Southern Africa: Canyon to Cape
‘Southern Africa: Canyon to Cape’ is a magical 24-day journey encompassing southern Namibia and South Africa. It is a remarkable mix of breathtaking scenic beauty, from the mighty dunes and spectacular Fish River Canyon in Namibia, to the spectacular wild flowers of South Africa’s Northern Cape.
The tour begins in Namibia’s second city, Swakopmund, located on the Atlantic coast. From here we move south to the magnificent star-shaped red dunes of Sossusvlei and the stunning vista of the dead Camel Thorn trees standing in the white pan of Dead Vlei. We continue south to Luderitz and the ghost mining town of Kolmanskop, before heading to one of Namibia’s biggest claims to fame – the Fish River Canyon. We have two nights in this unbelievably scenic area before heading north to Koes, where we take an exhilharating safari drive into the Kalahari Desert tracking the shining star of any safari – the majestic lion. Crossing into South Africa we spend three nights inside the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a wonderful reserve shared and jointly administered by both South Africa and Botswana. We have multiple game drives here before heading south to Upington and the wonderful Augrabies Falls National Park. Next stop is Namaqua National Park where we witness the spectacular display of wild flowers, quiver trees and enormous granite outcrops. Finally we head to Cape Town at the end of our momentous ‘Canyon to Cape’ tour!
Tour Fitness Level: Active
- See the small creatures on the ‘Living Desert’ tour
- Enjoy a boat cruise of Walvis Bay
- Visit to the gigantic star-shaped dunes of Sossusvlei
- Explore the ghost mining towns of Kolmanskop and Pomona
- Tour the Restricted Diamond Area at Luderitz
- Two-night stay at magnificent Fish River Canyon
- Experience the thrill of lion tracking in the Kalahari
- Enjoy a three-night stay at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a spectacular reserve shared by South Africa and Botswana
- Drive along the dry Auob River bed in search of lion, leopard and cheetah
- Visit a local Bushman community
- Take a scenic drive along the Quiver Tree route at Upington
- See the spectacular desert flowers of Namaqualand in the Northern Cape
- Visit one of the oldest fishing villages on the west coast – Paternoster
- Enjoy a fabulous farewell dinner in Cape Town
- All flights between Australia and Africa (inc. domestic from your preferred capital city)
- All ticketable air taxes (may be subject to change)
- All accommodation (twin share)
- All ground transport in Africa
- All meals
- Travel Directors’ tour leader throughout
- Expert local guides
- All entrance fees in specified sightseeing
- All tips and gratuities
Please note that whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the above pricing, currency fluctuations beyond our control can affect final tour costs. A booking form is to be completed by all passengers, and a non-refundable deposit of AUD $2,000 paid at the time of booking. All escorted tours are based on a minimum group size of 10 people travelling.
02/08/2020 Australia – Johannesburg
Depart from your chosen Australian airport on the flight to Johannesburg.
03/08/2020 Johannesburg – Walvis Bay – Swakopmund (D)
This morning we board our connecting flight to Walvis Bay in Namibia.
Depart Johannesburg South African Express SA 8141, 10.20
Arrive Walvis Bay 12.40
After collecting baggage and clearing customs we board our vehicle and travel 45kms north to Swakopmund where we will be spending three nights. Situated right on the beach with magnificent views of the sea from each room our lodge also has uninterrupted views of the Atlantic from the exquisite second floor restaurant, ‘The Wreck’.
04/08/2020 Swakopmund (BLD)
After breakfast we board 4WD vehicles and head into the dunes on the ‘Living Desert’ tour. We stop frequently to look for animal tracks on the dunes (known locally as reading the bushman paper), to determine which animals were active the previous night and hopefully, to spot some of them. This excursion concentrates on discovering some of the smaller desert-adapted creatures living in the dunes, such as geckos, rolling spiders, scorpions, lizards, snakes, chameleons, skinks and beetles. The afternoon is at leisure to explore the town which has a distinctly German atmosphere with German colonial-style buildings dating back to the early 1900s still dominating the town. Swakopmund is famous for hand-crafted jewellery, leather goods and mouth-watering confectionery which can be found in the numerous little cafes.
05/08/2020 Swakopmund (BLD)
After breakfast we are transported to Walvis Bay where we board our boat for a three-hour journey in and around the harbour and the entire bay. We first visit Bird Island to see the bottle nose dolphins before heading across to Pelican Point which is full of sea life. This is where seal colonies form, several species of birds nest, and where we hope to find the Heaviside’s dolphins. We will also encounter inquisitive seals, flamingos, cormorants and pelicans. From Pelican Point we sail on the inside of the bay up to the lighthouse whilst sampling fresh local oysters accompanied by a great brut sparkling wine. The afternoon is at leisure.
