When you think of South Africa, safaris and exotic wildlife come to mind, but our members are encouraging travelers to explore six additional reasons to travel to the fascinating destination of South Africa. Africa’s southernmost country offers holidaymakers a diverse selection of experiences within a close proximity, stunning natural beauty, a temperate year-round climate, welcoming local people, a strong current economic value for American tourists, and an unexpected culinary and wine scene.

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Credit: Austin Adventures

Here is just a sample of itineraries from USTOA member tour operators to explore these aspects.

Swain Destinations’ Swain’s Southern Africa itinerary explores the country’s many natural wonders. Guests will enjoy a Cape Peninsula tour, a trip to Victoria Falls, and a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Adventure seekers can white water raft on the Zambezi River and spot the Big Five at Sabi Sands. Tours of South Africa’s most famous cities, Cape Town and Johannesburg also are included in this 12-day trip. Available on select travel dates through December, 19, 2017 from $3,725 per person. www.swaindestinations.com

Leopard

 Credit: Swain Destinations

Ascend to the top of Tabletop Mountain by cable car then hike back down while on the lookout for South African wildlife during Austin Adventures’ Southern Africa – Cape Town to Kruger itinerary. Then guests can bike through the historic town of Stellenbosch stopping for a wine tasting at nearby wine estates. Whale watching, a visit to Nelson Mandela’s maximum-security prison cell, Cape Town’s Green Market Square, and kayaking to Boulder Beach’s colony of African Penguins round out this diverse trip through South Africa. The 11-day itinerary is available year-round from $8,498 per person. www.austinadventures.com

South Africa Tours - Wine Tasting (2)

 Credit: Austin Adventures

Guests on smarTours’ Cape Town & Safari Express can save $500 per person on a nine-day South African vacation. An abundance of free time in Cape Town allows travelers to explore the vibrant city at their own pace. Options include beaches, shopping, taking a cable car to the top of Tabletop Mountain, and a boat ride across Table Bay to Robben Island. Then guests will go on an unforgettable game drive in Kruger National Park to spot the Big Five and other African wildlife. Savings of $500 per person available on the following departures: October 28, 2017, March 3, March 10 and March 24, 2018. www.smartours.com

Travel with a purpose on Collette’s South Africa Impact Tour to Make a Difference itinerary. The nine-day tour gives back to the Knysna Community through a selection of volunteer opportunities in the community and in a local school. Guests also will participate in a Hippo Roller delivery helping make water more accessible to a remote South African village. The trip also includes a cable car ride to the top of Tabletop Mountain, sample of the flavor of the region during a wine tasting in Stellenbosch, and learn the local beat with a lesson on the djembe drums. Available September 1-9, 2017 from $1,349 per person. www.gocollette.com

Adventurous travelers can swim with a great white shark during go-today’s Cape Town Escape with Great White Shark Encounter. The six-day itinerary is centered around the daring encounter and allows for ample free time to explore the vibrant city of Cape Town. Available July – August 2017 from $$1299 per person after $100 per person discount with promo code SUMMER. www.go-today.com

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Credit: go-today

Tauck’s South Africa: An Elegant Adventure 12-day itinerary through South Africa is a Tauck Earth Journey offered in partnership with the nature documentary filmmakers at BBC Earth. During the tour guests will visit Boulders Beach to meet Africa’s indigenous penguins, hear a presentation by a gemologist in Johannesburg discussing the region’s role as one of the world’s leading source of diamonds, enjoy a wine-tasting dinner in the Cape Winelands, and more. This adventure is available year-round from $7,090 per person based on double occupancy. www.tauck.com

Guests looking to experience South Africa’s culinary delights can join Abercrombie & Kent’s South Africa: The Royal Portfolio Edition. The 12-day itinerary includes foraging for mussels with the Birkenhead House’s executive chef in preparation for your four-course gourmet dinner, a vertical tasting of South Africa’s premier Pinot Noirs and a private blending experience. Travelers also will visit a local family-run butchery and sample their traditional dried meat and of course spot the Big Five at Royal Malewane on Thornybush Private Game Reserve and much more. Available September 22-October 3, 2017 from $13,495 per person based on double occupancy. www.abercrombiekent.com

