African Safaris, Ecotourism & Accommodation in South and Southern Africa
Guided Safaris is Independently Marketed by Far and Wild Safaris cc

18-Day Wildlife/Drakensberg Safari

Johannesburg – Johannesburg
Private Guided Big 5 Safaris & KZN Drakensberg Tours in South African

Day 1: Drakensberg Escarpment – Panorama Route
We will collect you from the O R Tambo International Airport or from your overnight accommodation in Johannesburg and travel through the Highveld industrial, mining and agricultural areas. Our guide will make this section interesting, adding value with his interpretation of the local history and sights. The scenery is flat but changes as we approach the Drakensberg Escarpment, where we drop down to the Lowveld through scenic passes. This Drakensberg Escarpment area has scenic vistas over the Lowveld of the Kruger National Park. The fresh mountain scenery and panoramic views over the Klein Drakensberg escarpment are quite spectacular and give the area its name of 'Panorama Route'. The geology and climate of this high rainfall plateau results in masses of waterfalls. Some are hidden deep within some of the largest man-made forestry plantations in the world, with row upon row of pine and eucalyptus trees.  We will visit the Panorama Escarpment and some of the view-sites such as God’s Window, Blyde River Canyon, Berlin and Lisbon waterfalls, etc. and overnight at Rissington Inn (or similar). Rissington Inn offers an award-winning friendly welcome and unpretentious accommodation in a bush setting just outside Hazyview, in the heart of the Lowveld. Stylish but relaxed and informal, the inn is an ideal base from which to explore the Panorama Route and all that Mpumalanga has to offer and a perfect stopover on the way to the game reserves.

Day 2, 3 and 4: Kruger National Park
After breakfast we make our way to the nearby Kruger National Park. The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks among the best in Africa. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, this national park of nearly 2 million hectares is unrivalled in the diversity of its life forms and a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies.
Truly the flagship of the South African national parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. Kruger Park is an excellent venue with good sightings of lion, elephant, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, warthog, baboon, monkey, hippo and impala regularly seen. The more elusive animals like leopard and wild dog are an exciting find.
We will go on a sunset drive in an open safari vehicle on one of the evenings, this to enhance the possibility of seeing the nocturnal species such as leopard, lion, hyena, genet, bush babies and then the other nocturnal animals such as the smaller cats, owls and nightjars. These drives are conducted by SANParks, the organisation tasked with running this Park.
We will spend our nights in Kruger in bungalow accommodation inside the Kruger Park. Although not graded, these bungalows are of a two- or three-star standard. Here the rooms have twin beds, each with a private shower, toilet and hand basin en-suite. The brick under thatch rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, some also with ceiling fans and a fridge. There is insect proof screening on the doors and windows. You will be provided with bath and hand towels as well as soap. In the game reserve we will have breakfast and dinners in the restaurants.
We enjoy a full game-viewing programme for the balance of the days. Your guide in his vehicle conducts the remainder of the game drives. We encourage an early start to make the most of the best time of day to view the animals. We will try and be the first one out at dawn - this to see if we are able to sight some of the nocturnal predators returning to their daytime resting.

Day 5, 6 and 7: Luxury Safari Lodge
This morning will be spent on extended game drives to various areas of the Park, with an early start to make the most of the day and to possibly chance upon one of the predators returning to their day-time lair.
We later depart this park for the nearby Private Game Reserve, arriving in time for lunch. Over a late afternoon tea, our ranger will discuss what you hope to see during the afternoon game drive. This game begins in the late afternoon and lasts until after dark, when spotlights are used for a glimpse into the nocturnal bush life. Listen to lion’s roar in the dark or admire the small nocturnal animals.
Open safari vehicles, seating between 4 and 10 visitors each, head out into the wild under the expert guidance of experienced rangers and at most lodges, trackers. Guests can get in close contact with the wildlife species and are presented with unparalleled photographic opportunities. Early morning safaris head out as the sun rises and as the bush stirs to life. The rangers search for animals by tracking their spoor, and by listening for the tell-tale signs of activity. The bush has its own language, and it is fascinating to watch those who possess the tools to encode it. Late afternoon safaris commence as the sun burns its way towards the horizon. The animals are now getting more active, many preparing for the great hunt after dark. After sundowners, the drive continues with the aid of powerful spotlights that reveal nocturnal species in another world. On average, approximately 6 hours a day or more are spent out in the bush on safari. Game drives traverse a large area and strict vehicle limits at sighting ensure the exclusivity of your safari activities and game viewing experience. Off-road driving ensures that you have the best possible view of any exceptional sighting and rangers are constantly in touch with each other to keep track of animal movements.
Most of these lodges follow the wildlife safari format, which is to arrive for lunch on the first day. It is then check in, orientation and introduction to the bush. After afternoon tea it is out on a game drive from about 15h30 or 16h00. During the drive, sundowners are enjoyed in the bush, where after you return to the lodge for dinner after a period of night driving where the nocturnal species are searched for by spotlight. These drives are in open Land Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser safari vehicles. The driver is an experienced guide who will make the drive more interesting. Early next morning you are awakened at dawn, tea/coffee and rusks are served and out on a game drive again, returning to breakfast.

