August 30 – September 13, 2019
Guided by Jim Heck
The main 15-day tour begins with three nights in Cape Town followed by two nights in the nearby wine country. Next is a 3-day/2-night luxury train journey north, which ends with a day of touring and a night in the posh Johannesburg suburb of Sandton. The group then flies to Botswana for a 7-day, 6-night comprehensive big game safari.
South Africa is much more than a country of wild animals. This is where the world’s first heart transplant was performed, where a third of all fuel put into your car’s gas tank is coal-derived, and where soon half the country’s energy will come from a mixture of solar and nuclear power. This trip introduces you to many of the great non-game treasures of South Africa centered around the extraordinary beauty and unique ecology of The Cape, before ending in the best game viewing area in all of southern Africa, Botswana.
The Cape was colonized several years before Pilgrim’s Rest. Today Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities on earth and its nearby wine country is one of the most prosperous, steeped in hundreds of years of Boer and Huguenot history. In springtime, as in western Australia, this area bursts into bloom in a way that makes the prairies of the Midwest, Texas, Colorado or California blush with embarrassment!
South Africa is famous for its luxury: cars, mansions, private airplanes and above all, trains. This trip includes a wonderful step back in time as we travel in extraordinary rail luxury on a 3-day journey from The Cape to Pretoria. Johannesburg remains the financial powerhouse of the continent, the center of the country’s gold and diamonds; the country is one of the most resource powerful on earth. It’s also where progressive politics and recent revolutions have rewritten history.
Finally, the 7-day safari into Botswana explores all its varied ecosystems: the Makgadikgadi Pans, Chobe and the Okavango Delta. Nothing else in the world can compare with the Delta, which is an ever-changing wetland that is essentially the Kalahari Desert in flood. The pans, too, are monster versions of similar natural salt licks found throughout the continent, and Chobe is one of the great classic bushland.
All this and more is included in this incredibly packed, luxurious tour, guided by one of the most accomplished experts in Africa, Jim Heck.
Few people know Africa as well as Jim Heck. For more than 45 years he has worked, lived and guided in Africa. His popular blog, AfricaAnswerman, includes investigative journalism of some of Africa’s most critical news stories as well as anecdotes and features of daily African life. His award-winning novel, Chasm Gorge, will soon be followed by a second one, Kidnapped in Nigeria. His companies have organized safaris into Africa for more than 10,000 visitors, including most of the country’s major zoos and conservation organizations. And in 2016 he became the first American to be inducted as an honorary elder by Kenya’s Maasai tribe.
Jim was the first westerner allowed to leave Addis after the Red Terror; had canoes overturned among crocs and hippos on the Zambezi; been charged by an elephant that he hit with a plate of waldorf salad; was lost in the jungles of Cameroun; became marooned in the Ituri Forest and rescued by Rhodesian sanction busters; and was among the few outsiders to travel through Uganda during the time of Idi Amin. Jim has never lost a client or fired a gun.
There is an optional 5-day Cape Wildflower Pretour, probably the greatest flower show on earth, even better than western Australia! There is also a 3-day extension to the Victoria Falls, one of the world’s seven natural wonders!reserve now
|Price||Single Supplement||under 12||12-16||local air|
The prices include:
** Jim Heck guiding the safari from start to finish;
** Guaranteed window seating in Landrovers & Landcruisers with pop-top roofs;
** Professionally-trained, English-speaking driver/guides with each vehicle;
** Meals as detailed in brackets following each day's description below;
** All park entrance fees, VAT and other government taxes;
** Comprehensive pre-trip material.
Additional expenses not included:
- Meals not included;
- Some beverages;
- All international, regional and local scheduled flights;
- Requisite visas and other travel preparations like inoculations;
- Tipping (Jim Heck does not accept tips).
