Cape Kaleidoscope

Guarding over the confluence of the Atlantic and southern Indian oceans is the Cape of Good Hope, the southwestern most tip of the African continent. It is here where the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town is situated, surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the Cape Peninsula, including iconic Table Mountain. A little further east is the aptly named Garden Route and further still the adventure province of South Africa, the Eastern Cape.This tour will highlight the incredibly diverse habitats and natural features of the Western and Eastern Cape provinces, and with it bring some truly fascinating and unique flora and flora. Throw into the mix some multi-ethnic South African history and culture, superb food and wine and mind-blowing scenery, and you have the perfect Cape itinerary!

Tour booked on request

DAY 1: Arrival in Cape Town
You will be picked up from the Cape Town International Airport by your guide and, depending on your time of arrival, either be taken to your accommodation for the next 2 nights, or to your first exciting excursion of this tour. The airport is located a short drive away from the city itself, in an area known as the “Cape flats”.*Please note that we advise an early arrival into Cape Town, as this ensures an almost full day of sightseeing and activities. Alternatively you can arrive a day or two before the official start of the tour to enjoy Cape Town at your own pace.

Visually stunning Cape Town, or the “Mother City”, is one of the most multicultural cities on earth, and was named as the best place in the world to visit by The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph as recently as 2014. Cape Town was developed as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to east Africa, India and the far east. Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Cape Town is where South Africa’s Parliament sits, and it is also known for its harbour, for historically important Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years), for its mild Mediterranean climate, for the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and for stunning natural landmarks like Table Mountain and Cape Point.

Our first excursion together will be to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, nestled at the foot of the lower slopes of Table Mountain. The gardens were created in 1913 and currently covers an area of 528 hectares (1,300 acres). The Kirsten part of the name is believed to be the surname of the manager of the land, J.F. Kirsten, in the 18th century. The bosch part of the name is a Dutch word for ‘forest’ or ‘bush’. The focus of the gardens is indigenous plant cultivation, and specifically the protection of plants native to the Cape region. This is highlighted by a superb collection of proteas.

Kirstenbosch is a popular tourist attraction and also a place to relax for locals. Many open air concerts are held here annually; a fantastic venue if ever there was one! We will walk along the many roads and footpaths, enjoying the incredible plant and flowers, beautiful setting as well as hoping to see some of the resident fauna. More than 125 species of birds have been recorded in the gardens, including Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Francolin, Cape Batis, Forest Canary and Spotted Eagle-Owl.

Mammals like Cape Grysbok, Caracal, Cape Fox and Cape Porcupine are also present although not often seen. We will definitely see the introduced Eastern Grey Squirrel and Cape Grey Mongoose. We will also search for butterflies like the brilliantly named Table Mountain Beauty and for reptiles like the Western Cape Crag Lizard, among many others.

Afterwards we will head for our accommodation to freshen up, then have a first dinner together at one of the many excellent local restaurants, before returning for a good night’s rest.

DAY 2: Cape Town and surrounds
Today we have a full day to explore the wonders of the Cape Peninsula!

After an early breakfast we will make our way south through Constantia towards the Noordhoek area, past the quaint town of Fish Hoek and onto the coastal town of Simon’s Town, home of the South African Navy’s Naval Base. We will reach Simon’s Town after about an hour.

We are heading for the sheltered Boulders Beach close by, where there has been a colony of African Penguins since the 1980s. Boulders Beach is a small picture-perfect bay with white sands, turquoise waters and colossal granite boulders The beach forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. These penguins are only found on the coastlines of South African and Namibia, and are unfortunately on the verge of extinction. In November 2013 the African Penguin was officially listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. These fascinating creatures with their distinct pink patch of facial skin and black mask can be observed from close quarters from viewing platforms and wooden walkways, and we will spend some time enjoying their hilarious antics. We will also look out for Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Boubou and Cape Grassbird in the dense coastal bushes, and should see several cormorant species, African Oystercatcher and Cape Gannet on the rocks in the bay.

