No trip to Africa is complete without seeing the Big Five – elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, lions and black rhino. Coastlines lend themselves to such biological diversity that you’d be remiss to not include the lesser-known, but equally impressive Marine Big Five – whales, sharks, seals, penguins and dolphins – on any South African road trip. Pair the experience with earthy wines and ocean breezes and this is one day out you won’t want to miss.
Uncorking Creation: There are just a handful of big personality wineries along the Hermanus Wine Route – which meanders through the heavenly Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – and each is known for their highly individual and origin-expressive wine plantings and for producing premium quality wines. Internationally acclaimed wineries may dominate the market, but smaller boutique operations like Creation Wines are making their mark in a big way.
Creations’ trend-setting spirit, commitment to pushing boundaries and clutch of awards made it a must-do on this Whale Coast meander. Add a touch of Master Chef in the mix with a delicate chocolate and wine pairing, a menu jam-packed with innovative creations and the chance to view clustering grapevines and you’ll literally be in heaven.
Hemel-en-Aarde literally translates to heaven-on-earth, and if you think the Cape Winelands scenery can’t get any better, you’re in for a treat. Beyond Sir Lowry Pass, winelands and orchards give way to a rippling patchwork of green and gold farmlands which in turn morph into craggy coastlines where land meets the Atlantic and the Whale Coast begins.
Within a flash, you’re in whale country and the annual migration (July to November) of humpback and southern right whales along the South African coastline has earned the unassuming, pretty little village of Hermanus the honour of becoming the best land-based whale watching town in the world. By land or by sea, visitors are able to watch these gentle giants of the deep frolic freely and launch their aerial acrobatics in the Atlantic.
As morning turns to afternoon, you make your way along this beautiful, rugged coastline to the tiny coastal hamlet of Betty’s Bay to meet another of the Marine Big Five. The endangered and often comical African penguins of Betty’s Bay, with their tuxedo-like plumage, charm from the first. This gaggle of ornery creatures is one of the largest and most successful breeding colonies in all of Africa and gives wildlife enthusiasts a chance to observe them at close quarters.
But the fat lady hasn’t sung and the day still has one surprise in store turning west to head back to the bright lights of Cape Town along the epic Clarence Drive coastal road.
The wild beauty of Kogelberg Biosphere is perfectly offset by this picturesque stretch of road that connects Rooi Els village and the naval town of Gordon’s Bay. Arguably the most scenic drive in South Africa, this coastal route snakes its way between the rugged mountains – giving you ample opportunity to snap farewell landscape photos over the 21 jaw-dropping kilometres before arriving at your end destination, Cape Town.
Indulge in innovative pairings and award-winning wines with tasting among the Cape Floral Kingdom at Creation Wines.
Hike amongst fragrant fynbos along the Hermanus cliff paths for some of the world's best seasonal land-based whale watching.
Meet the cute resident penguins at Stony Point Nature Reserve.
Wind along the wild beauty of the Kogelberg Biosphere with dramatic coastal scenes of Clarence drive.
Get a front row seat to view some of Hermanus' largest residents.
Start with a morning pick-up from your accommodation in Cape Town.
The sheer diversity of South African’s terrain is mirrored in the multiplicity of its wildlife, perhaps best of all, you don’t always have to go off-the-beaten track to discover it. Let’s raise a glass to wildlife, fine food and wine pairings among this pristine coastal region on this heavenly day out. Some would say the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Valley is true heaven on earth and that’s the literal translation of the name too.
Just a stone’s throw from Cape Town, lies South Africa’s famous Whale Coast which, by virtue of Mother Nature, attracts thousands of southern right whales and humpback whales into Walker Bay to calve each year. The wildlife viewing is second-to-none, earning the nearby town of Hermanus a giant reputation as one of the best land- and water-based whale watching sites in the world.
But it’s the juxtaposition of rugged coastline, iconic wildlife and modern refinement that mesmerize visitors and locals alike. One minute you can spot some of the largest creatures on the planet in their natural habitat and the very next enjoy the finest wines in award-winning wine estates.
As you ascend Sir Lowry Pass and follow the windy roads to the coast, your private guide stop off at roadside stalls to browse and indulge in local produce of the Overberg region. Undulating green and grey-gold farmlands pool together to make a patchwork effect on the surrounding countryside, before finally giving way to a jagged coastline peppered with small settlements and bordered by the mighty Atlantic.
