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Johannesburg to Johannesburg
Big Five South African Guided Safaris Tours
Day 1: Drakensberg Escarpment
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: Komati Tented Camp
After breakfast we make our way to the Nkomazi Private Game Reserve, arriving in time for lunch and your afternoon/evening game drive. The Komati Tented Lodge defines an ’Out of African’ styled tented accommodation with all five-star amenities on offer. Guests will experience not only the quietness and solitude, but a sumptuous comfort that basks in the sense of the age-old life of Africa. Each tent has a large king size bed, comfort cooling/heating and en-suite shower with an outdoor bath, and private expansive teak sun decks with a plunge pool. Meandering pathways lead to the main tent where traditional fare can be enjoyed at your own leisure, while a treatment at the River Retreat will rejuvenate and relax - doing its small part to restore the delicate balance of all living things. Relax in comfort and African style among wildlife of diverse habitats along the clear streams of the Komati River.
Day 6 and 7: Komati Tented Camp
Nature lovers will be able to share in the many wonders of Nkomazi - its diversity of wildlife and habitat, its natural beauty and major geological features. Nkomazi is an ecological Aladdin’s Cave and is blessed to have features such as the oldest and largest meteorite impact deposit on earth. We want you to experience, learn and enjoy the very best that our African wildlife experience can offer. To achieve this goal, we have brought together great game viewing in modern, open game vehicles that have been especially converted to maximize comfort, safety and viewing potential. Your ranger will provide insightful and valuable information about the fauna and flora. Watch the sun rise over the North Eastern boundaries of the reserve during a game drive or take in the spectacular views from lookout points among the rocky granite sentinels of the highlands of the reserve. Waterfalls and rock pools are impressive, while rolling grasslands support large herds of free-roaming wildlife, making Nkomazi a game-viewing haven. The Reserve represents a kaleidoscope of Africa’s habitats in its ability to support game on the high-lying grasslands and the low-lying bushveld areas, supporting the ecological balance, including the big game. One of the true joys of Nkomazi Game Reserve is the freedom to do nothing at all! In between game drives, your time can be filled with reading, relaxation treatments, sun-seeking and swimming or indulging in wholesome African Lodge cuisine.
Game viewing is carried out during the morning and evening and has been refined to an art by experienced rangers. Traversing through the reserve, the wildlife is staggering in its diversity. The game drives take between 3 - 4 hours, with a coffee stop in the morning and a sundowner stop at a vantage point overlooking one of the many breath-taking vistas at sunset. The night drives are normally conducted en route back to the lodge after an afternoon game drive, where the focus shifts towards nocturnal species that are sought out from the game drive vehicle with the use of a spotlight. Tailor made night drives can take place after dinner to provide a better opportunity to find elusive nocturnal species. It is always advisable to take a hat and warm clothing, even in summer. In winter, a warm jacket, beanie, scarf and gloves are advisable.
Day 8: Mkuze
This morning after our game drive and breakfast we depart the Komati Tented Lodge for 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 9: Mkuze Game Reserve - Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park
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 10: St. Lucia - Durban
This morning after breakfast we depart for St. Lucia where 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 overnight at the City Lodge, Umhlanga Ridge (or similar). Ideally situated next to the upmarket Gateway shopping and entertainment complex, City Lodge Umhlanga Ridge blends into the surroundings of its modern environment.
The five-storey hotel is in the heart of the new business district that has emerged in the Umhlanga area and is a short drive from Umhlanga’s popular promenade and beach front.
Day 11: Himeville - Sani Pass
This morning we have an early departure from Durban and head to the southern Drakensburg, where 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.
We will overnight at Moorcroft Manor (or similar). Moorcroft Manor offers classically decorated rooms all with bathrooms en suite.
Day 12: Himeville - Montusi Mountain Lodge
From Moorcroft Manor we travel via the Midlands Meander route to our next overnight at Montusi Mountain Lodge (or similar) near the Royal Natal National Park area overlooking The Amphitheatre. En route, there will be shopping opportunities at local art and craft venues. We will overnight at Montusi Mountain Lodge, which offers genuine hospitality in the tranquillity of one of the most beautiful settings in Southern Africa. Space, comfort and peace are what you will find when you treat yourself to the natural splendour and peaceful, romantic ambiance of this Drakensberg haven.
Situated in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, halfway between Johannesburg and Durban, Montusi is the only upmarket destination in the area with a full and uninterrupted view of the Drakensberg's most famous part, the Amphitheatre Escarpment. Our guests enjoy this spectacular scenery in the comfort of their private individual garden suites.
Activities here include hiking and swimming. Spend the remainder of the day relaxing or exploring this incredibly beautiful area.
Day 13: Johannesburg
Today we depart Montusi Mountain Lodge and drive through to reach Johannesburg in the late afternoon to drop you off at your overnight accommodation or at the O R Tambo International Airport in time for your flight.