Days 1 - 2: Johannesburg

WELCOME TO SOUTH AFRICA, the "World in one Country" as it is known and you will soon discover why...!

  Johannesburg, the City of Gold, or “Egoli” as it is also known, is a booming, “happening” city. For guests who want to see it through the eyes of a local, a half day city tour is ideal. In 4 hours visitors will see the City Hall and Newtown Cultural Precinct, with the Market Theatre, Museum Africa which records the continent’s past, when the first civilisations thrived, the Banking district, the Magistrate's Court and the Supreme Court. A visit the “top of Africa” at the 50 storey high Carlton Centre affords endless views over Johannesburg. The tour ends with a drive through some of the most picturesque and avant-garde suburbs in the country before returning to the hotel. This roughly 4 hours tour operates Tuesdays to Saturdays from 08.30 until midday.

For visitors interested in politics and South Africa's recent history, a half day guided visit to the sprawling township of Soweto, the Apartheid Museum, the Old Fort Prison at Constitutional Hill or Liliesleaf Farm will give visitors an insight into and appreciation of the struggle for freedom which brought about the landmark elections in 1994 and a change of government with Nelson Mandela at its head.

Maboneng, to the east of Johannesburg’s business district, has become the new trendy part of town offering retail stores, entertainment venues and restaurants mixed with residential, office and industrial spaces. With its creative take on history, architecture, art and nature, Maboneng is the epicenter of the Johannesburg’s inner-city renaissance and a place more and more people proudly call home. Visitors to Maboneng will experience a place alive with vibrant culture, entrepreneurial spirit and a strong sense of community. Sundays are particularly popular, when the streets are abuzz with music, stands with arts and crafts and a variety of food stalls offering local and international fare. Guided walks or cycle tours or particularly interesting to make Maboneng come alive.

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is only about an hour outside of Johannesburg or Pretoria. Maropeng, the visitor centre in the Cradle of Humankind and the nearby Sterkfontein Caves, where fossils and stone tools dating back 2 – 4 million years were found, show how our ancestors lived all that time ago.

Pretoria, the “Jacaranda City”, famous for alleys of purple Jacaranda trees in spring, is seat of South Africa’s government in the second half of the year. Historic buildings like the Union Buildings and the Voortrekker Monument as well as the Cullinan Diamond Mine, located a few kilometres outside of Pretoria, where the world’s biggest diamond was found, are well worth a visit.

Shopping Malls are as synonymous with Johannesburg as gold mines are, but there are also many outdoor craft markets and streets with small boutique shops scattered around the second largest city in Africa.


Day 3: Mpumalanga Highlands

Your rental car will be delivered to your hotel at a pre-arranged time (delivery cost will be charged directly to the renter's credit card). 

Follow the Route Description which will be provided, and leave Johannesburg behind you as you travel east. Your drive will be on a main road, and will take approximately 3 hours (in addition to any stops you make on the way).  The more attractive journey is via Pretoria, where you can  visit the Voortrekker Monument of the beautiful government buildings.

Arrive at Saragossa Game Reserve and your overnight accommodation.

Day 4: Mpumalanga Highlands

This exclusive nature and wildlife retreat covers a variety of ecosystems, from riverine forest to savannah to bushveld. Giraffe, hippo, zebra, blue wildebeest and eland are just a few of the indigenous species that roam freely throughout the 1400-hectare reserve. Caracal, hyena, porcupines and many more can be discovered.  Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, discover the wonders of the African veld, and explore Mpumalanga’s rich history. A wide range of optional  activities are offered from the lodge.

Day 5: Panorama Route

Today, explore the scenic "Panorama Route".  There will be recommendations in the Route Description which will be provided for you, 'must-sees' include Gods Window, the Glass Lift at Graskop, Bourke's Luck Potholes and the viewpoint of the Blyde River Canyon with the Three Rondawels.  This will be a full day's exploration of the beautiful scenery. 

