Secret South Africa

August 28 – September 12, 2020

South Africa safari image of an Aardvark laying in dirt

The Aardvark uses sharp claws to dig into underground ant nests or termite mounds, collecting the insects with its long, sticky, worm-like tongue. © Marco Tonoli

South Africa safari tours image of White Shark

South Africa supports over a third of the 5,000 Great White Sharks left on Earth, and nowhere is their concentration higher than off Dyer Island in Gansbaai. © Giovanna Fasanelli

South Africa safaris slide of reclining Leopard in a tree

Londolozi is renowned for its healthy population of resident Leopards, offering fantastic photographic opportunities. © Marco Tonoli

South Africa tours image of King Protea

Largest of the Protea plants, the King Protea (protea cynaroides) is the national flower of South Africa. © Jonathan Rossouw

South Africa safari tours image of lions drinking

Lions are the most socially inclined of all wild felids, a pride of related females and offspring hunt as a coordinated group to bring down their prey. © Marco Tonoli

South Africa safari tour slide of Karoo Prinia

A Karoo Prinia perched on flowering Aasbossie. The aromatic leaves contain essential oils used by fishermen to remove the odor of Redbait (Aas) from their hands, hence the common name. © Marco Tonoli

South Africa Tours

The secret is out, South Africa is beautiful, biologically diverse and culturally rich, with visitors flocking to its savannahs and shores. Apex Expeditions has gathered its resident experts to design an expedition that showcases not only the best, but the most unique and varied experiences a South Africa tour has to offer. Join us as we take you off the beaten path, skirting the major parks and exploring less frequented, but highly productive, wildlife corners of this richly varied land. From an elite reserve tucked beside Kruger National Park famed for its Leopard lineage, to the grasslands of the Southern Kalahari that offer Aardvark and Ground Pangolin, and the remote Overberg Coast teeming with marine giants and apex predators, this is South Africa at its finest!

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Destinations

    • Travel by Air
    • Travel by Road
    • Travel by Boat
    • Travel by Bullet Train
    • Travel by Rail
    • Travel by Dog Sled
    • Friday, August 28: Arrive Johannesburg

      Arrive in Johannesburg, often referred to as South Africa’s best kept secret, despite it being the country’s economic hub and Africa’s second largest city. Though often shunned by visitors for its turbulent racial history, Jozi, as it is known by locals, is rebounding with innovative new projects and has much to offer. A stroll through the cultural Newtown district, with its theaters, restaurants, and museums, will reveal a bustling energy. With around six million trees, Johannesburg is also one of the world’s largest man-made urban forests—the city is certainly one of the greenest in the world, considering that it was built on savannah. Tonight, meet your expedition team for a welcome dinner at the InterContinental O.R. Tambo Airport Hotel.

    • Saturday, August 29: Johannesburg

      Half of Johannesburg’s five million residents live in Soweto, or the ‘South Western Townships.’ Established as an area of forced habitation for the city’s Indian and native African populations, it evolved into a center of resistance during apartheid, and is now an increasingly proud and thriving neighborhood with historic landmarks tucked between modern development projects. After breakfast, take a trip to Soweto for a glimpse into its vibrant cultures and traditions. Visit a settlement crèche to spend time with local children. Enjoy an informal Soweto “Shisa nyama” barbecue lunch. Stop at a shebeen, or tavern, to mix with locals. Return for dinner and overnight at the InterContinental O.R. Tambo Airport Hotel.

    • Sunday, August 30: Johannesburg / Londolozi Game Reserve

      Rise early for a flight east to Londolozi, located within the larger Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, borderingthe massive 8,600-square-mile Kruger National Park. Londolozi is one of the pioneering private reserves of South Africa’s ecotourism industry. Its name means “protector of all living things” in the local Shangaan language, and it has a long history of conservation. Londolozi is known as one of the most game-rich areas of Sabi Sands and all of Africa’s iconic big game species are common sightings here, including five Lion prides and a hearty population of rhinos. But Londolozi is most renowned for its Leopards. A healthy population of residents, along with individuals passing through, offer you the exceedingly rare opportunity to see these solitary creatures in groups as they mate, or hunt with their young. Settle into your lodge along the spectacular Sand River, before a sunset game-viewing drive. Dinner and overnight at Founders Camp, Londolozi.

