28 days, 6,000 km through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe
Having completed the epic 24-day Singapore to Burma race and the 10-day Madrid to Marrakesh race, we are now ready to go back in time, change cars, and try our next challenge in Africa. We added one of the most beautiful classic car to our stable for this Classic Safari Race — The 1934 Alvis Speed 20SB only 44 copies of which were ever produced.
This twenty-eight day race starts 9 October 2017 in Cape Town and after traveling through some stunning terrain through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, it ends in Cape Town on 5 November 2017.
Day 1: Cape Town to Clanwilliam 320kms
A relaxed start time sees us leaving Cape Town behind for a few weeks as we head north, keeping as close to the coast as the road allows. We pass through the quaint fishing village of Elands Bay, a wonderful spot for dolphin and whale watching, stopping for a welcome coffee. October is whale watching time so have the camera ready. After experiencing the first of South Africa’s superb gravel roads we head to Muisbosskerm, Lamberts Bay for a fabulous outdoor seafood experience. Voted as one of the world’s ‘Top Ten Seaview’s to Dine For’ by National Geographic, it promises to be a memorable lunch. As we continue onwards, the magnificent Cedarberg Mountains come into view, providing the roads with a fabulous back drop. A short afternoon drive takes us to the Oliphant’s River Valley for our first overnight halt in Clanwilliam.
Day 2: Clanwilliam to Fish River Canyon 650kms
A long day ahead, so we set off early and move northwards eventually following the course of the enormous Orange River. Within a few kilometres of leaving Clanwilliam, we have our first medal test of the day. We stop over in Springbok for lunch, where we should see the incredible transformation which occurs every Spring, with the scrubland exploding into colour from thousands of flowers hidden in the dusty earth, brought to life by winter rains. A truly spectacular sight.
Today is a border day as we cross into Namibia through a quick and efficient border post. We follow the unmapped road across the desert to the Richtersveld National Park. The infamous smooth gravel roads of Namibia make for a great afternoon drive to the Fish River Canyon area. As before when in this area, we will stop for coffee at the Canyon Roadhouse, an amazing American-style café, on our way to tonight’s overnight halt.
Day 3: Fish River Canyon to Sossusvlei 550kms
Today’s route takes in more gravel roads that dip and curve through to lunch at Helmeringhausen with fascinating scenery to enjoy on the way. With a medal test before lunch and one after, it is an action packed day. A stop off at the Helmeringhausen Hotel for lunch; sampling their famous apple cake and browsing in their gift shop, is a must. The fuel station in the main street will be a welcome sight.
The afternoon takes us onto roads that wind through the Namib Desert to our overnight halt, one hour from the famous dunes at Sossusvlei. On the way to Sossusvlei we drive the Zarishoogte Pass, a stunning road which we have used before but well worth another visit.
Day 4: Visit to the Dunes
An early start to be at the Sossusvlei sand dunes to see the memorable sun rise, well worth getting out of bed a bit earlier. You will see Dune 45 which appears in many publicity and advertising shots. As the sun rises, black shadows are cast on the western side of the dune contrasting sharply with the bright sunlight on the eastern side. A phenomenal sight. We are hoping to organise breakfast here for you – a great photo opportunity! Back to the hotel for a relaxed afternoon and to pour over the route for tomorrow.
Day 5: Sossusvlei to Swakopmund 410kms
We leave the dunes behind and continue our journey northwards through the Namib-Naukluft National Park, stopping in Solitaire for lunch. We have more gravel medal sections including the Gaub and Kuiseb Passes as we journey through the lunar landscape of the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
We continue on to the city of Swakopmund where we will be staying in the brand new Strand Hotel. Uniquely located on the iconic and historic Swakopmund Mole and surrounded on three sides by the Southern Atlantic Ocean, the views are incredible. The city has a very German colonial feel about it and is full of great seafood restaurants. A free evening for you to explore the town and indulge in the local delicacies.
Day 6: Swakopmund to Etosha National Park 480kms
Today’s drive see us leaving Swakopmund on the unique salt road along the world famous Skelton Coast towards Henties Bay before we turn north east and back onto the superb Namibian gravel roads. This coast takes its name from the numerous wrecks of ships that the South Atlantic storms have driven onto the beach. You can top up fuel and car provisions in Uis before heading through Damaraland.
The afternoon takes us further north as the gravel road winds its way to the southern edge of Etosha National Park. Tonight we stay in the beautiful Etosha Safari Lodge and eat outside under the stars.
Day 7: Drive through Etosha
Officially a day off for you to experience Etosha National Park for yourselves. The distance today is only 120kms, with no timing. It will take you a minimum of 3 hours to drive to the Eastern gate, so bear that in mind; you can easily lose track of time watching the antics of the elephants around the many watering holes! The park is the best place in Africa to view the endangered Black Rhino; there are about 300 of them here. You will also see elephant, lion, Black Face Impala as well as the other 114 mammals that roam in the park.