Whenever you arrive in Cape Town you’ll be personally met and privately escorted to the Victoria and Alfred Hotel on the Waterfront. Everything you could possibly want is just outside the hotel: the city’s finest restaurants, shops and cinemas![no-meals]
Leave the hotel early to get to Table Mountain before the rush of tourists. Ride the funicular to the top of this iconic mountain with time to explore several of its well maintained tracks. Then drive to Groot Constantia for lunch at its famous outdoor restaurant. The full a la carte menu is included with wines selected by Jim. This is South Africa’s first and most historic winery. The national museum adjacent the restaurant displays life in The Cape in the late 17th century. Then spend the afternoon at the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, one of the great gardens of the world. The setting is breath-taking directly underneath Table Mountain. Overnight at the Victoria and Alfred Hotel.[b-l]
Jim guides you through the Company’s Garden this morning. It’s the perfect place for learning about South African history, as the beautiful and historic garden is surrounded by several important museums including the Slave Lodge. Jim hosts you for lunch at the the Gardens’ outdoor restaurant before taking you past Parliament and the Slave Lodge to the famous flea market at Greenmarket Square. (Alternatively, those interested can visit Robben Island this afternoon.) Those interested can then enjoy High Tea at the historic Mt. Nelson hotel. Overnight at the Victoria and Alfred Hotel.[b-l]
Your spectacular day-tour of The Cape of Good Hope begins on the famous Chapmans Peak drive with its beautiful views of the sea from the cliff hugging road. The peninsula is known for its breath-taking scenery, game reserve and the great funicular to the Light House which overlooks the great confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. There will be time for a short hike if interested, and there are chances of seeing zebra, antelope, ostrich and bontebok. A gourmet South African picnic lunch with wine is included to round out an absolutely beautiful morning! In the afternoon the group visits the national park of Boulders in Simon's Town where the unique Jackass Penguin is protected. The walkways assure you of numerous views of these comical little fellows. Follow the coast into The Cape’s beautiful wine country arriving the Lanzerac Hotel & Wine Estate for dinner.[b-l]
The day is spent exploring The Cape's beautiful wine country. First, to the town of Stellenbosch, the center of so much South African history. The lovely city is an important university town and historic location of early Boer settlements, several of which you'll visit. Then to a couple vineyards, estates with outstanding wine available for sampling situated in some of The Cape's most beautiful landscapes. An afternoon stop will be made at a raptor sanctuary to learn of local efforts to conserve the great variety of prey birds found in The Cape. The day ends back at the Lanzerac for a special, private tour of the wine cellar. Overnight at the Lanzerac Hotel & Wine Estate.[b-l]
Board the famous Rovos Rail to begin a fabulous 2-night journey to Pretoria! The inclusive journey in spacious, stylistic cabins includes gourmet meals, afternoon tea, all drinks and aperitifs with an outstanding staff that has made the train famous worldwide. The train departs Cape Town this morning at 11 a.m. and lunch is served directly thereafter. The journey this afternoon is through The Cape’s beautiful wine country and the train makes a stop at the historic village of Matjiesfontein for afternoon tea. Sightseeing, meals and overnight aboard Rovos Rail.[b-l-d]
This is the flower season in The Cape and as the train leaves the wine country and enters the vast Karoo you can expect to see horizons filled with beautiful wildflowers! After lunch the train stops at Kimberly for a tour of the “Big Hole,” the place where diamonds were discovered in the 19th century and which propelled Cecil Rhodes and others to richness and fame. Sightseeing, meals and overnight aboard the Rovos Rail.[b-l-d]
The train pulls into the Pretoria train station around noon. Jim hosts you for a café restaurant lunch nearby before continuing about an hour to a posh suburb of Johannesburg. Enroute you’ll tour the Apartheid Museum. The remainder of the afternoon is free, and the hotel is adjacent both the Nelson Mandela and Sandton City malls, with their outstanding shopping, cinemas, theaters and restaurants. Overnight at the Michelangelo Hotel.[b-l]
Return to the airport for the late morning flight to Botswana (not included in the land price and likely bundled into your international air fare). The flight arrives the northern city of Maun where small aircraft take the group to their first Botswana safari camp for a six-night survey of three totally different Botswana ecosystems. The first is the fascinating Makgadikgadi Pan. Arrive our remote camp for a late lunch followed by afternoon game viewing. Game viewing from here is either in vehicles or on pontoon boats on seasonal rivers. Either way great chances this afternoon to see kudu, elephant and even a cat, along with very rare and beautiful birds like the wattled crane. Dinner and overnight at Leroo La Tau Camp.[b-d]
The pans are Africa’s largest natural salt licks. These are massive areas, though, not just like the kind many travelers see throughout the continent which draw animals in relatively small areas. The diameter of these stretch for dozens of miles and rarely are all salt. They are often filled with small pools of water, small oases of bush or even trees, and like the Makgadikgadi even have swamps and seasonal river systems. This draws a considerable amount of game and much of it quite rare. Gameviewing, meals and overnight at Leroo La Tau Camp.[b-l-d]
The second ecosystem is certainly Botswana’s most famous, the Okavango Delta.
