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Arts & Culture Tour to South Africa- 2016

Val-Hearder-South Africa-size.jpg6 to 22 April 2016 with Val Hearder

Registration is now open for next year's tour.

Johannesburg/Durban/Zululand/Cape Town



 South Africa is a land of extraordinary beauty, vibrant cultures and amazing wildlife and I invite you to join me on my fourth tour to South Africa next year.

We've planned a fascinating 17-day journey to discover South Africa, the land where I was born and grew up. I love this country and am thrilled to have the opportunity to show you carefully chosen places and events. Our days are filled with delight at the landsapes, diverse cultures, wild life and rich decorative arts. We’ll travel with sensitivity to local customs, and curiosity about this dynamic society. Our Registered South African Tour Guide accompanies us throughout, enriching our experience with her deep knowledge of the country. white-rhino.csc-0347.jpgLocal experts inform and delight us at stops along the way. April is a fabulous time of year to visit South Africa - the intense summer heat has abated yet its still delightfully warm.

This arts and culture tour is a rich collage of varied cultural experiences including several textiles highlights. We'll visit cities, vibrant markets, rural villages and townships, and feel the incomparable stillness of un-spoilt African bushveld while viewing wildlife. Our touring coach will take us off the usual tourist track to visit a women’s embroidery collective, an AIDS and Arts Centre and learn about ancient crafts like Zulu basket weaving. We’ll visit interesting grassroots projects showcasing the best of innovative “township” arts and, small craft groups created for economic empowerment. Along the way we’ll drop in on a world-renowned ceramic studio, meet the people who make indigenous crafts and connect with leading contemporary quilt artists to learn about their work first hand.

red-telephone-wire-basket.jpgOur tour begins in the metropolis of Johannesburg and includes a visit to Nelson Mandela’s original humble Soweto home. We’ll drive into the bushveldt and through a lion and rhino reserve, to the Cradle of Humankind – an area rich in ancient fossils that give clues to the earliest humans. We’ll journey deep into KwaZulu Natal and the dramatic beauty of the Drakensberg Mountains, and see some of the richest San-Bushman Rock paintings in South Africa. The tropical city of Durban will find us dashing around in local mini-cabs to buy indigo shwe-shwe fabric in the Indian Market area. We’ll head to the heart of Zululand to be immersed in Zulu culture and overnight in a comfy thatched beehive hut! We spend 2 nights in the splendid serenity of Hluhluwe Wildlife Reserve which includes drives in safari trucks to spot wildlife in pristine busveldt. A 2-hour flight whisks us from Durban to glorious Cape Town, to wander cobbled streets of the old Malay quarter and learn about this fascinating community. We’ll picnic in famous vineyards; sip fabled wines and dance to local music. We’ll explore the stunning scenic beauty of the Cape Peninsula with seacoast drives considered among the most spectacular in the world. Our tour ends with an exhilarating cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain. 

Quotes from previous tour participants:

  • A marvelous, magical tour. It had so many parts to it - culture, wildlife, people and landscapes. I don't know how it, or our group and leaders, could have been any better!
  • Great value, we got far more than we anticipated.
  • Trip of a lifetime!
  • A life-changing, outstanding trip!!
  • We are most grateful for the magical tour you led for all of us. Great value.
  • I liked meeting the people in the villages and out of the way places. So many great moments.
  • The trip was a dream come true. It was all so friendly and warm. I enjoyed every minute of it.

soweto-beads.jpgAccommodations are carefully chosen to enhance your experience of South Africa including 3 and 4 star hotels, thatched mountain lodges, chalets in Africa's oldest wildlife preserve, and of course, fabulous South African food will sustain us throughout.

Tour leaders are myself, Val Hearder, and my husband, Veryan Haysom, both born in South Africa. We are also accompanied by a South African Tour Guide.

Tour Operator, is Odette Tolksdorf, who lives in Durban and is a noted textile artist. Odette and I have worked closely for 6 years designing cultural tours.