Day 6: Klein Letaba River

Today's route takes you further north in Limpopo province. Travel via Phalaborwa, follow the Route Description which will be provided, and arrive at Baleni Cultural Camp.  The trip will take approximately 3.5 hours excluding stops on the way.  Check in at this modest yet wonderful camp owned by the local community.

Baleni is an environment where nature, economy and spiritualism have a rich integration. With an economy strongly dependent on traditional salt-mining, visiting Baleni allows the responsible traveller the opportunity to see how modern people integrate ancient traditions and techniques into their 21st century lives.

A local guide will accompany you to a nearby site on the Letaba River, for a unique Salt Mining demonstration.  We meet two local elderly ladies, who tell us that their mothers and grandmothers also used to harvest salt, but mostly for personal consumption. However, commercial salt harvesting is not new to the area, as the White Gold was already popular with the traders on the historic trade routes linking Limpopo with the Swahili coast. Salt is being mined today virtually unchanged, from the technique used 2000 years ago.  As part of the mphahlo ritual, we make a small offering, so the ladies can ask the ancestors for permission to let us enter this ancient sacred site. 

You will have the opportunity to buy Baleni Salt from the ladies, before saying your goodbyes and returning to Baleni Cultural Camp for dinner and overnight.


Days 7 - 9: Makuleke Contractual Park

Leave Baleni after breakfast, follow the Route Description and drive approximately 5 hours north, to the very north-eastern corner of South Africa.  Enter the Kruger National Park at the Punda Maria Gate, and drive through Kruger Park till your reach your camp.

The camp is built on raised wooden decks along the Luvuvhu River, under enormous leafy Jackalberry, Nyalaberry and Mahogany trees. There are 19 luxury safari tents, each with their own private view of the river. These are linked by boardwalks which extend for over a kilometre from one end of the camp to the other. Each tent sits under a thatched roof, so it stays relatively cool, even in the heat of the day. There is a small veranda with from which to watch the animals. The interior is typical of a luxury safari tent: subtle yet distinctly African decorations and furniture, with a king-sized bed covered in big puffy pillows and white linen, over which a mosquito net is draped. Towards the back of the tent behind a separation is the bathroom, with basins for two and an indoor and outdoor shower.

Two activities per day are included in your stay, these are either a walk or drive. Although it can be very hot, we encourage you to do at least one or two wildlife walks in addition to other activities.

Game drives are offered as well.  A trip through the fever tree forests, full of birds flitting from tree to tree is magical, and you emerge to find yourself at ‘Crook’s Corner’, the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers. Here you can get out and walk in the vast Limpopo riverbed, look out into Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and have a cup of coffee while watching hippo eyeing you out and grunting.

You will spend 3 nights at Pafuri Camp, offering you unique opportunities to see Africa's wildlife close-up. 

Day 10: Mashatu Game Reserve

Leave Pafuri Camp after breakfast, and drive due west, travelling just south of the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe.  After approximately 4 hours' drive, arrive at Pont Drift border, this is the border between South Africa and Botswana.  Leave your rental car here in a secure lock-up facility, complete border crossing formalities and meet your hosts from Mashatu Tented Camp, who have come to transfer you the last stretch to camp.  This transfer will be in open 4x4 safari vehicle and you are quite likely to see wildlife on your way.

Check in at Mashatu Tented Camp where you will spend the next 2 nights.  Eight completely private tents are tucked under the branches of enormous trees, accessible via meandering pathways. The tents themselves are spacious, comfortable and large enough that adults need not duck to move around in. Each is mounted on a concrete platform and has its own private outdoor en-suite facilities, including W.C. and shower.

Mashatu is located in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve of Botswana which is situated between the Tuli Safari Area, a national park in Zimbabwe and the Mapungubwe National Park, a World Heritage Site in South Africa. Mashatu shares unfenced borders with both the South African and Zimbabwean national parks in the south and north respectively. This vast area forms part of a cross boundary wildlife conservation area protecting the substantial biodiversity of fauna and flora in this region.

