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Discover South Africa and Swaziland's best nature spots on this wildlife adventure. Spend days searching for the Big Five on a range of expert-led walking safaris and exhilarating game drives. After a day of exploring, stay in a mix of simple accommodation in the heart of national parks and comfortable lodges perfect for relaxing.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights premium guesthouse
1 nights comfortable hotel
4 nights comfortable lodge
5 nights premium lodge
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, and once home to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. A city of stark contrasts and infamous history, Johannesburg is going through rapid change and urban regeneration.
For those arriving on time today our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 12pm for the welcome meeting and to take us on the afternoon Soweto tour. Soweto, originally an acronym for South Western Townships, played a prominent part in the fight against the former apartheid regime, notably the uprising of 1976; when mass protests erupted. We will take a tour of the area and meet residents to understand how life has changed since the end of apartheid. We will visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial, a museum that honours the vital role that the youth of South Africa played during the struggle. He was one of the first students to be killed during the uprising when he was just 13. We will also visit Nelson Mandela's former home (now a museum) which tells the story of Mandela and his family.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), which is just a short 10 minute drive from our hotel.
Please note that if you wish to join the Soweto tour today, you must arrive at the hotel by 12pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least 90 minutes to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around 10 minutes' drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 10.30am. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
Please note: A majority of flights will land into Johannesburg in the early morning and it's often too early to be able to check straight in to your room. However, early arrivals will have access to tea and coffee, toilets and the hotel lounge.
Rivonia Premier Lodge (or similar)
After breakfast we'll depart Johannesburg, travelling east towards Kruger National Park. The journey will take us through Mpumalanga affectionately named as the 'Place of the rising sun' and home to some of the country's most awe-inspiring scenery. This region's landscape has many rivers, waterfalls, dramatic escarpments and colourful birdlife, and along the way we'll stop at several excellent viewpoints, including beauty spot 'God's Window' to admire the vast views over Blyde River Canyon.
Graskop is perfectly positioned between the Panoramic Route and Kruger National Park ready for tomorrow's safari adventure. The journey from Johannesburg to Graskop is around five hours, with a stop for lunch and some time to take in the scenery at chosen viewpoints, we will arrive at our accommodation mid-late afternoon.
Mogodi Lodge (or similar)
We'll have an early start this morning to make the most of our day on safari inside Kruger National Park. Kruger is one of the best game viewing areas in Southern Africa and as well as attracting many wildlife lovers, the park remains committed to it's original purpose; animal conservation.
We'll be using the national park's open-sided game vehicles to maximise the viewing opportunity to 360 degrees, and the exact timings and routes of today's game-drive will depend on the wildlife! Expert rangers will track the animals and endeavour to provide us with once-in-a-lifetime encounters. During this exhilarating safari we hope to see buffalo, lion, cheetah, giraffe, elephant and zebra plus many more species. For lunch we'll make a stop at one of Kruger's restaurants or picnic stops before continuing on our safari this afternoon.
Tonight we'll be located inside the national park at one of the rest camps. The rooms and communal facilities are simple but do offer a great opportunity to spend a night in this wild setting, listening to the sounds of nature while our leader cooks up a traditional brai (barbequeue) that will wrap up a very adventurous day.
National Parks Rest Camp (or similar)
This morning we will have an extra opportunity to spot game as we slowly make our way out of the national park, leaving Kruger and South Africa behind on our journey to the Kingdom of Eswatini.
The journey from Kruger to Mkhaya Game Reserve is around three hours, however with stops along the way and allowing time for the border crossing it will take the majority of our day, arriving at Mkhaya around mid-late afternoon.
Mkhaya is a haven for many endangered species but best known for its large numbers of black and white rhino; which we hope to see on this afternoon's game drive with our Swazi ranger.
Our accommodation for the night is Stone Camp set an area of secluded bush, featuring a collection of stone cottages that are the only lodging in the reserve. The cottages have bathrooms with hot and cold running water but there is no electricity available giving the experience a real sense of adventure. The camp is situated on a dry river bed and is surrounded by tall fig and sausage trees, which create a lush canopy, attracting many species of bird into the camp as well as some small game like warthogs and impala. Dinner tonight is a feast of local delicacies, such as nyala stew, and we'll dine outside around the campfire and under the stars.
