Wildlife of the Cape and Kalahari
July 23, 2021 - August 12, 2021£950 – £3995
On this trip you will not see lions and elephants but we will see a different top predator and another truly giant mammal as we go cage diving with great white sharks and whale watching for southern right whales. Exploring many different habitats on this tour we will find wildlife at home in the shallow rocky waters of the Southern African coast, animals from the open ocean who are only coming into the bay for food or protection, animals that live on the sandy beaches and rocky cliffs of the Cape, plants and animals that make up one of the five floral kingdoms of the world the unique and endemic Fynbos and also the rare and unusual species that inhabit the dry grasslands and rocky escarpments of the zone between the Karoo to the south and the Kalahari to the north. If successful we could be among the first people (if not the only people) to see great white sharks and aardvarks in the same trip!
All in all this dedicated and comprehensive wildlife tour of some unusual South African ecosystems that we hope will have you falling in love with the other side of safari holidays in South Africa. The whole of Southern Africa has many hidden secrets and much more than the Big Five and we hope to showcase some of these highlights throughout this tour.
Top Animals on Tour
Southern Right Whale
This morning you will be met at the airport by your guide and taken south. The drive will fringe the city of Cape Town and head towards False Bay. The drive will take you past a section of the Table Mountain National Park and as well as having views of the iconic Table Mountain (if the skies are clear) as it usually has the ‘table-cloth’ on it during the afternoons; you could see Cape mountain zebra and black wildebeest grazing on the national parks grasslands, just on the side of the highway. Unfortunately being a highway we would not be able to stop, but we should see these species again on the trip. Heading past the city you will start to see the sea, this is False Bay, the home of the famous ‘jumping’ sharks. The bay is the largest in South Africa and is fringed by Aghalus Point on the east side (Africa’s most southerly point) and Cape Point on the west side. It is Cape Point and the notorious Cape of Good Hope that took many lives in the colonial era and up until today (the famous Skeleton Coast of Namibia is just north of here and responsible for shipwrecks even today). When we descend towards the bay we will see some of the small communities that are dotted along the coast of False Bay. Fishoek, Muizenberg, Kommeije and Simonstown are the main ones. They were all once small fishing villages that are now hotspots for the rich and glamorous to live (such as Simonstown and Kommeije) or are thriving backpacker and surfer towns such as Fishoek and Muizenberg. We will head to Simonstown, this is the largest harbour in the bay and also home to the largest South African naval base, which when you see the small size of it makes you realise that the South African navy is not a global force. The town is base of our cage diving operations and also the most picturesque and conveniently located for many excursions to sites around Cape Town and Cape Point. After checking in the rest of the day will be free to rest and relax.
False Bay & Surrounds
Our activities for the next week or so are heavily dependent on the weather, unfortunately the best time for great white shark hunting is also the winter. Whilst rare it is not unheard for storms to come through the Cape and disrupt the shark boats for a day. However you will receive a full refund for the shark diving for any trip that doesn’t head out due to the weather and with a week dedicated to this and 10 different trips on the boat planned we should have plenty of time on the boat and get the shots we are after. So the order of the activities listed here may vary depending on the weather, but the activities mentioned (other than the shark trips) will all be done as they are less weather dependant and we will be able to do them. Even if they are not done in the exact order mentioned. So scheduled for today is a morning trip to Seal Island and its resident 64,000 Cape fur seals and their 100 or so toothy neighbours. We will meet the crew at 7:00am sharp, they can and will leave without us if we are late because the best breaching and predation events occur at first light. The island is located around 7km offshore and on a very clear day it is just visible from shore. It takes around 45 minutes to get to the island and the sunrise over the bay is spectacular. Along the way it is possible to see southern right whales, pods of dolphins (dusky dolphins, common bottlenose dolphins, short-beaked common dolphins as well as (rarely) orca (we will be praying not to see orca as they are the only predator of great white sharks and when they have been seen around here and other aggregation sites around the world the sharks disappear for a few days to avoid them)), as well as African penguins and of course the seals. The bird life around the bay is also spectacular with Cape gulls, kelp gulls, Hartlaub’s gulls, sooty shearwaters, various petrels, cormorants and the occasional albatross all possibly sighted. This morning only Martin and Derek will be visiting the island, with Sally staying in Simonstown. Once we reach the island we will first of all scan the waters