Group participants will be met upon arrival at the OR Tambo International Airport and transferred to your Sandton-based hotel. After a quick refresher the group will meet at a private venue within the hotel for purposes of familiarization around the 11 day /10 night tour programme. Following the briefing enjoy lunch at the hotel and then depart on your first outing into the bustling and ever-changing city of Johannesburg. Your afternoon will be spent visiting either The Apartheid Museum OR Museum Africa in Newtown. Enjoy your first evening at a culturally modern restaurant and indulge in your first taste of African cuisine and music.
Day 2: Cradle of Humankind (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
After breakfast depart on a full day of ancient African history, starting with a visit to the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), Archaeological Department. Enjoy a presentation by a WITS researcher and enjoy an insight into the Evolutionary Studies Institute, the Rock Art Research Institute and finally a tour through the WITS Origins Centre. Time permitting, the group can participate in an ochre painting experience. The afternoon is spent at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Start with a visit to the Maropeng Visitor Centre and then onto the Sterkfontein Caves and surrounds, such as Swartkrans. The University of the Witwatersrand is involved with research and excavation at these two particular sites. Transfer to the Lesedi Cultural Village for an overnight stay and entertainment in an authentic cultural village. Extract from the UNESCO World Heritage Site re Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa: The Taung Skull Fossil Site, part of the extension to the site inscribed in 1999, is the place where in 1924 the celebrated Taung Skull – a specimen of the species Australopithecus africanus – was found. Makapan Valley, also in the site, features in its many archaeological caves traces of human occupation and evolution dating back some 3.3 million years. The area contains essential elements that define the origin and evolution of humanity. Fossils found there have enabled the identification of several specimens of early hominids, more particularly of Paranthropus, dating back between 4.5 million and 2.5 million years, as well as evidence of the domestication of fire 1.8 million to 1 million years ago.
Day 3: Cradle of Humankind to Pretoria
Buffet breakfast will be served at the Lesedi Cultural Village, followed by a transfer to Pretoria where you will have the opportunity to visit the Ditsong National Museum of Cultural History and the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (home to some of the hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site), the Voortrekker Monument, The Paul Kruger House as well as the seat of Parliament – The Union Buildings. For lunch your destination is a typically local restaurant at the “Wit Huis” (White House) which was the house of the wife of President Paul Kruger. Transfer to a close-by guest house for a leisurely evening and dinner on-site.
Day 4: Pretoria to the Waterberg, Limpopo
Breakfast, served in the gardens of the guest-house followed by a late morning road transfer to the Goudrivier Game Lodge in the Waterberg, Limpopo River Valley. This part of the country-side holds within it an incredibly rich Northern Sotho heritage and an impressive collection of arts and artefacts - one of the few “congregation” sites in Southern Africa that is smaller but on the same scale as Twyfelfontein (Namibia) and Tsodilo Hills (Botswana). In addition to its celebrated hunter-gatherer rock art made by the San (or Bushmen), southern Africa has a number of later rock art traditions made by Bantu-speaking farmers. The most extensive of these traditions in terms of area covered and number of sites is the rock art of the Northern Sotho. This art is found spread across the greater part of northern South Africa. Northern Sotho rock art is easily distinguished from San rock art both by its colour and by its form. It is predominantly executed in white and was applied thickly onto the rock by finger (in contrast to the polychrome brushwork paintings of the San. The choice of white as the dominant colour is characteristic of rock art traditions belonging to Bantu-speaking agriculturists. Reflecting this, these arts have become colloquially known as the 'late whites'.
Spend the next two days investigating the rock art sites in the area. The afternoons allow for sundowner game drives in the scenically beautiful environment of the Waterberg mountains, with a prolific amount of fauna, wildlife and birds. Enjoy a bush braai (barbeque) for dinner at days end.
Day 5: Waterberg to Polokwane
Breakfast followed by a departure to Polokwane, where you will overnight at The Ranch, Kolobe Tented Camp. After check-in and lunch you will visit the Irish House Museum and Bakoni Malapa Site Museum, where you will most certainly experience the warm hospitality and rich culture of the BaSotho people. Return to Kolobe Tented Camp and enjoy a relaxing evening and country dinner.
