South Africa in 10 Days
Days 1–3: A Private Fly-in Reserve. Begin your vacation in true luxury by opting to fly in to a private game reserve.Madikwe on the border with Botswana may not have the vast open savannah of your African dreams, but with the Big Five, watering holes, plenty of options for accommodations, and wild dogs, you won't feel shortchanged. Spend the morning of Day 2 visiting a community program just outside the reserve's gates. Enjoy the still air and hot breeze of the middle of the day from a private balcony or a luxury lodge's plunge pool. Night drives may bring out the elusive leopard or lions feasting on a kill. The small size of the reserve will enable you to return to see your favorite animals more than once in the course of a stay.
Go on a morning safari on Day 3 before heading to Kruger with an overnight in Pretoria or drive straight through. The road will give you views of real-life African villages, massive mining operations, as well as the distant Waterberg and Pilanesberg ranges. If you drive straight through, be sure to get through Kruger's gates before sundown so you can get settled at your lodge.
Days 4–7: Kruger National Park. If you decided to stop in Pretoria, rise early on Day 4, so you can meander through the scenic Blyde River Canyon with views of the distant Drakensberg Range. Consider visiting the Three Rondavels and God's Window, a lookout where you can see clear to Mozambique some days. Stop for lunch in quaint Pilgrim's Rest, a former mining town. Remember to get through Kruger's gates before sundown (check times) so you can join in evening activities at your first accommodation, possibly one of the basic rest camps. Or if you want to splurge on more luxury, try Ivory Lodge at the Lion Sands Private Reserve or Singita Lebombo Lodge.
If you arrived at Kruger the night before, you can choose to sleep in, have a spa treatment, participate in a walking safari, or visit a local community, in addition to taking a game drive
If Day 5 is your first full day in Kruger, consider joining an organized guided trip to get your bearings, before trying to spot game on your own. If you do drive yourself, take your time and go slowly to spot game. No matter when you arrived, join a ranger-led walk for a different perspective and expertise in the afternoon. Book a dinner at a boma under the stars or a stargazing safari for a memorable only-in-Africa experience.
Days 6 and 7 should be spent exploring the park in detail, viewing your favorite animals for as long as you wish.
Days 8-10: Cape Town. Return to Johannesburg in time for a midday flight to Cape Town. This will put you in town with enough time for a quick peek at the Greenmarket Square shopping area or the legendary tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel. If you choose sightseeing, book dinner at the V&A Waterfront or one of the swank new eateries at the One&Only hotel. Shop late in the arts-and-crafts collective, which benefits area artists. For a low-key option, stay at Camps Bay and dine along the water at the foot of the Twelve Apostles mountain range. Rent a car for Day 9 and head out early to hit highlights outside town, including beaches and the National Park at Cape Point. Watch out for aggressive baboons! Stop for fish-and-chips in Simon's Town or a tranquil waterside rest at one of the beach communities, such as Kalk Bay, on the way. Finish your long day with a relaxing evening out at the charming Theatre on the Bay at Camps Bay—you can even dine there.
Day 10: City Highlights. Plan to visit Table Mountain and Robben Island. Lace up your hiking shoes and try walking downhill for spectacular views and some leg stretching before your lengthy flight home.