Next up we head for the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula, specifically the Cape Of Good Hope Nature Reserve, a jewel within the Cape Floral region. Part of the Table Mountain National Park that extends from Signal Hill in the north all the way to Cape Point in the south, the Cape of Good Hope is actually not the southern tip of Africa. The actual southernmost point is at Cape Agulhas, a few hundred kilometres further east.

At the breathtakingly beautiful Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve we will drive along the tourist roads and set out on a short walk to explore the rugged shoreline, dotted with cliffs and crags, meandering through vast tracts of fragrant fynbos. We will search of a number of special fauna and flora species, many of which endemic to this diverse region, seen nowhere else on earth. This includes over 250 species of birds, several antelope species (Common Eland, Common Duiker, Cape Grysbok, Steenbok and Klipspringer), the famous Chacma Baboon troops, Angulated Tortoise and the Cape subspecies of Mountain Zebra.

After our relaxed nature walk we will head up to the lighthouse viewing point, perched high up on the cliffs to enjoy incredible views over the Atlantic Ocean and the possibility of spotting Southern Right Whales (Aug – Dec). The reserve also offers some of the best land-based seabird watching in the world, so keep your binoculars ready! We will enjoy a late lunch at the Two Oceans Restaurant at Cape Point, famous for its seafood and its sweeping views of the ocean far below.

After lunch we will slowly make our way back to Cape Town, this time taking a different route. We will drive through the small towns of Scarborough, Kommetjie and Noordhoek before reaching Chapman’s Peak Drive. This spectacular road hugs the near-vertical face of the roadside mountains, linking Noordhoek to the beautiful town of Hout Bay. Chapman’s Peak Drive is part of the route of two of South Africa’s biggest mass-participation races, the Cape Argus Cycle race and the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon.

The sheltered bay of Hout Bay has a beautiful white sand beach, an attraction for tourists and locals alike. Hout Bay has one of the busiest fishing harbours in the Western Cape, also home to the Hout Bay Yacht Club and several restaurants and craft stores.

After leaving Hout Bay we can follow the Atlantic seaboard route past the upmarket suburbs of Llandudno, Camps Bay and Clifton on our way back to our accommodation. Alternatively we can cross over Constantia Neck for a shorter, but equally scenic drive back to our accommodation.
We will freshen up, have dinner and get a good night’s rest.

DAY 3: Cape Town to West Coast National Park
We will enjoy an early breakfast and then we are off to what will surely be one of the top highlights of this trip; Table Mountain!
Arguably one of the most well-known mountains on the planet, Table Mountain provides a magnificent backdrop to the city of Cape Town and now boasts the accolade of being one of the New7Wonders of Nature. Famous for the tablecloth of clouds that pours endlessly down its slopes when the southeaster wind blows, this natural icon is there to hike, climb, worship, walk and explore. It is one of the oldest mountains in the world, estimated at 260 million years old! The mountain falls within the 221 km2 (85 sq mi) Table Mountain National Park, itself part of the UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site.

We will go up to the top of the plateau (1,067 m/3,500 ft above sea level) using the famous Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. It is one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist attractions, and in January 2019 the cableway welcomed its 28 millionth visitor. The journey takes about 5 minutes at 10 metres per second, in rotating cars carrying 65 passengers each. The upper cable station offers fantastic views over Cape Town, Table Bay and Robben Island to the north, and the Atlantic seaboard to the west and south. Bring your cameras!

*Please note: the cableway ride is dependent on weather conditions and cannot be guaranteed. If we are unable to go up to the plateau we will walk one of the many beautiful hiking trails on the lowers slopes of the mountain. Alternatively, if the weather is really bad, we can arrange another activity. This will be discussed and communicated well in advance with participants.

During our leisurely few hours on the mountain we will enjoy the staggering amount of plant species that occur here; there are more species of plant in Table Mountain National Park (over two thousand) than exist in the whole of the United Kingdom! Fynbos, an Afrikaans word meaning “delicate bush”, is the name given to the scrubby vegetation that is particular to the Cape and is found in abundance on Table Mountain’s slopes. Fynbos consists of four primary plant groups: proteas (large broad-leafed shrubs), ericas (low-growing shrubs), restios (thin reed-like plants) and geophytes (bulbs).

