Kruger & Sabi Sands Safari for First Timers

A 10 day trip to South Africa 
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Kruger blends all the classic ingredients for a first-time safari. Rugged adventure in the wilderness, luxurious camps overlooking the river, an abundance and diversity of wildlife, plus a range of different activities. This tailored itinerary captures all the inspiring experiences, enveloping you in nature's untamed realm. There are three days of intimate encounters in Balule, three days discovering Kruger's compelling scale and three days of unrivaled luxury safari in Sabi Sands.

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General Information

Photos
Singita's Ebony lodge. Credit: Singita
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Kruger National Park, Balule Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park, Limpopo, Bowker's Kop, Sabi Sands, Sands River

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Balule Nature Reserve – Relaxed Safari Welcomes

Land in Africa for the first time and there's always anticipation. All the photos, all the wildlife documentaries; is that what it's really like? Touch down and the mystique captivates, a savannah landscape stretching beyond the horizon. Look closely and nothing is still. An elephant roams alone through the bushwillow trees. Giraffes stand like sentinels to a lost world. Black dots create a patchwork; get closer and they become cinematic buffalo herds. Balule is home to all the revered African animals, making it an indelible place to start a safari. Within the first hour, the questions in your mind have been redefined. It's no longer “will I see this animal and that animal?” but rather, “how many times am I going to encounter them?”

After the short transfer from the airstrip, you check into Toro Yaka, a boutique bush lodge that combines iconic safari luxury with a pristine sense of the wild. Throughout the day, Toro Yaka is a luxurious base where the safari never stops. Dip into the pool with a zebra herd grazing nearby. Lounge on your wooden verandah and watch life approach the waterhole. Then enjoy two activities a day, game drives and walking safaris that take you across the inspiring big five landscape of Balule. Sharing unfenced boundaries with Kruger National Park, this is a fabled home of all Africa's great mammals. Nothing is guaranteed on a safari. But if you came for the big five, there's a good chance of seeing them all here, every day.

What's Included: accommodation at Toro Yaka Bush Lodge, airport transfer, afternoon game drive, dinner, selected drinks

Day 2: Balule Nature Reserve – Thrilling Game Drives and the Big Five

Gaze one way and a lion pride spreads out across the grassland, manes flowing in the cool morning breeze. Look the other and a rhino's horn is heading straight for the safari vehicle. Along the horizon are the giants; elephants, giraffes, dust kicked up from marauding herds. Refocus and just meters away are the small and noisy, a troop of baboons or vervet monkeys swinging through the trees. It's sometimes too much to take in, such a diversity of life roaming before your eyes. The sights come thick and fast, almost every turn on the dusty trail revealing something new. You follow the classic safari itinerary here, with a long morning game drive followed by a few hours of tranquil time at the lodge. Explore again in the afternoon, staying out until dusk, savoring the thrills of a raw African safari.

What's Included: accommodation at Toro Yaka Bush Lodge, all safari activities, all meals plus selected drinks

Day 3: Balule Nature Reserve – A Walking Safari Provides a New Angle

Now a new angle is introduced. It's the same landscape, teeming with the big five and more. But now you're exploring it on foot. Local trackers guide the way, piecing together minute clues as they take you away from the big cats and towards the ungulate herds. An armed ranger is also with you, ensuring nothing gets too close. It rarely does, as the trackers' phenomenal knowledge weaves a path straight to a herd of zebra, then a tower of giraffe, now a grazing kudu herd and the skipping steps of springbok. Every piece of animal dung is understood, every indent in a tree can be analyzed, every change in animal behavior guides your next steps.

Walking safaris are all about intimacy. You've seen zebra and kudu before. But now you share the land that they walk on. You meet their eyes, and they move closer, as intrigued by you as you are with them. The experience also focuses on the interaction of life, showcasing how everything in the ecosystem is intrinsically linked. Come to a clearing and an elephant wanders by. It's an old bull, great tusks towering far above you. Stop. Stay silent. Watch it roam by, just 20 meters away. After the morning's walking safari, you can choose between a walking safari or game drive in the afternoon. The itinerary is always flexible in Balule, with a range of activities enabling you to follow your own charming moments.

What's Included: accommodation at Toro Yaka Bush Lodge, all safari activities, all meals plus selected drinks

Day 4: Kruger National Park – Following the Rhinos and Elephants Through Northern Kruger

Balule is easy and compact, a remarkable number of animals cohabiting a small space. Kruger National Park is bigger than some European countries. Its beauty cascades across the northeast of South Africa, winding along the borders of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The scale baffles. It's home to millions of mammals, including over half the world's wild rhino population. As you journey through the park, you unravel complexities. Mopane savannah provides a haven for elephants and giraffe. The thorn bush is favored by the white rhino. The Lebombo mountain bushveld has its own cast, with wildebeest charging beneath the stare of primates. Rivers wind a serpentine trail, always attracting a congregation of nomads on the move. Remote waterholes are the scenes of ambush, like leopards descending from the bushwillow trees to attack at dusk.

Every angle is different, bringing another intimate scene. And it's all connected. Hyenas attacking a carcass at one waterhole means the zebra herds walks straight into a lionesses' trap at another. As you connect the scenes, you appreciate Kruger's scale. Full-day game drives take you on a rugged adventure, bumping across the wild corners of an untouched landscape. You picnic en route, stopping to watch the hippos at lunchtime. Then spend the night at one of the national park's excellent rest camps. These are very comfortable, although not as luxurious as the accommodation in Balule and Sabi Sands. You stay in deluxe cabins with private facilities, with the guide cooking traditional South African barbecues in the evening. Today you travel north, to the Sirheni Bushveld Camp, located in Kruger's least visited area.