Day 8: eSwatini (Swaziland)
After breakfast and a game drive we travel through rural Swaziland where we overnight at Reilly’s Rock (or similar). Situated in the Mliliwane Game Sanctuary, Reilly’s Rock’s unique lodge has been tastefully decorated in keeping with its colonial roots by Swaziland's leading conservation team. Notwithstanding the necessary subtle additions and renovations, the house still stands as it was built almost a century ago. Mliliwane Game Reserve is Swaziland's pioneer conservation area and is situated in a beautiful, secluded sanctuary in Swaziland's Valley of Heaven, the Ezulwini Valley, an area between Mbabane and Manzini.
The Sanctuary covers 4,560 hectares and comprises of a southern and northern section. The southern section is predominately open grassland plains with middleveld vegetation, stretching up onto the striking Nyonyane Mountain with its exposed granite peak known as the "Rock of Execution". Nyonyane is where ancient San once lived and where Swazi Royal graves are situated giving historical significance.
The Kingdom of Swaziland is a country located in Southern Africa and is relatively small in area, similar in size to Kuwait. Swaziland is a landlocked country, bordered by South Africa on three sides except to the east, where it borders Mozambique. The country, inhabited primarily by the Swazi people, is named after the 19th century King Mswati II, from whom the people also take their name.

Day 9: Mkuze
After breakfast we travel through rural eSwatini to the Ghost Mountain Inn in Mkuze where we overnight, arriving in the late afternoon. At the foot of the legendary Ghost Mountain lies the Ghost Mountain Inn, a perfect setting for taking time out to relax and experience the charms of Africa in comfort and style. The remainder of the afternoon is yours to enjoy.

Day 10: Mkuze Game Reserve - Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park
This morning we travel to the nearby Mkuze Game Reserve - a place of great beauty and high contrasts, Mkhuze is renowned as a mecca for bird lovers, with more than 420 bird species on record. The reserve has an astonishing diversity of natural habitats, from the eastern slopes of the Lebombo Mountains along its eastern boundary, to broad stretches of acacia savannah, swamps and a variety of woodlands and riverine forest. Mkhuze Game Reserve constitutes the north-western spur of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, a recently declared World Heritage Site. Animals to be found in the reserve include black and white rhinoceros, elephant, giraffe, leopard, buffalo, nyala, blue wildebeest, warthog, impala, kudu and other smaller antelope. Rare species occurring are cheetah, hyena and suni. Visitors may enjoy excellent animal and bird sightings from the hides in the reserve, especially during the dry months.
After this game reserve visit and proceed to the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park where we would spend the next night at Hilltop Camp. The accommodation here is in a chalet, each with its own private bathroom/washbasin and toilet. These chalets are also equipped with a fridge.
Upon entering the gates into the park, our game viewing commences immediately.
This first evening we go on a sunset drive in an open game-viewing vehicle with staff from KZN Wildlife, the organisation that is tasked with running this reserve. This is to improve on your chances of seeing some of the nocturnal species such as leopard, lion, hyena, genet, bush babies and then the other nocturnal animals such as the owls and nightjars.
Dinner is served after your return from the sunset drive.

Day 11 and 12: Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park
These following days will be spent on extended game drives to various areas of the Park, with an early start to make the most of the day and to possibly chance upon one of the predators returning to their day-time lair. Set in the heart of Zululand, this is the oldest game reserve in Africa, where Zulu kings such as Dingiswayo and Shaka hunted and put in place the first conservation laws, where today the "big five" of African legend stalk the verdant savannah. Established in 1895, game viewing is the prime attraction.
As the home of Operation Rhino in the 1950s and 60s, the Park became world renowned for its white rhino conservation. The Park covers some 96 000 ha and contains an immense diversity of fauna and flora. Hluhluwe is characterised by hilly topography, and this northern section of the park is noted for its wide variety of both bird and animal life. Sightings of rhino, giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, warthog, baboon, vervet monkey, and antelope such as impala, nyala and kudu are seen frequently and with the possibility of seeing lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, black rhino, hippo, crocodile, monitor lizard, hyena and antelope such as red duiker, steenbuck, waterbuck, bushbuck and then the rare Samango monkey and wild dog, much less frequently. These drives are conducted with your guide in his/her vehicle.

Day 13: St. Lucia
This morning, more game viewing follows as we leave the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park to arrive in St. Lucia in time for lunch. We will check into our overnight accommodation and then visit the Eastern Shores of Lake St. Lucia, heading to Cape Vidal, game viewing all the while. After a visit to the beach we would continue the circular route for a game drive before returning to our lodge. Animals that may be seen here include kudu, reedbuck, zebra, waterbuck and other antelope species, black and white rhino, elephant and on the odd occasion, leopard.
We will overnight at Lidiko Lodge (or similar).

