From the mountains, via a canyon and then into the bushveld for a fabulous family safari experience, there’s no one better to send into on an exploratory trip to the Greater Kruger than our very own travel designer extraordinaire, Liesl Matthews!
She recently ventured forth into the ‘lekker‘ Lowveld, with her family, to get some R&R, reconnect with suppliers, see new lodges and revisit updated favourites.
With a comfortable 2.5 hour direct flight from Cape Town International Airport to Hoedspruit’s Eastgate Airport, getting to the Greater Kruger is a breeze for those wanting to combine the best of the Cape with a safari adventure.
Hoedspruit is the safari capital of South Africa and is a vibrant hub for both the legendary Kruger National Park and the various private game reserves (Timbavati, Klaserie and Thornybush), and fabulous lodges and camps that make this region so uniquely special.
In good hands, on-the-ground!
We’ve got the best people on the ground taking care of our clients! Nic and the Seasons In Africa team are our go-to for all transfers to the lodges in the Greater Kruger area whether clients land at Hoedspruit or KMIA (Nelspruit Airport). They’re on-the-ground, reliable, safe, punctual, informative, maintain immaculate vehicles, and know the best route to every single lodge in the area. Best of all, our clients always give excellent feedback about Nic and his team.
Into the mountains we go…
Hoedspruit is also the access point to the renowned Panorama Route which begins in the dramatic Northern Drakensberg Escarpment. This towering bluff of solid rock beckons like a beacon, dominating the western horizon as soon as you land in Hoedspruit with its majestic highest peak, Mariepskop, soaring into the clouds. It’s a sight to behold and begs to be explored!
With this in mind, a guided day trip along the Panorama Route is highly recommended, taking in the magnificent Blyde River Canyon – the world’s third-largest green canyon and undeniably one of the most spectacular scenes of the African continent.
Stopping off at viewing points along the route, having ascended the escarpment via the breathtaking Abel Erasmus Pass, the route is embellished with a treasure trove of natural wonders including the impressive Three Rondavels – three mountain peaks resembling the traditional thatched huts of the local Shangaan people, and Bourke’s Luck Potholes – where the confluence of the Blyde and Treur Rivers has magnificently eroded the bedrock, creating intricate rock formations and countless waterfalls.
Add to this the chance to explore the hidden floor of one of the deepest gorges in the area, courtesy of the excellent Graskop Gorge Lift, and you have the perfect ingredients for an unforgettable adventure!
A superb variety of places to stay
When it comes to where to stay in the Greater Kruger, you’re spoiled for choice. Liesl and her family spent their first night in the luxurious and wonderfully remote umVangati House – a luxury retreat like no other, hidden away from the world at the foot of the Northern Drakensberg Escarpment.
What a spectacular place Umvangati is! With views to die for of the incredible mountains we explored on our Panorama Route day trip and a fresh perspective, looking up at these impressive peaks, umVangati is one of the area’s best-kept secrets.
The food was exceptional and we particularly enjoyed the intimate atmosphere and sensational wine cellar, stocked with a fantastic variety of great South African vintages. The views from our enormous deck were simply stunning.
From the mountains to pristine wilderness, in one easy transfer, Camp George in the Klaserie Private Game Reserve is part of the Simbavati collection of lodges and camps. Camp George is relatively new and we’re booking it regularly for our clients.
“We’re loving booking the Simbavati properties right now,” explains Liesl. “And it’s easy to see why they’re so popular if Camp George is anything to go by. With its gorgeous luxury suites and expert guides, combined with amazing game viewing and fabulous food, it’s a fantastic option to combine with Simbavati Hilltop Lodge or the new Simbavati Waterside.”
The third place Liesl and her family stayed at was Siviti, located on the game rich Thornybush Private Nature Reserve, a short drive outside of Hoedspruit.
Siviti is definitely my new favourite place! Its location on the Timbavati Plains area of Thornybush is absolutely stunning. It also overlooks the Timbavati River with superlative views of the surrounding bush.
The two-bedroom Timbavati Villa is to die for with its location right on the river where elephants are regular visitors. We stayed in the Timbavati Homestead – a four-bedroom house with its own kitchen (you have the option to self-cater if you like) and upstairs and downstairs lounge areas it was perfect for our family group.
The game viewing at Siviti was off-the-charts special and the guiding exceptional. We saw wild dogs with small pups, lion, leopards in trees, elephants aplenty, and the Big Five in one morning!
Here is just a small selection of exciting photos that Liesl and her kids took while out on game drives. As you can see the Great Kruger is home to such a wealth of diverse species! It’s not uncommon to see all of the Big Five in just two game drives.
The grande finale experience was staying at Jabulani where the whole family loved learning about the resident rescue elephant herd. Liesl had only good things to say about the chef, who’s food was excellent and he was engaging and personable. The highlight is the sundowner experience with the elephants. The photos speak for themselves!
Summing up the trip from her perspective as an experienced travel advisor who travels to many beautiful places throughout Africa, she was wonderfully impressed with the Greater Kruger’s range of offerings, as well as the quality of the overall safari experience. Her family was too, of course!
It’s easy to understand how our clients just love this part of South Africa so much. I had not explored this area since my childhood and it was wonderful to revisit it as a parent and see my children and family enjoy its attractions and the amazing experiences we had.
It’s a definite must-do for First-Time-to-Africa travelers!