South Africa and Swaziland safari

“Forget the Garden Route - this is the Rainbow Route, exploring the best that South Africa has to offer. Travel overland in comfort all the way from Kruger to Cape Town.”

Highlights

Mpumalanga | Kruger National Park | Big Five game drives | Malolotja Nature Reserve, Swaziland | Mzuki Game Reserve | Zulu culture | Walking in Drakensberg Mountains - uKhalamba | Wild Coast | Nelson Mandela's burial site | Addo Elephant National Park | Knysna | Tsitsikamma Forest | Hermanus | Land-based whale watching (in season) | Cape Town | Stellenbosch | Climbing Table Mountain | Cape Point | Optional: Robben Island tour

Map

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Date
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10 Dec 2016
US $ 2155
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07 Jan 2017
US $ 2105
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14 Jan 2017
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21 Jan 2017
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04 Feb 2017
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25 Feb 2017
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11 Mar 2017
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18 Mar 2017
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01 Apr 2017
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08 Apr 2017
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29 Apr 2017
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13 May 2017
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20 May 2017
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27 May 2017
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17 Jun 2017
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24 Jun 2017
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01 Jul 2017
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08 Jul 2017
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15 Jul 2017
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22 Jul 2017
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29 Jul 2017
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05 Aug 2017
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19 Aug 2017
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26 Aug 2017
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02 Sep 2017
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16 Sep 2017
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23 Sep 2017
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30 Sep 2017
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07 Oct 2017
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14 Oct 2017
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21 Oct 2017
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04 Nov 2017
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11 Nov 2017
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25 Nov 2017
US $ 2105
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02 Dec 2017
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09 Dec 2017
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23 Dec 2017
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30 Dec 2017
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Our top tip:
It's all about mucking in - be prepared to help with meal preparation and cleaning up. Most people enjoy the camaraderie - but it's not for unsociable travelers!
Trip type:
Small group comfort safari. Min. age 12.
Activity level:
Leisurely/moderate.
Accomm:
16 nights hotels, chalets, cabins.
Solos:
Solo travelers welcome. Single rooms available with surcharge.
Included:
Accommodation, tour leaders, local guides, transport, transfers,
Meals:
All breakfasts, 12 lunches,11 dinners.
Vouchers
Accepted
Vacation type
Small group vacations
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.

Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Meet a group leader
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.

Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travelers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: South Africa and Swaziland safari

Message from co-Founder of this Tour Operator. My name is Bruce and I am a founder of this tour operation. I believe that the old conservation tactic of the setting aside areas of "exclusion" for conservation are outdated.

The reality is that in order for effective, sustainable conservation to take place, there needs to be an interest from the society of that country, conscious effort from government and local "buy in" from the local communities. Sadly the world is in a place where economic benefit is the overriding driving force of action and as such conservation is directly linked to economic benefit. Sustainable tourism is therefore absolutely essential for conservation to be effective. Not only for local communities to see value in conservation, but for countries as a whole to place value in protecting their natural heritage.

I believe there is a deep and instinctual link between our humanity and our natural environment. Inherently we all want to know that the wild places are still out there. And Eco-tourism gives us that opportunity, as we so often hear, to "rebalance" or "rejuvenate".

The various promises and commitments detailed below are only a representation of what it is that we do. I sincerely hope that our tours offer our clients an opportunity to experience the wonders of the African continent, and in some small way through focusing itineraries around wildlife and national parks, we contribute to environmental conservation both economically and spiritually.

If you join one of our trips, and have practical feasible suggestions about our responsible travel practices, please contact us. We strive to improve our operation and if we can do more for conservation in Africa, then we're all ears!

