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South Africa

7 Days with Africa's Rare 5: Adorable Meerkats, Aardwolf, Cheetah & more

7 Days
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Single travelers staying in a room by themselves will be charged this additional single supplement fee, as all of our regular prices are otherwise based on double occupancy.

If you are traveling alone and wish to share a room, we will make every effort to find you a roommate of the same gender, in which case you will not have to pay the single supplement fee. The single supplement will be charged until we are able to confirm a roommate for you. If we are able to match you with a roommate, the single supplement will be refunded. In the event that we cannot find a share for you, you will be required to pay the single supplement fee.

New: Click the Singles Find a Share' icon below or check our "Community" page to connect with other single travelers looking to share.

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South Africa

7 Days with Africa's Rare 5: Adorable Meerkats, Aardwolf, Cheetah & more

This is the second segment of our Insider’s Africa safari which takes place in South Africa during their winter months, featuring habituated Meerkat colonies for close-up observation of adorable wild Meerkats — a real favorite!  Plus the best chance in all of Africa to see extremely rare Pangolin (scaly anteater), Aardvark, Aardwolf and Cheetah — all with nearly 80% or higher probability of sighting, in the little known savannah of the “Green Kalahari”.

The South African summer is a great time to view the animals foraging at night, when the temperatures are suitable for extended night-time drives. We're pleased to also offer standalone departures during these months (Oct-Mar).

7 Days with Africa's Rare 5: Adorable Meerkats, Aardwolf, Cheetah & more

Detailed Itinerary

DAY 1 Arrive South Africa

Arrive Johannesburg or Cape Town and transfer to nearby hotel for overnight.

DAY 2 Arrive Tswalu – Meet Wildlife Researchers, Track Lion & Cheetah, Night Safari

Morning pickup at hotel and transfer by private pressurized plane to Tswalu.

Start your adventure in the remote "Green" Kalahari, where Wild Planet has arranged a special safari program in coordination with Tswalu wildlife experts, designed to maximize the possibility of sightings of rare animals not often seen. However, your daily activities at Tswalu, are 100% flexible to suit your desires, and all safari activities are available to Wild Planet travelers, including game drives, walking safaris, horseback safaris, and more. Archeological walks, a high-end spa, pool, gym, yoga and gourmet meals make this a truly luxurious safari experience.

Depending on your arrival time you’ll meet with your guide and resident wildlife researchers to assure that your every desire is accommodated. Begin with a game drive to see black rhino, giraffe, zebra and more before we turn our focus to big cats. We’ll track black-maned lion and cheetah, specifically seeking out hunting behaviors. It is classic cheetah behavior to make their way to elevated points to survey the surrounding areas for prey. This gives us a fantastic opportunity to photograph them in the brilliant Kalahari light.

This evening enjoy a nocturnal safari for nocturnal animals. At night the Green Kalahari comes alive. Animals that are hard to spot during the day are more visible. A favorite are the brilliant chameleons that glow an unmistakable color when lit by spotlight.

DAY 3 Meerkats & Africa’s Rare 5

This morning walk to a meerkat colony and watch these extraordinarily adorable mammals warm themselves in the sunshine before they scamper off to forage. Tswalu is famous for its 2 thriving habituated meerkat colonies, so we can get up close without fear of them running away. The ever-playful pups always keep us entertained and there are constantly new pups to be seen. Meerkats and their pups share a very close bond with lots of cuddles!

In addition to the adorable pups, the meerkat sentinels can be exciting to watch. A meerkat sentinel takes on the role of ‘lookout’, watching for possible predators and other potential threats to the community while the others are foraging. After some foraging around the burrow they began grooming each other before heading down for the night. We usually watch them for at least 45 minutes from the time they come out of the burrows to the time the go foraging for the day. We have habituators to advise our guides when the Meerkats awaken, which is usually between 9:00 and 11:00am between May and Sept.

After spending the morning with the Meerkats, we’ll spend most of the day on safari for rare animals, including pangolin, aardvark, aardwolf and more. While night remains ideal to see these elusive creatures, during winter months of May – Sept nocturnal animals actually hunt and forage during the day so you can often see them with ideal light conditions for photos. 2015 was a record year for pangolin sightings, which are otherwise known as scaly anteaters. From May to Sept these unusual creatures become crepuscular, which means they are active early in the mornings and late in the afternoons. Although Pangolin are usually considered to be one of the rarest animals in Africa, Tswalu is undoubtedly the best place to see them. Similarly, the equally rare aardvark and aardwolf are regularly seen at Tswalu because of this unique phenomenon that occurs from May to Sept when nocturnal animals hunt and forage during the day to avoid the cold.