and particularly the ‘gauntlet’ which is a narrow channel under the water which is used by the sharks to launch most of their vertical ambushes. Whilst predations occur all around the island and up to around 100m offshore from the island, most occur just off the southern tip. This is where the underwater topography is perfect for ambushes and the seals seem to aggregate before heading off to the deeper water. At first we just watch the natural predations and try our best to predict which of the many seals will be targeted. As the sun rises the amount of attacks decreases, with the sun higher in the sky the seals can see deeper and so can spot the sharks below easier. At this point (when conditions are good) we will tow a decoy seal behind the boat. This entices the sharks to launch a breach attack on the decoy and as you only have one target to focus on you have a much higher chance of capturing a breach with your camera. Once we have done this and hopefully the sharks have been cooperative, we will spend the rest of the morning cage diving. The cage is thrown over the side and harnessed to the boat at the surface. A chum slick is created and hopefully the sharks start to come to boat and cage. Once in the wetsuit and with the regulator (it isa SCUBA regulator, but as you will not be ‘diving’ no experience is needed, you will just be standing in the cage with your head a foot of so beneath the surface and breathing regularly through the regulator) you will take it in turns to get into the cage to come face to face with the sharks in their natural habitat. Seeing the sharks underwater is the best way to experience these incredible predators. Watching them effortlessly glide back and forth outside the cage, emerging from the blue gloom and disappearing again is awe inspiring and looking into their solid black eyes is as haunting as it is magical. The turns inside the cage will be around 15 minutes each before climbing back out of the cage (allowing someone else to go in) and warming up. This will continue until around midday, when we will head back to the harbour. Once back at the harbour we will go back to the guest house to meet Sally, freshen up, shower and change. Afterwards we will head around the point to Cape Point National Park, the drive into the park will take us around some of the point and the views are just spectacular. Chacma baboons are not uncommon along the way and once we enter the park we will be in the Fynbos, this is one of the 5 floral kingdoms in the world and when you consider some of the floral kingdoms are Paleo-Arctic-temperate-deciduous forest and span the entire world, the fact that the western cape of South Africa has one of its own you realise the importance of this ecosystem. Unfortunately during the winter the fynbos will not be flowering but the wildlife here will still be around. Inside the coastal park we could see ostrich, Cape Mountain zebra, eland, endemic bontebok, rhebok, chacma baboons as well as wealth of bird life. We will go to the visitor centre today and have lunch here before heading up to the Cape Point lighthouse. We will also explore some of the park and get out and walk through the Fynbos and visit some beaches, the endemic bontebok are beautiful and usually found around the beaches, there are also a couple of beaches where spotted-gully sharks can be spotted from the beach if we are lucky. After spending the afternoon here we will head back to Simonstown and have dinner.
False Bay & Surrounds
This morning we will all depart for Seal Island like yesterday and the routine on the boat will be the same as described above. On our return to Simonstown today we will have lunch in the town and then head the short distance to the largest African penguin colony in the world and also possibly the most accessible penguin colony (of any species) in the world. You will start to see penguins as we drive into the car park and even before we get into the official entrance you could have seen dozens of the little critters. The walk bold as brass right past people and between the cars, they seem to be completely oblivious to the presence of people and vehicles. These traits make them very good photography subjects as they will allow you to get as close as you wish but bad when they try and cross roads and several of killed on the roads every year. We will spend an afternoon with these adorable little birds, they will be nesting at this time of year and so you can observe the male and female mating rituals and little beak slapping dances they perform when they greet each other from another fishing excursion. They also tussle with each other; each penguin is after the perfect next burrow and the best vegetation to line their burrow with. This causes a conflict that are usually decided by who brays the loudest, in fact the noise can be so loud that it is clear where they get their other common name from, the Jackass penguin. As we explore the colony you will also see some penguins coming back to shore from a day fishing as well as many playing in the surf zone, they are predated on by dolphins, seals and of course the multitude of sharks in the bay including the great whites too. Also living around the colony are rock hyraxes, they can be seen around Cape Point too but they are very easy subjects here as they are very used to people. Afterwards we will have a relaxing evening with dinner at a restaurant in Simonstown.