The first stop, Creation Wines, allows you the luxury of time… time to drink in the splendour of rolling vineyards and time to enjoy the crisp mountain air while imbibing with an award-winning wine or two in the tasting room. But this is no ordinary tasting as Creation’s vintners cleverly team the decadence of velvety-smooth milk chocolate; the subtle, but creamy nuances of a delicate white; and the lively bold tones of dark chocolate to showcase their wine to best effect. As an optional extra, creative tapas-style pairings are also on their tasting menu for those that don’t wish to indulge their sweet tooth.
From wine to whales: Of all the towns dotted along the Whale Coast, the small fishing coastal village of Hermanus is the one that’s big on reputation thanks to the visiting southern right and humpback whales. Each June through November these gentle giants migrate north to calve in the warm waters near Walker Bay. For landlubbers, the town’s cliff-top path is perhaps its most popular trail and stretches 12km from the town’s new harbour to the Grotto Beach. Expect unparalleled views out to Walker Bay to watch the whale water aerobics.
For those with their sea legs, there’s an option to hit the water on a whale-watching cruise and come eye to giant-sized eyeball with these gentle giants of the deep and witness their raw power. A whale museum, café culture, fresher-than-fresh seafood, outdoor trails and craft markets also make Hermanus the ideal lunch stop.
As you tick off a sighting of the Marine Big Five – whales and perhaps sharks, seals and dolphins – it’s time to add a guaranteed sighting to the list with a visit to the African penguin rookeries of Stony Point, one of the largest successful breeding colonies in all of Africa.
Your penguin welcome committee is formerly dressed in feathery tuxedos and are oblivious to the furious snapping of photographers from the site’s boardwalk. The flocks of cape, black and crowned cormorants and seagulls, share the space with their penguin pals, and also give a hoot. For those that can’t get enough of nature, the furry antics of the Rock Hyrax that cohabitates on the natural rock face is sure to delight – after all they’re the closest living relative to their Big Five cousin, the elephant.
Luxury car giant Porsche did its homework when it chose to launch it’s new-gen 911 GTS in Africa, bringing a clutch of high-profile media to drive the snake-like coils and blind corners of Clarence Drive – one of the most scenic coastal drives on the planet. Unbelievably picturesque, this twisting cliff-top road easily rivals counterparts in the French Riviera. Narrow walls line a craggy cliff side dotted with baboons, and shrubby hills give way to sheer drops and small white peaks. This is a place where you can fill your memory card taking panorama shots; looking out for Great White Shark fins; spotting spouts of water as migrating whales surface for air; or just snapping the stunning view of the golden hour as the sun sinks behind the bluer-than-blue Atlantic. It’s one wild drive and a fitting end to a wild adventure on the Whale Coast.
End with an evening drop-off at your Cape Town accommodation.
This trip will run exclusively for you.
Led by a local English-speaking professional tour guide.
Private transfers to included tour highlights.
There is no central meeting point for this tour. A transfer service will collect you from your Cape Town accommodation.
Optional activities can be paid and booked during your journey as per price listed in the itinerary.
You are responsible for your own personal travel insurance.
You can purchase meals + drinks on tour.
Local and international flights are excluded.
from ±R1200 per day
A surcharge to travel in a luxury SUV vehicle. Maximum 3 people per car.
Since the beginning, working as a guesthouse manager 13-years ago, I have been involved in creating personalised experiences for people in the travel industry. It has grown into my work passion and I love being able to create tailor-made experiences for people that they will remember for the rest of their lives. In between doing that, I create my own memories and experiences by spending time with my family (usually on the beach), attending festivals and capturing it all with my camera.
Click terms for more details.
Full amount required to reserve or confirm a booking.
Children are welcome on private tours. Some activities will have age limits and alcohol may only be served to adults over 18 years of age.
11 official Languages Spoken
Afrikaans – English – isiNdebele – Sepedi.– Sesotho – Siswati – Xitsonga – Setswana – Tshivenda – isiXhosa
How to say hello?
Molo – Xhosa
Sawubona - Zulu
Hallo - Afrikaans
Dumela - SeSotho
Electricity – Volt & plug
The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ. Most plugs are 15 amp 3-prong or 5 amp 2-prong, with round pins.
WiFi/Internet Access on tour
WiFi can be found at most accommodations, restaurants and airports, however, the download speed is often slow and many connections limit your data usage. In short, you’ll be able to stay connected with home, but don't expect to watch HD movies in your spare time.
