Kruger Park & Swaziland Safaris: Day and Night Game Drives

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Total Trip:

9 Days
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Countries Visited:

South Africa, Swaziland
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Places Visited:

Blyde River Canyon, Balule Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, Mhlambanyatsi, Hluhluwe-iMflozi Nature Reserve, St Lucia, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Natal

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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Explore an untamed corner of South Africa, one that's ablaze with color and bathed in unique experiences. Thrilling South Africa safari adventures, spectacular scenery, serene beaches, mountainous kingdoms, evocative history; why choose a vacation theme when this unique itinerary packs it all into ten days? So embark on a magical journey that covers Mpumalanga, Kruger National Park, Swaziland, iSamangaliso Wetlands, the Zulu

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Day 1

Blyde River Canyon – Green Canyons and the Start of a Safari Adventure

Everybody is aware that Nevada's Grand Canyon is the largest in the world. Yet nobody has really heard of Blyde River Canyon, the third largest. Immense red sandstone walls tower above the river, individual pinnacles rising to over 6,000 feet above sea level. A lush green carpet covers the canyon walls, extending onto the rocks and providing a unique subtropical landscape. You'll stop at all the famous look out points, walking along the cliffs beside the Pinnacle, God's Window, Lisbon Falls, and the Three Rondavels. Sheer cliffs overlook the abyss, vistas stretch all the way across Kruger to Mozambique, and bizarre peaks rise like fairytale chimneys. Then wander down to the Bourke's Luck Potholes, a bizarre collection of eroded rock that glimmers below vivid sandstone.

Africa's unique wildlife lurks around the corner, the famed Big Five all living in the Balule Private Game Reserve. Elephants wander across raw dusty plains, lion prides rest beneath broad acacia branches, and rhinos join the hippos in the lake shallows. Balule and Kruger National Park share an unfenced border, the wildlife freely roaming between the two reserves. It's an idyllic first safari, a smorgasbord of Africa's great mammals to be admired, but no long distances to travel. Is that a kudu? Or a springbok? Perhaps an eland? Your guide reveals all as the diversity of untamed Africa begins to take center stage. Dinner is served under the stars, a watchful guard ensuring that the elephants don't get too close.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast

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Day 2

Kruger National Park – Walking Safari and Entering Kruger National Park

As the dawn light filters through the trees you're on a walking safari, searching in the wild with a certain degree of trepidation. Elephants and rhinos loiter nearby, and the big cats are active at this time of day. Even the graceful ungulates are given new respect, herds of zebra seeming much bigger when viewed from ground level. A local guide keeps you safe, following the clues and providing a thrilling local experience in a land of giants.

After breakfast you'll officially enter Kruger, an epic untamed landscape that's bigger than a few US states. Beside the trail is a white rhino. Drive a little further and there's another dozen of these endangered mammals. Their armored frames and sharp horns evoke power, yet their playful movements reveal an unexpected grace. These are unflustered peaceful animals, and over half of the world's population can be found in Kruger. They're not alone here. Lions dominate the savannah, sleeping in the grass or ferociously hunting the lame and sick. Cheetahs and leopards stand on rocky outcrops, and swamps are filled with the blubbery antics of hippo pods. This long game drive should turn out most of the sought after scenes and no shortage of surprises.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch

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Day 3

Mhlambanyatsi – More Spectacular Safari on Route to Swaziland

Kruger pulls you in, submerging you in a world of enigmatic sounds, antelopes hiding beside your chalet, and silhouettes crossing the horizon. Wake up in nature and head deeper into Kruger, the wilderness continuing to throw up its absorbing collection of Africa's Big Five. Yet while everyone is desperate to see rhinos and lions, make sure you appreciate the supporting cast. Like boisterous buffalos, savage wild dogs, elegant hartebeest, and the scurrying blur of a pair of warthogs. Then there are so many impala that you don't raise an eyebrow when they skip past. Now a giraffe is suddenly beside the vehicle. But quick, turn around, there's a hippo charging out of the water...

Leaving Kruger you ascend into the magnificent mountain scenery of northern Swaziland. Endless vistas will both sooth and welcome; the green and yellow valleys rolling on and layers of mountains seeping onto the horizon. It's easy to know you've crossed the border. The landscape changes, the people immediately look different, and mud and straw hut villages pass by the window. Check out the Ngwenya glass factory, admiring the ingenious handmade use of recycled glass, then pass through Mbabane, a capital city that feels like little more than a quaint village. The Kingdom of Swaziland is full of indelible scenes, and every mile brings something new; women in red tribal dresses carry fruit baskets on their head, roadside markets are covered in dust and color, and the glorious panoramas just keep on coming. You'll overnight in the mountains outside Mhlambanyatsi.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 4

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park – A Swazi Experience and a Dramatic Evening Game Drive

Swaziland is fiercely proud of its culture. The previous King ruled for 82 years, had 70 wives, and 210 children. Every year, bare-chested virgins dance for the King at week long tribal festivals. And while this can all make Swaziland seem like a place of lunacy, normality is deeply rooted in tradition, and it's always a fascinating travel experience. Your adventure takes you into the Ezulwini Valley, past remarkably meager Houses of Parliament, and into a local craft market that bursts with energy. Sugar plantations and isolated villages take you south, Swaziland then giving way to South Africa and the landscape immediately changing once again.

