Hidden South Africa & Botswana Photo Safari
10 days with Natural Habitat Adventures Rating:
Day 1: Johannesburg, South Africa
Our South Africa tour—which also includes a slice of neighboring Botswana—begins on arrival in Johannesburg, where we gather for a welcome dinner with our Expedition Leader. An orientation this evening provides a preview of the many wildlife adventures that lie ahead on this exclusive safari itinerary.
Days 2–4: Mashatu Private Reserve, Botswana
Transfer this morning to the Johannesburg airport for our short flight to Polokwane, the small South African city formerly known as Pietersburg and capital of Limpopo Province. From Polokwane, we travel by road to the private Mashatu Game Reserve just over the border on the far-eastern edge of Botswana. Mashatu, meaning “Land of Giants,” takes its name from the huge Mashatu trees that dominate these environs, as well as the big animals that roam its terrain. The Limpopo River, which Rudyard Kipling made famous in his Just-So Stories, crosses into South Africa near here. More than 700 elephants live on the reserve, the largest single population on privately owned land in Africa, as well as impressive numbers of lion and cheetah. Along the river, Mashatu trees provide shade for wildebeest, giraffe, zebra and eland, while at night, bat-eared fox, honey badger, African wild cat and leopard search for prey. We explore this unspoiled wilderness on exciting game drives, discovering Mashatu's ecological diversity as we traverse savanna, forest, marshland and sandstone outcrops. And at the end of each day, we stay in the center of it all at Mashatu Tent Camp, an intimate accommodation offering unexpected amenities in such a remote and secluded locale.
Days 5 & 6: Greater Kruger, South Africa—Manyeleti Private Reserve
After one last wildlife drive in Mashatu this morning, fly by chartered plane to the private 56,800-acre Manyeleti Game Reserve. Manyeleti means “place of the stars” in the local Shangaan language, and we'll surely see a sky full of them at night, given how far removed we are in the wild bush. Manyeleti shares an unfenced boundary with the eastern side of Kruger National Park as well as the Sabi Sand and Timbavati game reserves, and the region's renowned wildlife roams free between the park and reserves. This remains a relatively quiet and unknown corner of South Africa that is inaccessible to day visitors, and we reap the advantages of that exclusive access.
Our destination, Tintswalo Safari Lodge, is a luxury camp in a private sector of the Greater Kruger ecosystem, one of the last tracts of true wilderness left in South Africa. This is prime Big Five country, where lion, rhino, Cape buffalo and elephant are spotted regularly, with very good chances to see the more elusive leopard, too. More than 300 bird species also inhabit the area. Explore by 4x4 and on foot, with guided walks offering a more intimate vantage point on the smaller things, like plants and insects—plus the thrill of encountering wildlife at close range.
Days 7–9: Sabi Sand—MalaMala Private Reserve
This morning we travel about 2.5 hours by road to the Sabi Sand, South Africa’s premier safari destination. This celebrated region is renowned for some of the best Big Five viewing in Africa. These famous five—lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo—were once favorite hunting targets, and while many were hunted nearly to extinction, reserves like this one have made inspiring strides in bringing them back.
Enjoy the exclusivity of MalaMala Main Camp, located on South Africa’s oldest and most historic private game reserve in the Sabi Sand region, having been the first to transition from hunting to wildlife-viewing safaris. Situated along the Sand River, the camp regularly sees wildlife wandering in to drink freely. MalaMala shares a 12-mile unfenced border with world-renowned Kruger National Park and lies strategically sandwiched between the park and the private Sabi Sand Game Reserve. MalaMala is famous for its leopard viewing, and night drives are a highlight here, with an array of nocturnal species on view, including predators on the hunt. MalaMala is the largest private Big Five game reserve in South Africa, and safari tourism here directly supports neighboring communities.
Day 10: Johannesburg / Depart
After breakfast and a morning activity, fly back to Johannesburg early this afternoon to connect with onward flights or extensions.
All This Included
To many, South Africa’s wealth is synonymous with its diamonds and gold. But we think its greatest riches lie in another of its natural treasures: its wildlife. Kruger, Sabi Sand and other bushveld reserves protect an astounding diversity of big game, much of which has recovered from earlier threats to its survival. From the massive-tusked African elephant to the sleek leopard, from squat rhinos to regal lions, they are all here in healthy numbers that provide one of Africa’s greatest safari experiences—and with our focus on secluded private reserves, the only crowds you'll encounter are crowds of animals. Just over the border in neighboring Botswana, great volumes of wildlife thrive in unspoiled Mashatu, along the Limpopo River that Rudyard Kipling made famous in his Just So Stories. When your safari is over, one thing is certain: You’ll go home far richer than when you arrived.
While this specialized photo safari is the same length, same price and has the same number of guests as our standard Hidden South Africa & Botswana departures, its focus on photography is more intensive. Your naturalist Expedition Leader is also a professional photographer with expertise in coaching all ability levels. After each day on safari, come together in the evening to share the day's photo take with your fellow travelers, discuss image editing with your guide, add to your photography skill set, and recharge for the next day's adventures.
Johannesburg: Fairlawns Boutique Hotel
Mashatu Game Reserve: Mashatu Main Camp
Kruger National Park: Tintswalo Safari Lodge
Sabi Sands Reserve: Mala Mala Camp
Pre and Post Add-ons
Namibia Desert Extension
7 Days / Year-Round, From $3795 (+air)
Namibia’s towering sand dunes, arid canyons and desert-adapted wildlife offer a distinct contrast to other southern Africa safari destinations—look for endangered black rhino, desert elephant and more.
Cape Town Extension
4 Days / Year-Round, From $1595
Discover the natural and multicultural highlights of one of the world's most entrancing cities. Explore the Cape Peninsula, visit Cape Point Nature Reserve, see penguins at Boulders Beach and tour the Winelands.
Epic Botswana & Namibia Safari
16 Days / Jun – Nov, From $21995 (+air)
From Namibia's towering dunes and desert rhinos to Botswana's Okavango Delta, predator-filled Linyanti and on to Victoria Falls, this luxury expedition is Southern Africa's ultimate safari experience.
Terms and Conditions
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* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.