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Time Rewind Fossil Finding Odyssey, South Africa, October 2024

Time Rewind Fossil Finding Odyssey, South Africa, October 2024

$ 8599 / per person
(0 Reviews)

For the ultimate bragging rights, join our fossil explorations in South Africa’s Great Karoo and Eastern Cape as your next vacation . . .

With this itinerary we’ll reach back and “rewind time”, getting hands-on at several fossil sites with scientists who explore and excavate the fossilized remains of 420 million year old ancient fish and early tetrapods (four legged creatures) from the Devonian. Fossil excavation sites that we'll explore are of an extinct group of vertebrates known as therapsids.





1 to 15th October 2024   l   15 Days & 14 Nights

10 Travellers, 18 years and older

$8599.00 per person sharing  l  $9799 per single person (based on a group of 10)

“The mammal-like reptiles of South Africa may safely be regarded as the most important fossil animal ever discovered and their importance lies in the fact that there is little to no doubt that among them we have the ancestors of mammals and the remote ancestors of man”.

Dr Robert Broom

The Great Karoo - A Palaeo Playground

Over 200 million years ago, South Africa formed part of the southern outreaches of Pangaea.  The Karoo, specifically, contains a largely unbroken record of prehistoric life, extending from the Permian to the Jurassic period.  The fossils in the Karoo rocks include the ancestors of lizards and snakes, tortoises, crocodiles and dinosaurs.  However, the fossils for which the Karoo is perhaps best know for are the mammal-like reptiles called therapsids which are reptiles that show features of mammals and represent a transitional stage between reptiles and mammals.

  • the oldest evidence of life on Earth
  • the oldest multicellular animals
  • the most primitive land-living plants
  • the most distant ancestors of dinosaurs
  • the most complete record of the more than 80 million year ancestry of mammals
  • a remarkable record of human origins and of human achievements through the last four million years.

Ready to dig the fossils of the Great Karoo?

The Karoo, in South Africa, is one of the most important fossil sites in the world – it is here that Ancient Odysseys®, in partnership with GENUS Palaeosciences and Safari Odyssey is thrilled to offer citizen scientists the exclusive opportunity  to work with world-famous palaeontologists to excavate and prospect at multiple fossil sites in the Karoo.

About The Tour . . . Day by Day

DAY 1: WITS Evolutionary Studies Institute with Prof Jonah Choiniere & Dr Bernard Zipfel (fossil vault)

DAY 1 marks your arrival in Johannesburg, South Africa and comes with a grand opening to the rest of your tour.  Our first visit is to the iconic Evolutionary Studies Institute at WITS University where you will meet Jonah Choiniere, Professor of Comparative Palaeobiology.  Currently Jonah is working on the evolution of basal sauropodomorphs as well as terrestrial Triassic-Jurassic boundary and he has also started to dabble in non-dinosaurian matters, although his expertise is directed toward dinosaurian evolution.  
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DAYS 2 – 5: Oviston, Bethulie set in the Great Karoo with Dr Julien Benoit (fossil explorations)

DAYS 2 – 5 include an early morning start with a flight from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein as we head to the Great Karoo (sometimes referred to “a gigantic playground packed with millions of fossils“) and finally Bethulie.  Bethulie is home to the Oviston Nature Reserve which is known for yielding fossils since the 1970s. Days 2 – 5 are filled with exploration activities at selected Oviston sites together with your host, Dr Julien Benoit, Senior Researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand, who has been actively involved in research since the early 2010s.  Read more . . .

