PLANNING A KRUGER SAFARI

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and a major tourist attraction in South Africa. Spanning an area of just under 20 000 square kilometres (7 500 sq/miles), the Kruger Park is 350 kilometres long and 60 kilometres wide.

The Park is wedged between the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in the north-eastern region of South Africa, with Mozambique on its eastern border and Zimbabwe on its northern border. It was first proclaimed a protected “no hunting” reserve in 1898 by the then President of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger. Today it is one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations and world-famous for its conservation and educational initiatives.

So where do you start if you’re planning a Kruger safari? We’ve put together a comprehensive guide that covers everything from places to stay in the Kruger to best game viewing spots. If you are overwhelmed by choice, Moafrika Tours has the knowledge and expertise to guarantee your Kruger safari will be a trip to remember forever.

1 DAY KRUGER SAFARI

If you are travelling from White River or Hazyview in Mpumalanga, the best entrance into the Kruger National Park for a 1-day Kruger safari is Numbi Gate. Once you have paid your entrance fee, you have two choices; take the direct route via Voortrekker Road (H2-2) to Pretoriouskop Rest Camp or the longer route via Napi Road (H1-1) to the Skukuza Malelane road. Stop off for lunch at the Afsaal picnic site before making your way home via Malelane Gate.

The south-west corner of Kruger National Park is characterised by Pretoriouskop sourveld with large, bare granite domes and leafy woodlands and grasslands favoured more by browsers than grazers; Malelane mountain bushveld with tall granite koppies (small hills) with mixed knobthorn sweetveld; and mixed woodland and thorn thickets found in the catchment areas along the Crocodile and Sabie Rivers. This is an excellent game viewing region because of its close proximity to water.

Voortrekker Road (H2-2) to Pretoriouskop Rest Camp

Voortrekker Road is rich in history as it was the main route for João Albasini’s caravans that transported thousands of kilograms of goods from the coast of Mozambique to the Lowveld trading posts, and returned to the shipping port laden with huge piles of valuable ivory. This journey reportedly took 24 days to travel between Lourenzo Marques (now Maputo) and Pretoriouskop. The caravan expedition usually included 150 Shangaans, 70 porters and 15 or more hunters who shot game for the posse.

The road was named in honour of Carolus Trichardt, son of the Voortrekker Louis Trichardt, who was commissioned by the then Transvaal government to open up a regular route between the northern interior and Delagoa Bay. Voortrekker Road was improved over time and was used extensively to transport supplies to Lydenburg and Mac Mac during the gold rush era.

The massive granite boulder that is a distinctive landmark close to Pretoriouskop Rest Camp was known as Ship Mountain to the transport riders. It is rumoured that a stash of 19th-century gold coins is buried at the foot of the granite outcrop, belonging to Chief Matafini, a former Swazi military commander who took refuge there after he fell out with King Mbandeni in the 1880s. He allegedly buried his life’s fortune to avoid paying taxes to the Transvaal government but he was murdered by bandits and his treasure has never been found.

Ship Mountain, or Shabeni Hill as it is known today, is covered in lichen and is a remnant of a geological upheaval that occurred some 3 500 million years ago during a time when the gabbro and basalts of eastern Kruger spilt out over the Lowveld floor when an ancient volcano erupted.

A little terrier named Jock was born close to Ship Mountain. He was the beloved dog of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, a former transport rider, who immortalised the story of his pet in his famous book, Jock of the Bushveld.

The south-west corner of Kruger Park is a good area to spot rhino. They are attracted to the vegetation around the base of Ship Mountain known as sweetveld (sweet field). The first white rhino reintroduced to Park in the 1960s were taken to a boma close to what was known as Ship Mountain. Their numbers had declined dramatically from unchecked hunting in the late 1800s.

Voortrekker Road crosses the Mitomeni Spruit – the place of the jackal-berry trees. This was a popular outspan area for transport riders and you can still see the bullet holes in the leadwood trees that the riders used for target practice. The small, fleshy berries found on the trees in the area were used to make beer, and traditional healers used the bark of the jackal-berry tree to make smoke that cured a cough.

Voortrekker Road to Afsaal picnic site

Halfway between Ship Mountain and the Afsaal picnic site is Josekhulu Drift, named after Albasini’s induna (headman) – a large Zulu man known as “Big Josef”. Close to Josekhulu Drift is the site of a trading store set up by Thomas Hart during the 1870s to sell supplies to the transporters.

To stave off loneliness in such a remote part of the country, Hart kept an array of unusual pets including a cheetah, honey badgers, jackals, parrots, monkeys and snakes. He was murdered by bandits in 1876 and buried next to the road by sympathetic Swazi warriors.

Napi Road to the Skukuza Malelane road (H1-1)

Napi Road drops down from the granite outcrops of the Pretoriouskop region into rolling plains of mixed bushwillow woodlands south of Skukuza. The bush in this area is quite thick which is not ideal for game viewing but it is an area where you are more likely to see rarer antelope such as sable and eland. This route takes you along the crest of the watershed that divides the two major catchment areas of southern Kruger, the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers.

Your first stop is the Shitlhave water hole where you are guaranteed to see a resident pod of hippo and waterbuck grazing in the tall grass. You may also see southern reedbuck. Your drive continues past Mlaleni Hill to a popular outlook point at Transport Dam. This area marks the start of the sweetveld (sweet field) region which attracts grazers like zebra, buffalo and elephant. The small granite koppies (hills) around Transport Dam are home to small groups of klipspringer (rock hoppers), small antelope that have the uncanny ability to skip up and down the steep rock face.

From Transport Dam, you have the choice of the more direct tar road to Skukuza or the N’waswitshaka dirt road (S65). The dirt road takes you off the busy main road and it’s a good place to look for cheetah.

Afsaal picnic site to Malelane Gate on the tar road (H3)

The tar road from Afsaal picnic site to the Malelane Gate crosses the Matjulu River and passes a historic landmark, Tlhalabye Hill. This road is popular for tourists looking for raptors and rhinos.

Another option is to take the dust road via Biyamiti Wier and Renosterkoppies. Both routes have interesting loop roads and the rolling woodland region is popular among birders. White rhino are often spotted in the woodlands along the road.

Where to have lunch on a 1-day Kruger safari

  • Pretoriouskop Rest Camp

This peaceful rest camp is one of the oldest establishments in the Kruger Park. It was opened in 1928 at a time when early tourists were first allowed into the park for day visits. The British royal family stayed at Pretoriouskop in 1947 during their tour of South Africa.

This popular rest camp is set in mixed terminalia and kiaat woodlands that attract browsers such as kudu and sable antelope. It was a popular outpost for transport riders on their way to Delagoa Bay because it was situated high above the malaria- and tsetse fly-ridden Lowveld. The transport riders used it as a base to prepare for the brutal journey across the plains to Komatipoort and on to the coastal port in Mozambique.

Accommodation at Pretoriouskop Rest Camp offers everything from budget-friendly campsites for tents and caravans and self-catering bungalows to family cottages and luxury guest houses. A recent addition is a luxury tented campsite that is situated on the fence overlooking the surrounding leafy woodlands.

There is a fully-stocked convenience store at Pretoriouskop Rest Camp and the Wimpy restaurant offers tourists simple, affordable meals. There is also a fuel station on the property.

Pretoriouskop Rest Camp boasts a spectacular swimming pool that was built up against a flat granite boulder. The large pool is hugely popular with families with young children and gets busy during the holiday breaks. The mini forest that surrounds the pool area is excellent for bird watching.

On a walk around the rest camp, look out for the bright bougainvillaea shrubs and red Flamboyant trees that were originally planted by the first ranger in the Park, Harry Wolhuter. He used the camp as his base in the late 1920s and would hold staff meetings under an old Natal mahogany tree that still stands proudly today in the rest camp. These are the only non-indigenous plants that have been left to grow freely in the park as they are a nostalgic tribute to a man that did so much for Kruger National Park.

  • Skukuza Rest Camp

This well-known rest camp is known as the “administration capital” of Kruger National Park and an excellent place for first-time visitors to visit who are interested in the history of the Park. Skukuza is the biggest and busiest of the main rest camps with a good restaurant overlooking the river, a fast-food outlet and a massive shop where you can buy everything from impala biltong to curios and bush gear.

The Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library is located in Skukuza and houses a wealth of memorabilia used by the early rangers, as well as stone tools from the San people. There is even a small memorial site for the much-loved pets of the old park rangers.

The rest camp was established at what was known as Sabi Crossing where there was a pontoon in operation to cross the dangerous river. The first Kruger Park ranger, Paul Bester, was stationed there in 1898 and built the first rondavel (round hut) as his home base. These rondavels have become a distinctive feature of the main rest camps in Kruger National Park.

During the Anglo-Boer War, Sabi Crossing was occupied by Steinacker’s Horse, a regiment of the British Forces. The rest camp was later named Skukuza when James Stevenson-Hamilton moved there and set up his headquarters. Stevenson-Hamilton was the first official Kruger Park Ranger and his historical notes of what transpired in those early pioneering days of conservation are housed in the museum named in his honour.

You may also like – Tydon Safaris

The Shangaan gave Stevenson-Hamilton the nickname Skukuza, meaning “he who turns everything upside down”. However, the name is a bitter reference to the fact that he was responsible for “driving out” inhabitants who had lived in the newly-proclaimed reserve for many years. Stevenson-Hamilton went on to transform Kruger National Park from an over-hunted, disease-ridden outpost into one of Africa’s best game reserves and conservation landmarks.

Skukuza Rest Camp is situated close to the confluence of the Sabie, N’waswitshaka and Sand Rivers. It is an area rich in game but the main attraction is sightings of leopard. The thorn thickets and mixed woodlands around the rest camp aswell as a permanent source of water attract an abundance of game which in turn attracts predators to the area.

A popular drive in the Skukuza area is the loop around the Sabie and Sand Rivers (H1-2, H12 and H4-1). There is a fairly good chance you’ll spot lion, hyena and wild dog on this drive. Other excellent game viewing vantage points include Mathekenyane Koppie on the H1-1 and Shirimantanga Hill on the S112 where Stevenson-Hamilton and his wife Hilda asked for their ashes to be scattered. Shirimantanga Hill is part of a scenic collection of hills collectively known as “Rhino Koppies”.

Skukuza Rest Camp boasts excellent facilities for tourists including a resident doctor and pharmacy, car hire and wash, a vehicle repair workshop, photograph development facilities and banking facilities. You can take an amble down the river-front walkway to the Campbell 1929 Hut Museum, which is the oldest hut in the Park. A well-maintained swimming pool is available for day visitors to use and there is a second pool at the camping site.

The main staff village is located across the river from Skukuza Rest Camp and boasts the only golfing facility in Kruger Park. It is a 72-par, 9-hole, 18-tee course set amongst beautiful bushveld trees with views over Lake Panic. The course is not fenced in and many golfers have had a game interrupted by curious buck and giraffe wondering onto the fairway. Be on the lookout for dangerous animals.

  • Afsaal picnic site

This is a great spot to stop off for lunch on a 1-day Kruger safari. The well-maintained picnic site is hugely popular with day visitors with a well-stocked shop, a fast-food outlet or braai facilities to choose from when the family gets hungry. The picnic site is surrounded by thick clusters of red ivory and enormous jackal-berry trees. An ancient termite mound near Afsaal is home to a tame colony of dwarf mongooses.

The site was originally used by the old transport riders as half-way camp enroute to Delagoa Bay and was popular as a hunting ground to replenish dwindling food provisions. The sweet grazing in the area attracted a variety of antelope all year round.

The surrounding area around Afsaal sits on a great horn of gabbro which provides nutritious grazing for animals such as zebra, wildebeest and impala. The abundance of grazers in the sweetveld plains attracts predators such as hyena and wild dog to the area. Also be on the lookout for unusual sightings of the Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, the southern reedbuck and caracal.

Afsaal is also well-known for sightings of lions that can be seen standing on the flatter boulders of the Makhoutwanini Koppies just north of the picnic site or resting in the shady, long grass beneath the trees in the leafy woodland areas.

The Biyamiti Basin lies beyond Afsaal. This wooden riverine is situated in the flood plains near Jock’s Camp and comes to life during the rainy season in summer. Gaggling parties of hornbills are a common sight in the mixed bushwillow woodlands.