Travel in South Africa is comfortable with good roads, excellent hotels and the water is safe to drink. The exchange rate is favourable to our dollar and ATM machines are plentiful. The tour welcomes both women and men. A brief itinerary and pricing follows below. A detailed itinerary will be sent to those who register for the tour. Please read more detailed testimonials at the bottom of the page. You can find out more about some of the groups we visit at The Makers link at the top of this page.  Contact Val for the Registration form for more details. All photos on this page were taken on our tours. To see more photos click here.



Brief Itinerary: 6 to 22 April - 17 daysaloe-bird-detail.jpg


DAY 1   Wednesday APRIL 6  


Welcome to South Africa! We’ll be staying in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs at a lovely hotel where the gardens and trees create a mood of being in the countryside. Meet your fellow travelers at tonight’s Welcome Dinner at a fine restaurant.





 DAY 2   Thursday   APRIL 7  lion.449.jpg


Today we travel to a World Heritage Site, the Cradle of Humankind. We’ll drive through the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve to meet our specialist guide, a palaeo-anthropologist / archaeologist for a private tour. Gain a glimpse into the intriguing study of human origins at one of the world's most important and richest pre-human fossil sites. Enjoy the serene setting and panoramic views of the savannah bushveld. In the afternoon we’ll visit the Everard Read and Circa Gallery, exhibiting paintings and sculpture by South Africa’s finest modern and contemporary artists. Circa has been internationally recognised as an outstanding contribution to South African architecture.

Hotel: BALALAIKA, Sandton



kim-sacks-bright-display.jpgDAY 3   Friday APRIL 8  


Experience a fascinating visit to Soweto, a large urban area of Johannesburg or Jo'burg, as it’s usually known. Our local guide discusses the history and contemporary life of Soweto and visits include Nelson Mandela's first humble home, Hector Peterson Museum and a lunch. Afterwards we visit the Constitutional Court The Court was established in the old Fort prison grounds where thousands of political prisoners were held. In this key symbol of democracy, we’ll learn about political issues and change in South African history, through the Court’s powerful and moving art collection. The day ends with a stopover at the Kim Sacks Gallery a leading art and craft gallery offering the finest traditional and contemporary African artifacts, textiles, ceramics, vintage textiles and more. Own dinner arrangements tonight for you to choose from several restaurants close to the hotel.

 Hotel: BALALAIKA, Sandton



mapula-embroiderers-with-tree.jpgDAY 4   Saturday   APRIL 9  


The Winterveldt is a rural area north of Pretoria where we’ll visit women from the remarkable Mapula Embroidery Group. We’ll be charmed by the makers whose brightly coloured, and highly collectible embroideries, tell stories of their lives. We'll visit the makers at their homes, learn about this 20-year-old project and have an opportunity to purchase their tapestries.  In the afternoon enjoy an exclusive private visit to an artist’s studio to meet a few artists who will show and discuss their inspiring work. Own dinner arrangements tonight for you to choose from several restaurants close to the hotel.

Hotel: BALALAIKA, Sandton  



itin-drakensberg-rock-walk.jpgDAY 5   Sunday   APRIL 10  


Depart Johannesburg and spend the day travelling along scenic country roads to the Ukhahlamba-Drakensburg Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After a delicious lunch we continue to our destination, a serene mountain retreat in a majestic setting.

Hotel: GIANT’S CASTLE, Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park



DAY 6   Monday   APRIL 11 


Our second day in the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains allows us time for an exhilarating walk to explore San/Bushman rock art paintings illustrating a fascinating diary of the culture and spiritual beliefs of the San-Bushman people. Later we’ll have an exclusive visit from Judy Jordan and a member of the Isipethu Embroidery group. See their fascinating appliqué story cloths and embroideries that tell stories in stiches about the lives of women in Zulu society.