What's Included: accommodation at Sirheni Bushveld Camp, full-day game drive, all meals

Day 5: Kruger National Park – Journeying Across the Diverse Kruger Ecosystems

Now head south, the day spent weaving between the woodland and the bushveld, carving a route along the permanent rivers of the Kruger. Dozens of rhino are spotted, flickering through the thorn bushes with trademark grace. Drive for 15 minutes and nothing, bar the skipping of springbok. But turn a corner and a huge lion pride lounges in the sun. The vehicle stops and the pride comes closer, a large male staring intently. Stop for a picnic and monkeys surround you, keeping an eye on the scraps. Wind through the trees, following the destruction of elephant herds. Find a zebra herd. Follow their gallop and the savannah opens onto a beautiful stretch of grassland, with thousands of animals grazing contentedly. It's true African adventure, getting lost in the wilderness and surrounding yourself with all the wildlife charms.

What's Included: accommodation at Lower Sabie Restcamp, full-day game drive, all meals

Day 6: Kruger National Park – Continuing the Rugged Adventure in the Bush

So much of Kruger life revolves around the Sabie River. Hippos roll in the mud, rhinos drink, leopards attack crocodiles, buffalos charge, elephants splash around, and everyone comes to sip some water. Today's drive winds along the Sabie, a short journey that's packed with drama. On a two-hour picnic, you watch it unfold, the animals congregating along the shore. Everything interacts. Birds chirp, warning the impala of a nearby cheetah. Zebras gallop, setting off a chain of fear across the kudu herds. Hippos grunt as a warthog cheekily drinks beneath their nose. And then the rhinos arrive, everything stopping to respect their movements. By following the river, you follow the chains of Kruger's life, connecting a necklace of animal treasures and creating your own documentary of scenes.

What's Included: accommodation at Rhino Post Camp, all safari activities, all meals plus selected drinks

Day 7: Sabi Sands – Luxury Game Viewing On the Sands River

Three days of adventure, now three days of safari's finest luxury. Singita Ebony Lodge was ranked the number seven hotel in the world by Travel+Leisure magazine in 2015. Decadence drips through the colonial-style suites, the contemporary design fused with an atmosphere that evokes old-world safari adventures. Walls are a third glass, providing a strong connection with the surrounding bush. Private plunge pools provide a unique space to watch the wildlife while opulent outdoor showers ensure the wild immersion is never interrupted. With just 12 suites, there's always a wonderful exclusivity here. Picture a dreamy boutique safari lodge, and it would look something like Singita Ebony.

Arrive in the mid-morning and spend a relaxed day at the lodge. After the thrills of driving through remote Kruger now's a chance to lie back, reenergize, and take in all the enchantment of your accommodation. Of course, the safari never stops. Even from the shower, you'll hear an animal grunting nearby. In the late afternoon, you take a game drive through the surrounding area, where a resident lion pride is among the favorites.

What's Included: accommodation at Singita Ebony Lodge, all safari activities, all meals, selected drinks

Day 8: Sabi Sands – Nighttime Driving in the Bush

A relaxed day, where you create your own safari itinerary. Choose to explore at dawn, or choose to lie in and watch the animal world from your balcony. Guided safari walks are possible, as are unique mountain biking safaris. At this lodge, you create the program based on your mood, connecting the activities that have most inspired you throughout your Kruger trip. In the evening, it's also possible to explore. Drive out beneath the stars and bask in the serenity. The engine is cut. You listen to the clues. Animals breathing, others galloping, a loud grunt from the trees. Slowly your eyes become accustomed, and you pick out the silhouettes. Now the guide flicks on the spotlight, and you realize just how close everything is. Nighttime safaris are a specialty here, a chance to explore a nocturnal world but also feel the thrill of the dark. It's a different realm now, some animals finding opportunity, others with faces coated in fear. 

What's Included: accommodation at Singita Ebony Lodge, all safari activities, all meals, selected drinks

Day 9: Sabi Sands – Completing the Safari Experience in Style

Many ponder how long a first-time safari should be. In truth, there should never be a limit. Go once and you immediately want to go again. Spot a leopard out hunting, tick it off your safari list, and you'll still want to witness the same scene again. It doesn't how many times you encounter a rhino; it always leaves you inspired. Similar feelings are evoked when you see a lion's mane or a zebra tenderly caring for her calf. Three days in Kruger allows you to see the different animals. A week or more ensures you can truly appreciate the interactions and complexities. Plus, the longer the safari, the more relaxed the itinerary. Rather than rush to squeeze in all the sights and activities, the pace moves slowly, more in keeping with the rhythm of the environment.

Singita Ebony's luxury provides the serene base to end the experience. But the safari team can customize a day to your exacting mood and interests. Hippos? The guides take you out for a champagne picnic beside a large wallowing pod. Lions? Trackers know in advance where they'll be found. An all-day adventure or two hours of slowly looping around the popular waterholes? Spending nine days in Kruger enables you to try everything, before picking the activities that reflect your dream safari.

What's Included: accommodation at Singita Ebony Lodge, all safari activities, all meals, selected drinks

Day 10: Sabi Sands – Departure

The Sabi Sands airstrip provides a convenient aerial transfer to O.R Tambo International in Johannesburg, Africa's biggest airport. Admire the savannah for a final time, waving farewell to the herds that march across the land, acknowledging how their cycle of life will continue uninterrupted for centuries to come. It's a short trip to the airstrip for the mid-morning domestic flight. A representative meets you at O.R Tambo to assist in transferring to your international departure.

What's Included: airport transfer, breakfast

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.