The Kruger and other Jewels

THE KINGDOM OF THE "BIG FIVE"

  • South Africa
  • Duration: 14 days
  • Self-drive

Areas of Interest

Where nearly 2 million hectares of unrivaled diversity of life forms fuses with historical and archaeological sights – this is real Africa. The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa.

One of the biggest parks in the World, covering  2 million hectares of the Lowveld region in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. 

The park allows you to enjoy many different activities: the safaris of course, but also mountain biking, walking and hiking tours.

The statistics of the Kruger are astounding: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, and 147 mammals. If you add the Kruger National Park the Moçambique’s Parque Nacional do Limpopo, and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park the area covered reaches 3.3 million hectares – one of the largest wilderness conservation areas in the world called Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

Summer (October to April) is very hot, with December being the busiest time for the park. What we normally do during the busy weeks is to organize itineraries within the Greater Kruger (for example, Manyeleti or Sabi Sand) for a more intimate experience. The dry winter season (May to September) is an excellent time for game viewing because of the vegetation, which is much thinner. Furthermore, during the dry season, mosquitoes are not a problem, and this makes the park the ideal destinations for families traveling with kids. 

One of the best kept secrets in the Greater Kruger area. The 23,000-hectare Manyeleti Private Game reserve is located between the Timbavati and Sabi Sands Game Reserves and borders the world famous Kruger National Park. There are no fences, and wildlife viewing is superb.

Manyeleti is prime “Big Five” territory, with the lions, rhinos, buffalo, and elephants spotted regularly. With a bit more work and luck, you will also see the elusive leopard. 

Furthermore, with more than 300 bird species present in the area, Manyeleti makes a great safari destination for wildlife enthusiasts, photographers and bird watchers alike.

Part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, Marakele is a 67 000 hectares park. It is famous for its diversity, and variety due to the contrast between the dry western regions, and the humid eastern areas.

Although the reserve is home to Big Five of the animal kingdom, the big cats are a bit difficult to spot, due to the thick vegetation, and the limited internal road network. However, there is a healthy population of rhinos, and guests are likely to see at least one of these magnificent creatures. Resident antelope include sable, kudu, eland, impala, waterbuck, tsessebe, and many smaller species. Chacma baboon and Vervet monkey are two species to be watched carefully for mischief, particularly around the rest camps.

Another highlight of the park is the birds. There are at least 363 bird species in Marakele, and the large breeding colony of vultures that can be seen from the Lonong Loop road along the southern border of the park is unique.

A beautiful mix between wildlife, and cultural interest. Situated in the northern part of South Africa, close to Botswana and Zimbabwe, this national park has is characterized by a savannah landscape, and it is located at the meeting place of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers. Sandstone formations, mopane woodlands, brooding baobabs, ancient floodplains, and unique pristine forests form a scenic background for the wildlife: elephant, giraffe, buffalo, white rhinos, gemsbok and other antelope, and extensive bird life.

You will also discover that Mapungubwe is South Africa’s first kingdom, a highly complex society that marked the heart of a pre-Shona kingdom between 1050 AD and 1270 AD, only to be abandoned in the 14th century. The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape – the virtually untouched remains of the palace sites, the settlement area dependent upon them, and two capital sites that remain – was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003 and forms part of the Mapungubwe National Park.

This discovery included three findings of significance: a beautiful golden rhinoceros made from gold foil nailed around a wooden interior, and a gold scepter and bowl, all uncovered from the excavation of twenty-three graves on the hilltop site and which are on display at the Mapungubwe Museum at the University of Pretoria.

Scenic views and amazing waterfalls. A paradise for photographers. The Blyde River Canyon, close to the city of Hoedspruit is considered one of the largest canyons on Earth and may be the largest ‘green canyon’ – it has a particularly lush subtropical covering.

The fresh mountain scenery and panoramic views over the Klein Drakensberg escarpment are quite spectacular and give the area its name of ‘Panorama Route’. Viewpoints are named for the spectacle they offer, and God’s Window and Wonder View hint at the magnitude of the scenery.

The world-famous Three Rondavels (Three Sisters) are three huge spirals of dolomite rock rising out of the far wall of the Blyde River Canyon. It is beautiful to see them while driving along the panoramic routes we will suggest to you. However, the best way to enjoy the canyon is from the water.

The Blyde River Canyon offers many options for active holidays: hiking to the beautiful waterfalls, horse riding, white water rafting, hot-air ballooning, fly-fishing, biking, tours and boat trips on the Blyde Dam.

Itinerary

In South Africa, more than in any of the other destinations we offer our guests, it is necessary to have a preliminary call to understand your desires and create the ideal itinerary for you. There is so much to do, and the itinerary below wants to be a starting point to have an initial idea. We have also included in our description a list of amazing extensions to be added to your holiday. Just ask, and we will make sure to exceed your expectations.