Day 6: Makapans Valley (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
After breakfast the group will depart for a full days visit to the world-famous Palaeontological site of Makapansgat (also known as Makapans Valley). Today you will enjoy a multitude of caves, iron age sites and lime works. Makapansgat has been described as having one of the greatest paleontological records of human evolution in the world. Collecting at the site began in 1925, when a local school teacher, Wilfred Eitzman, was attracted by the activities of lime workers. Some fossil material was sent to Raymond Dart, who initiated a systematic investigation in 1947. Eitzman also discovered the so-called “Makapansgat Pebble” associated with the bones approximately 3,000,000 years ago. The pebble is shaped naturally to resemble a human face and it is thought to have been found by an Australopithecus and carried from its source into the Makapansgat cave. It has been suggested that this pebble represents the earliest known example of symbolic thinking of early hominids.
Late afternoon you will return to Kolobe Tented Camp for some well-deserved leisure time late in the afternoon followed by another scrumptious country dinner. Extract from the UNESCO World Heritage Site re Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa: The Taung Skull Fossil Site, part of the extension to the site inscribed in 1999, is the place where in 1924 the celebrated Taung Skull – a specimen of the species Australopithecus africanus – was found. Makapan Valley, also in the site, features in its many archaeological caves traces of human occupation and evolution dating back some 3.3 million years. The area contains essential elements that define the origin and evolution of humanity. Fossils found there have enabled the identification of several specimens of early hominids, more particularly of Paranthropus, dating back between 4.5 million and 2.5 million years, as well as evidence of the domestication of fire 1.8 million to 1 million years ago.
Day 7: Mashamba Traditional Village and Schoemansdal
Breakfast followed by an onward transfer to Louis Trichardt and check into your hotel. Enjoy a quick late morning lunch and then onto a visit to the traditional village of Mashamba where the practice of ancient pottery making still takes place. Return late afternoon and after a quick refresher attend a lecture on the South African war of 1899 to 1902 in the Soutpansberg area, by historian Charles Leach and finally enjoy a great meal and good South African wine.
Day 8: Louis Trichardt to Mapungubwe Cultural Landscpe (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Breakfast followed by a visit to the archaeological Schoemansdal Site and spend the rest of the day exploring. After visiting Schoemansdal transfer to Mapungubwe National Park. The ancient city of Mapungubwe (meaning 'hill of the jackal') is an Iron Age archaeological site in the Limpopo Province on the border between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. The first people in Mapungubwe were early Iron Age Settlers. They lived there from about 1000 AD to 1300 A. Enjoy a late afternoon sunset drive to view the confluence of the Shasi and Limpopo Rivers - the meeting place of 3 countries, South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe - great at sunset. Dinners will be under the African skies around an open braai (barbeque). Extract from the UNESCO World Heritage Site Listing for the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape: Mapungubwe is set hard against the northern border of South Africa, joining Zimbabwe and Botswana. It is an open, expansive savannah landscape at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers. Mapungubwe developed into the largest kingdom in the sub-continent before it was abandoned in the 14th century. What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them, as well as two earlier capital sites, the whole presenting an unrivalled picture of the development of social and political structures over some 400 years.
Days 9 & 10: Mapungubwe National Park to Matabo Hills, Zimbabwe (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Today starts with an early morning road transfer to the Matapos National Park in Zimbabwe. By the time the Park is entered one is surrounded by dramatic and enveloping scenery that is unique with extraordinary rock landforms. These large boulders provide natural shelters, occupied by humans from the early Stone Age right through to early historical times, and seemingly ever since. They also feature an outstanding collection of rock paintings.
Spend some time at the Matapos Rock Art sites and Rhodes’s Grave during your first day in Zimbabwe. There are over 3,000 known San rock art sites including Nswatugi Cave, White Rhino Shelter and the nearby Bambata Cave. With numerous cultural and historical sites either within, or surrounding the National Park, the Matobo Hills is still an area of great cultural significance for many local people, and is used as a shrine and sacred place, closely linked to traditional, social and economic activities.