When to go
South Africa is blessed with a mostly mild climate, but different areas will yield different temperatures throughout the year. Summer in South Africa is usually peak season, lasting between November – February, however Easter time (March) is often still considered peak season too. Temperatures range from 25ºC in coastal areas to high 30ºs in inland areas. Cape Town has ideal weather during this time and Durban sports warm beaches and humid air, Johannesburg experiences hot clear days and often an afternoon thunderstorm.
Shoulder season is April and May, as well as September and October. Surprisingly, the weather in Durban is often at its best during this time, and other areas simmer down from their scorching highs. Prices are lower and crowds are smaller. September and October see eruptions of flowers and blooms all around the country.
Winter is beautiful in most parts of the country. Cape Town experiences winter rain and is often a little cold and miserable, but still crisp and beautiful. Because of the warm Indian Ocean, Durban has spectacular weather in winter, often hovering around 20-25ºC with clear blue skies. Inland areas get quite chilly and the odd snowfall is not uncommon (it only lasts for a day though!). Prices are at an all time low and it is an ideal time for game viewing, as the animals are more active in the cooler weather.
Best time to go
Jun-Jul = Safari
Jan-Feb = Beach
With the possible exception of Christmas Day and New Year's Day, most tourist services and attractions are open on South African public holidays. In addition most city shopping centres, restaurants and entertainment venues remain open.
|1 Jan||New Year's Day|
|21 Mar||Human Rights Day|
|30 Mar||Good Friday|
|2 Apr||Family Day|
|27 Apr||Freedom Day|
|1 May||Workers' Day|
|16 Jun||Youth Day|
|9 Aug||National Women's Day|
|24 Sep||Heritage Day|
|16 Dec||Day of Reconciliation|
|17 Dec||Day of Reconciliation Holiday|
|25 Dec||Christmas Day|
|26 Dec||Day of Goodwill|
Visa & Travel docs
Travellers from most Commonwealth countries (excluding New Zealand), most Western European nations, Japan and the USA receive a free, 90-day visitor's permit on arrival. These travellers do not need a visa to enter South Africa. A valid passport is essential with at least two empty pages. You generally will need to show return or onward travel arrangements. Children aged under 18 must show an unabridged birth certificate (showing both parents details).
Some countries do, however, need a visa. Visas are not issued upon entry, they must be attained beforehand. It is advised that you clarify this before you leave, the Department of Home Affairs office has a comprehensive list of countries that do not require visas. http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services/exempt-countries
What to pack
We're generally laid back in South Africa, so no need to haul out your best silks and diamonds when you head to our shores. Here's some clothing advice when in South Africa:
Health & Safety
There are no compulsory vaccinations required to enter South Africa with exception of a yellow fever vaccination if you have been in a yellow fever area within the last 12 months.
The only major health risk you might face in South Africa is malaria, which is confined to small areas in the north-eastern parts of the country. Small pockets of the northern parts of the Kruger National Park fall under this area but the risk here is considered extremely low and it is not always necessary to take anti-malaria tablets. Remember as a precautionary measure to check with your accommodation what is recommended.
South Africa may have high crime statistics, but if you conduct yourself wisely, most tourists enjoy the country without any incident at all. Ensure that you lock away your passports and travel documents in a safe, which is usually provided by your accommodation. Don't flash around valuables and keep an eye on your belongings at all time. Majority of South Africa’s crime is opportunistic petty crime, so if you are vigilant about your belongings you should not have any problem.
South Africa has 3 world-class airports that receive international flights every day; Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Most international airlines will have flights into one or all of these airports daily.
There are numerous budget carriers that offer domestic flights between the major cities for very reasonable rates; this is the fastest and safest way to span large distances, especially between Johannesburg and Cape Town, which is a 2-hour flight.
From the airports there are numerous shuttles and taxis that you can pick up upon arrival, there are also many different car hire options at each airport and in all major cities. Uber is another reliable and affordable option.
Our currency in South Africa is the South African Rand. You can easily convert your currency to rand at a bank or Forex Bureau, the airports and larger towns often have many different Forex options. You can also withdraw from an ATM, banks are available throughout South Africa. Be sure to check what international bank charges you will incur for withdrawals before you arrive. Major credit cards are usually accepted in hotels or restaurants, however, there may be a surcharge. It is advisable to have small amounts of cash for curios and tipping.