Torrential rains fall onto the Angolan mountains in November with a fury that is better described of hurricanes. The Angolan highlands rivals Hawaii in rainfall. It comes quickly and destructively, eroding aeon-old mountains with the force of a buzz saw giving little hope to either agriculture or forestry. As it flows south and east it meets the pure drain-off of the sparse rains that sprinkle the great Kalahari Desert, increasing even more its awesome flow.
The water continues east creating some of Africa's greatest rivers: the Okavango, the Kwando, the Linyanti and finally, the Zambezi. In the effort to form this one great Zambezi as much as half the water spills back onto the desert. And as the desert draws unbelievable amounts of water into its deep sands only to be eventually percolated back out of the porous earth, it produces a delta of the most beautiful and mysterious proportions imaginable.
This is the Okavango Delta, the temporary refugee of this deluge of water before it disappears back into the rivers or evaporates over the heat of the desert.
Small aircraft take the group this morning to one of the Delta’s most famous camps. Activities are all water-based, exploring the many channels and streams and large lakes that make up this fascinating place. Choose from a boat excursion, individual canoeing or kayaking, or a famous “mokoro” ride where an experienced “poller” takes you in a dugout canoe through grassy areas too shallow for larger boats. These intimate trips could give you a glimpse of one of the varied species of tiny painted frogs among dozens of other gorgeous more miniature creatures in The Delta like the malachite sunbird. Activities, meals and overnight at Camp Okavango.[b-l-d]
The Delta's many islands and other land masses contain a large amount of wildlife, especially elephant but also some of the highest numbers of buffalo found in Africa. There are also large numbers of giraffe, zebra and wildebeest particularly in the dry season which begins in May. And year-round are found the unique water-based large animals like puku, lechwe and the rare and unusual sitatunga. Of course, too, the wetlands are home for hundreds of birds, reptiles and fishes many like the Pell's Fishing Owl which are found nowhere else.
Activities, meals and overnight at Camp Okavango.
This morning the group flies into the third ecosystem of this fascinating Botswana safari, one that will be quite familiar to veteran African safari travelers. Botswana's enormous 4,000 sq. mile Chobe National Park is a big game wilderness that rivals any on the continent. After check-in the game viewing immediately begins, and in this area open Landrover game drives encounter some very wild and aggressive big game. Chobe is famous for its elephant but there are large numbers of buffalo as well and Savute in particular is quite famous for its lion. Really rare game like wild dog is also quite possible. During these last couple days on safari Jim will recount many of his own exciting encounters in Botswana over the last 40 years when visits to areas of the country like this meant you threw your sleeping bag on the sand! Activities, meals and overnight at Savute Safari Lodge.[b-l-d]
Game drives in this southern area of Chobe will remind veterans of East African safaris, since the terrain is similar to the wooded areas of East Africa. The Savute Channel is the magnet which concentrates games in this particular area. Just north of here for quite a long ways virtually right up to the banks of the Zambezi River the park is completely waterless. Thick woodlands thrive on the sandy soil because of very long roots adapted to reaching deep aquifers below. Few animals are found in these near impenetrable woodlands except those migrating to and fro. Savute marks the first verdant area for big game wandering down from the north. Several of Jim's recent safaris in Botswana have encountered wild dog here, waiting for the prey emerging from the forests. Several of Jim’s safaris, in fact, have been able to follow a wild dog hunt! On this last evening everyone gathers together in the bar for a marvelous recounting of all that's happened on this epic voyage. Considering the range of experiences from the style and glamor of the finest of South Africa to the raw wilds of Botswana, this is likely to become one of your most memorable trips! Activities, meals and overnights at Savute Safari Lodge.[b-l-d]
After a final morning of game viewing the group travels to the Savute airstrip where participants bid farewell to each other. It's a hop, skip and jump from here to Victoria Falls, and there are always a number on the trip who continue with the Victoria Falls Extension. Those continuing to Victoria Falls travel on small aircraft north to Kasane, and the rest of the group travels back to Maun. In Maun you begin your journey home, with international flights that normally connect through Johannesburg.
Click here for details on the Victoria Falls extension.[b]