Arrive in Johannesburg any time and make your way to the joining point hotel. A brief departure meeting will be held in the hotel reception area in evening on Day 1 of your tour. Upon arrival look for information from your tour leader on the hotel bulletin board regarding the meeting time (approx 6-7pm). Our starting hotel is located outside of the city of Johannesburg, but take some time on an optional excursion to Soweto or to the famous Apartheid Museum, if you arrive a day earlier or two. George Harrison discovered gold near present-day Johannesburg in March 1886 on the Witwatersrand. Surveyors were instructed by the government to lay this farm out as a future town. They completed their work on 03 Dec 1886. The name Johannesburg was written for the first time on their plans of streets and stands. Only five days after the completion of the survey the first 986 stands were auctioned, and the first building to be erected was a corrugated iron hut. Within 12 months, Johannesburg was the second largest town in Transvaal, and by the middle 1890s there were 20 separate mining companies working from headquarters in Johannesburg. The Transvaal government granted Johannesburg municipal status in 1897. Later, the city became almost deserted with the advent of the Anglo-Boer war on 11 Oct 1899, as trainloads of refugees fled. Johannesburg was placed under martial law, to protect the existing claims. After the war, the labour shortage led to a proposed suggestion to import Chinese labour. The first load of 1055 Chinese labourers arrived in 1904. By 1905 they numbered 46,895. In December of 1905 the British liberal party ( who just won the national elections) suspended the Chinese recruitment. Between 1903 and 1997, 55,877 miners had been killed in mine accidents. In the same period 47,229 tons of gold had been produced. Johannesburg officially became a city in 1928, and by 1960 it had more than 1 million inhabitants. Today, Johannesburg is fondly known as eGoli, or place of gold.
Approximate Distance: 524 km Estimated Travel Time: 8 hrs Today's travel takes us through a very desolate part of central-eastern Botswana. We cross into Botswana and finish the day at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a unique community-based initiative in wildlife conservation. The Khama Rhino Sanctuary is centred around the Serowe Pan, a large grass-covered depression with several natural water holes and covering about 4,3000 hectares of Kalahari sandveld. The Sanctuary lies 25km north of Serowe, one of the largest traditional villages in Africa. The Khama Rhino Sanctuary was started by a group of Serowe residents in 1989 who had conceived the idea of a wildlife reserve near Serowe. It was established to safe-guard both the white and black rhino population, which had been severely depleted by indiscriminate poaching. This area was chosen as it was an excellent habitat for rhinos, and because of its central location close to a Botswana Defence Force base, which was to provide 24-hour protection for sanctuary. In 1995, a 28 km electric fence and this was completed, and all the rhinos were released and now roam freely within the sanctuary. Serowe is one of the largest and most attractive villages in Botswana, and the traditional home of the paramount chiefs of the Ngwato people. The Khama III Memorial Museum houses memorials to the Khama family along with historical artefacts and interesting local sculpture. Thathaganyane Hill at Serowe is a National Monument and royal cemetery set on a rocky enclave with sweeping views. A local business venture manufactures and promotes arts and crafts for the tourist market. Serowe is also well known for high quality basketry. Serowe is also the birth place of Botswana’s first President, Seretse Khama. Maun, although officially still a village, is the fifth largest town in Botswana. It is an eclectic mix of modern buildings and native huts. Maun is the "tourism capital" of Botswana and the administrative centre of Ngamiland district. Maun has developed rapidly from a rural frontier town and has spread along the Thamalakane River. It now boasts good shopping centres, hotels and lodges as well as car and 4-wheel drive vehicle hire. It still retains a rural atmosphere and local tribesmen continue to bring their cattle to Maun to sell. This community is now distributed along the wide banks of the Thamalakane River where red lechwe can still be seen grazing next to local donkeys, goats and cattle.
