DAY 1 - ZEBRA COUNTRY LODGE, DINOKENG GAME RESERVE
On arrival in Johannesburg's OR Tambo Airport, Africa's largest airport, you will be met by your guide after clearing customs and immigration. Also known as South Africa's "City of Gold", Johannesburg is a thriving metropolis, home to a veritable melting pot of cultures. Affectionately called Jo’burg by the locals, this is a friendly city with much to offer to her visitors
En Route to Zebra Country Lodge you will pass by Pretoria, one of South Africa’s capital cities and located in the northern part of Gauteng Province. Pretoria is famously known as the Jacaranda City, due to the thousands of Jacaranda trees planted in the streets, parks and gardens. When they bloom in October the city comes alive with purple blossoms.
Upon arrival at Zebra Country Lodge, you have the option of enjoying an afternoon game drive or bush walk. Both these activities allow you to experience the bush veld whilst relaxing from the long flight.
Zebra Country Lodge is hidden away in a lush bushveld setting, offering a distinct country atmosphere. This 400-hectare nature reserve borders on Dinokeng Game Reserve, the first big 5 game reserve in Gauteng in which animals roam freely.
Surrounded by gently undulating hills, cooled by rippling creeks and water features, with impressive creature comforts to offer, the lodge is an ideal hideaway for either families or business travellers. This comfortable country-style accommodation in a tranquil setting is eminently accessible and breathtakingly beautiful. We can hope for crystal-clear blue skies, the sound of gurgling streams and a variety of general game at close quarters.
The rooms at Zebra Country Lodge are decorated with an authentic African theme, reflecting the local African culture and colour tones of the bushveld. The buildings are thatched stone houses in a natural setting, surrounded by a lush garden with an abundance of indigenous trees, typical of the region.
The lodge offers an informal dining area and boma as well as a swimming pool and modern conference facilities.
Overnight, Zebra Country Lodge, D/BB
DAY 2 - MADI A THAVA, SOUTPANSBERGE
After breakfast you will travel to Louis Trichardt, renamed Makhado several years ago. The town hugs the foot of the Soutpansberg mountain range in South Africa's Limpopo province. It is named after Louis Tregardt, a voortrekker leader who settled here with his companions between 1836 and 1837. This area at the foot of the Soutpansberg is very fertile, litchis, bananas, mangoes and nuts are grown and sold here.
Along the way to Louis Trichardt, you will drive past the city of Polokwane, "Place of Safety", formerly named Pietersburg. Polokwane is the largest city in Limpopo Province and was one of the host cities of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
After approximately 4 hour's drive, you will arrive at Madi a Thavha. This Lodge offers luxury suites and guest rooms with views of the impressive mountain backdrop. All the rooms are decorated in the vibrant colours and earthy textures of rural Limpopo. Join us in our dining room for delicious meals that incorporate dishes from Southern Africa with a dash of European influence. The best of local Craft Art is available in our gallery, shop, and textile studio. The golden thread of Limpopo's heritage runs through our entire lodge.
Overnight at Madi a Thavha, D/BB
DAY 3 - LODGE AT THE ANCIENT CITY, GREAT ZIMBABWE
After a refreshing night's rest we will set out on a scenic route through Musina Nature Reserve as well as Maremani Nature Reserve to reach the Beit Bridge Border Post. Here we will cross the borders into Zimbabwe. We travel a further 382km northwards until we reach The Lodge at Ancient City in Zimbabwe. Our travel time is approximately 5 hours, giving us an early afternoon arrival at The Lodge at Ancient City.
Built on a granite outcrop, the Lodge at the Ancient City has sweeping views of a valley densely forested with Msasa trees, and faces in the direction of the Great Zimbabwe monument. Lake Mutirikwi, the third largest man-made dam in Zimbabwe can be seen from the lodge.
The main complex and guest lodges are built from stone and thatch, with structures of granite stonewalling similar to the walls of Zimbabwe’s oldest UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lodge also provides a swimming pool, a bar built around the natural granite rocks of the hill upon which the lodge stands, a gift shop and laundry service.
Activities revolve around the Great Zimbabwe Monument, and we will be taken on a tour to this World Heritage Site. The Great Zimbabwe Monument is believed to have been built between the 11th and 15th centuries from regular rectangular granite blocks skilfully placed one upon the other without the use of scaffolding or cement. This World Heritage Site is a unique historical, cultural and archaeological landmark with many unusual artefacts including the Zimbabwe bird (the national emblem and the subject of its own myths and legends) to be found there.
Overnight at Ancient City lodge, D/BB
DAYS 4 & 5 - THE FARMHOUSE, MATOBO NATIONAL PARK
You begin the day with a guided tour of Great Zimbabwe, this will take you about 2,5 to 3 hours and it involves walking around this impressive former city. Building began in the 12th Century and continued up until the 15th century in three distinct phases. Common to all phases of construction is that the huge walls were built without scaffolding and without cement to bind the stones together. During the first phase, stone blocks were neatly piled upon one another but without regard to the size and shape of the stones. In the second phase, stones were sorted according to size and shape and the walls smoothed after the construction was finished. This was the phase during which the decorations were built in and the soapstone sculptures of the birds were created. In the third phase that coincided with the gradual decline of the city, stones were piled without regard to shape or size. Current archaeological research indicates that Great Zimbabwe was built by the Karanga, a part of the Shona nation. The stone city with its 3 complexes covers an area of 722 hectares which, at its peak, could have housed up to 20,000 people, cattle herders, goldsmiths and ironmongers.
