St Lucia, Manyoni GR, Tembe Elephant Park & Kruger NP, South Africa, & Hlane Royal NP, eSwatini
Kruger & Kwa-Zulu Natal
£4,595 pp sharing
At a Glance
Dates: July 18th - July 31st, 2024
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £4,595 pp sharing (with a single supplement of £550), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: A gem of a tour, combining the well-known riches of the Kruger with the little-visited, but by no means less rewarding, Kwa-Zulu Natal.
There are few countries in the world that have as much to offer a visitor as South Africa. Chief amongst these attractions is the world-famous Kruger National Park, boasting excellent viewing of all of the 'Big Five' as well as wild dog, cheetah and a parade of smaller mammals, antelopes and unusual birds. Those who visit only Kruger, though, are missing out on a rich tapestry of wildlife and natural beauty, and this itinerary gives guests the opportunity to sample the best of both worlds. An extended stay in Kruger is complemented by a chance to sample the impressive wildlife and friendly hospitality of Kwa-Zulu Natal, with areas like St Lucia and Manyoni rivalling any wilderness in Africa on their day. This is a chance to do more than just scratch the surface on a unique and special tour.
Durban & uMdloti
On arrival into Durban, guests will be met by their Pictus Safaris tour leader, local guide and the remainder of their group and whisked away for a drive of around 45 minutes to the town of uMdloti. The remainder of the day is at leisure, offering a chance to catch up on rest after a long inbound flight. A pre-tour briefing will be held in the hotel tonight before dinner.
This morning we continue our journey north-east along the Indian Ocean coast towards the famed town of St Lucia. The drive lasts around two-and-a-half hours, and we should arrive at this charming tourist hotspot in time for lunch. St Lucia is a fixture on many visitors' itineraries in this corner of Africa, but is also a well-known getaway for many South Africans as it offers a coastal getaway, with big-game fishing, outdoor activities and access to some excellent reserves across Kwa-Zulu Natal. After a chance to settle in to your comfortable guest house, this evening will see us take to the St Lucia estuary on a boat trip shared with other visitors. This is a great opportunity to get views at close quarters of the estuary's booming populations of hippo and Nile crocodile, and photographic opportunities will abound! The cruise usually lasts around two hours, after which we return to the town centre and our accommodation for dinner after our first full day in South Africa.
Hluhluwe is arguably Kwa-Zulu Natal's premier wildlife-watching destination, and today we will spend a full day exploring this famous park. It will be a pre-dawn wake-up call to ensure we are in the park as early as possible to give us a good chance of spotting some of the excellent wildlife here. Many generic game species are present, including giraffe, zebra and wildebeest, and all of the 'Big Five' are present. In fact, Hluhluwe once protected the last population of southern white rhinos on the planet, and played a key role in the survival of this species. Whilst leopard and black rhino sightings are rare, we are likely to spot white rhino, lion, elephant and plenty more today - cheetah and wild dog are regularly seen too. Keep an eye out for spotted hyena, buffalo and nyala, which are all present in good numbers. Again, we will spend this evening in St Lucia.
Our final day in St Lucia begins with us leaving the town behind, as we head out to sea (weather conditions permitting) for some rewarding whale and dolphin-watching. This excursion of around three hours offers a chance to view some of the under-appreciated and abundant marine life that swims off South African shores. Our key targets will be pilot whale (both short-finned and long-finned) and sperm whale, although humpback whale are the most abundant species in these waters. With a hefty dose of luck we may even encounter orca, or other dolphin species including striped, common and Fraser's.
Returning to land in time for lunch, this afternoon is at leisure to relax and perhaps wander through the town of St Lucia itself at your own pace.
Today we must bid farewell to St Lucia, and our morning will be spent travelling to one of Kwa-Zulu Natal's best kept secrets - Manyoni Private Game Reserve. Situated ninety-minutes north of St Lucia, this small fenced reserve offers surprisingly rewarding game-viewing and, after a chance to settle in to our extremely comfortable lodge and grab some lunch, we will head out on our first afternoon drive.
The reserve is well-known for its healthy populations of white rhino and black rhino, but also other iconic species including lion, buffalo and elephant. Perhaps the most exciting resident here is the African wild dog, and the main pack on the reserve has bred successfully for several seasons running - in fact, the dogs here are so successful that they have been a key part of translocation projects to reintroduced wild dogs across Southern Africa. No sightings can be guaranteed, but spotting these special animals will be a key target for us this afternoon. As the light fades as we return to camp, keep a close eye out for leopard (seen very rarely here) and even a wonderful species we recorded here on our last visit, the enigmatic aardvark.
