Day 1 – Friday - Departure
Your journey begins as you board your South African Airways overnight flight. (Meals Aloft)
Day 2 - Saturday - November 12 - Johannesburg
Upon arrival at the Johannesburg International Airport this afternoon, you will be met and escorted to your hotel. Often called Jo'burg, Johannesburg is the country's largest city and financial center with ultra modern skyscrapers and a bustling way of life. It is the city of gold, as its claim to fame is the gold that was discovered close-by. Upon arrival at the Johannesburg International Airport today, you will be met and escorted to your nearby hotel within walking distance, the Southern Sun – a great, relaxing place to begin your journey into South Africa’s capital city. Relax in comfort in the attractively furnished lounge or take a refreshing dip in the outdoor pool. Fitness enthusiasts can enjoy a workout in the hotel gymnasium, equipped with the latest gym equipment. Shops, cinemas and banks are a short distance away.
ACCOMMODATIONS: THE SOUTHERN SUN OR TAMBO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT HOTEL.
Days 3/4/5 - Sunday/Monday/Tuesday - Maun/Okavango Delta - Chitabe Camp, Botswana
Today you will fly to Maun, Botswana, where upon arrival you will board your light aircraft for your flight to one of the world’s most distinctive regions, the Okavango Delta – earth’s largest inland water systems. Its headwaters start in Angola’s western highlands, with numerous tributaries joining to form the Cubango River, which then flows through Namibia (called the Kavango) and finally enters Botswana, where it is then called the Okavango. Millions of years ago the Okavango River used to flow into a large inland lake called Lake Makgadikgadi (now Makgadikgadi Pans).
Tectonic activity and faulting interrupted the flow of the river causing it to backup schedules, accommo-dations and prices are accurate at the time of writing. They are subject to change and form what is now the Okavango Delta. This has created a unique system of water ways that now supports a vast array of animal and plant life that would have otherwise been a dry Kalahari savannah. Chitabe Camp is situated on one of the most beautiful islands in the Okavango Delta. The reserve’s boundary in the east is the Gomoti Channel and in the west the Santantadibe River. The area is made up of a variety of habitats, which include waterways and marshlands, dry acacia and mopane woodland, riverine areas, open grasslands and seasonally flooded plains. Located on a private concession alongside the Moremi Game Reserve, Chitabe offers classic Okavango scenery and a great wildlife experience. Such diverse ecosystems in turn make for a wonderful array of wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and cheetah, as well as most other species of wildlife associated with Africa. Chitabe is particularly famous for the enormous herds of buffalo that move through the concession, and for sightings of the rare and highly endangered African painted wolf ('wild dog'). While at Chitabe, duties permitting, Dr. Tico McNutt will join you to discuss his work with the Botswana Wild Dog Project, the longest running such project on these creatures which are the second most endangered carnivores in Africa after the Ethiopian wolf. Tico, a native from Seattle, has made wild dogs his life’s’ work residing in the Chitabe consession on a permanently erected tent away from it all, and has been studying these fascinating mammals since the late 1980’s. He will give you insights into their complex family structure, and habits, and will dispel all the myths surrounding them. Dr. McNutt and his wife Lesley Boggs are the authors of Running Wild: Dispelling the Myths of the African Wild Dog, a wonderful table book on wild dogs, beautifully photographed by Helene Heldring and Dave Hamman who are the owners of Chitabe. If time allows, Tico will go out on a game run with you to find some of his study subjects.
Accommodation at Chitabe is in eight luxurious tents built on elevated teak decks, under a lush canopy of indigenous trees. Each tent is well decorated with very comfortable beds, en-suite facilities and a lovely balcony overlooking the open flood plain in front of the camp. A separate thatched dining room and living area, also attractively decorated, is linked to the tents by raised teak walkways. From the walkways the prolific wildlife often moving through camp can be safely viewed. Activities include day and night wildlife drives in open 4x4 vehicles as well as nature walks. This is not a water activity camp. Wildlife seen here includes elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and cheetah. Wild dog are among the major wildlife attractions of the area. You should also see zebra, reedbuck, red lechwe, impala, and all the plains species. Night drives can be very rewarding, giving you rare opportunities to view animals such as civet, serval, genet, pangolin, porcupine and aardwolf.
