Day 1: Trip begins at Johannesburg's International Airport (JNB); drive to the Drakensberg Mountains
Arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, and once home to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
You will be met on arrival at O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) by a driver-guide, who will be accompanying you throughout this trip around South Africa and Swaziland, and you'll be setting straight out from the airport to the Drakensberg Mountains. The drive to the Drakensberg is around 4.5 hours, and as such we ask that you arrive in JNB no later than 11am. This will give you time to clear the airport, pick up any currency, grab a coffee or tea and get on the road with plenty of time. If you are booking your own flights, its essential that you let us know your arrival and departure times no later than three weeks prior to departure, in order that we can pick you up.
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. The chalet-style accommodation is completely surrounded by rolling hills, and on arrival there may be an opportunity to take a short walk among the rugged nature.
Day 2: Walk in Drakensberg World Heritage Site
Wake up to a hearty breakfast before having an opportunity to partake in a guided walk, experiencing 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. Stop for a packed lunch in the peace and quiet of the spectacular Drakensberg. The afternoon is left open to either relax whilst enjoying a cool drink or perhaps continue the adventure, exploring solo through the mountain valleys.
Day 3: Visit battlefields; drive on to St Lucia
After an early start, 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 travel distance (500km or approximately seven hours), you'll be able to visit both battle sites with your guide, who will explain the importance of these clashes in relation to South Africa's history, British colonialism and the Zulu people.
After a picnic lunch, drive for the rest of the afternoon to St Lucia.
Day 4: Game Drives at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve
Rise early this morning to take advantage of the 'golden hour' on what is the 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, and you'll be exploring this wild landscape on the lookout for these majestic creatures in your trip vehicle. Open-top safari vehicles are possible to book on arrival if you wish, at an additional cost.
Take a quick stop at one of the reserve's watering holes, where you can stretch your legs before continuing on the journey through this ancient Zulu hunting ground. With over 500 species of birds recorded at this reserve it is a paradise for any birdwatchers. In the mid afternoon, 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.
Day 5: At St Lucia Wetland Reserve
Take a day of rest after several long drives, with a choice of optional activities available in the area. There is the opportunity to continue your 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, you could enjoy an exhilarating night game drive when all the nocturnal wildlife start their day. From November to February, turtle-spotting trips are also possible in the Wetland Park.
Day 6: Drive to Swaziland
This morning, travel to Swaziland. During June to November there is the possibility of whale watching along the way.
Swaziland is a tiny, independent kingdom inhabited by the Swazi tribe who revere their king and take great pride in retaining their culture and traditions. During the drive, take in the spectacular scenery in the Ezulwini Valley as well as numerous traditional homesteads and curio stalls. In the late afternoon, 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, the 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. Visitors share the camp with warthogs and antelope, and the restaurant overlooks a lake populated by water birds.
Day 7: Game viewing and optional activities in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
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 the day is relatively free to choose what you'd like to do. You could begin with a walk in search of zebra, wildebeest, nyala and warthog this morning, alongside your driver-guide.
The absence of big cats at the reserve also means that you can have the afternoon free to partake in mountain biking or further trail walking in a relaxed setting. Alternatively, accompany your guide to the friendly local curios, which provide a real feel for the Swasi people and their culture, or relax and sit back to watch the local wildlife grazing outside your very own front door.
Day 8: Drive to Kruger National Park
After spending much of the morning relaxing in Mlilwane, 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.
Even just driving through the park to the camp area you'll have a game drive experience with possibilities for wildlife spotting en route. Open vehicles are also available optionally if you wish. Your camps areas benefits from modern infrastructure with toilet and shower blocks (shared), restaurants and shops, as well as your accommodation in one of the simple yet comfortable camp huts.
Day 9: Game viewing in Kruger National Park; drive to Graskop
The Kruger National Park was established in 1898 to protect big game that had been hunted to near extinction, and it is now one of the most prolific animal habitats in South Africa, committed to animal conservation. Depart camp for a morning game drive in an open safari vehicle, searching for sightings of the extensive wildlife that make this national park their home. Stop at various watering holes in the hope of seeing buffalo or antelope taking an early morning drink and hopefully a pride of lions nearby. Finish the morning drive by having lunch at one of the park's restaurants. The afternoon game drive heads to the Sabie River, which is a major water source for the park's wildlife and a fantastic spot for game viewing. Leave the park in the late afternoon, climbing in excess of 1,000 metres to the overnight stop at Graskop.
Day 10: Drive to O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) where our trip ends
Departing at 9am this morning, drive for around seven hours back to Johannesburg. Along the way, travel 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. Stop at several excellent viewpoints, including the aptly named 'God's Window' and admire the awe-inspiring Blyde River Canyon .
You will arrive into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) at about 5pm, where the trip ends. The earliest your flight can depart is 8pm, although there is some flexibility to depart a little earlier in the morning if you struggle to find flights after this time.
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