Great Zimbabwe is believed to have been the home of the king and his entourage. The king would have lived in the Hill Complex with his closest aides. 100 metres below, in the Great Enclosure, his wives and families would have been protected by walls up to 11 metres high and 6 metres wide.
After this historic tour, you make your way to the Farmhouse Lodge in Matopos, where you will be staying for the next two nights.
On your full day at the Farmhouse, a Motobo Hills Tour is on the agenda! The Matobo National Park lies in the heart of the Matobo or Matopos Hills. A fascinating landscape of granite hills and thickly forested valleys entice visitors to travel the mere 50 kms south of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's 2nd city.
The hills were formed over 2 billion years ago from igneous rock, this has eroded to produce smooth "whaleback dwalas" and kopjes of jumbled boulders, with gnarled rock figs growing out of the crevasses. Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation, gave the area its name, that means 'Bald Heads'.
The Matobo National Park covers about 420 km² of the Matobo Hills that measure roughly 3100 km² in total. Most of the remainder is communal land, with small villages and farms. 100 km² of the National Park have been fenced off as a game park, where white and black rhinos are specially protected. Other game to be seen here includes antelope, -the most impressive of these being the sable-, hippos, giraffe and a large number of bird species. Matopos has the highest density of nesting pairs of Verreaux's eagles in Africa and a very high leopard population.
After a day full of activites you return to The Farmhouse for the night. In 1996 the original Farm Homestead was converted into a Restaurant, bar and lodge reception.
Now known as The Farmhouse, it is located 48 kms from Bulawayo on the Matopos road, in the heart of the Matopos World Heritage site. The restaurant veranda overlooks the indigenous garden and rock swimming pool, where we can relax by the poolside or spend the evening around the open campfire in the enclosed traditional boma. Chefs specialize in healthy, home cooked meals. On some days Braai dinner can be enjoyed.
Overnight at Farmhouse Lodge, D/BB, 2 Nights
DAYS 6 & 7 - HWANGE SAFARI LODGE, HWANGE NATIONAL PARK
Today we carry on to Hwange Safari Lodge, on the border of Hwange National Park, and on its own extensive wildlife concession. The views are a favourite with visitors from all over the world.
Africa is home of the safari, just as Zimbabwe is home of Hwange National Park, a wildlife conservancy famous the world over, for its size and teeming population of buffalo, zebra, giraffe, all the big cats, hyena, wild dog, rhino and the world’s biggest elephant population. We will soon learn that this is the home of the wildlife we have come to see but also that we, and the Lodge, are guests of the real owners of the land, the elephants, rhino, lions and giraffes.
Hwange is all about wildlife, so game drives with guides are the order of the day at Hwange Safari Lodge. Early morning or late afternoon going into evening, are the best times to view wildlife in its domain. To crown it all, the nearby water-hole provides a great view of game from each room, the restaurant, pool area and the viewing deck. While we enjoy a long, cold “sundowner”, we can watch as a rare mix of game from the skittish impala to the majestic elephant wander to the waterhole for their end of day drink.
This lodge is an oasis of comfort in the heart of the African savannah, surrounded by untouched wilderness. The swimming pool is a popular meeting spot for cooling down each day and the bar is the ideal place to wind down after a daylong safari.
Overnight at Hwange Safari Lodge, FB + 1 Activity, 2 Nights
DAYS 8 & 9 - BATONKA GUEST LODGE, VICTORIA FALLS
David Livingstone was the first European to see and record the existence of these magnificent waterfalls, naming them in honour of his Queen Victoria. The local people called the Falls “smoke that thunders” in several different languages.
This name is very apt and a striking description of the rushing and thundering sound of the water that can be heard at a distance of many kilometres at high water and the spray that is visible as a white cloud over a great distance. Victoria Falls has been listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site. In bare terms the water of the Zambezi River plummets into the gorge to a depth of over 100 metres and at high water over a breadth of 1,7 km.
But these dry facts do nothing to describe the highly impressive and emotional reality of the Falls. A visit both in the morning and in the afternoon is recommended, because the sun shines into the gorge from noon on and often creates several rainbows in the spray. Guests should take their time to savour the visit, the incredibly loud thunder, the always changing but nevertheless hypnotic sight of the falling water, the fresh smell of the river, and of course –depending on the season the occasional or almost constant shower from the spray.
Many activities centred around the Zambezi River and its waterfalls are on offer for visitors. Here is only a small selection that can be recommended:
• A helicopter flight over the Falls, “Flight of Angels”. This is the best way to see the entire scope of the mighty Zambezi River and its many islands.
• A half-day canoe trip. Savour the power of the mighty river and watch the birds and animals at “eye level”.
• Whitewater rafting. Let the highly trained guides take you through breathtaking rapids as you experience the awesome power of the Zambezi where it surges through the gorges.
