Treasures of South Africa: Featuring Rovos Rail
Explore the Cape Province and travel on Rovos Rail to Pretoria followed by time near Kruger National Park tracking the "Big Five" of African game and a visit to the remarkable Victoria Falls.
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South Africa is a mesmerizing and complex country, from its fascinating history and spectacular wildlife to its hauntingly beautiful landscapes. Join us for an extraordinary adventure through this great tapestry, featuring a two-night rail journey aboard the legendary Rovos Rail and a special excursion to Victoria Falls.
Begin in cosmopolitan Cape Town, where you'll explore Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the Cape Peninsula coastline. Then relive the Golden Age of rail travel for two nights aboard the elegant Rovos Rail, and experience the beauty of South Africa's sweeping landscapes across the Great Karoo to Pretoria, making stops at Matjiesfortein and Kimberley. Spot the "Big Five" and other animals on game drives during a three-night stay at Thornybush Game Lodge near Kruger National Park. Traveling to Johannesburg, you'll visit the historic township of Soweto, home to the late Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Conclude your journey with a special excursion to Victoria Falls.
Days 1-3 — Depart the U.S. for Cape Town, South Africa
Arrive at the Cape Town International Airport, and transfer to the splendid Mount Nelson Hotel, a historic Cape Town landmark. The balance of the day will be at leisure to relax and explore the hotel. This evening, gather with other Smithsonian Journeys Travelers for a festive Welcome Reception. (R)
FlexAir Optional Program
Smithsonian Journeys Travelers who choose the FlexAir option depart the U.S. for Frankfurt, Germany via overnight air service.
After a morning arrival at Frankfurt Rhein-Main International Airport, check in at the Frankfurt Sheraton Hotel and Towers*, where dayrooms have been reserved for your comfort and relaxation between flights. This evening, depart refreshed and rested for Cape Town, South Africa, aboard scheduled, overnight air service.
* Some FlexAir participants may be routed through Munich. In that case, dayrooms will be provided at the Munich Airport Hilton Hotel.
Day 4 — Cape Town
Motor this morning to the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Journey along the magnificent Marine Drive, beyond Lion’s Head Mountain, and past the Twelve Apostles, limestone stacks that rise from the sea. Continue to picturesque Hout Bay, a coastal suburb of Cape Town. Ascend Cape Point by funicular and marvel at panoramic ocean views. Visit Boulders Beach and see the African Penguin Colony. Enjoy a presentation from your Smithsonian Journeys Expert. (B,L)
Day 5 — Cape Town
Continue your exploration of Cape Town with a tour of the city’s highlights and an ascent of Table Mountain for breathtaking panoramic views of the city, Table Bay, and the Cape of Good Hope. Continue on to Robben Island. For nearly 400 years, isolated Robben Island was a place of exile and is now a World Heritage Site. Cruise to the island by boat and tour the former prison where the late Nelson Mandela was incarcerated from 1964-1982. The tour is narrated by a former prisoner with firsthand knowledge of life on the island. Then, see the island’s lime quarry and local village. Sit down with other Smithsonian Journeys Travelers to dinner this evening at a lovely harbor-front restaurant. (B,D)
Day 6 — Cape Town and Rovos Rail
The 900-mile rail adventure aboard Rovos Rail begins this morning with transfer to the rail station where you board a luxury train born in the Golden Age of travel. Experience the elegance and excitement of traveling by rail, while marveling at the spectacular South African veldt. Journey to the charming, well-preserved Victorian village of Matjiesfontein, an oasis situated in the semidesert region of the Little Karoo. Declared a National Historic Monument in 1970, Matjiesfontein is home to the charming Matjiesfontein Railway Station. In addition to being a stop on the Rovos Rail line, this historic building is home to the Transnet Museum. Its treasured exhibits include a stationmaster’s office from the late 1800s, the original signal room, and signal box. Another highlight of the Railway Station is the Marie Rawdon Museum, which showcases an eclectic collection of Victoriana and Boer War memorabilia. (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Rovos Rail
Breakfast is served on the train. Gather with fellow travelers in the observation lounge and revel in the breathtaking landscape of South Africa. Enjoy the distinctive character and charm of Rovos Rail’s classic, refurbished wood-paneled coaches. After an overview of the world-renowned diamond city of Kimberley, visit the Diamond Mine Museum and the Big Hole, one of the largest man-made excavations in the world. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Johannesburg
Enjoy breakfast aboard, and then relax with leisure time before arriving in Pretoria. Disembark the train and motor to the Apartheid Museum, which focuses on the system of racial discrimination that became synonymous with South Africa. Next, transfer to the elegant 54 on Bath Hotel. Gather at a Smithsonian Journeys Travelers' Corner to exchange ideas and experiences. The evening is free of planned activities. (B)
Day 9 — Thornybush Game Reserve
Drive by deluxe motor coach to Kruger National Park and the deluxe Thornybush Game Reserve. Lunch will be served en route. After getting settled at the lodge, attend a lecture given by your Smithsonian Journeys Expert. (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Thornybush Game Reserve
Get an early start this morning with a game drive to find and track the "Big Five." After this exciting outing, your Smithsonian Journeys Expert will offer an informative talk. A luncheon will be served at the lodge. In late afternoon, another game drive is planned. Enjoy “Sundowners” each afternoon while on game drives. A lecture by one of the lodge’s naturalists will take place in late afternoon. This evening join fellow Smithsonian Journeys Travelers for a traditional Boma Dinner served around lodge’s campfire. (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Thornybush Game Reserve
Start the day just after sunrise, for another chance to track the "Big Five" during a morning game drive. After a hearty lunch, there is time to relax. Your Smithsonian Journeys Expert will offer an engaging talk. After an afternoon game drive, join fellow travelers at a Smithsonian Travelers' Corner to exchange ideas, experiences, and friendly chat. (B,L,D)
Day 12 — Johannesburg
Drive from Thornybush Game Reserve to Hoedspruit for the flight to Johannesburg. After a late morning arrival, enjoy lunch followed by an afternoon tour of Soweto Township. The tour will drive past the homes of Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, and Desmond Tutu. Afterward, drive to Kliptown, for a tour of a local youth project and plant a tree to commemorate your Smithsonian Journeys visit. Spend the night at the deluxe 54 on Bath Hotel. (B,L)
Day 13 — Johannesburg and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Transfer to the Johannesburg International Airport for the 1½-hour flight to Victoria Falls and the deluxe Victoria Falls Hotel. Victoria Falls is located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the Zambezi River plunges 300 feet into the basalt gorges and mist below. An afternoon excursion will take you to explore the falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site. (B)
Day 14 — Victoria Falls
The day is free of planned activities, so you can follow your own path and explore independently or take an Optional Excursion to Chobe National Park. This excursion sets off on an unforgettable safari through the second-largest national park in Botswana and encompasses four distinct ecosystems. See its renowned African Elephants that can number from 500 to 5,000 depending on the season. Chobe is also home to one of the most diverse concentrations of game and birds found on the African continent. This evening, gather with friends for a Smithsonian Journeys Farewell Dinner. (B,D)
Day 15-16 — Victoria Falls
An early breakfast is served at the hotel. Later, transfer by motor coach to the Victoria Falls Airport for your flights to the U.S. (B)
FlexAir participants board a flight to Johannesburg and connect to the flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Arrive Frankfurt, and connect to transatlantic flights to the U.S.