False Bay & Surrounds
This morning Derek and Martin will depart on another morning cage diving excursion (following the same pattern as the last couple of days) with Sally staying ashore for the morning. Then on our return to the harbour, we will have around 20 minutes turn around before we head back out for the afternoon shark trip. We will arrive back around 12:45 and we have to be ready depart at 13:15 sharp, so Martin will quickly go and collect Sally from the guesthouse as Derek waits at the harbour. The afternoon shark trips are very similar to the morning ones however there are very few if any predations during the afternoons and so we will be more focused on cage diving and surface viewing. Even when not in the cage the shark viewing is wonderful, the skilled crew will lead the sharks towards the boat using the bait and allow for the sharks to get close enough that you feel like you’re in the water with them. Whether you are in the cage, watching from the boat as they swim past or scanning the horizon for natural predations (mostly in the morning) the shark experience here in False Bay with the largest predatory fish and one of the largest predators in the world is the best in the world. We will come back to the harbour at around 16:45 and from here we will head to the guest house for a rest and relaxing evening and dinner.
False Bay & Surrounds
This morning we will all once again go on the morning shark trip. Once we get back to Simonstown we will change and freshen up before travelling into the city of Cape Town, we will not go deep into the city centre but instead to the most iconic feature of South Africa’s most beautiful city, Table Mountain. We will drive half way up and then take a cable car to the summit. We will pray for good weather and a clear summit, however it is very common for the ‘table cloth’ to be on the mountain. This may sound quaint but it is a cloud, however even if the views from the top are not fantastic the landscape on the top is well worth going to see. The cable car will take us to the top and from here we will have an explore of the strange rock formations and also if the weather permits enjoy the great views out over the city and to the old penal colony of Robben Island. There is some wildlife here too, Cape grass birds, Cape Sugar birds, southern rock agamas, plated lizards and possibly klipspringers can all be seen on the top of the mountain. We will have lunch on the top and after exploring the summit go back down and back to Simonstown for our dinner.
False Bay & Surrounds
Today will see all of us go out on the shark boat in the morning and then just Derek and Martin in the afternoon, with Sally staying in Simonstown. The shark boat trips in both the morning and afternoon are described on the previous days and today will be no different.
False Bay & Surrounds
This morning we will all have the morning shark diving trip and then in the afternoon we will go back into Cape Town and this time to the Victoria & Albert Docks. These iconic docks is one of the nicest parts of Cape Town and also the departure point for the Robben Island ferry. This afternoon we will have a trip over to the island, this was the prison where many black activists were incarcerated during apartheid. This is not a wildlife excursion (although African penguins and introduced springbok can be easily seen on the island), but it is not possible to understand South Africa without understanding what happened on this island and what it was like for people during the apartheid era. Your guides around the island will be former prisoners who lived here, this allows for a wonderful insight into what life was really like here. You will get told about the history of the island and also visit the prison (seeing Nelson Mandela’s actual cell and belongs as they were when we was here) and the limestone mines where many of the prisoners worked until they dropped and went blind with the glare of the sun reflected back from the white rocks. When we return on the ferry back to the V&A docks we will either have dinner in one of the dockland restaurants or drive back to Simonstown and have dinner there (depending on the time).
False Bay & Surrounds
Today will be our last day on the shark boat and this morning just Derek and Martin will go out, then in the afternoon we will all head out for the second trip. The activities on board will once again be the same as described on previous days and we will have dinner in a restaurant in Simonstown.
This morning we will have a relaxed and leisurely start and after breakfast depart eastwards along the coast. The journey today will take us around False Bay and past the Agulhas Point which is the most southerly point of Africa and then onto Hermanus. The drive will only take around 2 hours and once we arrive we will check into the accommodation and have some lunch in one of the nearby resturants. Hermanus is an old colonial town that is now one of the most picturesque bay towns in Africa, it is also the premier land-based whale watching destination in the world and after lunch we will go and see if we can see of the southern right whales that entire the bay in June. They spend the Austral winter here, which is far warmer than their usual home in the Antarctic waters furthe south. They come here to rest, mate, calve and rear their young so there is a chance you can see some incredible behaviour whilst here. Sometimes the whales can be seen only a few meters away from the cliffs. So it is the cliffs that stretch from once side of the town to the other that will be our destination this afternoon and we hope that the whales are cooperative. We will have dinner in another restauant and relax before another morning on the water tomorrow.
