From the game lands of the Kruger to the beautiful coastline of the Indian Ocean, South Africa is a wonderful destination for a family holiday. Experience many of the country's natural and cultural highlights including a visit to a traditional Zulu village, Blyde River Canyon and game walks in a wildlife sanctuary in kingdom of Swaziland. Kruger National Park - Seeking out the Big Five from our safari vehicle. African style accommodation - Sleeping in a beehive hut or traditional rondavel. Kosi Bay - walking along unspoilt beaches on Indian Ocean.
Our trip begins at Johannesburg's O. R. Tambo International airport (airport code JNB) at 10.30am. The latest your flight should arrive is 9.30am. We will travel together as a group leaving Johannesburg behind driving through the lowveld, stretching before us into the distant horizons. The lowveld translates literally from Afrikaans into English as the low bush. This area has been inhabited since Stone Age times and with its plentiful water from mountain rivers, multiple waterfalls, beautiful craggy escarpments covered in vegetation and colourful birdlife. Our destination is Graskop, a peaceful location surrounded by forestry plantations. If your flight arrives the day before, Explore can arrange an additional pre tour nights' accommodation and transfer in Johannesburg.
This morning we will stop at several viewpoints along the way, including the aptly named God's Window and admire the awe-inspiring Blyde River Canyon. We also stop at the strangely surreal Bourke's Luck Potholes, a collection of pebble-eroded formations at the confluence of the Treur and Blyde Rivers, before we arrive at Tshukudu Game Reserve around 2pm. Tshukudu is the Sotho word for Rhino, the park is renowned for its lion breeding and rehabilitation programmes, nursing sick, orphaned or injured animals of all shapes and sizes back to health for re-introduction to the wild. The Reserve is home to the most spectacular of South Africa's wildlife, including lion, elephant, rhino, hippo and even the elusive leopard and cheetah. This afternoon we will go on our first game drive in the hope of spotting the Big 5. PLEASE NOTE: The order of the night stops between Days 1 and Days 5 (Graskop, Tshukudu Game Reserve and Kruger NP) may change due to accommodation availability. The total travelling time will remain roughly the same and each of the elements of the itinerary will still be offered although not necessarily in the order of the trip notes.
Today we do some more game spotting from the back of our vehicles and there is even a chance to do some walking in the reserve with experienced rangers. They are all acknowledged experts in the bush and are happy to pass on their knowledge of animals great and small, so ask as many questions as you can! Tshukudu contains a wealth of big and small game, as well as many species of birds. We will take the chance to see some of these stunning animals from our vehicle and also enjoying a walking safari through the reserve. We retire back to our lodge where there is a pool to relax around and soak up the late afternoon South African sun.
After a hearty breakfast we bid farewell to Tshukudu driving two hours to the southern gate of Kruger National Park. We stop for lunch and a swim at one of the national park camps before continuing further into the park. The Kruger National Park is one of the world's premier game reserves, what we do not see in Tshukudu, we may well see here. Covering an area larger than Israel, the park was established in 1898 to protect big game that had almost been hunted to extinction. The park is now one of the most prolific animal habitats in South Africa, committed to animal conservation and patrolled by armed rangers to prevent illegal poaching. A large number of species are present, including elephant, lion, black and white rhino, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wild dog, hyena, wildebeest and almost all of South Africa's species of antelope. Bird life is just as impressive with crowned cranes, bee-eaters, sunbirds and vultures. We retire to the sounds of the African bush this evening.
Leaving our camp shortly after sunrise, head out for our morning game drive searching for sightings of the extensive wildlife that make this national park their home. We stop at various watering holes where we may see buffalo or antelope taking an early morning drink and hopefully a pride of lions nearby. We finish the morning drive by having lunch at one of the park's restaurants. Continue game viewing in the afternoon.
After a morning of game spotting we continue south passing through rural townships and mountain scenery of the Blyde River Canyon escarpment to the small kingdom of Swaziland, a tiny and independent land inhabited by the Swazi people who revere their king and retain their age-old culture and traditions. Our journey takes us through some spectacular scenery in the Ezulwini Valley and past numerous traditional homesteads, curio stalls and the old mining settlement of Piggs Peak. This afternoon we enter one of Swaziland's best wildlife reserves, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. This secluded and beautiful sanctuary is a haven of tranquillity, located in a natural bowl beneath the Nyonyane Mountains. The accommodation we use is always popular with families, being a combination of traditional dome-shaped beehive huts, rondavels and traditional huts. Though the camp has all the mod cons - showers, toilets, outdoor swimming pool and restaurant/bar - it is rustic in the best sense of the word. Warthogs and ostrich share the camp with us and the restaurant overlooks a lake populated by water birds and a resident hippo. Due to the high demand in Mlilwane, accommodation is subject to change without notice and can vary in style. We'll endeavour to stay within the park when possible, however, some departures may be staying up to a 15 minute drive from the sanctuary in a hotel with excellent facilities and a large open air swimming pool.
This morning we begin with a walk in search of zebra, wildebeest, impala, nyala and warthog. Mlilwane has a large area of open grasslands, so game viewing is relatively easy. The afternoon is left free for you to choose one of the many optional activities on offer. The great advantage of Mlilwane is that the absence of big cats allows for a very different game viewing experience. You can opt to set out with a guide on mountain bike and take a game-spotting ride through the superb scenery. Alternatively, you may like to follow one of the self-guided mountain walking trails following the historic aqueduct around the Nyonyane Mountains; or one of the riverside trails in search of birdlife and hippo. The choice is very much yours.
Crossing through Swaziland we head for the southern border point at Golela, passing back in to South Africa and continuing through KwaZulu Natal to the northern settlement of Kosi Bay, close to the Mozambique border. The next two nights see us staying close to the shores of the Indian Ocean, with accommodation set amidst a wetland area of lakes and forest that is home to a rich diversity of birds and animals including hippos and crocs. On the afternoon of our arrival there is some free time to explore and enjoy this protected area which was declared a nature reserve back in 1950 and considered one of the most pristine lake systems along the South African coast.
Today we take a walk along the beaches and forests of this area in search of small antelope and the astounding variety of birds to be seen here. Snorkelling is possible near the estuary and over the coral reef (weather dependent) with equipment available from the lodge.
Travelling down the coast we head towards the greater St. Lucia Wetland Park situated on the Indian Ocean coast. This wonderful wetland reserve was recently granted World Heritage status as the largest estuarine lake system in Africa. En route we will visit the Zulu Experience, a chance to visit a traditional Zulu village and learn about the lifestyles and culture of these fascinating people. Whilst in St Lucia you may choose to go on a range of optional activities. Night drives to spot giant turtles coming ashore and whale watching trips are possible in the right season.
Another day on the coast allows for some additional relaxation time and the chance for optional activities such as whale watching (June to November) and turtle watching from November to March. There is also the option of a boat trip on the St. Lucia River to spot hippos and crocodiles or a snorkelling trip to Cape Vidal (weather dependent).
Departing St Lucia this morning, we drive south along the coast to Durban's International airport (airport code DUR) aiming to arrive at about 2pm. This is where our trip ends. The earliest your flight can depart is 4pm. For those taking an evening flights from Durban we can arrange time before your flight at Umhlanga Beach located just 10 minutes from Durban city centre, en-route to the airport. Featuring expansive golden sand beaches stretching northwards for over 200km, with a wide choice of restaurants and bars as well as an a shopping centre for those last minute souvenirs, Umhlanga Beach offers a host of options for all the family before your flight home.
11 Break Fast(s) 3 Lunch(es) 4 Dinner(s)
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