South Africa, Zambia & Botswana Wildlife Safari
Rockjumper Wildlife Tours has assembled this exciting combination of iconic Southern African destinations into a remarkable 14 day safari.
South Luangwa takes us to a vast area of pristine woodland and riverine vegetation that host a large contingent of sought-after birds and mammals. This has been described as one of the premier parks in Africa due to its huge variety of species. What’s more, the park also contains one of the highest concentrations of Leopard in the world, and here we have a very good chance of observing these magnificent creatures, not to mention some really fantastic birds, including Racket-tailed Roller, Lilian’s Lovebird, Pel’s Fishing Owl and many more.
Home to some of the world’s most coveted mammals and spectacular wilderness areas, Botswana is an idyllic destination for those with a sense of adventure and a love of wild, open spaces. On this last leg of our expedition, we will explore the Kalahari “Desert”, which offers truly enormous stretches of pristine wilderness and is home to a wide variety of desert-adapted game including the Kalahari’s famous “black-maned” Lions.
Day 1, June – August: Arrival in Johannesburg and drive to Kruger National Park
This morning after meeting your guide on arrival, we will drive from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to Skukuza in Kruger National Park. Over 2 million hectares in extent, the vast expanses of the park are home to a staggering diversity of mammals. In excess of 140 species have been recorded from the diminutive Dwarf Mongoose to the gargantuan Africa Elephant and we have what is sure to be and an incredible few days in store as we explore the area for game.
Not ignoring the smaller creatures that inhabit the park, we will take time to enjoy Kruger’s colourful bird and insect life as well as learning about the many fascinating cultural and medicinal uses of the trees and shrubs that grace the park. This is one of the most rewarding wildlife experiences on earth and you will find few pleasures greater than passing time learning about the intricate workings of this vast and dynamic ecosystem!
The Greater Kruger conservation area includes vast areas of adjacent Mozambique and is one of Africa’s most famous parks. Here we will stay in two separate camps (Skukuza and Satara) where we will explore the superb road system in an attempt to locate big game, including the legendary “Big 5” – Lion, African Elephant, Leopard, African Buffalo and White Rhinoceros.
Day 2, June – August: Satara area, Kruger National Park
The open savannas around Satara are well known for their predator sightings, and this is in fact one of the best areas in the park for Lion. The Knobthorn – Marula veld that predominates in the Satara area provides very good grazing for herbivores such as Plains Zebra and Blue Wildebeest, and these in turn sustain the areas large Lion population. This area is also one of the better in Kruger for finding Cheetah, and we have a full day to drive the network of roads in the area in search of targets.
The varied habitats of Kruger National Park hosts over 500 bird species, many requiring vast areas of wilderness such as Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard – the world’s heaviest flying bird – the incomparable Southern Ground Hornbill, Martial Eagle and colourful Bateleur. While none of these are endemic to South Africa, no fewer than 86 of the species endemic or nearly endemic to southern Africa as a whole can be found here.
We will do at least one night drive in the park to explore for nocturnal animals. Success on night drives varies greatly, but the list of possibilities is rather impressive and includes various owls and nightjars, both Large and Small Spotted Genet, Lesser and Greater Galago, African Wild Cat, African Civet, Serval, Cape Porcupine and Spotted Hyena – besides the Big 5!
Day 3, June – August: Satara to Skukuza, Kruger National Park
This morning we will have an early start, as we drive south to Skukuza Rest Camp, which also acts as the parks administrative headquarters. The wonderful Sabi River, which flows past Skukuza, is lined with tall riverine woodland, and is one of the premier areas in Kruger to find the elusive Leopard. Careful scanning, and listening for the tell-tale alarm calls of local birds, antelope and primates may reveal the presence of this mysterious creature!
Other highly sought-after animals we have a chance of finding are the highly sought-after African Wild Dog, Hippopotamus and a myriad of antelope and other mammals including Giraffe, Greater Kudu, Impala, Klipspringer, Bushbuck, Warthog, Chacma Baboon, Vervet Monkey and Dwarf Mongoose.
Day 4, June – August: Kruger National Park and drive to Johannesburg
We will spend our morning near to camp before we leave the riches of Kruger behind us and as depart back for Johannesburg, where we will head to our conveniently located Airport Hotel to rest before our flight to Zambia in the morning.
Day 5, June – August: Flight Johannesburg to Lusaka, onward flight to Mfuwe and transfer to South Luangwa National Park
This morning we will check in for our flight to Lusaka, and after taking care of passport formalities, will board a new flight and wing our way to Mfuwe. This is settlement outside our next incredible destination – South Luangwa National Park.
This prolific reserve is one of Africa’s great wildlife reserves, and has one of the highest concentrations of Leopard in the world, while also playing host to one of the densest Hippo populations anywhere! We will be spending four nights in this magnificent National Park and will work the network of roads in an attempt to locate the mammals and birds that inhabit this vast wilderness.
Day 6 to 8, June – August: South Luangwa National Park
Waking up and smelling the crisp, clean air is always a great sensation, and when awakening in South Luangwa one cannot help feeling that this is an extremely special place that makes one just want to get out there and explore! We have three full days to do just that, and what better way than on an early morning game drive taking in the various sights and sounds. While the two most common antelope in the park are Impala and Puku, there are many more localized species including Thornicroft’s Giraffe, Cookson’s Wildebeest, Crawshay’s Zebra, Common Bushbuck, Common Waterbuck, Eland, Greater Kudu, Common Reedbuck, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Sable and Sharpe’s Grysbok. Hippos congregate in large numbers in deeper sections of river, and Nile Crocodiles are commonly spotted basking on the riverbank. With the vast amounts of game that abound there is obviously going to be a number of predators to take advantage of the offerings. We therefore stand a good chance of spotting Lion, Leopard, Spotted Hyaena and with luck, the less commonly seen African Wild Dog.
