Southern Africa: A Connoisseur’s Ultimate Journey

“This trip to Southern Africa is sophisticated and diverse.  I chose this itinerary to showcase some of the very best the region has to offer, from classic private luxury lodges to cage diving with great white sharks.  I search for those qualities that push a journey beyond excellent to truly compelling.  That’s my challenge – to insure that you have the opportunity to intimately connect with some of the most coveted destinations under the Southern African sun, a luxurious unforgettable journey of a life time.”  Volker Altvater, Destination Specialist

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South Africa

Zambia, Zimbabwe & Malawi


Price starts at $1500 Land per person, per day, double occupancy.



Tour Highlights/Full Description

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  • Track Africa’s big five on safari at two of South Africa’s premier private game reserves – exclusive game lodges in the Thornybush Private Game Reserve and Sabi Sands.
  • From Gansbaai Harbor, set out on a thrilling excursion to go cage diving to view the great sharks that inhabit the waters off South Africa.
  • Get to know Cape Town from its fashionable waterfront to the beautiful Table Mountain and historic Malay quarter; and enjoy a private tour of South Africa’s renowned Winelands.
  • Relax at a beach resort on Benguerra Island off the coast of Mozambique.
  • Discover the phenomenal beauty and energy of Victoria Falls during a private tour; and take an elephant-back safari that winds through riverine bush, across the Zambezi River onto islands.

Day 1:  Cape Town, South Africa
Arrive in Cape Town where you are welcomed and privately transferred to your hotel.  The Cape Grace has something of the atmosphere of a country house, and it’s situated on a private quay overlooking the yacht marina in Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.  Cape Town is one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world.  Table Mountain breaks up the city into distinct areas, each with its own character and, indeed, its own weather!  The fashionable waterfront and the city are ideal for visitors who enjoy plenty of restaurants, cafes, shops and clubs within walking distance of your hotel.  The evening shopping at the waterfront is great if you have little time.  Cape Grace Hotel – Superior Room

Day 2:  Cape Town
Your private guide will collect you for a half-day tour of Table Mountain and Cape Town, beginning with an ascent of the mountain by cable car for panoramic views of the whole of the Cape Peninsula.  Travel into the city to see the Castle of Good Hope, the original fort of Cape Town built in 1652 and now painstakingly restored.  The Castle was built by the Dutch between 1666 and 1679 to replace their original mud-walled fortress.  From there, continue to the lovely flower market and the historic center of Cape Town with its many 18th-century buildings, and enjoy a stroll through the Company Gardens past the Parliament buildings.  Finally you explore the historic Malay quarter, with brightly painted Malay buildings and narrow streets.  Your tour ends at the waterfront where your hotel is located.  Cape Grace Hotel – Superior Room (B,L,D)

Day 3:  Cape Town / Hermanus
This morning, drive to Hermanus, exploring the area along the way.  Your guide is available for the day, and can suggest possible activities.  Please note that as this is a ‘go-as-you-please’ day, all entrances, refreshments and meals are on your own account.  Birkenhead House is perched high on the cliffs of Hermanus, overlooking the whale watchers’ paradise of Walker Bay.  Only an hour and a half from Cape Town, Birkenhead House is named after a British troop ship that sank in Walker Bay in 1852.  Decorated to reflect the beauty of its coastal setting, it is adorned with rare maritime antiques.  Most of the eleven opulently appointed suites offer expansive vistas of Walker Bay.  Hermanus’ two best swimming beaches, spectacular mountain trails and breathtaking cliff walks are all nearby.  The thriving floral kingdom has a higher diversity of species than anywhere else in the world.  The Southern Cape is an area of rolling green pastures, vineyards, forests and unspoiled coastline between the Cape Winelands in the West and the Garden Route to the East.  The southern coast boasts some of the finest land-based whale-watching in the world with sightings of Southern Right whales, which come into the bays to give birth between July and December, normally peaking in August and September.  The cosmopolitan fishing village and resort town of Hermanus also offers arts and craft shops and many restaurants.  Or, visit Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, and nearby Arniston.  Birkenhead House – Rooms 2, 3, 7 or 9 (Fully Inclusive)

