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Discover South Africa's most iconic road trip; The Garden Route. Vibrant Cape Town, African penguin colonies, world-renowned wine-tasting and spotting herds of elephants are some highlights along this route of cities, beaches, desert and forest.
Explore Tour Leader
2 nights comfortable cabins
2 nights comfortable guesthouse
7 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Cape Town, South Africa's Mother City, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and Twelve Apostles mountain range. This vibrant city has a lot to offer but due to its ocean-side location visits to some of the highlights, including Robben Island and Table Mountain, can be weather dependent. If you wish to explore the city in depth before travelling down the Garden Route, we recommend adding a pre-tour stay for some extra time in Cape Town.
For those arriving on time, either your leader or a representative will meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm to welcome the group and offer you local advice including where to eat nearby. On this trip, due to different arrival times throughout the evening the full welcome meeting with your leader often takes place on the morning of day two after breakfast.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Cape Town International airport (airport code CPT), which is 20km, around 40 minutes from our hotel.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you may choose to enjoy some free time with a bite to eat in the relaxed Kloof Street area alongside Capetonians or explore the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in the sunshine.
Aha Harbour Bridge Hotel (or similar)
Our full day trip to Cape Peninsula will begin with a scenic drive via the white-sand beaches of Fish Hoek, stopping to explore the small but important naval base of Simon's Town. Later, we arrive at Cape of Good Hope, allegedly named due to the optimism once felt by arriving colonial sailors having successfully navigated the Cape and discovering a sea route to the East. We'll take an hour-long walk within the national park to Cape Point and the lighthouse, keeping an eye out for resident baboons, tortoises, otters and seabirds along the way. The trail is well marked, slightly rocky in places, and boasts diverse flora with many colourful flowers.
We'll return to Cape Town via Hout Bay, an attractive fishing port once bordered by dense forest, hence its name, which translates as 'Wood Bay'. Here, we have the option of taking a short boat trip out to Seal Island - home to 1,000 Cape fur seals and guarded by the impressive, towering Sentinel Mountain. Alternatively, explore on dry land to see Hout Bay's active tuna, snoek and crayfish industry and find out why the town prides itself on offering some of the best fish and chips in the world.
Today is free for you to explore under your own steam and there is ample choice on how to spend your day.
If you want to visit Robben Island, this morning is the best time to go. With prior booking, you can visit the infamous Robben Island, the former prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. There are departures at 9am, 11am and 1pm but the city's changeable weather often means the earlier morning departures are the most reliable. For information on how to book this, please see the optional activities section or visit www.robben-island.org.za.
Alternatively, the morning is also the best time to hike up Table Mountain, with more reliable weather and cooler temperatures making a better experience and breath taking views over the Apostles, the Atlantic and the city below. The walk up to the viewpoint takes between three to four hours and is accompanied by our Trip Leader. There is also the option to take the aerial cable car to the top, which runs frequently to and from the summit, where a network of trails criss-cross the plateau and provide a variety of vantage points.
While a Robben Island visit and cable-car visit to Table Mountain can be completed in the same day, time does not allow you to visit Robben Island and hike up Table Mountain, therefore, you need to choose between Robben Island and the Table Mountain hike, or alternatively book a pre-trip stay to give yourself more time.
Another option is to take a trip to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, which claims to be the most beautiful garden in Africa and is devoted to conservation of the Cape's indigenous species. Your Trip Leader will be able to give further local advice and recommendations on the optional activities.
Late this afternoon, we'll leave Cape Town and head to the scenic winelands of Stellenbosch where you can relax with a sundowner. Our hotel has a restaurant and there are a small selection of eateries just a short walk away.
Please note: Both Robben Island and Table Mountain are weather dependant. Table Mountain's cableway is closed for two weeks at the end of July for maintenance.
Please note: Table Mountain's cableway is closed for two weeks at the end of July for maintenance.
Stellenbosch Hotel (or similar)
Stellenbosch is world famous for its wine and today is a perfect opportunity to visit one or two vineyards for a tasting. Many are set within spectacular gardens and farmland, and offer the opportunity to have lunch and a stroll. A guided tour of Stellenbosch Town is also an option and a great way to learn about the many cultures that have come together to make Stellenbosch what it is today. One of the oldest of the colonial settlements, this charming town is made up of wide, oak lined streets and white washed, Cape Dutch architecture. There are many cafes, bars and delis to choose from for lunch and most pride themselves on using local produce.
Or a more active option is to visit Jonkershoek Nature Reserve for a 2.5 hour walking excursion. Easy, scenic walking trails run through an important conservation area of indigenous forest, home to over 1,100 plant species, as well as a number of reptile and mammal species including the elusive leopard.
This morning will be an earlier start as we make our way to Hermanus. A 90 minute drive takes us to the Betty's Bay area where we will have an included visit to Stony Point Nature Reserve. This reserve sits on the site of a historic whaling station and has a quiet, undiscovered feel, offering excellent penguin viewing without the crowds. The boardwalks can be followed over the craggy outcrops to see the resident seabirds up close without disturbing them. Although humans are not allowed to wander beyond the boardwalks, it does not always stop the penguins joining the trail and setting a slow walking pace!