ACCOMMODATIONS: CHITABE CAMP (B, L, D)
Day’s 6/7- Wednesday/Thursday - Okavango Delta / Moremi Reserve /Xigera Camp
Board your light aircraft once again for your flight to Xigera Camp (pronounced keejera), situated in the heart of the Okavango on Paradise Island, within the Moremi Schedules. The camp consists of ten luxuriously furnished walk-in tented rooms, each with en-suite facilities and outdoor showers. All rooms are raised off the ground and are built within a shady grove offering superb views of the floodplain to the east of camp and its attractive waterhole that is frequently visited by lechwe. Meals are taken in the dining room overlooking the main river, which along with the pub and lounge is under a thatch roof. You may also choose to take a beautifully prepared picnic onto one of the nearby islands for a more secluded and intimate experience.
Activities focus mainly on mokoro (small, dugout canoes) rides through the quiet waterways. You may get lucky enough to get good views of the elusive sitatunga antelope along the way – with its webbed feet, the sitatunga seems to walk on water. Drives are also offered (if water levels are low enough) as well as boat trips on the river (if water levels are high enough). Game drives are best here in the summer months. Birding in the area is excellent, with Pels Fishing Owl, Slaty Egret and Wattled Crane amongst the many species of birds regularly sighted. One very unique feature that Xigera offers is the footbridge in front of the camp. It is the only way predators can cross from island to island without having to swim. A "long jump pit" has been built with soft sand, which each animal is forced to walk over when they use the bridge. Every evening the sand is raked smooth. Each morning guests are able to read the "newspaper" and see what animals have walked through camp. Almost every night lion, hyena and leopard stroll through camp. ACCOMMODATIONS: XIGERA CAMP (B, L, D)
Days 8/9 - Friday/Saturday - Caprivi Strip- Mudumu National Park / Lianshulu Lodge, Namibia
This morning’s flight takes you to the Caprivi Strip, Namibia. This narrow sliver of land forms a strategic corridor, linking Namibia with Botswana, Angola and Zambia, and is somehow detached from the rest of the country yet steeped in history. The deep Kalahari sands and tropical waterways found here are home to an interesting array of wildlife that differs widely to that of the rest of Namibia. Here, in the heart of the Mudumu National Park, dry mixed woodlands stand in complete contrast to the beautiful Kwando wetland ecosystem. This expansive Park, proclaimed in 1990, is located on the eastern side of the Caprivi Strip. Its lifeline is the Kwando River, which flows along the western border of the Park. Along the river there are extensive floodplains, floating papyrus swamps and lush riverine forest. Away from the river one finds mixed mopane and teak woodlands, open grasslands and typical African savannah.
Activities here include morning or sunset boat cruises; nature drives in the Park and visits to the Lizauli Traditional Village, a model homestead where members of the local community give fascinating insights into their way of life in this remote corner of Namibia. Flanked on all sides – barring neighboring Botswana's conservation areas – by communal land, the communities have formed conservancies designed to benefit from the area's wildlife in a sustainable way. A true ecotourism project, Lianshulu Lodge has formed excellent partnerships with the conservancies and provides direct employment and skills training for some of their members.
The first initiative Lianshulu embarked on was the assistance of the Lizauli Community, 13km to the north of the Lodge, in developing a traditional village as a tourist attraction. The Lodge injected the start-up capital to build the village and provided advisory support on running it. Members of the Lizauli Community provide greater insight into local Caprivi life, from traditional practices to dancing displays, and the proceeds go to the community as a whole. Many typical savannah species occur in the Mudumu National Park – hippo, crocodile and fish such as bream, tigerfish and catfish can be seen from the lodge deck. Mudumu is known for its buffalo population, roan and sable antelope, red lechwe and the water-dependent sitatunga together with large elephant herds. General mammal diversity is good including lion, impala, Burchell's zebra, greater kudu and common waterbuck, reedbuck and bushbuck. The waterways here are home to spotted-necked otter, ferocious tigerfish, and several large Nile crocodile. The birdlife here is a big attraction – over 400 species have been recorder – from Coppery-tailed Coucal, Slaty Egret, Greater Swamp Warbler, Swamp Boubou and Brown Firefinch. In summer, numbers are boosted by the tremendous amount of migratory species including flocks of colorful Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Copper Sunbird, Pennant-winged Nightjar and Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydah.
