At the present time EcoQuest Travel does not have a trip to South Africa scheduled. The following itinerary is an example of trips we have conducted in the past and is similar to trips we intend to offer in the future. If you are interested in South Africa as a destination please contact us for further information.
SOUTH AFRICA SAFARI
Wildlife, Wine Country and Whales
EcoQuest Travel is proud to invite you on the journey of a lifetime as we explore the natural history and cultural heritage of South Africa! South Africa is blessed with abundant wildlife, incredible scenery, glittering cities, a tapestry of cultures and a soul ravaged and scarred, but also beautiful and full of hope. South Africa beckons with the promise of unforgettable experiences: a leopard fading into the inky darkness of an African night; the power of a right whale heaving itself out of the calm waters of the Indian Ocean; the vibrance of Cape Town and the sobering history of Robben Island; the stunning vistas from the top of Table Mountain; elephants at play and so much more. Come join us as we go on safari through some of South Africa’s greatest national parks in hopes of glimpsing the “Big Five” amid the vast diversity of wildlife that makes any safari to Africa magical. Along the way I hope we discover the heart of the “Rainbow Nation” as she heals and her colors finally begin to blend.
Day 1 – Sunday, July 10: Your Home Cities to New York and on to Johannesburg, South Africa
We will depart from New York City on our long overnight flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. We will depart for South Africa in the late morning. Please make sure to arrive at our departure gate at least two hours prior to our scheduled departure time. Your tour leader will be there to greet you.
Day 2 – Monday, July 11: Arrival in South Africa and Transfer to Pretoria
We will arrive in South Africa this morning and after clearing immigration and customs we will transfer to our accommodations at the Crane’s Nest Guesthouse in South Africa’s capitol of Pretoria. The Crane’s Nest is a beautiful, tranquil little hotel with comfortable rooms that will be a welcome retreat after our long journey. In the afternoon we will have lunch at the Blue Crane Restaurant before we visit the adjacent Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary. This sanctuary is home to 189 species of birds including South Africa’s national bird – the blue crane. We will spend some time exploring the sanctuary and viewing birds from the blinds before departing for dinner at a local restaurant named Kream. After dinner we will return to our hotel for a night of much needed rest. (L)
Day 3 – Tuesday, July 12: Travel to Pilanesberg
Today we will begin our safari as we travel to Pilanesberg National Park (about an hour and a half to two hour drive from Johannesburg). After checking in at our accommodations at Kwa Maritane Game Lodge we will have a chance to relax before lunch. In the late afternoon we will have our first game drive. Pilanesberg NP is contained within the rim of an ancient volcano. Within the crater the bushveld of the east and the desert of the west merge creating an area of high wildlife diversity. Springbok, gemsbok, brown hyena and other arid zone specialists mix with species more characteristic of the bushveld such as impalas, kudus and spotted hyena. Our afternoon game drive will last until after it gets dark gradually becoming a night drive. This twilight time as day fades into night brings out a host of seldom seen nocturnal animals such as aardwolf, lesser bush baby, Cape porcupines, genets and owls. As night takes over the twilight we also hope to have the thrilling opportunity to view predators in action. After a full day we will return to the Lodge for a great dinner and comfortable night’s sleep! (B,D)
Day 4 – Wednesday, July 13: Pilanesberg National Park
This morning we will begin a full day of exploration within Pilanesberg NP. We will depart at sunrise for our morning game drive when animal activity is at its peak. We will return to the Lodge in the late morning for a full breakfast/brunch and have a chance to rest during the heat of the day before returning to the Park for the late afternoon wildlife activity period – a pattern which will repeat itself daily while we are on safari. We also may have a bush brunch – where we take our full breakfast/brunch with us to eat while wildlife watching. Abundant water in the valley floors create nutrient rich grasses that attract herds of Burchell’s zebra, sable antelope, red hartebeests, blue wildebeests, warthogs, elephants and both black and white rhinos. The abundance of game support lions, leopards, cheetah and brown hyenas. Among the mammals will be a striking diversity of birds. After a full day we will have dinner and overnight once again at Kwa Maritane. (B,D)
Day 5 – Thursday, July 14: Travel to Graskop and the Blyde River Canyon Area