Low impact tourism & supporting local communities:
• Small group travel: We specialise in small group travel with a maximum group size of 12 clients & minimum of 4. Small groups ensures a small impact on the destinations we visit when compared to larger groups. Smaller groups create an intimate safari experience, and mean that when we interact with local cultures and stay in environmentally sensitive areas, we do not leave a large footprint.
• Fuel consumption: By traveling in a small group your carbon foot print is approximately ½ of self drive safari. The average pick-up car hire runs on approximately 12ltr/100km with generally 2 people per vehicle and this equates to approximately 6ltr/100km pp. Our average safari truck runs on 25ltr/100km with an average of 9.5 clients per tour and this equates to 2.6Ltr/100km pp. So, by joining a small group tour, your fuel consumption is less than half of doing a self-drive 4WD or pick up trip.
• Cooking: We cook using gas as far as possible and, whenever feasible, avoiding cooking using fire or coal which depletes limited wood resources.
• Wooden carving curios: We do take clients to local curio markets to support the local communities. If they want to buy a carving, we encourage clients purchase only small wooden carvings instead of large pieces. This is in an effort to again conserve the forests around the carving markets.
• Waste: We ensure that we take all of our rubbish out of wilderness areas and use proper waste disposal facilities on all tours (and in the workshop, including oil traps, oil recycling, cleaning products etc).
• Entrance fees: All entrance fees for the national parks in each country are used by the local authorities to maintain the condition and infrastructure of the national parks, and run regular anti-poaching patrols. These are often supplemented by government grants. The national parks support a large number of local community members often providing housing and schooling for the staff families. For us as a tour operator, supporting the various national park boards is an essential element to each tour.
• Accommodation: On all tours wherever possible we use locally owned accommodation establishments which are involved in local responsible tourism initiatives. This provides direct benefits to local communities through employment. We avoid large hotel chains and more commercial properties but opt for simple self-catering lodge, B&B’s and tented camps for accommodation in rural areas. By doing this we create an intimate environment for group away from large scale tourism and the communities around the accommodation benefit directly through employment and this creates pride and further interest in sustainable tourism as the communities have tangible benefits from tourism. Our tours focus on out of the way destinations, and as such, our “spend” is distributed into rural areas.
• Drinking Water: Each client, drinking 5 litres per day from 1 litre plastic bottles produces 100 waste plastic bottles on a 3 week safari. On this calculation, we would pollute the environment (and waste energy resources in plastic production) with over 250,000 plastic bottles per year! So as solution, each of our vehicles has a tank of clean drinking water that is filled up along the journey. This is safe tap water. We do not provide bottle water we encourage clients to drink the local clean drinkable tap water wherever possible in order to minimize the amount of plastic bottle waste produced by the purchase of bottled drinking water.
• Water conservation: We are acutely aware that in many areas that we visit water is a scarce resource. Clients are encouraged to be conscious of water usage and not to take long showers or waste water.
• Wildlife: On all game drives, our trained and qualified guides ensure that our groups interact with wildlife in the appropriate way. Slow movements, no loud noises and to respect the animals “personal” boundaries. Our philosophy is that we are visitors in the amazing places that we visit, and we do not want our presence to impact the wildlife and environment in any negative way. We also enforce a policy of not feeding any wildlife (animals habituated to human feeding will turn aggressive in the future which often results in authorities being forced to kill that animal) and to appreciate the natural state of the areas that we visit and to leave the area in exactly the same condition that it was when we arrived.
• Local guides & communities: On each tour you will travel with two guides for the entire trip. In addition, we also employ local guides for certain activities on tour. These local initiatives help to maintain local cultures and also sustain the ideals of wildlife conservation. Tourism, goodwill and conservation all work together and we aim to maintain the delicate balance at all times! The employment of local guide adds value to our clients visit because they can gain specific local knowledge and expertise from the people who actually live permanently in the area they are visiting. These interactions also give our clients the chance to meet local people and see how tourism is benefiting Africa, piece by piece.
We use local guides at:
Botswana: Okavango Delta, Chobe NP, Ghanzi San Bushman excursion, national parks
South Africa: Mkuzi village walk, Qunu Mandela historical site, Kozi Bay
Swailand: Hlane walking
Lesotho: Malealea Lodge pony trekking guide
Malawi: Boat excursion on Lake Malawi
Mozambique: Dhow excursions
Namibia: Brandberg walk and drives (part of the Tsiseb Community Conservancy), Spizkoppe walk, Gariep River canoeing, Sossusvlei 4WD drivers,
Zambia: Lower Zambezi Canoe excursion, South Luangwa game walks and drives, Vic Falls optional activities
Zimbabwe: Great Zimbabwe Monuments, Matobos NP, Hwange NP, Victoria Falls
For more information on each of the community projects please talk to your guide or contact us.
• Local crafts and produce: At all local markets where fresh produce and crafts are sold and produced, we encourage the clients to barter (gently and in good humour) with the local people. This not only allows the clients to get involved with the local way of life, and interact directly with the local people, but also provides them a platform to experience local life first hand. Having said that, we explain to the clients by bartering too hard for a good deal might seem like a lot of money at the time, but if the amount being haggled over is converted to either US$, Euro or GBP, it amounts to very little. This is the local livelihood and we advise them to keep this in mind at all times.
• Underprivileged Children Groups: We operate a number of tours into the national parks of South Africa for underprivileged children from schools based in Johannesburg, South Africa. PEN Organisation is an independent, non-governmental and social development organisation. Its activities focus on neglected and abandoned children and orphans, as well as disadvantaged families. We try to run these tours as often as possible during the course of a year. We believe that the youth are Africa’s future and that environmental education is important. This opportunity allows them to see for themselves wildlife (perhaps for the first time), nature conservation at work, and also show them employment opportunities that are available in the conservation or tourism industry, and possibly encourage them to follow a career in tourism (for this reason we aim these groups at 14-18 year olds).
• Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre: We assist a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Springs, Johannesburg. Judy Davidson runs a licensed rehab centre from a small holding. A variety of birds are cared for, from injured barbets, doves, and crows to a brown snake eagle, a Gymnogene, and spotted eagle owls. All birds are treated in a small makeshift clinic, and then kept in aviaries until they have recovered. Once able to fly, or care for themselves again, they are moved to a 'flight' aviary, for a period until they have regained strength. They are then released back into the wild. Those birds which are unable to be released are kept in large aviaries and fed through various donations. We assist the project with donations of practical equipment including shade netting, paint and other items on their wish list.

