Summary of this Budget Safari

An exciting 17-day lodge safari to South Africa's major highlights, from the famous Kruger Park through to cosmopolitan Cape Town.

This affordable tour takes you across South Africa, a beautiful country of diverse landscapes and cultures, as well as into mountainous Swaziland, a culturally rich country with breathtaking scenery.

Encounter Africa's wildlife in top game parks such as Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Addo Elephant National Park and of course Kruger National Park. Experience spectacular natural beauty of the Panorama Route, the sandy beaches of the rugged Wild Coast, and along the picturesque Garden Route. Meet the traditional Swazi, Zulu and Xhosa people for a glimpse of Southern Africa's rich cultures and choose from an array of thrilling adventure activities.

This Budget Lodge Safari through South Africa and Swaziland gives you a great overview of the best that this unique and scenic part of Africa has to offer!

Itinerary for this Tour

Tour Highlights:

Blyde River Canyon & Three Rondavels on the Panorama Route

Moholohlo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre & Greater Kruger

Game viewing in the world-renowned Kruger National Park

Mlilwane National Park, Swazi Royal Enclosure & Village Tour in Swaziland

St Lucia, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve & KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields 

Drakensburg Mountains Walk, Zulu Village Visits & Durban 

Remote Wild Coast Beaches, Coffee Bay & Hole in The Wall

Nelson Mandela Museum & Wild Coast Village Walk

See herds of elephants and other wildlife in Addo Elephant Park

Tsitsikamma National Park forest & Knysna on the Garden Route

Oudtshoorn, ostrich farm & Cango Caves in the Klein Karoo

Cape Agulhas, Hermanus, Cape Wine Tour & Cape Town

DAY 1: Johannesburg to Greater Kruger via Panorama Route – South Africa (Dinner)

On day one we depart from the bustling city of Johannesburg heading east into one of the most scenic parts of South Africa.

Travelling along the Panorama Route in the Mpumalanga Province we stop off at the Blyde River Canyon. At Blyde River Canyon, the world’s third largest canyon, we enjoy spectacular panoramic views. We stop to view the Three Rondavels en route, standing at the edge of the escarpment to look out over the lowveld stretched below.

We have lunch and descend the scenic escarpment, making our way to the Moholohlo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. At the wildlife centre we get up close to a variety of Africa's predators - lion, leopard, lynx and endangered wild dog, along with other animals and birds.

This wildlife centre runs wildlife breeding and rehabilitation programs, also rescuing endangered and other wildlife and birds from across the country. The endangered crowned eagle and serval have been successfully bred here, with over 160 servals being released back into the wild. Dedicated staff and volunteers take care of the injured, poisoned and abandoned animals and rehabilitated them for release back into the wild.

Then we head to our first remote overnight camp in the untamed Lowveld fringing Greater Kruger Park. Spend your first night on safari in South Africa relaxing around the cosy campfire with your fellow travellers. Sit back and marvel at the twinkling skies, soaking up the serenity of the pristine African bushveld.

Overnight: Twin share cabins with with en-suite facilities at a bush lodge.

DAY 2: Kruger National Park – South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

Day two starts bright and early as we make our way into South Africa’s premier game park, Kruger National Park, as soon as the gates open. We spend the whole day game viewing in this over 2 million-hectare wilderness area teeming with wildlife - an unforgettable African adventure.

A typical day in Kruger starts early; with a morning game drive into the African bushveld, as many wild animals are at their most active early in the morning. We stop at one of the rest camps inside Kruger Park for lunch and a break during the hottest part of the day. Take a dip in the pool at the rest camp, browse the gift shop and enjoy lunch at the restaurant (own account). In the late afternoon, when the predators become more active, we venture back out into the wilderness on a game drive. We leave Kruger Park before sunset, heading back to our safari camp for the night.

Kruger is South Africa’s flagship game park and top travel destination, boasting an unrivalled diversity of plants and animals, including Africa’s Big Five - elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo. Our game drives in Kruger Park take us in search of the Big Five and a variety of other wildlife, such as giraffe, zebra, cheetah, hyena and various antelope species. With around 507 bird species, 147 mammal species and 114 reptiles game drives in Kruger Park offer excellent photographic opportunities. In addition to its abundance of wildlife, the untamed Kruger Park is also rich in archaeological and historical sights.

You have the option of heading back out into the bush for more game viewing on a night drive (optional extra) in Kruger. This evening we tuck into a hearty meal around the flickering campfire surrounded by the peaceful quiet that settles over the bush at night.

