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Day 1: South Africa – Panorama Route

Today we journey along the Panorama Route, making a stop at the beautiful Blyde River Canyon and the incredible Bourke’s Luck Potholes.

The Panoramic Route found in Mpumalanga follows the rim of the Blyde River Canyon and encompasses some awe-inspiring views of the majestic Three Rondavels, Bourke’s Luck Pothole and the Pinnacle. Blyde River Canyon is the third biggest canyon in the world and acquired its name in 1840, with ‘blyde’ meaning ‘joyful’, from the Voortrekkers who passed through en route to Lorenzo Marques, which is now famously known as Mozambique. It is one of the most magnificent canyons in all of Africa, with cliffs towering up to 800 metres high. Perhaps the finest view in the entirety of the Blyde River Canyon is that of the Three Rondavels – three enormous rock spirals jutting out of the distant wall of the canyon. Their summits look like the rounded roofs of huts, which is where they got their name. They are each individually named too, one after each of the Swazi Chief Maripi’s wives. From lowest to highest, they are named Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maserote.

Where the Blyde and Treur Rivers join, water erosion has created one of the most incredible geological spectacles in the country, known as Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Over many, many years, bizarre cylindrical granite sculptures that have been formed by swirling water have created a sequence of dark pools which contrast dramatically with the streaked white and yellow lichen-covered rocks. Continuing along the road and following the Treur River south, we will pass more viewpoints, including Wonder View, the awesome God’s Window and the Pinnacle.

Johannesburg, or the City of Gold, is the biggest and most populated South African city and is the second biggest city in all of Africa (after Cairo). Gold was discovered in the mineral-rich Witwaterstrand in 1886 by George Harrison, an Australian prospector. This find began a massive gold rush as fortune-hunters flocked to the region from all parts of the world. A large labour force of contract workers quickly sprung to work in the mines, and within the span of just three years, Johannesburg transformed into South Africa’s biggest settlement. This city is now the economic and financial centre of the country and though mining no longer takes place within the bounds of the city, the headquarters of majority of mining businesses can be located here. Johannesburg is also renowned as the world’s biggest man-made forest, with more than ten million trees planted throughout the massive city.

Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Timbavati Safari Lodge http://www.timbavatisafarilodge.com
Route: Johannesburg to Timbavati +/- 520 km
Travel Time: +/- 9-10 including Panorama Route (long day)
Included Highlights: South African Dinner and Traditional Dancing, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Blyde River Canyon, God’s Window

Day 2: Kruger National Park

Today we leave early in the morning and head towards the world-renowned Kruger National Park where we seek out Africa’s Big 5 (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo). The Kruger National Park is the most well-known nature conservation region in the world. Two evenings are spent in this incredible area, taking in the beautiful wilderness of Africa. Educational morning game walks and evening drives led by a ranger are available as an optional extra.

Formed in 1898 to guard the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, this National Park of almost two million hectares is unmatched in the variety of wildlife it boasts. The Kruger Park is also a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies. About 145 mammal species, including the big Five, more than 500 bird species, some of which cannot be located anywhere else in South Africa, and 336 tree species can be found in the Kruger National Park. When the very first tourist vehicles drove through the Park in 1927, they created their own camps in thorn-bush enclosures and were required to be armed with weapons in order to guard themselves from predators. During WWII, the Park was closed to the public and was then opened again in 1946, but under new management. Currently the Park is one of the most renowned safari destinations in the world with all the facilities you could expect from a top-notch holiday destination. However, it has thankfully maintained its wild, untouched environment that allows you to experience true Africa.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Accommodation: Nkambeni Reserve http://www.nkambeni.co.za
Facilities: Hot Showers, Swimming Pool, Bar, Internet, Drinable Water, Sjop and Shared Ablutions
Route: Timbavati Lodge to Kruger National Park +/- 130 km
Travel Time: +/- 2-3 hours
Included Highlight: Afternoon game drive