The Biyamiti valley is also well-known for its rock art sites that are found in ancient hunting camps that were occupied for many years by the San, the last Stone-age people. These small nomadic groups followed the migrating animal herds and their traditional ways remained virtually unchanged for over 10 000 years until the arrival of the Bantu tribes from the north.

Exit at Malelane Gate

Your 1-day Kruger safari ends as you exit the Park at Malelane Gate. However, your journey is not over yet and you have the lush, fertile valley of Malelane and the magnificent Komati Gorge to look forward to on your drive back to Nelspruit.

Malelane is a charming valley situated on the N4 national highway about halfway between the capital city of Mpumalanga, Nelspruit, and the capital city of Mozambique, Maputo. It is also the gateway to Swaziland. The region is home to established farms that produce the country’s supply of sugarcane, subtropical fruit and nuts and winter vegetables.

The town of Malelane has also grown in popularity over the years as a destination for gourmet enthusiasts with establishments like Hamiltons Lodge & Restaurant offering visitors a delicious country meals paired with fine wines.

2-DAY KRUGER SAFARI

The first day of your 2-day Kruger safari covered the south-west corner of the Kruger National Park. If you stopped at Skukuza for lunch and spent time learning about the history of the Park, we recommend you spend your first night at Lower Sabie Rest Camp in the south-east (travel from Skukuza on the H4-1 tar road). This is a very popular rest camp so you will need to book your accommodation at Lower Sabie well in advance.

Lower Sabie Rest Camp is perfectly positioned overlooking the Sabie River, with views of the Lebombo Mountains in the distance. The modern restaurant has a stunning deck that is ideal for game viewing or just taking in the scenic beauty of the area. The endless procession of animals coming to drink at the Sabie River is a delight for both young and older visitors.

This popular rest camp has recently been refurbished and now offers luxury facilities and accommodation of a world-class standard. Luxury safari tents are a new addition, offering overseas tourists a real African bush experience. Accommodation ranges from self-catering Kruger huts and bungalows to campsites for tents and caravans.

Day visitors have access to a designated picnic area with a swimming pool and braai (barbeque) facilities. There are also picnic spots at Nkuhlu, Mlondozi Dam and Tshokwane. A well-stocked shop, an internet café and filling station are a few of the facilities available at Lower Sabie Rest Camp. The camp also offers guided bush walks and game viewing on an open vehicle for visitors booked into the rest camp but you need to book in advance.

Explore the south-east routes

Up at crack of dawn, you’ll want to get an early start to explore the south-east corner of Kruger National Park. Today you can look forward to sightings of cheetah, wild dog, elephant and rhino.

Your first stop for early morning coffee and rusks is Sunset Dam off the H4-1. This is an excellent waterhole for photography enthusiasts because you can get close to the water’s edge and catch the first rays of a glorious morning. For better game viewing, you can make your way to Duke’s waterhole (S137) where visitors often see territorial cheetah and wild dog.

Duke’s Water Hole was named after the legendary Tom Duke, the head ranger at Lower Sabie for 20 years. Stevenson-Hamilton said in his memoirs that he often felt Duke was “the only friend he had” when he faced an uphill battle to develop the Park. The water hole is full all year round and attracts prides of lion who hang around its edges waiting for animals to come drink.

There is a popular bird hide at Nhlambanyathi (S28) which gives the youngsters in the car a chance to get out and stretch their legs, or you can drive further south to Nhlanganzwane Dam. Both these spots are ideal for early morning visits when the animals and birds are most active. Be on the lookout for white and black rhino, tsessebe and bushbuck and the resident pods of hippo in the dams.

Leaving Lower Sabie, you have a choice of a few scenic routes. Although the distance of the different routes are relatively short, allow yourself a good three hours for a leisurely game drive at the strict speed limit to make it to the gate in time to leave the Park.

  • Lower Sabie to Skukuza route (H4-1)

You may prefer to head back in the direction of Skukuza (H4-1) along a very scenic route that passes through two distinctive eco-zones. The variety of vegetation attracts an interesting mix of grazers and browsers with spectacular sightings of the magnificent Tamboti and Fig trees hugging the river bank. This is leopard country, as the concentration of these magnificent cats is higher in this part of the Park than anywhere else in the southern region.

The vegetation blanking the Sabie River has changed since the destructive floods in 2000 uprooted trees and swept away reed beds. The river now follows a slightly different course since the raging river burst its banks.

For a leg stretch, snacks and refreshments, there is a picnic spot at Nkuhlu (Swazi name for the Natal Mahogany tree) about halfway between Lower Sabie and Skukuza rest camp.

  • Lower Sabie to Tshokwane route (H10)

This road leads you north of Lower Sabie over the Sabie River and along a very pretty route that gently winds through Knob Thorn, Marula savannah and wide grasslands to Tshokwane (H10). The sweetveld vegetation in this area attracts large herds of antelope, zebra, buffalo and wildebeest which in turn attract the predators. The eastern grasslands north of the Sabie River are home to the highest concentration of giraffe.

A popular spot to break the drive is Mlondozi Dam which offers visitors panoramic views over the plains and the Lebombo Mountains. Muntche Hill is an interesting stop-off as you can see a distinctive change in landscape where the flat basalt plains meet the rocky rhyolite hills. There is a 12km circular road (S122) around Muntche Hill where many visitors have reported sightings of cheetah.

Another excellent viewing point is Nkumbe, at a point where the road ascends into the Lebombo Mountain range before descending toward Tshokwane. You can look out over the Mlondozi River and try to spot game on the endless savannah plains.

Last stop on the H10 route is Orpen Dam where you will find a pleasant thatched shelter positioned close to the edge of the Munywini River, at the base of the Lebombo Mountain. This is an excellent spot for bird watching and of course, sightings of crocodile and pods of hippo.

  • Berg en Dal Loop (S110)

This is a great drive if you are planning to leave the Park via the Crocodile Bridge or Malelane Gate. It takes you into a region of southern Kruger characterised by majestic granite koppies (small hills) which are some of the oldest rocks in the world. The most impressive is Khandizwe Mountain (839m) which is the highest point in Kruger National Park.

This region is known for experiencing the highest rainfall in the Park which in turn means that it boasts incredible biodiversity. The Zulu milkberry, red ivory, white pear and the Cape chestnut trees in the area are spectacular features and attract an array of birds to the region.

The quirky Klipspringer and Mountain reedbuck is prolific in these parts and only found in the southern region of Kruger National Park. Leopard sightings are common as they tend to favour the granite hills for their lairs. A waterhole situated under Matjulu Hill is popular for sightings of white rhino, kudu and giraffe.

Wild dog and cheetah also favour the densely wooded environment and Berg-en-Dal is the only area where you will find the southern grey Rhebok. For breath-taking views of the western mountain range and the expansive flat savannah plains, stop at a site on the Steilberg Road (S120).

The region was inhabited by the San people and is rich in artefacts from the Late Stone Age and Iron Age. Potsherds and bones dating back hundreds of years where found when Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp was built in the early 1980s. There are approximately 100 rock art sites in the south-western corner of the Park which can only be visited with a guide. The 3-day Bushman Trail is your best option to view these magnificent archaeological sites but the trail is so popular, you have to book a year in advance.

  • Biyamiti (S114), Bume (S26) and Randspruit (H5) Roads

This region is defined by low hills with rough and sandy soil and sweet grass that attracts the browsers. The Bume Road (S26) is more scenic alternative to the Crocodile River Road as the drive meanders along streams and riverbeds which is excellent for game viewing.

The abundance of Knob thorn acacias, bushwillow and Marula trees in the area provides excellent nutrition for browsers and you’re guaranteed to see large numbers of giraffe, kudu and duiker.

Herds of elephant make their way down to the rivers that are flanked with leadwood, jackal-berry, sycamore figs and sausage trees. Small groupings of black rhino are concentrated in the Nwatimhiri and Gomondwane thickets north of Crocodile Bridge and south of the Sabie River. This is also an area that you will find Sable antelope, the largest and most spectacular of all antelope in the Kruger National Park.

Pick up the Biyamiti Loop (S23) off Bume Road and make your way to Biyamiti Weir. Flocks of European bee-eaters make this region their home in our summer months and birding in general is excellent. Otherwise you can head eastwards along the Randspruit Road (H5) which takes you past the site of Sardelli the Greek’s trading store on the banks of the Vurhami River.

The best drive in the southern part of Kruger National Park is the road (S139) that follows the Biyamiti River past Biyamiti Bush Camp. Only visitors who are booked into this small and intimate camp are allowed access to this part of the Park so it’s well worth booking into the camp for a night to experience the privacy and isolation of the area.

Exit via Crocodile Bridge

Once you have thoroughly explored the Biyamiti Basin, it is time to head home and your nearest exit point is Crocodile Bridge Gate. If you need to fill up your car or your tummies, you can stop off at Crocodile Bridge Camp which is a short drive from the gate.

Be on the lookout for white rhino as they favour the mixed woodland vegetation. The shy black rhino usually stay deep in the thorn thickets. Sightings of lion, spotted hyena, leopard, cheetah and wild dog are also common in this southern-most corner of the Park. The area is dominated by open savannah grassland on basalt which provides sweet, nutritious grazing for common game such as impala.

If you find yourself on the Gomondwane Road (H4-2), stop off either the Gezamtombi or Gomondwane waterholes for excellent game viewing. This historical road was the first road built in the Kruger National Park and was laid out by CR de Laporte in the early 1920s in what was then Sabi Game Reserve.

It follows the route that Chief Magashula used to travel from his kraal (home) in Phabeni to Delagoa Bay and tracks made by the first traders that made up João Albasini’s entourage. Remnants of the San people who once lived and hunted in the area are found on overhanging sandstone rock near the Hippo Pool (S27).

This scenic route out of the Park is known as the ‘Southern Circle’ and boasts high concentrations of hyena, prides of lion and rest of the Big 5. It is rated as one of the best game viewing drives in the Park and can get quite congested. Make sure you allow yourself enough time to explore the area and still make it to the Crocodile Bridge Gate in time.

There are always animals to see as you cross over the Crocodile Bridge on your way out of the Park. If you have a few moments to spare, you can make a quick turn to Gezantfombi Dam which is a short drive away from the bridge. If you time it right, you’re guaranteed to see elephants cooling off in the water.

Once out of Kruger National Park, you have a scenic drive to look forward to through the lush, fertile Malelane valley and the magnificent Komati Gorge. Then it is homewards on a dual-carriageway through the capital of Mpumalanga Province, Nelspruit, to Johannesburg.

3-DAY KRUGER SAFARI

After a thoroughly enjoyable day exploring the south-west routes, we recommend staying at one of the private satellite camps that are ideally positioned for the next part of your Kruger safari; exploring the central belt of the Park. You have a choice of Talamati Bush Camp, Tamboti Tent Camp or Maroela Private Camp.

These private camps book up a year in advance; if you can’t get a booking, the most accessible option is Satara Rest Camp. The camp environment is child-friendly, with ample space within the camp to roam around safely. It has a rustic feel with most of the self-catering bungalows set out in a series of circles. Accommodation in Satara comes standard with an evening choral show which includes chirping fruit bats, screaming cicadas, the gentle calls of owls and nightjars, the whoop of hyena, the screech of jackal and the distant roar of lions.

Satara Rest Camp is situated on an open plain surrounded by groves of stunted knobthorn and marula trees aswell as a light mix of wooded thickets. If you get to the rest camp with some time to spare, you can stop off at Girivana Water Hole which is a short drive from the camp and excellent for game viewing.

This area boasts the highest concentration of lion and sightings of hyena are also common. The predators are attracted to the open grasslands that are home to large herds of grazers, such as the common impala (affectionately known as the fast-food of the bush). Keep an eye on the sky for circling vultures as that means there has been a lion kill close to the camp.

Exploring the central region of Kruger National Park

The central belt of Kruger National Park is dominated by sweetveld (grass) that grows on fertile soils layered on shale and volcanic basalt. The delicious vegetation is a gastronomic delight for grazers and browsers and the area is well known for its abundance of impala, kudu, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck and sable antelope. There are also large concentrations of buffalo and giraffe which in turn bring predators to the area.