Day 4:  Hermanus / Cape Winelands
Very early this morning, you are met at your hotel and taken to Gansbaai Harbor and the White Shark Project for your cage diving encounter with the great whites.  Launch times are subject to change according to the tides.  On board the boat you will have a light lunch of rolls or sandwiches, snacks, juice and soft drinks.  For those who wish to dive, they have a five-person, custom-built shark cage.  Diving is dependent on sea and weather conditions, shark activity, and is at the discretion of the boat captain for your safety.  On an average day, you can expect to spend between 15 and 30 minutes inside the shark cage.  On return to the lodge, tea, coffee and fresh scones will be served.  If you require specific sizes for wet suits, please inform us well in advance.  The boat is a large 11-meter twin hull, custom-built craft with cabin, toilet, comfortable seating, and elevated viewing deck.  Great whites come right to the surface where they swim around the boat, cage and baits.  The experience from the surface is just as exciting as from the cage.  The sea surrounding Dyer Island can be a little rough at times.  Fortunately there are many reefs and kelp beds, which offer substantial protection from the swells.  If you are not sure whether you suffer from sea or motion sickness, you should be prepared with seasickness tablets, or an alternative is to take ginger capsules.  After the shark experience, your private guide drives you to the Cape Winelands, taking time to explore along the way.  The guide can suggest possible touring options before you arrive in the late afternoon at your hotel.  Designed along the lines of a French country house, La Residence is situated on its own private wine and olive estate deep in the Franschhoek Valley.  Expansive terraces offer marvelous vineyard and mountain views.  La Residence exudes an opulent and secluded ambiance.  A private movie room, cloistered courtyard with swimming pool and a private library are some of the additional facilities of La Residence.  The private chef creates wonderful dishes.

The Winelands region is an area of exquisite beauty with rocky mountains overlooking green vineyards; oak avenues leading to elegant Cape Dutch wine estates and some of the most charming towns and villages in South Africa.  This region is ideal to sample some of South Africa’s noted wines, see its superb architecture, enjoy long, lazy meals in one of the many excellent restaurants, shop, visit galleries or taking scenic drives or walks in the surrounding mountains.  Explore Stellenbosch, a bustling university town; the rural charm of the Huguenot settlement of Franschhoek; or meander the wine route.  La Residence – Luxury Room (B,L,D)

Day 5:  Cape Winelands
Today’s focus is a private Winelands tour.  The combination of two major ocean currents meeting off the Cape makes the climate ideal for vineyards.  The stunning backdrop of the Hottentots Holland Mountains, the tree-lined streets and the white gabled Cape Dutch homesteads all blend in tranquil harmony.  First, tour a wine estate to see the winemaking process and sample some excellent Cape wines.  Experience the rich historical and architectural traditions of the region.  Stellenbosch is a charming village.  Dorp Street, is one of the longest rows of old Cape Dutch buildings in South Africa.  The Village Museum is a collection of preserved houses that offer insight into the lives of the early settlers.  A scenic drive travels over the majestic Helshoogte Pass to Franschhoek, dating back to 1688 when French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution settled in the valley.  The tour ends with a visit to the magnificent manor house of Boschendal before returning to your hotel in the late afternoon.  This evening dine at the elegant Le Quartier Francais.  La Residence – Luxury Room (B,L,D)

Day 6:  Cape Winelands / Cape Peninsula / Cape Town
Your private Cape Peninsula tour today includes a scenic coastal drive along Chapmans Peak, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and Cape Point.  You see the enchanting penguins at Boulders Bay, drive past Simon’s Town historical naval base and end up at the serenely beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.  You travel along the coast road through the chic suburbs of Clifton, Camps Bay and onto the fishing community of Hout Bay.  With gorgeous views of the coast, Chapman’s Peak road hugs steep cliffs.  Cape Point offers stunning views of the oceans – in the area is where two mighty oceans, the Atlantic and the Indian, come together.  Driving back along the Indian Ocean to visit the eccentric colony of South African penguins at Boulders beach.  Pass through the historic naval base of Simonstown and onto Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens, where 4,000 of the 22,000 Southern African flowering plants are cultivated in a setting of mountain streams, pools and rolling lawns.  Late afternoon, you return to Cape Town and your hotel.  Cape Grace Hotel – Superior Room (B,L)

