Botany | Ecology | Eco-Active | Kruger Safaris | Bird Watching | Photographic Workshops | Cultural Experiences | Food & Wine | Arts & Crafts | Sustainable Travel

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DAY 1: ARRIVE IN DURBAN

Highlights: City tour, Welcome dinner at Moyo

You will be collected from Durban International Airport and enjoy a brief tour of the city, before being taken to your guest house. In the evening we will visit the Moyo restaurant for a traditional African welcome dinner with live entertainment.

DAY 2: DURBAN TO HLUHLUWE-UMFOLOZI GAME RESERVE

Highlights: Dlinza Forest, Shakaland, evening game drive

After an early breakfast, we make our way northwards up the Kwazulu-Natal coast. Our first stop is the village of Eshowe, the oldest European settlement in Zululand. The name ‘Eshowe’ is said to be inspired by the sound of wind blowing through the Dlinza Forest - a lush indigenous canopy teeming with birds, and the most significant feature of the town. We will explore this forest by foot and view the forest canopy from the recently erected aerial boardwalk – one of its kind in South Africa. The Dlinza Forest is home to many spectacular birds, such as the elusive Narina Trogon and Purple-crested Turaco. We then make our way to the nearby Shakaland – a traditional Zulu cultural village. At Shakaland, originally the set of the popular TV series’ Shaka Zulu and John Ross, we will be introduced to various aspects of Zulu culture, including social systems, fighting formations, the greeting of the home, beadwork, pottery, beer making and spear throwing. After lunch, we continue to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, South Africa’s oldest game reserve. In the early evening, we will embark on a sunset game drive in the reserve.

DAY 3: HLUHLUWE-UMFOLOZI GAME RESERVE

Highlights: “Big 5” game-viewing, birdwatching

We will embark on an early morning game drive, where we hope to encounter and photograph numerous mammals and interesting birdlife. The wide variety of plant life in this park gives rise to a diversity of mammals, birdlife, reptiles and amphibians, including the Big Five - lion, black and white rhino, elephant, buffalo and leopard, as well as a variety of other interesting species such as cheetah, wild dog and giraffe. It is also one of the best places in the world to see nyala (a shy antelope found in wooded areas). Through the world famous project "Operation Rhino", the white rhino population was brought back from extinction in this reserve. From less than 20 animals in 1900, there are now more than 10 000 White Rhinos in existence worldwide. During the heat of the day and when the light is poor, we plan to relax at the camp. In the late afternoon, we will embark on another game drive, returning to the camp at sunset. We will again spend the night at Hilltop Rest Camp.

DAY 4: HLUHLUWE-UMFOLOZI GAME RESERVE TO ST LUCIA

Highlights: Game-viewing, birdwatching, boat cruise

We start the day with an early morning game drive in the reserve, followed by breakfast. We then head eastwards to the St Lucia Wetlands, one of the world’s great eco-tourism destinations. The area attracts considerable numbers of animals, especially antelope, hippo, crocodiles and elephants. Lake St Lucia is also one of the most important breeding areas for birds in South Africa and is surrounded by a mosaic of coastal forest, woodlands and grasslands. We will embark on an evening boat cruise where we will hopefully be able to get close to hippos and crocs. After our boat trip we will dine at a local restaurant and spend the night at the luxurious Amazulu Lodge.

DAY 5: ST LUCIA TO MKHUZE GAME RESERVE

Highlights: Game-viewing, birdwatching

After an early morning walk or drive in the St Lucia area, we make our way to the Mkhuze Game Reserve. Mkhuze, proclaimed a protected area in 1912, is a reserve of great beauty and high contrasts, and is regarded as one of the richest birding spots in Africa (with more than 420 bird species on record)! The reserve has a wide diversity of natural habitats, including mountains, acacia savannah, swamps, woodlands, riverine forest and sand forest. Two beautiful pans are home to communities of hippo, crocodile, pink-backed and white pelicans, as well as a diversity of ducks and geese, which gather in spring. Animals that we could see include black and white rhino, elephant, giraffe, leopard, buffalo, nyala, blue wildebeest, kudu, cheetah, hyena and suni. After dinner we will embark on a night drive where we have the chance of encountering leopard, owls and other nocturnal creatures.