A belt of granite in the central-west region produces clay soils that are rich in nutrients. Magnificent tree species such as the marula and knobthorn dominate the savanna grasslands. These trees produce delicious fruit and flowering leaves that attract an array of birds, butterflies and browsers such as elephant, kudu and giraffe. Higher concentrations of black rhino are found in the central belt for the same reason.

Most of the land in the central region of the Park originally belonged to the state and had been designated as farming land. These privately- or company-owned farms were expropriated or exchanged for land elsewhere and the negotiated settlement cost the government at the time a fortune. As a result, the uneven western boundary was the result of the government limiting the number of farms it had to purchase.

Five seasonal rivers meander across the central region of the Park and game is abundant in seasons with high rainfall. However, the region is also afflicted by extremely dry spells that have, at different times, depleted animal numbers. In the late 1960s, the Park’s board granted permission for a number of man-made dams to be built in the central region which has resulted in game herds concentrating in areas that were only traditionally visited in summer. This is problematic from a conservation point of view but fantastic for visitors on a Kruger safari.

The abundance of game in the central region means Satara Rest Camp is an extremely popular tourist destination. It is estimated that there are no fewer than 60 lion prides within a 20 kilometre radius of the camp and on average one lion kill every three days. Many smaller camps and tented camps have sprung up to capitalise on the popularity of the central basin and these camps provide visitors with a more private and isolated bush experience.

Cheetah sightings in the central region are rare as the habitat of southern Kruger is more ideal for them. The high density of lion in the central region is problematic for cheetahs and has also had a negative impact on the number of endangered wild dog in the area. Lion account for at least one third of wild dog pup deaths and therefore these quirky painted dogs avoid areas with a higher concentration of lions.

The spotted hyena holds its own against lion and the breed thrives in the central region of the Park. It is estimated that at least 1 200 spotted hyena reside in the central bowl. As both lion and hyena favour impala as a quick and easy meal, there numbers put a strain on the breeding herds of these common grazers.

Game drive routes from Satara

  • Satara Rest Camp to Olifants Rest Camp (H1-4)

This is the route to take if you are heading north in the direction of Olifants Rest Camp or Letaba Rest Camp. The road takes visitors along a flat and monotonous landscape dominated by knobthorn and marula trees. It is not the most scenic route to Olifants Rest Camp but the abundance of animals in the region makes it ideal for game viewing. There are a number of water pans along the road which is great for birders.

Follow the N’wanetsi River along the S100 and stop off at the Shibotwana and Nsasane waterholes before coming out on the Gudzani Road (S41). The exclusive N’wanetsi Singita Lebombo Lodge is located in this area, a privately-owned lodge that attracts the rich and famous.

N’wanetsi and Sweni outlook points are a good place to stop if you need to stretch your legs or you could pull into the Sonop and Shishangani waterholes which are excellent for game viewing and early evening sundowners.

The Olifants region consists of three ecosystems with savannah grasslands to the south, Mopaneveld to the north and the riverine forest of the Olifants River. Mountainous thornveld with black rocks and mixed woodland form a barrier between the northern mopaneveld and the southern mixed bushwillow woodlands.

The S90 road takes tourists on a Kruger safari that winds through grasslands dominated by knobthorn trees. Large herds of game are found in this area and the road is a lot less congested than the main roads in the southern part of the Park.

  • Satara Rest Camp to the Timbavati picnic spot (S39)

The road travelling along the Timbavati River is regarded as one of the best routes in the Kruger National Park. It is also the home of the famous White Lion of Kruger. The S39 follows the Timbavati River for almost 50 kilometres, crosses many geographical zones and is rich in biodiversity. Thornveld and mixed woodland melts into Mopaneveld with granite outcrops, gabbro, ecca shale and basalt dominating the region.

At Waypoint 482, take the S127 to the Timbavati picnic spot which is located at a point where four roads merge together. The Piet Grobler Dam is located at Waypoint 487; it’s a large concrete dam built across the Timbavati River. It was named in honour of Piet Grobler, the grand-nephew of Paul Kruger, who played a significant role in establishing the Kruger National Park.

If you want to push on, make your way to Ratelpan Bird Hide (S39) and the Goedgegun and Roodewal water holes. The S39 route runs along the Timbavati River and is an incredibly scenic drive with great game viewing. Birders should be on the lookout for the kori bustard, which is the heaviest flying bird in the world and known for impressive aerial displays performed in the mating season.

This is a Riverine and Thornveld area, although large stands of the exotic Lala Palm are found at Ratelpan. The bird hide at Ratelpan is one of eleven in the Park and overlooks the river. A delightful sight is watching a herd of elephant wonder down the bank on the other side for a refreshing drink and swim. Birders will be on the lookout for the Comb duck, Pied and Giant kingfishers and the thick-billed Cuckoo.

Photographers flock to Leeubron Water Hole on the S39 as it is regarded as one of the top 10 sites for wildlife photography. Animal numbers in this central region have steadily increased since the fence dividing the western Kruger from the private reserves in the Timbavati was removed.

  • Satara Rest Camp to Orpen Rest Camp

If you are not heading north for a longer stay, your third day of a Kruger safari will see you explore the middle-western belt of the central region before you head towards Orpen Gate, passing the many private and tented camps in the region. You will leave behind sweetveld that makes up the ecology of the eastern plains for the sourveld of the western part of the central region.

The most direct route from Satara Rest Camp to the Orpen Gate is the tarred H7 main road. A short drive from the camp is the gravesite of William Lloyd who was a ranger at Satara in 1920. It’s worth a quick stop, if only to appreciate the hardships rangers and their families endured in those times.

In those early days, the Satara ranger’s camp was so remote that it could only be reached on foot or horse back. Lloyd and his young wife and small children lived in complete isolation. Lloyd succumbed to pneumonia and died, forcing his wife to send a message to Stevenson-Hamilton who immediately travelled to the camp to offer his assistance. By the time he got there, Lloyds’ wife had buried her husband in a shallow grave under a tree close to the house.

There are three small camps in the Orpen area but when it’s time to stop for lunch and to fill up your tank, head to Orpen Rest Camp. Maroela Camp and Tamboti Tented Camp offer basic facilities mainly geared for campers.

The Orpen area is popular among birders as it is well-known as raptor and vulture territory. The most common sightings are the Cape vultures and Bateleurs. You are also guaranteed of seeing large herds of buffalo on the H7 route through the Orpen area. These massive bovines may look like domestic cattle but they are one of the most dangerous animals in the African bush and part of the Big 5.

Large concentrations of wildlife are also found at Nsemani Pan and surrounds which is located a short drive from Satara Rest Camp. The pan is located on a narrow strip of ecca shale that divides the granite woodlands of the west from the basalt plains in the east. The thornveld is broken by rocky granite outcrops, with the most impressive being Mathikithi Koppie. It’s also probably the best place to see white rhino aswell as an impressive concentration of elephant, giraffe and kudu.

Exit via Orpen Gate

Just before you leave Kruger National Park through Orpen Gate, you have the opportunity to stop and stretch your legs at an outpost situated close to the gate. Rabelais Hut is the site of the original entrance gate to the central region and is located on the old Orpen road to the east of N’wamatsata Drift, approximately 9 kilometres from Orpen Rest Camp.

The original hut that served as the reception and guard house has been well preserved. The rest camp and gate was named in honour of the Orpen family, the original owners of the farm. Orpen Gate was relocated to its current position in 1954 when the boundary fence was moved further westward as a result of the expropriation of the farm lands.

Rabelais Hut is now used as an information centre and a small living museum. The hut and the nearby waterhole derive their name from the French writer and satirist Francois Rabelais.

4-DAY KRUGER SAFARI

With two days left of a 5-day Kruger safari, we recommend you spend your fourth night at Letaba Rest Camp in the north-eastern region of the Park. This rest camp is ideally located to explore an area of the Park that promises spectacular views, prolific birdlife and excellent game viewing. The name Letaba means ‘river of sand’ in Sotho.

Letaba Rest Camp is situated on a sweeping bend of the Letaba River, midway between the southern and northern boundaries of the Kruger National Park. Against the drier, sandy landscape the camp stands out like a green oasis. It is situated in Mopane shrubveld surrounded by mixed grass plains and apple leaf trees. Taller trees like leadwoods, tamboti and nyala are found along the drainage lines and riverine forest.

To get to Letaba Rest Camp from the Olifants area, either take the main Olifants-Letaba tar road (H1-5) or the slightly longer Letaba River dust road (S46/S44). The main tar road takes you through relatively flat Mopane shrubveld while the Letaba River Road ambles along the south bank of Engelhard Dam and the winding route alongside the river.

The Olifants River is known as one of the most spectacular stretches of the Park, where rugged veld meets the lush riverine forest. There are often leopard sightings along this road, although the area is appreciated more for its scenic beauty and birdlife than its abundance of animals. Birders will be on the lookout for the rare saddle-billed and black storks that chose the Olifants River as one of their main breeding grounds.

When you’ve finally settled into your accommodation at Letaba Rest Camp, keep an eye out for a new species of spider that was first discovered in 2003. The baboon spider has, to date, not been recorded anywhere else in the world except in a patch of Mopane trees near the camp.

Explore the Letaba area

The Letaba basin is known as an archaeologists dream destination as it is believed to be the area the first Bantu-speaking tribe moved to when they travelled from the northern regions of Africa to settle on the Letaba River in about 400 AD. Remnants of early human inhabitants make it an extremely interesting part of the Park to explore if you’re not there just for the wildlife.

The northern region of Kruger National Park is dominated by Mopaneveld and alluvial flood plains and has a much lower carrying capacity than the southern region. It is known rather as a rewarding birding destination, with the Shingwedzi flood plains being one of the country’s top summer birding spots. Shingwedzi itself is renowned for its big tuskers as most of the legendary Magnificent Seven made the flood plains their territorial home.

Game drives in the Letaba-Shingwedzi-Punda Maria area (H1-7)

There are not many roads in the northern region of the Park and the only link from the Letaba area to Punda Maria Rest Camp is the H1-7. This is a spectacular route with a number of loops that take you from the drier mopaneveld through a stunning riverine forest.

  • Mpholongolo Loop (S56)

This 20-kilometre detour takes about 2 hours and offers visitors on a 5-day Kruger safari spectacular bird and game viewing in an isolated part of the Park. Lion, buffalo, elephant and leopard are common sightings on this route.

The area is semi-arid but an ample water supply from the Shingwedzi and Luvuvhu Rivers attracts a decent stock of wildlife. Mopane trees thrive in this sun-baked region, which have the ability to withstand longer periods of dry weather. In areas with poor, shallow soil the trees grow as a multi-stemmed shrub and play an important role in an elephant’s diet. Caterpillars of the emperor moth, known as mopane worms, feed on the leaves and are a delicacy for the local African people.

  • Letaba River

This river is one of seven major tributaries in the Park and forms part of a corridor of biodiversity that includes the Olifants, Shingwedzi, Tsendze and Mphongolo Rivers. Imposing trees grow along its bank, including the tall apple-leaf, sycamore fig, nyala, tamboti and jackal-berry trees. Large pools that break up the flow of the river are home to crocodile and pods of hippo.

During a severe drought in the mid-1940s, the Letaba River stopped flowing. This dry spell had a devastating impact on the hippo population and the dry years that followed further decimated their numbers. In 1970 an American industrialist, Charles Engelhard, financed the construction of a large dam on the river downstream from the Letaba Rest Camp. Three other dams and a number of reservoirs (artificial dams) were constructed at later dates, including the Kanniedood (cannot die) Dam.

The construction of artificial water sources created some controversy among conservationists but the decision was finally made to build the dams to safeguard the animals that are highly dependent on a good water source. Wildlife numbers have steadily climbed in recent years through conservation initiatives and the most rewarding result is that the concentration of elephants in the Letaba area has grown significantly.

As mentioned, the northern region of the Park is paradise for avid birders. The Mopane woodlands attract an array of unusual birds that are not found elsewhere in Kruger National Park. Birders should be on the lookout for the mourning dove, the endangered Arnot’s chat, grey-rumped swallow and brown-throated Martin.