Stone Camp Lodge (or similar)
Waking early to the natural soundtrack of the reserve, there is always possibility of seeing warthog or nyala just outside your door this morning. The camp's friendly staff will deliver tea and biscuits to your room prior to an early departure for our next safari. Upon meeting the reserve's rangers this morning, it will be confirmed whether this morning game-viewing will be on foot or by vehicle and this decision is dependant on recent wildlife spottings and animal patterns. The guides here have expert knowledge about the reserve and the wildlife within, and with their advice Mkhaya offers the best possibility of a close encounter with black rhino in the whole of Africa.
After a morning adventure, we'll have a leisurely lunch in the reserve before departing around mid-afternoon. We'll cross back into South Africa on our way to Ithala Game Reserve, and the drive takes around five hours. As we approach, Ngotse Mountain will come into view as the predominant feature of Ithala, towering over the plateaus, ridges and deep valley below. Our home for the next two nights are a range of chalets camouflaged in the mountain's foothills among indigenous bush and flora. Communal areas are set among the wilderness offering peace, quiet and excellent views.
Ntshondwe Camp (or similar)
A game walk is one of the best ways of seeing animals and immersing yourself into the wild. This morning we will meet a local ranger and together as we follow the rocky trails we will learn about tracks, dung and general bushcraft throughout the reserve. As well as increasing our understanding of the wilderness, our primary focus is once again to see rhino; these prehistoric-looking beasts were reintroduced to Ithala and have been successfully breeding here. The feeling of slowly walking towards a rhino is a mixture of excitement, awe and nerves; though we will heed our ranger's guidance and keep a safe distance.
After lunch we will wait for the heat of the day to subside before heading out on a late afternoon game drive. Again our ranger will decide on our route depending on the most recent wildlife sightings.
This evening, relax with a sundowner and keep an eye out for the birds of prey soaring through the skies above.
This morning we will drive for a couple of hours until we reach Tembe Elephant Park, our beautiful home for the next two nights. Tembe is renowned for its 'big tuskers' - elephants with huge tusks weighing some 50kg each - as well as being home to the 'Big Five', so we will hope to also see lion, leopard, black and white rhino and buffalo during our time here.
On arrival we'll get checked in before heading out on a game drive in the park's open-sided safari vehicles. Along the way there may be a stop at a waterhole where sightings often occur as the animals gather to cool off in the shallows.
Tembe Lodge is a luxurious tented camp fenced in the middle of the reserve, featuring a small pool, rustic seating area around the campfire and a game-viewing hide for wildlife spotting between safaris. The camp is run by members of the surrounding community, a tribe that has protected and lived in this area for generations and during our stay we will see the park through the eyes of the Tembe people, hear their stories and learn about their way of life.
Tembe Elephant Lodge (or similar)
Today we have a full day of the Tembe experience. After an early breakfast we head out on safari for a few hours with a national park guide to look for signs of big game and an opportunity to spot some of the 340 bird species found here. We return to a light brunch which will be followed by some down time to relax and enjoy the setting. Perhaps take a dip in the pool, visit the game-viewing hide for a chance to observe elephants or enjoy a massage at the outdoor (but shaded) spa area, it's a pretty easy life here!
Later this afternoon, we will return to our vehicles for another game drive along the sandy tracks in hope of spotting more wildlife before sundown.
Tonight dinner will be served by lamplight in the communal boma area for a true bush experience. After eating we can listen to the soulful singing of the local Isicathamiya group, as we sit around fire.
This morning we'll have a leisurely breakfast before we depart from Tembe to travel south towards St Lucia, a wetland reserve with World Heritage status.
The drive is around three hours and on arrival we'll check into our intimate Zulu-style lodge located centrally in St Lucia village. One of the first buildings in the area, the lodge has a long history and cares deeply about the local community, ensuring the lodge has a positive impact on both the residents and natural environment. The property features stylish rooms set in flower-filled, lush gardens, with an outdoor lounge area perfect for bird-watching and a pool to cool off. It's a great setting to relax for the final few days of the trip!