We have a full day today to explore Manyoni on morning and afternoon game drives. Our focus is flexible depending on the interests of the group, but it is likely we will use the early morning to seek out good views of the resident lion pride, as well as the reclusive black rhino that tend to disappear into the thick brush in the interior of the reserve as the day wears on. After a chance to rest and relax back at the lodge during the middle of the day, we will head out in the afternoon to seek out wild dogs. With luck, we may even be able to witness hunting activity or perhaps puppies playing if the pack has successfully denned.
Tembe Elephant Park
Following a final morning game drive in Manyoni today, we continue on to another jewel in Kwa-Zulu Natal's crown - Tembe. Tembe is a further ninety-minute drive north from Manyoni, sitting flush against the border with Mozambique, and is world-famous for its 'big tuskers' - elephants with huge tusks.
As in Manyoni, our first few hours in Tembe are set aside to get acquainted with our new surrounds, get a bite to eat and relax. Our afternoon drive will focus on the famous elephants here, and it is hugely rewarding to spend a good chunk of time watching as herds come to the water to drink, or feed in the nearby dense bush. Elephant calves are always a huge hit too, as they play with their peers and learn to gain control of their trunk! Tembe is not just a destination for elephant-viewing, though, and with luck we may encounter lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo or even wild dog on our afternoon drive today.
Tembe Elephant Park
Our full day is spent in the park today on morning and afternoon game drives. Depending on what we have seen on our safari so far, we may choose to focus on the 'Big Five' today, or we may instead choose to enjoy some of the more localised residents of the park. Nyala, a stunning antelope, are common here, as are the shy Natal red duiker, suni and blue monkey. One thing is for sure, there is no getting bored on a safari in this beautiful park.
Hlane Royal NP
Not only are we continuing on to a new reserve today, we are headed to an entirely new country! Border formalities for entry into eSwatini and normally fairly painless, and by mid-afternoon we should have arrived at this tiny country's flagship protected area, Hlane Royal. Hlane protects several species, but our afternoon drive is most likely to focus on lion and rhino, both of which are well-monitored here and relatively easy to find. We will spend the night at a comfortable lodge in the park.
After a morning drive in Hlane focussed on white rhino, we re-enter South Africa and head directly to the world-famous Kruger National Park. After settling in at the rest camp at Lower Sabie, we are sure that everyone will be chomping at the bit to head out on their first game drive here. The afternoon and early evening will be spent combing the area around camp for rare wildlife. There is a huge variety of wildlife to be found in Kruger, but Lower Sabie is particularly well-known for its excellent viewing of wild dog and leopard, and these species will be key targets for us. We also recommend keeping your eyes peeled for anything cat-like perched on nearby rocky koppies - if it's not leopard, it might just be the beautiful klipspringer. We will head back to camp this evening for some rest.
Morning and afternoon game drives are very likely to produce lion and leopard in particular, and even if unsuccessful, we are likely to pick up at least one of these species on an exciting night drive. Wrap up warm for this, as nights here can be chilly!
Days Twelve to Thirteen
Whilst time at Lower Sabie is generally spent in areas dominated by dense bush, favoured by leopards in particular, Satara is situated in an area where this bushveld gives way to impressive plains akin to those in East Africa. Large prides of lion are found here, as are some of Kruger's few cheetah. This camp is particularly frequently visited by honey badgers (please don't feed them!), so don't be surprised to hear some snuffling near the bins late at night.
Sadly, our tour comes to an end today, and guests are transferred to Hoedspruit airport for their homeward flights.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may
occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in July 2024, aiming to take advantage of the dry season which enhances game-viewing. The tour will run from July 18th to July 31st.
The cost of this trip is £4,595 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals (excluding lunches), accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks are not included. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £550. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £1,400 must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Durban or Johannesburg at the beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Hoedspruit after 14.00 on your return, if leaving on the same day that we return to Hoedspruit, to avoid disruption to your plans.
British nationals do not require a visa to enter South Africa or eSwatini. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in South Africa in July is cool and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 6 degrees Celsius, and morning game drives will feel cold.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing South African Rand.
Safety and Security
There are no security issues in any areas visited by this tour.