I’m gazing at a herd of cavorting zebras vigorously rolling in the rich red African earth, their hooves kicking up clouds of dust, when our bus driver abruptly slams on the brakes.

As we’re violently thrown forward, I spy a family of warthogs racing across the road in front of us, the mother leading her four miniature piglets in a somewhat kamikaze manoeuvre just a metre or so from our front wheels.

But such unexpected wildlife sightings are one of the undisputed joys of this excursion to the Addo Elephant Reserve near the city of Port Elizabeth (which was renamed Gqeberha in 2021) on South Africa’s Eastern Cape, and yet another highlight during a sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line along the African coastline.

Introduction to South Africa

The 12-night round-trip voyage from Cape Town which calls at a clutch of South African ports, including Mossel Bay and Richards Bay, before venturing to Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, proves to be an ideal way to explore this part of Africa, showcasing its superb scenery and incredible wildlife.

Not only does it serve as a memorable introduction to Africa and its myriad tribal cultures, travelling by ship makes it easy to tick off several destinations without any travel worries or concerns over personal safety, which have dogged this part of the continent.

It also gives an opportunity, particularly on the five sea days to make the most of Norwegian Jade’s attractions, with its range of complimentary dining spots and speciality favourites such as Teppanyaki, Cagney’s Steakhouse and the Italian fare of La Cucina.

For a relatively small ship, there’s a varied choice of evening entertainment options, with tribute acts and themed shows in the main theatre, late night discos in the Spinnaker Lounge and live bands and karaoke amid the swanky surroundings of the Bliss Ultra Lounge.

Guests on this sailing – most of whom are North American, followed by Brits, Germans and South Africans – could also choose from a good selection of excursions ranging from township and cultural village tours to cheese and wine tastings and hikes.

Exploring Wildlife in South Africa & Namibia

However, the overwhelming majority are animal attractions, with outings to numerous wildlife reserves along the route along with trips to see Namibia’s wild horses, a cruise to spot seals and pelicans and even an outing to spot penguins.

But it’s big game that is the main attraction here and on our outing to the Addo Reserve, we are lucky enough to have numerous sightings of the 600 or so elephants that roam the national park’s 630 square miles – the most memorable encounter being a stop at a waterhole where around 100 of these majestic creatures are gathered.

From Richards Bay near Durban, we take a seven-hour tour to the Thula Thula game reserve that feels more of an authentic safari experience as we bump along rutted, dusty tracks through the African bush, rewarded by close encounters with giraffes nibbling leaves off trees; grumpy rhinos and endearing baby nyala antelope.

As a final flourish, I finish the cruise with a short stay at Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a bustling tourist magnet of waterside restaurants, craft shops and a smart shopping mall.

There’s more than enough to do here, with boat trips to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, coastal catamaran cruises and helicopter sightseeing trips, but I opt for the hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus that weaves through the city’s streets towards Table Mountain, towering over the Cape Town skyline.

The incredible views from the summit – reaching more than 1,000 metres skywards – ensures that this trip ends on an unforgettable high.

Discover your itinerary online or speak to Cruise118.com’s dedicated concierge to find out more and book today on 0808 278 3940.

Sara Macefield
Sara Macefield is an award-winning travel journalist of more than 20 years standing, and has spent the last decade writing about the cruise industry – exploring the world's oceans and rivers on ships of all sizes. Having notched up more than 100 cruises, her most memorable trips have been to Alaska with its superb wildlife, and sailing along Burma’s remote Chindwin River to villages far off the tourist track. She writes regularly for The Times and Daily Telegraph and has written for the Daily Mail, The Guardian, Daily Express and Woman & Home Magazine.

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