  • Lamont Loop (S55)

This loop is located north of Shingwedzi and takes you on a winding route alongside the wide, sandy river bed. It is an excellent road for sightings of elephant grazing among the mopane shrubs. Nkulumboni South and Nwarihlangari are two water holes that you can visit but don’t expect to see anything too exciting as the concentration of game is very limited in this area.

  • Babalala to Dzundzwini (H1-7)

This area is a mix of mopane shrubveld and mixed mopane woodlands. The lush wetlands around the Babalala picnic site attract an array of birds, in particular the migratory water birds. The wetlands are part of the Shisha River system that form a series of protected vleis (wetlands) that have been identified by BirdLife SA as an important habitat for some of South Africa’s rarest birds.

The Babalala picnic site offers braai facilities with a good supply of wood, ice and cold drinks on sale. Be on the lookout for cheetah in the area. Birders will be keen to spot the corn crake, African crake and the more common black crake.

  • Letaba to Mopani Rest Camp (H1-6)

This is a popular route for sightings of elephant who favour the mopaneveld and wetter floodplains close to the Letaba River. Free-tailed bats come out in large numbers in the evening, setting off from the high-level bridge to gorge on mosquitoes and other pesky critters.

A good place to stop for lunch is the Mopani Rest Camp which is located on the banks of Pioneer Dam. It lies nestled in a Mopani wooded area broken only by a scattering of koppies (small hills). A signature feature of the camp is a huge gnarled baobab tree that stands in the heart of the camp.

Built in 1992, Mopani Rest Camp is the youngest of the main camps in Kruger National Park. It offers visitors spectacular views of Pioneer Dam which is rich in birdlife and a higher concentration of animals than the rest of the stark landscape. For a unique bush experience, visitors can book to spend the night in the Shipandane bird hide.

Guided trails to the Shilowa heritage sites can be booked in advance. The walk takes you to a site that lies to the right of the Tropic of Capricorn and marks the so-called First Site believed to be where the first humans settled in the area in the period 1 200 AD and 1 600 AD. A second site dates back to the late 1700s when the Pedi inhabited the area. They were driven out of the region in the 1800s by the Tsonga chief Gugunyane.

After lunch, take the H1-6 which is a series of loop roads that follow the Tsendzi River south of the camp. Confluence Lookout is a good spot for better game viewing. Thereafter, take the Tropic of Capricorn Loop (S143) where you will cross over the imaginary line at Shilowa Mountain on the edge of Lebombo. Shilbavatsengele is an excellent lookout point.

For a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape dotted with majestic baobab trees, make your way up Bowker’s Kop which is to the north of Mopani Rest Camp. Birders should be on the lookout for the rare knob-billed duck which often makes an appearance at the waterhole opposite the hill.

  • Engelhard Dam

The routes around the Engelhard Dam take tourists on a panoramic drive through a magnificent landscape rich in biodiversity. The Matambeni bird hide and the Engelhard view site are two good lookout points which can be reached either via the S62 on the northern side of the Letaba River or from the S46 on the southern side.

The large weir lies to the east of Letaba Rest Camp and is known as a birding paradise with regular sightings of herons, plovers, bee-eaters, storks, crakes and jacanas.

  • Von Wielligh’s Camp

A magnificent baobab tree stands sentry at the confluence of the Olifants and Letaba Rivers and marks the site where GR Von Wielligh set up camp. He was one of the original surveyors in the area and his name is still etched on the tree which he carved in 1891.

Exit via Phalaborwa Gate

Take the H14 from Mopani Camp to reach Phalaborwa Gate at the end of your 4-day Kruger safari. Your journey out of the Park will take you through woodlands of Mopane trees, bushwillows and acacias. You might not have seen much game on your last day but you should have enjoyed magnificent bird sightings.

If you have time, you can make a detour to the Sable water hole or the Masorini Cultural Village which is located at the base of the Vudogwa Mountain. Sable water hole is so named as it is known for its larger concentrations of Sable antelope. They are quite difficult to spot as these shy animals tend to blend into the dense thickets.

The Masorini Settlement provides visitors with a glimpse of how the early iron makers and traders lived in the 16th century. The site is located about 11 kilometres from Phalaborwa Gate. The ancient village has been restored and you can see where the smelters lived on the lower terrace of Masorini and where the forgers lived on the higher terraces; the forgers enjoyed a higher status.

The stonewalls, grinding stones, potsherds and the remains of foundries – which includes a well-preserved smelting furnace – date back to the 19th century. There are also implements on exhibit that date back to the Stone Age and Iron Age. There is a spectacular outlook point on the Masorini hilltop overlooking Shikumbu Hill where the Chieftain lived.

 

5-DAY KRUGER SAFARI

You can’t really do justice to the northern region of the Kruger National Park with only one day to spare but you’ll have enough time to whet your appetite for a return visit. We recommend you spend your last night of a 5-day Kruger safari at the Punda Maria Rest Camp which is located a short 8-kilometre drive from the Punda Maria Gate.

This section of the Park is completely different from the central and southern regions and often described as the ‘botanical garden’ of the Kruger National Park. It boasts a unique biodiversity, has higher concentrations of game than the drier Letaba area and is well-known as a bird paradise. It is also an important archaeology region, being the area that the first inhabitants settled in the Stone and Iron Age.

Visitors staying at Punda Maria Rest Camp can stay in luxury safari tents nestled in lush vegetation or pretty white-washed bungalows that have much-needed air-conditioning. For a budget-friendly option, visitors have the choice of 50 camp or caravan sites.

The rest camp was given the name Punda Maria by the first ranger posted to the area, Captain JJ Coetser. He thought Punda Maria was the Swahili name for zebra which is the first large animal he saw on his arrival. The correct spelling is actually ‘punda milia’ meaning ‘striped donkey’ but the name stuck, despite an attempt in 1981 to change it. The name Maria is not a form of ‘milia’ but the name of the captain’s wife who stoically bore him 12 children.

Captain Coetser played a vital role in curbing rampant ivory poaching in the region which had become a haunt of smugglers, poachers and hunters. These roughnecks based themselves at the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers at a point where the borders of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) and South Africa meet. This settlement of derelict shacks became known as Crooks’ Corner.

These lawless men made their living illegally trading in ivory, using labour recruited from the Witwatersrand Basin during the gold rush era. Their base at Crooks’ Corner meant they could skip across one of the borders to hide out when authorities came searching for them.

Exploring the Far North of Kruger National Park

The northern region of the Park stands out in stark contrast to the southern regions based on its unique ecology. It is situated in the tropics and has a geological base of sandstone rather than granite and basalt that is common throughout the rest of the Park. The landscape is referred to as sandveld and, although stark in parts, has stunning stands of trees where you are guaranteed to see elephants.

If you are this far north, it is worthwhile pushing on to explore the area around Pafuri. The landscape is a spectacular mix of South African Lowveld and African woodlands with various trees including the bushwillow species, silver cluster leaves and white syringe. It is known as the ‘northern biome’ and is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the Park.

Animals in this area are scarcer than the southern region of the Park, although small groupings are found on the banks of the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers. You want to visit Pafuri purely for its diverse array of rare plants and birdlife. Unusual sightings of the Sharpe’s grysbok and the Suni antelope are a rare and exciting, hiding out in the thickets along the river. You may also be lucky enough to spot one of the territorial leopards in the area.

Rare birds to lookout for include the Bohms spinetails, the African finfoot and the white crowned plover. Other unusual sightings to tick off your list include the Pel’s fishing owl, thick-billed cuckoo, racket-tailed roller, Arnot’s bush chat, bush shrike, narine trogon and trumpeter hornbill.

An unusual feature of the far northern region of the Kruger National Park is the hot springs in the Parfuri area. The region lies on a fault-line known as the Limpopo Mobile Belt, which is the joint between the Kaapvaal Craton (the crust of the earth supporting South Africa) and the Central African Craton to the north. Water heated deep below the earth’s surface makes its way through cracks in the underground sediment.

  • Luvuvhu River Drive to the Parfuri picnic site

Make your way along the Luvuvhu River Drive to the Parfuri picnic site (S63) which is the only viewpoint in this part of the Park. This scenic spot is surrounded by luscious Anna trees and thick woodlands. Thereafter, you can make your way to the Thulamela Iron Age site.

A loop road takes you to the foot of Dzundzwini Hill where you will find a giant sausage tree. This is the site of the first camp built for Captain JJ Coetser. In the 1830s the area was under the control of chief Matibee and when Louis Trichardt, a well-known Voortrekker, passed through the area, he named the hill ‘Matibeetuijn’ (meaning Matibee’s garden).

Vegetation in the camps in the region is fairly stark but one plant stands out on arrival, the impala lily. This plant produces white flowers with a pretty pink stripe and looks pretty harmless. In fact, the impala lily is deadly poisonous. San Bushmen used the sap from the impala lily as poison on the tips of their arrows that they used to kill small game and fish.

  • Dzundzwini to Shingwedzi (H1-7)

There are several water holes along this route but game viewing is fairly bleak as the area is dominated by sourveld. You can stop to stretch your legs at the Babalala viewpoint which is a thatched shelter built around an enormous sycamore fig. Be on the lookout for cheetah that are often sighted lazing on anthills jutting out the open grasslands below.

The area is known for its accipiters (birds of prey) with common sightings of the black sparrowhawk and African goshawk.

  • The Ivory Trail

This interesting trail takes you back in time to when hunting expeditions came to the elephant-hunting grounds during the 19th and early 20th century. The ancient trail left the Great North Road near the present-day town of Polokwane and passed Soekmekaar, descending into the Lowveld near Klein Letaba.

The well-worn path headed east in the direction of Shingwedzi River where there was a solitary store, the last place to stock up on provisions before heading deep into the bush. The hunters set up thornbush-covered camps at nightfall that offered them some protection from the lions in the area.

The area was occupied at the time by a Shangaan-speaking chief called Sikololo who was known for his hospitality and generosity; offering them produce from his protected gardens in exchange for game meat. To ward off wild animals desperate to get into his precious fruit and vegetable gardens, the tribal women had to stay up all night beating drums.

The ancient trail wound through the mopane forests to a camping spot known as Senkhuwa (after the wild fig trees in the area). The site of this more pleasant camp is now known as Klopperfontein, named after an ivory hunter called Hans Klopper.

Baobab Hill marks a point on the Ivory Trail where the road winds down into the Luvuvhu River Valley to Makuleke Drift. This took the hunters deep into elephant territory and the trail from here splinters into numerous bush paths.

  • Makuleke Wilderness Area

The Makuleke Conservancy is known as the ‘jewel of northern Kruger’. It is a 24 000-hectare private concession located between the Luvuvhu River to the south and the Limpopo River to the north. The region is dominated by sandveld, easily distinguished by its central African vegetation, large alluvial flood plains and rare plant species.

Extensive anti-poaching measures have seen game numbers flourish, including prides of lion that have returned to the region after almost been wiped out by poachers. Small herds of elephants cross the Limpopo area in winter from Zimbabwe in the south to graze in the thick bush, and large populations of hippo and crocodiles can be seen at the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers at Crooks’ Corner. Be on the lookout for eland and the rare Sharpe’s grysbok.

This region is well-known as a birder’s paradise, with the main attractions being the Pel’s fishing owl, black-throated wattle-eye, orange-winged pytilia, African crowned eagle and racket-tailed roller.

  • Makulele Heritage Site

The Makuleke area is rich in archaeological finds. One of the earliest Stone Age sites can be found on the northern banks of Luvuvhu River near Crooks’ Corner. Large stone hand axes found at the site have been dated back to approximately 1.5 million years.

Tools found at the site were most likely used by Homo ergaster, one of the earliest members of the genus Homo. At this time, the last of what are known as the ‘ape men’ were still in existence but under pressure from the new, bigger-brained genus Homo; the first of our ancestors to master the art of stone tool-making.

On an exploration dig at Hutwini Hills, one of the world’s oldest board games was found – the maraba. This ancient game was played out on a flat rock which served as a board, with regularly-spaced carved-out holes. The game is similar to what we call Chinese checkers.

  • Nyala Drive along the Luvuvhu River

This route takes you on a scenic drive alongside the Luvuvhu River that winds its way through the sandveld into the alluvial flood plains before joining the Limpopo at Crooks’ Corner. The route is flanked by forests made up of nyalas, large-leaved fever berries, forest fever and sycamore fig trees. These magnificent trees attract an array of birdlife and the usual sightings of nyala, kudu and impala.