    • Monday and Tuesday, August 31 & September 1: Londolozi Game Reserve

      You have two full days to experience Londolozi, supplementing your game drives with optional Shangaan cultural village visits and interpretive bush walks. In all, 145 species of mammals are known to reside at Londolozi, including a large elephant population and 45 percent of the Hippos in Sabi Sands, drawn to its particularly fertile stretch of the Sand River. Also attracted to the river are a number of bird rarities including the secretive African Finfoot, elusive Whitebacked Night-heron, and jewel-like Half-collared Kingfisher. The area’s rich thorn savanna also supports the full complement of avian specialties of South Africa’s Lowveld, including a healthy population of vultures and large eagles, family groups of the bizarre Southern Ground Hornbill, and a plethora of bee-eaters, kingfishers, barbets and woodpeckers. Dinners and overnights at Founders Camp.

    • Wednesday, September 2: Londolozi Game Reserve / Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

      Bid farewell to the Kruger area today as you board a flight west, via Johannesburg, to the Southern Kalahari Desert, on South Africa’s border with Botswana. Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, at 250,000 acres. Tswalu is unique because it combines the typical Kalahari savanna and sand dunes with the Korannaberg Mountains, which offer a sheltering influence that drastically increases the area’s biodiversity, while providing a beautiful backdrop for your wildlife photos. The Kalahari is the world’s most biodiverse desert and the reserve boasts over 70 species of mammals and 230 bird species—startling totals for so arid an area! Along with many of the familiar animals of southern African safaris, Tswalu is also home to less well-known savanna denizens, including the regal Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest, Cheetah, the rare Brown Hyena, and Black-maned Kalahari Lion, which, although the same species as other African Lions, are famed for their size and beautiful manes. Dinner and overnight at the small and meticulously appointed Motse, Tswalu.

    • Thursday – Saturday, September 3 – 5: Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

      For the next three days, take in the sights of the southern Kalahari. There are great opportunities to see such rare antelope species such as Roan, Sable and Tsessebe, as well as the regionally endemic Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, and the endangered Black Rhinoceros. Tswalu’s smaller denizens offer some of the most rewarding wildlife viewing, with two habituated colonies of eternally popular Meerkats living within walking distance of the lodge, and all three of Africa’s rare savanna termite specialists, namely Aardvark, Aardwolf and Ground Pangolin, regularly encountered. Indeed, Tswalu is arguably the very best place on Earth to see these typically nocturnal and highly elusive animals, and our visit has been timed to maximize our chances of seeing them abroad during the day!  As if these were not enough, the diminutive Cape and Bat-eared Foxes are plentiful, with African Wild Cat and Caracal also possible. Bird specialties of the Kalahari abound, including the striking Northern Black Korhaan, pint-sized African Pygmy Falcon, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, and colonies of Sociable Weaver, with their immense communal nests. Be sure to see the San Bushman petroglyphs on the reserve, thought to be up to 380,000 years old. Dinners and overnights at The Motse.

    • Sunday, September 6: Tswalu / Hermanus

      Savor a last morning in the Kalahari before your flight to Cape Town. Travel east by road to the town of Hermanus, nestled at the foot of majestic mountains and along the beautiful shores of Walker Bay. This coastal region offers the best land-based whale watching in the world, as well as access to reserves bursting with fynbos,the Cape Floral Kingdom with the greatest non-tropical concentration of plant species in the world (9,000 species, of which 69 percent are endemic). Overnight in an ocean-view room at The Marine Hotel.

    • Monday, September 7: Hermanus – Dyer Island, Gansbaai

      Wake early for a day you will not likely forget. South Africa supports over a third of the 5,000 Great White Sharks left on Earth, and nowhere is their concentrations higher than at Dyer Island in Gansbaai. Our guided boat trip into the bay will search for these elegant apex predators. Choose to watch them from an elevated viewing deck or climb into a submerged cage for an eye-level encounter. Take an up-close look at rocky Dyer Island to admire its colony of endangered African Penguins and Cape Fur Seals basking in the sun. You may also see Bottlenose Dolphins, or some of the hundreds of Southern Right Whales that visit the area at this time of year to mate and calve. Bird enthusiasts will thrill to the sight of Cape coastal endemics like the African Black Oystercatcher, Hartlaub’s Gull, Bank and Crowned Cormorants, and Cape Gannet.Overnight at The Marine Hotel.

    • Tuesday, September 8: Hermanus

      The area’s fynbos-clad mountains offer enough splendor to keep an amateur botanist engaged for weeks. Today, explore the coastal reserves on scenic drives and guided hikes, showcasing the fynbos, as well as many of the region’s 125 bird species. Special effort is required to locate the highly sought-after specials, such as Black Harrier, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Tchagra and Cape Rock Thrush. Overnight at The Marine Hotel.

