch the sun plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.
Day 10 Table Mountain (B)
On this day we will ascend Cape Town's most famous icon, Table Mountain. We will catch the cable car to the top and enjoy a leisurely stroll catching the amazing views of Cape Town. Afterwards, guest will have two options: take the cable car back down and return to the Waterfront, or join a group hike (moderate difficulty for 3-4 hrs) that will bring us off the back of Table Mountain.
Day 11 Cape of Good Hope (B,D)
On this day we will visit the Cape of Good Hope, including a visit to the Western Cape's penguin colony. Once again, guests will have two options. For non-hikers, there is a day-trip offered by the Hop-on Hop-off bus company,. For those wanting a more active day, a hike around the Cape Point Nature Reserve will be offered. In the evening, we will enjoy the Portswood Hotel's Wednesday Cape Malay Curry Buffet.
Day 12 Botanical Garden, Groet Constantia Winery (B)
In the morning we will visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Afterwards, we will continue to the Groet Constantia winery for lunch, a tour and wine tasting. Alternately, guests may prefer to spend the afternoon in Camp's Bay, or return to the Waterfront for the harbour or canal tour. In the evening, those interested may join Barry for a trip downtown to experience the (seedy but fun) nightlife found on Long Street.
Day 13 Free Day (B)
There are multiple options for guests on this day. In fact, picking which one may be the biggest challenge! In 2020, many guests booked a full day winery tour to Stellenbosch, a couple took a Township Tour, one woman visited a couple of Cape Town's amazing museums - and one even took a helicopter tour of the Western Cape region.. In the evening, many of us went for pizza & beer.
Day 14 Depart for Toronto (B)
On this day, after our final breakfast and check out, we will head for home. Those travelling with Ethiopian Airlines depart Cape Town International at 14:35. Those travelling with KLM (partnered with Air France & Delta), have two or three options in the evening.
Post Day #1 Arrive in Toronto
Depending on their flight plan, travellers arrive back in Toronto in the morning, afternoon or evening.
The wineries of Stellenbosch & Paarl.