Dates & Prices

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Dates: 1st – 13th December 2022

Price: £3,595

Single Room Supplement: £350

Deposit: £400 per person


Price Includes: All meals, accommodation with private facilities, ground transport, services of the guides & holiday report

Not Included: Flights, travel insurance, drinks and any other personal items

Conservation Donation: tbc

Leaders: Frank Gaude & Yiannis Christofides

Languages: Guiding in English with German & Greek available

Group Size: Minimum of 4 and a maximum of 9 guests plus 2 leaders.

Holiday Highlights


  • Explore the Cape Floral Kingdom, home to over 9,000 plant species!
  • High diversity of South African orchids
  • Unique Fynbos Flora of the winter-rainfall areas of SA, including the national flower, the King Protea (Protea cynaroides)
  • Focus on the amazing orchids including the extraordinary variety found from the Disa genus
  • Showy and diverse landscape of the Cape Fold Mountains and the Garden Route
  • Cape Peninsula Tour including Cape of Good Hope and African Penguin colony
  • Visit to Table Mountain, one of the new 7 wonders of nature
  • Spectacular Mountain Passes (Montagu and Swartberg Passes)
  • Visit a number of  locations to search for orchids, including Table Mountain National Park, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point, Garden Route & Klein Karoo
  • A great time to escape winter in Northern Europe and just before the Christmas season too!
  • Please be aware that this is a reasonably intensive tour, aiming to see as many of the iconic orchid species as possible, and therefore some long drives are necessary, including some on unmade roads
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New for 2021! Come to the Cape Floral Kingdom and discover some of its amazing orchids and other plants!

The Cape Floral Kingdom, one of the six recognised floral kingdoms of the world, is an area of extraordinarily high diversity and endemism, and is home to over 9,000 vascular plant species, This bio-diversity is associated with fynbos, a Mediterranean  type biome of woodlands and scrub. Central to this is fire which clears areas every now and then, stimulating the flowering of orchids and bulbs.

Home to the fynbos is a set of extraordinary orchids belonging to the genus Disa. For terrestrial orchids members of the Disa genus rival epiphytic orchids in variety and colour.  The genus comprises about 180 species indigenous to tropical and southern Africa, with a few more in the Arabian Peninsula, Madagascar and Réunion. A large number occur in a small area in the Western Cape of South Africa’; some are common whilst others are rare and their appearance depends on fire. Their habitat can be mountain streams or bare rocky terrain

Disa exhibit similarities with the genus Ophrys as regard to their pollination mechanism. Each species of Disa usually has a single species as pollinator. They employ a large range of pollinating insects such as butterflies, carpenter bees whilst night-scented flowers are  pollinated by moths. Some Disa species are pollinated by sunbirds and have pollinaria that stick to the feet of the sunbirds when they perch on the inflorescence.

Our aim during this holiday is to see the commoner species such as Disa cornuta, D. cylindrica and D. tenuifolia, but also look for the rarer and fire-dependent species such as Acrolophia lunata, Disa atricapilla and bivalvata, and Pachites bodkinii amongst many others. We hope to see some early flowering specimen of the iconic Red Disa (Disa uniflora), too.

Acrolophia is another genus of the orchids we shall look for, species such as Acrophia capensis, Acrophia cochlearis and other members of the genus in coastal sands and fynbos.

Since many species depend on fire for flowering and this may vary from year to year, we shall keep the itinerary somewhat flexible to visit areas that have recently burned. Some of these areas we may not have visited during the research undertaken for the trip. A selection of species reliant on fire are members of the Ceratantha genus such as Ceratantha  globosa and Ceratandra harveyana and members of the Holothrix genus which we shall also look for.

We shall also search for the extraordinary Bartholina etheliea  and members of the Corycium genus such as Corycium carnosum (now Evotella carnosa), pollinated by oil-collecting bees and Orthochilus, Pterygonium  and Satyrium species

We shall visit some of the representative habitats such as Fynbos and Afrotemperate Forest, and protected areas such as Table Mountain National Park, Garden Route National Park and Kogelberg Nature Reserve.

Table Mountain National Park forms part of the Cape Floristic Region and as such supports a high diversity of flora.  The Kogelberg Nature Reserve is  located in the Kogelberg Mountains, on the eastern edge of Cape Town and protects a significant portion of Kogelberg Sandstone Fynbos. The Kogelberg mountains  have a floral diversity per unit area that is greater than anywhere else in the world. On our travels we shall see examples of other plant families such as Protea, Erica and many bulbous plants.

Weather: Akin to summer in a Mediterranean climate; temperatures possibly between 15 degrees at night and well into the 30s during the day. Some precipitation is possible and light rain gear might be a good idea.