Hotel: GIANT'S CASTLE, Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park



ardmore-painter.ceramics South African tour.jpgDAY 7   Tuesday   APRIL 12  


Depart the Drakensberg and drive to the Ardmore Ceramics studio in the Natal Midlands to meet the gifted artists who work here. Learn about this renowned studio started by Fee Halsted-Berning and how it responds to social and other issues of the day. See the distinctive style that has intrigued collectors from all over the world with it’s flamboyant painted ceramics depicting African fauna, flora and history. We’ll make a quick stop at the Mandela Capture Site Monument to see the remarkable Cianfanelli sculpture. We then continue to the inspiring Hillcrest AIDS Centre to learn about the multi-faceted projects they are involved in, including contemporary Zulu beadwork. Our final destination today is our boutique hotel on trendy Florida Road in Durban.  

 Hotel:THE BENJAMIN, Durban  



telephonewire-baskets South African tour.jpgDAY 8   Wednesday   APRIL 13  


Enjoy a walk along the Durban beachfront, dip your toes or swim in the Indian Ocean and then go to downtown Durban for a quick excursion into the bustling Indian and African Market area. Visit one or two fabric shops, see local street vendors and maybe buy a hot samoosa! Next we drive through residential areas to the Phansi Museum for a guided tour of this fascinating private museum. It has a large and spectacular collection of Southern African arts, crafts, artifacts and traditional costumes, all creatively exhibited in a restored Victorian mansion. Our visit to the lush Durban Botanic Gardens includes a casual picnic lunch and time to explore this botanical treasure and it’s rare trees. Afterwards we’ll stop over at the African Art Centre for outstanding local arts and crafts such as baskets, beadwork, textiles, jewelry and woodcarvings. Own dinner arrangements tonight for you to choose from several restaurants close to the hotel.

Hotel:THE BENJAMIN, Durban  



zulu-man cultural tour South Africa.jpgDAY 9   Thursday   APRIL 14  


Drive to Eshowe and the Vukani Zulu Cultural Museum where our museum guide discusses this significant collection of Zulu baskets and other artifacts. After a wonderful lunch in a tranquil and historic location, we make our way to Shakaland This cultural village built amid thorn trees and aloes, is great fun to visit and is very photogenic. It is a re-enactment of a traditional Zulu village from the time of King Shaka and a wonderful way to learn about Zulu culture and meet members of the local Zulu community. We’ll see demonstrations of traditional crafts, sports and Zulu dancing and enjoy a feast of African foods. We stay in traditional Zulu beehive huts with all the modern conveniences such as en-suite bathroom and comfortable beds.

Hotel: SHAKALAND, Zululand




shakaland-acomodation.jpgDAY 10   Friday   APRIL 15 


Today we travel into Hluhluwe Game Reserve, the oldest game reserve in Africa, founded in 1895, where Africa’s Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo) roam, as well as many other animals such as giraffe and zebra. We’ll board open-sided safari vehicles for drives with experienced guides. Our chalets are situated at the award-winning Hilltop Camp, located on a forested hill with panoramic views of the awe-inspiring bushveld savannah. There will also be time to take leisurely walks around the camp and enjoy the wide variety of birds, trees and bushveldt.

Hotel: HILLTOP, Hluhluwe Game Reserve



zulubaskets-group.jpgDAY 11 Saturday   APRIL 16  


Take an early morning game drive and afterwards enjoy a leisurely breakfast. On departure we drive along the sub-tropical Zululand coast to our destination, the seaside town of Ballito. Our accommodation is on the edge of the warm Indian Ocean. Walk on the beach and enjoy a dip in the tidal pool before dinner.

Hotel: THE BOATHOUSE, Ballito




DAY 12 Sunday   APRIL 17  stellenbosch.cultural tour South Africajpg


An early departure today for our flight from Durban’s King Shaka Airport to Cape Town. Drive to the beautiful Cape winelands and visit a renowned wine estate for a picnic lunch. Our last stop today is our hotel for the next two nights in the attractive university town of Stellenbosch. Enjoy a stroll around the many boutiques, galleries, restaurants and oak-lined streets. See restored Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture from the French Huguenot, Dutch and Afrikaans heritage of this area.                       