Lianshulu Lodge, one of the first private lodges built inside a Namibian National Park, is beautifully placed beneath a canopy of shady jackalberry and mangosteen trees, on the banks of the scenically stunning Kwando River, and accommodates guests in 9 twin rooms and one family room, each individually styled and tastefully furnished, with en-suite bathroom and secluded verandah. The airy thatched dining, lounge and bar areas open onto spacious, split-level wooden decks, affording sweeping views over the Lianshulu Lagoon. Two fireplaces, scenic outlooks and a secluded swimming pool create idyllic places in which to relax and take in the tranquility of the natural surroundings. ACCOMMODATIONS: LIANSHULU LODGE. (B, L, D)
Days 10/11 - Sunday/Monday - Livingstone/Victoria Falls, Zambia
A boat transfer takes you via the Chobe River and park to Zambia, where you board your land cruisers and continue to Livingstone, located on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. At more than twice the size of Niagara Falls it’s no surprise that Victoria Falls are among the Seven Wonders of the World. Mosi-oa-Tunya – The Smoke that Thunders, derived from the towering column of spray when the Zambezi River runs high, is the name that Zimbabwe's local people have given to this awesome natural phenomenon. The name is probably more appropriate and descriptive than "Victoria", which has a far too calm and composed ring to it to do justice to the masses of thundering, swirling water of these spectacular falls. But all Dr. David Livingstone probably thought of when he named the falls after his Queen in 1855 was his royal duty. Five separate falls make up this incredible spectacle that plunges more than 300 feet into a sheer-sided chasm which separates Zimbabwe from Zambia. The awe-inspiring abyss is spanned by a 1905 Edwardian bridge which links the two countries and many adventurers now use to bungee jump. The masses of water plunging down the falls and into the gorge below originate from the mighty Zambezi River that meanders through more than 1,677 miles of African countryside. Your visit will include a tour of the falls on the Zambian side.
An afternoon sundowner cruise on a private boat will be a highlight as you glide along the Zambezi River, watching hippos snort, elephants drink on the riverbank, monkeys jump from branch to branch, birds fly overhead or pose for a photograph on the branches, and much more. Enjoy a drink and see a panoramic sunset as the sun dips below the horizon, painting the whole area in unbelievable colors of brilliant reds, yellows, purples and mauves. Enjoy a visit to an authentic native village to see how the local people live. You will be escorted by your English-speaking village guide, seeing a culture and ways of life that remains virtually unchanged through the ages. View their daily rituals, from the women cooking and mending their huts, to the artistic woodcarvings created right in front of you by the village artisans. Children scatter about and you are welcome to mingle and take photographs.
Long after you’ve left, this cultural visit will remain with you, as you’ll feel as though you’ve experienced a different part of Africa, quite essential if you’re to understand the complexity of this continent. Overlooking the mighty Zambezi River and some of its islands, under a shady canopy of jackal berry and water berry trees lays Toka Leya, your accommodation for the next two nights. The islands in front of camp are intriguing and part of the braided channel of the Zambezi with some rapids, a main channel and fringing dense vegetation. The camp consists of 12 safari-style tents, each en-suite with a view of the magnificent Zambezi River and some of its islands. The camp's dining and bar area is set beneath a shaded canopy of trees overlooking the River and a swimming pool. ACCOMMODATIONS: TOKA LEYA CAMP (B, L, D)
Day 12 - Tuesday - Victoria Falls/Johannesburg/En Route
Last chance to photograph the incredible Falls, visit the Mosioa- Tunya National Park which also features rhino, or shop at Livingstone, before transferring to the airport for your flight to Johannesburg. Here, connect with your overnight flight back to Washington. (B, Meals Aloft)
Day 13 - Wednesday – Washington/Newark
This morning you land in the USA and connect with your flight home, bringing with you the memories
of all the wonderful sights of Southern Africa. (Meals Aloft)
PLEASE NOTE: Schedules, accommodations and prices are accurate at the time of writing.
They are subject to change.
