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Visit the great game reserves of South Africa and Eswatini. Search for the Big Five, learn about the history of the Zulu battlefields, explore the wetlands of St Lucia and discover the last absolute monarchy in Africa.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights simple bungalow
3 nights comfortable lodge
3 nights premium lodge
2 nights comfortable rondavels
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.
Today your leader will meet you at O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) at 10.30am, we will depart no later than 11.30am. From the airport we drive south-east to the Drakensberg Mountains. The drive to the Drakensberg is around 4.5 hours. Drakensberg is the world's oldest mountain range, deriving its name from the Afrikaans word for 'Dragon Mountains'; in the inevitable mist, the razor back ridges of the mountains have a certain likeness to these mythical beasts. On arrival to our accommodation, there may be an opportunity to take a short walk among the rugged nature.
If you are booking your own flights to Johannesburg, we recommend giving yourself plenty of time to clear the airport, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 10.30am.
Sungubala Eco Camp (or similar)
We wake up to a hearty breakfast before having an opportunity to partake in a guided walk, where we will be able to experience the beauty of this mountain range first hand. The full walk will usually take four to five hours and is of a moderate to challenging level of difficulty. However those wishing to do a shorter more gentle walk can, as there are a number turning points along the way.
Weather permitting, upon returning, our guide will have prepared a tasty 'al fresco' lunch enabling us to soak up the spectacular views of the Drakensberg. Following lunch your guide will relay to you the true story of 'Shaka' the famous Zulu warrior.
The afternoon is left open to either relax whilst enjoying a cool drink or perhaps continue our adventure with an easy walk through the mountain valleys to view a rock carving close to camp.
After an early start, we depart on the drive to the famous battlefield of Rorke's Drift, arriving around mid-morning. Portrayed in the film Zulu Dawn, the battle at Rorke's Drift was a bloody and hugely significant battle in the history of the Zulu nation. Although time is limited today, due to the distance we must travel, our leader will take time to explain the importance of these clashes in relation to South Africa's history, British colonialism and the Zulu people.
After a picnic lunch, we will drive for the rest of the afternoon to St Lucia where we will stay for the next three nights.
St Lucia Eco Lodge (or similar)
We rise early this morning to take advantage of the 'golden hour' on what is our first opportunity to experience a 'Big 5' safari, in one of Africa's oldest game reserves. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park boasts the densest population of both white and black rhino in the whole of Africa. We will have lunch at one of the reserve's picnic sites, where we can stretch our legs and freshen up before continuing on our journey through this ancient Zulu hunting ground. With over 500 species of birds recorded at this reserve it is also a paradise for any birdwatchers amongst us.
In the mid-afternoon, we return for St. Lucia where there is the opportunity to experience the optional activity of a 'Hippo Cruise' on the Greater St. Lucia Estuary. The cruise meanders along allowing us to relax whilst viewing the hippos and crocodiles in their natural habitat as, once again, the sun drops from the African sky.
Today is a day of leisure, where we have a choice of optional activities available in the area. There is the opportunity to continue our game viewing experience by taking a leisurely open game drive in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which was the first World Heritage Site in South Africa and home to 4 of the 'Big 5'. The word iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this truly unique place. The day includes a 'braai' lunch and an option of an afternoon swim or snorkel in the warm Indian Ocean at Cape Vidal.
There is also the chance to amble to the St. Lucia beach for a relaxing dip in the ocean or spend time walking the local forest trails. In the evening you can enjoy an exhilarating night game drive when all the nocturnal wildlife start their day. From November to February we can join a guided turtle tour in the Wetland.
This morning we make our way to Eswatini, during June to November we may have the opportunity to participate in the optional activity of whale watching, the St. Lucia coastline is the optimal location to view Humpback whales as they make their way up the coastline to Mozambique to breed. We then drive north and enter Eswatini - a tiny, independent kingdom inhabited by the Swazi tribe who revere their king and take great pride in retaining their culture and traditions. Our journey takes us through some spectacular scenery in the Ezulwini Valley and past numerous traditional homesteads.
In the late afternoon we enter one of Eswatini's best wildlife reserves, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. This secluded and beautiful sanctuary is a haven of tranquillity, located as it is in a natural bowl beneath the Nyonyane Mountains. For the next two nights our accommodation is in traditional dome-shaped beehive huts set in a wooded area. Though the camp has all the mod cons of showers, toilets, outdoor swimming pool and restaurant and bar it is rustic in the best sense of the word. Warthogs and antelope share the camp with us and the restaurant overlooks a lake populated by water birds.
Due to the high demand in Mlilwane, accommodation is subject to change without notice and can vary in style. We'll endeavour to stay within the park when possible, however, some departures may be staying up to a 15 minute drive from the sanctuary in a hotel or guesthouse.
Mlilwane Rest Camp (or similar)
Mlilwane is Eswatini's oldest protected area, owned and managed by a non-profit making trust, it is situated in the low foothills of the Nyonyane Mountains. The park has been rehabilitated to become Eswatini's most frequented reserve where one can enjoy the beauty of the surroundings and the abundant wildlife that grace these plains. Mlilwane has a large area of open grassland making game viewing and bird watching relatively easy and this morning we begin with a walk in search of zebra, wildebeest, nyala and warthog. The afternoon is left free to choose one of the optional activities available at the reserve, the absence of big cats allows us to partake in mountain biking or trail walking in a relaxed setting. The alternatives are to accompany our guide to the friendly local curios thus providing a real feel for the Swazi people and their culture, or relax and sit back to watch the local wildlife grazing outside our very own front door.
