Sawubona! Welcome to South Africa. Touch down in Joburg (as the locals like to call it). You’ve got the whole day free to explore the capital city (depending on when you get here of course) before you join up with your crew at a 6pm Welcome Meeting tonight (make sure you’ve got all your important docs and deets on you). Maybe arrive a day early if you can’t find an on-time flight, and let the reception know if you’re going to be late. We’ll happily book extra accommodation for you. Until the meeting, hit the streets of this city of remarkable contrasts. Perhaps head to the culturally rich areas of Newtown, Braamfontein or Maboneng, or head out to the Burma flea market for any last minute safari must-haves (t-shirts, hats, books). Grab a bite to eat while you're there. You'll find everything from Indian and Chinese to Turkish and South African food. The eye-opening Apartheid Museum is well worth your time.
See ya South Africa – cross the border into Botswana and travel toward the Khama Rhino Sanctuary (approximately 8–10 hours). It sits on the Kalahari Desert, and is an old hunting area transformed into a into a conservation project. It now protects what’s left of Botswana's black and white rhino populations, but there are plenty of other beasties hanging around too – zebras, giraffes, leopards, ostriches and wildebeest, all of which chill out around many natural waterholes. Not only do you get to check out awesome animals here, but you’ll also be benefitting local communities and helping protect the white rhino. When the sun begins to set, perhaps hop in a jeep to see the rhinos at their most active. About 35 rhinos roam around this 400ha community-based reserve. Don't forget your binoculars, or you'll be getting them confused with big rocks. At your camp there will be the option to upgrade to a room for an additional cost (subject to availability).
Get up real early, jump aboard the truck and head to Maun (approximately 7-8 hours). Catch up on your beauty sleep or kick off the most epic game of I Spy you've ever played. This journey also includes a free massage service (the road might get a little bumpy). In Maun there’s the chance stock up on any supplies you might need for the journey ahead – maybe hats, sunscreen and scarves (for the morning chill and the afternoon sun). Maun’s the gateway to one of the world's most renowned and complex ecosystems, the Okavango Delta. This is a one-of-a-kind kinda place – a 16,000 square kilometre maze of wetlands made up of meandering waterways, green islands, lush plains and loads of wildlife. You might see hippos, crocodiles, elephants and big cats. But honestly it's not really the animals that are the main attraction – it's the incredibly diverse ecosystem and atmospheric waterscapes. Tonight you'll stay on the outskirts of Maun at a simple campsite with shared facilities, WiFi and optional upgrades.
Make your way to the north-western part of the Okavango Delta, close to the Pan Handle. The drive is a not so whopping 300 kilometres and will take you about 6 hours. Now’s the time to find out everything about your fellow travellers – you’ll by just like old mates by the end of it. Leave the truck at some secure parking and take a 4x4 transfer for the last 12 kilometres. Your final destination for the next two nights sits on the edge of the Guma Lagoon area. Set up camp and relax on the edge of the lagoon for the rest of the afternoon, then fall asleep to the sounds of the African bush at night – is that noise a hippo or your mate snoring?
Today you get to paddle the river. There's nothing more relaxing than feeling the African sun on your face as you lie back in a mokoro (a traditional dugout canoe), eyes closed while your expert poler propels you down the calm waters, through papyrus and reed beds to lily covered lagoons and islands. Watch out for elephant, lechwe, warthog, sitatunga and other plains game in the open. There are also heaps of birds around for all you twitchers out there. Stop at one of the islands for a picnic lunch before continuing on, returning back to camp in the late afternoon. Take a swim or ask you leader about taking a walk around the area.
This morning it’s back in the 4x4s and a drive back to the truck. Then you’ll make your way to the border to cross into Namibia. The drive is approximately 150km and will take about 4 hours, including the border crossing. You’ll drive through the Mahango Game Reserve on the Namibia side on the way to the camp for the night. The camp is on the banks of the Kovango river, within the Caprivi Game Park strip of Namibia. This strip of land is sandwiched between Botswana and Angola, and connects with Zambia and Zimbabwe at its end. In the afternoon you’ll head out on a guided excursion through the villages of the Hambukushu and Xwe Bushmen tribes, exploring local life up close. Look out for some Botswana Baskets – some say they’re the finest craft works in Africa!
Today is another drive of approximately 300 kilometres and about 5 hours, before reaching your next camp on the banks of the Kwando River along the border with Botswana. After settling in you can either relax or jump on one of the optional activities available here, such as a late afternoon boat trip, or a game drive in Mudumu Game Park (look out for buffalo, elephants, loads of antelope species, and zebra). You could also take a village tour, chill with another mokoro ride, or join in on a fishing trip – the locals will give you the heads up on the best spot. Just have a chat with your leader and they’ll let you know what’s what.