DAY 4 Meerkats & Big Cats

After a second morning delighted by the antics of the Meerkat colony, we’ll once again turn our focus toward the exciting predators, specifically seeking out hunting behaviors of the cheetah, caracal and black-maned lion. Throughout the “Green Kalahari” we’ll follow herds of a variety of game including both black and white rhinos, many varieties of antelope, zebra, giraffe, impala, hartebeest, warthog, oryx and much more, as well as the predators which – in addition to the big cats—include jackals, hyenas and more. We’ll also keep our eyes open for several of the Rare 5, as this time of year the normally reclusive pangolin, aardwolf and aardvark are more visible.

DAY 5-6 Join Wildlife Researchers, Choice of Horseback, Jeep or Foot Safaris, Bushman Etchings

You will have the option to interact with researchers by special arrangement and join their current research project, dependent on conditions and availability. In the afternoons choose from a variety of options including a game drive excursion (and picnic) to an area where you can see bushman etchings dating back in excess of 100 000 years. Other options include a horse safari (no experience needed), walking safari or game drive for the stunning concentrations of predators and other game. We can also devote more time to track some of Africa's rare 5.

DAY 7 Tswalu / Joburg or Capetown

Time permitting one last visit with the Meerkats before your flight back to either Johannesburg or Cape Town and your onward connection.


South Africa Lodging


Premier Hotel O.R. Tambo

Just under 1 mile from O.R. Tambo International Airport, this Premier Hotel has rooms with satellite TV and free Wi-Fi. It offers a free airport shuttle to the Airport. The hotel’s air-conditioned rooms come equipped with tea-and-coffee-making facilities, a work desk, hairdryer and a private bathroom. A buffet-style breakfast is served daily. The restaurant opens out onto a terrace, where guests can relax by the pool.


Hotel Verde Cape Town Airport

Hotel Verde offers you a carbon-neutral stay, along with luxurious accommodation and conferencing and events facilities in an oasis just 400 metres from Cape Town International Airport and a 15-minute drive to the city’s main attractions.


The Motse

The Motse accommodates no more than 24 guests at any one time to make for a truly intimate safari experience. The main house is a spectacular space in which to meet, with its elevated decks and elegant lounges. An infinity pool offers an endless view over the savannahs and a secluded spa is designed to complete your total relaxation. The mezzanine library is equipped with satellite tv (the Motse also has full broadband Wi-Fi access throughout) and its museum cases display rare artefacts from the area. All profits from our exclusive Foundation Gift Shop go directly to fund important new research on the reserve.


South Africa Activities

At a Glance

Coming Soon.


South Africa Wildlife

Prolific & Likely Sightings

WILDLIFE at Tswalu

Meerkats, pangolin, aardwolf, aardvark, cheetah, black-maned lions (the largest lions in Africa), caracal, African wildcat, genets, black rhino, white rhino, giraffe, plains zebra, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, brown hyeana, black-headed jackal, black-backed jackal, oryx, impala, roan, sable, elan, kudu, hartebeest, springbok, gemsbok, porcupine, warthog, chameleons, rock monitor lizards.

240 species of birds have been seen at Tswalu, including:

  • Pygmy Falcon
  • Ostrich
  • Snake Eagle
  • Spotted Eagle Owl
  • Scops Owl
  • Pearl spotted owlet
  • Lilac breasted roller
  • Black-shouldered kite
  • Secretary bird

South Africa FAQ

South Africa Facts for Visitors

Visa & Passport Requirements 

Visas are not required for American citizens. However, passports must be valid for at least 30 days after date of departure from South Africa. Passports must have at least two fully blank unused, visa pages upon entry for endorsing visas, permanent residence permits, and entry/departure stamps

Water/Food at Tswalu

Tswalu is a luxury lodge, and all food and water is safe.


Tswalu is free of malaria and other tropical diseases.