DAY 13   Monday   APRIL 18  


 We depart Stellenbosch and drive to the delightful town of Franschhoek surrounded by mountains and fertile valleys. After a pleasant stroll around the town we then continue for a guided walk in the amazing Babylonstoren garden. It spans eight acres, is formal in structure and has over 300 varieties of edible plants in the garden. At the Solms Delta wine estate a picnic lunch and distinctive local music and dance conclude our activities for the day. Own dinner arrangements tonight for you to choose from several restaurants close to the hotel.




bokaap-mosque-and-mountain.jpgDAY 14     Tuesday   APRIL 19   


Today we visit some highly creative craft projects that generate income for township residents. Meet the people who create wonderful objects combining traditional beading and weaving techniques with contemporary materials. Our walk with a guide in the colourful Bo-Kaap/ Cape Malay Quarter with its cobbled lanes and brightly coloured flat-roofed homes is a photographer’s delight. This interesting area is closely associated with Cape Town’s Muslim community and we’ll learn about this culture and enjoy an authentic Cape Malay meal. We’ll also visit one of the excellent art and craft galleries nearby and there will be time to explore on your own. Own dinner arrangements tonight for you to choose from several restaurants close to the hotel.





DAY 15     Wednesday   APRIL 20   CAPE TOWN 

Our morning begins with a visit to a fabulous store with a great selection of baskets from all over the African continent. Today is a touring day to see the glorious scenery of the Cape Peninsula. Mountain vistas and ocean views will delight us as we drive to the Cape Point at the tip of the Cape Peninsula. We’ll drive through a nature reserve with flora and fauna unique to the area, and includes the fynbos floral kingdom, with over 3,000 species not found anywhere else in the world. Take a short ride in the funicular to enjoy panoramic views and a restaurant with a superb ocean outlook. In the afternoon we’ll take a walk to visit the colony of African penguins at Boulders. Our journey back to the city is via Chapman's Peak Drive along the Atlantic Coast and is one of the most the spectacular marine drives in the world. Own dinner arrangements tonight for you to choose from several restaurants close to the hotel.



DAY 16   Thursday   APRIL 21     CAPE TOWN     

Today we’ll take the cable car (weather permitting) to the top of Table Mountain to enjoy the wide, magnificent views of Cape Town. Own lunch today and the afternoon is free to do as you please - choose from many options (which are optional extras at your own expense): visit Kirstenbosch Gardens (a must if you love gardens), Robben Island, the National Art Gallery or shop at the V & A Waterfront or Greenmarket Square. Our Farewell Dinner tonight will be a special festive occasion to celebrate together, our journey around South Africa.

Hotel: BREAKWATER LODGE          



DAY 17   Friday     APRIL 22    CAPE TOWN / HOME

Departure day. Transfer from the hotel to Cape Town International Airport to depart for home. Many tour members choose to extend their stay in Cape Town.


Tour Price Details

Price Includes:

The tour is 17 days total including arrival and departure days in South Africa.
TOUR PRICE:   We require a minimum of 15 paying participants. Quote is Canadian dollars.
$6,580  double room shared.
$1,555  single room supplement 

  • 16 nights hotel accommodations as per itinerary.
  • Meals as specified on the itinerary – all breakfasts, 14 lunches, 10 dinners.
  • Local wine and beer with welcome and farewell dinners.
  • On day of arrival only dinner is provided and on day of departure only breakfast is provided.
  • Airport / hotel transfers
  • Land transport in air-conditioned coach with bottled water on board.
  • Registered South African tour guide accompanying the tour.
  • Additional Specialist on-site guides.
  • Exclusive private visits to homes and artist studios.
  • Game viewing in safari vehicles.
  • Tips for meals and luggage handling.
  • Entrance fees for visits as per itinerary.