Halali, halfway through the park makes a good stop over point for lunch.
Tonight we are staying on the eastern side of the park, in Mokuti Lodge where game drives and a beautiful swimming pool await you.
Day 8: Etosha National Park to Popa Falls 550kms
We leave the park behind us to travel east but do keep an eye out for those elephants on the road today. We have the first medal section in the morning ensuring we make the most of the fabulous gravel roads with a potential second one in the afternoon. Many retail opportunities await you with craft stalls along the route. Today’s gravel roads are wide and as with most of the roads in Namibia they are mainly smooth. You can’t fail to notice the huge baobab trees today, some so huge, they have been hollowed out and lived in. Lunch today is organised for you in a river lodge alongside the Okanvango River, very relaxing……
We stay in Popa Falls this evening with a sundowner out on the sandbanks, overlooking the Falls.
Day 9: Popa Falls to Chobe National Park 432kms
Good roads eat up the kilometres today as we continue our journey east towards Chobe National Park and we cross the border into Botswana. This area really is game park land and you will see many on today’s route, we counted 29. Look out for the beautiful Oryx with their dramatic face markings that roam the fields around.
A medal section in the morning on more gravel takes us through the open plains with their swaying yellow grasses. If you couldn’t stop at previous craft stalls, don’t worry there are more today!
We hope to arrange lunch at the Bezi River Village, which is located on the Zambezi River and famous for its African cuisine.
A short run into Kasane after lunch to the Chobe National Park. Chobe is famous for its elephants and you will see them here in their hundreds. We will stay overnight in the Chobe Game Lodge right on the riverbank, where you watch the elephants enjoying the water while sipping a glass of wine, what could be more relaxed? Boat rides to get closer to the elephants and the crocodiles will complete your evening here.
Day 10: Chobe National Park to Okavango Delta
A relaxed start today as we drive just a few kilometres to the secure parking where you will leave your cars behind and take light aircraft to the Delta. After a short flight, you should be in your lodge by lunchtime giving you the afternoon to relax before taking the early evening game drive.
The group will be split between 3 different lodges in the Delta, each one being equally luxurious. Definitely a time to be spoilt….
Day 11: Rest Day – Okavango Delta
A day at leisure in the lodges. This unique Delta is 15,000 sq kms in size and has a height variation of just two metres. The water flows into the Delta from the Angolan Highlands and never reaches the sea but disappears into the Kalahari or is consumed by animals or plants. During the time of the year we are there, we should see African Wild Dog (one of the world’s rarest carnivores), as well as lion, leopard, buffalo and many antelope species. Each lodge will discuss your personal requirements for game drives when you arrive.
Day 12: Transit day
Another relaxed day today as we take to the air and travel back to Chobe Game Lodge. You will be taken to collect your cars and then drive the short journey for an early finish for the day. For those that didn’t get the opportunity to experience the boat trip, maybe you can do that today. Chobe Game Lodge also has a spa, you can treat yourself to a massage or any other spa treatment. The large swimming pool and waterfall is a wonderful place to relax during the hot afternoon. The waiters are on hand to bring you a refreshment from the bar or you can just doze under the shade of the Natal Mahogany tree. Wonderful!
Day 13: Chobe National Park to Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe 120kms
A short run today to a busy border crossing, taking us into Zimbabwe. A good road will see us at the border by lunchtime, meaning you can have a lie in today or an early morning boat trip. We leave Botswana behind and head east into Zimbabwe and the fabulous colonial building of the Victoria Falls Hotel where a Gala Dinner is planned for you. We stayed here in 2013, but couldn’t resist bringing you back as it is such an iconic place.
Day 14: Day Off – Victoria Falls
The hotel has lots to offer you on this rest day. There is tennis, a large swimming pool, spa treatments and also an 18 hole golf course nearby. If you are interested, you can hire clubs and book in advance. For the more adventurous there is white water rafting along the Zambezi Gorge or maybe you would prefer a helicopter ride over the falls. This is highly recommended as the view of the Falls in full flow from the air is incomparable. The hotel will be able to book excursions for you.
The Victoria Falls are one of the wonders of the world and will not disappoint, ‘the smoke that thunders’ or ‘mosi-o-tunya’ in the local dialect, can be heard and just seen from the hotel gardens. A sheet of falling water falls at 1,000,000 litres a second, a fantastic sight and only a short walk through the hotel gardens to see it.