After an early start we drive north re-entering South Africa and crossing the Crocodile River into the Kruger National Park. This two million hectare wilderness is amongst the world's first proclaimed National Park and is justifiably South Africa's showpiece, boasting 147 mammal species. The park offers the 'Big 5' and over 500 recorded bird species along with scenery as diverse as riverine forest, granite outcrops, endless savannah and impenetrable mopani woodland.
We take an open-vehicle game drive on our way to the camp area where we stay overnight. These camp areas benefit from modern infrastructure with toilet and shower blocks, restaurants and shops, as well as our accommodation.
Pretoriuskop Rest Camp (or similar)
The Kruger National Park was established in 1898 to protect big game that had been hunted to near extinction, it is now one of the most prolific animal habitats in South Africa, committed to animal conservation. We depart camp for our morning game drive searching for sightings of the extensive wildlife that make this national park their home. We stop at various watering holes where we may see buffalo or antelope taking an early morning drink and hopefully a pride of lions nearby. We finish the morning drive by having lunch at one of the park's restaurants. Our afternoon game drive takes us to the Sabie River, which is a major water source for the park's wildlife and a fantastic spot for game viewing. We leave the park in the late afternoon, climbing in excess of 1,000 metres to our overnight stop at Graskop.
Mogodi Lodge (or similar)
Departing at 9am this morning we drive for around 7 hours back to Johannesburg. Along the way we drive through the airy uplands of Mpumalanga, an area that has been inhabited since the Stone Age and boasts rivers, multiple waterfalls, craggy escarpments and colourful birdlife. We'll stop at several excellent viewpoints, including the aptly named 'God's Window' and admire the awe-inspiring Blyde River Canyon . We'll arrive into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) at about 5pm and this is where our trip ends. The earliest your flight can depart is 8pm.
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 (days 4 and 5): 1. Hippo Boat Cruise - This two hour relaxing boat cruise on the St Lucia estuary to spot crocodile and hippos, the area is particularly known for its prolific hippo population and excellent variety of birdlife. ZAR 395 2. World Heritage Safari - This full day safari will take you into the iSimangaliso World heritage site which has 4 of the Big 5, you will do a safari then you will spend time at a beautiful beach while your guide prepares you a traditional Braai (BBQ) followed by another safari back to St Lucia- R895 pp 3. Night Safari - This safari you get the chance to spot the nocturnal animals such as chameleons, bushbabies, owls, genets, nightjars, as well as the more elusive leopards, are all possible. R675 pp 4. Whale Watching (June-Nov) - On this 2 hour whale watching adventure you will get to see the Humpback Whales, which are often considered to be the acrobatic whales. ZAR 1600 5. Turtles Tours (Nov-Mar) This tour takes you onto the beach where you go in search for loggerhead and leatherback turtles ZAR 1430 pp Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (day 7) Mountain bike - Ride on many of the roads or tracks Mlilwane has to offer. R155. per hour Horse Riding - Be led by a Swazi guide amongst the animals of Mlilwane, doing it on horseback offers a real different experience. ZAR 390 per hour Kruger National Park (day 8) Night drive safari ZAR 290,90 Please note that all St Lucia optional activities are payable with cash only. Mlilwane and Kruger National Park options can be paid by credit card as well as cash. Prices are in South African Rand (ZAR) and subject to change.
Clothing should generally be lightweight for the day. A few warm fleeces and long trousers are strongly recommended as nights can be very cold, especially from May to August and in the highlands of Eswatini. 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 treks, trainers or sandals for relaxing/travelling.
Take a tough soft bag or holdall (or rucksack with detachable frame) suitable to be carried by 4WD vehicle. Total allowance: 44lb/ 20kg maximum (due to weight restrictions on our vehicle). Also take a daypack for items needed during any short walks and game drives (20-30 litre).
Bring a torch, water bottle, sunhatunscreen and insect repellent. Binoculars are essential for game viewing and a 300mm lens is recommended for photography. Mosquito nets are not required as the accommodation provides screening where necessary. While tap water in South Africa's urban area is drinkable, some people may take a few days to acclimatise and thus may experience traveller's tummy. Therefore we recommend for you to travel with a reusable filtered water bottle such as the ones featured at Water-to-Go: http://www.watertogo.eu/
South Africa has a good tourism infrastructure and generally good service standards. Our accommodation throughout this tour is varied to reflect the many aspects of this beautiful country. We use a combination of small, family run guesthouses, characterful park lodges, and we spend one night in a permanent tented camp. Some of the properties are owner-occupied and give a real taste of traditional South African hospitality and we love supporting these small local businesses. In St Lucia we stay at a local style lodge within the wetlands area. Our most unusual accommodation is our beehive huts in Mlilwane - a traditional Swazi design but with en suite facilities! In Kruger we stay in small cabins or rondavels with shared facilities in an ablution block. This is our most basic accommodation on the trip, however it is still comfortable and is based in the heart of the national park, so it is possible to go to bed listening to wildlife. 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
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 Swaziland. 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. 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.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
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.