Zip over to the edge of the Chobe National Park, where you’ll spend the night. The drive takes you further through the Caprivi Strip and back into Botswana. Cruise into Chobe Park on the only stretch of tarred road, before reaching your camp. The drive is approximately 250 kilometres long and will take about 5 hours. Set up camp them head out on a late afternoon boat cruise on the Chobe River. The Chobe River has a huge range of wildlife, all packed into a tiny area, making it unlike anywhere else in the world. Here you’ll get up close and personal with hippos, buffalo, crocodiles and a mind-boggling array of water birds. But elephants are the big stars here, and don't they know it. Parading around in big groups, showing off their cute babies and tearing down enormous trees limb by limb.
This morning there'll be time to join an optional game drive in the Chobe National Park. Then it’s onto Victoria Falls this afternoon (approximately 2–3 hours). You will cross the border into Zimbabwe and arrive in the early afternoon. This afternoon you’ve gotta make your way to Vic Falls itself. The entrance fee is a bit steep, but for the Kanye West – no, the Lady Gaga of waterfalls – it’s well worth it, so make sure you’re cashed up. The sound of 19 million cubic feet of water throwing itself over a mile-long edge every minute will be music to your ears. It looks pretty sweet too. Your leader will take you to a local activity centre where a range of activities will be on offer. We have not risk assessed all activities and only those listed in our trip notes are recommended. It is against company policy for leaders to facilitate the booking of any activities that have not been risk assessed or do not adhere to our company’s Responsible Travel policy and ethos. This includes organising transport to and from these activities in our vehicles.
In the evening take an optional sunset cruise down the Zambezi to get to know your new fellow travellers. Before that, enjoy a day of free time to take up one of many optional activities. Ask your leader for a recommendation. There are many ways to take in the thundering sight and sound of the falls. This staggering curtain of water is about a mile wide, falling 108 metres into a narrow gorge below. In the wet season, the spray rises high and the falls become a torrent; in the dry season, the lack of spray gives way to a nice view of the little islets in the river below.
Leave Vic Falls behind and head to Hwange National Park (approximately 6 hours, depending on traffic). Take the opportunity to explore this stunning wildlife arena in an open 4X4 vehicle. Hwange National Park became the royal hunting grounds of the Ndebele warrior-king Mzilikazi in the early 19th century and was set aside as a national park in 1929. Today Hwange boasts a massive selection of wildlife, with over 100 species of mammals and nearly 400 bird species. But it's the elephants this place is famous for – here you'll find one of the largest elephant populations in Africa. At tonight's camp there is WiFi as well as optional accommodation upgrades (subject to availability).
Make tracks for Matobos with a short detour through Bulawayo, checking out its cool colonial buildings, before heading to your camp for the next two nights. Home to a large population of black and white rhinoceros that can be tracked on foot, Matobo National Park is also the site of the grave of Cecil John Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia and the De Beers diamond company. The Matobos area has great spiritual and cultural significance to the local people and there are many sites within the park where important ceremonies still take place. Your campground tonight has shared facilities, WiFi access and optional upgrades.
Today's optional activity will be something to write home about. Head to Matobo Hills and spend the morning tracking rhinos and other game animals with the help of your guide. Along the way learn about the flora in the area. After a cold lunch head to another region of the park to find old bushman paintings, see rock formations and learn some history of the area. Then it's off to nearby African villages to meet some of the local community.
Get up nice and early for a day of travel. You'll cross a very busy border post, the only direct border crossing between Zimbabwe and South Africa. The drive is about 400 km long (approximately 6–8 hours). Your destination today is the Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa. This park is set hard against the northern border of South Africa, joining Zimbabwe and Bostwana. See the open, expansive savannah landscape where the Limpopo and Shashe rivers meet. Maybe sip a sundowner by the river, or visit Mpungubwe Hill and Interpretation Centre to learn about an interesting 13th-century civilisation that flourished here.
After breakfast, set off for Kruger Park, a world-famous National Park known for the Big Five game of Africa – lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino. On top of that, it's home to some 336 kinds of trees, 49 fish species and over 500 species of bird. See how many of these you can spot on a game drive (in the group's own vehicle). Continue from your safari to your overnight camp, where there's the option of a further game drive – this time after dark.
Wake up early for a light breakfast of coffee and rusks before embarking on a full-day game drive in the truck. Today is another full day in Kruger Park – you'll spend the day in the group vehicle, heading down to the central part of the park, for a last overnight stop. Stop at some of the designated picnic spots for a bite to eat en route to camp. Depending on the season, you might catch a saddle-billed stork with its colourful red beak, or maybe a blue waxbill. In the afternoon when it's warm, take some time out to chill out. This evening again there will be an optional night drive with the park guide.
Venture out for one last safari adventure this morning. Continue back to Johannesburg (approximately 9–10 hours). En route you will stop at the stunning Blyde River Canyon and see the Three Rondavels, that awesome trio of rock pinnacles perched above the canyon. This trip finishes on arrival in Johannesburg at the finishing point hotel.