Thanks to its enviable position on the Atlantic Coast and proximity to many leading wine estates, Cape Town is a major hub for customised activities and tours – we have partnered with local experts, Luxury Africa, to offer an exciting selection of tailor-made escapes, far removed from run of the mill, off the peg offerings. Using Wifi connected, customised Land Rover Discovery 4 vehicles kitted out with every conceivable comfort from Nespresso coffee machines to a bar stocked with single malts, Luxury Africa offer escorted experiences around Cape Town, the Winelands and further afield. Cape Town’s outdoor attractions need no introduction – walk up Table Mountain or Signal Hill for incredible views; wander the streets of the Bo-Kaap district with their brightly-painted Georgian terraces or head out to Cape Point on a Harley Davidson or a classic car. At weekends, the Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay combines music with tempting local produce. During the first Thursday of each month, participating Cape Town art galleries offer free entry and stay open late. Artists, crafts people and foodies come together on Saturdays at the Old Biscuit Mill to display their talents, whilst visitors to the District 6 Museum can gain an insight into events in Cape Town’s recent past. A stroll along Boulders Beach brings an encounter with African penguins – one of only three mainland colonies in the whole of South Africa, whilst seals can usually be spotted during a harbour cruise. Dining in Cape Town is a true culinary delight. Afternoon tea at Belmond Mount Nelson or Cape Grace is a genteel local institution, or forego the airs and graces and tuck into top-class fish and chips along the coast at Lucky Fish in Kalk Bay. Chef Franck Dangereux is cooking up a storm at The Foodbarn in Noordhoek, or try something unexpected at Spasie, a unique invitation-only underground venue where local chefs and rising stars present one-off meals on Thursday and Friday nights. Epicures will want to book early to be sure of a table at Nobu at One&Only; Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Test Kitchen and Pot Luck Club are very much in vogue. Reserve a car and driver for the day to explore the nearby wine estates in Constantia, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek – the gourmet capital of South Africa – or book a picnic basket and dine alfresco at the Cape Point Vineyards.
Recognised by the WWF as one of the 12 best places in the world for whale watching, Hermanus offers incredible sightings of the Southern Right whales. Visit July to November for the best chance of seeing these majestic mammals just off shore, perhaps timing your visit to coincide with the Hermanus Whale Festival which takes place in late September/early October. A walk along the Hermanus coastal path, which hugs the coast for 10 kilometres, may reward with sightings of whale calves at play with their mothers; the more adventurous can test their nerve with shark diving in Gansbaai. Take to the skies in a helicopter to spot whales from the air, or keep an eye on the ocean during a sunset lagoon cruise as you sample oysters and sip locally produced wine. Joining the whales and sharks are colonies of seals, penguins and dolphins, completing the Marine Big 5.
Adventure can have its softer side in rugged South Africa, and KwaZulu-Natal isn’t short on outdoor activities. The private game reserves where our chosen lodges are located offer opportunities to go fishing, hiking, mountain biking or horse-riding. From Three Trees at Spioenkop, take a picnic lunch and head into the Drakensberg Mountains where hiking trails reveal incredible views or whiz through the forest on an exhilarating zip wire. Adrenalin seekers may enjoy white water rafting on the Tugela River (November to May only), or quad biking along a 15 kilometre adventure trail. If the 10 kilometre hike to the top of Cathedral Peak is a little daunting, hop into a helicopter or rise early for a spectacular sunrise balloon ride. History is brought vividly to life on an Anglo-Zulu War battlefield tour. Passionate and engaging guides will lead you around sites such as Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift or Spioenkop, telling tales round a roaring fire and giving knowledgeable insights into the victories and crushing defeats. Children will enjoy the experience too – at Fugitive’s Drift, shorter, interactive tours around the property are followed by a game walk where they may encounter giraffe, zebra and wildebeest and learn about traditional bush medicine. Durban, KwaZulu-Natal’s city by the sea, is rightly proud of its revitalised seafront. With its protected swimming beaches and sub-tropical climate, it’s a glorious place to spend a few days soaking up the sights. KwaZulu-Natal is not without its safari thrills – the Big 5 along with many rarer and less frequently spotted species can be viewed at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, where seven distinct ecosystems rich in wildlife are home to rare black rhino, which can be tracked on foot, and the ever-elusive cheetah. Phinda’s appeal is enhanced by the marine diversity of nearby Sodwana Bay where enormous leatherback and loggerhead turtles nest, the best viewing time being November to February. Dive the Big 5 here in the Indian Ocean’s clear waters, perhaps even experiencing an encounter with an enormous whale shark.