This morning we will depart for Hermanus New Harbour for 08:30am, after checking with the boat operator we will depart at 9am. The boat trips last between 1.5 – 3 hours depending on travelling time to the whales but the time spent with the whales will be the same. This purpose built boat that we will be on is allowed to travel up to 50m towards the whales and then we hope that the whales want to come and approach us. The international whale watching guidelines usually only allow boats to approach whales to 100m but due to the way that this boat is made and the modified engine etc has enabled the skipper to get a 50m permit. However it is very likely that the whales will approach us and allow us to get some very nice close up views away. As well as the southern right whales we will look out for Cape fur seals, African penguins, various marine birds including shearwaters, petrels and skuas as well as the elusive resident Bryde’s whale, humpback whales and various dolphin species including common bottlenose-dolphins, long-beaked common dolphins and dusky dolphins. Once we return to the harbour we will have lunch and then head to Stanford (around 25 minutes from Hermanus) and here we will have a private Cessna flight out over the bay. This will be one hour and we hope to see the bay, surrounding countryside and the whales in a completely new way. The aircraft is perfectly set up for photographers with a removable door offering unobstructed views from a stable, smooth platform. I hope that you will be the first amongst your group of photographer friends to get aerial whale photographs of this kind. After the flight we will drive back to Hermanus and have our dinner here, and in the evening you are free to relax on your own balcony overlooking the bay and get ready for another morning on the water and another chance to see the largest breeding animals in Africa once again.
This morning we would have the same whale watching trip as yesterday and then afterwards have lunch. This afternoon we will be met at our accommodation by Percy and Dave who have organised a bird watching tour for us. This 4 hour afternoon trip will take us along the coast and into the fynbos in search of some of the 350 plus species that have been recorded from here. We will hope particularly for blue cranes, Cape sugarbirds, Cape rock-jumper, Cape siskin, Victorin’s wabler, orange-breasted sunbird, Cape weaver, Greater double-collared sunbird, Cape rock thrush and many other species. Species found only around Hermanus are potea seed-eater, Agulhus long-billed lark and the Cape clapper lark and we will be keen to find these species. On completion of this afternoon excursion we will have our dinner and retire after another full day on the Western Cape of South Africa.
Hermanus / Cape Town
This morning we will have our final morning whale watching trip out into the bay. Afterwards we will go back to the accommodation and pack up. We will then leave to collect Joyce from Omrus River, once we have collected Joyce we will have lunch together and then carry on to Cape Town. Once here we will check into our accommodation and have the rest of the day to rest and relax.
Witsand Wildlife Reserve
Today we will leave the hotel early as our flight is at 07:10am from Cape Town to Upington, once we have arrived here we will meet our local naturalist guide and be taken to our accommodation. Witsand game reserve is covered with white and red Kalahari sand dunes and his home to over 150 species of birds and several intriguing mammals. Protected since 1993 the area is an important site for many Kalahari species that now battle with farmers for space in the once vast Kalahari ecosystem. We will spend whatever time we have here (after arriving) this afternoon exploring some of the reserve, the important bird species here include pygmy falcons, kori bustards, secretary birds, crimson-breasted bouboul and three species of sandgrouse. We will also be looking for and spending time with gemsbok, springbok, common duiker, steenbok, red hartebeest, South African ground squirrels and the endearing meerkats. After dinner we will go out with a spotlight in search of some of the rarer animals in Africa. The ground pangolin has been seen here on occasion and whilst it is very rare this is probably our best chance to see one of the most elusive species in the whole of Africa. Also here and that can be seen at night are aardvarks, South African crested porcupines, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, Cape fox, South African springhare and various species of owls.
