Escape the Crowds on an Exclusive Small-Group Adventure into Remote Private Reserves
Day 1: Johannesburg, South Africa
Our South Africa tour—which includes a slice of neighboring Botswana, too—begins on arrival in Johannesburg, where we gather for a welcome dinner with our safari Expedition Leader.
Days 2–4: Mashatu Private Reserve, Botswana
Fly and drive to Mashatu Private Reserve just over the border on the eastern edge of Botswana. Mashatu, meaning “Land of Giants,” takes its name from the huge Mashatu trees that dominate these environs, as well as the giant animals that roam its terrain. The Limpopo River, which Rudyard Kipling made famous in his Just-So Stories
, crosses into South Africa near here. More than 700 elephants live on the reserve, the largest single population on privately owned land in Africa, as well as impressive numbers of lion and cheetah. Along the river, Mashatu trees provide shade for wildebeest, giraffe, zebra and eland, while at night, bat-eared fox, honey badger, African wild cat and leopard search for prey. We explore this unspoiled wilderness on exciting game drives, discovering Mashatu's ecological diversity as we traverse savanna, forest, marshland and sandstone outcrops. And at the end of each day, we stay in the center of it all at Mashatu Tent Camp, an intimate accommodation offering unexpected amenities in such a remote and secluded locale.
Days 5 & 6: Manyeleti Private Reserve, South Africa—Greater Kruger
After a final wildlife drive in Mashatu this morning, we fly by private charter to the private 56,800-acre Manyeleti Game Reserve. Manyeleti means “place of the stars” in the local Shangaan language, and it shares an unfenced boundary with the eastern side of Kruger National Park as well as the Sabi Sands and Timbavati game reserves. This remains a relatively quiet and unknown corner of South Africa that is inaccessible to day visitors, and the renowned wildlife roams free between the park and reserves. Our destination, Tintswalo Safari Lodge, is a luxury safari camp in a private sector of the Greater Kruger ecosystem, one of the last tracts of true wilderness left in South Africa. This is prime Big Five terrain, where lion, rhino, buffalo and elephant are spotted regularly, plus there is are exceptionally good possibility of spotting an elusive leopard. In addition, more than 300 bird species inhabit the area. We explore by 4x4 and on foot, where guided walks give us a more intimate vantage on the smaller things, like plants and insects—and the thrill of wildlife at a short distance.
Days 7–9: Sabi Sand Private Reserve—MalaMala
This morning we travel about 2.5 hours by road to Sabi Sand, South Africa’s premier safari destination. This celebrated private reserve is renowned for some of the best Big Five viewing in Africa. These famous five—elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo, lion and leopard—were once favorite hunting targets. While many were hunted nearly to extinction, reserves like this one have made inspiring strides in bringing them back. Within Sabi Sand, we enjoy the exclusivity of the 40,000-acre MalaMala Main Camp, South Africa’s oldest and most historic private game reserve, having been the first to transition from hunting to wildlife viewing safaris. Situated along the Sand River, wildlife wanders in to drink freely across the 12-mile unfenced boundary with Kruger National Park. MalaMala is famous for its leopard viewing, and night drives are a highlight here, with an array of nocturnal species on view, including predators on the hunt. This is the largest private Big Five game reserve in South Africa, and in true Nat Hab form, tourism in MalaMala is directly supporting neighboring communities. Note that 2017 departures will stay at Sabi Sabi Little Bush Camp on the shaded banks of the Msuthlu River within the Sabi Sand Reserve.
Day 10: Johannesburg / Depart
After breakfast and a morning activity, fly back to Johannesburg early this afternoon to connect with onward flights or extensions.
Physical Rating: Easy
Click here to view the seasonal variations of weather and wildlife viewing in Botswana.