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Spotting the Big Five, hiking and dining in Cape Town and taking in Victoria Falls are among the must-do activities in South Africa and Zambia. As for Southern Africa’s accommodations, Table Bay Hotel, Palace of the Lost City at Sun City and the Royal Livingstone are among the most luxurious. Now, travelers can experience it all on “Route of the African Sun,” a 10-day trip that packages the properties and destinations.
Offered by Sun International in partnership with South African Airways Vacations, the package includes flights, optional sightseeing tours, luxury accommodations and daily breakfast. In each destination, guests learn about local culture and history through authentic Southern African cuisine, wildlife encounters and visits to historic sites.
After arriving in Cape Town, guests should sign up for a full-day tour of the Cape Peninsula. In Hout Bay, a cruise near Seal Island and a tour of Mariner’s Wharf are good sightseeing choices — flora and fauna are abundant along the waterfront. More adventurous travelers might enjoy Chapman’s Peak Drive, a winding mountain road with stunning views of the ocean below. The road will take drivers to the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost part of Africa. Be sure to stop at Boulders Beach, where it’s possible to frolic and sunbathe around friendly African penguins.
A visit to the Cape wine region for wine tasting is another requisite activity. There are hundreds of estates in the area that offer wine tasting sessions, and each estate presents a custom experience, such as the chocolate and wine tasting at the Waterford estate or the champagne and marshmallow tasting at JC Le Roux. Be sure to try a glass of Pinotage, a signature South African red wine that is a cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut. Afterwards, visit the family-friendly Iziko South African Museum, where fossils, marina exhibits and a “whale well” full of whale skeletons suspended from the ceiling are on display. From there, it’s an easy two-block walk to the famous Greenmarket Square, a flea market where original souvenirs like Springbok purses and African jewelry can be purchased.
The major attraction in Cape Town is Table Mountain, which was recently crowned one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, alongside the Amazon Rainforest and Ha Long Bay. Ride the cableway up the mountain and enjoy 360-degree views of the city as the cable car spins. A two-hour hike to the top is another option, and guests can also choose to rappel to the bottom.
Robben Island is another tourist destination, located off the coast of Cape Town. The site was popular long before the passing of Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned here for 26 years. Tours are led by ex-prisoners who tell personal stories as they guide visitors around the island.
The next stop on the tour is The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City, a luxury property that could be described as a playground reminiscent of the Lost City of Indiana Jones. The two days spent here are at leisure, and guests are free to take advantage of the property’s numerous amenities and activities, including a massive wave pool, horseback riding, a reptile park, clay pigeon shooting and a man-made ocean that offers jet skiing, power boating, parasailing and waterskiing.
“The only downside to the resort is having so many options in front of you to experience,” said Henri Basil Hearne, communications manager at Sun City Resort.
I started my Sun City adventure at the Maze of the Lost City, a man-made maze that covers a half acre of land and offers stunning views of the resort. I entered the maze and was struck at the difficulty to find the end. However, I was rewarded at the conclusion with a small bar offering several selections of South African beer.
Another must in this region is a visit to nearby Pilanesberg National Park, where travelers can participate in an elephant encounter and go on a game drive. My favorite part of the elephant encounter was snapping pictures while standing next to the African savannah elephants and feeding them snacks. Game drives can be booked at Sun City’s Entertainment Center, and guests will be thrilled as they ride and observe the Big Five: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.
During calving season (November through February), you will see some of the most touching moments, including baby elephants trailing their mothers or gangly ungulates finding their footing.
The final portion of the trip is spent in Zambia at the British-themed Royal Livingstone Hotel, where zebras, monkeys and giraffe roam free. Be sure to close the doors to your room, or you may end up as I did — an unwitting victim of apple theft.
The group will spend two days in this region, touring the Livingstone area and visiting Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Locals call the falls “Mosi-oa-Tunya,” or the smoke that thunders. During certain months, hotel guests can see the spray from the property — the streams can reach as high as 1,300 feet.
Microlighting over Victoria Falls may have been the most heart-stopping excursion of the entire trip — I was strapped into a small, fixed-wing aircraft, soaring over the magnificent scenery below. A close second was my swim in the Devil’s Pool of Victoria Falls, where you can hang your head perilously over the side.
Back at the hotel for the evening, guests can sample an array of teas and sweets on the deck or relax during an outdoor massage on the gazebo facing Victoria Falls. There’s also the option of having dinner on the luxurious African Queen river cruise ship.
This South African itinerary is available through May 31 or between Aug. 11 and Nov. 30. Guests can depart from either Washington Dulles International Airport or John F. Kennedy International Airport. Prices start from $4,440.
South African Airways Vacationswww.flysaavacations.com