Day 11: Mashatu Game Reserve

A typical day at Mashatu is something like this (but the programme is flexible and will be adapted to weather conditions as well as the movement of animals):

An early morning call at 05h30 (06h00 in winter) heralds a new day. After a light snack, your early morning game drive allows you to explore the magnificent nature. On return to camp, a hearty brunch is served.  Spend the morning relaxing, you'll be surprised what you can see from your camp.  Enjoy the sounds of the African Bush as you relax during the middle of the day, it can get fairly hot! A dip in the camp's plunge pool allows for cooling off in mid-summer.  There is also a shaded hide overlooking the waterhole, and you can sit here and witness animals coming and going, completely unaware that they are being watched.

Early afternoon we meet for "High Tea", and we then set off on an afternoon game-drive.  Return to camp after dark, and enjoy a delicious dinner and a chat around the campfire.

Days 12 - 14: Soutpansberg Mountain Range

After your last morning game-drive and breakfast, leave Mashatu by transfer to Pont Drift Border, collect your rental car, and drive south to Sigurwana Lodge.  The drive will take approximately 2.5 hours.

Sigurwana Lodge will be your home for the next 3 nights, and during your stay here, all meals and all scheduled activities are included. 

Exploring of the bush, game drives in an open Landrover and walks can be arranged at any time, as well as game/bird watching from a hide, or spoor identification. The personal attention of your game ranger provides an authentic wildlife experience and great insight into the unspoiled splendour of Sigurwana Wilderness.  Sigurwana’s diverse wildlife resources include kudu, sable, nyala, waterbuck, common reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck, impala, wildebeest, zebra, eland, caracal, bushbabies around the lodge and the elusive leopard, while night drives may surprise our guests with sightings of shy nocturnal game such as ant bear, porcupine, honey badger, pangolin and brown hyena.

You should not miss a tour to the Bushmen (San) Paintings: Honouring the Past – Admiring an ancient culture. Visiting Bushman Paintings of a thousand years leave a humble feeling. Sigurwana is very privileged to have 2 places where you can still see some of the paintings.

Day 15: Soutpansberg Mountain Range

A short drive today (1 hour) will bring you to Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge.  During your 2-night stay here you will have a rich experience of the stories, customs and raw beauty of the Soutpansberg and its peoples.

Madi a Thavha Mountain lodge focuses on art and culture. Apart from the lodge's Dancing Fish gallery and Textile & Design studio, the lodge hosts also source, promote and sell local Limpopo Craft and Art in particular those that engage with the rich cultural heritage of Northern Limpopo Province in South Africa. 

Particularly interesting, enriching and eye opening is a tour to the talented potters, weavers and sculptors in the surrounding villages It is advisable to book a "Hop on Guide"for this excursion, who will accompany you in your own vehicle and guide you to the artists, converse with them in their mother tongue and help with the answering of any of your questions.

The Dancing Fish gallery embraces all the art and craft displayed in the rooms, lounge, around the pool and gardens – including a Cultural Heritage center where  the stories and development of the art and craft of the Soutpansberg & Limpopo valley is displayed in a colourful nutshell. 

The guest rooms are decorated with unique Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho art and craft.

Day 16: Soutpansberg Mountain Range

Various optional tours and activities are offered at the lodge:

Elim Art & Culture Tour:  This tour introduces you to colourful Elim and surrounding villages where guests visit the traditional homesteads of  woodcarvers, potters and other local families. It is quite possible  to drive around on your own, but we advise guests to make use of the services of a local tour guide, since many of these places are not well-marked or easy to find on the myriad dust roads connecting villages between the mountains.

Soutpansberg Birding Tour:  There are rare birds in Limpopo, high on birders’ covet and bucket lists – this is only region in South Africa where you can, if you are lucky and persistent, see the Mottled Spinetail.  Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge offers guided birding trips to Birding hot spots of choice with Samson Mulaudzi, a qualified BirdLife South Africa guide. 