This morning we will depart Pilanesberg early for our long drive east toward Kruger National Park. Our goal is break up the journey to Kruger by traveling only as far as Graskop today. The drive to Graskop will still take six to seven hours, but we will stop as needed to stretch our legs and will eat lunch along the way. The drive will be a scenic one through a tapestry of villages, fields and picturesque countryside. The reason we need to depart early this morning is that we hope to arrive in Graskop in time to spend the late afternoon exploring and birding the Panorama Route along Blyde River Canyon. We will try to spot the incredibly rare taita falcon at its eerie at Abel Erasmus Pass. After that we will drive along the Blyde River Canyon stopping often for the spectacular scenery and to look for southern bald ibis, blue swallow and many vultures and raptors. There are many scenic overlooks and short trails along the canyon’s edge and after our long drive being able to walk around and soak up the vistas will be most welcome. Tonight we will have dinner and overnight at Mogodi Lodge in Graskop. (B,L,D)
Days 6 & 7 – Friday & Saturday, July 15 & 16: Kruger National Park
Today we will depart for South Africa’s most famous National Park – Kruger. Encompassing 7,523 square miles (the size of Massachusetts), Kruger is also the largest national park in South Africa. It has an incredible diversity of wildlife including an astonishing 130 species of mammals and 468 species of birds. Owing to years of protection the animals in Kruger are very accepting of vehicles which allows for exceptional opportunities to view wildlife close-up. Graskop is quite close to Kruger so we will be at the gates and into the park in no time this morning. Once we arrive we will have a game drive all the way to our accommodations at Skukuza Camp which is situated along the Sabie River. We should arrive in time for lunch and have a chance to settle into our rooms during the mid afternoon. We could explore camp this afternoon as well and if we search the trees we could spy fruit bats, thick-tailed bush babies, purple-crested turacos and a variety of other birds. In the late afternoon we will have another game drive prior to dinner. We will have two full days in Kruger NP and each day will begin with a morning game drive followed by a rest during the heat of the day and another game drive in the late afternoon. Due to its size, Kruger has more species diversity than anywhere else in South Africa. The Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo) are found in abundance and rarer animals such as African wild dogs and cheetah are also readily seen. Giraffe, zebra, impala, southern reedbuck and other antelope are found on the plains while vervet monkeys, chacma baboons and numerous bird species grace the trees. In fact, the birdlife is prolific and will be one of the highlights of our visit to Kruger. (B,D)
Days 8 & 9 – Sunday & Monday, July 17 & 18: Motswari Private Game Reserve
Today we will depart at dawn traveling north within Kruger through the Satara section of the Park. We will have lunch at Satara Camp before heading west and out of the Park en route to the Motswari Game Reserve. Motswari is a privately owned and operated game reserve bordering Kruger National Park. Although it contains much of the same wildlife found in Kruger, the advantage of Motswari is how we will get to experience the wildlife. We will be allowed to have night game drives in the private reserve and this is an extraordinary way to experience Africa. On our night drive we have a great chance to see lions, and other predators on the hunt, as well as smaller carnivores, owls and nightjars. We will also be on the lookout for unusual and seldom seen nocturnal creatures like aardvark, ratel (or honey badger) and bushbabies. Not only will we have both day and night game drives, but we will also have the opportunity to have a walking safari through the bush. This is a very unique and often adrenalin filled way to observe South Africa’s magnificent wildlife. We will overnight each night at our private accommodations within Motswari. (B,L,D)
Day 10 – Tuesday, July 19: Motswari back to Johannesburg and Fly to Cape Town
This morning we will have another early morning game drive in Motswari prior to breakfast. After breakfast we will depart Motswari for the long drive back to Johannesburg. Once we arrive in Johannesburg we will transfer to the airport for our early evening flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town. After we arrive in Cape Town we will transfer to our accommodations at the Cape Town Lodge. Cape Town Lodge is a modern hotel with very comfortable rooms, superb service and a great view of Table Mountain. (B,D on the plane)
Day 11 – Wednesday, July 20: Cape Town Highlights: Table Mountain, Robben Island