OPTIONAL POST-EXTENSION TO CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Day 12 – Tuesday - Johannesburg/Cape Town
Enjoy a last wildlife run this morning and a hearty breakfast before flying back to Johannesburg. Here, bid farewell to the rest of the group returning to the USA tonight, and connect with your flight to Cape Town, South Africa’s “Mother City,” where you are escorted to your hotel. The provincial capital, Cape Town, is a sophisticated city with plenty to see and do, particularly around the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront area, where delightful buildings of the Cape Dutch and Victorian-era architecture have been restored as shops, restaurants, museums and pubs, and the busy water traffic of the docks goes on unabated. The Aquarium is within easy walking distance from your hotel, and a visit is well worth a visit. The area has a shopping plaza and numerous fine shops. Cape Town, which faces north across Table Bay, has thrived from its birth, first as a Dutch settlement in 1652 when Jan van Ribeeck established it as a supply station for ships of the Dutch East India Company, and later, under the British as a port supplying ships with food and fresh water from the perennial mountain streams. Your home for the next four nights will be at Winchester Mansions, situated on Cape Town's Platinum mile and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This exclusive, privately owned 4 star hotel sets itself apart among other hotels in and around Cape Town with its spectacular beachfront location, stylish elegance and personalized service. Each of the 51 guestrooms and 25 suites has been exquisitely furnished by one of Cape Town’s leading interior designers. Each elegantly appointed room or suite has breathtaking views of either the Atlantic Ocean or historic Signal Hill. After your long flights, Winchester Mansions is a welcome retreat. ACCOMMODATIONS: WINCHESTER MANSIONS (B)
DAY 13 - WEDNESDAY - CAPE TOWN/CAPE PENINSULA
Your luxury motor coach takes you on a breathtaking coastal drive to the Cape of Good Hope. You are surrounded by spectacular mountains, rugged shorelines, and the blue sea below. See Devil's Peak, Lion's Head, Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles. Pass quaint seaside towns as you continue to Cape Point where the stormy waters of the Atlantic meet up with the calm waters of the Indian Ocean. At Cape Point, climb the steps or ride a funicular to the top where you can explore a lighthouse, enjoy the views or even indulge in a bit of shopping. Take a close look at the ocean where you may see southern right whales in the spring and early summer as well as dolphins and a variety of seabirds. You will also have the chance to explore the Cape Point Nature Reserve which is host to approximately half of the 2,700 species of indigenous plants contained in the Cape Peninsula. Look for the distinctive orange found in leucospermums, one of the rarest types of proteas – the mimites, marvel at the helicrysums and pelarganium calcullums, and enjoy the ericas, phenacomas and fine bush which the Dutch called “fynbos.” There are 250 species of birds in the reserve, ranging from ostriches to minuscule sunbirds. Caracal, chacma baboon, a wide variety of buck and various other mammal species may be seen, including Cape Mountain zebra and the bontebok which is endemic to this part of the world. The baboons feed occasionally on marine foods which they garner at low tide. At Olifants Bay, look for Oystercatchers, and enjoy some superb birding.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and continue to Boulders Beach where the African (Jackass) Penguins can be seen – also known as the Black-footed Penguins. These flightless seabirds are found only on the coast of Southern Africa and the only penguins found on this continent. Enjoy a delightful walk on a specially-built platform onto the little sheltered beach where they nest among the rocks, and "waddle" up and down into and out of the sea. Since the penguins are accustomed to human presence you can safely get within a few feet of them as you stand on the platform, and it is sometimes possible to view them nesting behind rocks and bushes. Return to Cape Town in the evening, where you have another chance to discover one of the numerous restaurants that Cape Town has to offer. ACCOMMODATIONS: WINCHESTER MANSIONS. (B, L)
Day 14 - Thursday - Cape Town: Table Mountain & Winelands
Get a feel of what Cape Town is all about by taking the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, the signature of this city, easily one of the most recognizable mountains. This tour is very dependent on the wind factor, as well as the clouds. Many a times a cloud covers this flat-topped mountain, which rises to 3,563 feet above sea level and the locals affectionately say it’s a white tablecloth. Legend has it that a retired pirate, on climbing the mountain met up with the devil. In order to preserve his soul, the pirate challenged the devil in a smoking contest. So they stoked up their pipes and have been smoking ever since. For centuries Table Mountain has been a guiding beacon to mariners rounding the Cape of Southern Africa. Sir Francis Drake described it as "the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth." Despite its formidable appearance, it is possible to hike up Table Mountain. The first recorded ascent was in 1503 by the Portuguese navigator Antonio da Saldanha who, confused by the Cape Peninsula geography, climbed to the summit via the frontal cleft, now known as Platteklip Gorge. For nature lovers, the birding is awesome, and the wild flowers include agapanthus, watsonias and red nerines which poke out from rock crevices amid a scrub of ericas and gnarled proteas. More than 1400 species of flowering plants have been recorded on the mountain which makes it a spectacular sight in the spring. Cute guinea pig-like creatures known as rock dassies, or hyraxes, (genetically, the closest living relatives to elephants) scuttle everywhere. They are not afraid and scamper among the tourists seeking to be fed.