  • Luvuvhu River Drive to Crooks’ Corner (S63)

This drive is the most spectacular of all the drives in the northern region of the Park. The road follows the Luvuvhu River through tropical woodland to shady viewpoints that overlook the wide river. The vegetation ranges from dry thornveld and baobabs to lush riverine forest dominated by nyala, jackal-berry and fig trees. Probably one of the most popular attractions is the forest of ghostly green fever trees.

Game viewing is somewhat limited except along the banks of the river but, on the alluvial plains, you should see sightings of nyala, kudu and impala. There are leopard in the area but they are hard to spot as they tend to hang out in the thick undergrowth of the Luvuvhu River.

Exit via Pafuri Gate

Your 5-day Kruger safari has come to an end and it is time to return home. Pafuri Gate will be the closest exit point if you have been exploring the Parfuri area. The drive back to Johannesburg from here will take about 6-7 hours so you may need to spend the night someplace outside the Park before making the long journey home.

Mutale Falls offers visitors self-catering accommodation in safari tents set on a high ridge overlooking the Mutale River. There is no electricity in the camp but the paraffin and solar lights add to the overall rustic appeal of a bush experience.

Mutale Falls is located in the Makuya Reserve that offers visitors the opportunity to visit viewing points overlooking the Luvuvhu Gorge. So if you’re not quite ready to end your Kruger safari, this reserve promises sightings of the Big 5 and magnificent viewing.

 

Why not plan something different for your year-end function and combine the fun of a corporate get-together with the warmth and soul of Soweto?

Private and corporate groups that have hosted year-end functions in Soweto describe it as an inspiring and uplifting experience. It opens your eyes up the real people of South Africa and exposes you to a unique blend of traditional and modern culture and community spirit.

You have the choice of a traditional Soweto shebeen serving authentic African cuisine for a mid-day function or party late into the night at an upmarket restaurant and nightclub known for its electric buzz and festive atmosphere.

Travel to Soweto with Moafrika Tours in the comfort of a luxury air-conditioned vehicle or experience first-hand travelling in a minibus taxi, otherwise known as a Ses’fikile (Xhosa for “we have arrived’) or a Zola Budd (named after the famous South African Olympics runner).

Before or after your year-end function, visit the iconic sites of Soweto which are the cornerstones of its rich political and cultural heritage. Your personal Moafrika Tours guide was born in Soweto and grew up in an area close to the heart of the historical Vilakazi Street Precinct. His knowledge and tales of struggle, jubilation and heroism will deeply enrich your life and leave you with a profound respect for the Soweteans who fought and died for the freedom they celebrate today.

FUN THINGS TO DO IN SOWETO

Soweto has risen from the ashes of apartheid and the liberation struggle to become a thriving powerhouse in South Africa’s economic landscape. The city is rich in history and traditional culture, and home to some 1.4 million people; about 40% of the population of Johannesburg.

Massive infrastructure development has taken place over the past decade and Soweto now boasts state-of-the art shopping centres, upmarket restaurants and nightclubs and modern amenities. At the same time, Soweto retains much of its rich character; where modern spaces blend into pockets of Soweto that are remnants of the old struggle days. Many of its residents still live in abject poverty while others are reaping the rewards of a city that has found its economic feet.

Meet the Shebeen Queens

Shebeens (local taverns) are a fixture of the Soweto social scene and have evolved to cater for a younger, trendier set of both Black and White patrons and international tourists. A visit to a shebeen in Soweto is an incredible experience; not only is it a chance to soak up the ambience of this vibrant city but it’s also a chance to pause and remember the hardships and oppression Soweteans experienced before they shared the joy of freedom and equality.

During the apartheid era, Soweto residents were prohibited from establishing formal businesses and the Native Act restricted the consumption of “intoxicating” liqueur in townships. Makeshift taverns called shebeens were set up and often served as meeting places for political activists. The word shebeen comes from a combination of the Irish-Gaelic word síbín and the Zulu word shibhile, both meaning ‘cheap’.

The economic effects of the Great Depression were devastating to an increasingly poor and landless rural population, forcing huge numbers of Black people to move to urban areas to seek wage-paying jobs. African women struggled to find work in the formal sector and many resorted to applying their traditional skills to making home-brewed beer. These women became known as “shebeen queens”; making and selling a type of beer known as umqombothi to the migrant labourers.

Shebeens provided these hardworking men a place to relax and socialise, shrugging off the oppression of life under apartheid rule. Despite being illegal, shebeens provided the community with a safe place to express their cultural traditions; enjoying their own music, traditional dancing and authentic food.

Try Mandela’s favourite dish at Wandie’s Place

The most well-known restaurant in Soweto is Wandie’s Place in Dube. The restaurant operates out of a typical Soweto four-roomed house that once was an illegal shebeen that sold food and drink without a license. Today it is a vibey, fun hangout that has hosted the likes of Will Smith, Richard Branson and Chris Rock. Food is served buffet-style and includes local cuisine such as umngqusho, morogo and chakalaka.

Nelson Mandela’s favourite meal was umngqusho. This is samp which is broken dried maize kernels mixed with red beans. Samp is usually boiled in butter and flavoured with butter, onions, potatoes, chillies, lemon juice, salt and oil. The samp is left to simmer on a low heat until all the ingredients are tender.

Wandie’s Place is credited for introducing non-Sowetans to the city where they could experience authentic African cuisine and an exciting city vibe. They started a trend where curious White co-workers – who had never set foot in Soweto – came to Wandie’s Place as a guest of a Black friend for a genuine township experience. The walls of the bar area are plastered with business cards and a quick look at them gives you an idea of how far some people have travelled for a delicious meal at Wandie’s Place.

Enjoy the vibe of Vilakazi Street Precinct

 

The iconic street is steeped in history but it’s also become one of the most popular destinations for international and local tourists. During the day, the area is inundated with foreign visitors but at night; it’s party time for the locals. The taverns and restaurants in Vilakazi Street Precinct have become institutions and the ideal starting point for a first-time visit to Soweto.

Sakhumzi Restaurant is in Vilakazi Street and is the ideal place to try traditional township cuisine while soaking up the rich historical atmosphere. The restaurant serves up a variety of dishes that includes mogodu (tripe) and ujege (steamed bread).

Restaurant Vilakazi is another hugely popular eatery on this famous street, serving up a menu that is described as “South African fusion food”. Popular dishes such as oxtail stew and samp with butternut and spinach are given a classy twist to cater for foreign taste buds.

Nexdor offers tourists uncomplicated, simple but good quality meals. It is situated in the heart of Vilakazi Street and becomes a thriving nightspot after dark.

Ntsitsi’s Fun Food is one of Soweto’s most famous street stalls. Situated in Diepkloof, it’s famous for its Soweto-style kotas. A kota is a township version of bunny chow; a quarter loaf of bread that is hollowed out and filled with potato fries and Russian sausages or a meat and veggie stew. Ntsitsi has 40 variations of kotas on their menu.

Chaf Pozi is located right below the Orlando Towers. Tourists who have bungee jumped off the towers or just got back from a bicycle ride through Soweto enjoy the relaxed atmosphere with its Soweto-style shebeen décor. Chaf Pozi is famous as a chesa nyama (meat cooked over an open fire) destination.

For finer dining, visit the Jazz Maniacs and Rusty’s Bar at the Soweto Hotel. This restaurant is in a four-star establishment, situated in the middle of the city. The dishes served are a fusion of traditional African and modern Western cuisine. Walk-in customers are welcome and their food prices are very reasonable, even though it’s a rather posh restaurant.

The Sowetalian was established by a chef whose father is Italian and mother is Sotho (from Lesotho). Items on the menu are a fusion of typical township cuisine and authentic Italian dishes. The restaurant is located close to the Regina Mundi Church.

Get sticky and messy the real African way

When in Soweto, eat like a Sowetean. You’ve got to try a bit of everything on a menu offering authentic African cuisine even if the thought of chicken heads and feet, cow tongue and cooked pig hoof doesn’t sound that appealing.

Chesa nyama or shisa nyama (meaning burnt meat in Zulu) is essentially braaied (barbeque) meat. Mieliepap (maize meal porridge) or pap as the locals call it is served with most dishes. It has a doughy texture and is traditionally eaten with your hands; roll a piece of pap into a ball and scoop up the meaty stew like you would a dipping sauce.

Pap is dry and fairly unappetising on its own so it’s always served with either a tasty stew, chakalaka or shebu, which is a sauce made from green vegetables and chillies. Considering most traditional Africans live on the breadline, anything goes into the sauce; beetroot, carrots, cabbage, onions, potatoes and morogo (a variety of wild weeds collected from the fields).

A good chesa nyama meal is usually accompanied with a glass or two of umqombothi; a popular traditional home-brewed beer made from sorghum mixed with maize meal, water and yeast and left to ferment.

Other side dishes include tripe which is left-over cuts of a carcass; including the liver, kidneys, brains, stomach and lungs. Traditional meat stews are often made from low-quality cuts of meat such as the tongue, tail, feet and head of a cow. Locals love what they call “walkie-talkies” which is a traditional dish of grilled or deep-fried feet and heads of chickens.

Sweet potato is more popular than the common potato as it’s richer in nutrients. It’s usually cooked over an open fire in its skin and then mashed up and served with butter and roasted peanuts and a squirt of honey.

Morogo is a widely-used term for any combination of edible green leaves; including wild spinach, bean and beetroot leaves. It’s delicious when boiled and served with pap and a braised onion and tomato sauce.

If you have a strong stomach, try amanqina which is a spicy, sticky stew made from the hoof of a cow, pig or sheep. Or try mashonzha which is a dish made from Mopani worms. These worms look like caterpillars and are delicious fried, grilled or cooked with chilli and peanuts.

If you are battling to choose from the list of foreign-sounding African names for the food items at a Soweto tavern, ask your Moafrika Tours guide to recommend something on the menu that is delicious but won’t make you feel like you’re a contestant on Fear Factor. Cow hoofs, ox tongue, Mopani worms and “walkie-talkies” are not everyone’s thing but you should always try something once.

Drink the local brew

The local people of Soweto love umqombothi, a traditional beer made from maize (corn), maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water. It is rich in Vitamin B and low in alcohol. It certainly is an acquired taste; a thick, creamy beer with a distinctly sour aroma and gritty texture.

Amasi (or maas in Afrikaans) is the common word for fermented milk and tastes like sour cottage cheese or plain yogurt. It is traditionally prepared by storing unpasteurised cow’s milk in a calabash (dried squash) or hide sack. The milk is left to ferment and soon develops a watery substance called umlaza. The thin liquid is discarded and the remaining thick fermented milk is either drunk on its own or poured over pap or breakfast porridge. A meal of pap and amasi is traditionally served in a clay pot and eaten with wooden spoons.

Mageu is a traditional non-alcoholic drink made from fermented mealie pap. Traditional women still prepare this much-loved drink at home but it’s also available in cartons at most supermarkets. The lactic acid produced during the fermentation process gives the drink a distinctive sour taste, although store-bought mageu is often flavoured and sweetened.

Party like a rap star

Music is the lifeblood of young Soweteans and the city is renowned as the founding place for Kwaito and Kasi Rap, a hip-hop genre that is unique to South Africa. Soweto reverberates to a musical beat that is a combination of house music, American hip-hop and traditional African music. Many of the popular songs tell the tale of oppression and the people’s will to fight for freedom and equality.

Take a walk down memory lane

Soweto remembers its past; safeguarding its turbulent heritage with museums and statues that honour the great struggle veterans who fought for freedom and equality. The most famous attraction in Soweto is Vilakazi Street Precinct which provides you with an array of iconic sites that honour the city’s turbulent past and its struggle for freedom and equality.

Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world with the homes of two Nobel Peace Prize winners; the great Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Their former homes are located a short walk from each other.

House number 8115 is the former house of Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa. Now known as Mandela House, the simple three-bedroomed home has been carefully restored as a living museum.

A short distance away is Tutu House, the former home of his good friend and fellow Noble Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Two large metal bull heads have been erected outside Mandela House, entitled The Nobel Laureates. They stand on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane Streets, and pay homage to these two great men.

