Upon arrival at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, please make your way to the Information counter in the International Arrivals Hall where you will meet a representative from Safari Club Hotel who will arrange your complimentary shuttle. Check in and spend the rest of the day/evening at leisure. Overnight: Safari Club Hotel.
You will be collected from your hotel at 06.30 am and transferred to your lodge in the Drakensberg region (approx. 4 hours drive). Remainder of day at leisure. Dinner and overnight: The Cavern.
Today we will be accompanied by an experienced mountain guide from the lodge. We will hike to the left after Top Gate. The path heads through the pine forest and then gs past Cowslip Falls – named not after a pretty flower, but after a cow that slipped to its doom on a dark and stormy night. Beyond Cowslip Dam the path forks. Go left, across the little bridge. Hike up and bear left past Pasc’s Pool and along the contour and up the 2nd and 3rd ridge. At the top of Surprise Ridge there is a wonderful view of the main escarpment and the Amphitheatre. Go over the ridge and descend through the fence, and proceed along the contour path. The path weaves in and out of the mountain side and then up through Castle Rocks. A short walk from Castle Rocks into a lovely forest and you have arrived at the RNNP Grotto. Lunch is enjoyed in the cool of the forest with time to explore the many waterways, falls and tunnels, The Serpentine and The Shell. Return home the same way OR descend to the Royal Natal National Park for a ride home (this transfer can be arranged at an additional cost).
Dinner and overnight: The Cavern.
This morning we ascend for approximately two hours up to Hlolela (2127m), via Scilla Gully, and then on to the formation known as the Bridge of the Battleship. From the Battleship we will hike via several steep ascents and descents, taking the Devil's Staircase en route to our lunch stop in a large cavern. After lunch and a short break, we will hike along the ridges and then down to our lodge. There are several options to shorten the walk today if weather or energy levels require it. Today is the best chance to see Eland, the largest of the antelope family. Imposing and elegant, both males and females bear tightly spiralled horns, those of the males being heavier. The range of habitats we traverse and the ever-changing views today are also highlights.
Dinner and overnight: The Cavern.
NOTE - The next 2 nights we will be staying at a simple mountain lodge with limited storage space. If you have any excess luggage it can be stored tonight and will be collected at the end of Day 7 on our vehicle transfer back to Johannesburg.
The terrain today is undulating with a few steep slopes and some fairly easy scrambles. There are several paths leading behind some hills to Sugar Loaf Gap. Vultures often soar over Sugar Loaf, with two species found here. The Cape Vulture is endemic, found only in this area of southern Africa. They are gregarious creatures and while they spread out to forage, each can see the next and they will all arrive at a carcass within a few minutes. The Bearded Vulture (or Lammergeyer) is solitary, preferring old kills and even dry bones that other scavengers cannot manage. If the bone is too big to swallow, the Lammergeyer carries it high in the air and drops it on a big rock to crack the bone open. If we are very lucky we may witness this process. The rusty colour of the Lammergeyer is derived from iron-rich rocks and must be renewed after every moult to impress the opposite sex. From Sugar Loaf Gap, the path to our mountain lodge is undulating and rises slowly on the ascent towards it. Overnight and dinner: Witsieshk Mountain Lodge.
After breakfast at the lodge, we will be transferred by vehicle to the Sentinel carpark. The trek today is strenuous and the paths on the escarpment are at times indistinct so we must adhere to our guide's instructions. We will commence along a well- maintained path which ascends gradually towards the base of the Sentinel Massif. From here, the path passes below the Western buttresses, with the land sloping steeply to the north and east. There are wonderful views of the Malutis and the Witsieshk plateaux. After about 3 km we will reach a section of the track with chain ladders. After negotiating two stages of the rock wall, it is only a short scramble from there to the top of the escarpment where we will spend the better part of the day in exploration. Weather permitting, we will walk to the edge of the Amphitheatre, where the Tugela Falls (second highest waterfall in the world) cascades 948m over the cliff-face into Tugela Gorge. This is a truly impressive sight. We will also explore other trails to interesting vantage points along the Amphitheatre escarpment. From elevations around 2500m the surrounding landscape is spectacular. Our return route is again via the Gulley of the Chain Ladders. After an exciting day we meet our vehicle for the transfer back to the mountain lodge where we can reflect on the challenges of the day. Overnight and dinner: Witsieshk Mountain Lodge.
The hike to Mahai Camp is reasonably energetic, involving gentler hills rather than craggy mountains. The route is very scenic with waterfalls, paths skirting sandstone cliffs, and stands of yellowwood forest as we cross the Mahai river. (Please note: there is a compulsory 30 ZAR per person park fee payable locally at the exit gate for Kwazulu-Natal National Park. This cannot be paid in advance and is NOT included in the trip cost). The transfer vehicle will meet us while we enjoy a picnic lunch. We will drive to our first lodge, collect our stored luggage, and continue to our hotel in Johannesburg. Overnight: Safari Club Hotel.
Safari Club Hotel will provide a complimentary transfer for you, to the coach terminal at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport. You should be at this coach terminal by latest 06.30am, for departure at 07.00am of your shuttle which will transfer you to Klaserie Nature Reserve (or Balule Nature Reserve if staying at the upgraded Greenfire Game Lodge - additional supplement payable), which shares unfenced boundaries with Kruger National Park. The journey takes approximately 5.5 hours, with 2 comfort stops along the way. We will meet our ranger at Hdspruit, from where we will transfer to our bush camp in the Greater Kruger National Park. This afternoon there will be game viewing in a combination of walking and driving. To get a feel for the African wilderness after dark there will also be a night drive on one of your evenings here. As the diurnal animals and birds prepare for sleep, and the nocturnal ones awaken, the sounds change and a whole new world unfolds. Our permanent campsite has safari chalets with ensuites, is private and secluded and is not open to day visitors. It is unfenced and designed to blend in with the natural environment, adding to the wilderness feel. The camp is serviced by a cook and a camp attendant and every safari is accompanied by one or two experienced and armed game rangers. Dinner and overnight: Africa on Foot Camp (or upgraded Greenfire Game Lodge - additional supplement payable).
In the mornings, we will set off at first light after a quick breakfast of biscuits and a hot drink. Enjoying the cool morning air we may walk directly from camp, or use a vehicle to drive further out before commencing our walk. The ranger will decipher the tracks and signs left by the passing animals during the night. The thrill of walking, tracking and getting up close to wildlife is an unforgettable experience. During the walks we will concentrate on all the interesting things that are missed when game viewing by vehicle such as trees, plants, insects and birds. A big breakfast will be prepared back at camp, and then there will be time to relax and have a rest during the heat of the day. After lunch we will head out again on a walk/ drive combination activity. A cool drink in a beautiful location in the Reserve, while watching a stunning African sunset, concludes each inspiring day. Back at camp a hearty supper and a warm campfire will be waiting for us. After a long but rewarding day it is comforting to drift off to sleep listening to the sounds of the night beneath a sky full of stars that seems to stretch beyond the horizon.
*Note: the combination of walks and drives in an open safari vehicle are dependent on weather and animal movements at the discretion of the rangers.
Dinner and overnight: Africa on Foot Camp (or upgraded Greenfire Game Lodge - additional supplement payable).
We will go out for one last early morning walk today, appreciating our new-found knowledge of animal tracking and observations. After breakfast back at camp, we pack up and say our goodbyes before being transferred to Hdspruit and back to Johannesburg International Airport, where trip concludes. Arrival in Johannesburg is around 18:00hrs. We recommend booking flights for onward travel after 20:00hrs or spending an additional night in Johannesburg.