Discover South Africa’s Winelands region, tour the country’s most vibrant cities, and enjoy a full day Peninsula Tour during Goway Travel’s Secrets of the Cape itinerary. Scenic highlights on this trip include Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope, and Robben Island. Guests also will participate in a full day safari to Inverdoon Game Reserve. This 10-day trip is available on departure dates June October 31, 2017. Travelers can save $2,000 per couple on select dates. www.goway.com

Feel the power of Victoria Falls, experience the classic luxury of Rovos Rail, and marvel at three UNESCO World Heritage Sites while on AHI Travel’s Southern Africa – Luxury Safaris, Rovos Rail and Cape Town itinerary. Guests also will have the opportunity for morning and afternoon game drives at Thornybush Nature Reserve, Chobe National Park and Hwange National Park. Now until July 25, 2017, guests can save $500 per person on various 2018 depatures from January-March 2018 and September-October 2018. Available from $6,745 per person including the discount. www.ahitravel.com

South Africa Tours - AHI Travel

 Credit: AHI Travel

Join SITA World Tours on its Affordable South Africa In-depth tour to discover South African favorites like an open-vehicle game drive at the Greater Kruger Park, city tours of Cape Town and Johannesburg, and the famous Cape Peninsula. During the itinerary guests also will feel the energy of the “Rainbow Nation” as they take a cable car to the top of Table Mountain then drive by the Malay Quarter, city center, Company Gardens and Castle of Good Hope. Travelers can book by August 31, 2017 and save $200 per couple. Departure dates available June 28 – December 19, 2017. Prices from $3,175 per person based on double occupancy. www.sitatours.com

Cape-Town-Waterfront

 Credit: SITA World Tours

Adventures by Disney’s 10-day South Africa Destination package. This African adventure gives families a chance to take a three-day safari through the Kapama Game Reserve, hike in the Featherbed Nature Reserve, and more. Guests also can meet the African penguins at the Cape of Good Hope. Departure dates are available from October 7, 2017 to Dec. 22, 2018. Prices start at $7,099 per adult and $6,719 per child. www.adventuresbydisney.com

South Africa Tours - Adventure by Disney

 Credit: Adventures by Disney

Marvel at South Africa’s natural wonders on Globus’ 12-day Splendors of South Africa & Victoria Falls itinerary. Table Mountain, Cape Point Nature Reserve, and Victoria Falls are some of the stunning sites that await guests during this trip. Guests also will visit Bo-Kaap, an area founded by former slaves to learn more about their culture and visit Johannesburg’s unforgettable Apartheid Museum and more. Available January 7 and February 11, 2018. Visit www.globusjourneys.com for pricing information.

Monograms’ South African Sojourn brings travelers on an adventure to some of South Africa’s most iconic sites. Guests will stay in a lodge on a private game reserve while heading out multiple times in search of Africa’s Big Five. Additionally, guests will visit the beautiful Cape Point Nature Reserve home to Cape Point, the southwesternmost point on the continent and Boudlers Beach to see a colony of African penguins. Available for daily departures from October to December 2017 excluding September from $2,399 per person. www.monograms.com

CroisiEurope America’s new ship, African Dream, will be inaugurated December 2017 and will offer a nine-day journey on its Southern Africa: Travel to the Ends of the Earth itinerary. The land, cruise and safari trip will feature land and water safaris, and the opportunity to hear a local storyteller as they entrance guests with the legends of the region. Travelers also will enjoy a traditional dinner under the African skies on Impalila Island. This trip starts at $6,319 per person and is available in December 2017 and various dates throughout 2018. www.croisieuroperivercruises.com

Inspiration awaits guests on African Travel Inc.’s In the Footsteps of Mandela itinerary. The eight-day journey through the vibrant “Rainbow Nation” takes travelers through the history of Nelson Mandela’s South Africa with a collection of moving encounters with the people and places he touched. While exploring Nelson Mandela’s legacy, guests also will see the award-winning museum at Liliesleaf, once a secret nerve center of the liberation movement, along with the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The trip will end with a safari in Kruger Private Reserve. This itinerary is available from $3,095 per person with departure dates throughout 2017. www.africantravelinc.com