Overnight: Twin share cabins with with en-suite facilities at a bush lodge near Kruger.

DAY 3: Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary – Swaziland (Breakfast, Dinner)

Today we depart from our bush camp in the Greater Kruger area, driving south along the boundary of Kruger National Park, through little towns and rural villages. We pause in Nelspruit for lunch before continuing through fertile farmlands and countryside. Our next destination is the Kingdom of Swaziland, one of the oldest monarchies in Africa.

Then we cross the Crocodile River, travelling into Swaziland, where we meander over verdant mountainous passes. We drive via lively markets to the renowned Ngwenya glass works factory. After our visit we pass the fringes of Mbabane, the capital of this small landlocked country. Swaziland with its festivals and traditional villages is rich in culture, as well as natural beauty.

We spend the next two nights in Swaziland’s Big Game Parks area where the Hlane Royal National park, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Mkhaya Game Reserve are situated. We stay at the scenic Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary situated in the “Valley of Heaven”. Mlilwane is the oldest protected area in Swaziland, covering 4 560 hectares of mountains and grassland plains inhabited by numerous wild animals. 

Overnight: Twin share Swazi beehive huts (or similar) with shared facilities.

DAY 4: Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary – Swaziland (Breakfast, Dinner)

On day four we wake up to the twittering of birds in the wilderness of scenic Swaziland and have breakfast at our lovely wooded camp.

We head into Mlilwane to visit the Royal Kraal, or Enclosure, where the colourful Reeds Festival, known as Umhlanga, is celebrated. Moving on from this important cultural site we take a walk through a traditional Swazi village with a local guide. Our Swazi guide gives us insight into the ceremonies and cultural practises of the peaceful Swazi people as we explore the village on foot. Along the way we get to browse some craft markets and interact with the friendly local people.

Leaving the village behind we return to Mlilwane and have lunch before an afternoon of leisure time. There are plenty of optional activities to enjoy in the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, which is known for its walking trails. You can explore the sanctuary on horse rides or mountain biking outings, as well as guided walks. Alternatively you can laze around at the pool and catch a nap at the shaded camp.

Keep an eye out for the wildlife of Mlilwane, including giraffes, zebras, warthogs and a variety of antelope species. Warthogs, hippos, crocodiles, ostriches and baboons are frequently spotted in the sanctuary. You may see the fierce honey badger, striped polecat, aardwolf and dwarf mongoose too.

This evening we sit back and sip on some refreshing sundowners looking out for visiting animals at the hippo pool. Dinner is prepared by your guides and enjoyed out under the starry skies.

Overnight: Twin share Swazi beehive huts (or similar) with shared facilities.

DAY 5: St Lucia – South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

We bid farwell to the mountainous Kingdom of Swaziland today, stopping at a candle making factory as we leave.

Descending from the mountains we travel to the east coast of South Africa. Our next stop in the seaside town of St Lucia, located in the fertile province of KwaZulu-Natal near the St Lucia Wetlands Park. This nature reserve encompasses a diverse array of habitats along 280 km of wild coastline and is recognised as a Natural World Heritage Site.

We check in at our lodge and make our way to a Zulu village nearby. Here we discover the proud Zulu culture and learn about the courageous Zulu warriors and their fierce battles in South Africa. The traditional Zulu people are known for the impressive warrior dance performances and unique dress, embellished with fine bead work.

After our cultural encounter with the dynamic Zulu people we go back to the lodge and unwind. There is some time to stroll around the lodge grounds, taking in the unspoilt environment and looking out for nocturnal creatures, like bushbabies.

Overnight: Chalets or similar - Twin share rooms with shared facilities

DAY 6: Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve - South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

Day six starts with an early breakfast before we head into Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve on an early morning game viewing drive. One of the oldest game reserves in South Africa, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve is home to Africa’s Big Five and numerous other wildlife, offering superb game viewing opportunities. The prestigious Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is a leader in wildlife conservation management and is best known for the pivotal role the park played in saving the white rhino from extinction.

After our rewarding game drive in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park we make our way back to St Lucia and the untamed coast. This afternoon you can explore the beautiful coastal area, taking a walk on one of the pretty trails or swimming in the warm Indian Ocean. As the afternoon fades you have the option of embarking on a sunset boat cruise along one of the estuary channels. The river boat cruise is a great way to admire the wild scenery and spot animals and birds, especially lurking crocodiles and wallowing hippos. 

Back at our lodge we tuck into a tasty dinner and then you can venture into town to sample the local night life at one of the quaint pubs.