Remember the children

A massive metal structure has been erected on Moema Street to commemorate the Soweto Uprising; it depicts a group of schoolchildren facing a policeman with a growling dog. The impressive structure honours the young children who lost their lives during the student protests of 1976. A memorial wall of slate on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Streets provides visitors with a quiet place to sit and contemplate the fateful day of 1976 and the events that unfolded in its aftermath.

A striking piece of street art is visible where Vilakazi Street intersects Khumalo Street. Eight huge grey hands spell ‘Vilakazi’ in sign language. Other murals in the street include one that depicts the scene of 16 June 1976 with police and their vans, and placard-carrying children. Several concrete benches have been livened up with intricate mosaic work and a row of bollards with wooden heads has been placed on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane streets.

Hastings Ndlovu’s Bridge was erected on the corner of Klipspruit Valley and Khumalo Road in remembrance of the 15-year old boy who was the first pupil shot when the police opened fire on the schoolchildren. He was rushed to hospital but died of his head wound. A statue of the young Hastings stands sentry on the bridge; dressed in school uniform, smiling and holding his arm up. Storyboards line each side of the bridge that tell the tale of the heroic bravery of young schoolchildren like Hastings.

Various streets, museums and graveyard sights in other parts of the city commemorate Soweto’s turbulent history and tell the silent tale of tragedy, suffering and bravery. This includes the grave of Hector Pieterson at Avalon Cemetery and the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum.

The memorial site and museum was opened on 16 June 2002 in Orlando West in Soweto, marking the place where Hector was shot. It not only honours the life of Hector but also those that died on that fateful day and in the months following the 1976 Soweto Uprising.

A blown-up photograph of the dying schoolboy, Hector Pieterson, carried in the arms of a young 18-year old pupil with his crying sister running alongside is the center-piece exhibit of the museum. The photograph reminds visitors of the agony and suffering these three young school children endured, caught up in a moment of time that changed the destiny of Black citizens of South Africa. Thereafter, a tour of the Hector Pieterson Museum is a fusion of modern technology and cultural history.

Regina Mundi Church is the largest Roman Catholic Church in South Africa and is found in Rockville, in the middle of Soweto. It is famous for having opened its doors to protesting schoolchildren in 1976 when the apartheid police opened fire on them. Public gatherings were banned by the apartheid government after the Soweto Riots and Regina Mundi Church was used for political meetings.

Swing from the Orlando Towers

Orlando Towers is a striking landmark in Soweto; painted luminous blue and covered in traditional artwork depicting the historical struggles and the daily life of Soweteans. The Orland Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station that stands out like two sentries overlooking the city of Soweto. The power station was erected at the end of World War II and served the city of Johannesburg for over 50 years.

The mural on Orlando Towers was hand-painted and took 6 months to complete. Orlando Towers is popular among thrill seekers who come from far and wide to bungee jump off it, swing or freefall their way to the bottom. There’s a walkway between the two that the brave and fearless can tackle.

Spend the night in Soweto

A fun day in Soweto doesn’t have to end at sunset. Moafrika Tours can recommend guests houses in Soweto for an overnight stay. The city comes alive at night and your guide will take you to places that are popular and safe for visitors. Wake up to the sound of Soweto and experience the exciting buzz of one of South Africa’s most vibrant cities.

JUST ASK MOAFRIKA TOURS

There is so much more to do in Soweto; you just have to ask.

Moafrika Tours is known for “never saying no to a guest” and the team can usually make something happen.

Your Moafrika Tours guide has been taking guests to the heart of the big city for over a decade and loves sharing the sights and delights of Soweto with guests. If you want to go off the beaten path, your guide will make a plan that is safe and responsible.

Moafrika Tours can organise a party tour for bachelor and bachorette parties. Now that’s something different!

Take a Sun City shuttle to one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations and discover the meaning of fun and fantasy.

From surf and fun in the sun to adrenalin-filled days on quads and waterslides, leisurely game drives, sipping cocktails at a pool bar, long walks in exotic forests, a game of golf, trying your luck at the roulette table and partying the night way. There’s something for everyone at Sun City.

 

A day tour of Sun City with MoAfrika Tours offers visitors a taste of life at one of the most spectacular tourist destinations in South Africa. You’ll have to come back one day for more fun and fantasy.

 

Sun City is a luxury resort and casino located in the North West Province of South Africa, just over two-hour’s drive from Johannesburg. Its close neighbour is the magnificent Pilanesberg Game Reserve so you can also enjoy a wildlife safari in between all the fun. MoAfrika Tours have been taking tourists to Pilanesberg Game Reserve for many years, with professional safari guides who know the popular national reserve like it’s their second home.

For a Sun City Day Tour, Moafrika Tours offers a service where you can be picked up at the Pilanesberg Airport or any hotel or guest lodge in the area and taken to Sun City for a fascinating tour of the resort and the architectural wonder of The Palace of the Lost City.

You’ll have enough time to enjoy a refreshing swim in a crystal-clear pool surrounded by tropical gardens, enjoy a delicious meal and a colourful cocktail at one of the many resort restaurants or try your luck in the casino.

A Sun City Day Tour is just one of the many excursions you can enjoy with MoAfrika Tours. Others include a Johannesburg tour, a Soweto tour, a Kruger Safari tour and a Cape Winelands tour. MoAfrika Tours offers something for everyone; whether it’s history, culture or wildlife you’re interested in.

THE HISTORY OF SUN CITY

Sun City Resort & Casino and the breath-taking Palace of the Lost City were developed by a visionary hotel magnate, Sol Kerzner. It was opened in 1979 at a time in South Africa when gambling was strictly prohibited under rigid rule of the current government.

The country was embroiled in the liberation struggle to free itself of the ruthless apartheid system; the United Nations had imposed a cultural boycott on South Africa and international artists refused to perform in the country. The South African people bore the brunt of draconian apartheid-rule; plunged into isolation on all fronts.

Kerzner created what can only be described as a magical oasis in a fairly arid corner of an independent state, known then as Bophuthatswana. Only a two-hour drive from the economic hub of Johannesburg, Sun City became an overnight success; attracting hundreds of tourists looking for a weekend of escape, fun and fantasy.

Kerzner offered substantial financial incentives to international artists to perform at Sun City and the likes of the Beach Boys, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart and Elton John performed to sold-out audiences in Sun City’s Superbowl auditorium. The resort also hosted racially-mixed world heavyweight boxing championships; the most famous being American Mike Weaver and challenger, South African Gerrie Coetzee.

Bophuthatswana was eventually re-incorporated into the new democratic South Africa in 1994 and the novelty of international performers, gambling and risqué entertainment has worn off somewhat. However, Sun City has a particular allure that keeps people coming back for more; it’s a place to escape where you can immerse yourself in a fantasy world not found anywhere else in South Africa.

THINGS TO DO IN SUN CITY

Play golf at Sun City

Sun City has two 18-hole golf courses of international repute, both designed by South Africa’s most famous golfer, Gary Player. The Gary Player Country Club is best known for attraction the world’s leading golfers for the annual Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Explore The Palace of the Lost City

This incredible architectural marvel is one of the most fascinating and innovative attractions in the world. Created by a visionary hotel magnate, its design is inspired by the myth of a lost African kingdom. Attention has been paid to the minutest detail, leaving one with the impression that you have in fact encountered a mythical civilisation.

The Lost City is fabled to be the royal residence of an ancient king. Its regal status is evident in the cavernous proportions of the interior halls and rooms, the elegant towers and exterior with sculptural detail, mosaics and frescoes and a lush tropical setting complete with gurgling streams and gushing waterfalls. It has to be seen to be believed.

It was officially opened to visitors with a taste for opulence in 1992. A tour of The Palace of the Lost City and its stunning surrounds with provide small insight into the work involved in creating the vision of a man renowned for his architectural brilliance and imagination.

Try your luck at the Sun City Casino

The casino complex at Sun City is a world of glitz and glamour. The bright colourful lights and buzzing atmosphere make you feel like you’ve walked into a glowing rainbow. Sun City Casino was opened in 1979 at a time when gambling casinos were prohibited in South Africa and the complex still retains an air of freedom and fantasy.

Sun City Casino has recently been refurbished and boasts the latest technology, with round-the-clock thrills for first-time gamers and the more dedicated gamblers. There are hundreds of exciting slot machines and over forty popular table games.

Watch a music concert at the Sun City Superbowl

Sun City brings an astounding variety of performers to South Africa that play to packed audiences in the vast Superbowl. The auditorium has been re-invented in recent years offering action-packed shows and concerts of world class standards.

Eat out in Sun City

Sun City offers guests a smorgasbord of choice when it comes to restaurants. Everything from Italian dishes to Oriental delights, fine dining and budget-friendly meals are available at Sun City. Grab a light lunch with the family or enjoy a long, leisurely dinner at one of the pool bars with friends; it’s up to you.

Shop at Sun City

Indulge in some retail therapy with a choice of high-end boutiques, souvenir shops and book stores. While the kids are busy at Waterworld, indulge in some pampering me-time at the resort spas and beauty salons.

Fun times at Sun City

The Magic Company at Sun Central provides kids and adults with a day packed full with fun and excitement. There’s everything from ten-pin bowling to arcade games, betting on horses or smashing plastic crocodiles. Catch a blockbuster movie at the cinema when all the excitement gets too much.

Meet legends at the Sun City Hall of Fame

Celebrate South Africa’s legends and learn more about our famous sports stars and talented artists. Stand among the men and women who overcame extreme obstacles to make a difference in the lives of all South Africans. The Hall of Fame at Sun City is a state-of-the-art interactive exhibition that showcases the achievements of South Africa’s much-loved legends.

Party at Sun City

Action-packed days at Sun City are the best but the nightlife is even better. Dance the night away at a glitzy club, play a few games of pool, give karaoke a go or enjoy delicious cocktails at one of the many classy bars. Watch a live performance, catch a comedy show or slip away to the Gentleman’s Club for something different.

Surfing at the Valley of the Waves

Sol Kerzner brought the beach to Sun City, creating one of the most spectacular water parks in the world. The Valley of the Waves is a whole-day’s entertainment with a selection of slides and rides for young and old. The main attraction is the Roaring Lagoon; an enormous wave pool with hydraulic mechanisms that generate waves nearly 2-metres high every 90 seconds.

The brave ones love the Temple of Courage with a 17-metre drop down a 70-metre slide and the more sedate amongst us prefer a lazy tube ride on the Lazy River. There are crazy body and tube slides called the Tarantula, the Scorpion, the Viper and the Mamba – you get the picture.

Take a dip in the Royal Baths at The Palace of the Sun City

The private pool at the Palace is reserved for adults only. It’s the perfect place to unwind, away from the happy noise and bustle of Sun Central. Each Sun City hotel has a beautiful pool but they are for the private use of hotel guests.

Explore The Maze at The Palace of the Lost City

This is the largest permanent maze in the southern hemisphere and huge fun for families, teambuilding and corporate functions. It has been constructed from artificial stone and wood, creating the fantasy of walking through an ancient archaeological site.

The Maze of the Lost City covers a half-acre and offers spectacular views of the resort and its exotic surrounds. You enter The Maze via a 100-metre-long suspension bridge from Sun Central. At the end of your walk, enjoy an ice-cold craft beer or soft-drink at the Maze Bar. When night falls, flaming torches light the paths along the chambers.

Outdoor adventures at Sun City

Thrill-seekers have the choice of many adrenaline-fueled adventures at Sun City. The resort has partnered with Adrenaline Extreme and Mankwe Gametrackers to cater for everyone’s adrenaline fix; from a range of water sports on the massive resort lake to the world’s fastest zip-slide.

A trip to Mankwe Gametrackers Outdoor Adventure Centre includes a mini-wildlife safari, quad-bike riding, a hot air balloon safari and mini-golf. Try your hand at archery or join a drum circle. Take time to visit the rhino enclosure where you can meet some of the resident rhinos and learn more about the sad plight of rampant poaching.

Stroll through the beautiful gardens of Sun City

Sometimes all you need is a leisurely stroll around a lush, beautiful garden to restore your soul. Kerzner created a magical oasis at Sun City with heavily-wooded forests, trickling streams and gushing waterfalls. The gardens of Sun City are particularly special considering the area is quite arid and most of the plants are not endemic to the region.