Reviews of South Africa and Swaziland safari

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 19 Feb 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing the animals in Kruger National Park, so close and so relaxed. Walking in the Tsitiskama National Park along a beach and through woods to reach a lovely waterfall that filled a large pool at the back of the beach and swimming there with no-one else around. The lovely group we travelled with and our fantastic guides.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared to make some really early starts to see the animals in the Game Parks as the sun rises and also in some cases for a long journey as the next leg of the tour unfolds. Also to assist with the preparation and clearing up of meals.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Certainly in a small way it benefitted local people as we bought souvenirs along the way and tipped where ever possible, and bought local firewood for the camp fire. Also in a larger way by bringing money indirectly into the country by booking with a local company. By being a Tourist in the Game Parks, and the Aquarium we should like to think that perhaps indirectly our fees and interest supported Conservation efforts.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


A totally amazing and uplifting experience. A lot of fun, a lot of new things learnt, a new appreciation of another country and it's culture, and new friends made.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Cathy

Thank you for your wonderful review. We agree Tsitiskama National Park is a real treat and simply beautiful and we are so pleased you had such a great tour and that you are "reborn" :). We will pass your comments on our "fantastic guides" to CJ and Yvonne, they will be very happy to hear your comments.

You certainly did contribute to local people as you have stayed in National Parks and community projects for the majority of the tour. This ensures the funds go directly to the national parks/community project and you are very much supporting conservation. We used local guides (apart from Yvonne and CJ) at Mbonise Culutural Villiage that you visited.

Once again, thank you for your wonderful comments and choosing to travel with us and we hope to welcome you back to Southern Africa.

Kind regards
Jayne Harley
Marketing Manager

Reviewed on 22 Dec 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


We went to some utterly stunning places, purely magical.
The tour leaders couldn't have been better- humorous, brimming with knowledge and stories, fantastic chefs...I could go on

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Make the most of every minute :)
There're some long days in the truck, so I'd suggest getting up early to walk or run- it's a beautiful time to be up and about.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I think so, our guides made an effort to take us to places where we could buy things where the money would go back into the community rather than to corporates.

I also found it charming that the guides always offered any extra food we had to local workers- be they staff in the guest houses at dinner time or guys out on the roads at lunch time.- no waste created, and lots of happy customers :)

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


The guides were utterly brilliant, and made it a very special trip

Reviewed on 25 Apr 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


I had not expected to enjoy the safari part of my trip as much as I did. I loved seeing the animals in their natural habitat. On day we watched a mother cheetah hunting for her cub - it was thrilling. Everything in South Africa is about Nelson Mandela and I learned more about his life and the struggles of South Africans during the Apartheid era. Cape Town is truly a wonder of the world and the beaches on the Wild Coast were spectacular.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Use your ATM card to change money. Even with the charge by your bank it is much cheaper than the commission charged by the exchange places or banks.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I think our trip benefited one local family. More important was the support for specific animal reserves such as rhinos.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


This was one of the best trips I have ever been on. My traveling companions were great and our guides were fantastic. Meal preparation became a fun event!

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