Overnight: Chalets or similar - Twin share rooms with shared facilities

Day 7: Dundee Battlefields & Drakensburg Mountains - South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

Leaving the coast behind we drive to the historic Blood River, passing through the small town of Vryheid. We pause in this mining town to visit the first of our epic battle sites.

At Blood River we learn about the world-famous battle that took place here between the colonial Dutch settlers and the Zulu warriors. Then we visit the equally famous Rorke’s Drift to see the battle field where a small troop of 150 British soldiers defeated over 3000 Zulu warriors. 

Next we stop near Dundee, at the historic site of Talana, where the start of the Boer War was signalled by firing shots from the hilltop.

Then we pass through Ladysmith on our way to the base of the towering Drakensburg Mountain Range, known uKhahlamba, which means the Barrier of Spears. Arriving at our bush lodge in the foothills we settle in and get a good night's rest before our scenic hike tomorrow.

Overnight: Lodge - Twin share cabins with shared facilities

Day 8: Drakensburg & Royal Natal National Park - South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

Enjoy a light breakfast before we set off for the nearby Royal National Park with day packs.

Part of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site, the Royal Natal Park is renowned for its breathtaking mountainous scenery and . This KwaZulu-Natal park is considered one of the most beautiful mountain reserves in Africa.

Hiking is hugely popular in the tranquil Royal Natal National Park, which features several walking trails through the dramatic mountains and lush valleys with clear mountain streams. You have the option of taking a walk in the scenic mountains enjoying the fresh air and inspiring views. There are also horseback trails available, if you prefer to ride through the majestic mountains.

The famous Amphitheatre, a sheer rock face about 5 kms long and 500 m high, is a highlight of our nature walk here. The Tugela Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the world, flows down the rocky wall of the Amphitheatre. The source of the Orange River is also found in these towering Drakensberg mountains.

While exploring this premier reserve we also view some ancient rock art in caves nearby. Then we head to our lodge close to the Amphitheatre, to enjoy a wholesome meal and admire the picturesque mountain surroundings with our feet up.

Please Note: We may take an alternative hiking trail when visibility is poor and or weather conditions are unfavourable.

Overnight: Lodge - Twin share cabins with shared facilities

Day 9: Drakensberg Mountains to Durban - South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

This morning we depart from the hiking Mecca of the Drakensberg Mountains, journeying to the east coast of South Africa.

We travel through KwaZulu-Natal's capital city, Pietermaritzburg making our way to Botha’s Hill. This small town is the gateway to the Valley of a Thousand Hills where the uMngeni River flows through undulating green hills. The Valley of a Thousand Hills is a stronghold of Zulu culture, where rural villages dot the hillsides.

We visit one of the traditional Zulu villages with a local guide, to discover real Zulu culture. Our enchanting village tour culminates in a traditional Zulu dance performance, one of the renowned aspects of Zulu heritage.

After our cultural encounter we walk about at the reptile farm with a knowledgeable guide who tells us about the crocodiles and venomous snakes that we see. Next we browse handmade crafts and curios in the local shops, seeing some of the striking beadwork the Zulu people are known for making. We have lunch in a homely restaurant with gorgeous views over the undulating hills and lush valleys.

Then we wind our way out of the hills of Zululand, driving to the pretty coast of Natal. Arriving in the seaside city of Durban we make a turn at the Ushaka Marine World to see the mesmerising sea creatures and fish inhabiting the salt water tanks, including dolphins, penguins and seals. Durban is one of the top beach holiday destinations in South Africa and has one of Africa's largest commercial ports.

We eat out at a local restaurant in Durban, which is known for its excellent Indian cuisine. 

Overnight: Backpackers Lodge - Twin share rooms with en-suite facilities

DAY 10: Durban to Coffee Bay & Hole in The Wall (Breakfast & Dinner)

Leaving Durban early in the morning we travel into the remote Wild Coast area, a sparsely populated region of wild and rugged beauty.

We spend most of the day on the scenic road to Coffee Bay, driving over the incredibly stunning mountain passes of the Drakensberg foothills as we meander to the rugged east coast of South Africa. Along the way we pass 

Formerly called the Transkei, the Wild Coast area is home mainly to Xhosa people one of the main ethnic groups of South Africa. Many of the Xhosa we encounter here, still practise tribal traditions and remain deeply rooted in old Xhosa customs and beliefs, making for an interesting cultural experience. Along the way we pass farms and a scattering of rural villages, as well as Mthatha (formerly Umtata) where Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela was born.