Passport requirements: Please ensure you have at least 2 – 3 blank pages in your passport as you will be denied entry to South Africa unless you have 1 blank page. UK passport holders do not need a visa to enter South Africa but if you are traveling on the passport of another country then please check the requirements.

Health and fitness: Regular hikers /walkers won’t find this tour demanding, but some level of basic fitness is required for some of the walks. We will allow for plenty of time for steep sections and we will only do fairly short walks of up to 6km, but we will spend lots of time in the open where shade may not always be available and temperatures may reach 30+ degrees.

Please be aware that this is a reasonably intensive tour, aiming to see as many of the iconic orchid species as possible, and therefore some long drives are necessary, including some on unmade roads.

Languages: The guides are native and/or fluent speakers in English, German and Greek.

This promises to be a fantastic and very popular tour – we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment!

    

Day 1: Overnight flight from London for UK based guests. On arrival, transfer from Cape Town Airport to our accommodation.

Half-Day excursion, should the remaining time suffice.

Day 2: Peninsula Tour

This day consists mostly of the classic Peninsula Tour, which includes a visit to the African Penguin colony at Boulders Beach, Cape Point Nature Reserve and Silvermine Nature Reserve, all part of the Greater Table Mountain National Park.

We start the day with a ca 30 minute drive to Silvermine Nature Reserve where we will go on a walk to attempt to find three Acrolophia capensis, Acrolophia lamellata and the intriguing ‘Up-side-down’ Acrolophia, A.bolusii. Of course, we will not only look out for orchids, but also the other fynbos plants of the area. We will continue our day-tour to Boulders Beach in order to see the African Penguins (Spheniscus demersus).

We continue to Cape Point Nature Reserve where we will attempt to find the beautiful Disa purpurascens amongst other interesting plants and animals.

Day 3

We leave Cape Town and head East on the N2 highway, about 220 km/3 hours until we reach the town Swellendam. We will explore the pediment of those mountains on an afternoon hike in an attempt to see the beautiful Disa aurata, the Golden Disa, endemic to this part of the Langeberg Mountains. We might also come across other orchid species such as the Inkspot Disa (Disa cornuta), Disa bivalvata, Evotella carnosa and Holothrix brevipetala on our hike through this beautiful part of the Cape Fold Mountains.

Other beautiful and interesting plant species that we might see in flower are the parasitic Harveya capensis and H. stenosiphon, the Pagoda Protea (Mimetes cucullatus) amongst many others. Overnight in Swellendam

Day 4

Today’s drive of another 220km/ 3 hours takes us to George, one of the administrative centres of the are known as the ‘Garden Route’. The greater George area straddles several habitat types, including littoral veld, Afromontane Forest, Mountain Fynbos and even a bit of succulent Karoo, so different orchid species with very different environmental requirements occur within reach.

We hope to find the following orchids: Bartholina etheliae, Brachycorythis macowaniana, Ceratandra globosa, C. grandiflora, Disa cylindrica, D. hians, D. reticulata, D. sagittalis, and Habenaria lithophila.

Day 5

From our accommodation we will drive towards the southern, green side of the Outeniqua Mountains to Wilderness, where we will visit a section of the Garden Route National Park, and embark on a hike through dense Afro-temperate forest growing on the mountain slopes and along river courses.  We will hopefully see, but definitely hear the well-known Knysna Touraco (Touraco corythaix) and possibly some Kingfisher species.

The orchids in this forest are mainly of epiphytic (Tree-dwelling) adaptation, such as Mystacidium capense, Cyrtorchis arcuata and Tridactyle bicaudata bicaudata. With some luck we may find a flowering specimen of Bonatea speciosa.  Apart from the orchids we expect to find beautiful specimen of the ‘Cape Chestnut’, Calodendrum capense and species of Plectranthus and Streptocarpus. We will further explore forest and littoral areas in search for other species such as the tiny Disperis lindleyana and the large and showy Eulophia speciosa.

Day 6

A longer stretch of travelling will be covered on this day (ca.300 km / 4 ½ hours).We will interrupt this fairly long drive several times for its glorious landscape and multitude of species. We will drive north of the Outeniqua Mountains,  a species-rich, semi-arid area of Succulent Karoo.  From Oudtshoorn we will drive up the well-known Swartberg Pass, probably the most famous pass road in South Africa, known for both its scenic splendour as well as its adventurous, untarred road and the main botanical highlight of the day.

Although we will be on the look-out for any flowering plants in this area, of course we are going to focus on orchids, especially the unusual Disa multifida with its extraordinarily long lip. Other orchid species that we may discover are Acrolophia capensis, Disa filicornis, Disa bolusiana, Holothrix brevipetala and Satyrium eurycalcaratum.

