GOOD NEWS: In response to COVID-19, TravelMaven has implemented more flexible payment policies until further notice. First, all $250 deposits are now fully refundable upon request. Second, final payment is not due until 45 days prior to departure. Taken together, this means travellers will not incur any financial risk and can cancel with a 100% refund until December 1, 2020.
FLIGHTS: There are a couple of flight options for this tour. Probably the best is Ethiopian Airlines, departing Toronto mid-morning and arriving in Johannesburg the next afternoon. An alternative is KLM, departing Toronto at dinner time and arriving in Johannesburg late the next evening. Both plans will work, as the first night in South Africa is spent at a hotel within the Johannesburg airport complex. On the way home, most will find Ethiopian’s mid afternoon flight more convenient than KLM's midnight departure. Another option entirely is adding a stopover in Europe or elsewhere on the way to or from South Africa. Ask Barry for details.
This 15 day Kruger Safari is new for 2021, but is based on our successful 10 day Kruger Safari (a tour that takes place during March Break, is geared to families, and is pretty much non-stop action). By extending the March Break agenda by 5 days, we are able to slow the pace and add some new features to this Relaxed and Extended tour.
All TravelMaven tours to Kruger stay at the lovely Rio Vista Lodge overlooking the Crocodile River with views to Kruger National Park less than 100 metres away. A unique feature of this Relaxed and Extended safari is that we spend our first and last nights at the 5 star Intercontinental Hotel in Johannesburg. This reduces the stress of a long journey, and allows us to arrive in Kruger fresh and raring to go!
Another unique feature of this tour is TravelMaven's first-ever overnight safari. In this case, we will leave the Rio Vista Lodge early on Day 11 headed north to Satara Rest Camp in the centre of Kruger National Park. We won't check out of the Rio Vista, but take overnight bags with us on the safari trucks. After driving north all day, we will spend one night in the basic accommodations of a South African Parks rest station. The next day, we will return south via a different route, seeing many landscapes and vistas for the first time.
Who hasn't dreamt of riding across the African savannah in an open vehicle, checking out the elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras, and a few big cats? I think everyone had this dream as a kid, but for many Canadians, an African safari has always seemed too far, too expensive, too dangerous, or just too much to seriously contemplate.
Well, here's some good news: TravelMaven wants to make this dream a reality!
Our home-away-from-home will be the Rio Vista Lodge. From here, we will take several day trips, as well as having a couple of free days to just hang out around the pool. We will also enjoy 3 safaris. The first is for a full day, leaving very early in the morning. The second is a sunset safari in the evening with National Park staff. The third is the aforementioned two day excursion deep into the centre of Kruger National Park.
In addition to our safaris, we will also do a few more awesome things. For example, we will make a full day tour to the Panorama Route to see the Blyde River Canyon, considered by some to be Africa's Grand Canyon. A second day trip will be to nearby eSwatini (aka Swaziland) to experience that unique culture. While in Kruger, we will also visit Jane Goodall's Chimp Eden, the Sudwala Caves, and Kwa Madwala Elephant Park. At the end of our trip, we will also spend an afternoon touring the capital of Pretoria.
It's important to note this is an "almost all-inclusive" package - even beer and wine is provided with dinner. Guests only pay for some lunches and souvenirs. Prices in South Africa are very reasonable (e.g. beer $3), so this could easily total as little as $500 for the entire fortnight.
I am confident this will be the trip of a lifetime for whomever joins us. If you've read this far, you must have an African safari on your bucket list. Here's your chance to scratch it off!
P.S. This photo was taken in the Eagle's View spa within the Rio Vista Lodge and overlooks the Crocodile River. The hills in the background are in Kruger National Park.
AIRFARE: Due to COVID-19, pricing for flights in 2021 is still in flux. Normally, Barry books early to get the best price. However, this year he will wait until late fall to buy tickets. For comparative purposes, tickets from Canada to South Africa were $900-1300 in 2019 & 2020.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT: $860
TYPE: Bucket List
HOTEL: 3 star (2)
GROUP: max 12 guests
Intercontinental Hotel, Johannesburg Airport
Rio Vista Lodge, Malelane
Satara Rest Camp (Kruger)
Kruger full-day (10 hr) safari
Kruger half-day (6 hr) safari or Swaziland tour
Kruger sunset (4 hr) safari
Panorama Route full-day tour
Jane Goodall's Chimp Eden visit
Sudwala Caves tour
2 nights Intercontinental Hotel, 9 nights Rio Vista Lodge, 1 night Satara Rest Camp, including breakfast and dinner daily; 2 lunches; Welcome Reception; 10 hr Kruger safari, 4 hr Kruger sunset safari, 6 hr Kruger safari; Panorama Route day tour; Jane Goodall Chimp Eden, Sudwala Caves; Kwa Madwala Elephant Park; Tour Concierge, all ground transportation; all taxes.