  • Day 1 – Arrive Johannesburg

Depending on your flight arrangements, we organize the vehicle pick up during the day, and let you drive to your next destination, or stay overnight in the city. Depending on the available time, we can organize a visit to the Apartheid Museum, Soweto Township, and Nelson Mandela’s house.

Service: Half Board

 

  • Day 2 – Graskop

On your way to the Greater Kruger area, you will stop at Graskop, a small town found on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment. The city is the ideal starting point to visit the Blyde River Canyon. This is the third largest in the world and one of South Africa’s popular scenic wonders. The scenery of the 25000 hectares reserve is truly unsurpassed by any other. You will be staying at the Graskop Hotel, also known as the hotel of the artists. The rooms have been decorated by different contemporary South African artists. The 15 garden suites each have a patio overlooking the peaceful gardens. Unconventional art pieces are found around each corner.

Service: Bed & Breakfast

Driving time: 4h 30’

 

  • Day 3 & 4- Balule Game Reserve and Blyde River Canyon

After a fila visit to the Blyde River Canyon, a two hours drive will bring you to the lodge managed by one of our most trusted partners in the Balule Game Reserve. The reserve has an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park and will provide an unforgettable safari experience. You will get there on time for the afternoon game drive. The game reserve is part of the Greater Kruger, and it is home to an abundance of African wildlife including the Big Five. You will be staying for 2 nights at the beautiful Elephant Game Lodge, where our partners Erika and Luca will welcome you like a family member. A truly genuine experience we experienced the first time we traveled to South Africa.

Service: Full Board

Driving time: 2h

 

  • Day 5 & 6 – Manyeleti Game Reserve

The time has come to get closer to the wildlife, and Manyeleti Game Reserve is our choice for you. The reserve is prime “Big Five” territory, with the lions, rhinos, buffalo, and elephants spotted regularly. With a bit more work and luck, you will also see the elusive leopard. Depending on your choice, we will find for you a beautiful and intimate campsite or an exclusive lodge.

Service: Full Board or self-catering, depending on the choice

Driving time: 2h

 

  • Day 7 & 8 & 9 – Kruger National Park

Today you will finally get into the famous Kruger National Park by the Orpen Gate. We suggest at least three days into the park, to enjoy its magnificence in complete relax. The road network very well organized. We normally make the final plans once we understand the preferences and expectations. In any case, to enjoy the KNP in full, we suggest choosing the campsites, and sleep in your roof-top-tent. We will reserve for you the best possible spots around Skukuza and Olifants, before moving north towards Punta Maria, where you will leave the Kruger, and move next.

Service: Rooftop tent and self-catering

Driving time: Completely up to the guests

 

  • Day 10 & 11 – Mapungubwe National Park

Today you will leave the Kruger Park, and move to a National Park which is normally out of the normal tourist’s itineraries: Mapungubwe National Park. A beautiful mix between wildlife, and cultural interest. Situated in the northern part of South Africa, close to Botswana and Zimbabwe, this national park has is characterized by a savannah landscape. You will be staying for two nights at the Mazhou campsite, which offers you lots of privacy surrounded by nature. Every camping pitch has its own power supply and you can make use of the shared sanitary facilities. You can find sandstone formations, mopane forests, baobab trees and a variety of animals in the area. The elephant, giraffe, white rhino, elk, gemsbok, and many other antelope species are native to this area. The area is very suitable for a game drive during your 4×4 self drive through South Africa.

Service: Rooftop tent and self-catering

Driving time: 5h (from Punda Maria gate)

 

  • Day 12 & 13 – Marakele National Park

The last national park in this itinerary is surely not the last one in terms of experience and emotions. It is a special place, and once again, off-the-beaten-path of the main tourist attractions. The Big Five are there. Depending on the season, you may have to sharpen your spotting skills. Furthermore, if bird watching is your passion, Marakele is an absolute paradise. For your last couple of nights in the bush, we have planned for you the best possible closing at the Marataba Safari Lodge, one of the most famous lodges in South Africa. We can hardly think of a better way to celebrate an amazing self-drive adventure to South Africa.

Service: Full Board

Driving time: 4h

 

  • Day 14 – Return to Johannesburg

Today you will drive from Marakele to Johannesburg, and take your flight back home. Depending on your flight plans, and whether we planned for you a visit to the highlights of the city (the Apartheid Museum and Soweto), we will make the final plans for your comfort and satisfaction.

Service: Depends on flight plans

Driving time: 4h

Extensions

The game reserve is located north of Durban in the world-famous KwaZulu-Natal, right in the heart of Zululand.

The ideal destination for the self-drive safari, with plenty of choices of accommodations. This is the oldest reserve in South Africa. It is a Big Five reserve, and at the same time, large packs of wild dogs are often seen. The Park covers more than 96,000 hectares and contains an immense diversity of fauna and flora.

Hluhluwe Umfolozi Reserve is characterized by hilly topography and the northern section of the game reserve is noted for its wide variety of both birdlife and wildlife.

iMfolozi Game Reserve is situated in the southern section of the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park. The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park is world renowned for its White Rhino conservation and the Centenary Capture Centre is setting exceptional standards for animal capture and sustainable utilization in Africa.