After a lunch break at Betty's Bay, we'll continue to our apartment-style accommodation in central Hermanus. This afternoon will be free to explore the coastal town. From July to November, Hermanus offers some of the world's best shore- based whale watching, with good opportunity to spot southern right, Bryde's and humpback whales. Although there is a good chance of seeing the whales from the water's edge in town, you may prefer to follow the coastal path to a better vantage point or join a boat trip excursion for a closer view. At other times of year, you may choose to spend the day exploring the galleries and museums in Hermanus, which are easy to discover on foot. Or if you developed a taste for South African wine while in Stellenbosch, then Hemel-en-Aarde wine valley (Heaven and Earth Valley) is just a stone's throw away, and offers a selection of wineries with views over the town and coast below.
This evening will be at your leisure. There is a variety of traditional South African and seafood restaurants lining the streets.
Windsor Hotel (or similar)
We'll stand on the southernmost point of the African continent this morning and see where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean in a white crash of waves. Now marked by a stone plaque, the 'Cape of Needles' was once a point of grave danger to European navigators and to the site of various evidential shipwrecks. We'll have some free time to explore the magnificent monument to mark the most southerly point and get some lunch.
We'll continue towards Swellendam this afternoon. Heading north we pass through one of South Africa's most productive farming areas producing vast amounts of grain, dairy and meat products as well as high value export fruits including berries, lemons, oranges and wine all over the world. Swellendam itself its South Africa's fifth oldest town and has a laid back feel to it, the backdrop is impressive being surrounded by the Langeberg Range and the Breede River. Tonight we stay in a family run guesthouse and enjoy a traditional South African braai (weather permitting).
Aan Huizen Guesthouse (or similar)
This morning, we have time to explore the historic town of Swellendam. The town is small by most standards but is one of the oldest districts in South Africa. Rich in colonial history as an old trading post, the town has well-preserved examples of Cape Dutch architecture. Enjoy a coffee, take a walk around the town to take in the stunning countryside of the Western Cape.
Later this afternoon we'll make our way to Oudtshoorn, where we will be staying in a delightful family-run property. Depending on our arrival time you can use the pool and all rooms have outdoor seating to make the most of the afternoon sun. This evening is free to head into town for dinner or perhaps have a barbeque in one of the outdoor eating areas.
De Poort Country Lodge (or similar)
We start today by exploring the huge limestone caverns of the Cango Caves. These caves are an underground network of extraordinary structures, millions of years old. The combination of dripping rainwater and limestone has led to the creation of ancient stalactites, stalagmites and mighty rock columns. Allegedly, a local European farmer first discovered the caves late in the 18th century; however, there is research that proves the caves to have been used by man as far back as the Early Stone Age.
Later this morning, we'll leave Oudtshoorn and make our way to the coastal town of Knysna. Here, we'll visit Knysna Heads Viewpoint, where two limestone cliffs emerge from the sea side by side, protecting a peaceful lagoon that runs inland from the sea. The lagoon is popular with tourists and local residents alike and is home to fishermen, water sports enthusiasts and many birds, including herons, kingfishers, African fish eagles and Knysna warblers. We'll have time to enjoy lunch on the waterfront this afternoon and wander around the quaint, little town before we depart on our final journey of the day to Plettenberg Bay.
The Jones (or similar)
Today we'll take a short drive to Robberg Nature Reserve where our Trip Leader will lead a walk along the trails. The hiking here is moderate - it's uneven under foot in places and can be slippery so good walking shoes are advised, but rewards are abundant: brilliant bird viewing, sweeping coastal views and the possibility to spot dolphins and seals playing in the waters below. From July to December, there's also the chance to see southern right whales that come into the calmer and warmer waters to calve and nurse their young.
After working up an appetite, we'll stop for a well-deserved lunch in Plettenberg Bay. After lunch, the afternoon is free with the option to relax on the beach, shop for souvenirs or join a whale-watching or kayaking excursion. We'll return to our accommodation in the late afternoon, when there'll be some free to time to relax before dinner, you may wish to choose a water-front eatery in Plettenberg Bay, and enjoy local wine alongside fresh seafood.
This morning we leave on a short journey to Tsitsikamma National Park about 45 minutes away. Another hotspot for seasonal whale watching, the national park covers both land and sea, protecting important forest and marine areas and offering stunning coastal views. We'll be staying in the Storms River region where there are numerous well-marked walking trails for varying abilities, as well as the opportunity to explore suspended canopy walkways and zipwires, or to try river kayaking.
Tonight we'll be staying in simple chalets set amongst the trees just minutes from the sea front. Try fresh seafood in the restaurant or cook up a traditional braai for dinner at one of the communal barbeque areas by the water.
Storms River Rest Camp (or similar)
We leave the Tsitsikamma area this morning for another of South Africa's national parks, stopping for breakfast on the way. Home to more than 600 elephants as well as lion, hyena and Cape buffalo, Addo Elephant National Park is our last national park of the trip. On arrival we'll swap into one of the park's safari trucks - perfect for the terrain and for capturing great wildlife shots - for a two-hour game drive with a park guide. Warthog are abundant here, along with various species of antelope, zebra and of course elephant.