This tour is guaranteed to depart regardless of group size. This Land Package price is quoted in Canadian dollars, based on single or double occupancy, and is only guaranteed when a $250 deposit is received.
Day 1 (Sunday) Depart Toronto
The Ethiopian Airlines flight departs about 11:00. The KLM flight departs about 18:00.
Day 2 (Monday) Arrival in Johannesburg; overnight at Intercontinental Hotel
After a short stop in Addis Ababa, those flying Ethiopian arrive in Johannesburg about 14:00. Those flying KLM make a short stop in Amsterdam, and arrive about 22:00. In both cases, Barry will meet the flight, and it's an easy walk across the street to the Intercontinental Hotel.
Day 3 (Tuesday) Transfer to Rio Vista Lodge (B,D)
After breakfast and maybe a quick swim, we will be picked up at 10:00 by a private airport shuttle. During our 385 km drive to Rio Vista Lodge, we will stop for lunch. Prior to arriving at Rio Vista Logde, there will be a stop at a supermarket and liquor store.
Day 4 (Wednesday) Full-day Kruger Safari (B,D)
Before sunrise, we will board our safari vehicles in groups of six and cross over the Crocodile River to experience our first African safari. During the morning we'll stop at a small park camp for coffee and bathrooms, and we'll have lunch at Skukuza Camp, one of Kruger National Park's major outposts.
Day 5 (Thursday) EZ Day at Rio Vista Lodge (B,L,D)
This is a day to sleep in, read a book, lay by the pool, or just plain relax. All meals are available on The Deck, Rio Vista's lovely outdoor restaurant.
Day 6 (Friday) Chimp Eden; i'langa Mall; Sudwala Caves (B,D)
In the morning, we will head to Jane Goodall's Chimp Eden. This mountain-side facility rehabilitates and provides a refuge for abused chimpanzees. Afterwards, we will stop at the i'langa Mall for lunch and some shopping.. In the afternoon, the group will visit the Sudwala Caves.
Day 7 (Saturday) Kwa Madwala Elephant Park; Kruger Sunset Safari (B,D)
In the morning, the group will visit Kwa Madwala Elephant Park. After returning to the Rio Vista for lunch, we will head back to Kruger National Park at 16:00 for a sunset safari with National Park staff.
Day 8 (Sunday) Panorama Route & Blyde Canyon (B,L,D)
On this day we will head north to drive the spectacular Panorama Route, making stops at God's Window, Potholes waterfalls & the Gorge in Grasskop.
Day 9 (Monday) EZ Day at Rio Vista Lodge (B,L,D)
This is another day to sleep in, read a book, lay by the pool, or just plain relax.
Day 10 (Tuesday) eSwatini Day Tour (B,L,D)
On this day we will head to nearby eSwatini (aka Swaziland) to experience their unique culture and spectacular mountain scenery. Lunch is included.
Day 11 (Wednesday) Day 1 of 2 Day Kruger Safari (B,D)
Early in the morning we will board our open safari trucks with our overnight bags, and head north into the heart of Kruger National Park. In the late afternoon we will arrive at Satara Park Station for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 12 (Thursday) Day 2 of 2 Day Kruger Safari (B,D)
On this day, we will head south along the Mozambique border, entering area beyond the range of one day safaris. We will arrive back at Rio Vista Lodge in time for a swim before dinner.
Day 13 (Friday) Transfer to Johannesburg, Tour of Pretoria (B)
After breakfast, we will depart Rio Vista and drive to Pretoria. After lunch and a city tour, we will be dropped off at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Johannesburg airport for a free evening. Those flying with KLM may choose to take the midnight flight home (and receive a $200 credit). Ask Barry for details.
Day 14 (Saturday) Depart for Toronto (B)
After a leisurely breakfast, those flying Ethiopian Airlines will head to the terminal to check it. Those travelling with KLM do not depart until late evening, but have several options for afternoon activities. Check with Barry for details.
Day 15 (Sunday) Arrival in Toronto
Guess will arrive back in Toronto in the early morning or late afternoon.