    • Wednesday, September 9: Hermanus / Cape Town

      Today, meander back to Cape Town via one of the top scenic routes in Southern Africa. Hugging the coastline, with amazing views over False Bay (whales are a common sight on this drive this time of year), wind through the pristine Kogelberg Nature Reserve and Betty’s Bay, home to one of only three African Penguin breeding colonies on mainland South Africa. Then turn inland toward Stellenbosch through the picturesque vineyards and olive groves of the verdant Cape Winelands. Enjoy a cellar tour, wine tasting, and lunch at the top-notch Tokara Vineyards, before the last leg of the journey into Cape Town. Dinner and overnight at the luxurious Cape Grace Hotel, on Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

    • Thursday, September 10: Cape Town – Cape Peninsula

      Enjoy breakfast overlooking the harbor, before a full-day tour of the magnificent Cape Peninsula. Hugging the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range, drive past historic Hout Bay Harbor and through the spectacular Chapman’s Peak mountain pass, stopping at a superb lunch spot with the best views around. At the very tip of the peninsula lies Cape Point Nature Reserve, a declared Natural World Heritage Site encompassing 30 square miles of rich fynbos. Chacma Baboons, Ostrich and Cape Mountain Zebra call the area home. A funicular railway goes to the top of the point, where the famous lighthouse stands. A return to Cape Town along the eastern side of the peninsula runs along picturesque False Bay, with its quaint fishing harbors and seaside villages. Dinner and overnight at Cape Grace Hotel.

    • Friday, September 11: Cape Town – West Coast National Park

      An hour’s drive will bring you to a less-frequented natural area, the remote West Coast. Early spring is a superb time to visit, with champagne light, wild flowers popping up after winter rains, and the air filled with the songs of breeding birds. Depending on weather and flowering conditions, we may choose to visit the West Coast National Park, whose turquoise Langebaan Lagoon supports a staggering array of animal and plant life, or explore any number of lesser-known private reserves in the region. Eland and Cape Grysbok are commonly encountered, and this is also the best area anywhere to find flocks of South Africa’s national bird, the elegant Blue Crane. Return to Cape Town for dinner and overnight at the Cape Grace Hotel.

    • Saturday, September 12: Cape Town / Depart

      Weather permitting, visit the top of iconic Table Mountain before leaving Cape Town. The cableway offers spectacular views of Lion’s Head, Devil’s Peak and Table Bay, far below. At the top, watch for colonies of Cape Rock Hyrax, Cape Mountain Lizards, and birds such as the endemic Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Sugarbird, and Cape Siskin. Descending from Table Mountain, we’ll visit the acclaimed Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, often considered one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Committed to cataloging and conserving the unique plant life of the Cape Floral Kingdom, Kirstenbosch has cultivated over 7,000 plant species, many of them rare and threatened species of well-known families like Proteas and Ericas. A walk along its paths, with the backdrop of the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, is a fine way to close out your South African journey. Enjoy a last lunch at the hotel, before a transfer to the airport for your flights home.

    Details

    • August 28 – September 12, 2020
    • Leaders Jonathan Rossouw & Liam Rainier
    • $24,970 Per Person Rate
    • $37,970 Solo Rate
    • 16 days Trip Length
    • 14 guests
    • Johannesburg Start
    • Cape Town End

    In addition to all tour services from arrival in Johannesburg through departure from Cape Town as described in the itinerary, the trip price includes all flights within South Africa, as noted in the itinerary; all gratuities; services of one Apex expedition leader for every seven guests, and local guides throughout; plus local beer and local wine with lunch and dinner daily.

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    Have a question? Call us at 206.669.9272 / 800.861.6425. Prefer online?

    Get in Touch
    slide of expedition leader Jonathan Rossouw

    Jonathan Rossouw

    Sharing the hidden corners and unexplored highlights of my home country, a country I know so well and about which I’m so passionate… what a privilege indeed!

    Apex Expeditions image of field leader Liam Rainier

    Liam Rainier

    Having spent over a decade in South Africa as a naturalist guide, I can’t wait to show you the landscapes I’ve come to know so intimately.

    binocular icon show facts about Secret South Africa

    Don’t call me a Jackass!

    The African Penguin is endemic to the coastline of Southern Africa. Because they are ground-nesting birds, they primarily nest on 24 offshore islands where they are less vulnerable to predators. There are only three known African Penguin breeding colonies on the mainland. They were once commonly called Jackass Penguins due to the donkey-like braying sounds they make, a trait shared by several South American species. We now refer to them with the more geographically accurate and species specific name of African Penguin.