Although the Cape Lion historically roamed the slopes of the mountain, we can only expect to see Rock Hyrax, Egyptian (Large Grey) Mongoose, Cape Grysbok, Grey Rhebok and Chacma Baboon. Other interesting species include rare frogs, Cape Cobra, Puff Adder, Angulated Tortoise, Southern Rock Agama, Black Girdled Lizard and Cape Skink. From an avian perspective, we will look out for Peregrine Falcon, Verreaux’s Eagle, Jackal and Steppe Buzzard, Rock Kestrel, Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Siskin, Cape Rock Thrush, Karoo Prinia, several sunbird species and maybe even Ground Woodpecker.

After our time on the mountain we will take the thrilling cableway ride down to the lower station and from there make our way north to our next destination. In total the drive to the West Coast National Park is only about 90 minutes, but we will take it slow, enjoying the dramatic change in scenery as we get closer to the park. We will also drive past the Koeberg nuclear power station, the only one on the entire African continent.
We will enjoy a late lunch on the way up to the West Coast National Park. Against the backdrop of the azure blue Langebaan Lagoon, white dunes, rare fynbos, green wetlands and unbounded waves, there is much to experience in this beautiful park. A paradise for hikers, cyclists, birders and nature lovers alike, the West Coast National Park is a gem in the Western Cape’s already studded crown.

We will reach our accommodation by driving through the park from south to north, so we will get an early taste of what to expect tomorrow.
Our comfortable accommodation is in the town of Langebaan, on the eastern shore of the Langebaan Lagoon, a short distance north of the national park. The mild climate and protected waters of the lagoon make Langebaan popular for sailing, kayaking, kitesurfing and fishing, and the town offers numerous holiday facilities for water sport enthusiasts. To protect its culture as a fishing, holiday and retirement village, the town allows no industries.

We will check into our accommodation, freshen up and have dinner at one of the excellent restaurants nearby. We will then enjoy a good night’s rest.

DAY 4: West Coast National Park
After an early breakfast we will have a full day to explore the entire West Coast National Park.

The 36,000 hectare (140,000 sq mi) park was proclaimed in 1985. It is known for its rich birdlife (it is an Important Bird Area as identified by BirdLife International and a Ramsar wetland of importance) and for the spring wild flowers which occur annually in August and September in the Postberg section of the park.

We will drive along the surfaced and gravel road network, looking for mammals, birds and other interesting species. We will stop at the three bird hides dotted around the lagoon, stretch our legs and try to spot some rare waders or anything cool! The park compromises large areas of coastal strandveld around the big tidal lagoon, along with mudflats, salty marshes and reedbeds. There are also rocky and sandy shorelines and a few offshore islands.

We can expect to see mammals like Steenbok, Common Duiker, Springbok, Common Wildebeest, Gemsbok, Greater Kudu, Mountain Zebra (Cape subspecies), Blesbok (Bontebok subspecies), Red Hartebeest and Common Eland. With some luck we could even see Bat-eared Fox, Caracal or Black-footed Cat. Smaller animals we could see include Four-striped Grass Mouse, Bush Vlei Rat and Scrub Hare. Snakes include Mole Snake, Cape Cobra and Puff Adder. If it is raining, listen out for the call of the Sand Rain Frogs.

Birdlife is prolific, especially in the summer when up to 50,000 migrating waders descend on the lagoon. It is also famous because at least 45 of South Africa’s endemic or near-endemic species can be found within the park’s borders. We will search for South African Shelduck, Greater Flamingo, Great White Pelican, Red Knot, Sanderling, Ruff, Marsh, Terek and Curlew Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Chestnut-banded and Kittlitz’s Plover, cormorants, terns and gulls. In the coastal strandveld we will look for Southern Black Korhaan, Cape and Grey-winged Francolin, Cape Penduline Tit, Chestnut-vented and Layard’s Warbler, Bokmakierie, Karoo Scrub Robin, Karoo and Large-billed Lark, Cape Bunting and many others. Special raptors include African Fish Eagle, Western Osprey, Black Harrier, Booted Eagle and even Eurasian Hobby. Also remember to keep an eye out for rarities; there have been some incredible finds in the park in the past.