With a bit of luck, we may see the agile Klipspringers (Oreotragus oreotragus), a small species of antelope well adapted to living in mountainous terrain, or the local troop of Baboons. Overnight in  Barrydale

Day 7

After breakfast we will visit horticulturist Hildgard Crous in her nursery where she will give us a tour of her collection of South African orchid species and hybrids. After the nursery talk Hildegard will take us on an easy walk to show us the showy, naturally occurring Disa cardinalis in habitat.

After this treat we will start the day’s drive of about 140km / 2 hours to Greyton. We will most likely make use of the (tarred) Tradouws Pass to cross the Langeberg Mountains from the North to the South of this mountain chain. Overnight in Greyton in the Overberg area of the Western Cape, where we will stay for the next two nights.

Day 8

Greyton borders the Greyton Nature Reserve. Possible orchid species: Acrolophia capensis, Ceratandra atrata, Disa atricapilla, D. bivalvata, D. racemosa. Other interesting species: Many Pelargonium species, bulbous plants of the family Iridaceae. Possible bird species include the Cape Rock Jumper (Chaetops frenatus).

Day 9

Today we drive from Greyton to the coastal area of the Overberg. On our way to the coast of False Bay we will try to find interesting orchid species and other plant and animal species.

Depending on rainfall and fires we may alter our route to best suit us, but we may very likely make a detour via Sandberg Fynbos Reserve, where we hope to see the very beautiful Disa venusta and maybe Disa filicornis. The huge open spaces of harvested wheat and Canola fields, so very characteristic of the Overberg nowadays, are of course deserts of biodiversity but do offer easy sightings of the Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus).

We will proceed to Hermanus, where will stay the next two nights. Should we have sufficient time, we will walk along the cliff path in Hermanus. One often finds interesting plants and animals there, and the views of Walker Bay are always worth the effort.Possible orchid species on the cliff path are Bonatea speciosa and Orthochilus litoralis.

Day 10

Today we will visit Kogelberg Nature Reserve, one of the most species-rich areas of the Western Cape. Whilst a visit of this reserve may not yield too many orchid species at this time of year, we can still not ignore it due to its general biodiversity.

The easiest hike in the reserve is the Palmiet River Hike, following the course of the river.

We will see Pelargonium species, Roella sp. of the Bellflower family, many members of the Iridaceae and possibly the first emerging Agapanthus africanus and Nivenia sp.

This is also a hotspot for Damsel- and Dragonflies (Odonata). Smaller animals include Cape River Frog (Amietia fuscigula) and Clicking Stream Frog (Strongylopus grayii)

Day 11

We leave Hermanus and drive along the very scenic coastline towards Cape Town, a drive that may take 1 ½ hours to complete if one didn’t stop for the natural beauty of this exceptional area. Our first stop will be the Harold Porter Botanical Garden in Betty’s Bay, where we can have a general look at this small garden embedded in beautiful landscape, but we also want to venture a little bit into the mountains on the Leopard Kloof Trail, where, if we are lucky, we may find the first Red Disa (Disa uniflora) in flower. This is probably the most famous South African orchid with a peak flowering time mid-January to mid-February, but here in the gardens one can often observe much earlier flowers than on Table Mountain in Cape Town, where they flower in abundance, but later than our planned visit.

In Betty’s Bay we will also keep an eye out for the rare Satyrium hallackii, a conspicuous pink flowering orchid with inflorescences up to 50 cm high.

We continue our journey to Cape Town, where we spend the next two nights.

Day 12

Most of this day we will spend on the iconic Table Mountain, one of the places with the highest biodiversity in South Africa, despite being surrounded by a metropole of ca. 5 million inhabitants. Especially south-facing rockfaces will get our attention, where moisture gathers as mist coming from the sea and providing a lot more precipitation than on the north-facing slopes. The most spectacular orchid species that we will search for today is the ‘Drip Disa’ (Disa longicornu). In its company we should find some other Disa species as well, such as Disa cornuta, D.glandulosa, D. harveyana, D. ocellata, D.tenuifolia and D. vaginata and also Evotella carnosa.

Many other plant species will be in flower, such as members of the Proteaceae, Ericaceae, Gladioli, Crassula and many more. We may see interesting bird species such as Ground Woodpeckers (Geocolaptes olivaceus), Cape Sugar Birds (Promerops cafer) and Orange-Breasted Sunbirds (Anthobathes violacea). Many red-flowering plants will attract the Table Mountain beauty (Aeropetes tulbaghia). The re-introduced Klipsringers (Oreotragus oreotragus) are making a comeback on Table Mountain, so we will have to keep an eye out for them, too. Interesting, frequently seen reptiles include the Black Girdled Lizard (Cordylus niger), Southern Rock Agama (Agama atra) and the Cape Crag Lizard (Pseudocordylus microlepidotus microlepidotus).

Day 13

The end of our tour and transfer to Cape Town International Airport.

New holiday – testimonials will appear next year

New holiday – report will follow later