To many, South AfricaÂ’s wealth is synonymous with its diamonds. But we think its greatest riches lie in another of its natural treasures: its wildlife. Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands, Mashatu, and other top wildlife parks protect an astounding diversity of big game, much of which has recovered from earlier threats to its survival. From the massive-tusked African elephant to the sleek leopard, from squat rhinos to regal lions, they are all here in healthy numbers that provide one of secluded South AfricaÂ’s greatest big game safari experiences. And when itÂ’s over, one thing is certain: YouÂ’ll go home richer than when you arrived. This safari takes you on guided tours to top destinations in AfricaÂ’s best wildlife parks. ItÂ’s a big game safari you donÂ’t want to miss.
Day 1: Johannesburg, South Africa
Arrive in Johannesburg, where you will gather for a welcome dinner.
Days 2-3: Mashatu Game Reserve
You fly and drive to Mashatu Game Reserve in the remote eastern corner of Botswana. The Limpopo River, which Rudyard Kipling made famous in his "Just-So Stories," crossÂes into South Africa near here. More than 700 elephants live on this reserve, the largest single population on privately owned land in Africa, as well as impressive numbers of lions and cheetahs. Along the river, huge Mashatu trees provide shade for wildebeest, giraffes and zebras, while at night, bat-eared foxes, African wildcats and leopards search for prey. Stay in the center of it all at Mashatu Tented Camp, an intimate accommodation offering unexpected amenities.
Days 4-6: Mapungubwe & Kruger
National Park Private Concession En route to Kruger, you stop at Mapungubwe, South AfricaÂ’s newest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This scenic land of sandstone gorges and riparian woodlands provides a sanctuary for endangered large mammals, including black and white rhinoceros and wild dog. Your destination, Pafuri Camp, is in the northern sector of Kruger National Park, one of the last tracts of true wilderness left in South Africa. This remote region, the ancestral home of the Makuleke people, is the most ecologically diverse in Kruger, with 75 percent of the parkÂ’s flora and fauna found here. The game viewing and birding are excellent, with large herds of elephant and buffalo, and more elusive leopard and lion. The Luvuvhu River sustains massive baobab and ebony trees and many animals not found in the drier southern reaches of the park, such as eland, nyala and SharpeÂ’s grysboks. Your tented camp overlooks the Luvuvhu River, where elephant and bushbuck drink. The area is rich in human prehistory, boasting ancient fossils, rock engravings and stone tools.
Days 7-8: Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Fly to Sabi Sand, South AfricaÂ’s premier safari destination. This private reserve is renowned for some of the best Â“Big FiveÂ” viewing in Africa. These famous five Â– elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo, lion and leopard Â– were once favorite hunting targets. While many were hunted nearly to extinction, reserves like this one have made exciting strides in bringing them back. Sabi Sand is famed for its leopards, which you may often see quite close, making for extraordinary photography opportunities. You stay at Sabi Sabi Little Bush Camp on the shady banks of the Msuthlu River. This consummate safari camp epitomizes the essence of safari.
Days 9-11: Rocktail Bay
South Africa has a fabulous coastÂline, and you leave safari country by air today for natural and cultural encounters on the Indian Ocean. Rocktail Bay Lodge is in the MaÂputaland Coastal Forest Reserve, a World Heritage Site with 24 miles of undeveloped coast. Though this is not big-game country, you may see antelope, hippos in freshwater lakes, a myriad of birds and sea turtles on the beach. South AfricaÂ’s wildlife wealth continues offshore, where you watch for humpbacks and dolphins on a whale-watching excursion. Your "treehouse" bungalows on stilts rest in the trees behind a row of sand dunes, a short walk from the beach. You may have the opportunity to enjoy a cultural event with a local Zulu people.
Day 12: Johannesburg / Home
Fly back to Johannesburg to conÂnect with flights home, an extension to Cape Town, or your Secluded Botswana itinerary.