We will have a special lunch today at the Geelbek Restaurant in the park. Housed in a beautifully restored Cape Dutch homestead, the restaurant serves a range of delicious, traditional dishes which portray a rich local history enriched by Portuguese, Dutch, Norwegian, Italian and Malay influences. Their pumpkin pie is a must!

After lunch we will continue exploring the park until late afternoon, including the western side on the Atlantic coast (season dependent). Here we may see a selection of wildlife that is entirely different to their terrestrial counterparts. The most commonly spotted dolphin species here is the Heaviside’s Dolphin, and between August and January there are usually Southern Right Whales, but Humpback and Killer Whales may also skirt this coastline.

In the late afternoon we will return to our accommodation. We will again have dinner somewhere in the town of Langebaan and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

DAY 5: West Coast National Park to Bontebok National Park
Today we have a beautiful drive of about 4 hours ahead of us.
After breakfast we head southeast. Our destination is the Bontebok National Park, but before we get there we will enjoy some stunning scenery. We will drive through several small towns, including Moorreesburg in the agricultural Swartland area, Worcester surrounded by mountains on all sides and vineyard-rich Robertson in the Breede River valley before reaching the town of Swellendam.
Swellendam is South Africa’s third oldest town, established in 1745. It has many stunning examples of Cape Dutch architecture and is an important farming area for wheat, canola, oats, sheep and dairy. We will have lunch at one of the many funky establishments in town and then check into our accommodation for the night.

In the afternoon we will head for the nearby Bontebok National Park for an afternoon game drive. The park is sheltered by the Langeberg Mountains to the north and bordered to the south by the Breede river. The park provides a refuge for Bontebok, a subspecies of the Blesbok, but recognised by some authorities as a distinct species in its own right. By 1930 fewer than 30 Bontebok remained. To save the species from extinction, the 28 km2 (11 sq mi) Bontebok National Park was established and today it provides sanctuary for about 200 Bontebok. Although the park, because of its tiny size, can only support a limited number of bontebok, over the years its surplus stock has been given to other parks and reserves with suitable habitat. The total world population of Bontebok now stands somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000, all of them having come from the Bontebok National Park.

The habitat here consists mostly of South Coast Renosterveld, but there are some thick riverine vegetations along the Breede river. It may look like little more than dry bushveld to the untrained eye, but this small park boasts 250 indigenous plant species, including 29 that are globally threatened with extinction and 23 that are “species of concern”. However, the park’s stars are the Aspalathus burchelliana, Diosma fallax and Tril-heath that are found nowhere else in the world.

Apart from the Bontebok and Mountain Zebra, we will also look for Cape Grysbok, Grey Rhebok, Common Duiker, Red Hartebeest and African Clawless Otter. There are also several special bird species to be seen here, including Denham’s Bustard, Secretarybird, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Blue Crane, Olive Bushshrike, Southern and Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Southern Tchagra and Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk.

We will make the short drive back to Swellendam for dinner in a local establishment and a good night’s rest.

DAY 6: Bontebok National Park to Addo Elephant National Park
Today we have longest driving day ahead of us, but don’t worry, it is a stunning drive, all through the Garden Route of South Africa!

It will take us most of the day to get to our next destination, so we will leave after an early breakfast and enjoy lunch somewhere along the way.

Our route will take us eastwards on the N2 national highway through the town of Heidelberg where the Garden Route officially starts. Next up is Riversdale, located beneath the Langeberg mountains, with Sleeping Beauty overlooking the town. Albertinia, the “home of the Aloe”, is the next small town we drive through. Then we drive past one of the world’s largest gas-to-liquid refineries at PetroSA, before skirting the beautiful harbour town of Mossel Bay, famous as the spot where Bartolomeu Dias set foot on South African soil in 1488.

