Best of South Africa 2014

Johannesburg, Karongwe Reserve, Kruger, Cape Town & Elephant Whispers plus Victoria Falls & Garden Route optional extensions


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Also check out our Best of South Africa 2015 tour.


Style Fully Escorted & Guided
Dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
Highlights Johannesburg, Karongwe, Cape Town, Hazyview & Kruger National Park. Optional Victoria Falls & Garden Route extensions
Included in the Price
  • Round-trip flights from New York via South African Airways wide-bodied jet service, including fuel surcharges and taxes and fees
  • Flights, ground transportation and transfers within South Africa
  • 10 nights in superior first class and deluxe hotels
  • 16 Meals: 10 American-style breakfasts, 3 lunches, & 3 dinners
  • Professional English-speaking tour directors
  • Comprehensive touring program and safaris, including entrance fees
  • Special opportunity to spend time with the elephants at the Elephant Whispers
What to Expect This moderately-paced, escorted South Africa tour includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness. This tour also includes long scenic drives between destinations and may have limited rest stops.

South Africa Airways South Africa Tourism


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We just returned from the Best of South Africa tour. It exceeded our expectations on every level. We stayed at wonderful, top-notch hotels and traveled in comfortable air conditioned coaches. The included meals were way above average. We want to especially commend Peter van Kraayenburg, our guide for the first week in the Johannesburg and Kruger area. He was phenomenal! Everyone on the tour pounded him with questions and he answered every one of them with insight and a great sense of humor. This is our second Friendly Planet tour and we are impressed with the value, quality, and thoughtful planning of the itineraries.

Warren Wetzel, Los Gatos, CA

Dates & Prices

Sorry, there are no currently available tour dates.

South Africa requires proof of yellow fever vaccination upon entry for passengers arriving from Zambia, Tanzania and some other countries. Passengers travelling to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe should note that if they choose to visit Zambia during their stay, they may be required to show proof of yellow fever vaccination upon return to South Africa.

Extension pricing is based upon certain air class service. Final price may vary based on availability at the time of booking.

Transfers: Transfers for this package are provided on a group basis only. For passengers deviating in any way from the group program, transfers are not provided. Individual, private transfers can be arranged at a supplement in price. Taxis and other forms of transportation are also available and may cost less than private transfers. If you wish to arrange private transfers, please request this service at the time of reservation.


Best of South Africa plus Victoria Falls and Garden Route optional extensions tour itinerary Enjoy an Africa game safari at an exceptional value in one of the world's most magnificent natural settings as you explore exciting South Africa. Begin your South African tour in cosmopolitan Johannesburg, South Africa's largest metropolis, also known as "Egoli" or City of Gold. Then, head north and enjoy an in-depth wild-life experience in Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces where you'll stay at a private reserve in of the country's lush game reserves in search of the "Big Five". Contine your wildlife explorations at Kruger National Park, one of the world's oldest and most famous game reserves. A highlight of your tour is a visit to "Elephant Whispers" for an amazing and up-close encounter with elephants. End your tour in vibrant Cape Town, a truly hot destination for style, night life and gorgeous scenery. Everywhere, you'll be treated to warm, welcoming South African hospitality. Join Friendly Planet, one of the top tour operators in South Africa, and see why this destination has become one of the most popular in the world. Want even more? Extend your stay with a pre-tour to the majestic Victoria Falls or a post-tour to the Garden route, or both. It's a vacation of a lifetime, at a price you won't believe, but don't wait too long to reserve your spot, because space is limited and will go very quickly.

To take full advantage of your visit to South Africa, we offer a variety of optional excursions. These are available through your guide or tour manager, which can be purchased locally in cash with South African Rands (ZAR). See our detailed itinerary below for full descriptions of each excursion.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Depart USA. Your fascinating journey to South Africa begins as you depart New York on your overnight flight for Johannesburg.

Johannesburg skyline Day 2: Johannesburg. Arrive this morning in Johannesburg, South Africa's largest and most populous city. Enjoy a panoramic tour of this cosmopolitan city, affectionately referred to as "Jo'Burg" by the locals. Check-in at your hotel. Enjoy the balance of the day at leisure. Accommodations: Maslow Sandton.

Optional Excursion: Pretoria. This afternoon embark on a cultural journey of exploration through Pretoria, the Jacaranda City, so called for its breathtaking purple-lined streets when the jacaranda trees are in full bloom. The tour begins at the legendary Voortrekker Monument, a memorial to the early settlers. Travel on to the Kruger Museum, the private residence of President Paul Kruger of the old Transvaal Republic, and visit Church Square, surrounded by vintage buildings dating back to the turn of the century. The tour concludes with the Union Buildings, the site of Nelson Mandela's joyful inauguration in 1994. This optional tour must be purchased locally on a private basis.

