MAKULEKE FLY-IN, TWO NIGHTS
Start your safari from Johannesburg or Phalaborwa with a scenic flight north to where South Africa’s Kruger meets Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Your base for three nights is The Outpost, a striking modern lodge with suites with no walls and signature balcony baths with views. Enjoy semi-exclusive access to 230 square kilometres of verdant sub-tropical paradise boasting almost 80% of the Parks diversity.
FLY TO TIMBAVATI, THREE NIGHTS
From here you will be transferred by air to colonial-style Kings Camp in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. The area is characterised by open plains with large herds of elephant and buffalo. It is notable as the ancestral home of the fabled white lion. Traversing into the surroundings offers unhurried and excellent Big Five sightings.
SABI SAND FINALE, TWO NIGHTS
A road transfer takes you via a champagne picnic and pachyderm interaction at Elephant Whispers to the west of Sabi Sand, where you spend two nights at the spectacularly located Leopard Hills. Your accommodation is canvas roofed luxury tents on platforms overlooking an active waterhole. This area enjoys probably the highest density of leopards on the planet, and there is a good chance of exceptional viewing of these otherwise elusive beasts.
If you are already in the region, head to Phalaborwa airport for a short charter-style scenic flight north over the Kruger to land at the old army border airstrip at Pafuri. From Johannesburg, regular scheduled flights with Federal Air make the 90 minute journey to the same destination. Landing in the middle of the bush, you will be met by your guide for an open vehicle game drive to the lodge (around 45 minutes away).
Makuleke is a private Kruger extension owned by the local community. It is strikingly different in atmosphere and scenery to anywhere else in the Kruger, with two perennial rivers cutting gorges through the limestone foothills of the Lebombo mountain range (which extends in to Mozambique). There are wide open floodplains populated by winter herds of elephant and buffalo, groves of baobabs, a large fever tree forest, and beautiful gladed springs providing year round water.
CROOKS CORNER & FEVER TREES
There is a lot of varied landscape to explore — far more than you will cover in your short stay. Three countries come together at Crooks Corner (a good place to skip between jurisdictions), where the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers merge to form a natural choke point for game. To the west the plains contain a spectacular forest of fever trees, so called because pioneers associated their distinctive yellow coloration with tropical disease.
You have privileged access to spectacular gorges (named after the Lanner falcon, a local birding special along with Pel’s fishing owl) and the local Mutale river. Hitherto out of bounds, the Outpost sometimes uses the gorge as a spectacular sundowner spot. The river is a good short walk from the lodge. Hippos and crocodiles abound, and the birdlife is exceptional.
Make time during the day to enjoy the view from the Outpost’s stunning location lording it over the floodplains below that extend to the Lebombo foothills of Mozambique. Take time to enjoy a massage or sit at the bar or by the pool. With the perennial river curving round in front of the cliff below you, there are good game-viewing opportunities at the lodge, and riverine predators such as leopard can often be heard in the vicinity at night.
You will have the chance to indulge in a further exploration of the area (visit the twin baobabs or old trading station if you have not yet had the chance) before a hearty brunch at the lodge and a game drive back to the airstrip. You will be met by your small charter plane for a 45 minute flight taking off over the scenery you have just explored before heading south to Kings Camp.
Timbavati is a sizeable private game reserve immediately bordering the Kruger, with which it is unfenced, to the west. It is known for open plains which are home to ancestral elephant traversing ranges, and mega-herds of buffalo are here. The genetic variation leading to white lions originated here.
Game viewing is excellent. Morning walks take advantage of the relatively low level of development in Timbavati to offer you undisturbed time to track game and explore the nature around you. The waterhole close to the swimming pool attracts game, and viewing in and around the lodge itself can be a rewarding experience.
The lodge is sophisticated, exuding a bygone charm whilst embracing all creature comforts. Service is understated yet accurate, and the lodge engenders particularly high levels of loyalty and repeat visits.
CUISINE & WINE
Kings Camp is well reputed for its food and wine cellar. There are more eating locations than you have time to try: candle-lit fine dining in the elegant dining room; under a knobthorn tree in the garden; enjoying the stunning views with a romantic dinner on your deck; out in the bush or in the traditional boma with a roaring camp fire.
ACTIVITY, ELEPHANT WHISPERS, TRANSFER
You will have time for a last morning activity and a bush breakfast (if you haven’t had one yet) before your transport arrives. En-route to Leopard Hills from Kings Camp, you will be transferred to Elephant Whispers where you will enjoy an indulgent champagne picnic surrounded by Elephant Whispers’ pachyderms.
Sabi Sand is the motherlode of South Africa’s golden safari world. More than fifty years have passed since the first constituent parts were under protection. The photographic safari is king, and generations of animals have become accustomed to unobtrusive game viewing. Leopards are seen astonishingly frequently given their normal elusiveness, a phenomenon unique to this area.
OUSTANDING GAME & ACTIVITIES
Make the most of the four activities here, drives or morning walks, and you will begin to appreciate the diversity of the 100 square kilometres of the western Sabi Sand that Leopard Hills explores. There is a good chunk of the Sand river to the north of the traverse, attracting high densities of game all year round, and viewing is outstanding. The waterhole below the lodge itself offers some extraordinary sightings, and is an excellent place to pass by on your morning excursion on foot.
Accommodation and service levels are pretty extraordinary here too. The large suites are on two levels; those on ground level have pools more suited to lapping than plunging, whilst the upper ones offer smaller outdoor jacuzzis with more expansive views. All have extensive decks with outdoor showers. The pools have proved attractive to the numerous felines in the area, giving the lodge its name.
Food & wine
As well as offering hearty breakfasts in the bush, high tea is a speciality here. Supper can be taken in the elegant dining room with white drapery, or on your deck enjoying the view, or around the fire in the hurricane lamp lit boma. A large lounge offers a welcoming fireplace for winter months. The bar is well stocked with malt whiskies, and there is a walk-in wine cellar.
MORNING ACTIVITY, FLIGHT
After your morning activity (walk or drive), you will enjoy a final sumptuous brunch before returning to the nearby airstrip for your choice of a short hop flight to KMIA (Nelspruit) or a 90 minute scheduled departure on a small charter style aircraft to Johannesburg.