You will also spend time explore the Khami Ruins - one of southern Africa's magnificent Late Iron Age sites (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Khami, which developed after the capital of Great Zimbabwe had been abandoned in the mid-16th century, is of great archaeological interest with particular reference to the fact that Khami was a major long-distance trading centre having established historic trade links with the Portuguese, and the wider world. The diverse range of imported artefacts provide evidence of 15th and 17th century Spanish porcelain, Rhineland stoneware and Ming porcelain, many of which are on display in the Museum of Natural History in Bulawayo. There is also a monumental granite cross which illustrates the contact with missionaries at a traditionally revered and sacred spiritual site. Upon return to the lodge each day, you will enjoy some time to refresh and a wonderful dinner experience under the Zimbabwean skies. Extract from UNESCO World Heritage Site Listing on Matabo Hills: The area exhibits a profusion of distinctive rock landforms rising above the granite shield that covers much of Zimbabwe. The large boulders provide abundant natural shelters and have been associated with human occupation from the early Stone Age right through to early historical times, and intermittently since. They also feature an outstanding collection of rock paintings. The Matobo Hills continue to provide a strong focus for the local community, which still uses shrines and sacred places closely linked to traditional, social and economic activities. Extract from UNESCO World Heritage Site Listing for Khami Ruins National Monument: Khami, which developed after the capital of Great Zimbabwe had been abandoned in the mid-16th century, is of great archaeological interest. The discovery of objects from Europe and China shows that Khami was a major centre for trade over a long period of time.
Day 11: Matabo Hills to the Great Zimbabwean Ruins (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
After an early breakfast, you will relocate to the Great Zimbabwean Ruins area. Upon arrival the group will spend the rest of the day visiting the Great Zimbabwean Ruins Site. The Great Zimbabwe ruins are the largest collection of ruins in Africa south of the Sahara. Located in the heart of southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, they are testament to a culture of great wealth and great architectural skill. Late in the afternoon you will check in at a lodge nearby and enjoy a relaxing dinner. Extract from the UNESCO World Heritage Site Listing re Great Zimbabwe National Monument: The ruins of Great Zimbabwe – the capital of the Queen of Sheba, according to an age-old legend – are a unique testimony to the Bantu civilization of the Shona between the 11th and 15th centuries. The city, which covers an area of nearly 80 ha, was an important trading centre and was renowned from the Middle Ages onwards.
Day 12: Zimbabwe to Pafuri Rivercamp
Breakfast is followed by a relaxing and scenic journey from Zimbabwe to Pafuri Rivercamp. Along the way you will stop by the Segole Spa Big Tree - the biggest baobab tree in the world, carbon dated as 1 200 years of age. The Sagole Baobab is the largest overall, standing 22 metres high with a crown diameter of 38,2 metres. Arrive in time to view the stars of the cleanest skies in the country and enjoy traditional safari camp cooking for dinner.
Day 13: Pafuri Rivercamp via Thulamela to Punda Maria (Kruger National Park)
Breakfast, and depart to the Thulamela Archaeological Site within the Kruger National Park. Thulamela, at 500 years old, is one of the primary heritage sites of South Africa, and the link between Great Zimbabwe and the modern Vha Venda Nation. The royal enclosure at Thulamela accommodated in excess of a thousand people. The people of Thulamela were skilled goldsmiths and their main currency was gold. This they traded, along with ivory, for glass beads and corn, with traders who came north of the Limpopo from what is today Mozambique. There is also evidence of contact with people from West Africa.
Furthermore, evidence of early humans is also found in the area, dating back some 1.5 million years. The San people also lived in the area as far back as 100 000 years ago. Some 2 000 year's ago, the first Nguni speaking people, looking for more grazing land for their cattle, migrated south into the area and displaced the San.
The Kruger National Park is, most famously, home to the big 5. Amazing bird life, lovely trees and a time to reflect on what nature has to offer. Punda Maria Rest Camp is the choice camp to overnight at and to get leisure time.
Day 14: Punda Maria - Letaba (Kruger National Park)
Breakfast followed by a full day game drive starting upon departure from Punda Maria and ending at the Letaba Rest Camp. Time to see who's gaming list is the biggest. Afternoon at leisure and participate in available activities of your choice. Recommended is a visit to the Elephant Hall to view the Tuskers Project Dinner: Group farewell boma “braai” barbeque at the Letaba Rest Camp.
Day 15: Letaba - Johannesburg
Breakfast and an early morning start at the Letaba Restaurant Return journey from the Kruger National Park to OR Tambo International Airport for your onward flight back home. Time permitting, a stop in Dullstroom for a final meal together! Dullstroom a favourite weekend getaway for trout fisherman.