Johannesburg woman  © South African Tourism Day 3: Johannesburg. This morning learn more about South Africa's turbulent past and its unwavering hope for the future on a fascinating tour to Soweto (short for Southwestern Township), a sprawling metropolis on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Your tour will give you a close-up look at daily life in this bustling neighborhood, the largest black urban settlement in Africa and center of political campaigns aimed at the overthrow of the apartheid state.

Highlights of the Soweto tour include the former residence of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, the Hector Peterson memorial for the victims of the civil unrest in the 1970s, and a drive by the ultramodern Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. Visit the Apartheid Museum for an in-depth historical look at the system of extreme racial segregation that plagued South Africa from 1948 until 1994, when it was finally dismantled. Breakfast provided.

Blyde River Canyon Day 4: Johannesburg, Blyde River Canyon & Karongwe Private Game Reserve. After an early breakfast, relax on the scenic drive from Johannesburg to Mpumalanga Province. Pass through Lydenberg; Pilgrims Rest, a quaint historical mining town from centuries ago; and Graskop, near the Blyde River Canyon. Visit the Blyde River Canyon, one of the world's largest, stopping for breathtaking views of rolling mountains, verdant valleys, the Three Rondavels, God's Window and Bourke's Luck Potholes.

Continue to your lodge, located in the Karongwe Private Game Reserve in the heart of Limpopo Province. The Reserve teems with an abundance of game, wildlife and diverse vegetation. After check in, enjoy the surroundings and dinner at the lodge. Accommodations: Bongani Mountain Lodge on Dec. 25 departure, Shiduli Lodge, Chisomo Lodge or similar on all others. Breakfast & dinner provided.

Bourke's Luck Potholes, Blyde River Canyon  Photo by Rudi von Staden Day 5: Karongwe Private Game Reserve. After a very early morning wake-up call and fresh cup of coffee or tea, head out in open safari vehicles for your game drive into the African bush in search of the Big Five—lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo—as well as some of the smaller and fascinating creatures such as chameleons, scrub hares and more. Stop in the bush for a hot drink with rusks, a typical South African biscuit. Return to the lodge for a full breakfast.

Relax at the lodge and perhaps take an afternoon nap. In the late afternoon, set off on foot for a bush walk with your experienced ranger, who will teach you some bush skills such as animal tracking as well as bird and plant identification. Return to your lodge for dinner. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Elephants Day 6: Karongwe Private Game Reserve & Hazyview. Depart for an early morning game drive. After breakfast, continue to Hazyview in Mpulamlanga province, locally just a few miles outside the Kruger National Park. Enjoy lunch at the ever-popular Harries Pancakes then check in at your hotel, and take some time to relax in the beautiful surroundings.

Later in the afternoon, depart for your Elephant Whispers, an elephant interaction experience. Elephant Whispers are dedicated to securing the future of the African Elephant. There are five tamed and trained rescued elephants, varying in ages from 9 to 29 years. Experience the thrill of being close to these magnificent creatures, and witness their intelligence and compassionate nature. Return to your hotel and spend the evening at leisure. Accommodations: Perry's Bridge Hollow or similar. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Optional Excursion: Elephant Ride, $70. Enhance your interaction experience at Elephant Whispers with an elephant ride. Saddle-up and set off into the African bush on the back of the elephant. Enjoy a different perspective while embarking on a journey that was once a privilege reserved only for kings.

Zebras drinking, Kruger National Park Day 7: Hazyview & Kruger National Park. After an early morning wake-up call, depart for a morning safari in open safari vehicles into the Kruger National Park, one of the world's most famous game reserves. You'll see the ever-present impala, and be on the lookout for wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, and many other types of antelopes. Return to your hotel for an afternoon at leisure.

This evening, The Shangaan River Club will welcome you to festivities under the thatched boma where song dance, verse and magnificent food all come together. The Shangaan River Club is named after the local people of the area, the Shangaan. As the sun sets over the Sabie River, the drums begin to sound as the torches guiding the way are lit. After a traditional handwashing ritual, you can have your face painted or your hair braided. Entertainment is provided by the Ronaldsi Youth Cultural Traditional Dancers. Breakfast & dinner provided.

Day 8: Hazyview & Cape Town. This morning, drive to Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Airport for your late afternoon flight to Cape Town. Upon arrival, you'll be escorted to your centrally located hotel. Accommodations: 15 on Orange Hotel. Breakfast provided.