Amenities at Tswalu

  • Wi-fi
  • Telephone
  • En-suite bathrooms (indoor and outdoor showers)
  • 24-hour electricity
  • Fireplace
  • Hair-dryer
  • Air-conditioning
  • Private veranda
  • Laundry services
  • Mini bar and fridge
  • In room safe deposit box
  • Satellite television
  • Full spa and gym
  • Large heated pool
  • Library
  • Museum
  • Foundation Gift Shop
  • Personal butler service


South Africa's currency is the rand (R), which is divided into 100 cents. The notes are R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200; the coins are R1, R2 and R5, and five, 10, 20 and 50 cents. Transactions are often rounded up or down by a few cents.

Cards Because South Africa has a reputation for scams, some banks automatically prevent transactions in the country unless you notify them of your travel plans. IMPORTANT: If you plan to use a credit card in the country, contact your bank before leaving home and inform it of your travel plans and make sure they will accept transactions in South Africa.


The best currencies to exchange upon arrival in South Africa are US dollars, euros or British pounds. A debit or credit card will be more useful, as many businesses only accept rand.


Seasons in the southern Kalahari can be described in traditional terms - spring, summer, autumn and winter - but their nature and duration are very different. Summer lasts for almost six months.

Tswalu is a year-round destination, and you can travel with Wild Planet to Tswalu at any time of year, however, our scheduled departures focus on the winter time of May-Sept to coincide with the best time to see some of the Rare 5, including meerkats, but specifically pangolin, aardvark and aardwolf, which are normally nocturnal but forage during the day at Tsawlu from May-Sept. Additionally, this time coincides with the best time to combine your visit to Tswalu with our Uganda Ultimate Gorilla & Chimp safari for an Insider’s Africa safari. This can also be done  in Dec, Jan and Feb if you prefer the summer months at Tswalu.

In Spring (September - October), the weather at Tsawlu begins to warm up, though some cold fronts can still sweep inland from the Cape. Blackthorn and honeybush break into blossom, scenting the evening air. Barking geckos call for mates in a cacophony unique to the Kalahari, and meerkat pups emerge from their dens in anticipation of the rains.

Summer (November - March) brings hot days and mild evenings with only an occasional afternoon thunderstorm. Rain is always unpredictable in the desert but if you are fortunate enough to experience it, you will be astounded as the desert turns into a lush green spectacle, glittering with golden flowers. Many of the antelope calf early in Summer and signs of new life abound. Migrant birds such as cuckoos and lanner falcons arrive at Tswalu, making birding here especially exciting.

In Autumn (April - May) the days become mild and the evenings cool. With luck, there may even be some late season’s rains. This is the greenest time of the year; the savannahs take on a beautiful silkiness as the grasses surrender their seeds to gentle breezes. Autumn is the time of the rut as antelope such as impala, in peak physical condition, begin a frenzy of fighting to establish territories and claim mates.

Winter (June - August) sees daytime temperatures cool. The first frost can fall as night-time temperatures may even drop below freezing on occasion. Conditions become very dry as humidity disappears. As the grasses and bushes dry out so sightings of rarer, smaller mammals increase. Shy, nocturnal creatures such as aardvark, aardwolf or pangolin emerge in daylight now. The clear evenings of Winter offer the best stargazing spectacle under the Kalahari’s breathtaking “diamond skies”.

This Trip's Exclusive Wildlife Features:

Choose Your South Africa Travel Style! Any of our wildlife adventures are also available as fully customizable private trips, honeymoons or family wildlife adventures.
We're Wild for Wildlife...
  • Virtually unknown “Green Kalahari”: Africa’s largest and least visited private reserve.
  • 2 Habituated Meerkat colonies: Get up-close with Africa’s most adorable and playful creatures.
  • Africa’s Rare 5 not seen in “usual” safaris: pangolin, aardvark, aardwolf, meerkats, rhino, cheetah & more.
  • Intimate encounters with playful meerkats.
  • Rare pangolin, aardvark & aardwolf, normally nocturnal, visible days.
  • Track Big Cats: emphasis on exciting behaviors.
We're Wild for Wildlife...
  • Virtually unknown “Green Kalahari”: Africa’s largest and least visited private reserve.
  • 2 Habituated Meerkat colonies: Get up-close with Africa’s most adorable and playful creatures.
  • Africa’s Rare 5 not seen in “usual” safaris: pangolin, aardvark, aardwolf, meerkats, rhino, cheetah & more.
  • Intimate encounters with playful meerkats.
  • Rare pangolin, aardvark & aardwolf, normally nocturnal, visible days.
  • Track Big Cats: emphasis on exciting behaviors.

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