Travel Report South Africa (May 2015)
What could a 16-day photo trip to South Africa look like?
Our travel report South Africa summarizes our 16 days photo trip from Johannesburg to Durban, including Kruger National Park and Swaziland. We have chosen the following route:
1.Day: Munich -> Johannesburg -> Hazyview (Rissington Inn)
2.Day: Hazyview (Ausflüge Blyde River Canyon etc.)
3.Day: Hazyview -> Sabi Sand Game Reserve
4.-5.Day: Sabi Sand Game Reserve (Ulusaba Safari Lodge by Richard Branson)
6.Day: Sabi Sands Game Reserve-> Malelane (Mhlati Guest Cottages)
7.Day: Malelane -> Swaziland (Forester Arms Hotel)
8.Day: Swaziland -> Ithala Game Reserve (Ntshondwe Camp)
9.Day: Ithala Game Reserve
10.Day: Ithala Game Reserve -> Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve (Rhino Ridge Lodge)
11.Day: Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve
12.Day: Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve -> St.Lucia (Elephant Guest House)
14.Day: St.Lucia -> Umhlanga (Teremok Marine Lodge)
16.Day: Umhlanga -> Durban -> Johannesburg -> Munich
Where is South Africa?
What you should definitely think about when travelling to South Africa:
National currencies: South Africa = ZAR (South African Rand), but USD are also gladly accepted in the lodges. On the other hand, credit card payment works everywhere without problems.
Vaccinations: Coming from Germany no vaccinations – not even yellow fever – are required. However, we recommend that you follow the standard vaccinations, i.e. the suggestions of the Federal Foreign Office. Malaria prophylaxis is valid for South Africa, i.e. here everybody has to decide for himself whether or not.
Helpful: A small pocket knife and a strong torch with spare batteries are often very useful. The mobile phone flashlight will do the same in an emergency, but often does not shine far enough.
Clothing: In the lodges in Africa one can usually have one’s clothes washed for free or for a small extra charge. This means that one can save a lot of luggage. In any case, choose muted colours and preferably functional clothing, as it can be very cool in the morning and warm to hot during the day.
Detailed Travel Report South Africa
Drive from Johannesburg to Hazyview to the Rissington Inn
1st day: From Munich we go directly to Johannesburg. At the airport we pick up the rental car and drive towards Hazyview. A total of 5 hours driving time lies ahead of us.
In Hazyview we check in at the Rissington Inn. It is a guesthouse built in 1995 on an old tobacco plantation. The main house with pool is a dream, the chalets belonging to it leave nothing to be desired and the dinner is highly recommended!
Blyde River Canyon, Bourke's Potholes and God's Window Rundtour
2.Day: The first thing on the programme is a round trip. We want to visit the Blyde River Canyon with the famous “Rondavels” and a unique view of the Lowvelds.
The next stop is the Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
At the end we go to “God’s Window”, which lives up to its name. Here, one experiences spectacular views almost directly from the parking place.
Drive to Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve
3.Day: We drive from Hazyview to the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, where we stay overnight at Sir Richard Branson’s Ulusaba Safari Lodge.
Branson runs 3 lodges here. We deliberately chose the Safari Lodge because it is situated on the river and has its own waterhole with a viewing platform (animal watching!).
The journey actually takes only 1.5h, but since there are no sufficient signs and we have no navigation system, we need finally beaten 3h.
View into the barrel of an assault rifle
At the entrance to the private reserve the vehicle is checked, then we can drive on.
After about 2km three uniformed men jump out of the bush and aim their AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles directly at us. We stop immediately and they check the car again, then we can drive on.
Only now does the adrenaline shoot through our veins. One does not like to look into the barrel of a fully loaded assault rifle.
In the lodge we tell about the experience and one is horrified. We are informed that this is the Rhino Patrol, a protective force against rhino poaching.
However, they have clear instructions to leave tourists (white ones in particular) alone and now there are heavy phone calls.
Ulusaba Safari Lodge - a dream!
4th-5th day: Ulusaba is an absolute dream in which everything is just right. This lodge is one of our top 5 lodges in Africa!