DAY 6: MKHUZE GAME RESERVE TO SWAZILAND

Highlights: Guided walk, game-viewing

We start the day with a guided morning walk in the Fig Tree Forest, where we hope to encounter spectacular birds and possibly some shy mammals. We then head northwards to the Swaziland border, entering this remarkable Royal Kingdom at the Golela border post. Please ensure that your passports are valid and available for stamping at the border. We travel via Big Bend and Manzini to our lodge in the highlands, stopping at the Swazi Candle Factory for lunch. The highly decorative Swazi Candles are hand-made using the age-old technique "millefiore" (thousand flowers), which was perfected in the great glassmaking cities of Murano and Venice. After watching and photographing the gifted candle makers creating their colourful designs, we continue to the picturesque and cosy Forester’s Arms Lodge, where we will spend the night.

DAY 7: SWAZILAND

Highlights: Ezilwini Valley, colourful crafts and local markets, Royal kraal or local village

Today we explore the Manzini or Mbabane markets, where we can photograph the local Swazi people making and selling their numerous colourful crafts. We also explore the Ezilwini Valley, including Gone Rural basket weavers and the House of Fire, where we will enjoy a light lunch. Depending on the timing of our tour we may be able to visit the Royal Kraal to witness some of the colourful Swazi celebrations held at various times of the year. The exact dates of these events are decided by the King, and depend on the cycle of the moon. Alternatively, we will visit the chief of a small nearby village, where we will be introduced to the traditional Swazi way of life. We will again spend the night at Forester’s Arms.

DAY 8: SWAZILAND

Highlights: Ngwenya mine and glass factory, Malolotja Nature Reserve, Phophonyane Nature Reserve

Today we make our way through Mbabane, Swaziland’s capital city, to Ngwenya mine, the oldest known mine in the world. Ancient people dug this open-pit mine over 40 000 years ago in search of specularite and haematite and, in more recent years, for iron. We also visit the Ngwenya glass blowing factory, where local people transform recycled bottles into beautiful glass items – mostly in the shape of various African animals. After lunch, we continue to Malolotja Nature Reserve, a beautiful park set in the high rolling grasslands of Swaziland. We will enjoy a scenic drive through the reserve, where we may encounter various antelope species before continuing to Phophonyane Falls Lodge. Beautifully situated, with outstanding views of mountains and valleys, Phophonyane nature reserve offers a remarkable diversity of habitats in a small area. The nearby Phophonyane River tumbles down several hundred meters in a series of cascades and rock pools. We will enjoy dinner at The Driftwood Restaurant, with its romantic and tasteful African ambience and variety of traditional Swazi dishes.

DAYS 9-11: SWAZILAND TO KRUGER NATIONAL PARK

Highlights: Mountain views and waterfalls, “Big 5” Game-viewing, birdwatching

We start the day with an early drive and walk – the Gobolondo Mountain Trail. A short steep climb (approx. 20 minutes) takes us to the top of the mountain where we can enjoy spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding highlands and possibly a swim in the waterfall pool. After brunch back at our lodge we will make our way northwards into South Africa to the spectacular Kruger National Park. Kruger, one of Africa’s largest and most magnificent game parks, was established in 1926 and is nearly 2 million hectares in extent. The park is home to an incredible 150 mammal species and over 500 bird species, making it one of the most popular game parks in the world! Here, we hope to see elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard, rhino, various antelope species, crocodile, hippo and many others. In addition to the “Big 5” we should also encounter some spectacular birdlife including bee-eaters, rollers, kingfishers, cuckoos, hornbills, eagles (including Bateleur), vultures, owls, turacos, storks, and many others. We will spend three nights in Kruger, of which we plan to stay for two nights at Lower Sabie (with its superb river views, and population of hippos) and one night at Satara (a good area for sighting lions and other big cats). Each day we will embark on game drives in the early morning and late afternoon where we will seek out mammal and bird species and visit various hides along the way. We will spend the heat of the day (when animals are more scarce and light is harsh) relaxing at the camps. Most of the camps have swimming pools and at each camp there is the option of going on a night drive to view nocturnal creatures, such as genets, spring hares, civets, and aardvark (optional extra activity).