We reach Coffee Bay in the early afternoon and set off for the unspoilt beach on foot. We walk to the well-known rock formation called Hole in the Wall, located just off the shore near Coffee Bay. This unusual geographical feature is a large rock stack with a hole eroded through it, the tale of which has been woven into local Xhosa mythology.

Overnight: Holiday Resort or similar - Twin share rooms with en-suite facilities

Day 11: Coffee Bay – South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

This morning we embark on a guided walk in one of the Xhosa villages of huts, dotting the hills around Coffee Bay. We meet the friendly local people and even a Sangoma (healer), learning a bit about their traditions and way of life.

The small seaside village of Coffee Bay offers an idyllic slice of rustic living in rural Africa, with its vibrant, yet laid-back and peaceful vibe. One of the most picturesque spots on the Wild Coast, this is a fantastic place to enjoy uncrowded beaches and walks in the hills and coastal forests. The name Coffee Bay originates from coffee trees that were said to grow here after a shipwrecked Cargo vessel spilled its beans here.

Then the day is yours to do as you please, with plenty of activities to choose from. Relax on one of the stunning sandy beaches and take a swim in the ocean, or go walking on one of the lovely trails through nature. Other optional activities include surfing, horseback riding on the beach, fishing, mountain biking and canoeing on the river. 

Overnight: Holiday Resort or similar - Twin share rooms with en-suite facilities

DAY 12: Addo Elephant Park – South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

Wake up to the lush valley and remote coastline, enjoying a light breakfast in this tranquil environment. Then we hit the road for our next game viewing destination, visiting the Nelson Mandela Museum en route. Here we gain insight into the life of South Africa's first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela's. The museum lies in a rural Eastern Cape town called Mthatha, near the small village where this Nobel Prize winner was born and raised.

We also drive through the historic university town of Grahamstown, where the National Arts Festival is held each year. 

Our overnight lodge is located just outside of Addo Elephant National Park, home to some 500 elephants. Having expanded considerably over recent years, Addo Park is also sanctuary to around 280 Cape Buffalo, lion, leopard, black rhino, zebra, hyena and a variety of antelope species. The unique flightless dung beetle is found almost exclusively in the Addo region, which covers five of the major vegetation biomes found in South Africa. Tomorrow we embark on a game drive in Addo, where wildlife sightings are generally very good, due to well-located waterholes and the flat landscape.

This evening we put our feet up at the scenic lodge and enjoy some sundowners beside the quiet river.

Overnight: River Cabins or similar - Twin share rooms with shared facilities

DAY 13: Tsitsikamma National Park & Knysna – South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

Wake up to the sound of birdsong in the lovely natural setting of Sundays River Valley, before venturing into Addo Elephant Park on one last game drive. Leaving Addo we continue into the well-loved coastal region of the Garden Route to explore the Tsitsikamma Park section of the larger Garden Route National Park.

In the Tsitsikamma Forest indigenous hardwood trees stretch from the mountains to the dramatic cliffs of the wild coastline. Tsitsikamma is a top hiking destination with scenic mountain and coastal walking trails, as well as offering excellent bird watching and many exhilarating adventure activities.

Go hiking in the lush forests, looking out for small animals and exotic-looking birds or walk along the dramatic rocky coast where you may spot dolphins and otters among others. Walk in the Fynbos covered hills, snorkel over the unspoilt reefs, take a boat trip or canoe on the Storms River. 

In the late afternoon we depart from the rich and diverse Tsitsikamma National Park making our way further along the Garden Route to the picturesque town of Knysna. We travel via the Bloukrans Bridge, renowned as the site of the world's highest commercial bungee jump. Take the 216 metre plunge into the gorge for a real adrenalin rush, if you dare.

Then we arrive in the attractive seaside town of Knysna, famous for its annual Oyster Festival. This popular holiday destination is located beside a large estuary, nestled between the south coast and the lofty Outeniqua mountains. We spend the next two nights in Knysna, allowing enough time to appreciate this special place and its stunning surroundings. 

Overnight: Travellers Lodge or similar - Twin share rooms with shared facilities

Day 14: Knysna – South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

Day 14 starts with breakfast at the lodge before going to the famous landmark of Knysna Heads. Stand on one of these rocky cliffs and marvel at the spectacular views out over the Knysna lagoon, town and open ocean.

The remainder of today is unstructured, leaving you time to stroll around the leafy town of Knysna, visiting lively cafes and browsing its delightful little boutiques and craft shops. Knysna is far from short on things to do, with a wide array of activities for you to choose from, including hiking, fishing, mountain biking, boat cruises, canoeing and ferry rides on the lagoon, or visiting the Knysna Elephant Park and catching a tan on the beach. This stretch of the scenic Garden Route is a real highlight, not only for its natural beauty but for its abundance of fun activities.

