Kruger Park & Swaziland Safaris: Day and Night Game Drives

A 10 day trip to South Africa 
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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 Kingdom, and an endless collection of Africa's great experiences. 

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Pilgrim's Rest, Sabie, Blyde River Canyon, Bourke's Luck Potholes, Balule Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, Swaziland, Mhlambanyatsi, Hluhluwe-iMflozi Nature Reserve, St Lucia,  iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Natal Midlands, QwaQwa, uKhahlamba Drakensberg Mountains

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

 Day 1: Gold, Forests, and Waterfalls

In the late 19th century thousands of visitors flocked to the elevated plateaus of north east South Africa. They didn't come for safari, stunning scenery, or picturesque vacation destinations. They came for gold, the mountains erupting with noise and settlements. Johannesburg kept growing and you start your trip in this vibrant capital city. But most towns were abandoned, leaving behind atmospheric shells that scream of yesteryear. Pilgrim's Rest is the best example, a living museum that combines mystique with a fascinating historical narrative. It's accessed via meandering mountain roads that curl uphill to Robber's Pass, an infamous point for stealing gold with glorious views over the green valleys.

From the charms of Pilgrim's Rest you head deep into Mpumalanga province. Trees cling to stark canyon walls, rivers glisten beside thickening blankets of green, and the roads are near deserted. Leave the vehicle behind and walk through the indigenous forest, nothing but footsteps and tweeting birds until you stand in front of the majestic Lone Creek Falls. These falls are emblematic of this itinerary; covered in color, dripping with raw power, yet indelibly serene.

What’s Included: accommodation, dinner

Day 2: 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: accommodation, breakfast, dinner

Day 3: 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: accommodation, breakfast, dinner

Day 4: 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: accommodation

Day 5: 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: accommodation, breakfast, dinner

Day 6: 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: accommodation

Day 7: 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: spend accommodation, breakfast, dinner

Day 8: 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: accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: 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: accommodation, breakfast

Day 10: Farewell to South Africa

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

Price

Starting Price 

$3,995
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

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.