Next up is verdant George at the foot of the Outeniqua mountains, a popular holiday town with locals and foreigners alike. It is the starting point of the historic Montagu Pass and the site of the Fancourt Golf Estate, which hosted the Presidents Cup tournament in 2003. Here we have a decision to make, to either continue along the N2 through the coastal towns on Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, or to swing inland and continue eastwards in the Langkloof valley, known for its apple and pear farms. We will make our decision based on what time of the day we reach George and on local traffic conditions.
We will cross into the Eastern Cape Province and reach the Addo Elephant National Park late in the afternoon and check into our accommodation at the main rest camp. The camp offers a wide variety of comfortable accommodation units (cottages, rondavels and chalets) to suit all tastes and plenty of activities that will keep us busy.

A unique feature is the waterhole lookout point situated inside the camp and which is floodlit at night, as well as the underground hide, allowing close encounters with wildlife at the waterhole. Another hide, the SASOL Red Bishop Bird Hide, overlooks a small wetland area in the camp; we will check on this pond a few times during our time in the camp as some interesting birds can be spotted here with ease. These include Black Crake, Southern Red Bishop, four species of weavers and two species of bulbuls. There is also a large swimming pool in the main rest camp, perfect for cooling down in on a warm summer afternoon!

We will freshen up and then enjoy dinner and an early night after a long day in the car. The a-la-carte restaurant is open daily from 07:30 to 22:00 and we will have all our meals here for the duration of our stay in Addo.

DAY 7: Addo Elephant National Park
The great herds of elephant and buffalo in the eastern Cape area had been all but decimated by hunters over the 1700s and 1800s. In the late 1800s, farmers began to colonise the area around the park, also taking their toll on the elephant population due to competition for water and crops. The Addo Elephant National Park was proclaimed in 1931 to protect the remaining 11 elephants.

Today, Addo Elephant National Park, or just “Addo” to people in the know, is South Africa’s third largest national park at 1,640 km2 (630 sq mi) and conserves an incredibly wide range of biodiversity, landscapes, fauna and flora.
The main part of Addo, or the “old section”, is where we will spend our time, but there is also a fascinating Marine & Coastal section. This section stretches between the Sundays River mouth and Bushman’s River mouth. It incorporates the Alexandria Dunefield – the largest and least degraded coastal dunefield in the southern hemisphere. Bird Island and St. Croix Island in Algoa Bay were proclaimed as part of Addo Elephant National Park in 2005. Bird Island supports the largest breeding colony of Cape Gannets in the world (over 160,000 birds) as well as other birds such as African Penguins and rare Roseate Terns. St. Croix Island, nearer to the town of Port Elizabeth, is home to a large breeding colony of African Penguins. A Marine Protected Area (MPA) was proclaimed around Bird Island to protect important marine resources for the future. These marine assets form part of the vision to expand Addo into the 3,600 km² (1,400 sq mi) Greater Addo Elephant National Park.

The above mentioned expansion will mean not only that the park contains five of South Africa’s seven major vegetation zones, but also that it will be the only park in the world to house Africa’s “Big 7“ (African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Lion, African Buffalo, Leopard, Southern Right Whale and Great White Shark) in their natural habitat!

There is much to do and see in Addo, including self-drive wildlife viewing on about 120 km (75 mi) of tourist roads. There are also hiking trails, a 45 km long 4×4 trail, horse riding trails, a beautiful picnic site, and the Addo Indlovu Spa in the main rest camp. The Addo Elephant Trail Run is held in parts of the park every year in March, with distances ranging from 44 km to 100 miles.

We will have a short pre-breakfast birding walk in camp and then enjoy breakfast in the restaurant before heading out on the extensive network of roads in the park. We will return for lunch and a short siesta before heading out again in the mid-afternoon.