The terrain is glorious and the adventures are endless in this stunningly beautiful corner of South Africa from the Klein Karoo to the game reserves of the Eastern Cape. Meander amidst lake-dotted hills and flower-filled fynbos, across dramatic mountain passes and surging rivers, past scented orchards, indigenous forests and unsullied stretches of coastline perfect for swimming, sailing and kayaking. Stray off the main highways to stumble across picturesque villages nestled in the valleys and be ready to sample the best that the land has to offer. Journey inland from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape on Route 62, through Robertson and Montagu – this is wine route country par excellence, with a cellar door round every turn waiting to tempt you with fine vintages and ports. At Barrydale, the fertile Tradouw Valley stands in stark contrast against the semi-arid landscape of the Klein Karoo. The Swartberg pass winds its dramatic way through the Klein Karoo to Oudtshoorn where a visit to the Cango Caves is recommended – a truly impressive underground wonder. Between Mossel Bay and Plettenberg, where the mountain ranges of Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma provide a spectacular backdrop, there are opportunities aplenty to hike the adventure trails and canoe the rivers. Get the adrenalin flowing with a visit to the Stormsriver Adventure Centre in Stormsriver Village where many of the activities kick off, whether it’s kayaking, watching the big waves form at the mouth of the river or taking a Tsitsikamma canopy tour, traversing from one platform to another along a cable strung high above the floor of the indigenous rain forest. Break your journey with a few nights in Knysna, perhaps even stay in a private castle on beautiful Noetzie Beach; Plettenberg Bay provides a chance to combine swimming with dolphin viewing by sea kayak or a spot of relaxation on one of the bay’s beautiful Blue Flag beaches.
Travel through centuries of vinicultural history in the Franschhoek Valley on board an open-sided tram. The narrated hop-on/ hop-off tour stops at some of South Africa’s oldest and most distinguished wine estates, where passengers may sample the wines and pause for food or simply stroll round the vineyards before continuing the tour. For a personalised experience, hire a private car and driver/guide for a tailored wine tasting tour of the local estates, or do the whole thing on horseback, a novel way to explore the area. Visit Franschhoek during the last weekend of September when the Franschhoek Uncorked festival takes place, with complimentary cellar tours and wine tastings offered by several of the area’s top wineries – a wonderful opportunity to try out new vintages and releases, accompanied by innovative, fresh cuisine. As the Cape Winelands cover over 20,000 square kilometres, taking to the air is an attractive option – scenic flights from Stellenbosch allow for a bird’s eye view of the extensive vineyards, mountains and passes that characterise the area. Staying on a working farm brings you closer to nature, where guests can eat, sleep and breathe the great outdoors – at Babylonstoren you can cycle through the vineyards, pick your own salad, taste the estate’s wines and cool off later with a swim in the dam. Over on the Waterford Estate, at the foot of the scenic Helderberg Mountains, an open Land Rover chauffeurs guests on an innovative wine safari, or for a unique taste sensation try Waterford’s chocolate and wine pairings, where luscious dark and milk chocolates are paired not only with sweet wines but Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The heart of South Africa lies in its teeming game reserves. This is the home of the Big 5 – lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant – built to impress with their sheer size and strength. To see a leopard dozing in a tree, or to track one by spotlight at night is a humbling experience. Stay silent as a large herd of elephant passes by; search for black rhino in the thickets; approach carefully as a pride of lions sleeps in a dry river bed after a kill. Across South Africa, exceptional game viewing is assured, from the famous expanses of Kruger National Park to malaria-free Madikwe on the Botswana border. Early morning game drives may catch animals on the prowl before seeking shade in the heat of the day; late afternoon/evening drives may reward with opportunities to watch predators as they hunt. Sip sundowners as a journey of giraffe glide silently by or experience the thrill of being surrounded by hundreds of buffalo on the banks of a river. Desert terrain offers a safari with a difference. The red sand, rolling dunes and semi-arid grasslands of the Southern or Green Kalahari are populated by species such as sable and roan antelope, Hartmanns mountain zebra and desert black rhino. In addition to the meerkat colonies, guests at Tswalu Kalahari might just be fortunate enough to catch a rare glimpse of the elusive pangolin, a curious creature that has eluded many seasoned safari experts.