Bird numbers are considerable, especially in the towering riverine woodlands, as well as our lodge grounds. Mopane woodland is well represented throughout the park and Lilian’s Lovebirds can often be heard screeching as they dash overhead. Meves’s Starling and White-browed Sparrow-Weaver also do their fair share to add to the avian noise. The Luangwa River is well known for its massive breeding colonies of Yellow-billed Stork, Southern Carmine and White-fronted Bee-eaters, and Horus Swifts. Special summer birds that come in with the rains include Allen’s Gallinule, Dwarf Bittern, Great Snipe and African Crake. The massive trees overhanging the rivers’ quiet backwaters are the haunts of the ever-popular and desirable Pel’s Fishing Owl. Many other birds are associated with the river and oxbow lakes that have formed over time. Good numbers of African Skimmer, African Spoonbill, various ducks, lapwings, storks, herons and egrets occur. Other birds to look out for include Greater Painted-Snipe and the splendid Grey Crowned Crane
Day 9, June – August: South Luangwa National Park to Mfuwe, flight to Lusaka and onto Johannesburg
Today we will leave the beautiful, game and bird-rich South Luangwa Valley and wing our way back to Johannesburg where we will once again spend the night at the airport hotel.
Day 10, June – August: Flight Johannesburg to Maun and onto Central Kalahari
This morning after breakfast we check in for our flight form Johannesburg to Maun, the “safari capital” of northern Botswana. Post arrival in Maun, and having taken care of passport formalities, we head on a southerly flight destined for the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The Central Kalahari is the ultimate in “secluded” safari destinations – the reserve is enormous, covering 52,800 km², which equates to an area 2.5 times the size of Israel! This is a land of wide horizons, of broad, dry river valleys dotted with gnarled Camelthorn trees, and of seemingly endless tracts of grassland, scrub and dry woodland. Most of all, this area is characterized by its lack of water. “Kalahari” is derived from the Tswana word Kgala meaning “great thirst” – and it has vast areas without any permanent water. Despite the lack of surface water, this area boasts surprisingly good game numbers. We will spend the next three nights at Tau Pan Camp, which overlooks the permanent Tau Pan watering hole, an area recognized for its stark beauty and remoteness. The pan is rich in minerals, making the grass particularly nutritious for the resident wildlife, attracting species such Gemsbok, Springbok, Ostrich, Kudu, Duiker, Blue Wildebeest and Eland. Honey Badgers are regular visitors, and endearing South African Ground Squirrels and Meerkats are ever popular, providing hours of entertainment to those who choose to watch these communal mammals’ antics.
Tau Pan was the first safari camp to be built in this area and being a model of environmental sensitivity has been constructed with the delicate environment in mind, all while offering an unprecedented opportunity to experience a truly pristine wilderness area.
Days 11 to 13, June – August: Central Kalahari
We will enjoy daily game drives in 4×4 vehicles (although as Tau Camp is located within a national park, no off-road driving is permitted, nor are night drives) as well as guided bush walks with San Bushmen who will teach us about life in this challenging terrain. There will also be opportunities to visit the well-known Deception Valley, as well as Sunday, Piper and Passarge Pans. Deception Pan is well-known via the writings of controversial Mark and Delia Owens, who lived here for a period in the 70’s and 80’s. Their book, “Cry of the Kalahari” details their time spent here, and provides a fascinating insight into the hardships of life in the Kalahari, as well as their close relationship with various animals including a Leopard, Brown Hyaena and a small Lion pride.
Carnivore sightings can be particular good in Central Kalahari, and aside from the afore-mentioned mammals, other predators that often encountered include Black-backed Jackal, whose evocative calls are often heard at night, as well as Cheetah, African Wild Cat, Caracal, Bat-eared and Cape foxes and Yellow Mongoose. Although unlikely, African Wild Dog are sometimes seen in the park. The male Lions in the area are famous as a result of the impressive black-manes that they sport, and it would certainly be a trip highlight to spend some time with such an impressive beast!
The area is also excellent for open country birds (it is particularly good for raptors!), and species that will likely be seen include Pale Chanting Goshawk, Greater Kestrel, Lanner Falcon, Bateleur, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Black-chested and Brown snake-eagles, Secretarybird, White-backed and Lappet-faced Vulture, Double-banded Courser, Capped Wheatear and Burchell’s Sandgrouse. The crystal clear night-skies offer amazing star gazing opportunities. The Kalahari is perfect for stargazing as the lack of pollution and vast open spaces create gloriously clear and bright starry skies. All in all, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve has a charming quality derived from sheer vastness and its unexpected game populations, as is sure to be a trip highlight!
Day 14, June – August: Central Kalahari to Maun to Johannesburg and depart
After a final morning enjoying this game rich paradise, we will fly back to Maun and onto Johannesburg where you bid your farewells to this remarkable country and your Tour Leader. This journey to game rich South Africa, Zambia and Botswana is sure to leave you with an incredible image portfolio and everlasting memories of this amazing adventure.
** PLEASE NOTE: The Proflight schedule for December is not out as yet (Proflight operates the internal flights Lusaka – Mfuwe) and there is a possibility that we might have to amend the dates slightly to fit in with the Proflight schedule availability **