After our game drive we make our way to our accommodation which is located twenty minutes outside Addo park. Depending on timings today, your Tour Leader may change the open safari vehicle game drive to tomorrow morning instead.
Addo Homestead (or similar)
The trip ends after breakfast at our accommodation near Addo National Park.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Addo at any time. Check out from our accommodation is at 10am. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Port Elizabeth International Airport (PLZ), which is one hour from Addo.
Mild throughout the year and can thus be visited year round. The Western Cape has a Mediterranean-type climate, with warm, dry summers and cold winters with rainfall. Summer runs from November to March, with temperatures averaging 22oC to 34oC. The months of April and October are generally warm and sunny. Winter is also a good time to visit as towns and sites are not so crowded and the countryside is more verdant, but it can be cold. Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable.
3 Pin Round
Cape Town options: Cape Town - Robben Island (3.5 hour tour) R600 Cape Town - Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens R210 Cape Town - Table Mountain cable car from R395 return /R220 one way Cape Peninsula - Seal Island boat trip R100 Stellenbosch - Guided wine tour available from R65 to R125 depending on number of participants and vineyard Stellenbosch - Dylan Lewis sculpture park R200 Hermanus - Seasonal Whale watching boat trip R900-R1100 depending on passengers. Breede River - Rafting (approx 2-3hrs) R525 Plettenberg Bay - Seasonal Whale watching boat trip R850 Tsitsikamma NP - Canopy trail R795; Kayaking R750. If you would like to book an excursion to Robben Island, the former prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated please use this link: http://www.robben-island.org.za It is very important that you book the 9am ferry for day 3 of the tour. If there are spaces it is possible to book this excursion locally, but this is subject to availability. All prices are per person in South African Rand and subject to change.
Clothing should generally be lightweight for the day but remember to also take some warm clothing for the evenings especially between May - November. All year round long trousers, a waterproof and windproof jacket are recommended. Take swimwear and quick-dry towel.
Comfortable shoes (or well broken in walking boots if planning to hike), trainers or sandals for relaxing/travelling in.
Take a soft bag, holdall or suitcase. Please note porters may not be available at some accommodation and you will need to be able to carry your luggage to and from your room. Also take a daypack for items needed during any walks or sightseeing. Due to limited space in the luggage trailer please only travel with one main piece of luggage and one daypack/ day bag per person.
Take a torch, sunhat, sunscreen and insect repellent. Binoculars are essential for bird watching. Mosquito nets are not required as the accommodation provides screening where necessary. While tap water in South Africa's urban area is drinkable, some people may take a few days to acclimatise and thus may experience traveller's tummy. Therefore we recommend for you to travel with a reusable filtered water bottle such as the ones featured at Water-to-Go: https://www.watertogo.eu/explore
South Africa has a good tourism infrastructure and generally good service standards. Accommodation on this trip ranges from small, family run guesthouses to national park owned chalets. They are individual in style, set in great locations, often with nice gardens/grounds and have en-suite facilities. The properties we use give a real taste of traditional South African hospitality and we love supporting these smaller local businesses. Load shedding is the term used to describe short term electricity outages, used as a last resort to balance the demand and supply of electricity across the South African electricity market. Power outages typically last between two to four hours per day and can occur at any time, little notice is given to hotels and guesthouses. Whilst some of the properties we use have their own generators, most do not. Please be prepared for electricity outages during your stay in South Africa.
Dietary requirements: Most restaurants and hotels in South Africa do not have a wide selection of vegan and vegetarian choices. There is usually a choice of salads and one main vegetarian and/or vegan main dish on the menus, but choice will be limited especially in more remote locations. If you have specific dietary requirements we do recommend for you to bring some food with you.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
South Africa: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, US and Canadian citizens. New Zealand ordinary passport holders do not require a visa, all other passport holders please consult your local consulate for full information. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. Please ensure you have the correct multiple entry visa, especially if you are visiting another country on your itinerary and will need to re-enter South Africa - this includes visiting Swaziland. All visitors should ensure their passport is machine readable, has a minimum of 6 months validity from your arrival date into the country and has two blank pages when entering and leaving South Africa. The South African Immigration officials will not allow child/ infant pages to be used for this purpose and visitors without the stipulated blank pages will be denied entry. There are special requirements for travelling to South Africa with children under 18 who hold South African nationality, and for unaccompanied children entering South Africa. The South African Department of Home Affairs has more information. All visa information is subject to change. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Please note that you will be required to supply a yellow fever certificate that has been issued at least 10 days prior to arrival in South Africa if you have travelled from or via a country where yellow fever is endemic. We recommend protection against hepatitis A, tetanus, typhoid, polio and diphtheria. According to various travel health sources, the Western Cape is not regarded as a malaria risk area. If you are travelling to other areas in South Africa please check with your doctor about malaria requirements. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Why not extend your holiday and spend four days exploring the 'smoke that thunders', Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.