DAYS 6 – 8: Graaff-Reinet & New Bethesda with Prof Bruce Rubidge (fossil explorations and collections)

DAYS 6 – 8 are set in Graaff-Reinet and still within the Karoo, where you will enjoy 2 days of walk-about arm waving adventures to very exciting sites under the guidance of Prof Bruce Rubidge.  These sites form part of the Beaufort Group, which form part of the Karoo Supergoup and are internationally renowned for their wealth of fossils, particularly of therapsids.  This extinct group of animals are the forerunners of mammals and the succession of therapsid fossils – of the Karoo chronicle – the distant evolution of mammals in remarkable detail.  
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DAYS 9 & 10: Amakhala Private Game Reserve in the Greater Addo

DAYS 9 & 10 .  .  . and we are on our way into the African bush, with no better way to highlight your travels than in true safari styled simplicity.  Your stay is at Bukela Game Lodge (5*), located in the Amakhala Game Reserve.  Luxury safari tents, crafted and freshly prepared cuisine, twice daily game drives, evenings of starlit skies and animals of nocturnal behaviour will make your stay unforgettable.  Whats more, one of the safari drives will track into a, largely unknown, “deep time” dinosaur fossil site.  
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DAYS 11 & 12: Dig Experience with Dr Rob Gess, Waterloo Farm

DAYS 11 & 12 include time spent with Palaeontologist, Dr Rob Gess on Waterloo Farm – the only site of vertebrate fossils in Devonian, and it is here where the earliest 4 legged beasts have been discovered. Dr Gess is South Africa’s leading researcher on Devonian (420 – 359 million year old) ecosystems and Early Vertebrates (ancient fish and early four legged creatures). For the next two days, Dr Gess will be our guide and paleontological lead in both Grahamstown and the quaint village of Bathurst.
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DAY 13: Iconic Cape Town – The Perfect Ending

DAY 13 starts with a flight across the entire Cape Province in order to reach our mother-city, Cape Town. Best known for her world-renowned landmark, Table Mountain, Cape Town has rugged & historic coastlines, vineyard filled valleys and an infusion of cultures and sites.  Today starts with the culturally rich Bo-Kaap Cape Malay village, with a guided walking tour and flavour infused (truly) lunch and then onto the top of the world as you make your way up Table Mountain by cable-car. 
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DAY 14: The Cape Peninsula with Cape Side Car Adventures

DAY 14 holds a unique experience – a full day “Cape Peninsula” tour hosted by Cape Sidecar Adventures.  Your chauffeured tour takes place in vintage motorbike sidecars and includes; a cruise to the shipwrecks of Seal Island (an exciting ocean adventure, with the opportunity to view the seal colonies and their displayed antics along the way), a scenic drive along Cape Town’s most famous drive-way, Chapmans Peak, for the most breath-taking Atlantic Ocean views along Africa’s west coast which ultimately leads to our first wine-tasting stop together with lunch at Cape Point Vineyard.  
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DAY 15: Last day – Cape Town to Johannesburg

DAY 15 and its your last morning in South Africa.  Today allows for some leisure time at Cape Town’s famous Victoria & Alfred Waterfront – offering pretty much anything you may still want to experience – shopping from world-class stores or some heart-stopping adventure activities, such as a helicopter flip over the Atlantic Ocean or around Table Mountain or an early morning cruise from the V & A Harbour.  For those wanting to visit one of our most famous cultural sites – then a cruise to Robben Island is a must . . . . . . . . but please remember that you have a flight to catch too!
Read more . . .

Highlights Along the Way . . .

Cape Towns’ City, Bo-Kaap & Table Mountain

Cape Side Cars, The Cape Peninsula & Wine . . .

The V & A Waterfront, Shopping & Robben Island

The Researchers on Your Tour

Dr Julien Benoit

Julien Benoit, a senior researcher at the WITS Evolutionary Studies Institute, focusses on Paleobiology, Neuroscience and Evolutionary Biology.  His current project is ‘Pre-mammalian evolution of the central nervous system and sensory organs in Therapsida using computed tomography.

Prof Bruce Rubidge

Director of the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Palaeosciences, Bruce specialises in vertebrate palaeontology, biostratigraphy, sedimentology, basin development and palaeo-environments. His main area of interest is the early therapsids as well as temnospondyl amphibians.

Dr Rob Gess

Rob Gess is a palaeontologist and Research Associate of the Albany Museum. He is South Africa’s leading researcher on Devonian (420 – 359 million year old) ecosystems and Early Vertebrates (ancient fish and early four legged creatures).  Waterloo Farm is his main focus of research.

