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From the game lands of the Kruger to the beautiful coastline of the Indian Ocean, South Africa is a wonderful destination for a family holiday. Experience many of the country's natural and cultural highlights including a visit to a traditional Zulu village, Blyde River Canyon and game walks in a wildlife sanctuary in kingdom of Swaziland.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights simple bungalow
1 nights comfortable bungalow
1 nights comfortable hotel
5 nights comfortable lodge
2 nights premium lodge
2 nights comfortable rondavels
10 - 16
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. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. The hotel we use has a swimming pool and lovely gardens to relax in after your flight, we can also provide transport to the nearby Nelson Mandela Square, a open-air piazza in Sandton which offers a wide choice of shops and dining options later in the afternoon.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB).
Please note: A majority of flights will land into Johannesburg in the early morning it is often too early to be able to check straight in to your room. Luggage storage is available at the hotel check in.
Rivonia Premier Lodge (or similar)
Drive to Graskop via South Africa's Panoramic Route.
Leaving our hotel after breakfast, we head out of Johannesburg through the lowveld which stretches before us into the distant horizons. The lowveld translates literally from Afrikaans into English as the low bush. This area has been inhabited since Stone Age times and with its plentiful water from mountain rivers, multiple waterfalls, beautiful craggy escarpments covered in vegetation and colourful birdlife.
Our destination is Graskop a small town in the province of Mpumalanga, a peaceful location surrounded by forestry plantations and dramatic rock outcrops.
PLEASE NOTE: The order of the night stops between Days 2 and Days 6 (Graskop, Tshukudu Game Reserve and Kruger NP) may change due to accommodation availability. The total travelling time will remain roughly the same and each of the elements of the itinerary will still be offered although not necessarily in the order of the trip notes.
Mogodi Lodge (or similar)
This morning we will stop at several viewpoints along the way, including the aptly named God's Window and admire the awe-inspiring Blyde River Canyon. We also stop at the strangely surreal Bourke's Luck Potholes, a collection of pebble-eroded formations at the confluence of the Treur and Blyde Rivers, before we arrive at Tshukudu Game Reserve around 2pm.
Tshukudu is the Sotho word for Rhino, the park is renowned for its lion breeding and rehabilitation programmes, nursing sick, orphaned or injured animals of all shapes and sizes back to health for re-introduction to the wild. The Reserve is home to the most spectacular of South Africa's wildlife, including lion, elephant, rhino, hippo and even the elusive leopard and cheetah.
This afternoon we will go on our first game drive in the hope of spotting the Big 5.
Tshukudu Bush Camp (or similar)
Today we do some more game spotting from the back of our vehicles and there is even a chance to do some walking in the reserve with experienced rangers. They are all acknowledged experts in the bush and are happy to pass on their knowledge of animals great and small, so ask as many questions as you can! Tshukudu contains a wealth of big and small game, as well as many species of birds. We will take the chance to see some of these stunning animals from our vehicle and also enjoying a walking safari through the reserve. We retire back to our lodge where there is a pool to relax around and soak up the late afternoon South African sun.
After a hearty breakfast we bid farewell to Tshukudu driving two hours to the southern gate of Kruger National Park. We stop for lunch and a swim at one of the national park camps before continuing further into the park.
The Kruger National Park is one of the world's premier game reserves, what we do not see in Tshukudu, we may well see here.
Covering an area larger than Israel, the park was established in 1898 to protect big game that had almost been hunted to extinction. The park is now one of the most prolific animal habitats in South Africa, committed to animal conservation and patrolled by armed rangers to prevent illegal poaching. A large number of species are present, including elephant, lion, black and white rhino, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wild dog, hyena, wildebeest and almost all of South Africa's species of antelope. Bird life is just as impressive with crowned cranes, bee-eaters, sunbirds and vultures.
We retire to the sounds of the African bush this evening.
Pretoriuskop Rest Camp (or similar)
Leaving our camp shortly after sunrise, head out 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. Continue game viewing in the afternoon.
Masgobe Lodge (or similar)
After a morning of game spotting we continue south passing through rural townships and mountain scenery of the Blyde River Canyon escarpment to the small kingdom of Swaziland, a tiny and independent land inhabited by the Swazi people who revere their king and retain their age-old culture and traditions. Our journey takes us through some spectacular scenery in the Ezulwini Valley and past numerous traditional homesteads, curio stalls and the old mining settlement of Piggs Peak. This afternoon we enter one of Swaziland's best wildlife reserves, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
This secluded and beautiful sanctuary is a haven of tranquillity, located in a natural bowl beneath the Nyonyane Mountains. The accommodation we use is always popular with families, being a combination of traditional dome-shaped beehive huts, rondavels and traditional huts. Though the camp has all the mod cons - showers, toilets, outdoor swimming pool and restaurant/bar - it is rustic in the best sense of the word. Warthogs and ostrich share the camp with us and the restaurant overlooks a lake populated by water birds and a resident hippo.
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 with excellent facilities and a large open air swimming pool.
Mlilwane Rest Camp (or similar)
This morning we begin with a walk in search of zebra, wildebeest, impala, nyala and warthog. Mlilwane has a large area of open grasslands, so game viewing is relatively easy. The afternoon is left free for you to choose one of the many optional activities on offer. The great advantage of Mlilwane is that the absence of big cats allows for a very different game viewing experience. You can opt to set out with a guide on mountain bike and take a game-spotting ride through the superb scenery. Alternatively, you may like to follow one of the self-guided mountain walking trails following the historic aqueduct around the Nyonyane Mountains; or one of the riverside trails in search of birdlife and hippo. The choice is very much yours.