06/08/2020 Swakopmund – Sesriem – Sossusvlei (BLD)
After breakfast we say farewell to Swakopmund and drive south to Sesriem in the Namib Naukluft Park. Our lodge is located in the 27,000-hectare private Kulala Wilderness Reserve and is the closest point of access to the iconic star shaped dunes of Sossusvlei – the largest of which has been measured at 325m high. On arrival we check into our luxury lodge with unspoilt views of the surrounding area. A great feature of the accommodation is that every unit has a deck on the flat roof where you have the opportunity to sleep under the stars.
Kulala Desert Lodge
07/08/2020 Sossusvlei (BLD)
This morning we have an early start to make the most of sunrise over the dunes which produces the spectacular colours. Close by we visit Dead Vlei which is a clay pan characterised by dark, dead Camel Thorn trees against the white pan floor. The pan was formed when the Tsauchab River flooded and the abundance of water allowed the trees to grow. However, the climate changed and the sand dunes encroached on the pan, blocking the river from reaching the area. On the way back to the lodge we explore the Sesriem Canyon, home to Hartman’s mountain zebra, klipspringer and baboons before returning to our lodge for dinner.
08/08/2020 Sesriem – Luderitz (BLD)
Our journey today takes us south along one of the most scenically beautiful routes in the area as we head for the harbour town of Luderitz. We stop for lunch at the settlement of Aus where the scenery transforms into streaks of burnished sand interspersed with grass in ‘forever’ vistas. Twenty kilometres west of Aus we may be lucky enough to spot the legendary wild horses of the Namib Desert. We arrive late afternoon into Lüderitz which is known for its picturesque colonial architecture and the diamond mining industry. It is also admired for its Art Nouveau work and its museum, showcasing the town’s history, including displays on natural history, local native groups and the diamond industry.
Lüderitz Nest Hotel
09/08/2020 Luderitz (BLD)
The famous diamond ghost town of Kolmanskop is located just 10kms inland from Luderitz, and this morning we board our well-equipped 4WD for the short journey to the abandoned town. From here we pick up permits and enter the Sperrgebiet (Restricted Diamond Area) where diamonds were discovered in 1908. Travelling south on a gravel road we pass huge marble fields that remain un-mined and after a beautiful drive through surreal landscapes we arrive at the so-called moon landscape. From here we continue on to the diamond mine of Pomona and the adjacent village established in 1912. After lunch we drive through the legendary ‘Marchental’ or Fairytale Valley on our way to the majestic Bogenfels, a 55-metre-high lime rock formed like a bridge with one leg in the ocean and the other in the desert. On our way back to Luderitz we get to see ostriches, antelopes, springbok and shaggy jackals.
10/08/2020 Luderitz – Fish River Canyon (BLD)
Our destination today is the Fish River Canyon, the largest in Africa and the second largest in the world. Eroded over many millennia, the canyon is a spectacular natural phenomenon that is 160km long, up to 27km in width and 550m deep. Our route today takes us back through Aus and south to our accommodation which is located on the edge of the canyon offering spectacular views from sunrise to sunset.
Fish River Lodge
Fish River Canyon
11/08/2020 Fish River Canyon (BLD)
This morning we leave the lodge at 8.00am for a day trip in 4×4 vehicles. The drive is an exhilarating descent deep into the ravine and, although safe, is sure to raise your heart rate! Experienced guides point out the geological features as we journey into the depths of the canyon. Here we see rough limestone, shiny quartzites, fine shales and dramatic fault lines as the 500 million year old story unfolds. We enjoy lunch at the permanent rock pools, and continue exploring the area before returning to our lodge. Along the way we may see kudu, oryx, klipspringer and the elusive mountain zebra.
12/08/2020 Fish River Canyon – Koes (BLD
Leaving Fish River Canyon, we travel north to Koes, stopping en route at the Quiver Tree Forest and Giant’s Playground. We have lunch here, and after a pleasant relaxing break, we resume our journey to Koes and our home for the next two night, arriving late afternoon.
Kalahari Game Lodge
13/08/2020 Koes (BLD)
Kalahari Game Lodge is situated on a 40,000-ha ranch that lies in the heart of the southern Kalahari Desert providing a unique habitat to 55 mammals, 58 different reptile families and 185 species of bird. Lion tracking will be a major highlight this morning – an exhilarating game driving experience focused on tracking and following the Kalahari Lions at the lodge. These magnificent animals are the shining stars of any safari and to see them in close proximity is a very special experience. In the afternoon we have the opportunity to relax by the pool at the lodge or do some more game viewing.