Day 7:  Cape Town / Johannesburg / Hoedspruit / Thornybush Game Reserve
Today, fly to Hoedspruit via Johannesburg. Please note that the 20kg/44lbs luggage allowance is strictly enforced.  Your luggage needs to be in soft bags so that it can be stored in the base or back of the plane.  On arrival, you are met and transferred to your exclusive game lodge in the Thornybush Private Game Reserve.  The Royal Malewane offers quiet yet sophisticated colonial elegance.  Elevated walkways link six private suites, each surrounded by its own spacious deck with a private plunge pool.  Each suite has a large air-conditioned bedroom/sitting room with open fireplace, mini-bar and antique canopy king-size bed and extravagant bathroom with a Victorian bath and indoor and outdoor showers.  The main lodge comprises a library, dining and reception area furnished with African and Eastern artifacts.  Accompanied by highly skilled game rangers and trackers, guests go on early-morning and evening game drives.  Game viewing is tailored to guest’s individual interests – either by safari vehicle or on foot.  The Malewane Spa features treatment rooms, gym, Turkish baths, sauna and swimming pool.  The reserve is located near Sabi Sands, Timbavati and Manyeleti private game reserves that all share open borders with the Kruger National Park so animals move about freely.  The vast Timbavati private game reserve supports a great diversity of large and spectacular wildlife – elephant, spotted hyena, giraffe, buffalo, white rhino and lion.  Cheetah, wild dog and leopard are also frequently seen moving through the reserve.  This is an intimate and informative experience.  Royal Malewane Game Lodge – Luxury Suite (B,L,D)

Day 8:  Thornybush Game Reserve
Enjoy game drives in open-vehicles with an experienced ranger and a local Shangaan tracker who give you a deeper understanding of the wildlife and the natural cycles of the bush.  Drives are in the early morning and late afternoon when game is most likely to be active.  Evening drives depart after afternoon tea.  After you savor a bush sunset, you set out to track the rare and elusive nocturnal species when they begin to hunt.  The evening meal is often enjoyed in a ‘boma’ or even in the bush around an open fire.  Morning walks treat you to the fascinating aspects of the fauna and flora.  Game walks offer the ultimate, close-up experience, and a chance to focus on the smaller bush inhabitants.  Royal Malewane Game Lodge – Luxury Suite (B,L,D)

Day 9:  Thornybush / Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Today you will board your scheduled charter flight to Sabi Sands and Singita, which maintains its worldwide reputation as one of the world’s finest and most exclusive safari camps.  Singita Ebony is set in the dappled shade of an ebony forest on the banks of the Sand River.  The lodge combines vibrant tribal color with a warm colonial ambience.  Beautifully appointed suites feature separate lounge and bedroom, large windowed bathrooms, free-standing baths, and an open-air shower.  The large, raised private patio has a plunge pool.  The lodge has a small well-appointed gymnasium.  A personal heath consultant is on hand for massages and facials.  We strongly recommend that you pre-book any treatment at the spa to avoid disappointment.  Treatment menus can be sent to you on request.  Singita Ebony – Suite (B,L,D)

Day 10:  Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Savor the adventures and activities at your lodge.  The 65,000 ha Sabi Sands is considered to have the best big five game viewing in the country.  The Sand and the Sabie rivers supply much needed water to the region resulting in an incredible diversity of wildlife.  Due to a long history of sensitive game viewing, the animals allow fairly close up viewing, especially leopards that have become accustomed to safari vehicles.  This is a unique feature of the Sabi Sands.  Singita Ebony – Suite (B,L,D)

