As the dollar tanks in relation to the euro, its buying power in South Africa is better and better. That shift in affordability is just one of the factors boosting South Africa’s tourism. Tour operators are catching on to South Africa’s new wave of popularity and are offering more and more packages that combine various elements of the widely diverse country.
Leading the charge is South African Airways Vacations’ weeklong “South Africa in Style” package. Included in the rate, which varies depending on departure date and accommodations chosen, are trans-Atlantic air on South African Airways, four nights in Cape Town, two nights at Jackalberry Lodge or Royal Legend Lodge in the Thornybush Private Game Reserve in Mpumalanga province, a half-day tour of Cape Town, ground transfers, air transportation from Cape Town to the game reserve, six breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners. Call 888-722-4872 or visit www.flysaavacations.com.
Also affordable is Globus’ 14-night “South Africa” program, which starts at $3,050. The tour begins in Cape Town and ends in Johannesburg. Included are sightseeing on the Cape Peninsula; a visit to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and the Cape of Good Hope; an excursion to the Cape Winelands; a drive on the Garden Route to Knysna, stopping at an ostrich farm en route; a drive along the coast to Port Elizabeth; and a flight to the eastern port city of Durban. The tour features a visit to Zululand to observe the traditional Zulu way of life and a trip through the tiny kingdom of Swaziland to Kruger National Park, for game drives in open four-wheel-drive vehicles. From there the group heads through the Drakensberg mountains; to the country’s capital, Pretoria; and, finally, to Johannesburg. Call 800-221-0090 or visit www.globusjourneys.com.At the opposite end of the price range are private jet trips, some of which include stops in South Africa. Abercrombie & Kent’s (A & K) “Africa: Desert Kingdoms & Natural Splendors” is a three-week scouring of African highlights with a degree of thoroughness only possible on a private jet itinerary. The trip includes Ethiopia, the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, deep-sea fishing in Mauritius and several days in South Africa. During a few days at Cape Town’s Cape Grace Hotel, travelers sail the coastline in a catamaran and visit the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. And thanks to A & K’s “Design Your Day” segments, travelers can choose between visits to Kirstenbosch Gardens, the Cape Winelands, Robben Island, or spa or shopping pleasures. Then they fly to Mpumalanga to stay at Mala Mala Game Reserve before heading to Victoria Falls. The itinerary continues to Bamako (Mali) and Timbuktu before concluding in Marrakech. The trip runs in 2009 from Feb. 14 through March 8. While we’re surveying extremes, it is appropriate to take a look at the extreme edge of adventure travel at a package from A&K’s Extreme Adventures series called “South Africa: Seeking the Ultimate Thrill.” A & K rates this program as Level 3, which means “demanding.” No ordinary itinerary, this journey includes a supersonic climb to 50,000 feet in a Hunter Hawker fighter jet from at a low point above the coastline to a high point where the earth’s curvature is plainly visible. There’s also a dive among great white sharks in a shark-proof cage, a cruise through Shark Alley to watch seals and the African penguin, an opportunity to take the wheel of an A1 racing car to drive at speeds of more than 100 mph, driving an ATV through the high dunes of the Namib Desert in Namibia and, finally, a trip to the Onguma Tree Tops Camp to experience a walk among the big game.
The price starts at $12,725 per person double, and there are additional charges for regional air to Namibia and the supersonic flight, depending on the aircraft chosen. Call 800-845-1823 or visit www.abercrombiekent.com.
Tauck World Discovery packages South Africa in its characteristic style with “South Africa: An Elegant Adventure.” The package includes three nights at the Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town, one at the Lanzerac Manor & Winery in Stellenbosch, two at either the Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge or Tinga Private Game Lodge, two at the Westcliff in Johannesburg and two at the Victoria Falls Hotel in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The trip features Cape Town’s Table Mountain, Robben Island and the wine country, a safari in Kruger National Park, the urban nightlife of Johannesburg, the history of Soweto and natural splendor of Victoria Falls, and concludes in Zambezi National Park, where visitors take a walking tour and ride an elephant. For price and departure information, call 800-468-2825 or visit www.tauck.com.
African Travel, which has been operating tours to South Africa since 1976, is offering a cultural tour called “In the Footsteps of Mandela.” The 11-day program spends three days each in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and two days at Lesedi’s multi-ethnic African village in the Entabeni Reserve, where visitors immerse themselves in tribal culture. The trip includes wildlife viewing in four-wheel-drive open vehicles, as well as encounters with culture at Robben Island and Soweto, nightlife at a local shebeen, and participation in tribal song and dance. Call 800-421-8907 or visit www.africantravelinc.com.
Kenya-based Micato Safaris celebrates its naming by Travel & Leisure magazine as the “Word’s Best Tour Operator and Safari Operator” with a program called “The Travel & Leisure World’s Best Safari.” The 13-day trip includes nights in Cape Town and time in Singita Private Game Reserve and Kruger National Park, as well as a visit to Victoria Falls. The program is defined by its exclusive inclusion of “World’s Best” hotels, including the Royal Livingston at Victoria Falls on the Zambia side, the Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town, the Singita Private Game Reserve and the Vergelegen Wine Estate, which has hosted Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth and several U.S. presidents. The price starts at $12,965 per person double, land only. Internal air fare is $2,495. Call 800-642-2861 or visit www.micato.com.