Shamwari Game Reserve Guest Experience

 Credit: African Travel

Worldwide Traveler is taking guests on a culinary trip through South Africa on its Wine and Dine in South Africa itinerary. Foodies will enjoy a Cape Malay Cooking Safari before heading to the Winelands Region where they will taste wine from local farms Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Guests also will take a Franschhoek Wine Tram Tour and includes visits to Table Mountain, Robben Island and Kruger National Park. The 13-day adventure is available through December 31, 2017, this culinary trip starts at $1,419 per person land only. www.worldwidetraveler.com

Swim with great white sharks off the South African coast for a bucket list worthy experience during Great Value Vacations’ Coastal Adventure: Shark Cage Diving & Safari. Offering a wide variety of excursions during the 12-night itinerary, guests will visit wineries, stroll through the streets of Cape Town, whale watch and do a shark cage diving tour and safari. This mix of South Africa’s best land and sea activities is available from $3,963 per person for various departure dates throughout 2017. www.greatvaluevacations.com

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 Credit: Great Value Vacations

Cox & Kings, The Americas offers guests a chance to experience the luxurious side of South Africa on its Southern Africa: Winelands, Safari & Falls private journey. Explore Cape Town, set between two oceans and stunning mountains, before setting out on a game drive in Kruger National Park. Guests also will enjoy a private tour of Victoria Falls and a thrilling helicopter flight along the Zambezi River and over the cascades. Guests can save $1,000 per couple on this itinerary for bookings made September 1 – 30, 2017 with travel completed by March 31, 2018. Prices from $7,345 per couple land only. www.coxandkingsusa.com

South Africa Tours - Cox & Kings

 Credit: Cox & Kings, The Americas

Travelers can soak in the natural beauty of South Africa’s most iconic sites during Ritz Tours’ South Africa Highlights & Safari Experience. Guests will enjoy the splendor of Table Mountain, panoramic views of Cape Town and the country’s dramatic coastline. A trip to the Entabeni Private Nature Reserve will showcase the conservatory’s multitude of landscapes including grassy plains, wetlands and ravines. The trip will conclude with a trip to Johannesburg to learn about the city’s history at sites like the Apartheid Museum or Constitution Hill and the Old Fort Prison Complex. This nine-day trip starts at $1,900 per person and is available on departure dates through the end of 2017. www.ritztours.com

South Africa Tours - Ritz Tours

 

Editor’s Note: Information was correct at time of writing. All tours/packages subject to availability. Prices may vary from time of writing, based on currency fluctuations.


Kelley Ferro, travel expert, video journalist and contributor to Tripfilms.com, turns her perceptions of tours upside down while in South Africa. USTOA Members like Swain Destinations provide flexibility, access to hot spots and lesser known hidden gems, and insider knowledge of the best places to sip regional wine, see the best sunset, meet locals and explore natural wildlife… resulting in a customized trip perfectly tailored to meet travelers wants and needs.

For more up close and personal looks at the people and experiences of South Africa, check out these specialized videos from Kelley Ferro on wildlifeluxury travelfood and touring like a local.

Kelley Ferro is a travel expert & video journalist living in NYC. She films her show, Get Lost, around the world–hopping on a plane at least twice a month She is also the executive producer for Tripfilms.com. For more on her travels, follow Kelley’s Facebook page.


by Nina Dietzel, AFAR Ambassador

AFAR’s co-founder Joe Diaz likes to boil ‘traveling like a local’ down to “Get off the tour bus and sit at someone’s kitchen table”. On our first day in South Africa with Collette, that’s just what we did. We got off the bus and visited Alina Mlotshwa’s home in Soweto to have lunch.

Alina’s carport/restaurant

Alina’s carport/restaurant

Alina’s story is quite infectious. She used to take visitors through Soweto, but over time there was too much competition and work became scarce. Soweto was flooded with ‘guides’ taking visitors to the famous Vilakazi Street, but neglected to share Soweto’s vibrant Township life. Alina decided to change that, and began to invite strangers into her home for a more authentic experience.