Witsand Wildlife Reserve
Today is a full day exploring the reserve; as well as the range of mammals we will hopefully see some of the important bird species here include pygmy falcons, kori bustards, secretary birds, crimson-breasted bouboul and three species of sandgrouse. But of course our focus will be spending time looking for mammals, particularly gemsbok, springbok, common duiker, steenbok, red hartebeest, South African ground squirrels and the endearing meerkats. Then after dinner when it is dark we will go out with a spotlight in search of some of the rarer animals in Africa. The ground pangolin has been seen here on occasion and whilst it is very rare this is probably our best chance to see one of the most elusive species in the whole of Africa. Also here and that can be seen at night are aardvarks, South African crested porcupines, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, Cape fox, South African springhare and various species of owls.
Marrick Game Farm
This morning we will make our way from the edge of the Kalahari ecosystem and through the Karoo and towards the town of Kimberley. Our destination is Marrick Game Farm, once here we will have an afternoon game drive around the 3,000 hectare property. Once a functioning dairy and sheep farm it has been managed as an eco-tourism property for the last 15 years and the grounds sustain a range of ecosystems including savannah, rocky scrub and thick thorny bushveld. This range of habitats is one of the reasons for the array of wildlife here and whilst on our game drive this afternoon we will hope to see greater kudu, common eland, blesbok, gemsbok, black wildebeest, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, steenbok, common duiker, Burchell’s zebra, mountain reedbuck, waterbuck, impala, common warthog and springbok. There are also giraffe here which represent one of the few herds of giraffe in the Kalahari. The birdlife is also spectacular here with the blue crane, African fish eagle and double-banded courser all highlights. After dinner once again we will have an night safari and here we have the best chance of seeing an aardvark, they are not very rare and are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa but are hardly ever seen. We will also try for South African springhare, aardwolf, Smith’s red rock rabbit, South African crested porcupine and bat-eared foxes.
Marrick Game Farm
Today we will be a full day exploration the various ecosystems around Kimberley in search of as much wildlife was possible. We will leave Marrick and visit some nearby locations for known wildlife before returning to the farm for spotlighting. Many of the species listed on the previous days will be our targets today and then after dark once again we will try and find the rare and elusive nocturnal species.
Mokala National Park
Today we will travel from Marrick Game Farm to Mokala National Park, this is one of South Africa’s newest national parks and is home to both white and black rhinos, African buffalo, black wildebeest, klipspringer, blue wildebeest, common warthog, giraffe, mountain reedbuck, gemsbok, roan & sable antelopes, meerkat, Cape grey mongoose, slender mongoose, black-backed jackal and many other diurnal species. On the way to the park we will visit Kamfer’s Dam which is one of only 4 lesser flamingo breeding sites in the world. Then after dark we will have a night safari and look for brown hyena, Cape fox, African wild cat, caracal, small spotted genet, Southern African hedgehog and possibly aarvark too.
Mokala National Park
Today we will spend the day exploring the Mokala National Park and try and find as many species as possible and also have another night drive.
De Aar Game Farm
This morning will be our last game drive around Mokala National Park before we leave and head to De Aar and the Karoo Experience. This rustic country house is set in the Karoo, another unique South African habitat and home to many species. The Karoo and Kalahari are very similar habitats and we will spend the afternoon and evening looking for wildlife. Many of the larger diurnal species will be the same as we have seen elsewhere but we have chosen these places to visit based on recent sightings of some of the more unusual species such as black-footed cats, aardvarks and possibly pangolins. So we will have a night safari as well to see if we can find any of these rarer species. We may also find Southern African hedgehog, Cape fox, red rock rabbits or smaller species like the very unusual elephant shrews that also inhabit this arid habitat.
De Aar Game Farm
Today we will spend the time exploring the property and surrounding countryside including visiting nearby parks, reserves and other known wildlife areas that have been researched by our local naturalist guide. We will come back to the Karoo Experience for our evening meal and last night in the Kalahari / Karoo of South Africa.
Today you will have one last morning game drive around De Aar game farm before departing for the town of Kimberley. You can either arrange your flight to depart from here in the late afternoon or evening today or we can arrange an overnight here for you.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport in time to catch your return flight home.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.