Afterwards, venture off to the wine lands region situated below the spectacular Boland Mountains only 50 minutes from the city. Discover the internationally acclaimed vineyards of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franshhoek on the Western Cape, along a most scenic route. You will visit the historic estate of Boschendal with some of the most brilliantly preserved Cape Dutch buildings in the Cape, and its collection of priceless period furniture. You will also visit Franschhoek with its lovely antique shops and gardens, nestled in the "Valley of the Huguenots" where the French first settled in 1688. All the wine estates you will be visiting in the region offer tastings and cellar tours and you will enjoy lunch in one of them. This afternoon, explore the university town of Stellenbosch, the oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, undoubtedly the most scenic and historically preserved town in Southern Africa. Oak-lined streets next to water furrows compliment the many fine examples of elegant Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture - all part of this unique "Town of Oaks".
ACCOMMODATIONS: WINCHESTER MANSIONS. (B, L)
Day 15 - Friday - Cape Town: Khayelitsha (New Hope)/ Robben Island
Today you will visit the settlement of Khayelitsha, on the Cape Flats. Khayelitsha means "new hope" and was established in 1984 during the tribal war outbreak in informal settlements. Like many other townships, it was created during the apartheid era as a dormitory area for the working class. Today residents continue to face challenges of HIV/AIDS and poverty in post-apartheid South Africa. You will meet your guide, founder Vivian Zilo, and spend time with her gaining a personal insight into her work in the community and learning more about the area in which they live. Vivian established the Iliso Care Society in June 2005 when she solicited the help of four other women to begin providing services to her community. The mission of the Iliso Care Society is to fight poverty, encourage community empowerment, organize workshops for youth, provide safety and care for orphans and vulnerable children, the elderly and school children. ICS started giving meals to over 100 beneficiaries once a day from Monday through Friday, but the numbers were increasing each and every day. Today, Vivian brings new hope to the people of Khayelitsha and you will get a chance to experience this first hand.
Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant, sampling typical African food and hospitality in an authentic setting. Your day draws to a close as you visit one of the most symbolically significant and moving sights in South Africa, Robben Island. For nearly 400 years, Robben Island was a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment. It was here that rulers sent those they regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of society. During the apartheid years Robben Island became internationally known for its institutional brutality. The duty of those who ran the Island and its prison was to isolate opponents of apartheid and to crush their morale. Some freedom fighters, including former President Nelson Mandela, spent more than a quarter of a century in prison for their beliefs. Those imprisoned on the Island succeeded on a psychological and political level in turning a prison 'hell-hole' into a symbol of freedom and personal liberation. In 1997 Robben Island became a National Museum and National Monument. The Museum is a dynamic institution, which runs educational programs for schools, youths and adults, facilitates tourism development, conducts ongoing research related to the Island and fulfills an archiving function. It was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. Tours are conducted by former prisoners of Robben Island, who bring to life this South African heritage, which speaks of heroic endurance and triumph of the human spirit in the face of enormous hardship and adversity.
ACCOMMODATIONS: WINCHESTER MANSIONS. (B, L)
Day 16 - Saturday - Cape Town /Kirstenbosch Gardens /Johannesburg
This morning visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, arguably one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Founded in 1913, Kirstenbosch lies on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and consists of landscaped gardens of indigenous plants and trees, watered by the Liesbeek River, as well as natural forest that extend up to the lower slopes. Kirstenbosch covers an area of 1,383 acres, 148 of which are cultivated; the remainder is a natural flora reserve. It is a living display featuring 9,000 of the estimated 20,000 species of indigenous South African flora, and close to 50% of the peninsula’s floral wealth. Among the interesting sections here are the Cycad Amphitheatre, which hosts most species of these “living fossils” found in southern Africa; the famed Protea Garden on the higher slopes, with its profuse growth of silver trees (Leucadendron argenteum); the JV Mathews Rock Garden (named after the first curator) containing succulents of the genera Crassula, Aloe, Lampranthus and Euphorbia; the Erica Garden and the Pelargonium Koppie. Two streams cut through Kirstenbosch, both laced with besembos, red alder and hard fern. Of historical interest is an avenue of camphor trees and fig trees planted by Cecil Rhodes in 1898, and a small section of wild almond (Brabejum stellatifolium) hedge planted by Dutch settler Jan van Riebeeck in 1660. Birds of all sorts can be seen here as well – Dusky and Paradise Flycatchers, sunbirds, Klaas's Cuckoos, bulbuls, pigeons, brilliant green and red Cape Sugarbirds (which pollinate the flowers), guinea fowls, and the Cape Batis. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax or take advantage of the excellent shopping opportunities nearby. Later today, you will be transferred to the airport for your flights back home. (B; Meals Aloft)
Day 17 – Sunday - Home
Land in Washington today, filled with incredible memories of your journey through Southern Africa.
PLEASE NOTE: Schedules, accommodations and prices are accurate at the time of writing. They are subject to change.