Day 3: Kruger National Park

We will enjoy the day in Kruger National Park searching for wildlife where you will also have the opportunity to experience Kruger in an optional 4×4 safari vehicle.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Accommodation: Nkambeni Reserve http://www.nkambeni.co.za
Facilities: Hot Showers, Swimming Pool, Bar, Internet, Drinkable Water, Shop and Shared Ablutions
Activity Package: Full day 4×4 Game Drive
Optional Activities: Morning Bush Walk – Nkambeni Reserve, Evening Game Drive – Nkambeni Reserve

Day 4: Kruger National Park – Swaziland

Today we will have our final game drive through Kruger, before we head towards Swaziland and make our way into Hlane Royal National Park – an enormous nature reserve that houses lion, elephant and white rhino, to name a few.

The smallest country in the southern hemisphere and one of the remaining monarchies in Africa, the Kingdom of Swaziland has been independent from the Commonwealth since the year 1968. Swaziland is ruled by a King who is appointed in accordance with Swazi tradition, and if he is not able to fulfil his duties for whatsoever reason, the Queen Mother will then take over as ruling party. In the 1980s, this small country made international headlines when it was ruled by two Queens, one after the other. After the passing of King Sobhuza II, the Queen Dzeliwe Shongwe reigned from 1982-1983, and just a few months later, Ntombi Twala rose as the country’s second female Head of State since the country’s independence. Swaziland is surrounded on all sides by South Africa with the exception of 100 kilometres of border with Mozambique in the east, making it a landlocked country. Its natural resources are used sustainably and regardless of the size of the country, it contains some of the finest game reserves and national parks in southern Africa. Animals such as elephant, lion and rhino have been restored to the region after their disappearance that occurred due to hunting. It is renowned for its stunning, abundant bird life.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Hlane http://www.biggameparks.org/hlane/
Facilities: Hot Showers, Restaurant and Shared Ablutions
Route: Kruger NP to Swaziland +/- 240km
Travel Time: +/- 3-4 hours and a border crossing

Day 5: Swaziland – Bilene

We make our way into Mozambique today, and journeying north you can’t help but marvel at the picturesque coastal views before reaching Bilene which is located on a lagoon and invites to take a swim or stroll along the lagoon beach.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Palmeiras http://complexopalmeiras.blogspot.com/
Facilities: Shared ablutions, hot showers
Route: Swaziland to Bilene +/-300 km
Travel Time: +/- 7 hours

Days 6-7: Inhambane

Today we journey through the dense coconut plantations to Inhambane, an old, Portuguese settlement. This coastal area is very refreshing and contains amazing beaches. There are various Optional Activities in which to take part in, ranging from fishing to horse riding.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Palm Grove Lodge http://www.palmgrovelodge.co.za/
Facilities: En-suites Per Room, Hot Showers, Swimming Pool and Bar
Route: Bilene to Inhambane +/-360 km
Optional Activities: Scuba diving, snorkelling

Day 8: Vilanculos

The Bazaruto Archipelago is Mozambique’s leading tourist destination. It is a guarded area containing spectacular sea life, with snorkelling in the reefs being one of the finest ways to enjoy it. En route to Vilanculos we will make a stop at a local craft market to shop for souvenirs and curios.

Vilanculos is a coastal town located in Mozambique, situated in the Vilanculos District in the province of Inambane. Vilanculos was named after Gamala Vilankulo Mukoke, a local tribal chief, and some of the suburbs (bairros) are named after his sons. The town has been developing rapidly over the past decade and has received large amounts of investment into its tourism infrastructure. It is the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago and dhows (local boats) often journey between the town and the Archipelago. The town itself is only 5 kilometres in length and contains various market, shops and other conveniences.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Smugglers http://www.mozcon.com/Vilanculos_Travel_Guide_Mozambique.html
Facilities: En-suites Per Room, Hot Showers, Swimming Pool, Bar, Laundry and Shop
Route: Inhambane to Vilanculos +/-300 km
Travel Time: +/- 4-5 hours

Day 9: Bazaruto Dhow Excursion

The Bazaruto trip takes place on a traditional dhow. We glide out to the islands where we have the chance to snorkel, swim and unwind during the day. The Bazaruto is one of Southern Africa’s biggest marine parks. We depart from Vilanculos in the morning on a speedboat and will head back to the mainland after lunch to get ready for our sunset cruise.