After one night in Maun and leaving some of our luggage in Maun, we begin our exciting 2 day/1 night excursion into the delta as we drive about 1-2 hours (depending on which dock we go to) to the "dock" where we hop into a mokoro, a traditional dug-out canoe, that'll take us deep into the delta. After a couple hours in mokoro, we arrive to our basic “bush camp”. Please note that there will be no shower for those two days but you will be compensated by the incredible landscape (we recommend you bring a 5l bottle of water into the Delta, for drinking and cleaning purposes). For 1 1/2 days, enjoy game walks, mokoros (occasionally unavailable due to seasonality), birdlife and game viewing in the pristine wilderness area of the Okavango Delta, the world's largest inland delta. Don't forget to bring a book with you as there is plenty of time in between the early morning and afternoon game drive where you relax at your camp, read a book or have a nap. In the evenings count the shooting stars, sing with the locals or just unwind and enjoy your sundowner and sit around the campfire. "Where all this water goes is a mystery", Aurel Schultz, 1897 The area of the delta was once part of Lake Makgadikgadi, an ancient lake that dried up some 10,000 years ago. Today, the Okavango River has no outlet to the sea. Instead, it empties onto the sands of the Kalahari Desert, irrigating 15,000 km_ of the desert. Each year some 11 cubic kilometers of water reach the delta. Some of this water reaches further south to create Lake Ngami. The water entering the delta is unusually pure, due to the lack of agriculture and industry along the Okavango River. It passes through the sand aquifers of the numerous delta islands and evaporates/transpirates by leaving enormous quantities of salt behind. This precipitation processes are so strong that the vegetation disappears in the center of the islands and thick salt crusts are formed. The waters of the Okavango Delta are subject to seasonal flooding, which begins about mid-summer in the north and six months later in the south (May/June). The water from the delta is evaporated relatively rapidly by the high temperatures, resulting in a cycle of cresting and dropping water in the south. Islands can disappear completely during the peak flood, then reappear at the end of the season.
Approximate Distance: 200 km Estimated Travel Time: 3 hrs from Maun. Enjoy one last sunrise over the Delta, get up early for your last game walk, set out on foot to explore the delta area in search of game. Cruise back down the crystal clear channels of the Okavango Delta. We return to Maun to and continue our journey to Gweta, an ideal base for an optional sunset trip into the Makgadikgadi Pans (Nxasini pan - one of the smaller pan). When the rain comes, it brings life to the pans, as it fills just a few centimetres awaking the dormant fish and aquatic shrimps from the mud. The surrounding grasslands also team with life and are home to an impressive number of antelope that attract a wide variety of predators. Makgadikgadi Pans National park was declared a game reserve in 1970, but in December 1992 it was enlarged and declared a national park. Today it comprises 4900 square km. It was initially state land. Although it is totally devoid of any water, people used to live there before it was declared state land. Villagers where allowed to graze their livestock inside the boundaries during dry season. Day 6 Approximate Distance: 420 km Estimated Travel Time: 6 hrs Today we journey to the area of Chobe National Park, home to the largest elephant population in Southern Africa. The best way to appreciate one of Botswana's national parks and its thousands of resident elephants, crocodiles, and hippos, is on an optional sunset boat cruise on the Chobe River. You may also choose to embark on a game drive in search of lions, antelope, and of course elephants. We camp on banks of the Chobe River, near its mouth. This is where the Chobe and Zambezi rivers meet, creating a border area of four countries – Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Chobe National Park is Botswana’s first national park, and is situated along the Chobe River. It has one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa and one of the world's last remaining sizeable wilderness areas. By size, this is the third largest park (11,000 sq km) of the country, though it is definitely the most diverse and spectacular. The park is probably best known for its spectacular elephant population: with over 120,000 it has the highest elephant concentration of Africa. Moreover, most of them are probably part of the largest continuous surviving elephant population on Earth. During the dry season, these elephants sojourn in Chobe River and the Linyanti River areas. During the rain season, they make a 200 km migration to the south-east region of the park. Their distribution zone however outreaches the park and spreads to north-western Zimbabwe.