Nestled into a serene forested valley, the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi reserve provides a thrilling late afternoon and evening game drive. Rhinos are everywhere, giant elephant bulls gnaw at the tree bark, and the big cats emerge with the cooling temperatures of dusk. As darkness descends a new world appears, nocturnal animals scurrying through the grass and revealed through the safari truck's high powered spotlights. Turn off the lights and there's an eerie silence. Rustling sounds alert you to something. But what? The sounds get closer and then through the gloom you can spot the rhino. Nighttime safaris are always exciting, but there's also something wonderfully idyllic about slowly waiting in the dark and having the wildlife come to you.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch

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Day 5

Durban – Nature's Great Water Park and the City Lights of Durban

An early morning game drive offers a lifetime of Big Five safari memories, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi revealing why it’s the oldest nature reserve in the whole of Africa. Be prepared for countless White rhino sightings, over 1,600 living in this compact reserve. Then the landscapes change dramatically, blue replacing green as you enter the mammoth waterways of iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Lagoons and estuaries cut great scars through the land, and this UNESCO World Heritage Site is flanked by white Indian Ocean beaches. From St Lucia village you join a boat cruise, exploring Lake St Lucia and finding the heads of hippos that bob up and down in the shallows. Crocodiles sunbathe on the sandy banks, fish eagles soar overhead, and flamingos like to add their own distinctive color to the water.

iSimangaliso is a surreal place; the vibrant shocks of color, the humorous antics of hippo pods, and a pristine tranquility accompanying your water-world exploration. From here the vibe changes as you head south to the city lights of Durban. Some cities claim to be on the beach. Durban seems to be built on the sand, the skyline rising above the surfers and warm ocean waters. You'll overnight in the northern suburbs, alongside a seemingly endless expanse of sand.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 6

Weenen Game Reserve – A Historical Journey through the Zulu Kingdom

The Zulu Kingdom has had a checkered history, one that's marked by a stoic challenge against injustice. After leaving the coast you drive to Pietermartizburg, stopping at the railway station waiting room where Mahatma Gandhi formulated his philosophy of passive resistance (he had just been thrown off a train because of his skin color). The Church of the Vow takes you further back in history; this poignant thatched building remembers the lives lost when the Voortrekkers and Zulus clashed at the Battle of Blood River. After visiting some 100 meter high waterfalls your history lesson turns to Nelson Mandela, a monument placed at the spot where he was arrested in1962.

As you head into the Natal Midlands the landscapes take on an almost Southern European feel; green valleys are punctuated by vineyards, stone farmhouses, and plump cattle. Helping you remember that this is Africa are white rhino, zebra herds, and the odd giraffe wandering through the grass. It's all found in Weenen Game Reserve, where your mid-afternoon game drive is followed by a visit to the place where Winston Churchill was arrested during the Anglo-Boer War. As sunset lingers over the lush valleys you'll be enjoying sundowners and magnificent views from the hotel.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch

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Day 7

Drakensberg Mountains – Dramatic Scenery in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Mountains

The Drakensberg peaks rise almost vertically, a ring of dramatic towers overlooking the Zulu Kingdom. Some summits stand alone, sheer cliffs rising out of the abyss. Others connect and form the opening vertebrae of the Great Rift Valley, a mountain chain that stretches 6,000 miles north to Syria. You'll spend the day in these spectacular mountains, arriving at over 10,000 feet above sea level for a picnic lunch beside Sentinel Peak. Along the way you travel through Qwaqwa, a quaint village that oozes rural Zulu tradition.

From Sentinel Peak the trails lead off along the cliffs. Some offer easy walks and a never-ending collage of luscious vistas. Others are more demanding, and the very energetic can climb the chain ladders to the Amphitheatre summits. Sit on the edge and dare to dangle your feet over, but don't look down, it's a sheer 5,000 foot drop. From here the Tugela River starts its mighty trail, gushing across the broad peak and then plummeting hundreds of meters below. This northern section of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg is wildly regarded as one of South Africa's most spectacular spots. Forested valleys are interspersed with deep blue reservoirs, flat grazing land provides uninterrupted views of the peaks, and lush meadows are dotted with tiny circular huts.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 8

Drakensberg Mountains – Indigenous Rock Art and Returning to Durban

Evidence suggests that San Bushmen were active in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Mountains for almost 100,000 years. They left artistic messages on the rocks, covering caves and overhangs with paintings, depicting stories that would be discovered by other clans. Some reveal domestic bliss, or an extended family of hunter-gatherers successfully bringing down an antelope. Others are full of worry and warning, scenes that evocatively portray the San being hunted by white settlers. 40,000 individual paintings have been discovered in the eroding sandstone, comfortably making this the world's largest collection of rock art in the world. A morning in the Giant's Castle area offers a fascinating discovery of the San's mystical world. In the afternoon you'll descend the country roads and return to the city lights and beaches of Durban.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 9

Durban – Farewell to South Africa

After a last breakfast you'll be transferred to Durban's King Shaka International Airport for your departure flight. 

