Lots of our guests fly to the Kruger National Park and its adjacent private game reserves for their Kruger safari. And then they fly straight out again. Unless you are seriously short on time, I think that’s a real shame, as the countryside around Kruger National Park, such as the Drakensberg escarpment and the Blyde River Canyon, is stunning. So here are my top arguments for spending at least one night in the Drakensberg Escarpment/Blyde River Canyon area, and preferably two…
1) The Panorama Route
The Drakensberg escarpment is the line of mountains before you drop down into the Lowveld where the Kruger lies. The Panorama route is the name of the drive along the edge of this escarpment, looking down into the Blyde River Canyon. Though longer than the direct route from Johannesburg to the Kruger, it is much much more attractive. So it’s well worth taking, either as a day out, or as a more scenic way to get from your country lodge to your Kruger safari lodge. This area of sculpted peaks and deep ravines, tumbling streams and green valleys provides a marked contrast to the sub-tropical bushveld of the Kruger. You look down into a majestic red sandstone gorge with sheer cliffs plunging into waters below. Gentle walking trails connect a series of delicate waterfalls.
2) Relax & Lie In
After the very early mornings of a Kruger safari, it is good to be able to lie in for some real R&R. A number of the country lodges such as Summerfields, Highgrove and Olivers have stunning spa facilities so you don’t even need to leave the lodge to enjoy yourselves. This is particularly needed if you are spending time at two different safari lodges. In this case, we recommend breaking up your Kruger safari experience with one to two nights at a country lodge in between.
It is a solid 3 hour drive to get from the Sabi Sands to the Timbavati which are the two most commonly combined private Kruger game reserves. And the direct route is not particularly attractive. So why not do a scenic panorama drive or transfer up into the Drakensberg escarpment instead, and make it an enjoyable day on holiday?
3) Enjoy some activity
A Kruger safari in a private game lodge or in the Kruger park itself inevitably involves lots of sitting in game vehicles and lots of eating of good food. The Blyde River Canyon area provides the perfect antedote with plenty of soft adventure activities on offer such as zip-lining, white water rafting, kloofing, hiking around Blyde River Canyon or perhaps just some gentle rambles to visit pretty waterfalls around Sabie. The Graskop Gorge Lift experience is also an easy way to experience the canyon flora.
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And two practical reasons:
4) Flight Connections
If you are connecting to another regional destination such as Victoria Falls or Mozambique, you would probably have to miss your final morning game drive. As these flights depart in the morning between 11 and 12 noon. And it’s a 1.5 hour+ transfer to get there. More if you are coming from the Timbavati, Thornybush or Klaserie Game Reserves.
So the best plan is to do a scenic transfer via the Panorama route and then overnight relatively close to the airport. You can have a leisurely breakfast at a country house hotel before the short 30-40 minute drive to the airport.No fuss. No stress.
Similarly if you have a flight from Johannesburg (to Mauritius, Botswana or even Victoria Falls). You can avoid this overnight city stop if you catch the early morning flight from Kruger Mpumalanga Airport (or KMIA for short) up to Johannesburg. But you can’t stay in a private game reserve and catch this flight. As there is not enough time to get to the airport. (The reserve gates don’t open until 6am). But you can spend a night or two at a country lodge instead.
5) Driving back to Johannesburg
Finally if you want to drive back to Johannesburg rather than flying (which is considerably more cost effective if you are a family) then staying on the Drakensberg escarpment is the perfect choice. The straight drive from one of the private game lodges will take you at least 6 hours and you should allow for 7 hours. Not pleasant with kids! (Believe me – we’ve done it). However the drive from one of the country lodges is a much more reasonable 4 hours, depending on which one you choose. And at least half of that drive is very scenic.
Check out our country lodges in the Blyde River Canyon/Drakensberg Escarpment area
5 Reasons to Stay in the Drakensberg was written by Cedarberg Africa
Cedarberg Africa is a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa. We focus on upmarket tailormade safaris for discerning and busy people. We make our money on the difference between our trade rates and the rates that are available to you, so that means that effectively all our years of experience and expertise comes free of charge…