Visit the great game reserves of South Africa and Swaziland. Search for the Big Five, learn about the history of the Zulu battlefields, explore the wetlands of St Lucia and discover the last absolute monarchy in Africa. Kruger - The most iconic National Park in South Africa, home to the Big Five Hluhluwe iMfolozi - Home to the biggest rhino population in Africa Mlilwane - A walking safari in this secluded wildlife sanctuary beneath the Nyonyane Mountains.
Arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, and once home to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Today your leader will meet you in the reception of Aero Guest Lodge at 10am. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), which is just a short 10 minute drive from the meeting hotel. Please note, it's essential you arrive at the meeting point by 10am so the leader can give a short briefing before we depart south-east from Johannesburg to the Drakensberg Mountains. The drive to the Drakensberg is around 4.5 hours. Drakensberg is the world's oldest mountain range, deriving its name from the Afrikaans word for 'Dragon Mountains'; in the inevitable mist, the razor back ridges of the mountains have a certain likeness to these mythical beasts. On arrival to our accommodation, there may be an opportunity to take a short walk among the rugged nature. If you are booking your own flights to Johannesburg, we recommend giving yourself at least 90 minutes to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around 10 minutes' drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 8.15am. Please note: A majority of flights will land into Johannesburg in the early morning, so there will be access to tea and coffee, toilets and the hotel lounge at our meeting hotel.
We wake up to a hearty breakfast before having an opportunity to partake in a guided walk, where we will be able to experience the beauty of this mountain range first hand. The walk will usually take 4-5 hours and is of a moderate to challenging level of difficulty. Weather permitting, upon returning, our guide will have prepared a tasty 'al fresco' lunch enabling us to soak up the spectacular views of the Drakensberg. The afternoon is left open to either relax whilst enjoying a cool drink or perhaps continue our adventure with an unguided walk through the mountain valleys.
After an early start, we depart on the drive to the famous battlefields of Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana, arriving around mid-morning. Portrayed in the film Zulu Dawn, the battles at Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana were bloody and hugely significant in the history of the Zulu nation. Although time is limited today, due to the distance we must travel, we will visit both battle sites and our leader will explain the importance of these clashes in relation to South Africa's history, British colonialism and the Zulu people. After a picnic lunch, we will drive for the rest of the afternoon to St Lucia where we will stay for the next two days.
We rise early this morning to take advantage of the 'golden hour' on what is our first opportunity to experience a 'Big 5' safari. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park boasts the densest population of both white and black rhino in the whole of Africa. We will have a quick stop at one of the reserve's watering holes, where we can stretch our legs and freshen up before continuing on our journey through this ancient Zulu hunting ground. With over 500 species of birds recorded at this reserve it is also a paradise for any birdwatchers amongst us. In the mid afternoon, we depart for St. Lucia where there is the opportunity to experience the optional activity of a 'Hippo Cruise' on the Greater St. Lucia Estuary. The cruise meanders along allowing us to relax whilst viewing the hippos and crocodiles in their natural habitat as, once again, the sun drops from the African sky.
Today is a day of leisure, where we have a choice of optional activities available in the area. There is the opportunity to continue our game viewing experience by taking an open game drive in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which was the first World Heritage Site in South Africa. The word iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this truly unique place. The day includes a 'braai' lunch and an option of an afternoon swim or snorkel in the Indian Ocean at Cape Vidal. There is also the chance to amble to the St. Lucia beach for a relaxing dip in the ocean or spend time walking the local forest trails. In the evening we can enjoy an exhilarating night game drive when all the nocturnal wildlife start their day. From November to February we can join a guided turtle tour in the Wetland Park.
This morning we make our to Swaziland, during June to November we may have the opportunity to participate in the optional activity of whale watching along the way. We then drive north and enter Swaziland - a tiny, independent kingdom inhabited by the Swazi tribe who revere their king and take great pride in retaining their culture and traditions. Our journey takes us through some spectacular scenery in the Ezulwini Valley and past numerous traditional homesteads and curio stalls. In the late afternoon we enter one of Swaziland's best wildlife reserves, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. This secluded and beautiful sanctuary is a haven of tranquillity, located as it is in a natural bowl beneath the Nyonyane Mountains. For the next two nights our accommodation is in traditional dome-shaped beehive huts set in a wooded area. Though the camp has all the mod cons of showers, toilets, outdoor swimming pool and restaurant/bar it is rustic in the best sense of the word. Warthogs and antelope share the camp with us and the restaurant overlooks a lake populated by water birds.
Mlilwane is Swaziland's oldest protected area, owned and managed by a non-profit making trust, it is situated in the low foothills of the Nyonyane Mountains. The park has been rehabilitated to become Swaziland's most frequented reserve where one can enjoy the beauty of the surroundings and the abundant wildlife that grace these plains. Mlilwane has a large area of open grassland making game viewing and bird watching relatively easy and this morning we begin with a walk in search of zebra, wildebeest, nyala and warthog. The afternoon is left free to choose one of the optional activities available at the reserve, the absence of big cats allows us to partake in mountain biking or trail walking in a relaxed setting. The alternatives are to accompany our guide to the friendly local curios thus providing a real feel for the Swasi people and their culture, or relax and sit back to watch the local wildlife grazing outside our very own front door.
After an early start we drive north re-entering South Africa and crossing the Crocodile River into the Kruger National Park. This two million hectare wilderness is amongst the world's first proclaimed game reserves and is justifiably South Africa's showpiece, boasting 147 mammal species. The park offers the 'Big 5' and over 500 recorded bird species along with scenery as diverse as riverine forest, granite outcrops, endless savannah and impenetrable mopani woodland. We take an open-vehicle game drive on our way to the camp area where we stay overnight. These camps areas benefit from modern infrastructure with toilet and shower blocks, restaurants and shops, as well as our accommodation.
The Kruger National Park was established in 1898 to protect big game that had been hunted to near extinction, it is now one of the most prolific animal habitats in South Africa, committed to animal conservation. We depart camp 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. Our afternoon game drive takes us to the Sabie River, which is a major water source for the park's wildlife and a fantastic spot for game viewing. We leave the park in the late afternoon, climbing in excess of 1,000 metres to our overnight stop at Graskop.
Departing at 9am this morning we drive for around 7 hours back to Johannesburg. Along the way we drive through the airy uplands of Mpumalanga, an area that has been inhabited since the Stone Age and boasts rivers, multiple waterfalls, craggy escarpments and colourful birdlife. We'll stop at several excellent viewpoints, including the aptly named 'God's Window' and admire the awe-inspiring Blyde River Canyon . We'll arrive into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) at about 5pm and this is where our trip ends. The earliest your flight can depart is 8pm.
9 Break Fast(s) 1 Lunch(es) 2 Dinner(s)
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