14/08/2020 Koes – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (BLD)
We bid farewell to Namibia this morning and take a leisurely drive across the border into South Africa and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park at Mier. On 7 April 1999 Botswana and South Africa signed a historic bilateral agreement whereby both countries undertook to manage their adjacent national parks, the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok Park in South Africa as a single ecological unit. This allowed for the free movement of animals in an area of 38,000 square kms – twice the size of Kruger National Park. Our home for the next three nights is at the remote Xaus Lodge which offers a unique and tranquil desert experience where we are fully immersed in the environment.
15/08/2020 Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (BLD)
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is well known for its plentiful herds of plains game and predators such as lion, leopard and cheetah, and we seek them out as we drive along the dry Auob River bed. We also visit a local crafting school of the Khomani San and Mier communities, where we get an insight into the modern lives of the local bushman community. The Khomani San and Mier communities reached a land settlement agreement with the South African government in 2002 which restored a large tract of land to the people that once roamed and farmed the area. The communities receive an allocation of funds for the purpose of constructing a tourism facility which they jointly own. The craft school is set up to give the elders an opportunity to pass on traditional skills to the younger generation who do not necessarily live a traditional lifestyle. Guests will thus experience interaction between ancient traditions and modern lifestyles.
16/08/2020 Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Upington (BLD)
After breakfast we take a slow drive to the southern border of the park, hoping to find more game on the way. We clear customs into South Africa and proceed to Upington, our home for the next two nights. Upington is situated on the banks of the mighty Orange River, one of the largest rivers in South Africa, and is rich in culture and history.
17/08/2020 Upington – Springbok (BLD)
This morning we take a scenic drive to the Augrabies Falls National Park. It is said that the sight and sound of the mighty river dropping down the cliffs at Augrabies Falls is worth experiencing at least once in your lifetime. After spending time here we drive downriver and witness the calmness of the river in the stunning Oranjekom Gorge. After lunch we continue our journey to the town of Springbok, a four-hour drive west from Upington. Springbok is the largest town in the Namaqualand area which was a major commercial and administrative centre for copper mining. Today the main income is generated from tourism, mining activities, commerce and farming. One of the world-famous tourist attractions is the spring wild flowers that are found in this area and providing conditions are favourable we should enjoy this spectacular show.
Old Mill Lodge
18/08/2020 Springbok (BLD)
The Namaqualand is one of the most diverse areas in South Africa and home to thousands of plant species, many of them endemic to this region and many threatened with extinction. Almost half the plant species here are found nowhere else in the world. The wild flowers begin flowering in late July, early August (depending on rain) in the north and then roll out southwards towards Cape Town. Today we explore this area, including the Geogap Nature Reserve. Fields of flowers, quiver trees, enormous granite outcrops and the icy Atlantic are but a few wonders that await us.
19/08/2020 Springbok – Vanrhynsdorp (BLD)
After breakfast we begin our drive south to Vanrhynsdorp, which is centrally located on the Cape flower route. This area is renowned for its extravagance of wildflowers in August and September after the right amount of rainfall. On arrival we check in to our lodge.
20/08/2020 Vanrhynsdorp (BLD)
Today we continue exploring the area around Vanrhynsdorp.
21/08/2020 Vanrhynsdorp – Paternoster (BLD)
Nearing the end of our journey we take a leisurely scenic drive to Paternoster which is one of the oldest fishing villages on the west coast of South Africa with a population of about 1,900. Known for its fishing industry, lobster is the most important with an export market which is mainly to France. The remarkable coastline of jagged cliffs and white boulders makes this one of the most beautiful beaches on the West Coast. The area receives most of its rainfall in winter and has a Mediterranean climate which supports the growth of the famous wild flowers. Tonight, we stay at the fabulous Strandloper Ocean Hotel.
Strandloper Ocean Hotel.
22/08/2020 Paternoster – Cape Town (BLD)
After a leisurely breakfast we take a short two-hour drive to Cape Town and book into our vibrant V&A Waterfront hotel. The afternoon is at leisure and we meet in the evening for our farewell dinner to share our experiences of what we trust has been another memorable Travel Directors Tour!
23/08/2020 Cape Town (B)
After a leisurely morning we transfer to the airport for our homeward flight.
Depart Cape Town South African Airlines SA 354, 16.35
Arrive Johannesburg 18.30
In Johannesburg connect with your flight back to Australia.
24/08/2020 Arrive Australia
We arrive in Australia today.
Listed below is a selection of books which you may wish to read prior to, or during, your journey.
Africa: A Biography of the Continent
A History of Namibia
Histories of Namibia: Living Through the Liberation Struggle
Told to Colin Leys and Susan Brown
The Sheltering Desert
An Arid Eden
An Elephant’s Life
The Healing Land: A Kalahari Journey
The Lost World of the Kalahari
Laurens van der Post
Wild Flowers of Namaqualand
Annelize le Roux