Kruger National Park
All the iconic animals hang out here - elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, rhino, buffalo, giraffe, hippo and zebra. Many, many more mammals and over 500 varieties of bird bask in the African sun. It’s a big ole space, more than 19,000 square kilometres.
Early man once roamed these parts. Bits of their life have been stumbled upon, some thought to be 100 000 years old. The San Bushmen had a wander too. Their rock doodles a lasting legacy.
The park was named after President Paul Kruger, a powerhouse of military might in 19th century South Africa. Before his intervention, hunters we’re decimating the area. He proclaimed certain areas protected in the late 1800s. These eventually joined up to become the national park. Nicknamed Uncle Paul he remains a controversial political figure but at least he liked wildlife. And children. Presumably. He had 17. Yup. Bit greedy. Bit insane. He grew his own pride.
So. Enjoy. Drive around the park on your own, searching for wildlife and soaking up the atmosphere. Special days.
1. Private Reserves
So you want to go private? You want to be driven straight to the action? By experts? Ok, let’s do it. The Kruger’s private reserves are exclusive, conservation-driven and fancy.
You won’t be in Kruger Park itself, but in an area known as Greater Kruger National Park. You won’t get huge open plains with large animals herds but you’re still get a bounty of bouncing beauty.
They’re not a cheap option but the guides are gold. Experienced, passionate, knowledgeable. You should see more. And get closer too. On these reserves you can go off-road and have a look at what’s about at night...
Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve is a very luscious choice. Lots of luxury. And the place for leopard lovers. They’re easier to spot in the brushwood. In the 1970s filmmaker John Varty filmed a mother leopard and her cubs for 12 years. So there’s a long relationship of interaction. A chilled, special place. Animals roam freely.
Thornybush Private Game Reserve is a land of open savannah. Thorny bushes hence the moniker. The animals are delighted by it.
Loads of research going on at Timbavati Private Game Reserve. Projects on leopard, elephant, vulture. Some areas have never been settled by man, a patch of pure nature.
As well as the usual suspects there’s excellent bird watching at Balule Private Game Reserve. Thick forests and the Olifants River.
Kapama Private Game Reserve has a big emphasis on elephants. There’s the traditional Big 5 game viewing but also a chance to get very close to elephants.
The Klaserie Private Game Reserve centres around Klaserie River. It’s a hot, dry place and what do animals want when they’re hot and dry? A drink. And that Klaserie River makes a splendid sundowner for them. Bingo holidaymakers.
You’ll probably see some Shangaan dancing at the Makalali Private Game Reserve. It’s got a river too so see above for marvellous mammals taking it easy. I spy a predator beginning with...
Manyeleti Private Game Reserve’s right there. Bang in the middle of the Kruger, Sabi Sands and Timbavati. It’s got the best of the lot and a stunning place to see exceptionally clear night skies.
2. Panorama Route
Panorama. The word means view. A wide one. An unbroken one. But that’s it. A view.
This is rather a godlike one. Or an eagle’s. You’re up there with the big bird surveying the cliffs, the rocks, the waterfalls. And snaking through all that luscious-ness? A brute of a canyon. The 33km Blyde River Canyon, South Africa’s biggest and deepest. Don’t fall in.
It’s in Mpumalanga Province and it goes like this. One minute you’re exploring the highlands of the Drakensbergs when all of a sudden it ends. Oh. But look. Look. There. There are those incredible views.
So many waterfalls too; the Sabie Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Mac Mac Falls.
Back to the views now. One section is called God's Window. They aren’t joking. Blyde River Canyon, Bourke's Luck Potholes and the three Rondawels. This place is epic. You’re about 1219 metres above sea level.
More In South Africa
South Africa is the best of both worlds: it is Africa with its beautiful scenery, glorious weather and relaxed attitude, which manifests itself in the people who are friendly and easy-going; it also has a modern infrastructure making it an easy country to visit with plenty to see and do and plenty of ways to get around.
There is something soothing about row upon row of grapevines be they in winter green or summer russet. It may be their rhythm and sense of order; the shape of the land enhanced or the calming effect of lines converging in the distance. In any case, time slows down in Cape wine country and that's all the more to enjoy your time here.
Ah, the Garden Route. Rivers, lakes, lagoons, vineyards. 300km of the south east coast of South Africa. Indigenous temperate forest, pine plantations and thick fragrant bush. Rocky coves, sandy bays. Do you like the phrase ‘coastal vista’? Hmm. Well, you’ll hear it, see it, damn, you’ll be shouting it by the end of this jaunt. You’re gonna see a whole lotta lovely views. Super sea. Super whales. Super sand. So much super it’ll make ya cry.
Garden Route Safari
If you've been doing your South Africa safari research, and that's why you're here, you'll be thinking along the lines of a Kruger National Park safari followed by a few days on the beach in Cape Town. But, you'll be saying to yourself, there's an awful big distance between those two places and I've heard malaria is a nasty piece of work.
Namaqualand and Northern Cape
Dry. Arid. Remote. Stretching 1000 kilometres along the West Coast, this thirsty patch of Planet Earth is a biodiversity hotspot. Incredible. Rich in minerals and swathes of unspoilt vastness. A different kind of beauty. And then, suddenly, for a few short months Namaqualand sheds its desert cloak and darling buds burst through the sand and granite. Thousands and thousands of petal clad carnival queens vying for the sun. Their survival remarkable. The Namaqualand flower route is a natural phenomenon and world famous.
Humans like perfection. Humans like shiny things. Like the common magpie myth we covet, squirrel and parade. And what could be more gorgeous, more glittering, more regal than gold. We trade it, wear it, damn it we even eat it. So when gold was discovered here in the late 1800s people rushed in. Pickaxes a ready. The world’s largest gold rush had begun and South Africa would never be the same.
Swaziland (Kingdom of Eswatini)
Still under rule by decree of the King, Swaziland is one of the last true monarchies in the world. A country wedged between South Africa and Mozambique with a small economy but with a number of game reserves and a huge traditional culture so unique, it has fast become a popular tourist attraction.
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