Day 15: Victoria Falls to Francistown 564kms
After a luxurious breakfast in Victoria Falls Hotel, we leave the best of Zimbabwe behind and cross the border back into Botswana. Fast, tarmac roads take us to Nata for lunch where we have organised a braii in the boma. After lunch we drive past the Makgadikgadi Basin, where the salt pans are the largest in the world; they make a rather desolate scene but with a magnetic attraction. Very few animals live here except the odd wildebeest but the bird-life is prolific, look out for low flying pelicans!
The fast tarmac roads continue to our overnight halt in Francistown, Botswana’s second largest city after Gaborone. Francistown was the centre of southern Africa’s first gold rush and is still surrounded by old and abandoned mines. We have arranged to eat in the beautiful gardens of the Cresta Marang Hotel tonight.
Day 16: Francistown to Sun City 595kms
Today’s the day when we follow in the footsteps of Vasca da Gama and cross the ‘Great, grey-green greasy Limpopo River’ made famous by Rudyard Kipling in his book ‘The Elephant’s Child’. Our journey today allows you to experience the unspoilt African bushveld and a beauty that is breathtaking, the views are so incredible.
There is also the glorious stillness and quiet that comes with real, open bushveld that is so difficult to describe, but once experienced is never forgotten. Visits to this part of South Africa never fail to haunt, and give one a taste for open space and grasslands, unbeatable sunsets and the sounds of the African bush. This is Africa at its best.
After crossing the quick and efficient border back into South Africa, we take to the gravel roads through Waterberge National Park on our way to tonight’s hotel and another first for the Classic Safari, Palace of the Lost City in Sun City. Set in 25 hectares of botanical jungle and surrounded by rocky mountains, it is part of the Leading Hotels of the World chain. Another 5 star experience.
Day 17: Sun City to Misty Hills 173kms
A lazy start this morning to enjoy a relaxed breakfast in a superb setting and then a visit to the Pilanesberg National Park. Less than an hour away from Sun City, the setting of the Park is in the crater of a long extinct volcano from some 1300 million years ago. Pilanesberg is one of the largest volcanic complexes of its kind in the world. Its rare rock types and structure make it a unique geological feature. You can relax, park up for a while and enjoy the game viewing before a short journey to Misty Hills. You should see the ‘Big Five’ and a wide variety of rare and common species like the brown hyena, the fleet-footed cheetah, the majestic sable, as well as giraffe, zebra, hippo and crocodile, to mention but a few. The route today allows time for a medal section around Lichtenberg before finishing our day enjoying the delights of the Sandton race circuit.
Day 18: Misty Hills to Cathedral Peak 443kms
A longer drive today as we head for the Drakensberg Mountains. We leave the Misty Hills behind and take to the quiet roads, avoiding the traffic around Johannesburg and Soweto. We keep to the gravel roads all morning and then head to Heilbron for lunch. A medal section through Oliviershook Pass after lunch and then onwards to the glorious Golden Gate Highlands Park, so named because of the sun reflecting off the enormous sandstone cliffs. You cannot fail to be impressed by the soaring landscape you will see today; lots of photo opportunities for you. Tonight we stay at an old favourite, The Cathedral Peak Hotel, nestling in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains, the hotel boasts one of Africa’s most comprehensive buffets and has super friendly staff. The crew of the film ‘Zulu’ stayed here when filming, so definitely a special place.
Day 19: Cathedral Peak to Phinda Game Reserve 433kms
With the Drakensberg Mountains in our rear view mirror we continue our journey on quiet gravel roads to the historic town of Ladysmith. A two medal section day today, one before we stop for lunch at Isandlwana and one in the Rorke’s Drift area. This historic region was the scene of a massive defeat for the British Army at the hands of the Zulus in the nineteenth century. The only time an entire British regiment was wiped out with only a few escaping to Rorke’s Drift. You cannot fail to imagine the Zulus lined up above you on the ridges of the hills. A stop over at the Rorke’s Drift museum and then on to our first sight of the Indian Ocean as we arrive at the stunning game reserve of Phinda. We are planning to stay in Phinda Forest Lodge, set in a rare and beautiful sand forest, the glass walls of Phinda Forest Lodge offer a sweeping view of one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. Floor to ceiling windows invite the forest in but the dense canopy provides privacy. It really is a stunning place.
Day 20: Rest Day – Phinda Game Reserve
A day of game drives, relaxing and of being totally spoilt. Enjoy……
Day 21: Phinda Game Reserve to Umhlanga 281kms
We leave the game reserve behind after a leisurely breakfast and continue towards the coast line of the Indian Ocean. Our drive today follows the beautiful coast for most of the day, dipping inland for a medal section before we stop for lunch in Richard’s Bay. Being back on the seafront, there are some fabulous seafood restaurants in town. This area is known as ‘The Dolphin Coast’ because of the frequent sightings of bottlenose dolphins playing in the Indian Ocean waves.
