south africa – mpumalanga

From wildlife to white beaches

Hereafter you will find a lovely itinerary through South Africa combined with Mozambique and the kingdom of eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland) including the animal-rich Kruger Park, the endless white beaches of Mozambique and the stunning wildlife of eSwatini. 

South Africa, Mozambique and eSwatini in 19 Days!

Sept. 2019: Hello, Bonjour and Sawubona from a three weeks travel route through the breathtaking scenery and landscape of South Africa, the long, dune-fringed beaches of Mozambique as well as some rewarding wildlife watching in eSwatini. Here, you can find ideas for an individual itinerary and what you would like to discover in these extraordinary countries. Prepare yourself for a breathtaking view into the Blyde River Canyon in South Africa, relaxed beach days at Ponta Malongane of southern Mozambique and close encounters with wildlife in the Mkaya Game Reserve of eSwatini.

Short summary:

  • Length – 19 days / 18 nights
  • Total km – ca. 2.000km
  • Vehicle – 4WD with a tent and fully equipped with camping utensils
  • Road conditions – tared, gravel, sandy and potholed
  • Accommodation – Hotel, tented camps, camping
  • Highlights – Kruger Park, South Africa; Tartaruga Maritima, Mozambique; Mkaya Game Reserve, eSwatini

If you have about 3 weeks of vacation and you are looking for an adventurous experience combining stunning  sceneries, relaxing beach days as well as close encounters with incredible wildlife you should consider these amazing countries in Southern Africa. Keep in mind to not drive during darkness as it bears many risks due to crossing wildlife, bad road conditions and other hazardous possibilities, so plan always enough time to reach your next goal within the sunlight.

JNB Airport – Ezemvelo Nature Reserve drive about 110km; 1hr 30min

Day 1: Most likely you will arrive in the late morning hours, allowing you to pick up your camper and stock on provisions for the next days to come. From there, you will drive north of Johannesburg towards Bronkhorstspruit to enter the beautiful Ezemvelo Nature Reserve, where you might be greeted by some ostriches, zebras and even curious giraffes eating peacefully at the camping spot. Keep in mind that the reception of the reserve closes at 5pm but there is a night guard on duty that will help you to enter it after 5pm, if you are running late.

Ezemvelo Nature Reserve – Graskop drive about 330km; 4hr 30min

Day 2 – 3: After enjoying a typical and stunning sunrise in the back of the waterhole that you will find situated in front of the camping spot you can head eastwards, traveling on the scenic route towards Graskop. The road will get more and more winding the closer you get towards the gate of Blyde River Canyon, Graskop.  Enjoy your stay at the Valley View Backpackers to be close to a town but also close to the Three Rondavels, offering a splendid view into the Canyon.  It’s one of South Africa’s most outstanding natural sights, making a trip here a memorable experience. There are lots of possibilities for hiking adventures, take your time here.

Graskop – Letaba Rest Camp, Kruger Park drive about 230km; 3hr 30min

Day 4: Enjoy an easy drive northwards to Kruger Park and be prepared to spot some Big Five animals shortly after the Phalaborwa gate. The northern Kruger part is  dominated by dense mopane trees, attracting elephant as well as buffalo herds. Enjoy your own game drive, which is very easy as all the main roads are tared, so the true bush feeling might lack a bit. Look for the dirt roads, off the beaten track if you want to avoid the crowds of cars and enjoy a bit of the adventurous bush feeling. However, you are most likely to spot all sorts of animals even if you stay on the tar roads. You can spend the night at Letaba Rest Camp

Letaba Rest Camp, Kruger Park – Balule Satellite Camp, Kruger Park drive about 50km; 1hr 15min

Day 5: Get up early to enjoy the best time for a self drive to spot the predators on their early morning hunts and check out where the animals of your interest where seen best the day before. Then plan your route, you got plenty of time today to explore the northern and central part of the park. The central Kruger park is less varied than the southern part, with large swarths of open savannah, especially around Satara Rest Camp. You can find here marula and knobthorn trees, hosting large numbers of impalas, zebras, wildebeests, giraffes and elephants. It’s a good place to spot some lazy lions laying in the shade of the trees, waiting for the cooler afternoon and night to go on their hunt. The campsite of Balule Satellite Camp is very special, private and operates only on gas lamps and candles, you will find no electricity facilities, making this a perfect campsite to enjoy a night in your tent watching the stars and listening to the hyena callings around you.