If you like the view over the country, book Ulusaba Rock Lodge
Ulusaba Rock Lodge is a little higher quality, but is located on a small mountain. Those who like wildlife will be less happy here. Landscape fans, on the other hand, will get their money’s worth (at least as long as it is light).
Ulusaba Safari Lodge viewing platform. Apart from the excellent Safari Drives, with top trained rangers, the Safari Lodge offers a very comfortable viewing platform directly at the waterhole, allowing spectacular game viewing.
Drive once through the Kruger National Park
6th day: Today we start from Ulusaba mach Malelane, to the Mhlati Guest Lodge. It is located near the famous Crocodile River at the southern exit of the park.
In the Kruger Park you will discover countless animals and collect unforgettable impressions.
In the morning drive to the bridge over the Crocodile River. Here you can see a huge number of kingfishers, lots of hippos and of course crocodiles. Don’t forget the anti-mosquito spray, as the beasts here are quite aggressive.
Passport control on the way to Swaziland
7th day: Most people are not aware of it, but Swaziland is an independent country. Therefore there is a border and passport controls.
Our journey goes straight through Swaziland. We cross adventurous wooden bridges (who has seen the bridge at the quay, for example) and pothole roads. In addition, it goes for miles through areas where massive logging is going on.
After about 4 hours we arrive at the Forester Arms Hotel. The hotel is located in a unique and beautiful highland area with a beautiful garden.
All kinds of songbirds and sunbirds can be photographed in the garden, so keep your telephoto lens ready.
From Swaziland to Ithala Game Reserve
8.-9.Day: After a few hours of driving we reach the Ithala Game Reserve. It is one of the few game reserves where it is allowed to get out of the car, as there are no cats of prey or buffalos.
The reserve is rather small and the Nhondtswe Lodge – one of the state-run lodges – is not really spectacular, so we would not visit it again. This also has nothing to do with the fact that the chambermaid left the window open and the monkeys, in our absence, have raided our fruit supplies.
From Ithala Game Reserve to Hluhluwe Game Reserve
10.-12.Day: The Hluhluwe and iMfolozi Game Reserve belong together and are only separated by the R18 road, which is why it is popular with poachers. For them the road is logistically favourable. Apart from that it is a very beautiful reserve
Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge - Another Highlight!
The lodge was opened in 2015 and is a real highlight in the reserve. The approach is a bit adventurous, the views unforgettable and the standard is equivalent to that of a 5-star hotel.
Unexperienced Ranger are a big risk for your safety!
Our Rangerin had only few years experience, which brought us for the first time into real difficulties. We saw a very large bull elephant in the Must and instead of turning, she drove directly towards him. Immediately our car was attacked.
Fortunately he stopped one meter next to the car. It remained with a very serious threatening gesture. That could have gone out differently and then this article would not have been published.
The experience convinced us lastingly that one should not be underway with inexperienced rangers. Best only with Ranger and Tracker! In the really good lodges – like Ulusaba – this is standard.
Isimangalisio Wetland Park
13-14th day: We leave the Rhino Lodge in south-west direction and drive to St.Lucia to the Elephant Guest House, which we unfortunately have to seriously advise against visiting. The owners are unfriendly and the house is not really nice either.
The Isimangalisio Wetland Park on the other hand is worth a visit. In December 1999 it was included in the Unesco World Heritage List.
Very recommendable is an evening boat trip on the river, when you can watch hippos or just enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine.
From St.Lucia to Umhlanga
14-16th day: The last stop of the journey is Umhlanga, on the coast to the Indian Ocean, about 25km north of Durban. A beautiful seaside resort and you are clearly back in civilisation. We stay at Teremok Marine Guesthouse and that is lonely top class in terms of guesthouses. Our clear recommendation!
This tour is especially suitable for those who like to drive themselves and are looking for a change between safari and landscape, and who want to combine activity and relaxation.
We would do this tour again exactly the same way, except for Elephant Guest House and Ntshondwe Camp, as everything was just right. Instead of Ntshondwe you should rather visit Zimanga with its great hides for photographers.
Want to order calendars from our phototrip?
Which Photoequipment for South Africa?
The photo equipment we took with us to South Africae is listed below. You also have the possibility to order the used photo equipment directly in our Photo-Shop and to ask for further technical details. There you can also find a lot of extras.