There is a vast amount of fauna and flora present in Addo. The park is home to 95 mammal species, but the pachyderms are the stars! Addo offers some of the most spectacular African Elephant viewing in the world, and you are guaranteed some close-up viewing of the 600 or so individuals in the park. They are very accustomed to cars and people, so relax and enjoy the experience.

We will also look for African Buffalo, Lion, Leopard (very rare) and Spotted Hyaena. Herbivores we will almost certainly see include Red Hartebeest, Common Eland, Greater Kudu, Bushbuck and Plains Zebra (Burchell’s subspecies). Other mammals we could encounter are Common Warthog, Black-backed Jackal, Vervet and Chacma Baboon.

The outlying areas of the park have some very different inhabitants, including Mountain Zebra, Mountain Reedbuck, Gemsbok, Black Wildebeest, Springbok and even Black Rhinoceros.

Rare mammals we might see if we are very lucky include Smith’s Red Rock Hare, Southern Tree Hyrax, Brown Hyaena and Aardwolf.
We will return to camp in the late afternoon for drinks, dinner and a good night’s rest.

DAY 8: Addo Elephant National Park
We have another full day in Addo today!
Addo, as you may have realised by now, is a truly unique park. It is a gem in the South African National Park’s crown, and yet never feels overcrowded like some other African parks can. This is despite receiving almost 350,000 visitors in 2018. Another big drawcard is the fact that it is situated in a malaria-free zone.

Just like yesterday, we will have a birding walk in camp and an early breakfast before going on our morning game drive. We will return to camp for lunch and a short siesta, and then set off in the afternoon again for another game drive. We will definitely visit Hapoor Dam (named after one of Addo’s most famous elephants), the spot to just sit and wait and let the animals come to us. Cameras at the ready!

We will again search for all the mammals like yesterday, but the other creatures will not be forgotten about. Addo’s birding opportunity covers excellent habitat contrasts between dense thickets of “spekboom” (Elephant’s Foot) interspersed with open grassy areas and wooded kloofs (particularly in the Zuurberg region). Now that the park has expanded to include Darlington Lake, the Woody Cape section, the coastal islands and the Alexandria Forest, the variety of other habitats swell the birding potential of Addo immensely. Some 417 species have been recorded in the park.

Special species we will look for include Southern Tchagra, Knysna Woodpecker, Red-billed Oxpecker, Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane, Southern Black Korhaan, Secretarybird and Martial Eagle. We will also look to tick Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Booted Eagle, and Cape and Dark-capped Bulbul. The forested areas of other sections of the park hold Knysna Turaco, Brown Scrub Robin, Narina Trogon, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbill, Red-fronted Tinkerbird and Olive Bushshrike.
Reptiles in Addo include several snake species, Angulated and Leopard Tortoise, lizards, geckoes and skinks, as well as at least three species of chameleon. The park also has a huge population of Flightless Dung Beetle, a fascinating insect that has right of way on Addo’s roads!

Furthermore, several species of rare and endemic plants, particularly succulent shrubs and geophytes that are native to the South African region, can be seen in the park. One plant that is seemingly everywhere, is the Elephant’s Foot (Portulacaria Afra), also called the Pork Bush or “spekboom” in Afrikaans. It is a very special and proudly South African plant. It can absorb an incredible amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; between 4 and 10 tonnes of it per hectare per year. That’s ten times more effective than a hectare of Amazon rainforest! And it’s edible too – have a taste!

We will return to camp again in the late afternoon. We will enjoy our farewell dinner together before our last night’s sleep in Addo.

DAY 9: Addo Elephant National Park to Port Elizabeth Airport and departure
Unfortunately this is our final morning together after an excellent Cape tour.

Depending on your flight time, we will either go straight to the airport after breakfast (included), or have a birding walk in camp before leaving, or do a game drive again before departing.

When we leave Addo we will make the short (1 hour) trip to the Port Elizabeth International Airport for your onward flight. Port Elizabeth (“PE” to the locals) is a fantastic holiday city and well worth exploring if you are in the area again.

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