Crossing through Swaziland we head for the southern border point at Golela, passing back in to South Africa and continuing through KwaZulu Natal to the northern settlement of Kosi Bay, close to the Mozambique border. The next two nights see us staying close to the shores of the Indian Ocean, with accommodation set amidst a wetland area of lakes and forest that is home to a rich diversity of birds and animals including hippos and crocs. On the afternoon of our arrival there is some free time to explore and enjoy this protected area which was declared a nature reserve back in 1950 and considered one of the most pristine lake systems along the South African coast.
Utshewayelo Lodge (or similar)
Today we take a walk along the beaches and forests of this area in search of small antelope and the astounding variety of birds to be seen here. Snorkelling is possible near the estuary and over the coral reef (weather dependent) with equipment available from the lodge.
Travelling down the coast we head towards the greater St. Lucia Wetland Park situated on the Indian Ocean coast. This wonderful wetland reserve was recently granted World Heritage status as the largest estuarine lake system in Africa. En route we will visit the Zulu Experience, a chance to visit a traditional Zulu village and learn about the lifestyles and culture of these fascinating people. Whilst in St Lucia you may choose to go on a range of optional activities. Night drives to spot giant turtles coming ashore and whale watching trips are possible in the right season.
St Lucia Eco Lodge (or similar)
Another day on the coast allows for some additional relaxation time and the chance for optional activities such as whale watching (June to November) and turtle watching from November to March. There is also the option of a boat trip on the St. Lucia River to spot hippos and crocodiles or a snorkelling trip to Cape Vidal (weather dependent).
Departing St Lucia this morning, we drive south along the coast to Durban's International airport (airport code DUR) aiming to arrive at about 2pm. This is where our trip ends. The earliest your flight can depart is 4pm.
For those taking an evening flights from Durban we can arrange time before your flight at Umhlanga Beach located just 10 minutes from Durban city centre, en-route to the airport. Featuring expansive golden sand beaches stretching northwards for over 200km, with a wide choice of restaurants and bars as well as an a shopping centre for those last minute souvenirs, Umhlanga Beach offers a host of options for all the family before your flight home.
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.
A selection of optional activities are listed below to help you budget for your Family adventure. Whilst the basic tour price you pay before you travel includes a great selection of highlights, we have also built in free time to allow you the flexibility to choose from a carefully selected range of additional excursions and activities or take time to relax, the choice is yours. At certain destinations along the way there may be several options to choose from and it may not be possible to fit all the activities in; your Explore Leader will be able to give advice on which are the most suitable for your family. Mlilwane (Swaziland): Day 7: Bike hire SAR 85 per hour Kosi Bay: Day 8 or 9: Spend an afternoon fishing. Our fishing guide can show you the hotspots and help with your technique. SAR 2500 per group (maximum 8 applies). Day 8 or 9: Canoeing SAR 300 per person (minimum group size 3 people) Day 8 or 9: Guided hike from the hotel SAR 300 per group of 6, SAR 50 for each person over 6. Day 8 or 9: Three lake boat cruise lasting four hours SAR 1200 per group of 4, SAR 300 for each person over 4. Day 8: Evening turtle tour to view the nesting sites. The nesting season is between November and February. Departs at 1630 and lasts between 5 and 6 hours. SAR 2000 per group of 4. SAR 500 for each person over 4. Day 9: Elephant safaris in Tembe Elephant Reserve. SAR450 per person St Lucia: Day 10: Two hour night cruise in St Lucia Wetland Reserve to spot crocodile and hippo, the area is particularly known for its prolific hippo population and excellent variety of birdlife. SAR 300 per person. (There is a night game drive alternative in St Lucia Wetland Reserve lasting 2.5 hours costing SAR 575 per person) Day 11: Snorkelling. Departing at 8am, returning between 3pm and 4pm. You'll be picked up from the hotel and head out directly to the coast to explore the Indian Ocean coastline around stunning Cape Vidal. All equipment provided. Price SAR 775 per person. Day 11: St. Lucia night drive to spot turtles (Nov-Mar) SAR 950 per person Day 11: Whale watching cruise (June-Nov) SAR 1190 per person
Clothing should generally be lightweight for the day. A warm fleece, a hat and gloves and long trousers are recommended, as nights can be very cold, especially from May to August and in the highlands of Swaziland. It can also be very cold on early and late game drives. A waterproof and windproof jacket is also recommended, particularly between October and April. Avoid brightly coloured clothing for game viewing. Please also note that it is forbidden to wear camouflage clothing in Swaziland. Don't forget your swimming costume and a towel.
Comfortable shoes or lightweight boots, 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 head 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. Please bring a towel for one of the overnight stops. All bedding will be provided on camping nights. 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 and characterful park lodges. 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 eco lodge within the wetlands area. Our most unusual accommodation is our beehive huts in Mlilwane - a traditional Swazi design but with en suite facilities! (please note some departures may not be in the beehive huts) 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.
Most of the hotels have a swimming pool and we have the opportunity to take a dip in the sea at Kosi Bay and St. Lucia
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. There are special requirements for travelling to South Africa with children under 18 who hold South African nationality, and for unaccompanied children entering South Africa. The South African Department of Home Affairs has more information. Swaziland: 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.
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.