Sites You will be Exploring

Dr Julien Benoit

Oviston Nature Reserve located in the Great Karoo’s Bethulie, has been yielding fossil bones since the 1970s.  Geological and Palaeontological accounts suggest that Oviston may be located on an important geological contact between the sediments of the Permian and Triassic periods.  The possible presence of an uninterrupted Permian to Triassic sequence may mean that a complete record of the most important event in life history is preserved here.

with Prof Bruce Rubidge

The Graaff-Reinet and Nieu Bethesda areas are renowned for their wealth of fossils, largely because of the early research on fossils through the efforts of Dr Sidney Rubidge, Prof James Kitching and more recently Mr Lex Bremner.  Geologically these areas fall within the Beaufort Group of the Karoo Supergoup covering almost two-thirds of the surface area of South Africa and contains an unrivalled wealth of reptile fossils that lived more than 200 million years ago.

with Dr Rob Gess

Waterloo Farm is an important fossil site having preserved remains of a diverse Late Devonian estuarine ecosystem.  Part of the uniqueness of this locality lies in its geographic position – likely within the Antarctic Circle.  Unexpected fauna include early tetrapods, preciously believed to have been exclusively tropical and most fossils are preserved in black shale.  It is also a rare phenomenon in the geological record that fossils preserve soft tissues such as those from Waterloo Farm.

Whats Included?

INCLUDED in the tour

  • 14 Nights’ accommodation
  • All domestic flights
  • All road transfers
  • Private presentations & explorations
  • Researchers as hosts throughout
  • Tour Leader & registered Guide
  • 14 x Daily breakfasts
  • 14 x Daily lunches
  • 10 x Dinners
  • Beverages except for 4 dinners
  • 2 x Bottled waters per day
  • Water & re-hydrates on exploration days
  • Gratuities, service fees and tips

EXCLUDED from the tour

  • 4 x Dinners & accompanying beverages
  • Travel insurance (compulsory)
  • Medical insurance
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Acquiring ALL travel documentation
    including: passport validity & open pages, visas, covid-19 requirements & vaccinations

Your Tour Hosts

  • Destination
  • Departure
    Johannesburg, OR Tambo International Airport
  • Dress Code
    sun protection, good walking shoes for overland terrain, clothing suited to hot weather, sun block, a buff

Tour Plan



  • 14 Nights' accommodation as indicated in the itinerary.
  • All domestic flights (Johannesburg - Bloemfontein  l  Port Elizabeth - Cape Town  l  Cape Town - Johannesburg).
  • All road transfers as per the itinerary.
  • Presentations, private tours and excavation days with the relevant researchers & site permit holders.
  • 14 x Daily breakfasts as described in the daily itinerary.
  • 14 x Daily lunches as described in the daily itinerary.
  • 10 x Dinners (nights 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12 & 14) as described in the daily itinerary.
  • Beverages @ lunch (days 1, 9, 10, 13 & 14)
    • 1 x bottled water, 1 x soft drink or juice, 1 x glass of local beer or wine, tea or coffee.
  • Beverages @ lunch (days 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11 & 12)
    • 1 x bottled water, 1 x soft drink or juice, tea or coffee.
  • Beverages @ dinner (nights 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12 & 14)\
    • 1 x bottled water, 1 x soft drink or juice, 1 x glass of local beer or wine, tea or coffee.
  • 2 x Bottled waters per person per day.
  • Bottled water and re-hydrate powders will also be available for all exploration / excavation days.
  • Gratuities, service fees and tips.


  • Dinners on nights 4, 7, 11 & 13 - these are at leisure and for the guests' own account.
  • Beverages on nights 4, 7, 11 & 13 - these are at leisure and for the guests' own account.
  • Medical & travel insurances - please note that travel insurances are compulsory.
  • Items of a personal nature.
  • Rates are subject to change.
  • NB: All travel-related documents including visas, passports, passport validity, requirements for children travelling across borders, birth / unabridged birth certificates, vaccinations, covid-19 travel regulations etc. are for the sole responsibility of the traveller.

Tour Location

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