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KwaZulu Natal offers a great mix of first class reserves with incredible wildlife and breathtaking scenery, Combined with the natural beauty of Swaziland, this self-drive wildlife itinerary is a real gem.

Following the coast at your own pace, you can explore some of  South Africa's finest wildlife reserves, well known for their strong conservation commitment and support to the local community. The diversity of wildlife to be experienced away from the crowd is stunning, and includes various species such as the endangered black rhino, leatherback turtle, African elephant, side-striped jackal, cheetah and wild dog.

Most of your tirme is spent in South Africa's parks, with a couple of days in neighbouring Swaziland to experience this less travelled country, its spectacular scenery and unique biodiversity.

Suggested itinerary

  1. Day 1: Depart UK

  2. Day 2: Arrive Durban & drive to Umdloti coastal village; vehicle safaris

    After collecting your vehicle, driveto the charming coastal village of Umdloti, with its lovely beach and windy shore. From the coast, you can regularly spot humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins.

    Accommodation: Fairlight Beach House, 1-night

  3. Day 3: Drive to Thula Thula Reserve; vehicle safaris

    Thula Thula, the land of the ‘elephant whisperer’ was made famous by the lovely tales from Lawrence Anthony as he rescued this herd of troublesome elephants that became part of his family. On your bush walks and drives, you will have the chance to see, besides these gentle giants, a great diversity of mammals such as black, and white rhino, Burchell’s zebra, giraffe, leopard, nyala, and buffalo.

    Very committed to wildlife conservation, Thula Thula Reserve also supports the local community and you will get a chance - if you wish - to experience an authentic rural Zulu village, including a unique encounter with the Inyanga (medicine man), learning about medicinal plants.

  4. Day 4: Morning wildlife safari, drive to Phinda Private Game Reserve; vehicle safaris

    At Phinda, you will experience a sundowner vehicle safari and an early morning bush walk, and learn about all the conservation work of the reserve, notably its black rhino reintroduction programme. There are also good chances to see lion, leopard, black, and white rhino, wild dog, elephant, and hippo. This evening you stay in a sumptuous ‘glasshouse’ suite with a private deck and swimming pool.

    Accommodation: Phinda Forest Lodge, 1-night

  5. Day 5: Drive along the coast to Rocktail Bay; vehicle safaris

    This morning, after a walking safari you depart Phinda and drive along the coast through the wonderful region of iSimangaliso (Greater St Lucia) Wetland Park. Along the way, you may wish to visit Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park

    This evening you'll stay at Rocktail Bay, part of the Maputaland Marine Reserve, in a tree-house chalet tucked into the forest, and near the shores of the Indian Ocean. In summer (December to February) the beach is used as a breeding ground for leatherback and loggerhead turtles which come ashore to lay their eggs. Here there are some great opportunities for diving and snorkelling, birding walks or horse ride safari.

    Note: To explore the remote Tembe Elephant Park along the border with Mozambique, you may wish to extend your stay at Rocktail Bay.

  6. Days 6-7 : Drive across Swaziland to the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary; vehicle safaris

    This morning, it is a half-day drive to the Royal Kingdom of Swaziland, famous for its unique biodiversity, and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.

    Your two nights here will give you plenty of time to explore the area. There are some delightful nature walks on marked trails to see protected endangered species, a visit to the Royal Botanical Garden is also a must, and you are welcome to self drive or walk around the reserve. 

    Accommodation: Reilly’s Rock Lodge, 2-nights

  7. Days 8-9 : Drive to Southern Kruger National Park; vehicle safaris

    This morning you head north, exiting Swaziland and entering Kruger National Park en route to Manyeleti. The drive can take up to five hours depending on the border crossing.

    The great highlight of your stay in the privately own Rhino Walking Camp, located within Kruger, is the opportunity for full day or even multi-days walking safaris - a great way to enjoy the unrivalled diversity of wildlife roaming the biggest national park in Africa.

    Accommodation: Rhino Walking Camp, 2-nights

  8. Day 10: Drive to Johannesburg & depart

    Today you head to Johannesburg International Airport, with some final opportunities to see wildlife as you drive through Kruger National Park. The drive will take you approximately 6 hours. Drop off your hire vehicle before checking in for an overnight flight back to the UK.

  9. Day 11: Arrive UK

Key info

Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 11 days from £3,095 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 9 days from £2,145 pp
  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Activities available:
    • Boat trip
    • Camping
    • Culture
    • Horse riding
    • Mountaineering
    • Nature drive
    • Photography
    • Scuba diving
    • Sea kayaking
    • Walking
Featured locations:

Phinda Private Game Reserve

Located along the coast of KwaZulu Natal, this award-winning reserve has a strong focus on wildlife conservation and community involvement. Home to giant leatherback and loggerhead turtles which lay their eggs on the pristine beaches, its lakes and river floodplains hold Nile crocodiles, hippos and flamingos.