The rest of the day will be free to relax by the pool or read a book in one of the garden's shady spots. Alternatively, you may wish to go on a optional afternoon boat trip on the lakes for a chance to spot crocodile, hippo and a wide variety of bird life who make their home in the surrounding mangroves.
This evening you'll be able to choose from a small selection of places to eat nearby. Here in St Lucia it is common to see hippo roaming down the road by night or grazing on a resident's front lawn! They are accustomed to humans, the sounds of cars and lights but of course they are wild animals and precautions must be taken, so while being sure to follow local advice, we may get an unusual but memorable wildlife encounter!
Lidiko Lodge (or similar)
It will be an early start this morning to make our way to Isimangaliso Wetland Park where we will start with a morning game drive through open grasslands and forests in the hope of spotting antelope, hippo, rhino and leopard.
The game drive will take us to Cape Vidal where we will spend the rest of the morning snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of this protected bay, before breaking for a traditional braai on the beach cooked up by our accompanying ranger. There will be more time for snorkelling before another game drive back through the park.
This area is a wildlife lover's dream location because of the five ecosystems within the boundaries of the park and the rarity of being able to spot game on the grassy plains before exploring an underwater world of tropical marine life from the white beaches of the Indian Ocean in the same region. It's estimated the park is home to over 6,500 species of plant and wildlife, plus over 500 bird species.
Tonight will be free to relax.
Today we say goodbye to St Lucia and travel down the coast towards Durban.
Along the way we will stop in the town of Mtunzini. Translating from Zulu as 'a place in the shade', the town is surrounded by lush milkwood and palm trees. We'll have a break here for a lunch and go on a short walk to see the nearby conservancy areas, home to a range of bird life as well as the very successful projects undertaken by the local residents to preserve this natural setting, including a initiative to rid the area of any alien plant and tree species.
We'll then continue to the Umhlanga Rocks area of Durban where we will spend our last night.
La Loggia (or similar)
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Durban.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Durban at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from King Shaka International Airport (DUR), which is 25 minute drive from the airport.
Please note, for those taking the direct British Airways service to London you will be transferred to the airport very early before breakfast.
Can be visited all year round. Most rain falls in the summer months (October-April). The climate during this period is generally hot and humid in the lowlands with temperatures sometimes up to 40°C. Winters (June-August) are much drier and colder, but still pleasant for travel. The high veld has a temperate climate. Average daily sunshine hours are high throughout the year. Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable.
3 Pin Round
Mild throughout the year and can thus be visited year round. The Western Cape has a Mediterranean-type climate, with warm, dry summers and cold winters with rainfall. Summer runs from November to March, with temperatures averaging 22oC to 34oC. The months of April and October are generally warm and sunny. Winter is also a good time to visit as towns and sites are not so crowded and the countryside is more verdant, but it can be cold. Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable.
St. Lucia - Boat trip on Lake St. Lucia R300 pp St. Lucia night drive to spot turtles (Nov-Mar) R1350 pp Whale watching (June-Nov) R1150 pp Night game drive in St Lucia Wetland Reserve R575 pp.
Clothing should generally be lightweight for the day. A few warm fleeces and long trousers are strongly recommended as early mornings and nights can be very cold, especially from May to August. A waterproof and windproof jacket are also recommended, particularly between October and April. Avoid brightly coloured clothing for game viewing. Take a swimming costume. Please note that it is forbidden to wear camouflage clothing in Swaziland.
Comfortable walking shoes or lightweight boots for the walking safaris, trainers or sandals for relaxing/travelling.
Take a tough soft bag or holdall (or rucksack with detachable frame). Total allowance: 44lb/ 20kg maximum (due to vehicle restrictions). Also take a daypack for items needed during any short walks and game drives (20-30 litre).
