At a Glance
Dates: August 23rd - September 9th, 2023
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £5,795 pp sharing (with a single supplement of £650), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: There is so much more to the Western Cape than the standard 'Garden Route' - from the elusive caracal to the migrating southern right whales, this itinerary packs a real punch.
Most visitors to the Western Cape, understandably, make a beeline for Cape Town. Whilst this city, and Table Mountain, are a real highlight of this tour, there is so much more beyond the city - and, indeed, beyond the touristy 'Garden Route'. More than any other itinerary we offer, this tour is filled with beautiful scenery, stunning wildflower blooms and, yes, incredible birding and mammal-watching opportunities. The quiet and little-visited West Coast NP, Tankwa NP and De Hoop NR strike a lovely balance between incredible flora and unusual wildlife, including the rarely-seen caracal. Karoo NP and Mountain Zebra NP are stunning destinations in their own right, with big game including lion and black rhino, and the wonderful reserves of Addo and Sanbona offer both spades of 'big game', but also rarities including leopard, brown hyena and much more. Lastly, but by no means least, the whale-watching at the time of our visit is often superb, with migrating southern right whale and humpback whale often putting on spectacular shows.
On arrival into Cape Town, you will be met by your Pictus Safaris tour leader and local guide, and you will be transferred to your excellent local hotel. There will be a pre-tour briefing before dinner this evening, with the remainder of the evening at leisure.
Table Mountain NP
We leave the hotel at first light this morning, headed to arguably Cape Town's most iconic landmark - Table Mountain. Unlike many visitors, though, we don't head directly for the top. Instead, our morning will be spent hiking the scrubland at the base of the mountain, as this area is known to be home to a thriving population of caracal. This elusive cat is highly sought-after, and with a slice of luck we may spot this special feline this morning - if not, we may still be rewarded with sightings of cape grysbok and bontebok.
After our caracal hike this morning, there are a range of optional activities available this afternoon. Some guests may choose to head to the summit of table mountain by cable car, enjoying the spectacular vistas of Cape Town. Alternatively, you may opt for a city tour at extra cost, or even whale-watching. The deep waters off the coast here mean that this is a good spot for rarer pelagic species, although there are never any guarantees! After our afternoon activity, we return to the hotel for dinner and some rest.
West Coast NP
This morning we make the short drive north to the beautiful West Coast NP. After a quick check-in at our local hotel, we will head to the national park itself, and we'll be sure to make a beeline for the rarely-opened Postberg section of the park. Only accessible during the spectacular wildflower blooms at this time of year, Postberg is also the best area to spot a number of mammals including eland, red hartebeest and mountain zebra. As the light begins to fade, we will slowly drive the scrubland near the coast, as this is an area known to reliably produce sightings of caracal. Sightings remain rare, but with luck and persistence, this attractive cat may cross our path this evening before we return to the hotel.
West Coast NP
Our full day today will be spent enjoying the sights of West Coast NP. The core of the day will be spent marvelling at the flora here, and the grazers that inhabit this inaccessible area of the park. But the early and late hours of the day will once again be spent targeting the lovely caracal.
This morning we transfer inland to Tankwa NP, the best example of the 'Succulent Karoo' biome and vegetation in South Africa. It is a lengthy drive of around five hours, but after checking in to our hotel, we will have time for an afternoon drive today. Tankwa is a quiet park, owing largely to its lack of 'big game', but we think the stunning scenery and attractive wildlife certainly merit a visit. Mountain zebra, gemsbok, eland, springbok and red hartebeest are seen well here, and the park is known to be home to the rare Karoo round-eared sengi. Before nightfall, we will head back to our rustic lodge after a long drive.
We have a full day in Tankwa NP, allowing us to explore the park at a leisurely place. This is amongst the driest places anywhere in South Africa, making the landscape both stark and harsh, but also spectacular. Birders are sure to be delighted with several near-endemics to be seen, and the viewpoints at Gannaga Pass and Elandsberg often keep visitors captivated for hours.
This morning we head to our first 'big game' destination of the tour - Karoo NP. Busier than Tankwa, but every bit as beautiful, Karoo holds small populations of both lion and black rhino, which will be key targets on our afternoon drive today. Other species we are likely to encounter include klipspringer and eland, meaning that the Karoo is full of mammal-watching possibilities. After dinner, we will set out on a shared night drive, which greatly enhances our chances of sighting black rhino and lion, but also the near-endemic Karoo rock sengi.