Decorative House Day 9: Cape Town. Your tour of Cape Town begins with a half day panoramic city tour showcasing the scenic and historic highlights of this vibrant city. Weather permitting, you'll travel by cable car to the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town's most striking landmark. Stop at Milnerton Lighthouse for spectacular views of the mountain and the city below. Proceed to the country's oldest building, the Castle of Good Hope, an imposing 17th century Dutch fort set against the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain.

Continue to the Malay Quarter (Bo-Kaap). Lined with brightly colored houses and decorative mosques, this historic neighborhood was founded by former slaves from Malaysia whose Islamic culture gives the neighborhood a distinct character and contributes to Cape Town's rich cultural diversity. The final stop is the lively Cape Town Waterfront, where restaurants and entertainment options abound. Spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure to get better acquainted with Cape Town. Breakfast provided.

Stellenbosch wine farm, Cape Town Optional Excursion: Stellenbosch, Feb–Oct departures: 550 ZAR (approx. $60), Nov–Dec departures: 605 ZAR (approx. $70). Enjoy an optional half day excursion to glorious Stellenbosch, the heart of the Cape Winelands. Explore fine art galleries, architecture, history, and curious and quaint shops. But first, take a leisurely drive to get acquainted with beauty of this world-renowned region, before venturing into the wine-making process in a fascinating cellar tour with wine tasting. July departures will visit Signal Hill instead of Table Mountain, while the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is closed for annual maintenance.

African Jackass Penguins Day 10: Cape Point & Cape Town. A full day excursion to Cape Point begins this morning with a cruise along Hout Bay View where you'll see the seals of Duiker Island. Enter the nature reserve that covers the southern part of the Peninsula, and drive through the unique scenery towards Cape Point. Travel by funicular railway to Cape Point where you can take in stunning views of the Cape of Good Hope. After lunch, make a brief stop to visit the African jackass penguins at Boulders Beach, and then continue to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where you'll enjoy a magnificent display of indigenous South African flora. Return to your hotel late this afternoon and spend the remainder of the day at leisure. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Aerial view of Cape Town Day 11: Cape Town. Enjoy a last day of leisure in the beautiful city of Cape Town. You can also choose a full day optional tour available for purchase locally. Breakfast provided.

Optional Excursion: Cape Town's townships, Feb–Oct departures: 790 ZAR (approx. $88), Nov–Dec departures: 890 ZAR (approx. $99). Experience the wonderful energy of Cape Town's townships in one unforgettable tour. Start with a visit to the oldest township, Langa. Stop by a local "shebeen" (pub), to observe glimpse of local life. Then from Langa travel to Khayelitsha, the largest township of the Western Cape. In the afternoon, visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. This optional excursion must be purchased locally and operates with a minimum of 2 passengers.

Optional Excursion: Farewell Dinner, 325 ZAR (approx. $35). Tonight, take advantage of an optional farewell dinner at the lively Gold of Africa Restaurant including roundtrip transfers from the hotel. Be entertained by rhythmic drumming and dancing while you enjoy a delicious 14 course meal. Price excludes drinks. Passengers taking the Garden Route post-tour extension will have this optional dinner on the Day 14 of the Garden Route Post-Tour Extension Itinerary.

Day 12: Depart South Africa. This morning is your last opportunity for last minute shopping. In the early afternoon transfer to the airport for your return flight home, via Johannesburg. Breakfast provided.

Day 13: Arrive USA. Your memorable South African adventure ends as you touch down this morning in New York.

Victoria Falls Pre-Tour Optional Extension

Why not take advantage of your already-included international airfare to visit Victoria Falls, one of the world's most spectacular natural wonders. You'll depart the U.S. 3 days before the departure dates shown.

Day 1: Depart USA. Your fascinating journey to South Africa begins today as you depart New York on your overnight jet bound for Victoria Falls via Johannesburg.

Victoria Falls rainforest Day 2: Johannesburg & Victoria Falls. This morning, arrive in Johannesburg and connect to your flight to Victoria Falls. You'll soon discover why this UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered one of the greatest natural wonders—and the largest curtain of falling water in the world! Set at the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls consists of numerous falls separated by islands in the river below. The Zambezi River spills more than 2 million gallons per second over the Bakota Gorge, casting multiple rainbows and resulting in an awe-inspiring display of raw power unrivalled by other natural wonders. The tremendous roar of the water and the ever-present cloud of spray give the falls their local moniker, "Smoke that Thunders."

Check in at your award-winning safari lodge, located high on a plateau bordering the Zambezi National Park, and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure at the hotel swimming pools or game-viewing platforms. Elephants, buffalo and other wild animals often graze on hotel lawns. Accommodations: Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Breakfast provided.

