From Cape Town you'll travel east along the Western Cape's spectacular coastline, keeping watch for the tell-tale spouts and tail slaps of Southern Right Whales. Cruise the cold blue waters of Walker Bay for a chance to see whales and Great White Sharks up close, then join the Garden Route, where you'll spend a night hanging out with the locals in Knysna.
After a cultural interlude in Port Elizabeth, where we'll take you on a tour of the best townshipshebeens, drive out to the Amakhala Game Reserve, a fantastic conservation initiative where elephants, lions and rhinos roam the plains.
Duration: 13 Nights / 14 Days
Route: Cape Town - Hermanus - Plettenberg Bay - Port Elizabeth - Amakhala Game Reserve - Cape Town.
Tour Type: Self-drive with guided activities
Group size: 2-4 adults
Arrive in Cape Town, collect your rental car at the airport and drive to Noordhoek village, set 30 km south of the city in the shadow of Chapman's Peak. One of the most beautiful corners of the wild Cape Peninsula, Noordhoek is renowned for its fabulous white sand beach, and the rural atmosphere has made this a favourite hideaway for artists.
Your base for the next four nights will be De Noordhoek Hotel, an intimate hotel that's doing its bit to take care of this beautiful part of the planet. The hotel was the first in Cape Town to use solar power for water heating, and it keeps money in the local economy by hiring all its employees from households within a 10km radius of Noordhoek.
Spend a day exploring the delights of Noordhoek and the Cape Peninsula. Take a horse ride along the beach, go birdwatching in the extensive wetlands, drive the spectacular Chapman's Peak Drive to Hout Bay, or soak up the city vibe in downtown Cape Town. There are many land-based whale watching stops along the Atlantic Seaboard, so if you're here in season keep an eye out for spouts and tail splashes.
Drive south to Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope of seafaring legend, and climb to the lighthouse 240 metres above the ocean to soak in some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in the world. On the way stop off in historic Simon's Town, where you can catch up on South African maritime history at one of the excellent museums, and swim with some of the 3000 African Penguins that make their home beside the sheltered waters of Boulders Beach.
Visit the nearby township of Masiphumelele for a guided bicycle tour.
This zero-emissions tour was set up in 2002 to promote economic opportunities in Masiphumele, an informal township whose name in Xhosa means "hope", but where nearly half the population is unemployed. Riding the flat roads on old fashioned Dutch bicycles in the company of a township guide, you'll have opportunities to meet a sangoma (traditional healer), visit crafters and local artists, see traditional dancing, and spend some time with the kids at the Peacock Creche. You'll also enjoy an authentic African lunch at Nongolozi’s Restaurant, or take tea in an African home.
Today you'll leave Noordhoek and follow the coast road east to Hermanus – one of the world's most spectacular drives, with rugged mountains to your left and the glittering Atlantic Ocean on your right. Hermanus sits on the shores of Walker Bay, where every year hundreds of Southern Right Whales come to give birth to their calves. The whales come very close to shore, and can frequently be seen from the cliffop lookouts right in town.
Tonight you'll stay at Farm 215, one of the pioneers of sustainable hospitality in South Africa, situated in an 800-hectare private reserve of fynbos on the lonely road to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa. Known to botanists as the Cape Floral Kingdom, the fynbos is a uniquely rich coastal ecosystem, boasting the highest density of localised and endemic plant-species in the world.
Spend the morning learning more about the botanical beauty of the Cape Floral Kingdom, then drive to nearby Gansbaai to join a whale watching cruise. On this trip you will be looking out for the Big Five of the oceans: Great White Shark, African Penguins, Cape Fur Seals, Dolphins and Southern Right Whale, which are in residence during the breeding season from June to December. WIth a number of trained marine biologists on the cruise, you'll get a rare insight into the oceanic inhabitants of South Africa. Our partners, Dyer Island Cruises, have invested heavily in marine conservation, including protecting the breeding colony of penguins on Dyer Island.
Accommodation at Farm 215.
Travel to the heart of the Garden Route via Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. Continue through Mossel Bay to the coastal town of Knysna, where you will spend the night at local resident Magda Kock’s home, with views of the surrounding village and hillside landscape. Magda runs a business called Bethany’s Homestay, and provides visitors with comfortable accommodation in her house, accompanied by delicious home cooked dinners and breakfasts. Enjoy dinner with Magda this evening and learn more about the history and culture of the area, before settling in for the night.
After breakfast you will be collected for a guided cultural tour to explore the various neighbourhoods in and around Knysna. You will be taken around by Knysna residents Ella and Penny, two remarkable women who joined forces to support projects in the informal settlements surrounding Knysna. Get to know the people of Nekkies and Khayelethu townships, visit a local school and end the tour at Ella’s home, where you will join her for tea and storytelling.
After lunch, drive to nearby Plettenberg Bay, a tranquil and charming seaside town named “Bahia Formosa” (beautiful bay) by early Portuguese explorers. The area is popular for miles of sweeping, unspoilt beaches, a dramatic rocky peninsula, unpolluted lagoons and estuaries and the nearby Tsitsikamma indigenous forest.
This morning join a boat cruise with our Fair Trade partners, Ocean Blue Adventures, to look for Bottlenose Dolphin and the rare Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, Bryde’s, Southern Right and Humpback Whales.
The rest of the day is at leisure to visit beaches and nearby National Parks
Morning: Treetops Canopy Tour (FTTSA accredited tour) http://www.stormsriver.com/,
This morning, drive into the magnificent Tsitsikamma indigenous rainforest for an exciting eco-wilderness adventure among the treetops. The canopy tour takes you through the high branches of giant Outeniqua Yellowwood trees, moving from one platform to the next by a steel cable suspended up to 30 meters above the forest floor. The tour provides an unbelievable view of the forest, and sightings of endemic birds like the Knysna Loerie and the elusive Narina Trogon, as well as Vervet monkeys.
The tour is run by Stormsriver Adventures, a Fair Trade-accredited company who use guides from the local community, as well as helping to foster local micro businesses and funding environmental education and HIV awareness programs.
After the tour, continue along the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth, the biggest town of the Eastern Cape. This evening you'll join a Shebeen Tour. This version of the local drinking den is at the vibrant heart of social life in every township in South Africa. Our Fair Trade partners Calabash Tours will take you on a memorable journey to experience the diversity of Port Elizabeth's townships, before relaxing at one of our carefully selected Shebeens for drinks and dinner. Enjoy the unbeatable hospitality of our African hosts and absorb the convivial community atmosphere with the locals.
Days 11 to 13
Drive to Amakhala Game Reserve, a superb conservation project adjacent to the famous Addo Elephant National Park. A former sheep and cattle ranch, Amakhala has been revegetated with indigenous plants, and many game species have been successfully introduced, including black & white rhino, elephant and lion.
You will stay at one of the intimate tented camps or lodges, and your stay will be made special by personalized attention and arrangements tailor-made to suit your requirements. You can choose from a wide range of excursions and activities, including game drives by day and night, bird watching, canoeing on the river, guided walks and picnic lunches and a river cruise.
Stay for two nights at Reed Valley Inn, a 200-year-old farmhouse set within the reserve.
Drive back to Port Elizabeth for your return flight to Cape Town.
Fair Trade Western Cape and Garden Route
Explore the stunning Garden Route in the tender loving care of some of South Africa's superb Fair Trade-accredited hotels and tour operators.