We have a full day in Karoo NP today, with our key focus on the lion and black rhino that call this park home. Morning and evening drives offer us the best chance of spotting these two iconic species.
Mountain Zebra NP
It is a four-hour drive this morning to the wonderful Mountain Zebra NP. On our afternoon drive, it should be little surprise that we are likely to come across Cape mountain zebra, after which the park is named. But we are also likely to spot our first buffalo and black wildebeest of the tour, and the park is home to populations of lion, leopard, black rhino and cheetah that we will target. After dinner, a night drive gives us an excellent chance of locating lion and brown hyena in particular, making this a truly worthwhile spot to stop off at.
Mountain Zebra NP
Today, morning and evening game drives will largely be focussed on big cats - cheetah in particular. Our chances are very much dependent on how accessible the areas currently being used by the cheetah are during our visit, but we will do our best to secure a sighting of these delightful cats!
Addo Elephant NP
After a last game drive this morning in Mountain Zebra NP., we head to the jewel in the 'Garden Route' - Addo Elephant NP. As the name suggests, this impressive park is home to a booming population of elephants, some 600 strong, and we will be sure to spend plenty of time with these gentle giants on our afternoon drive. If we can tear ourselves away from the elephants, we will likely remain in the core game-viewing area, where lion and spotted hyena are found. We will enjoy a further shared night drive after dinner, where lion, leopard, spotted hyena and even black-footed cat might be spotted.
Addo Elephant NP
The world is our oyster today, as we have the whole of Addo to explore. We might remain in the core game-viewing area, where lion and elephant are the main draws. Alternatively, we may head to the quieter northern reaches of the park, where mountain reedbuck and red rock rabbit can be spotted, or we may instead make the trek to the southern coastal forests, where brown hyena and leopard are well-represented.
After a final morning drive in Addo today, we head south to the 'whale-watching capital of South Africa', Plettenberg Bay. The sea state is generally much calmer in the mornings, so this afternoon is at leisure ahead of a trip to sea tomorrow.
This morning we head out on a shared boat trip to view the whales and dolphins of Plettenberg Bay. At this time of year, southern right whales are well-seen, as are the acrobatic humpback whales and common bottlenose dolphin. Don't rule out much rare species, though, and beaked whales might even be seen here. Keep your eyes on the shoreline also, as African clawless otter and afro-australian fur seals are present in good numbers here.
After the boat trip, we continue west along the coast to Mossel Bay, another whale-watching destination. The afternoon is at leisure after several busy days.
This morning we take to the seas once more. Despite being just a short distance from Plettenberg Bay, the cetacean species found here can be quite different, owing to the deeper waters here. Orca are more likely here, as are several unusual pelagic species, making this a thoroughly enjoyable excursion.
From Mossel Bay, we head inland to the superb and luxurious Sanbona. This 'Big Five' reserve is truly sensational, routinely offering sightings of big cats including leopard and cheetah, and we expect our afternoon drive today to be no exception. Keep your eyes peeled for riverine rabbit, which are also known to be found here. This evening, we enjoy dinner at our impressive luxury lodge.
De Hoop NR
We enjoy a final morning game drive on Sanbona today, before heading to one of our very favourite wilderness areas in South Africa - De Hoop. This coastal reserve supports a rich variety of habitats, and our favourite way to spend an evening is atop the towering white sand dunes looking down at southern right whales and humpback dolphin far below. As the light fades, we once again have an excellent chance of spotting caracal, with the coastal forest supporting an excellent population of this elusive cat.
De Hoop NR
Our final full day can be spent as the group desires. We may scour the coastal forests for caracal once more, or admire whales and dolphins from vantage points along the coast - the choice is yours!
This morning you are transferred to Cape Town for your homeward flights.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may
occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in August and September 2023, aiming to take advantage of the dry season, when the weather is at its best and game-viewing, including whale-watching, is superb. The tour will run from August 23rd to September 9th, 2023.
The cost of this trip is £5,795 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals (excluding lunches), accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks are not included. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £650. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £2,350 must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Cape Town at the beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Cape Town after 14.00 on your return, if leaving on the same day that we return to Cape Town to avoid disruption to your plans.
British nationals do not require a visa to enter South Africa. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in south-west South Africa in August is mild and mixed, with maximum temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 12 degrees Celsius. On a typical 18-day visit, we generally expect up to five days of light rain.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing South African Rand.
Safety and Security
There are no security issues in any areas visited by this tour.