Day 11:  Sabi Sands / Mpumalanga / Benguerra Island, Mozambique
Today you fly on a scheduled air charter flight to the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport and connect with your flight to Vilanculos, Mozambique.  Note:  This flight only operates Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (subject to change).  After arrival at Vilanculos Airport, take the short ten-minute flight in a six-seat Eurocopter to the Benguerra grass airstrip.  Finally a short transfer by safari vehicle reaches your lodge on the northwest of Benguerra Island.  Azura means ‘beautiful blue’ and the name could not be more apt for this location surrounded by miles of pure white sand and tranquil turquoise seas.  The 12 private beach villas, Amizade Villa and Presidential Villa combine modern chic with traditional Mozambican design.  Each air-conditioned villa has its own infinity plunge pool and beachside sala, and covers an area of 650 square meters.  The property has all the creature comforts and designer touches expected from a luxury boutique resort.  Each villa is near the beach, yet designed with privacy and seclusion in mind.  The resort boasts excellent cuisine and an extensive wine cellar, which includes fine wines from the owner’s chateau in the Loire Valley.  Much of the fresh local Mozambican foods are caught and grown right grown here and put together with contemporary style and flair.  You can snorkel, dive, fly fish or big game fish, swim with dolphins, track humpback whales on their migration, or go out with the Dugong Protection Team to search for the shy endangered mammal.  For those who want to stay on land, the spa offers signature treatments based on local ingredients and traditions.  It is hard to imagine somewhere more romantic or removed from the mainstream than the Bazaruto islands, 40km off the coast of Mozambique.  The protected reefs surrounding the islands support dolphin, dugong, game fish and giant lobster.  Above all, there are no people!  If you want a cosmopolitan bustling resort experience, these islands are not for you – there are no shops, no real roads and very few vehicles.  Azura Retreat – Infinity Beach Villa (B,L,D)

Days 12 & 13:  Benguerra Island
You can tour the island, climb the sand dunes or visit the island’s lakes.  Alternatively, enjoy a sunset dhow cruise to a deserted beach for a picnic.  The protected reefs surrounding the islands support dolphin, dugong, game fish and giant lobster.  The shallow, crystal-clear waters offer spectacular safe snorkeling protected by the dazzling soft coral reefs.  You float above starfish, anemones, seahorses and a bewildering range of jewel-like fish, which extend out to the many dive sites where you also encounter green turtles, manta ray, sailfish and a variety of docile sharks.  Experience the exhilaration of big game fishing, fighting marlin (Oct to Mar) as well as barracuda, kingfish, tuna and sailfish amongst others.  Bird-watchers will not be disappointed with over 125 species recorded including the rare crab plover, green coucal and paradise flycatchers.  Azura Retreat – Infinity Beach Villa (B,L,D)

Day 14:  Benguerra Island / Johannesburg, South Africa
Today you are transferred by a six-seat Eurocopter to the Vilanculos airstrip.  Connect with your scheduled flight to Johannesburg.  Upon arrival, you are taken on a tour of Soweto, which has been designed to give visitors to Johannesburg an overall impression of ‘Egoli (the City of Gold), South Africa’s commercial and financial capital.  Soweto (SOuth WEstern TOwnship) is largest black residential area in South Africa and stands in stark contrast to Rosebank and Sandton in the north.  This sprawling ‘city within a city’ is home to approximately two million people.  After the tour, you are taken to your hotel, the new five-star Inter-Continental Airport Hotel just a few meters walk from Domestic Arrivals.  Facilities include a rooftop health and fitness center, where you can get an aromatherapy massage by appointment, an indoor heated swimming pool, a complimentary hospitality lounge for early and late arrivals with shower facilities and 24-hour room service.  The restaurant offers cuisine which fuses African food concepts with flavors from around the world.  Late night and a la carte dining are also available.  Johannesburg is the pulsating heart of South Africa’s industrial and commercial life, where gold mining still continues.  In addition to visiting Soweto, you can explore the Apartheid Museum, a working diamond mine, or Sterkfontein in the Cradle of Humanity World Heritage Site.  Arts and craft galleries abound and this is a very good place to buy diamonds.  Intercontinental Airport Sun – Standard Room (B)

Day 15:  Johannesburg / Livingstone, Zambia
Today fly to Livingstone.  Note:  American passport holders need to obtain a visa on arrival for either US $50 per person in cash for a single entry or $80 double entry.  Please request a double entry visa if you plan to visit the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side also, otherwise a single entry visa is sufficient.  Please ensure that you have the exact change in USD cash to settle these Visa fees.  Credit cards are NOT accepted!