The Archipelago was established as a National Park in the year 1971. It is comprised of six islands, the four primary being Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque and Santa Carolina, or ‘paradise island’. The islands were created by sand deposits from the Limpopo River which has since changed its route. The three bigger islands formed part of a vast sand-pit peninsula that was once joined to the mainland, but has since parted as the continent sank into the Indian Ocean over the past millennia. Only Santa Carolina is a genuine Rock Island and is therefore encircled by deeper water than the rest. Because of their protected status, the Archipelago is an untouched gem that hosts over 180 species of bird life, butterflies and even suni Antelope.

The beautiful coral reefs that encircle the islands contain more than 2,000 fish species as well as whale and dolphin. A wide range of coral forms ideal diving spots, regarded as some of the finest locations in the world. The five types of turtle living in the Indian Ocean can all be found here, using the pristine beaches as their grounds for breeding. Dugong (sea cows), game fish and giant lobster can also be spotted in these guarded reefs. All of the islands sustain many traditional fishermen and their families, majority of whom are not permanent residents and may drift between the Archipelago and the mainland in search of abundant fishing waters.

For over two thousand years, lateen rigged dhows have sailed the Indian Ocean, joining economies and people and forming a cosmopolitan maritime Indian Ocean culture. For ages, Arab shipwrights fashioned boats using sewn construction – sewing the boards together using coconut fibre cord. However, this skill has pretty much disappeared and been replaced by modern nail construction. The biggest boat available is a double-master and was constructed by a local craftsmen hailing from Vilanculo.

Dugongs are the only members of the order Sirenia, from the family Dugongidae. Dugongs are one of the most threatened mammals in Africa and are among the most endangered mammalian species in the Western Indian Ocean. They are located in the Western Indian Ocean with a minimal occurrence on Southern Africa’s east coast. The Bazaruto Archipelago and coast of Mozambique are one of the most crucial environments for dugongs in the Western Indian Ocean. They are only found in certain areas due to their specific living requirements – sea grass meadows growing in shallow, covered lagoons guarded by reefs and islands, in particular. Your best chance at seeing one of these magnificent creatures is in the Archipelago’s sea grass meadows. The primary causes of their disappearance are hunting and unintended entanglement in fishing nets, specifically gill nets. Extrapolation of a recent survey showed an estimated total population of a mere 104 animals still living in the region surrounding the Bazaruto Archipelago.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Smugglers http://www.mozcon.com/Vilanculos_Travel_Guide_Mozambique.html
Facilities: En-suites Per Room, Hot Showers, Swimming Pool and Bar
Activity Package: Bazaruto Day Trip

Days 10-11: Praia do Tofo

We make our way towards Praia do Tofo. There is much to do in Tofo, whether you’d like to unwind on the pristine beaches or pay a visit to some of Africa’s most incredible diving and snorkelling areas.

The town of Praia do Tofo is situated on the Ponto do Barra peninsula in the province of Inhambane, 22 kilometres away from Inhambane city. Formerly a tiny fishing village, Tofo has developed into a main Mozambican tourist destination. It houses beach villas and diving retreats, with tourists attracted by the extensive Indian Ocean beachfront and close by reefs which are home to a wide range of sea life, including manta rays and sea turtles. Tofo is one of the best regions in the world to spot Whale Sharks that constantly reside in these waters. Diving or snorkelling with these majestic animals is an unforgettable experience. Other draw-ins are the endless beaches dotted with coconut palms and mangroves, as well the hospitable and pleasant local folk.