  • Where: KwaZulu Natal
  • Ideal for viewing: black rhino, leopard, spotted hyena, African elephant, South African giraffe
  • Excellent for: Self-drive

Kosi Bay

Kosi Bay is located on the remote KwaZulu Natal north coast, and is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The bay is formed by four interconnected lakes and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its palm-fringed reed channels, beautiful beaches and lush vegetation; a pristine wealth of beauty.

  • Where: KwaZulu Natal
  • Ideal for viewing: loggerhead turtle, hippo, palmnut vulture, Nile crocodile, Cape clawless otter
  • Excellent for: Self-drive

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

Hluhluwe–iMfolozi is the oldest proclaimed natural park in Africa. Covering 96,000 hectares and supporting an exciting diversity of fauna, it is known for its conservation efforts, boasting the world’s largest population of white rhino. It is the only state-run park in KwaZulu Natal where all the major predators can be found.

  • Where: KwaZulu Natal
  • Ideal for viewing: black rhino, cheetah, lion, spotted hyena, klipspringer
  • Excellent for: Self-drive

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park (previously known as Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) is the jewel in the Maputaland crown. It is one of Africa’s outstanding natural wetland and coastal sites, and includes a wide range of pristine marine, coastal and wetland environments which are naturally beautiful and untouched.

  • Where: KwaZulu Natal
  • Ideal for viewing: hippo, Nile crocodile, loggerhead turtle, leopard, white rhino
  • Excellent for: Self-drive

Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

Mlilwane, Swaziland’s pioneer conservation area, is a beautiful, secluded sanctuary situated in the Ezulwini Valley, between Mbabane and Manzini. Home to some rare and wonderful species such as the vervet monkey, African wild cat and blue wildebeest, major predators here are few, making nature walks a good option.

  • Where: Ezulwini Valley
  • Ideal for viewing: brown hyena, leopard, Cape clawless otter, black-backed jackal, greater galago
  • Excellent for: Self-drive

Kruger National Park

Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Low Veld, Kruger is today unrivalled in the diversity of its wildlife and a world leader in environmental management techniques. Amongst its 147 mammal species, you can find lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, hippo, and both black, and white rhino.

  • Where: Mpumalanga
  • Ideal for viewing: African elephant, white rhino, lion, wild dog, leopard
  • Excellent for: Self-drive

Tembe Elephant Park

The remote Tembe Elephant Park lies in Northern Tongaland, on the border of Mozambique, deep in an area of sand forests, pans and wetlands. The park has a great diversity of habitat and spectacular wildlife density; it is home to the last remaining indigenous elephant herd in KwaZulu Natal.

  • Where: Northern Tongaland
  • Ideal for viewing: African elephant, lion, white rhino, Cape buffalo, suni
  • Excellent for: Self-drive
Suggested accommodation options are shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Fairlight Beach House

Nestled in the village of Umdloti near Durban, only a few metres from a lovely swimming beach, this delightful homestead offers a warm welcome and personal hospitality alongside the comfort and sophistication of a 4-star hotel. Each of its ten rooms is unique, with a refined design and sea view.

Hill Top Camp Hluhluwe

This camp has commanding views of the surrounding Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, noted for its wonderful variety of birds and mammals including both black and white rhino, lion, leopard and elephant. Accommodation ranges from self-catered rondavels and self contained chalets to luxury lodge rooms.

Kosi Forest Lodge

Accommodating up to 16 guests in thatched bush suites, this lodge is set in a beautiful forest on the banks of Kosi Lake. Rooms are raised on a wooden deck and carefully positioned for privacy and intimacy, and the swimming pool offers an outstanding view of Lake Shengeza.

Phinda Forest Lodge

Phinda Forest Lodge is a sumptuous property located within the Phinda Private Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Its 16 spacious, glass encased, stilted suites all have private viewing decks and personal bars. Activities include wildlife safaris, bush walks, canoeing and rhino tracking.

Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge

Located in the heart of Swaziland's Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, this historic colonial lodge is surrounded by the Royal Botanical Gardens. It offers six luxury en suite rooms, as well as a large self-catering cottage, and there are several hillside trails and horse riding opportunities on the wildlife-studded plains.

Rhino Walking Camp

With the serenity of a 19th century naturalist retreat, this luxury camp is situated in the heart of a 12,000 hectare concession within Kruger National Park, overlooking a waterhole. Accommodating a maximum of eight guests in Meru-style tents, the camp is unique in offering a tailored walking experience.

Rocktail Bay Lodge

This is an intimate lodge tucked away in the northern reaches of iSimangaliso Wetland Park. 11 tree-house chalets are nestled under the forest canopy, each with private balcony and outdoor shower. From the lodge you can enjoy walks along unspoilt white sandy beaches and snorkelling in the marine reserve.

Thonga Beach Lodge

This lodge is set above a secluded bay on the Maputaland Coast, nestled amongst coastal dune forest with sweeping views of the beach below. Thatched bush suites provide privacy and have been constructed to ensure minimal environment impact, and the nearby waters offer some of South Africa’s best snorkelling.