We have an early dinner together and then you're free to head out into the characterful town and enjoy the nightlife or amble around the bustling waterfront.

Overnight: Travellers Lodge or similar - Twin share rooms with shared facilities

Day 15: Knysna to Oudtshoorn – South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

From the charming coastal town of Knysna we drive inland towards the arid Klein Karoo region, passing over breathtaking mountain passes en route.

Our next stop is the historic Little Karoo town of Oudtshoorn, set between the majestic Swartberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges. Oudtshoorn lies in a unique ecological hotspot zone, where three types of vegetation meet, namely the fynbos, cape thicket and succuent Karoo. 

Oudtshoorn claims to be the ostrich capital of the world, which seems likely considering the abundance of these big flightless birds here. Ostriches have been bred in the area since the 1860's and a huge industry now exists around these birds, selling their eggs, feathers, meat and leather. We head to an ostrich farm to get a closer look and even take a ride on an ostrich!

Then we explore the Cango Caves, a massive network of underground tunnels and large chambers with impressive limestone formations, stalactites and stalagmites. 

After our unusual day spent with long-legged ostriches and in underground caverns we overnight in quaint Oudtshoorn, known for its warm hospitality.

Overnight: Travellers Lodge or similar - Twin share rooms with shared facilities

Day 16: Oudtshoorn to Hermanus – South Africa (Breakfast & Dinner)

Returning to the coast today we travel through some of the most beautiful scenery in South Africa, crossing verdant mountains and flowing streams. Our journey takes us via the southernmost tip of Africa, where the cool Atlantic and warm Indian Oceans meet. The rugged Cape Agulhas point is called the 'Cape of Storms', notorious for the shipwrecks scattered along this stretch of coast. It is said that waves reach up to 30 metres along this Cape during the savage winter storms. At Cape Agulhas we pause for lunch in the towering lighthouse with its little museum.

The seaside town of Hermanus is our final destination for today. Hermanus is world-famous for its exceptional whale watching and dolphin spotting record. Our afternoon is free for you to walk around the laid-back town or participate in some outdoor activities. Outdoor activities include canoeing trips, diving, surfing, sailing on a yacht and whale watching boat trips (in season).

This evening you can hit the town for some fun in the local hang-outs or sit back and let the ocean breeze blow through your hair.

Overnight: Travellers lodge or similar - Twin share rooms with shared facilities

Day 17: Hermanus to Cape Town – South Africa (Breakfast)

Our final morning is set aside for you to explore seaside Hermanus on foot, browsing its charming shops and cafes. You can take a walk on the boardwalk along the ocean looking out for whales or stop in at the outdoor Old Harbour Museum, a Western Cape heritage site tracing the history of this famous fishing village. Hermanus is famous for its exceptional whale sightings (in season) and is considered one of the best places for land-based whale watching in the world. Choose from whale watching tours by boat or from the shores, a not-to-be-missed activity in Hermanus.

Departing before lunchtime we travel via rugged fishing villages set along the spectacular Atlantic coastline towards Cape Town. As we near our final destination we stop to visit a wine farm in this famous wine growing region. Taste some of the fine local wines and tour the winery before we continue to one of the most beautiful cities in the world - Cape Town.

Arriving in Cape Town late afternoon, our Kruger Park to Cape Town Lodge Safari comes to an end at the foot of world-famous Table Mountain.

Tour Accommodation:

On this small group tour accommodation is mostly in shared rooms with twin beds in chalets, bungalows or cabins, or in guesthouses with shared facilities. Many of the places that we stay at are located in picturesque settings with a swimming pool, restaurant and bar. Some of the accommodation is a little more basic but still comfortable, clean and secure.

Tour Transport:

Transport on this tour will be in a comfortable mini-bus or microbus. Maximum group size: 12 passengers.

Participation on this Tour:

This is an active participation tour; which means everybody helps out with the daily chores. The chores are usually shared on a roster basis and include tasks like shopping and cooking. 

The active participation on this tour provides good opportunities to meet local people and get to know your fellow travellers. Your contribution helps to make sure that your trip is successful and enjoyable for everyone. Sharing the responsibilities means that nobody has to work too hard! On past tours most people have found that the more they get involved, the more they enjoy themselves. With a sense of adventure and a flexible attitude you will be sure to have a wonderful trip.

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