Approximate Distance: 100 km Estimated Travel Time: 3 hrs (depending on ferry crossing) Please note that as this is a combo tour some of your fellow travellers might be ending their journey in Livingstone and you might also get some new people joining your tour. Cross the Zambezi River by ferry to enter into Zambia and continue to Livingstone. We will spend the last days of our tour here, a great base to see both natural wonders and take part in some exciting activities. Get up close (and wet from the spray) while awing at the immense Victoria Falls, raft the whitewater of the mighty Zambezi, and for the more adventurous, bungee jump with the Victoria Falls in view. David Livingstone was born on March 19, 1813 in the village of Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. He first studied Greek, medicine, and theology at the University of Glasgow and while working in London, joined the London Missionary Society became a minister. He originally planned to gain access to China through his medical knowledge. The Opium Wars, which were raging at this stage with no signs of peace on the horizon, forced Livingstone to consider other options. From 1840 he worked in Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana), and in the period 1852–56, he explored the African interior, and was the first European to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya waterfall, which he renamed Victoria Falls after his monarch, Queen Victoria. The Victoria Falls waterfalls occur in a country that is perfectly flat. From its source on the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Zambezi River meanders for 1300 km across the wooded plateau of Zambia, eroding for itself a shallow valley on its mild descent to the site of the falls. The river eventually found a weak spot on the lower lip of the surface over which it passed, and forced a passage which was steadily deepened into an exit gorge. During the last half million years the river has scoured out eight of these cracks across its bed. The Victoria falls occur where the river is 1688m wide, presents the spectacle of an average maximum of 550 million liters of water a minute tumbling over the lip of the trench in five main falls, the Devil’s Cataract, Main falls, Horseshoe Falls, Rainbow falls and the Eastern Cataract. The highest of these is Rainbow falls, on an average 108 m high. A peak flood sees 750 million liters of water in one minute hurtling over the falls. The name Zambezi comes from the Tonka tribe, also meaning Great River, but the Sotho-speaking Kololo people of the upper reaches of the river gave it the well-known name of Mosi o a Thunya (smoke that rises). The Lozi people call it by the same name but translated it into smoke that sounds. The Ndebele call it aManza Thunqayo (the water that rises like smoke). The Namibian people call it Chinotimba (a noise-making place like the distant sound of digging).
Approximate Distance: 600 km Estimated Travel Time: 6 hrs (including border crossing into Zimbabwe) Depart Livingstone at approx 8am and proceed into Zimbabwe. Option to visit Victoria Falls town or the falls from the Zimbabwe side, we continue further to Bulawayo, which is our base for Matobo National Park. We stay at the Big Cave campsite, which is located 3 km from the Matobo National Park boundary in the Big Cave private wilderness area and is located 46 km from Bulawayo. Big Cave campsite has wonderful views down the valley into the National Park. The next day we will explore Motobo National Park by foot and by open safari vehicles. The Matobo wilderness area is a specially protected area for both white and black rhino. Matobo Hills has the last significant population of rhino in Zimbabwe, and the best way to view and photograph these rare creatures is on foot, with a professional guide. We will view not only rhino, but also leopard, and a selection of plains game. We will enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity to creep up on these wonderful animals on foot once the correct area has been located by the professional guide. The Matobo area contains some of the most majestic granite scenery in the world, and has great cultural and religious significance. The beauty of the Matopos is that it offers a wide variety of activities to the visitor. The Matopos Hills comprise an extraordinary collection of huge bare granite hills with gravity-defying boulders scattered all over the countryside to create a quite unique and rather mysterious landscape. The most spectacular areas are within the Matopos National Park. The local Matabele people call it Malindidzimu (the place of ancestor spirits). The national park is famous for its outstanding views, San (bushman) painted caves, wildlife (especially the Black Eagle) and as the chosen burial place of Cecil Rhodes who named his favourite spot. Matobo Hills gained its World Heritage Status principally on the rich cultural diversity of this area. The Matobo Hills boasts one of the highest concentrations of rock art anywhere in the world. This ancient khoisan art can be viewed in the both the National Park and even within the immediate vicinity of Big Cave Camp. These famous rock art galleries can be visited on foot or by 4x4. Optional tours to the nearby Ndebele village and Whitewaters Secondary school provides an insight into the lives of the local people. The school in particular has been supported by guests of Big Cave Camp for many years. To date a library has been constructed, and school fees, science equipment, desks, chairs, sporting goods and building materials have been donated. In times of real hardship a guaranteed meal has also been provided for all the school children. In addition a number of children have had their education sponsored by guests of Big Cave Camp.
