Our South African Safari adventure was part of our trip from Cape Town to the Seychelles. It really ticked off all the boxes for a great trip – beautiful mountain sceneries, adventures in the bush, the comfort of a lodge, and most of all, the animals.
We had the amazing help of Ingrid from Backroads Africa in setting up a nice tour and helping us to stay at the most incredible places, which seriously made this an unforgettable experience. Normally, I am all about planning trips for myself, because it gets me excited about where to go. In this case, Ingrid’s suggestions really made a difference, and brought us to some truly incredible places!
So here are the major stops of our South African Safari adventure:
The Panorama Route
The Panorama Route is a wonderful drive through the Mpumalanga province, on the way from Johannesburg to Krueger National Park. It offers spectacular landscapes and natural sights!
When arriving in Johannesburg, we picked up our car and drove towards Sabie. We took some stops on the way for beautiful viewpoints and landscapes after leaving the surroundings of Johannesburg.
After a night in Sabie enjoying the beautiful Sabie Townhouse Hotel and meeting some nice people on a similar trip, we went on to drive the Panorama Route, a very scenic drive with great sights to explore.
Below is a list of the sights we visited here:
The Panorama Route offers a splendid selection of waterfalls: Lisbon Falls, Berlin Falls and Mac Mac Falls are various falls in close proximity on the route.
Sadly enough we missed this stop- it is a great rock formation standing a bit separate from the mountains around.
Blyde River Canyon
Not a stop in itself, but this is the canyon spreading out next to the road in the last part of the Panorama route. It is the world’s largest “green canyon”, and the size of it is simply breathtaking. Various stops offer different views of this canyon.
A great viewpoint offering spectacular views and a rainforest trail.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes
These potholes are a unique geological formation resulting from decades of swirling water, and offer a great landscape to explore and climb. We spent some hours jumping around on rock formations and crossing various water streams.
Three round-shaped mountains within the Blyde River Canyon, getting their name from their unique shape.
Viewpoint with breathtaking landscape views, including a great perspective on the Three Rondavels, and much more.
A wonderful hotel with everything needed and more. Ingrid secured us the beautiful Zebra Room, which had a king size bed, an adorable children’s room, and a private Jacuzzi.
Next to that, the hotel featured a nice bar and outside pool, great breakfast, and really nice hosts.
Located in the center of Sabie, this amazing restaurant offers great local food choices.
In hindsight I think I ate the best meal of my trip here, and South Africa was full of great food. My order was a steak with camembert and marula topping, and I enjoyed every bite of it.
Funny combination of book shop, souvenir store, and café in the center of Sabie.
South African Safari in Balule Game Reserve
After enjoying the Panorama Route, we drove via Hoedspruit to the entrance of the Balule Nature Reserve. Even though we had detailed descriptions, it was hard to find the entrance to the reserve, and we passed by twice in order to finally get there. There is an entrance fee to pay at the gate, so be sure to have some cash with you!
Getting to the lodge
After the gate, our South African Safari adventure really started – we had to get to the camp. We had a description of the drive from Ingrid, and the guide confirmed again that we knew our way. He also immediately informed the camp about our arrival. In this reserve, it is forbidden to self-drive, so everyone pays close attention that you are not getting lost. We got excited and looked out for animals all around the car, but saw nothing but the dry landscape. Arriving at the camp, a small delegation awaited us for a warm welcome.
A typical South African Safari day
Wake up time is very early in the morning – something I had to get used to. But the excitement of another South African Safari day is taking away all tiredness. After a coffee and small breakfast snack (in our case, amazing homemade cereal bars), the morning safari starts. For around 2-3 hours, the whole group is driving around the bush roads, chasing animals that were sighted somewhere in the park, reading footprints and other leftovers, and admiring the animals and landscape. A great part of the morning safari is to see the sun come up in the wilderness!
In the end of the morning, the camp welcomes everyone for a great breakfast. After the breakfast, you either have time to relax or join another expedition. Relaxing means laying by the pool, catching up on sleep or watch some animals walk by. Expeditions would be a bush walk with the guide, or going to a hideout and observing wildlife from there.
After this, it is time for some homemade lunch. Throughout the afternoon, there is plenty of time to relax before the evening safari starts.
The evening safari starts in full daylight and ends in the dark. The beauty of this is that you will see the sun go down and observe animals while it gets dark. In the darkness, the tracker is constantly scanning the surroundings with a strong light. This part of the tour is even more exciting and mysterious. The camp crew welcomes everyone coming back, and there is dinner as well as some evening activities in the camp. You will sit outside and discuss the day before falling into bed and getting ready for the next morning.
The Safari experience
Throughout our 3 day stay, we were extremely lucky and saw all Big 5 and much more. Keep in mind though that a lot of this is based purely on luck and conditions. We arrived without specific expectations and had the time of our lives.
Our guide Eric was a big aspect of making this an incredible experience. Not only was he very much fun to be around, but he also explained everything extremely well, and had years of experience as a guide. In former times, he had worked as a poacher of wildlife hunters, keeping them from hunting endangered animals, and he had a lot of experience in living in the wilderness for days.
Leaving the camp on the last day was extremely hard, and it was one of the very few accommodations where I felt like hugging everyone in the team upon leaving – and I think the only one where I actually did that!
This team took care of everything from start to end: the food was freshly made and surprising each time, we even experienced a traditional Braai with singing and dancing, and the Safari tours were just breathtaking, mostly due to the skills and experience of our guides.
The Bushcamp only had 3 rooms in total, and we experienced our South African Safari days with a great group of 7 people in total.
On our way back to Johannesburg, we took some more small stops. My favorite one was a small pond with a waterfall and some rocks for a short cooling swim. After driving into our last South African sunset, we continued our trip to the Seychelles. You can read all about it here!
I hope you will be able to plan your own South African Safari adventure soon – if you do or have any questions, leave a comment or send a message!