On arrival, you are met by a local representative and privately transferred to the Jetty for your boat transfer to the hotel.  The Royal Livingstone Hotel is an elegant five-star hotel in an unrivalled setting overlooking the falls.  The 173 rooms, with their hand-carved mahogany furniture, have an African feel with eastern overtones.  All have a balcony or patio with views of the mature acacia trees, lawns and river.  The hotel has a superb restaurant, large pool, pool bar and small casino.  A splendid large wooden deck affords sweeping views of the falls, ideal for cocktails at sunset.  As the hotel is actually in the Zambezi National Park, park fees are included in the hotel’s rates, so you can visit the falls as much as you like during your stay.  Manicures and pedicures can be arranged in-room and massages can either be enjoyed outside with a view over the river, or in the privacy of your room.  The clouds of spray generated by the thunderous curtain of water have resulted in a lush rain forest full of stunning wild flowers and the most spectacular views of the falls from the Zambian side of the gorge (depending on the season).  The range of excursions that can be booked by the hotel includes sunset boat cruises on the tranquil Upper Zambezi above the falls, local village tours, game drives and nature trails.  Those looking for more active adventures can sign up for canoeing, whitewater rafting and even bungee jumping.  Helicopter and micro lite flights offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences as you fly above the falls and the long narrow gorge and the river that feeds it.  You may see elephants crossing the river just above the falls!  Horse riding is also offered in the Zambezi National Park to view elephant and buffalo and the newly relocated rhino.  The best time to view the falls is probably between April/May and August when the spray is less, yet the flow of water is still impressive.  As the dry season progresses, the volume of water over the falls declines quite dramatically.  Visitors in late September to December need to be aware of this.  The Royal Livingstone Hotel – Luxury Room (B)

Day 16:  Victoria Falls
This morning, your half-day adventure is an elephant-back safari.  The four-hour trip starts from Thorntree Lodge, where tea, coffee and cordials are served.  Then the guide gives a short introductory talk including safety aspects.  Guests meet the elephants and their handlers, and the safari begins.  It winds through riverine bush, across the Zambezi River onto islands.  Mid-way through the ride, clients dismount and interact with the elephants while the guide gives an informative talk on the African elephant and its relationship with man.  This afternoon, enjoy a private tour of the falls, one of the most spectacular natural sights in the world.  Walk in the rainforest with a knowledgeable local guide.  Visit Mukuni village, founded in the 13th century and later named after the ruler (Mukuni) on arrival from the Congo.  Enjoy this opportunity meet the Leya people who live here, and get a glimpse of a traditional African village with a population of 7,000, a clinic, a basic school and boreholes for drinking water.  You see how huts are built and decorated, and watch local crafts people work creating curios.  Please realize this is a working village and not one built to amuse tourists.  This evening you dine on the Royal Livingstone Express, a magnificent, romantic steam powered train, which runs along 20 kilometers of the historic Mulobezi railway line through the heart of the Zambezi River Valley.  Passengers savor fine cuisine and excellent wines provided by the hotel as the train travels slowly towards the sunset through African countryside in fully restored Pullman-style coaches.  The Royal Livingstone Express is made up of five carriages, two dining cars, a kitchen car, lounge car and an observation car.  The train runs on the Mulobezi line, which was once the largest privately owned railway network in the world set up by Zambezi Sawmills in 1916.  The Royal Livingstone Hotel – Luxury Room (B,D)

Day 17:  Victoria Falls / Johannesburg / Depart
This morning, take a half-hour helicopter excursion over the falls.  After lunch, you will be met at your hotel and transferred to the airport to board your scheduled flight to Johannesburg where you connect with your onward flight home later this evening.  You have vouchers for the Premier Lounge.  This is a comfortable lounge where you relax and enjoy drinks and snacks before your flight.  You are also able to shower or refresh yourself if you so wish.  (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy:  From US $1500 per person per day


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