Day 11 Musina (1B,1L,1D) Approximate Distance: 600km Estimated Travel Time: 7 hrs (including border crossing into South Africa) In the land of the baobab lies a town in the northernmost section of the country, called Musina. Just 15 kilometres north of the little town that used to be known as Messina is the Beitbridge Border Post that serves the boundary with Zimbabwe. This link with northern Africa is one of the busiest roads in the world and certainly the busiest in Africa. The Musina tribe discovered copper and settled here. In the 20th century European prospectors rediscovered the large copper desposits and established the town of Messina. The spelling of the name was changed to Musina in 2003 to correct the colonial-era misspelling of the name of the Musina people. It is hot and dry in this part of the world where low shrubs and thorn trees dominate the landscape, and the Limpopo River flows with water along its river banks on average only once in seven years, even though the countryside is littered with citrus, mango, tomato and date plantations. These rich veins of copper were later rediscovered by 20th century prospectors, and the town of ‘Messina’, renamed Musina in 2003, emerged. Today Musina forms the centre of a large mining area that excavates iron ore, coal, magnetite, graphite, asbestos, diamonds and semi-precious stones, over and above copper. Day 12 Kruger National Park (1B,1L,1D) Welcome to big game country! The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Search for lion, elephant, rhino and many other animals in one of Africa’s greatest wildlife areas on your full-day game drive in an open vehicle. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld (low-lying bush land), this national park of nearly 2 million hectares. Kruger National Park is unrivalled in the diversity of its life forms and a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies. Notably as well is its mixed biological, historical and archaeological significance. The Kruger National Park is truly the flagship of the South African National Parks, and it is home to a huge array of plants and animals. With over 145 species of mammals, it is possible to see all the classical African big game, including elephant, black and white rhino, hippopotamus, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, warthog and many antelope species. Large carnivores include lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and spotted hyena. There are also many smaller mammals of equally enticing species. Some of the bird life here cannot be found elsewhere is South Africa, as 507 species reside in the park. Hornbills, Starlings, Vultures, Rollers, Bee-eaters and Shrikes typify the ubiquitous avi-fauna, and birders can look forward to pursuing the big 6 (Saddle-billed Stork, Kori Bustard, Martial Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Ground Hornbill). Eagles are common: Bateleur, Martial, Black-breasted Snake, Brown Snake, African Hawk, African Fish and Tawny are all regularly seen, and in summer: Wahlberg’s, Steppe, Lesser Spotted. The Park’s numerous water points make for excellent birding, while the rest camps and picnic sites are exceptionally rewarding for birders. Day 13 Greater Kruger Area (1B,1L,1D) Approximate Distance: 80km Estimated Travel Time: 5.5 hrs (including game drive in own vehicle) Enjoy more spectacular wildlife today on our game drive in our vehicle. The name Manyeleti, means 'Place of the Stars' in the local Shangaan language and you have the opportunity to view the magnificent Southern Constellation. Manyeleti is situated away from the mainstream tourist areas and you will experience the tranquility of the African Bush in absolute seclusion. In the late afternoon/early evening relax around the pool, sit around the campfire and enjoy your sundowner drink. You will get a view on the history of the Shangaan people and their tradition followed by traditional dancing by the villagers followed by a scrumptious traditional South African dinner. Sleep tight and listen to the haunting sounds of the African night. The 23,000 hectare Manyeleti Game Reserve is situated between the Timbavati Private Reserve, the Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. With no fences separating Manyeleti from Kruger and the neighbouring reserves, a huge variety of wildlife (containing the Big 5: (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) freely over more than 2 million hectares of African bush. The Manyeleti Game Reserve is managed by the Mnisi tribe who have been in the area for many generations. The Mnisi are committed to retaining the integrity of the game reserve and ensuring that the benefits of tourism in the reserve are