A truly original extension to a classic safari in South Africa, and a Unesco World Heritage site. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is one of the outstanding natural wetland and coastal sites of Africa, covering an area of 239,566 hectares. The wetland park is a huge protected area along the coast of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province.

The park’s centerpiece is the vast Lake St. Lucia, home to large numbers of hippos, crocodiles, pelicans, and flamingos. Elephants, giraffes, and leopards inhabit the grasslands and forests of the nearby Western Shores and Charters Creek areas. To the north, Sodwana Bay is known for its colorful coral reefs., it includes a wide range of pristine marine, coastal, wetland, estuarine, and terrestrial environments which are scenically beautiful and basically unmodified by people. These include coral reefs, long sandy beaches, coastal dunes, lake systems, swamps, and extensive reed and papyrus wetlands, providing critical habitat for a wide range of species from Africa’s seas, wetlands, and savannas.

Cape Vidal offers the best of two worlds – it is situated on the exquisite Zululand coast with all its amazingly rich marine life, and it provides direct access to the Eastern Shores Nature Reserve with its populations of elephant, rhino, buffalo, crocodile, hippo and reedbuck to name but a few.

The beach and off-shore areas at Cape Vidal fall within the St Lucia Marine Reserve which is visited seasonally by humpback whales during their migrations, as well as loggerhead and leatherback sea-turtles that come to the beaches north of Cape Vidal from November to February to nest. Other marine “big game” includes the huge whale shark, marlin, sailfish and dolphin.

A large park, it is the fourth largest in South Africa, with its 55 000 hectares, and it is completely malaria-free.

Pilanesberg lies between the transition zone of the dry Kalahari and wetter Lowveld vegetation, commonly referred to as “Bushveld”. Unlike any other large park, unique overlaps of mammals, birdlife and vegetation occur because of this transition zone.

Springbok, brown hyaena, the red eyed bulbul, and camel thorn trees usually found in arid areas are found cohabitating with moist-area-limited impala, black eyed bulbul and Cape chestnut trees.

The Pilanesberg is famous for the geology, and many professionals are traveling in the area to study the Pilanesberg National Park Alkaline Ring Complex, an area formed by volcanic eruptions some 1200 million years ago, and a unique and wide range of habitats for game animals. Wildlife is abundant, and the carrying capacity of the park is outstanding. As well as the ‘Big Five’ you will find the nocturnal brown hyena, cheetah, hippo, crocodile and even sable in the Pilanesberg National Park.

We are still in KwaZulu Natal Province, the Drakensberg creates a natural border between Lesotho and KwaZulu Natal. In the local language, they are simply known as ‘the dragon mountain’ or Drakensberg. It is the highest mountain range in the country, reaching an impressive 3 482 meters above sea level.

Within the Drakensberg of KwaZulu Natal lies the 243 000 hectares mountain region that is also a Unesco World Heritage site. The area is perfect for an active holiday: hiking is fantastic, as well as horse trails, white water rafting, abseiling, and more.

For the offroad enthusiasts, the place to be is the Sani Pass, undoubtedly one of the most spectacular and scenic mountains passes in the whole of Africa. The Sani Pass lies between South Africa and its small landlocked neighbor, Lesotho. As the only road that crosses the summit of the Drakensberg mountain, the pass attracts adventurous travelers from across the world who wish to traverse the breathtaking natural scenery this precarious mountain has to offer — a must-do for any adventurous bucket list!

A blend of cultures, cuisines, and landscapes, there’s nowhere quite like Cape Town, a singularly beautiful city crowned by the magnificent Table Mountain National Park.

We suggest to spend at least three to four days in the area and go beyond visiting only this beautiful city. The first day is normally used to walk around the street, while in the afternoon, you will make your way to the summit of Table Mountain with a cable car. From Table Mountain, one of the 7 wonders of nature, spectacular views of the city, the Peninsula and Robben Island will leave you in awe. Nightlife in Cape Town is fantastic. You will have the opportunity to enjoy dinner at one of the various excellent restaurants in town. 

The second day we suggest to Cape Peninsula experience the scenic beauty and natural landscapes of South Africa’s Cape Peninsula on this full-day tour from Cape Town. The drive is amazing and places like Hout Bay and the Seal Island Boat Cruise are unique experiences you cannot miss. Chapman’s Peak Drive is the most scenic drive in the world, with cliffs on one side and ocean on the other, with photographic stops made along the way. Today you will also visit the famous Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and Cape Point and Boulders Penguin Colony, one of the most famous penguin colonies.

A visit to Cape Town can only complete with a visit to Cape Winelands. This is a 40 minutes drive from the city. The beautifully located towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are within easy reach of Cape Town and are some of the oldest towns in the country with a rich history and culture. If you want, we can organize for you a guided tour of these two towns and also visit 3 top wine estates for wine tasting before we make our way back to Cape Town.

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