Price Does Not Include:

  • Round trip flight to South Africa
  • Internal flight Durban to Cape Town.
  • Airport taxes.
  • Meals and drinks not specified in the itinerary ( 6 dinners and 1 lunch).
  • Travel insurance.
  • Tips for tour guide and coach driver.
  • Personal expenses and self-selected activities.

In depth details of payment schedule, insurance requirements, your bookings and much more is covered in the Registration form. Please request one from Val.

Tour members make their own travel arrangements and bookings. The round trip from Canada to South Africa costs about $1,500 to $2,000 including taxes. The internal 2 hours flight from Durban to Cape Town, will cost about $250. Many choose to stay on after the end of the tour to enjoy the Cape, or go on safari. If you're Canadian or American, no visas are required to visit South Africa.


happy-limpopo-lady-market.-481.jpgTestimonials from previous tour members.

Your tour of South Africa was very special. The opportunity to meet with women where they live was a privilege. You gave us a glimpse of a beautiful and very diverse country. Thank you.  Marg, (2013)

It was a great group, the hotels were interesting, unusual, the art and craft scenes were almost beyond belief.... the scenery was outstanding, the food was wonderful...and the leadership was perfect...what more can I say? Thank you everyone, especially the leaders, for this unforgettable experience. Bev, (2013)

I can truthfully say that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the South African tour, the people that I travelled with, and the tour leaders. Even our driver became a dearly loved friend. Our guide for the two weeks was the most well-informed and generous advocate for the people and history of the country that we could have hoped to encounter. The trip was in my opinion very fairly priced, the accommodation was stellar, and the food seemingly never ending. Insofar as I spent a mere two weeks in the country, I think that I got a good feel for the culture; enough at least to inspire me to delve deeper into what I learned, and plan to renew my acquaintance in two years time. I hope for your sake that you decide to take this marvelous journey. The itinerary for the trip published on the web site is a reliable indicator of what you will do. Linda, (2013)

Am so pleased to provide you with feedback on my trip to South Africa. It was a wonderful experience, a highlight of my life. It was so heart-warming to meet so many of the women who make beautiful crafts to sell to us so that they can better the lives of their families. But aside from that, everyday was packed full of the wonders of South Africa. The whole excursion was so well planned and organized and I still can't believe that I saw and did so much in two weeks. I wish that I were going again! Ruth, (2013)

This was definitely life changing for me. Meeting the women artists was such an affirming experience for me – I am so motivated as a result. Thank you so much! L. (2013)

Driving in the early morning through the Hluhluwe Game Reserve on the quite pathways, watching the sun come up over the mountains and hearing the many varieties of birdsongs is etched in my memory book forever. Ruth (2013)

Congratulations on organizing such an exciting and enlightening trip. For me it was a trip of a lifetime. I really enjoyed meeting all the other tour members. I came away from South Africa so impressed with the work being done by courageous and dedicated women to empower black women. Heartwarming! Marilyn, (2014)

Seriously, this trip is more than I could have imagined and I thank you for this great opportunity. Having our Guide Jean along made it extra special. I really had to think long and hard about what I liked best – we’ve done so much. Phyllis (2014)

This was an amazing tour. So much was covered in 16 days. The variety of scenery and people and events had my head spinning sometimes. Thank you so much. Nancy (2014)

Although I’m a non-crafts, non-artistic person I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. The mix of culture, sightseeing, the chance to meet people, the historical knowledge, was what I wanted, and I was not disappointed. The organization was superb and efficient. Jean was an A+ Guide. Thank you for a wonderful adventure. Arlene (2014)

It has been a truly delightful experience. Felt safe, stimulated, spoiled, excited, anticipatory, comfortable and very lucky to go everywhere we went. Too much fun every day. Thank you for opening our eyes to the wonders of your fantastic country. Maggie and Fred (2014)

Mega thanks for fantastic planning the fantastic South AFrican affibility and hospitality. We've had an incredible journey together and my life will never be the same having had this expereince. Thanks for everything. Janice (2014)