Establishing the Sun City gardens was an epic project but what you get today is a unique biosphere that attracts a wide array of birds and creatures that have made the exotic gardens their home.

See the Big 5 at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve borders the Sun City Resort and is a short drive away from the main complex. Book a wildlife safari tour with MoAfrika Tours for an exciting tour of South Africa’s third largest game reserves.

A knowledgeable safari guide will take you around Pilanesberg Game Reserve pointing out fascinating features and facts while on the lookout for lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, rhinos and leopards. The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is renowned for its spectacular scenery, abundance of antelope and prolific birdlife so it’ll be an exciting day for the whole family.

Feed crocodiles at Kwena Gardens at Sun City

The Kwena Gardens Crocodile Sanctuary is not only a fun outing for the whole family but also highly educational. A tour of the crocodile enclosures lets you get up close and personal with some of the largest crocodiles in southern Africa. You’ll have a chance to feed the babies and take a few family snaps with them.

Get married at Sun City

The Windchime Wedding Chapel is situated on the Baobab Trail in the Lost City gardens and offers couples the most perfect venue for a wedding. Celebrate your nuptials with either an intimate dinner at one of the fine-dining restaurants or throw a big party in one of the large banquet halls.

Mountain biking at Sun City

Bring your bicycle with you on a holiday at Sun City and enjoy a leisurely ride around the massive property or tackle one of Sun City’s mountain bike trails. It’s fun for the youngsters and the trails are challenging for the more experienced riders.

Play tennis

Sun City has 11 tennis courts built to international standards. They are situated in the lush gardens below the Cascades Hotel in spectacular surrounds and five courts are floodlit.

Adrenalin-filled day at Sun City Waterworld

Sun City created an exciting venue for outdoor enthusiasts and thrill seekers. What do you want to do? Water-skiing lessons with a pro, riding the water snake or tandem para-sailing? Waterworld is nestled in a valley surrounded by beautiful hills; the view is spectacular when you get air-borne.

Birdwatching at Sun City

The man-made jungle surrounding The Palace of the Lost City is home to an incredible array of birds. Some 190 species can be spotted; ranging from the African sacred ibis, Egyptian geese and whistling ducks. The smaller indigenous species include finches, waxbills, bronze manikins and paradise flycatchers. You’ll also find many species from around the world, including robins from China and screeching parrots from the Far East.

Kerzner’s dream garden was created by bringing in an exotic mix of over 1.6 million plants, trees, shrubs and ground covers. Some are indigenous but many were sourced from across the globe, including species from Australia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar and the Comores.

Trees that attract prolific birdlife are the cornerstone of the garden design and the lush undergrowth is home to an array of small creatures that seek protection in its shady interior. To preserve water, the landscapers concentrated on plant species that are water-friendly.

At the heart of the jungle is a gorgeous rain forest which is shrouded in a cloak of mist and mystique. Forty-metre tall trees tower over the forest floor and tens of thousands of orchids dangle delicately from their boughs. It’s a spectacular way to end a busy day at Sun City.

WHERE TO EAT AT SUN CITY

Whatever grabs your culinary fancy, you’ll find a restaurant at Sun City dishing it up. There’s something for everyone; from fine dining to family-friendly restaurants, fast-food outlets and themed cocktail bars.

You definitely don’t go hungry in Sun City. The food court at Sun Central offers family-friendly options catering for South Africans on a tighter budget. More exotic options are available if you are a paying guest at one of the hotels.

Cabanas Pool Bar at Sun City

This is a favourite spot for hotel residents. It’s open every day and serves tasty light meals and delicious cocktails to guests spending a lazy day lounging around the crystal-clear pool. A fun waterslide at the Cabanas pool keeps kids busy while you can enjoy a good book.

Treasure Island Snack Bar at Cabanas Hotel

Enjoy a delicious meal while soaking up the sun on the pool deck. It’s the perfect place to break a day of fun at the Sun City Waterworld.

Harlequins at Soho Hotel

Refreshing cocktails and fancy bar meals make Harlequins a favourite restaurant in Sun City for the hipster crowd. The atmosphere is classy and decadent.

Luma Bar & Lounge at Cascades Hotel

For a light lunch or a leisurely evening at sundowners, the Luma Bar & Lounge at the Cascades Hotel is the perfect restaurant in Sun City if you need a calm respite from a busy day. It’s renowned for its outstanding coffee and selection of fine wines and whiskey.

Tusk Bar & Lounge at The Palace of the Lost City

Escape to a fantasy world and enjoy safari-themed cocktails in an exotic setting. The Tusk Bar & Lounge is set in a spectacular setting that transports guests back in time, stirring up memories of days gone by.

The Maze Bar at Sun City Resort

This popular establishment at the main Sun City entertainment complex offers a selection of the finest local craft beers aswell as the best of South Africa’s wines. The Maze Bar is located at the end of the Maze Walk and has an incredible view, overlooking the lush gardens of Sun City and the hazy mountains in the distance.

PLACES TO STAY IN SUN CITY

Visitors have many options for accommodation at Sun City. There are four stunning hotels; all designed to the highest architectural standards with fantasy themes and mystical garden surrounds.

The Sun City Vacation Club was created by converting the original staff accommodation into luxury chalets that are sold on a timeshare scheme. The Sun City Vacation Club has its own heated pool, mini golf course and restaurant with half-hourly shuttles ferrying visitors to the popular attractions at Sun City.

Soho Hotel

Soho Hotel in Sun City was the first hotel built in Sun City and is often called the main hotel. It offers guest 4-star accommodation in the heart of the resort. The beautifully decorated hotel is set in a lush tropical garden, providing an idyllic setting despite being so central to the busy casino and entertainment complex.

Cascades Hotel

Cascades Hotel in Sun City is a magnificent hotel, named for the spectacular waterfalls and crystal-clear natural pools that create a fantasy moat around the hotel. It offers 5-star accommodation and an array of facilities in the calm midst of Sun City.

The Cabanas

The Cabanas at Sun City is situated on the banks of the Sun City Waterworld Lake, offering guests a contemporary twist and a delightful base to explore the natural wonders of the resort. Enjoy delicious meals and fancy cocktails in a vibrant island-style setting, surrounded by lush tropical gardens and rolling lawns.

The hotel is positioned next to a world-class golf course at Sun City and you can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the lush course when the golfers have retired to the 19th hole.

The Palace of the Lost City

The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City is an architectural wonder and part of Sun International’s premier collection. The fantasy regal Palace offers guests an experience that is both breath-taking and surreal.

The 5-star hotel is designed around the theme of a mythical lost palace; with intricately-painted ceilings, mosaic artwork and African-styled décor. It is set in an exotic setting, with each luxurious room overlooking a magical pool and the lush tropical surrounds.

FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT THE PALACE OF THE LOST CITY

Construction began in August 1990 and was completed within 28 months. This is a remarkably short period of time for a project of such breadth and complexity. At the height of construction, 5 000 people worked on the project. Almost 2 million cubic metres of earth was moved from the site and some 85 000 cubic metres of concrete were used to create the fantasy city.

The Palace exteriors are influenced by Africa’s abundance of wildlife. Every corner of the building pays homage to our magnificent animals with moulded towers topped by palm-frond domes, while elephant tusks and wildlife carvings adorn the exterior. Six elephant tusks arch in pairs over the Tusk Lounge & Bar, made from Indonesian Square wood which is heavier than ivory.

The atrium is dominated by a life-size bronze of Shawu, one of Africa’s most famous elephants. The Big Tusker’s realistic form is bought to life in the leathery texture of its skin, ragged ears and cracked feet. Shawu towers 4.5 metres off the polished floor surface and is one of the most photographed animal sculptures in the world.

The grand interior befits a royal palace with a domed roof enhanced with serpentine paintings and floors that shine with textures of intricate mosaics. The rich detail in the décor belies the fact that everything was sourced locally; one imagines that the stylish pieces were brought in from some exotic country.

Everything in the mythical royal kingdom was hand-crafted by local artisans. Hand-carved furniture and décor items are used throughout the hotel with the most impressive décor feature being the massive 8-high doors at the royal entrance. The carpets were custom-designed exclusively for the hotel; hand-crafted specifically to Sol Kerzner’s exact standards.

The ceiling dome of the royal entrance chamber is an architectural feat. It rises 25 metres above floor level, measures 16 metres in diameter and is held aloft by six sculptured columns. The domed roof in the Crystal Court was a major architectural challenge, spanning 29 metres and supporting five floors of suites above it.

The floor of the entrance lobby is bedecked with intricate mosaics comprised of 38 different shades. Each individual mosaic was laid by hand, creating a design of a lush forest floor surrounded by six African animals. The outer circle is an intricate design of circles of zebra stripes. The concierge desk was hand-carved from sapele pommele with tops of rosa Verona and quagga marble.

The painted ceiling of the cavernous Royal Entrance Chamber was created in the same way Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It took talented artists some 5 000 hours to create the regal masterpiece.

The King’s Tower stands at 70 metres above floor level and is the tallest of the ten Palace towers. Guests can enjoy views of the crystal-clear pool below, the lush ornamental forest and the rocky surrounds that envelop the magical oasis.

The King’s Suite is the epitome of regal opulence. The walls are hand-carved from maple wood and every item in the room is custom-designed and crafted by hand. There are two enormous bedrooms in the suite, each with a king-sized bed, a sitting area, armoire and an opulent en-suite bedroom. There is also a small library in the suite, a guest powder room, a sauna and a butler’s pantry.

BEST TIME TO VISIT SUN CITY

Sun City enjoys a tropical climate and the weather is generally pleasant all year round. Deciding when you want to visit Sun City depends on what you want to do and if you want to avoid the crowds.

The North West Province of South Africa is a summer rainfall region but it is located in a region that experiences lower-than-average rainfall. When it rains, it’s usually for a short period of time and it’s usually appreciated as a brief respite from the hot weather.

Summer months: October to March

The days are usually hot and bathed in sunlight with sporadic rainfall. Overseas visitors might say the temperatures are scorching in peak summer but all the Sun City hotels and facilities are air-conditioned so there is always somewhere to go mid-day to escape the heat. Of course, the stunning pools and beach are perfect for a refreshing swim.

Winter months: May to August

The days are usually pleasantly warm and mild but it can get quite nippy at night. This is the best time for game viewing if you plan to visit the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and there are a number of pools at the Sun City Resort that are heated.

Spring (April/May) and Autumn (Sept/Oct):

This is a pleasant time to visit Sun City as the days are not too hot and the nights not too cold. Autumn is an excellent time for game viewing at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve as the animals drop their young after the cold winter months and the migratory birds have arrived in their hundreds.

Peak season:

South African holiday-makers descend en-mass to Sun City during the school holiday breaks. The busiest times are December/January and March/April. You can check the local calendars for the annual South African school holiday breaks and plan your trip to Sun City around its busy season.

 

Soweto first came to the attention of the international media when a photograph of a young man carrying a dying 14-year Hector Pieterson during the Soweto Uprising made world headlines. This heartrending photograph, with his crying sister running alongside, exposed the brutality of the apartheid police and triggered an international movement to intervene in the struggle of Black South Africans who were fighting oppression and the severe domination of the National government.

Today Soweto has risen from the ashes of apartheid to become a thriving powerhouse in South Africa’s economic landscape. Soweto is rich in history and, while it enjoys the spoils of modern development, the residents of the city pay homage to its roots; safeguarding its historical heritage with museums and statues that honour the great struggle veterans who fought for freedom and equality.

Soweto Uprising

A tour of Soweto takes you past iconic landmarks to the famed Vilakazi Street that is the only known street in the world to boast being the former home of two Nobel Peace Prize winners; Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. A knowledgeable guide that was born and bred in Soweto regales tales of historical events that shaped the destiny of this great city.

A Soweto tour exposes you to the hardships of daily life of Soweteans, many of which still live in abject poverty; and then moves on to massive urban developments that showcase an upwelling of wealth and prosperity in the region. A highlight of a tour of Soweto includes lunch at a local tavern (street restaurant) where tourists can sample authentic African cuisine and interact with the warm and welcoming patrons.