Bring a torch, water bottle, sunhat, sunscreen and insect repellent. Binoculars are essential for game viewing and a 300mm lens is recommended for photography. While tap water in South Africa's urban area is drinkable, some people may take a few days to get used to it. Therefore we recommend for you to travel with a reusable filtered water bottle such as the ones featured at Waterto-Go: https://www.watertogo.eu/explore
This trip features a fantastic range of wildlife lodges, camps and guesthouses which are picked to compliment the intimate nature reserves that we are visiting. In Johannesburg and Graskop our night stops are welcoming and offer comfortable rooms with en suite. In Kruger National Park, we'll stay in national park rest camps. The accommodation is simple in style and facilities but is brilliantly located within national park itself. While in Swaziland we overnight at Mkhaya Lodge. We'll sleep in rustic cabins with open sided en-suites in a fenced area inside the reserve. There is hot and cold running water but no electricity, and warthog and nyala are common visitors to the camp. In Ithala Game Reserve accommodation is chalets with en suite facilities at the foot of a mountain that towers over the reserve. There is a small pool and evenings will be spent around the campfire. Accommodation in Tembe Elephant Park, St Lucia and Durban are all premium and have been chosen to ensure an enjoyable and relaxing setting for the last five nights of your trip. Load shedding is the term used to describe short term electricity outages, used as a last resort to balance the demand and supply of electricity across the South African electricity market. Power outages typically last between two to four hours per day and can occur at any time, little notice is given to hotels and guesthouses. Whilst some of the properties we use have their own generators, most do not. Please be prepared for electricity outages during your stay in South Africa. Load shedding is the term used to describe short term electricity outages, used as a last resort to balance the demand and supply of electricity across the South African electricity market. Power outages typically last between two to four hours per day and can occur at any time, little notice is given to hotels and guesthouses. Whilst some of the properties we use have their own generators, most do not. Please be prepared for electricity outages during your stay in South Africa.
Dietary requirements: Most restaurants and hotels in Eswatini do not have a wide selection of vegan and vegetarian choices. There is usually a choice of salads and one main vegetarian and/or vegan main dish on the menus, but choice will be limited especially in more remote locations. If you have specific dietary requirements we do recommend for you to bring some food with you.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
Dietary requirements: Most restaurants and hotels in South Africa do not have a wide selection of vegan and vegetarian choices. There is usually a choice of salads and one main vegetarian and/or vegan main dish on the menus, but choice will be limited especially in more remote locations. If you have specific dietary requirements we do recommend for you to bring some food with you.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
;\b Travelling with Minors via South Africa (including transits) Regulations affecting all children aged under 18 years that are travelling to, from or via South Africa have been updated (Nov19). The law states that visa exempt children travelling for tourism purposes with one or both parents and/or an adult who is not a biological parent require to present a valid passport for each child on arrival. We strongly recommend you to refer to the South African House website for full information and to travel with a copy of these requirements. South Africa: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, US and Canadian citizens. New Zealand ordinary passport holders do not require a visa, all other passport holders please consult your local consulate for full information. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. Please ensure you have the correct multiple entry visa, especially if you are visiting another country on your itinerary and will need to re-enter South Africa - this includes visiting Eswatini. All visitors should ensure their passport is machine readable, has a minimum of 6 months validity from your arrival date into the country and has two blank pages when entering and leaving South Africa. The South African Immigration officials will not allow child/ infant pages to be used for this purpose and visitors without the stipulated blank pages will be denied entry. Eswatini: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian citizens. You will require one blank visa page in your passport with a minimum validity of 6 months. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. All visa information is subject to change. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Please note you will be required to supply a yellow fever certificate that has been issued at least 10 days prior to arrival in Eswatini if you have travelled from or via a country where yellow fever is endemic. We recommend protection against malaria, hepatitis A, tetanus, typhoid, polio and diphtheria. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Please note that you will be required to supply a yellow fever certificate that has been issued at least 10 days prior to arrival in South Africa if you have travelled from or via a country where yellow fever is endemic. We recommend protection against hepatitis A, tetanus, typhoid, polio and diphtheria. According to various travel health sources, the Western Cape is not regarded as a malaria risk area. If you are travelling to other areas in South Africa please check with your doctor about malaria requirements. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.