DAY 12: KRUGER TO BLYDE RIVER CANYON

Highlights: Forested island, Blyde Canyon boat trip

After a further early morning game drive we will continue our journey out of the Park towards the Blyde River, where we will spend the night on a forested island at Otter’s Den. In the late afternoon we will embark on a boat trip through the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world (after the Grand and Fish River Canyons) and inhabited by crocodiles and hippos. We then enjoy a barbecue on our forested island with the sound of owls and bushbabies in the trees above, before retiring to our rustic wooden chalets.

DAY 13: BLYDE RIVER CANYON

Highlights: Wildlife rehabilitation centre, Silk factory, Optional hot air balloon flight

In the morning we will enjoy early breakfast and photography at leisure on the island, after which we visit the world-renowned Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, a haven for abandoned and injured wildlife, and a breeding centre for endangered Southern African species. The centre is home to numerous birds of prey, including Crowned and Marshall Eagles, as well as large cats such as lions, leopards, and cheetahs. After our tour of the centre, we plan to stop for lunch at the Bombyx Mori Silk factory, one of only two in South Africa, where we will be introduced to the history and art of silk weaving and have the opportunity of viewing a large variety of silk items for sale. [Today you will also have the opportunity of taking an early morning hot air balloon flight, operated by the owners of Otters Den. This excursion requires a very early start, is strongly weather dependent and must be booked in advance. The flight will take you gently over one of the nearby private game reserves or Blyde River enabling you to see and photograph wildlife from the air! If you choose to do this activity, it will replace the visit to the rehabilitation centre]. We will spend another evening and night at Otter’s Den.

DAY 14: BLYDE RIVER CANYON TO SABIE

Highlights: Blyde River Canyon, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, God’s Window, waterfalls

After breakfast we head via the spectacular Abel Erasmus Pass to various view sites along the “Panorama”, including the Blyde River Canyon, Three Rondavels, Bourke’s Luck Potholes (interesting geological features formed by swirling whirlpools grinding their way into the bedrock of the Blyde River), God’s Window with its tropical rainforest and magnificent outlook onto the Lowveld, and the much-photographed Pinnacle. After lunch in the quaint and historical town of Graskop we visit the Mac Mac and Bridal Falls, two spectacular waterfalls that cascade from the escarpment. We then continue to Sabie, where we will spend the night in luxury log chalets on the bank of the Sabie River.

DAY 15: SABIE TO JOHANNESBURG

Highlights: Historical Pilgrim’s Rest, Mpumalanga Highlands

After breakfast, we visit the nearby Lone Creek Falls, before heading to the historical mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest, where we spend the morning exploring the town. Virtually the entire town has been declared a national monument and remains largely unchanged since the gold rush in 1873. Here we will visit a number of museums, restored houses and quaint shops followed by lunch in one of the town’s numerous restaurants. After lunch we make our way via the quaint village of Dullstroom, South Africa’s premier trout fishing destination and one of the highest towns in South Africa (2100m), towards Johannesburg. You will be taken to OR Tambo International Airport to catch your evening flight home. Alternatively, if your flight leaves the following morning, we would be happy to arrange accommodation for you in Johannesburg and an airport transfer the following day.

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Joan Ramo
Dear Ince:
As i think about the last year, I remember well the wonderful trip that led us on in Johannesburg, a trip which was so well organized and fun and carefully planned by you.
My whole family is still raving about your professional, yet personal, guidance.
We are grateful.
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