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Explore world famous Kruger National Park, each game drive revealing an untamed world teeming with white rhinos, big cats, and marauding elephants
  • Marvel at the forested floor of the Blyde River Canyon then gawp at its shimmering red walls and bizarre rock formations. This is the world's third largest canyon and the vivid colors are as enticing as its immense scale
  • Wander through big game country on foot, coming face to face with Africa's giants on a thrilling walking safari
  • Travel across the mountainous Kingdom of Swaziland and discover a beautiful nation that stoically continues its tribal traditions
  • Take a boat cruise across nature's great water park, the lakes and estuaries of iSimangaliso covered in wading hippos, sunbathing crocodiles, and countless soaring birds
  • Enjoy an evocative history lesson that covers quaint gold mining towns, Gandhi, Mandela, Churchill, and the secrets of the Zulu Kingdom
  • Lose yourself in the dramatic uKhahlamba Drakensberg Mountains, the peaks rising some 10,000 feet and offering endless views over luscious valleys
  • Discover the world's largest collection of rock art, individual paintings depicting the lives of the indigenous San Bushmen who once roamed through uKhahlamba
  • Drive through Hluhluwe-iMfolozi in the dark, rustling sounds suggesting what's lurking in Africa's oldest nature reserve. Spotlights reveal nocturnal wildlife while white rhinos stare at you through the gloom
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Detailed Description

South Africa is famed for its diversity and this unique itinerary epitomizes the myriad of experiences on offer. There are iconic safari adventures, traditional game drives supplemented by thrilling walking safaris and mystical night-time exploration. Landscapes have a daily role in providing wonder; dramatic mountains, forested valleys, fairytale meadows, deep blue water worlds, and shimmering red cliffs. Throw in a dose of history, and find that a nonstop cast of wildlife keeps you company throughout the whole trip.

And it wouldn't be a South African vacation without a unique geological feature baffling the eyes; Blyde River Canyon is the world's third largest, while the wetlands of iSimangaliso seem to stretch on forever. On this action packed adventure you're always discovering something new, each day as alluring as the last. Every night is spent in a different place, but the proximity of the destinations ensures you're never travel weary. Furthermore, crossing the landscapes often is the experience; this corner of Southern Africa is as iconic as anywhere on the planet. Forest Gump once likened life to a box of chocolates, saying that “you never know what you're going to get.” On this vacation you're reaching into an endless box and savoring just about everything.

An English speaking guide will accompany you, allowing you to sit back and watch the landscapes roll by the window. From Johannesburg you head through quaint mining towns and into Mpumalanga Province, famed for its remarkable wildlife. Kruger National Park is one of the world's best, home to half of the planet's rhinos and teeming with an abundant collection of the Big Five. Elephants, lions, leopards? They can all be found beside your safari truck. By staying in the adjacent Balule Reserve you'll also explore these savannahs on foot. It's perfectly safe, but it always gets the heart racing. Before this wildlife submersion you'll explore the immense cliffs of Blyde River Canyon, gazing onto shimmering red walls, rich green tropics, and bizarre rock formations.

Now leave South Africa behind, taking glorious mountain passes to the Kingdom of Swaziland, a fascinating country that continues to follow all its centuries old traditions. Some might say it's a country lost in a time warp, but this nation is fiercely proud of their lifestyle and wouldn't have it any other way. You'll cross the country north to south, and then return to South Africa and the rhinos of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi reserve. Lions and elephants join them on the lush landscape and it all looks so picturesque in the late afternoon light. But when dusk falls and night-time descends you'll stay out on safari, discovering the nocturnal world of untamed Africa.

You're now in the Zulu Kingdom, and this majestic province offers a diverse final four days. Take a cruise along the immense waterways of iSimangaliso, slowly traveling past wallowing hippos and sunbathing crocodiles. Follow an endearing coastline down to Durban and then head into the Midlands for an evocative historical journey that involves Mandela, Ghandi, and Churchill. The dramatic mountain landscapes of uKhahlamba Drakensberg complete the itinerary; stand10,000 feet above endless green valleys, hike to rumbling waterfalls, and discover the world's largest collection of rock art. So what will be the highlight? Canyon? Safari? Beach? Zulu Kingdom or traditional Swaziland? Most likely it will be the little moments, the surprises that make this corner of Africa so unique, and the stories that will be enthusiastically shared for years. 

To add on to your safari adventure, be sure to read travel reviews of African safaris.  Not only will you find travel reviews, but you will also find ideas of how you can extend your time in South Africa.

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Starting Price

$3595 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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