Self-Drive Garden Route
This twelve day self-drive itinerary begins with time to explore the world-class gourmet scene of Cape Town and the surrounding winelands, before heading inland to discover ancient rock art and mountainous scenery. Re-joining the coast, trace the fabled Garden Route before ending on a high with a Big Five safari.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Explore the Cape Peninsula with an expert photography guide, picking up the tricks of the trade as you travel
- Enjoy a bespoke wine tasting experience in the Western Cape
- Explore ancient caves and the arid Karoo
- Whale watch along the Garden Route, by boat or even from the beach
- A Big Five safari
Why Book with Original Travel?
When To Travel
All of the holidays we create are completely tailor-made to you
Day 1: Cape Town
After an overnight flight, you will arrive into the 'Mother City' - Cape Town - bright and early. Our team will be waiting to meet you at the airport for the transfer to your city hotel where you can check in and refresh after the long flight.
Later today, take the cable car up to the summit of Table Mountain for a birds eye view. Those with a little more post-flight energy may like to hike up Lions Head instead.
Day 2: Cape Town
Today you'll escape to the cape as you explore the beautiful Cape Peninsula with an expert photography guide, learning the tips of the trade as you go.
Whether a beginner or pro, we can match your guide to your skill set - camera hire is even included in your tour should you not have brought your own. Your photo guide will assist you in capturing the perfect shot of the technicolour beach huts at Muizenberg or the bustling fishing harbour at Kalk Bay, before you enjoy a laid back lunch. The afternoon subjects include the rugged cliffs, fynbos and birdlife of The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, the coastal scenes from the winding road passing Chapman's Peak and the inquisitive African Penguin colony at Boulders Beach.
Day 3: Cape Winelands
Leave the city behind as you travel out to the Cape Winelands to enjoy a day of wine tasting. Wind your way through the towering Hottentots-Holland, Franschhoek and Wemmershoekberg mountains on route to visit a number of historic wine estates where you can enjoy tastings with local experts.
Start in Stellenbosch, and explore the canal lined streets on foot before your first tasting of the day which will be tailored to your preferences, no matter whether you have a penchant for Pinotage or are longing to sip the finest Syrah. Continue your tour over the scenic Helshoogte Pass to the quaint town of Franschhoek which is bursting with classic Cape architecture, wineries and some of the finest restaurants in the country. Take lunch in town - we love Foliage restaurant for its vibrant open kitchen, inventive dishes and picture perfect presentation - before your second tasting at a nearby winery. Your last stop will be in the farming district of Paarl, where the first Bordeaux-style red blend was bottled in South Africa. Enjoy your final tasting at a winery on the Paarl wine route before the journey back to Cape Town.
Day 4: Swellendam
After a relaxed breakfast, your hire car will be delivered to you at your hotel. Begin your journey east by driving for around two and a half hours to arrive at the pretty town of Swellendam at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains. On route you will pass through the Elgin Valley, a region full of wineries and orchards and the home of soft drink Appletiser - great news for the designated driver.
Settle in to your accommodation for this evening, which will be a charming boutique hotel or luxury guesthouse. Take the afternoon to explore this historic town - the third oldest in South Africa - at your leisure. Perhaps use your new found photographic skills to capture images of the local architecture, or peruse the Kunstehuijs art gallery for a glimpse of the contemporary art scene in South Africa. Alternatively stretch your legs with a self-guided hike through the forest and fynbos of the Marloth Nature Reserve. For dinner this evening, enjoy the super fresh locally sourced product at Field & Fork paired with award winning wines from local producers.
Day 5: Oudtshoorn
Continue east to the town of Oudtshoorn today in the heart of the Klein Karoo, a region of rugged mountains and arid plains. The drive takes two and a half hours door to door, but be sure to stop on route to enjoy the views as you cross spectacular mountain passes, weave through valleys and pass vineyards.
Oudtshoorn itself is the ostrich capital of the world, and a visit to an ostrich farm to see these magnificently plumed creatures is a must do. A knowledgeable local guide will give you a tour of the farm, an overview of the history of ostrich farming and you'll have the chance to feed the resident ostriches.
Day 6: Oudtshoorn
Today you'll travel north from Oudtshoorn to arrive at the Cango Caves, just half an hour from town. The Cango Caves is a system of hidden chambers and impressive stalagmites and stalactites dating back over 20 million years. Take a tour of the Cango 1 chamber - not for those who suffer from claustrophobia!