• A few hours in a ground-level hide beside a water hole where herds of elephants and buffalo drink regularly
• A visit to the Victoria Falls Craft Market, where some excellent quality and very imaginative curios can be bargained for as keepsakes or gifts for those who stayed at home.
You will be staying at Batonka Lodge, a newly renovated Lodge located in a quiet part of town in the low density residential area of Victoria Falls. The lodge offers 22 tastefully designed and spacious rooms with en-suite bathrooms. The lodge is not in any grand and scenic location, but offers tranquillity and a lush garden, plus a swimming pool for the hot months. You can also take a break under the veranda in the outside lounge, or within the main building's lounge and bar area.
In Victoria Falls everything is magical. You will experience the beauty of Victoria Falls first – hand, with a Tour of the Falls on your full day in Victoria Falls
Overnight at Batonka Guest Lodge, 2 nights, D/BB
DAY 10 - THEBE RIVER LODGE, CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
Chobe National Park, with its diverse and striking landscapes, will be your next destination.
Today you cross the border into Botswana, the land of contrast between the harsh Kalahari Desert and the lush, green expanses of the Okavango Delta.
You will experience Chobe National Park the best way possible, with a Sunset Cruise on the Chobe River. Some of the best photography is possible during the sunset cruise, the evening light lends itself to excellent photography of the animals and birds as well as the magnificent sunsets over the Chobe river.
Birding is also unique along the river with common sightings of African darters, fish eagles, kingfishers, waders and other water birds. The African Skimmer is also often seen. This bird is an almost threatened species and a nice one to tick off your birding list.
You will be staying at Thebe River Lodge, ideally situated close to the Chobe River. The lodge and camp overlook the placid Chobe River and echo the surrounding bush with a rustic design. The lodge lies only 12km from the Kazungula border and 5km from the Chobe National Park entrance. The restaurant and bar provide welcome food and drinks and we can enjoy the sparkling swimming pool.
Overnight at Thebe River Lodge, D/BB
DAY 11 - ELEPHANT SANDS, NATA, BOTSWANA
Your route takes you further South within Botswana, to the vicinity of Nata and Elephant Sands, your accommodation for the night. Elephant Sands is a bush lodge & campsite with a wilderness atmosphere about it.
Watching elephants coming to the natural waterhole right in front of the lodge is the favourite pastime here. You can watch these impressive creatures whilst they drink only a couple of meters away from you, a truly unique experience! There is plenty of other wildlife around as well, in the unfenced 16000 ha private conservancy. The lack of fences allows all animals to roam freely.
Overnight at Elephant Sands, D/BB
DAYS 12 to 14 - RIVERNEST COTTAGES, MAUN, BOTSWANA
After breakfast you make your way to Maun, the fifth largest town in Botswana. It is called the "tourism capital" of Botswana because all trips into the famous Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve start here.
Although officially still a village, Maun has grown rapidly into a town, spreading out along the banks of the Thamalakane River. In spite of its shopping centres, hotels and lodges it has not lost its rural atmosphere and local tribesmen still herd their cattle to Maun for sale. The buildings are spread out along the wide banks of the Thamalakane River where red lechwe can on occasion be seen grazing next to donkeys, goats and cattle.
Your destination today is Rivernest Cottages. The peaceful location under indigenous trees on the bank of Boronyane River makes this lodge a most relaxing venue for your stay in the Okavango Delta. Known for its warmth, vibrancy and legendary hospitality, Rivernest Cottages is a luxurious safari escape set in the heart of the Okavango Delta, and it gives us access to all the exciting safari destinations in this part of Botswana.
A day trip in a Mokoro (dugout canoe) is on the cards for one of your full days at Rivernest Cottages. One of the most tranquil and relaxing experiences is undoubtedly navigating through the reeds in a traditional dugout canoe. You are poled by skilled Guides through the shallow channels of the Okavango Delta. You can relax in the picturesque setting, and enjoy the serenity of one of the Okavango Delta’s most untouched environments.
You will be collected in the morning and driven to the Mokoro station by safari vehicle. During the day you may be lucky enough to see big game coming to drink at the water’s edge, but the true beauty of Mokoro activities is in the relaxing nature of the scenic waterways, swaying papyrus and incredible birdlife. In the afternoon you will be returned to the Mokoro station where you will be collected for the return transfer by safari vehicle to Maun.
On your last full day at Rivernest Cottages you will experience a Moremi Day trip. The Moremi Game Reserve lies in the heart of the Okavango Delta and was the first wildlife area to be set aside by tribal people rather than colonial powers.
You will be collected early in the morning and taken by safari vehicle to Moremi Game Reserve, one of the most beautiful and varied wildlife reserves in Africa. The game drive takes you amongst the wonderful density of game this area commonly experiences, which includes lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, white rhino, and even the rare black rhino. After stopping for lunch, you will continue the game drive to the boat station where you will enjoy a stunning one-hour boat cruise amongst the meandering channels of the Okavango Delta. Finally, you will return to Maun in the afternoon via a leisurely en-route game drive.
Overnight at Rivernest Cottages, BB, 3 Nights