delivered to the surrounding communities. In the the morning of day 6 we will visit and interact with the local community of the Planeterra volunteer program in the Shalati village. We will have an early breakfast in order to spend enough time at the project before driving back to Johannesburg. Project Shalati Pre-school Over 50 children, under the age of 8, attend the pre-school of Shalati. The school has one teacher, and two teacher’s helpers that organize activities for the children, as well as provide them with two meals each day. Shalati provides support to the children and prepares them for the transition into primary school. Why is this project needed? In the South African community of Shalati there are many single parent families and a vast number of orphaned children, often cared for by their grandparents. This is due in part to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Many children do not begin school until the age of eight, and receive no formal education and limited support during their early formative years. The Shalati Pre-School aims to provide children with the opportunity to begin their education, and become involved in organized activities. More information about the community project Shalati Lodge we are staying at: Shalati Bush Camp is unique, offering an intimate and truly memorable bush and wildlife experience combined with the culture of local Shangaan population, of Africa and its people today. At Shalati we understand the impact that tourism have on the environment and strive to create an interactive experience that is affordable and unforgettable. Shalati is at the forefront of responsible tourism offering the guests a rare insight into the fragile ecosystems of the Big 5 areas as well as the communities on the borders of these great National Parks. We are committed to the sustainable upliftment of the communities around Shalati and the long term benefits that this will bring, to these people. Only people from the community are being employed at Shalati. All these people have never previously worked in the hospitality industry nor have they studied for a Hotel & Catering Diploma. Shalati has an extensive training program incorporating day-to-day and hands-on training. The cooks at Shalati were not able to cook or bake for themselves, not to mention guests. They are now able to bake and cook for many guests at the same time. A huge achievement! All the areas of hotel management are being addressed and individual training for housekeeping, cleaning, laundry, stock management etc is undertaken on a daily basis. Through the salaries that these few people earn, the lives of many in the communities are touched in a positive way. Once you enter the gates of Shalati you will become part of a community – a community that cares, that gives and join hands in strengthening our Rainbow Nation.
Approximate Distance: 400km Estimated Travel Time: 8 hrs We travel today to Johannesburg, the economic heart of South Africa and the largest city. Our finishing point hotel is located outside of the city of Johannesburg near the airport, but take some time on an excursion to Soweto or to the famous Apartheid Museum. George Harrison discovered gold near present-day Johannesburg in March 1886 on the Witwatersrand. Surveyors were instructed by the government to lay this farm out as a future town. They completed their work on 03 Dec 1886. The name Johannesburg was written for the first time on their plans of streets and stands. Only five days after the completion of the survey the first 986 stands were auctioned, and the first building to be erected was a corrugated iron hut. Within 12 months, Johannesburg was the second largest town in Transvaal, and by the middle 1890s there were 20 separate mining companies working from headquarters in Johannesburg. The Transvaal government granted Johannesburg municipal status in 1897. Later, the city became almost deserted with the advent of the Anglo-Boer war on 11 Oct 1899, as trainloads of refugees fled. Johannesburg was placed under martial law, to protect the existing claims. After the war, the labour shortage led to a proposed suggestion to import Chinese labour. The first load of 1055 Chinese labourers arrived in 1904. By 1905 they numbered 46,895. In December of 1905 the British liberal party ( who just won the national elections) suspended the Chinese recruitment. Between 1903 and 1997, 55,877 miners had been killed in mine accidents. In the same period 47,229 tons of gold had been produced. Johannesburg officially became a city in 1928, and by 1960 it had more than 1 million inhabitants. Today, Johannesburg is fondly known as eGoli, or place of gold.
Tour ends in the morning after breakfast.