Go on an epic safari with expert local guides in search of lions, hyenas and more through Kruger National Park – one of the largest game reserves in southern Africa.. Spend a few days however you please on the white-sand beaches of Mozambique’s Ponta Malongane. Snorkel? Sun? Seafood feast? The choice is yours.. Visit the heartlands of the Zulu people and spend the night in a homestay, where you’ll be treated to traditional food and song, plus a meeting with the local healer.. Embark on a half-day guided walk in the mighty Drakensburg Range – one of many spectacular hikes along the Garden Route that you can choose to discover in your free time.
Embark on an action-packed Lonely Planet Experience through some of the most stunning scenery in southern Africa. In 22 days, head from Johannesburg to Cape Town on the spectacular coastal route, with plenty of epic stops along the way. Track down elusive wildlife on game drives in Kruger National Park, relax on golden beaches in Mozambique, visit remote Zulu to learn about tribal culture and mix it up with modern cities. From the savanna of Kruger and the lush wetlands of the St Lucia Estuary to the dramatic ocean vistas and fertile vineyards along the Wild Coast, see the best of southern Africa’s blessed natural beauty, joined by a local leader with all the best advice and a group of likeminded adventurers keen to explore.
Breakfast Included: 21 Lunches Included: 7 Dinner Included: 17
Sawubona! Welcome Johannesburg, the sprawling South African capital. In Joburg (unlike a lot of city nicknames, this is one people actually use) mansions stand alongside humble tin abodes and there are as many green parks on the outskirts of the city as there is concrete jungle in the centre. Your Lonely Planet experience begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you can’t wait to begin exploring and arrive with time to spare, why not make your way to the Apartheid Museum and start your journey with some crucial history before you meet up with your group.
Kruger National Park
Rise and shine for a long day’s drive to Kruger National Park (approximately 11–12 hours). Leave Johannesburg and travel through the Mpumalanga Province and along the famous Panorama Route through some of the most stunning scenery South Africa has to offer, such as God's Window and Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Southern Africa. It boasts over 500 bird species, 100 species of reptile and 150 mammal species, including the Big Five and the endangered African wild dog. Drive through some of Kruger’s prime game viewing areas on your way to camp and try to spot some of these amazing creatures straight away! Set up camp and get settled for the evening.
Kruger National Park
Rise early and enjoy a light breakfast of coffee and rusk (twice-baked bread) before heading out on a morning game drive. Most of your day will be spent spotting game from your overland vehicle, birdwatching and stopping at various waterholes and viewpoints to rest along the way. In the evening, choose to relax at camp or perhaps head out on an optional night drive with the park guide. The optional night drives are a chance to spot nocturnal animals and perhaps even a night-time predator or two – maybe catch a lion or hyena out hunting, or perhaps impala out in search of a late-night feed.
Eswatini (Swaziland)/Hlane Royal National Park
Start the day with a slow game drive through Kruger, covering between 20 and 70 kilometres (depending on what animals you see along the way) in the park then exiting by mid-morning. Hit the road towards Hlane Royal National Park (approximately 6–7 hours). Travel south-east and cross the border into the kingdom of Eswatini, a country nestled between Mozambique, Northern Zululand and Mpumalanga. Arrive at Hlane Royal National Park, a vast expanse of bushveld with ancient hardwood trees, and begin exploring immediately on a guided game walk. Spend tonight at a camp within the national park.
Mozambique Beach Camp
Set off this morning to your Mozambique beach camp (approximately 7–8 hours). Departing from Hlane National Park, head to the Golela Border Post and cross into Maputaland. After a little while, cross another border into Mozambique. Change vehicles to a 4WD for the drive to the beautiful seaside village of Ponta Malongane – your beachside oasis for the next two nights. Your campsite is the ideal base for seaside fun such as snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving.
Mozambique Beach Camp
Make the most of this gorgeous seaside getaway with a day to explore at your own pace. This is one of the many unspoiled beaches of Mozambique, and there is plenty to do here. Keen scuba divers can choose from many reefs – one of which is just 300 metres off the shore. Alternatively, you could explore the blue waters of the Indian Ocean on an optional boat cruise in search of dolphins – ask your leader about booking. Of course, you could always find a spot on the beach and chill out.
St Lucia Estuary
Depart southern Mozambique and drive to Lake St Lucia, part of the St Lucia Estuary. stopping at a shop for supplies along the way (approximately 4–5 hours). Declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, St Lucia Estuary is home to thousands of varieties of birds, mammals and reptiles, including hundreds of hippos and crocodiles. You can either explore on your own or join an optional boat cruise on the wildlife-filled waters for the chance to spot creatures basking on the banks.
Rise early and head to the Valley of a Thousand Hills (approximately 5–6 hours), the heartland of the Zulu nation, for a unique homestay experience. Gain insight into the daily life of the rural Zulu people with a night in a local’s house, where you'll be treated to some traditional food, song and dance. Explore the village on foot and make the most of this rare opportunity to see a remote culture from the inside. Interact with your hosts and perhaps share some of your own culture and language in turn.
Travel on to Durban (approximately 3 hours). Durban is South Africa's second most populous city and a tourist magnet thanks to its wealth of golden, sandy beaches and glitzy nightlife. One of its main attractions is the Golden Mile, a stretch of fine sands bordered by frothy surf on one side and an attractive beachfront of shops, restaurants and cafes on the other. Stay in dorm rooms with shared bathroom facilities and a great rooftop bar.
Leave Durban and travel inland towards the majestic Drakensberg mountain range (approximately 5–6 hours). Stop along the way at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site and learn of the history of this great man. Then stretch your legs on a short hike along the Drakensberg mountain chain. Home to an amazing array of flora and fauna, Drakensberg is Southern Africa's highest range – sitting at 3482 metres – and forms part of the border between South Africa and Lesotho. The range is often referred to locally as the Barrier of Spears or the Dragon Mountains. Your accommodation here is in twin rooms with an ensuite at a unique backpacker lodge in Drakensberg. After you’ve settled in, enjoy a drink with your travel group in the thatched-loft lounge room, where there’s a book-swap and internet facilities. You’ll also be able to check out the onsite pool, jacuzzi, barbeque, fire pit and wi-fi.
Enjoy free time to go hiking through this incredible mountain range. It's up to you how much time you spend exploring. Feel free to take a short hike for an hour or so, or perhaps challenge yourself by booking into a full-day hike with a local guide. This is a great chance to learn more about the region from a local as you walk along. Regardless of your level of hiking or exploring today, there are sure to be some amazing views and excellent photo opportunities.
Leaving Drakensberg behind, head into the mountain kingdom of Lesotho (approximately 7–8 hours). Nestled like a small island in the middle of South Africa, Lesotho is commonly known as the 'Kingdom in the Sky' and has beautiful mountain ranges and endless hiking trails. Generally, the border crossing into Lesotho is quite smooth, but you may experience some delays, depending on the time of year. Drive past the Golden Gate Highlands National Park which is famous for its extraordinary sandstone rock formations. The park is also home to elands, zebras, mongooses and hundreds of bird species – keep your eyes peeled along the way.