Lake Fundudzi Tour:  Lake Fundudzi, Phiphidi waterfalls and the indigenous Thathe Vondo forest are some of the most sacred sites of the Vhavhenda people and an integral part of their spirituality.  The tour to the sacred Lake Fundudzi and Thathe Vondo forest can be done as a day trip, starting at Madi a Thavha and driving back in the afternoon. We strongly advise to make use of the services of a local tour guide since the best roads are not easy to find and certain tribal protocols are required to visit some of the sacred sites. A tour guide can be booked at Madi a Thavha Mountain lodge.

Venda Lifestyle Tour:   The lifestyle tour offers a mixture of modern and traditional life in predominantly TshiVenda-speaking areas. It goes through rural villages and end up in Thohoyandou, meaning Head of the Elephant, the capital of Venda and surroundings.  See how and where most rural Venda households grind their maize meal. Through Nzelele valley en route to Thohoyandou visit Vhutshilo Mountain school and Phiphidi waterfalls.  Once in Thohoyandou the vibrant capital of the vhaVenda people, a local shopping experience at the old open market reveals an abundance of informal shops between formal shops, hair salons, and road stalls bursting with colour, textures, traditional music discussions on every corner. Return back via Tshakhuma fruit market.

Venda Land of Legend Tour:  This tour takes visitors to the north of Venda with its amazing Baobab trees, quaint villages, raw beauty and famous artists. If you have time also see the biggest Boabab tree in the region and the modern Oprah-school with its eco-friendly design in the deepest of the Venda mountains.

Creative Workshop Programmes:  The artists and crafters of Northern Limpopo are not only talented people but also excellent teachers. They like to share their knowledge and are always ready to demonstrate their skills to visitors. A rewarding way to learn more about rural life is to spend a day in a village and to connect with local people during one of the workshop programs offered by our artists and crafters. This can be a relaxing and meaningful experience and participants are often surprised with the outcome it has on their being. When booked in advance, there are various workshop programs on offer any time of the year.

Day 17: Tzaneen

Today's scenic drives takes you via a fertile, lush region of South Africa, before you reach your guest house on a hill on the outskirts of Tzaneen.

If you pack some lunch, you could enjoy this at the Debengeni Waterfall, a beautiful waterfall cascading 80 metres into a large rock pool at the base of the Magoebaskloof Mountains not far from Tzaneen. It is a favourite spot for picnics and swimming, especially in the warm summer months, when the cool water revives the senses, so have your costume and a towel handy.

Day 18: Tzaneen

The whole day is at leisure to explore the lush region, which is characterized by indigenous forests, pine and eucalyptus plantations, farms growing a variety of subtropical fruits, nuts. tea, coffee and cotton and an abundance of colourful azaleas in springtime.

If you are interested in seeing more unique art, we highly recommend visiting the Kaross workshop at Letsitele, its approximately half-hour's drive from Tzaneen.  Today, Kaross embroidered items are sold in many countries.  

The origin of Kaross:  Sitting on a kaross (blanket) over 25 years ago, a group of ladies started creating works of art unique to themselves and their background - a reflection of their culture, celebrating their heritage. It was that moment which threaded together Kaross’ vision of helping people to grow and realise their potential.

Kaross was founded as a way of bringing sustainable opportunities for mainly rural women to make a living. All they need is a creative spirit and the desire to express themselves in the realm of their own tradition and background. When you see a Kaross product, you are looking at the embodiment of passion for colour and the tactile experience of African culture. The 100% handcrafted products are of extraordinary beauty, combined with durable quality and exquisite attention to detail.

You can take a drive along the scenic George's Valley Road to the Magoebaskloof Canopy Tours where you will enjoy an adrenalin-rush of 11 ziplines over gorges and waterfalls.  Afterwards, take a drive towards the quaint hamlet of Haenerstburg for a ‘slow-food’ lunch at the charming Organic Cheese Farm where geese, goats and cows live a blissful free-range life and contribute to the award-winning cheeses OR a gourmet burger and home-made ice-cream.

Day 19: End of Itinerary

The drive back to Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport will take a minimum of 5 hours, and as you are departing today - please allow for extra time in case of traffic congestion on the way.  Hand back your rental car at the airport depot prior to checking in for your departure flight.

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