Balule Satellite Camp, Kruger Park  –  Tamboti Tented Camp, Kruger Park drive about 100km; 2hr 30min

Day 6 – 8: Drive further south into the park, direction Orpen gate. Along the route you are most likely to spot huge herds of elephants, impalas, zebras and watch carefully for some lions laying in the grass. The last part of this route between Satara Rest Camp and Tamboti Tented Camp is known for its likelihood to spot some cheetahs, but you still have to be very lucky to admire these slender cats. You have now reached the heart of the park with its savannah-like sceneries and a denser population of predators than further up north. You will most likely find yourself amongst more cars  and even traffic jams, if one of the cats is spotted. Therefore, Tamboti Tented Camp might feel like heaven to you, with its privacy and tents overlooking the tamboti river. Tent number 1 is close to the waterhole where you can spot elephants and buffaloes coming for an afternoon drink. The next days will be full of wildlife encounters, you can do your own game drives or book one at Orpen Camp. If you like to see some nocturnal species opt for a night or sunset drive, if you want to get a chance to roam the bush as well as come close to animals on their morning stroll, book a walking safari. No matter what you will decide for, enjoy these special days in Kruger with its fabulous wildlife. 

Tamboti Tented Camp, Kruger Park – Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp drive about 180km; 4hr

Day 9: Another early morning that might give you the chance to spot the endangered wild dogs on their morning hunt. Today you will head towards the most southern point of the park driving through the traffic-dense part of lower sabie. Here, the river flows, carrying water, bringing a huge population of wildlife and of course also even more tourists driving around causing heavy traffic jams – from time to time. Nevertheless it’s perhaps the most beautiful section of Kruger park with the highest amount of rainfall. This same rainfall bringing water and life, including animals and plants. The bush is hence much denser than in the central part, making it harder to spot the predators, but still their population numbers are very promising here. Spend your last night in Kruger at the Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp.    

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp – Ponta Malongane, Mozambique drive about 330km; 4hr 30min but plan more due to border crossing

Day 10 – 12: After a last short and early game drive, head eastwards towards the border town Komatipoort to cross into Mozambique. Take advantage of the town to stock up your reserves of food and water in the next Pick’n’Pay and to fill up your gas at the gas station. Not to forget, breathe in deeply to relax yourself before getting into this border crossing mess! You might have to calculate something between 1 and 2 hours extra for the border crossing process depending on the traffic. The South African border side is straight forward and easy, the Mozambiquan side not so much. Be aware that regulations in Mozambique have it that you need a safety jacket for all persons in your vehicle, a fire extinguisher as well as a warning triangle. Store it handy in your drivers cabin to not struggle finding it once the police in Mozambique will stop you and ask for it. Fines can be extremely high. Don’t let yourself get caught up by some young guys slamming at your window, telling you they need to sign your gate pass once you entered the Mozambiquan side of the border. They only want to fool you and sell you a much overpriced insurance for your car (normal vehicle is only about 280 ZAR). Best for you to join MozDrive group in facebook to buy your insurance upfront online and read about all the ongoing troubles that might be possible to encounter. Once you reached the Mozambiquan border side, just park your car and self-confidentially ignore all attempts and attacks that should distract you from going directly to the Immigration office. You only need to buy a visa for you at the immigration office and you will get your pass stamped. Afterwards declare your vehicle and an official police officer needs to sign your gate pass that you received on the South African side of the border. Once you got your visa and stamps, drive on. You will drive on tar road with toll gates for about 30 min before entering gravel road for about another 30 min. Then you will be back on a very new tar road, built by the Chinese. Sadly, this road leads you directly trough the Maputo Elephant Reserve, disturbing the last big giants here. Hence, drive carefully, you might spot some giraffes, impalas and other widlife roaming around. If you are lucky to come into one of the numerous road blocks by the police, be kind and always have some water bottles or cookies handy to get yourself out of any uncomfortable situation. Never bribe the police men with money, this only adds to the current problems of corruption. The last 6 km are on sandy roads, leading you towards the sand dunes, already promising the nearby ocean. Here, you will definitely need your 4×4. Welcome to paradise! Tartaruga Maritima is a stunning tented camp with a beautiful kitchen lodge on top of the dunes, offering a splendid view on the ocean. You might spot some humpback whales or dolphins playing in the sea. Enjoy your relaxing days, where you have access to a fridge and a fully equipped kitchen including a big Weber barbecue, so be sure to have a great stock on food that you can prepare here with a breathtaking view. The private beach is never-ending, white and melting with turquoise water. You can safely walk the 7 km to Ponta do Ouro and be surprised by the empty beaches, not many tourists are found here. Malaria risk is very low in this area and safety very good, so this might be a region prone to more and more tourists in near future. Be sure to enjoy it as long as it is this unique and wild. You can swim here with dolphins, take some diving lessons, join a maritim safari, relax at the endless beach or shop for wood carvings at the local market. Whatever you opt for, be sure locals will greet you with a warm welcome!

