Ecotourism & Accommodation in
South and Southern Africa
13-Day Tour: Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal Highlights
Johannesburg to Johannesburg
Day 1 –Drakensberg Escarpment
This morning you will be collected from the O R Tambo International Airport or from your overnight accommodation in Johannesburg and we then 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 pretty 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 Hannah Lodge (or similar). Hannah is a reflection of Africa in its entire natural splendour, a captivating tapestry of African sounds, smells and colours. The rising sun showers the valley with shades of pink, red and orange.
As an option, we can go directly to the Kruger National Park from Johannesburg on this first night, providing that your arrival flight arrives early enough for this (taking into account that sometimes aircraft experience a delay), or that we are able to collect you from your overnight accommodation early and lastly that we are able to secure accommodation inside the Kruger National Park at any one of the southern camps.
Should you choose this option, this means foregoing any visits to the Drakensberg Escarpment/Panorama Route.
Day 2, 3, 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 night 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. You also get to see most of the diurnal animals, with their eyes lighting up like a little town in the reflection of the spotlights when you chance on a herd of Impala. 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 place and then to have breakfast, possibly at a different locality.
Day 5 - Swaziland
After our morning game viewing we leave Kruger Park and travel to Swaziland. We visit the Ngwenya Glass Factory before making our way to Reilly’s Rock (or similar). Situated in the Mliliwane Game Sanctuary, Reilly’s Rock’s unique lodge has been tastefully decorated in keeping with its colonial roots by Swaziland's leading conservation team. Notwithstanding the necessary subtle additions and renovations, the house still stands as it was built almost a century ago. Mliliwane Game Reserve is Swaziland's pioneer conservation area and is situated in a beautiful, secluded sanctuary in Swaziland's Valley of Heaven, the Ezulwini Valley, an area between Mbabane and Manzini.
The Sanctuary covers 4,560 hectares and comprises of a southern and northern section. The southern section is predominately open grassland plains with middleveld vegetation, stretching up onto the striking Nyonyane Mountain with its exposed granite peak known as the "Rock of Execution". Nyonyane is where ancient San once lived and where Swazi Royal graves are situated giving historical significance.
The Kingdom of Swaziland is a country located in Southern Africa and is relatively small in area, similar in size to Kuwait. Swaziland is a landlocked country, bordered by South Africa on three sides except to the east, where it borders Mozambique. The country, inhabited primarily by the Swazi people, is named after the 19th century King Mswati II, from whom the people also take their name.
Day 6 – Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park
We leave Reilly’s Rock travelling through rural Zululand and proceed to the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park where we would spend the night at Hilltop Camp. The accommodation here is in a brick under thatch chalet, each bedroom with its own private bathroom/wash-basin and toilet. Each chalet is also equipped with a fridge.
Our game viewing commences immediately upon entering the gates into the park.
This first evening we go on a night 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. You also get to see some of the diurnal animals, with their eyes lighting up like a little town in the reflection of the spotlights when you chance on a herd of Impala.
Day 7 – Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park
Today will be spent on extended game drives to various areas of the Park, with an early start to make the most of the day and to possibly chance upon one of the predators returning to their day-time lair. Set in the heart of Zululand, this is the oldest game reserve in Africa, where Zulu kings such as Dingiswayo and Shaka hunted and put in place the first conservation laws, where today the "big five" of African legend stalk the verdant savannah. Established in 1895, game viewing is the prime attraction.
As the home of Operation Rhino in the 1950s and 60s, the Park became world renowned for its white rhino conservation. The Park covers some 96 000 ha and contains an immense diversity of fauna and flora. Hluhluwe is characterised by hilly topography, and this northern section of the park is noted for its wide variety of both bird and animal life. Sightings of rhino, giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, warthog, baboon, vervet monkey, and antelope such as impala, nyala and kudu are seen frequently and with the possibility of seeing lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, black rhino, hippo, crocodile, monitor lizard, hyena and antelope such as red duiker, steenbuck, waterbuck, bushbuck and then the rare Samango monkey and wild dog, much less frequently. These drives are conducted with your guide in his/her vehicle
Day 8 – St. Lucia
More game viewing follows as we leave the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park to arriving in time for lunch in St. Lucia. We will check into our lodge and then visit the eastern shores of Lake St. Lucia, heading to Cape Vidal, game viewing all the while. After a visit to the beach we would continue on the circular route for a game drive before returning to our lodge. Animals that may be seen here include kudu, reedbuck, zebra, waterbuck and other antelope species, black and white rhino, elephant and on the odd occasion, leopard.
We will overnight at Lidiko Lodge (or similar). Set above the Great St. Lucia Lake on a coastal dune, the main lodge offers bed and breakfast accommodation in well appointed air-conditioned en-suite garden rooms. All rooms offer a private patio and lead onto the tropical pool area and park like gardens of the lodge.
Day 9 – St. Lucia - Durban
After breakfast 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, and a very good chance of seeing crocodiles and a vast array of bird-life.
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 10 – Himeville - Sani Pass
This morning we depart from Durban early 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. Lose yourself in the sheer comfort of their king-size beds, crisp vanilla scented linen and finest quality Makoti down duvets and pillows. Selected satellite television, ceiling fans, hairdryers and robes are available in all their rooms. All their bathrooms have under floor heating to keep away the midnight chill and in winter, a covered hot water bottle in your neatly turned down bed is a welcoming treat. Freshly brewed tea or coffee with homemade biscotti is delivered to your room each morning and can be enjoyed whilst marvelling at the uninterrupted views of the Giants Cup from the private patios which adjoin each room.
Day 11 – Giants Castle
From Moorcroft Manor we travel via the Midlands Meander route to our next overnight at Giants Castle in the central Berg, arriving late afternoon. Historic Giant's Castle Game Reserve, home of the eland and the majestic bearded vulture, lies in the Central Berg region of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site. Giant's Castle camp is situated on a gassy plateau among the deep valleys running down from the face of the High Drakensberg, offering glorious views for hikers and mountain climbers. Superb rock art is high among its special attractions.
The Midlands Meander is what weavers, potters, woodcrafters, leather workers, artists, metalworkers, box makers, herb growers, cheese makers, beer brewers and pianos have in common. You will find them all, and a great deal more on the Midlands Meander map - South Africa's first, largest and most popular art and crafts route. From a very small beginning, the Midlands Meander has grown to well over a hundred stops on four routes. Originating with the arrival of the first settlers in the early 1800’s the area boasts many wonderful homes and barns, an attraction to lovers of architecture. As you tour the Midlands Meander you will also notice that this area is home to a number of the country’s most famous schools.
Day 12 – Giants Castle - Montusi
This morning we take a walk to “Main Caves” to view the San (or Bushman) rock art, which is many hundreds of years old, legacies left here by the Stone Age people. Here there is a Diorama depicting the San Peoples in the shelter that has been carefully set amongst the original cave sandstone rock art. Interpretation of the artwork is by a local custodian. From here we depart Giant's Castle and travels along scenic roads and via small towns to 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.
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