Day 14: St. Lucia - Durban
This morning we will board a boat for a two-hour cruise on the lake in this proclaimed World Heritage Site. Here you are guaranteed to see hippos, with a very good chance of seeing crocodiles and a vast array of birdlife.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has both one of the largest estuary systems in Africa and the continent's southernmost coral reefs. In granting it World Heritage status in 1999, the World Heritage Committee noted the park's "exceptional biodiversity, including some 521 bird species". Situated on the central Zululand coast of KwaZulu-Natal, the park is made up of 13 adjoining protected areas with a total size of 234 566 hectares. Its remarkable biodiversity is a result of the park's location between subtropical and tropical Africa, as well as its coastal setting. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has its origins in the St Lucia Game Reserve, declared in 1895 and made up of the large lake and its islands. St Lucia Park was proclaimed in 1939, containing land around the estuary and a strip of about one kilometre around most of the lake shore.
After our two-hour cruise and lunch, we make our way back to Durban, arriving in the late afternoon, where we drop you off at your overnight accommodation and the evening is yours to enjoy.

Day 15: Durban - Himeville
The following morning, we collect you from your overnight accommodation and travel past the capital city of Pietermaritzburg onto the “Midlands Meander”. The Midlands Meander is what weavers, potters, woodcrafters, leather workers, artists, metalworkers, box makers, herb growers, cheese makers, beer brewers and pianos have in common. You will find them all, and a great deal more on the Midlands Meander map - South Africa's first, largest and most popular art and crafts route. From a very small beginning, the Midlands Meander has grown to well over a hundred stops on four routes. Originating with the arrival of the first settlers in the early 1800’s the area boasts many wonderful homes and barns, an attraction to lovers of architecture. As you tour the Midlands Meander you will also notice that this area is home to a number of the country’s most famous schools.
From here we travel inland, to the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains on the scenic route through the frontier towns of Bulwer, Underberg and Himeville, where we overnight at Moorcroft Manor. Moorcroft Manor offers classically decorated rooms all with bathrooms en suite. Selected satellite television, ceiling fans, hairdryers and robes are available in all their rooms. The remainder of the afternoon you are at leisure.

Day 16: Himeville - Sani Pass
This morning we transfer to our 4X4 vehicles for the ascent up the Sani Pass and into Lesotho. Breathtaking scenery and alpine conditions dominate this truly magnificent corner of this province. The Sani Pass is a spectacular mountain road that is a well-known entry point into Lesotho from South Africa’s Natal Drakensberg Park. It is the gateway to the ‘Roof of Africa’ scenic route that links the spectacular scenery of the Drakensberg with the mountains of northern Lesotho. The Sani Pass is the only border post between Kwazulu-Natal and Lesotho. The Sani Pass was once a rough mule trail descending the Eastern Highlands of old Basutoland into Natal. Tough drovers brought wool and mohair down the Pass on donkeys and mules to be exchanged for blankets … clothing … maize meal … the essentials for life in a remote, impoverished country. And a young man had a dream … of operating a motor vehicle service up this fantastic Pass, using the 4-wheel drive vehicles he had seen on service in World War II. The Sani Pass was born. Once we have entered Lesotho we will stop off at a Basutho village where one can learn more about the life of these very friendly people, in this, one of the world’s poorest countries. Lunch will be at the “highest pub in Africa”, the Sani Top Chalet, for your own account. We will also have some time here to walk along the edge of the escarpment for stunning views into KwaZulu Natal, before descending the pass to Moorcroft Manor. *NB. Warm clothing is a must, no matter the season of the year! You will also need valid passports for the crossing into Lesotho. The ascent of the pass is subject to the prevailing weather conditions.

Day 17: Giants Castle
After breakfast, we travel to the Giants Castle which is the home of the eland and the majestic bearded vulture and lies in the Central Berg region of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site that takes its name from the silhouette of the peaks and escarpment that resemble the profile of a sleeping giant. The camp is situated on a grassy plateau among the deep valleys running down from the face of the High Drakensberg, offering glorious views for hikers and mountain climbers.
This afternoon you are free to explore some of the shorter hikes at your leisure.

Day 18: Giants Castle – Johannesburg
This morning after breakfast, we follow the signposted path to the Main Caves and approximately 2,5 km from the camp the path enters a beautiful forest below the cave sandstone overhangs, which shelter the Bushman museum. Several deep clear pools are to be found in Two Dassie Stream which runs through the forest along this route and swimming is a pleasant activity on a hot day. We continue on up the boardwalk into the Main Caves Bushman Museum. The guide on duty opens the entrance gate and he will give us an interesting talk of the early inhabitants of this area. We leave the museum and head to "Rock 75" which indicates the site of Col. Durnford's camp. It was here that members of the 75th Regiment camped in 1874 during the Langalibalele rebellion. It is believed that during their stay (June-September 1874) the regimental cook carved into this rock the figures "75" indicating that the 75th had occupied the spot. Upon arriving back at the camp, we will depart for Johannesburg arriving late afternoon where we drop you off at your overnight accommodation or at the O R Tambo International Airport for your flight.

 

   Giants Castle Camp, Central Drakensberg
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