Emerging back into daylight, continue your journey north, passing through the stunning Swartberg Pass which winds its way through the UNESCO heritage Swartberg Mountains at an altitude of nearly 3000ft. You'll have time to explore the ancient sandstone formations, dating back more than 300 million years, while keeping your eyes peeled for sightings of circling Jackal Buzzards and Verreaux Eagles. From the summit, the views over the Great Karoo to the north and the Klein Karoo to the south are incredible. Your journey continues as you skirt the northern slops of the Swartberg Mountains on route to Meiringspoort, where you'll stop off to admire a 180ft waterfall and take a cooling dip. Return to Oudtshoorn late afternoon and refresh before dinner this evening. Perhaps sample a juicy ostrich fillet steak with a tangy gooseberry and Amarula sauce - the local speciality.
Day 7: Plettenberg Bay
After breakfast start your travels south to join the fabled Garden Route at the town of George, an hour south. From here it's another hour and a half drive to Plettenberg Bay, hugging the coastline.
Make a lunch stop in one of the coastal towns - Knysna is the oyster capital of South Africa, so makes a worthy stopping point. Extend the lunch stop and hire a kayak to explore the tranquil lagoon and the canals weaving through nearby Thesen Island. The eagle-eyed kayaker may even spot the endangered Knysna Seahorse along the canal walls. Arriving in Plettenberg Bay, check in to your hotel and spend the rest of the day relaxing.
Day 8: Plettenberg Bay
Today will start with an Ocean Safari, as you travel out of Plettenberg Bay by boat in search of flocks of seabirds, pods of dolphin, seal colonies and migrating whales (July to December).
Departing from Central Beach, cruise towards Arch Rock where you may spot Bottlenose and Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins before continuing to the heart of the bay, where resident Bryde's whales can be spotted. It is here that you'll have the best chance of spotting migrating Southern Right and Humpback Whales from July to December, too. The boat will then loop back towards Robberg Beach and you will pass a colony of Cape Fur Seals as you make your journey back toward Central Beach. The afternoon is at leisure for you to relax or explore further. Perhaps stretch the legs with a walk along the golden sand of Robberg Beach, tackling the towering 600ft sand dune in the late afternoon sun. Alternatively hop from artisan coffee shop to independent boutique to craft beer bar in Plettenberg Bay itself. Return your hire car to the depot in town late this afternoon.
Day 9: Eastern Cape Reserve
Make your way to the airport in Plettenberg Bay today (a ten minute road transfer) in time for the morning flight directly to the Kwandwe Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape.
You'll be met at the airstrip for the transfer to your luxury lodge, travelling in an open game viewing vehicle - the wildlife spotting starts now! Upon arrival at the lodge, settle into your suite for your three night stay. Afternoon tea is served at the lodge, so enjoy your fill of coffee, fruit infusions, fresh juices and sweet treats before departing on a game drive late this afternoon. An expert guide and tracker will be looking out for wildlife in the reserve, including the Big Five (rhino, elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo), cheetah, giraffe and all manner of elegant antelope species.
Day 10: Eastern Cape Reserve
Rise bright and early today for a game drive at first light. This morning, an expert photography guide will join you on your drive to help you brush up on the skills you picked up earlier in the trip. The photographer will be on hand to advise on the various camera settings in order to capture the perfect shot at each sighting.
Return to the lodge for a hearty breakfast and a few hours R&R by the pool before a second game drive this afternoon. As the sun begins to dip your guide will find a suitably scenic spot to pitch up and serve some sundowner drinks. The drive back to the lodge will be in darkness, so keep eyes and ears peeled for signs of nocturnal wildlife moving in the bush.
Day 11: Eastern Cape Reserve
Grab an extra hour or so in bed this morning as you forego the morning game drive and instead opt for a Big Game Walking Safari, departing the lodge around 7am.
After fuelling yourselves with coffee, tea and pastries you will set off into the bush on foot with a specialist (armed) ranger and tracker. As you walk through the bush, learn to identify various animal tracks, the medicinal uses of endemic plant life and the calls of various bird species. But you're in search of Big Game this morning, and your expert ranger / tracking team will be looking for signs of the Big Five. Seeing these species while on foot in the wilderness is an incredible experience. Please note this activity is only available to guests aged 16 and over. After around four hours walking, settle down on the banks of the Great Fish River for a well-deserved picnic lunch. You'll return to the lodge by vehicle to put your feet up for a few hours before your final afternoon game drive.
Day 12: International Flight
After a leisurely morning relaxing at the lodge (or one last game drive if you've still got a few species to tick off of your list), you will be picked up from the lodge for the transfer to Port Elizabeth airport. Fly from Port Elizabeth late this afternoon, connecting through Johannesburg on route back home.
Isabel, Katie, Matt and Charlotte C are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.