Cape Town is arguably the most beautiful city in the world and we will spend the entire day exploring some of its most famous sites. Early in the morning we will visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. These gardens are among the finest in the world and contain more than 9,000 species of flowering plants and a magnificent greenhouse of succulent plants from all over southern Africa. Kirstenbosch is also a great place to look for birds including those endemic to the Cape region such as Cape sugarbird, orange-breasted sunbird and Cape francolin. After our visit to the gardens we will take the awesome cable car ride up Table Mountain. Overlooking the city and the coastline, the views from Table Mountain’s summit are breathtaking. After lunch somewhere along the way we will follow in Nelson Mandela’s footsteps and learn about his struggle against apartheid as we visit Robben Island. Robben Island is a former prison island and is where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for so many years. Our tour of the island will be led by a former inmate making our visit all the more poignant. We should also have time to view the group of Cape fur seals and the penguin colony that make Robben Island their home. After a full day of activities we will return to Cape Town for dinner on our own and overnight at the Cape Town Lodge. (B,L)
Day 12 – Thursday, July 21: Cape Peninsula and Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
Today we will spend a full day on the Cape Peninsula including Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. This reserve has incredible scenery, is home to coastal fynbo vegetation and contains Cape mountain zebra, bonteboks, eland and red hartebeest. It also has a large population of chacma baboons which we may see eating mussels along the beach. We will hike some of the reserve’s many trails looking for wildlife and also hike out to Cape Point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. We will take a picnic lunch with us today. On our way back to Cape Town we will stop at The Boulders to observe, and potentially swim with, African penguins. In the evening we will return to Cape Town for dinner on our own and overnight at the Cape Town Lodge. (B,L)
Day 13 – Friday, July 22: South Africa’s Wine Country
This morning we will depart Cape Town and travel east through the stunning scenery that makes up South Africa’s wine region. Along the way we will stop near Sir Lowry’s Pass to look for Cape rock-jumper, Victorin’s scrub-warbler and few other birds that are unique to this region. After birding we will continue east to the wine country. The marine and mountain influenced climate is perfect for grapes and the vineyards of this area produce some of the world’s best wines. As we wind through the countryside we will stop at Blaauwklippen Winery for a cellar tour and wine tasting. After that we will continue to Somerset West and Vergelegen Winery for a wine tasting and lunch at Lady Phillips Restaurant. Our destination for this afternoon is the charming seaside town of Hermanus. Hermanus is famous for the large number of endangered southern right whales that gather in the waters of Walker Bay each winter between June and November. The whales are often seen close to shore and this afternoon we will hike along the coast to search for them. We will have dinner on our own in Hermanus and overnight at the Whale Rock Lodge. The Whale Rock Lodge is a beautiful and luxurious retreat. (B,L)
Day 14 – Saturday, July 23: Whale Watching and back to Cape Town
After an early breakfast we will travel to the nearby town of Gansbaai to board our Dyer Island Cruises whale watching boat. We will spend the morning searching for southern right whales and perhaps humpback whales as well. The chance to get up close to these gentle giants is a rare privilege and one sure to create lasting memories. There is other wildlife to be seen in these rich waters especially around Dyer Island and we could see Cape fur seals, African penguins, Cape cormorants and other seabirds. These waters are also famous for great white sharks and if we are lucky we could also catch a glimpse of this magnificent predator. After whale watching we will return to Hermanus and continue on to Cape Town. Tonight we will have our farewell dinner at the Gold of Africa Restaurant where we will be able to do some interactive drumming before a multi-course African dinner and cultural show. After dinner we will settle in for the night at the Cape Town Lodge. (B,L,D)
Day 15 – Sunday, July 24: Morning Shopping, Flight to Johannesburg and Connect to our Flight to the US
This morning we will visit the artisan markets around the famous new soccer stadium at Greenpoint. The various stalls selling handicrafts, textiles and other handmade goods are excellent places to look for souvenirs. After shopping we will have lunch and then visit the Strandfontein sewage works to do some bird watching before transferring to the airport for our late afternoon flight to Johannesburg. Upon arrival in Johannesburg we will transfer to our departure gate for our overnight flight back to New York City. Breakfast is provided today, lunch is on our own and dinner will likely take place at the airport or on the plane. (B)
Day 16 – Monday, July 25: Arrival in the US and Transfer to Flights Home
We will arrive in New York City this morning and after clearing immigration and customs we will transfer to our flights home.
* Please note that EcoQuest Travel, Inc. will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.