Mozambique is renowned for its spectacular whale shark diving opportunities that take place particularly in the regions surrounding Inhambane. This is for sure one of the finest areas in the world in which to encounter the magnificent whale sharks, leading divers to rediscover the splendid region of Mozambique. You don’t need a PADI or any other diving certifications in order to take part in the incredible dives with these creatures. You can simply swim or snorkel with them and admire their majestic size and splendour. Whale Sharks are well known to be spotted all year through, but the waters contain heavy concentrations especially during the summer months of September through to February.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Mozambeat http://www.mozambeatmotel.com
Facilities: Hot Showers, Swimming Pool, Bar, Restaurant and Shared Ablutions
Route: Vilanculos to Praia Do Tofo +/-315 km
Travel Time: +/-4-5 hrs and a border crossing
Activity Package: Whale Shark Educational Evening Talk
Optional Activities: Snorkelling, scuba diving, Fishing Boat Rental, Surfing and Body Board Rental

Day 12: Maputo

Today we make our way back southward in the direction of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Mozambique became fully independent from the Portuguese in 1975 but only gained political stability in recent years and is presently undergoing a massive upgrade as the economy of the country expands.

Previously Lourenzo Marques until independence in 1974, Maputo is Mozambique’s capital and biggest city. A hub to the Indian Ocean, its economy is focused around the harbour. There is much to do and see here. The city is encircled by the province of Maputo, but is administrated as its own province. The city is located on the west side of the Maputo Bay, at the Tembe River mouth.

There are two beautiful islands, Inhance and Portuguese Island, that are situated just off Maputo’s coast. Under the influence of the Portuguese, Maputo transformed into one of the most gorgeous and trendy cities with a remarkable skyline of high buildings and a multicultural Portuguese/African atmosphere. Areas such as the Polana Hotel bustled with the chatting of socialites and nightclubs pumped music until the early hours of the morning. However, the Civil War during the 1970s and 1980s altered all of this. When peace eventually arrived, the once proud city was in ruins. Countless immigrants filled the buildings, litter was strewn all over the streets and primary services such as electricity, water and garbage collection were out of commission. Presently, the city is slowly being restored to its previous state. The elite can once more be found in the five-star Polana Hotel with its fantastic view overlooking the harbour, its tea gardens and its antique Victorian elevator.

There are various historical sites and buildings to visit here. Maputo’s most significant landmark is the Fort of Nossa Senhora da Conceiao (Our Lady of Conception) which was the centre of the original settlement. Another magnificent structure is the Central Railway Station, a massive building that appears as more of a palace for kings and queens rather than a transport hub for commuters. There are also some fantastic restaurants where you can indulge in tasty local beers and sumptuous fresh prawns.

Meals: Breakfast
Accommodation: Catembe Gallery Hotel http://www.galleryhotel.co.mz/en/
Facilities: En-suites Per Room, Hot Showers, Bar, Wireless Internet and Restaurant
Route: Praia do Tofo to Maputo +/- 590 km
Travel Time: +/- 7-8 hours
Activity Package: Maputo City Tour – Half day

Day 13: Maputo – Graskop

Today we will leave Maputo and travel towards Graskop where we will overnight. Before leaving Maputo for good, you will have the opportunity to participate in a tour through the city. On our way to Graskop we will pass through the small town of Pilgrims Rest to explore before arriving at our accommodation for the night.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Summit Lodge http://www.summitlodge.co.za/index.php/accommodation
Facilities: Hot Showers, Swimming Pool and Bar
Route: Maputo to Graskop +/- 380 km
Travel Time: +/- 5-6 hours

Day 14: Johannesburg

Today we will head back to Johannesburg where our tour will come to an end. Johannesburg has a great nightlife and a lot of excellent restaurants and the group often spend this evening together.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodation: Own Arrangements / Post tour accommodation can be booked
Route: Graskop to Johannesburg +/- 390 km
Travel Time: +/- 5-6 hours

Tour Ends

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