Ponta Malongane – Hlane Royal National Park, eSwatini drive about 210km; 3hr 15min but plan more due to  border crossing

Day 13 – 14: Time in paradise flies, be sure of it and enjoy the last sunrise at the horizon behind the ocean from the kitchen lodge. From here, you will drive westwards towards the border post of Goba to enter one of the last kingdom of Africa, eSwatini. The border crossing procedure is easy on both sides, you can even pay with credit card the 50 ZAR for entering eSwatini. You will find yourself confronted with probably the fastest and easiest border procedure in this hemisphere. Even on a crowded day you shouldn’t need more than 30 min on top of the journey time. Heaven for every self driving person! Hlane Royal National Park is the country’s largest protected area and home to 4 of the  Big Five. ESwatini will welcome you with open arms and smiling police officers. The corruption level seems quite low here, however watch out for the plenty police cars parking at the side of the road just waiting for you to speed or overtake a truck on the wrong spot (reckless driving). However, all of them seemed very friendly, always smiling and charging 60 ZAR for any of the above mentioned offenses while issuing an official receipt. Driving around eSwatini definitely is an easy task and not comparable to any other Southern African country. Therefore, you will surely arrive relaxed at your campsite of Ndlovu Camp that you can enjoy at the waterhole sharing with some rhinos or at your own camp spot while having a typical braai and sundowner before the night sets in. Start the next day with a special walking safari to come as close as possible to the white rhinos, go on a guided game drive to spot the king of the animals; the lions or selfdrive around a large part of the park, being prepared to open a few gates to cross different sections. You surely will spot some giraffes, nyalas, zebras and white rhinos.

Hlane Royal National Park – Mkhaya Game Reserve drive about 50km; 1hr 15min

Day 15: Enjoy one last morning drive before heading southwards to Mkhaya Game Reserve. This reserve is special and will only accept you to enter the park at 10am or 4pm. However, you can’t enter by your own, you will have to park your vehicle at a safe spot and a guide will come to pick you up. From here your wildlife adventure starts with a first game drive to Stoney Camp, where you will stay for the night. You might experience the closest wildlife encounters you had so far, embrace the beauty of the bush and the singing of the birds. For lunch a nyala family will join you, before you can head to Kirky’s hide to watch some black and white rhinos laying in the mud. You will have some wonderful game drives as well as a morning safari walk with unforgettable sightings. The housing is very special too, with semi-open rondavels, allowing you to feel the nature day and night. The camp has 24 hours security to protect you.

Mkhaya Game Reserve – Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary drive about 80km; 1hr 45min 

Day 16 – 17: Enjoy Mkhaya Game Reserve to its fullest until 4pm before driving westwards towards Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. This reserve has many options for you to hike, mountain bike or go on a horse back riding adventure, as you won’t find any predators around this reserve. If you had enough wildlife sightings, you can also just spend one night here, which should be sufficient.

Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary – Johannesburg drive about 400km; 4hr but plan a bit more due to border crossing

Day 18 – 19: Today you will head back into civilization, the big city is waiting for you. Crossing borders is an easy task, as you might have guessed already, nothing much to worry about and very straight forward. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of Joburg, as the locals call their home town, and explore the variety of it. If you don’t like the big city beats, you can easily opt to stay at Ezemvelo Nature Reserve again and end your adventure just like you have started it. Have a splendid journey and relax before you fly back home. Bybe bye, salut and sala kahle

If you have any questions, contact me or read my advices about South Africa, Mozambique and eSwatini on my blog posts about:

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