Cape Town has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate with mild, moderately wet winters and dry, warm summers. Winter, which lasts from the beginning of June to the end of August, may see large cold fronts entering for limited periods from the Atlantic Ocean with significant precipitation and strong north-westerly winds. Winter months in the city average a maximum of 18°C (64°F) and minimum of 8.5°C (47°F). Total annual rainfall in the city averages 515mm (20.3in). Water temperatures range greatly, between 10°C (50°F) on the Atlantic Seaboard, to 22°C (72°F) in False Bay.
July is the second rainiest month of the year and the occasional storm blowing in from the Atlantic is not uncommon.
The Western Cape is also climatologically diverse, with many distinct micro- and macroclimates created by the varied topography and the influence the surrounding ocean currents. These are the warm Agulhas Current which flows southwards along South Africa’s east coast, and the cold Benguela Current which is an upwelling current from the depths of the South Atlantic Ocean along South Africa’s west coast. Thus climatic statistics can vary greatly over short distances. The Karoo has an arid to semi-arid climate with cold, frosty winters and hot summers with occasional thunderstorms.
In general when the sun is out the days should be warm and plesant but expect chilly weather and rain during the tour, especially when on the water.
Everything mentioned in the itinerary is included. Including three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). There will be an amount of bottled water (approx 1ltr) available for each guest each day. We have our own private air conditioned vehicle to be driven by your local guide. You get the services of the zoologist escort as well as the local naturalist guide included in the fee.
All our excursions including shark diving (cage diving) boat trips, whale watching boat trips, scenic whale watching flight, sighsteeing trips, jeep safaris, guided walks, night safaris and park entrance fees are also included.
We recommend you bring along your own binoculars or spotting scope as well as appropriate clothing; which should be clothes for both warm & dry days and chilly nights and cool morning safaris. Comfortable walking shoes are a must. Insect repellent is handy but not essential. Any medication, books or other items of a personal nature is of course up to you to bring along. Oh and please bring plenty of memory cards or film for your camera. Also do not forget sun cream, sun hat and sun glasses as the sun can be strong here during the day.
We provide a comprehensive species list of all the vertebrates present in the areas we are visiting as well as some of the best field guides and reference books for the areas we are visiting. There is usually a spare pair of binoculars but in a group of 4-6 people these do not stretch too far. Spotlights for night drives are also included. Camera Traps will also be used to try and capture hard to see wildlife in the dead of night. Also for the cage diving all wetsuits, snorkel, mask etc are included. If you would like to bring your own you are welcome but all equipment needed is provided.
Nearly everything is included in this tour. The only things not included are international flights, travel insurance (contact us for more information one what is required from your insurance policy), any food bought outside of the three main meals, drinks outside of any offered with the meals and the bottled water provided each day and any items of a personal nature such as souvenirs and tips. Any applicable departure taxes and not included (but maybe included in the cost of your flights). Please check before departure.
As we are based in Manchester we recommend flights from Manchester International Airport
We recommend Emirates or KLM as good airlines for flights to Johannesburg; and then from there we recommend South African Airways for internal flights to Upington. One of the best websites to search for the best fares is to and from Johannesburg and Upington is www.opodo.co.uk; who are IATA accredited this is a link direct to their site. Please check our terms and conditions regarding booking flights.
Please contact us for more information about flights and we can provide you with a link direct to the flights from another supplier; in which case you only have to enter the passenger information and payment details. By using the above link you will leave our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for the content on the site.
Visas and Health Information
All UK passport holders and most other nationalities are required to have a visa for South Africa. However these are given out free of charge on arrival at the airport. Usually 30 days is granted but please confirm this as less if sometimes given. The easiest way to find information is by visiting www.southafrica.info (be aware that this link leaves our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for information on the site).
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to visit India, but it is recommended to be protected against TB, polio, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A as well as taking a form of malaria prophylactics. Please consult your GP about your individual requirements for visiting South Africa as soon as you have decided on this trip.
Reviews of this Holiday
Sally Howes - Essex, UK
Mr. Howes - Colchester, UK
Wesley & Sharon - Chippenham