Tonight’s hotel is the beautiful Oyster Box, overlooking the blue sea of the Ocean, the ultimate in colonial charm & style.
Day 22: Rest Day – Umhlanga
Today you can enjoy all that the Oyster Box has to offer, maybe a Spa Treatment, a round of golf or a spot of dolphin watching from one of the bars overlooking the Ocean? You can bathe in one of the glorious pools while sipping a cocktail, the choice is yours….
Day 23: Umhlanga to Port St Johns 451kms
The road to Port St John hugs the coastline as we pass through many seaside towns. We go through the town of Margate, stopping for lunch. As we head towards Port St Johns we arrive at the area known as the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape and the scenery is mouthwatering, boasting some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the country. Port St Johns lies at the mouth of the Mzimvubu River, a river flowing through an impressive gorge known as the “Gates of St John” into an estuary on the Indian Ocean. On both sides of the river ravine are high sandstone mountain peaks that can’t fail to impress even the most ardent traveller.
Day 24: Port St Johns to Cradock 461kms
Our route today takes us inland with a completely different flavour of South Africa. Queenstown, named after Queen Victoria is a pleasant town where you can refuel both you and the cars. Very quickly you will realise the importance of the railway here as there are many steam engines on display throughout the town. After lunch and after travelling on good roads, we arrive in the small Karoo town of Tarkastad, very close to where the Battle of Elands River (1901) was fought during the Second Boer War. Our destination for tonight is Cradock, a firm favourite of the Classic Safari. Our hotel, for those that haven’t been here before, is 30 Karoo styled houses with Dutch gables, lovingly restored to their former glory. The houses occupy an entire street, at the end of which is the Victoria Hotel, also lovingly restored. All of this managed by a remarkable woman who is personally responsible for the success of this unique place. Your room key tonight will fit the door to one of the cottages in the street. Tonight we may be lucky to have the kitchen choir sing for us while we eat in the restaurant of the Victoria Hotel.
Day 25: Cradock to Plettenberg Bay 532kms
Within half an hour of leaving our unusual hotel in Cradock, we have our first medal section over the Swaershoek Pass. The road is an exquisite winding mountain road with tight hairpin bends, a real challenge for you. We continue on through the Great Karoo, a hauntingly beautiful semi desert covering a total of 400,000 square kilometres. The scenery is very dramatic caused by volcanic action 1.8 million years ago; a great drive. We head south to the Western Cape, avoiding the large city of Port Elizabeth to arrive in Plettenberg Bay via the coast road. The Bay, known locally as Plett, lies on the famous Garden Route and just south of the Garden Route National Park. Our hotel tonight is the Plettenberg, a stunning location right on the headland.
Day 26: Plettenberg Bay to Hermanus 525kms
A longer day today so we set off a little earlier and drive through the Garden Route National Park and head inland for a while. We pass through the area of Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the World and drive the Swartberg Pass. This is one of South Africa’s finest mountain passes created in the 1890’s by 200 convicts and a lot of gunpowder! After lunch in Barrydale, we continue on to one of the highlights of the trip, Hermanus. The town, originally called Hermanuspietersfontein, (shortened as the name was too long for the postal service) is famous for southern right whale watching. As we will be there at the right time of the year, we will certainly see them. Our hotel tonight, the Marine Hotel, is ideally placed for you to watch the whales while you sip your pre dinner cocktail.
Day 27: Hermanus to Franschoek 164kms
A relaxed start to the day and a chance for more whale-watching before we drive closer to Cape Town and stay overnight in Franschoek. Our route takes us around the beautiful False Bay and the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. From the road you can see the large cliffs plunging into the water, a very scenic drive. We pass through the charming town of Grabouw, where the soft drink Appeltiser was created. The area is famous for its fruit growing and we drive past many kilometres of orchards. Founded in 1688 by French Huguenots, Franschoek, one of the oldest towns in South Africa, nestles in a rich and fertile valley between glorious towering mountains, right in the beautiful Heart of the Cape Winelands. The wine lovers amongst you can stop and sample some of the wines on the route today. Maybe a case or two will find its way into the car? Le Franschoek Hotel awaits you.
Day 28: Franschoek to Cape Town 193 kms
We take the coastal road into Cape Town and drive under the iconic Table Mountain straight through to the Cape of Good Hope. The Cape is a magnificent place and will not disappoint. The ride up the funicular at the Cape is well worthwhile just to experience the stunning views of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans below. A fitting place to end our adventure. We drive back into Cape Town with plenty of time to prepare for the evenings Gala Dinner in the One & Only Hotel. The trophies are waiting….
Will start as we get closer to race day.