Optional Excursion: Boma Restaurant Dinner Show, $66. Enjoy a unique dining experience at the Boma Restaurant, coupled with a feast of cultural entertainment including Shangaan and Ndebele song and dance. Dinner features traditional Zimbabwean delicacies and for the brave at heart, lightly grilled Mopani worms. This optional excursion must be purchased locally.

Local Child Day 3: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Your exploration of the falls begins with a guided tour of the Zimbabwe side. Later today, experience the glorious falls from an up-close vantage point as you set sail on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Be on the look out for hippos, monkeys, elephants, and crocodiles that frequent the waters and their surrounding areas. Breakfast provided.

Day 4: Victoria Falls. Enjoy a full day at leisure to explore this magnificent natural wonder on your own on the well-marked trails through the rainforest that wind up to and around the falls. The trails allow for excellent picture-taking from a variety of vantage points (be sure to protect your camera if it's not waterproof). There are a wide range of optional excursions available locally on request basis including game drives, walking safaris, bungee jumping, and more. We recommend the full day tour of Chobe National Park in Botswana. Breakfast provided.

Chobe National Park Optional Excursion: Chobe National Park, $175. Take advantage of an optional full day excursion to the Chobe National Park in Botswana, renowned for its large elephant population. Begin the day with a safari boat cruise on the Chobe River. Afterwards, enjoy lunch at the Chobe Game Lodge and end the day with afternoon game drive in an open vehicle. This excursion requires a passport and double or multiple entry Zimbabwe visa. This optional excursion must be purchased locally.

Day 5: Victoria Falls & Johannesburg. After breakfast this morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight to Johannesburg. There, you will meet up with the rest of your tour group at your hotel. (Please see Day 2 of the main tour itinerary above.) Accommodations: Maslow Sandton. Breakfast provided.

Garden Route Post-Tour Optional Extension

Why not take advantage of your already-included international airfare to visit the Garden Route, a beautiful stretch of the southern coastline of South Africa from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. You'll return to the U.S. 3 days after the return dates shown above.

Aerial view of Knysna Lagoon Day 11: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth & Knysna. Depart Cape Town this morning on your flight bound for Port Elizabeth. Upon arrival, travel through the indigenous Tsitsikamma Forest towards the romantic seaside resort of Knysna, in the heart of the famous Garden Route, with scenic stops along the way. Accommodations: Knysna Hollow or similar. Breakfast & dinner provided.

Day 12: Knysna. Cruise on the vast Knysna Lagoon and visit the Featherbed Nature Reserve. Enjoy an amazing view of the imposing sandstone "heads" which guard the sea entrance to Knysna's huge tidal lagoon, and the forests, marshes and pristine beaches beyond. After lunch the remainder of the day is at leisure to enjoy this lovely and special town. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Cango caves Day 13: Knysna & Oudtshoorn. This morning we enjoy the wonderful views of the spectacular Outeniqua Pass en route to Oudtshoorn, the "feather capital of the world," so named, because it's the center of South Africa's ostrich industry.

After lunch, we learn more about these hardy, enigmatic creatures during a tour of an ostrich farm. We then head underground for a fascinating tour of the Cango Caves, regarded as one of South Africa's most spectacular natural wonders. The enormous caverns are filled with stalagmites and stalactites, sculptured by nature through the ages. Accommodations: Queen's Hotel or similar. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Cape Point lighthouse Day 14: Oudtshoorn & Cape Town. Today is a day of magnificent vistas. After breakfast, enjoy the ever changing passing canvas as you journey from Oudtshoorn back to Cape Town and spend the remainder of the day at leisure. Accommodations: 15 On Orange Hotel. Breakfast provided.

Optional Excursion: Farewell Dinner, 325 ZAR (approx. $35). Tonight, take advantage of an optional farewell dinner at the lively Gold of Africa Restaurant including roundtrip transfers from the hotel. Be entertained by rhythmic drumming and dancing while you enjoy a delicious 14 course meal. (Price excludes drinks.)

Day 15: Depart South Africa. This morning is your last opportunity for last minute shopping. In the early afternoon transfer to the airport for your return flight home, via Johannesburg. Breakfast provided.

Day 16: Arrive USA. Your memorable South African adventure ends as you touch down this morning in New York.

Special Optional Excursions Package:
Feb–Oct departures: $79; Nov–Dec departures: $89

Save by pre-booking a discounted package of our most popular optional excursions:

  • Half Day Stellenbosch Winelands Excursion (Day 9)
  • Dinner Show at Gold of Africa Restaurant (Day 11 or Day 14)

You can book these excursions individually in South Africa. But you can save money and time if you purchase this special package ahead of time—with or before your final payment.

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