MORE ABOUT SOWETO

Soweto is a township of the city of Johannesburg in Gauteng, South Africa. It borders the historical mining belt in the south in a region previously known as the Witwatersrand Basin and the epicentre of South Africa’s gold rush era.

The origin of Soweto

Soweto Tours - 16 June 1976
The rise of the people of Soweto

Its name is an abbreviation of the label South Western Townships, formerly a separate municipality but now incorporated in the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. When gold was discovered in Johannesburg, thousands of migrant workers and immigrants descended on the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republic (ZAR) and settled in shanty towns to the south of the city.

When the National Party of the former Transvaal Republic came into power, they imposed regulations that sought to separate the White working class citizens from the Bantu (Black African) population and new suburbs were laid out for Burghers (Whites), Coolies (Indians) and Malays (Coloureds).

Most of the Black migrant workers had by this stage moved far out of town to the farm Klipspruit (later called Pimville), south-west of Johannesburg. The council had erected iron huts next to Kliptown, the oldest Black residential district of Johannesburg. Soweto as we know it today was laid out on Klipspruit and an adjoining farm called Diepkloof. It was not unlawful in the former Transvaal Colony for “people of colour” to own property and Blacks were encouraged to buy property in an area that became known as Sophiatown.

In 1923, the national government passed the Natives (Urban Areas) Act; with the purpose being to provided improved conditions for residence living in settlements segregated as native urban areas. The Act was used to control access to these townships and to restrict their consumption of “intoxicating” liqueur. The council by this stage had bought land in the Klipspruit area and the first housing development there became known as Orlando Location. Most of the houses were temporary single-room shelters suitable for single men working at the mines.

Towards the end of World War II there was an acute shortage of housing in Johannesburg. Homeless Blacks were encouraged by a political activist to squat on vacant land in the Orlando Location; the squatter camp burgeoned until the City Council’s resistance waned and it was agreed that an emergency camp would be established for close to a thousand families. It was called Central Western Jabavu.

A second wave of land invasions took place in 1945 with some 30 000 squatters congregating west of Orlando. A new emergency camp was established called Moroka and a thousand sites made available for homeless families. It became one of Johannesburg’s worst slum areas; with communal bucket-system toilets and scarce access to running water. Both Moroka and Jabavu shanty camps were demolished in 1955; by which stage there were close to 90 000 inhabitants squatting in the area.

These rural townships received limited resources from the City Council and the inhabitants endured extreme hardships. The settlements were located far from the hub of the gold mining operations and the mine workers had to travel great distances to get to work. The mass settlement region was thrown a lifeline in 1941 when the British government built a military hospital on the road between Johannesburg and Potchefstroom. It was called The Imperial Military Hospital, Baragwanath.

The Transvaal Provincial Administration bought the hospital at the end of the war and created the Black section of Johannesburg (known as the Non-European Hospital). This renowned hospital was renamed Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in 1997, in honour of the struggle veteran who fought alongside Nelson Mandela to bring about democratic change.

In 1952, the national government passed the Bantu Services Levy Act which imposed a levy on employers of African labourers. The levy was used to finance basic services in Black townships. The City Council built 6 500 houses in Jabavu and Mofolo; using a standard design for a low-cost, four-bedroomed, 40 sq/metre house. Another township called Dube Village was established for the “more urbanised and economically-advanced Natives”. Tenants could purchase stands and erect a dwelling that conformed to approved building plans.

Match-box houses built during the apartheid era

Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, a wealthy mining magnate, arranged a loan of £3 million from the mining industry which was used to build an additional 14 000 houses. The national government, who was growing increasingly bothered by the burgeoning growth of these Black townships, passed the Native Resettlement Act, which permitted the government to remove Blacks from suburbs like Sophiatown, Newclare and Western Native Townships. Displaced Blacks were forcibly removed to Meadowlands and Diepkloof.

The City Council launched a competition to find a collective name for all the townships south-west of the central business district of Johannesburg. In 1963, the official name of Soweto was adopted, an abbreviated form of South-Western Townships. After years of tension between the national government and the independent City Council, the West Rand Administration Board took over the administration control of Soweto; a consequence of the Black Affairs Administration Act that was passed in 1971.

The chairman of the board at the time had no idea of the troubled times that lay ahead when he was famously quoted in a newspaper as saying, “The broad masses of Soweto are perfectly content, perfectly happy. Black-White relationships at present are as healthy as can be. There is no danger whatever of a blow-up in Soweto.”

The Soweto Uprising

Soweto Tours - Soweto Uprising 1976
Turbulent times in Soweto

In 1976, the Soweto Uprising brought about an extended period of conflict and loss of life. The origins of this tumultuous era started when mass protests erupted when Black residents objected to the government’s policy that forced schools to teach scholars in Afrikaans, rather than their native language.

A group of some 10 000 students marched from Naledi High School to Orlando Stadium, a scuffle ensued and the riot police opened fire. Twenty-three schoolchildren died on this tragic day, including Hector Pieterson. Dr Melville Edelstein, a lifelong humanitarian, also died on the first day of what would become known as the Soweto Riots.

A photograph captured by a young newspaper journalist of a dying 14-year boy made international headlines and the impact of the tragic end to the children’s march reverberated around the world. Economic and cultural sanctions were imposed and political activists fled the country to train for a guerrilla resistance.

Soweto Tours - 16 June 1976
School children marching to Orlando Stadium

Soweto and other Black townships became the stage for violent state repression. The Black inhabitants fought back and the leaders of the struggle movement garnered international support to bring about radical change to the oppressive and severe domination of the apartheid government. In response, the state withdrew financial support for urban development and finally handed Soweto its municipal independence to Black councillors in 1983, in line with the Black Local Authorities Act.

The embattled Black councillors struggled to address housing and infrastructural problems and were accused by township residents of benefitting financially from the oppressive regime. Municipal elections were subsequently boycotted and, in the years that followed, a depressing stalemate between the Black residents and the apartheid government prevailed.

The struggle movement gained momentum during the 1980s; educational and economic boycotts were initiated and student bodies were organised. Street committees and civic organisations were established as alternatives to state-imposed structures. Such actions were strengthened by the call issued by African National Congress in 1985 to make the country ungovernable. The state forbade public gatherings and church buildings like Regina Mundi were used for political meetings.

A young Nelson Mandela

Political unrest finally came to its bitter end when then President FW de Klerk authorised the release of Nelson Mandela and other struggle veterans. The first democratic election was held in 1995 with the ANC winning by a huge majority. Nelson Mandela was elected the first Black president of South Africa and his leadership heralded the dawn of a new democracy.

The people of Soweto

Soweto remains a predominantly Black city; with a multi-cultural mix of Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Venda and Tsonga inhabitants. The 2011 census estimated it to have a population of close to 1.3 million inhabitants; with some 6 400 inhabitants per square kilometre. Soweto is also home to small communities of Coloured and Asian residents.

Historically, Soweto was not allowed to create employment centres and the majority of residents were forced to commute long distances to work in other parts of the city of Johannesburg. Most commuters today travel the same long route on the popular mini buses whose drivers are notorious for their impatient behaviour.

The Soweto Highway, with dedicated taxiways, links Soweto with Johannesburg and Metrorail operates commuter trains along the same route. The N1 Western Bypass skirts the eastern boundary of Soweto, taking commuters to the outlying suburbs of Johannesburg.

The majority of residents still live in the old “matchbox” houses that were built by the apartheid government or the four-roomed houses built as cheap accommodation for the Black migrant workers and their families. Vacant land has attracted a mass of homeless people who endure squalid conditions in iron shanty huts. Trees and shrubs planted by the City Council in greenbelts between the suburbs add some aesthetic appeal to settlements that are otherwise quite depressing.

Formal housing settlement in Soweto

Hostels that were built by the apartheid government for single men working on the mines are a prominent feature on the Soweto landscape. Many have been improved and are home to young couples and families.

Music is the lifeblood of young Soweteans and the city is renowned as the founding place for Kwaito and Kasi Rap, a hip-hop genre that is unique to South Africa. Soweto reverberates to a musical beat that is a combination of house music, American hip-hop and traditional African music. Many of the popular songs tell the tale of oppression and the people’s will to fight for freedom and equality.

Nothing gets the people of Soweto more excited than watching a game of soccer at the FNB Soweto Stadium, especially if it is a match between the two rival soccer teams. The city is divided between Kaizer Chief and Moroko Swallows supporters. On match day, the city vibrates with the deafening sound of Vuvuzelas; a plastic trumpet that gives off an ear-splitting sound after a heavy blow. The FNB Soccer Stadium is one of South Africa’s largest stadiums.

Soccer fans with vuvuzelas

The combined spending power of the people of Soweto is estimated to be in the region of R4.5 billion. It really is a numbers game, with the vast majority of residents classified as low-income earners. Private initiatives have tapped into this goldmine of accumulated wealth and massive urban developments in Soweto have cropped up in recent years. These include the impressive Jabulani Mall and Maponya Mill.

Johannesburg City Council has invested heavily in Soweto, providing improved infrastructure such as street lights and paved roads, and city parks and sports complexes. Isolated pockets of upmarket residential developments are scattered around the city and fine-dining Western-style establishments are gaining in popularity.

PLACES TO VISIT ON A TOUR OF SOWETO

Soweto Tours - Vilakazi Street

A tour of Soweto with a knowledgeable Moafrika Tours guide takes you on a journey through Diepkloof to Soweto’s most famous tourist attraction, the Vilakazi Street Precinct. Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Peace Prize winners, namely Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Their former homes are located a short walk from each other.

House number 8115 is the former house of Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa and an iconic figure of the struggle movement. Now known as Mandela House, the simple three-bedroomed home has been carefully restored as a living museum.

Mandela House of Vilikazi Street

Mandela moved into the house with his first wife, Evelyn Mase, in 1946. He lived there for a short time after his release from prison with his second wife, Winnie Mandela, until he took up residence in the presidential home in Houghton.

A short distance away is Tutu House, the former home of his good friend and fellow Noble Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Two large metal bull heads have been erected outside Mandela House, entitled The Nobel Laureates. They stand on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane Streets, representing the two great men who played such a significant role in the struggle for freedom and democracy.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Another metal structure has been placed on Moema Street that commemorates the Soweto Uprising; it depicts a group of schoolchildren facing a policeman with a growling dog. The impressive structure honours the young children who lost their lives during the student protests of 1976. A memorial wall of slate on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Streets provides visitors with a quiet place to sit and contemplate the fateful day of 1976 and the events that unfolded in its aftermath.

A striking piece of street art is visible where Vilakazi Street intersects with Khumalo Street. Eight huge grey hands spell ‘Vilakazi’ in sign language. Other murals in the street include one that depicts the scene of 16 June 1976 with police and their vans, and placard-carrying children. Several concrete benches have been livened up with intricate mosaic work and a row of bollards with wooden heads has been placed on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane streets.

The Hector Pieterson Museum

Hastings Ndlovu’s Bridge was erected on the corner of Klipspruit Valley and Khumalo Road in remembrance of the 15-year old boy who was the first pupil shot when the police opened fire on the schoolchildren. He was rushed to hospital but died of his head wound. A statue of the young Hastings stands sentry on the bridge; dressed in school uniform, smiling and holding his arm up. Storyboards line each side of the bridge that tell the tale of the heroic bravery of young schoolchildren like Hastings.

Various streets, museums and graveyard sights in other parts of the city commemorate Soweto’s turbulent history and tell the silent tale of tragedy, suffering and bravery. This includes the grave of Hector Pieterson at Avalon Cemetery and the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum.

Soweto Tours - Hector Pieterson
Famed photograph of Hector Pieterson

The memorial site and museum was opened on 16 June 2002 in Orlando West in Soweto, marking the place where Hector was shot. It not only honours the life of Hector but also those that died on that fateful day and in the months following the 1976 Soweto Uprising. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism awarded R16 million to its development and the Johannesburg City Council contributed an additional R7,2 million to the costs.

A blown-up photograph of the dying schoolboy, Hector Pieterson, carried in the arms of a young 18-year old pupil with his crying sister running alongside is the centre-piece exhibit of the museum. The photograph reminds visitors of the agony and suffering these three young school children endured, caught up in a moment of time that changed the destiny of Black citizens of South Africa. Thereafter, a tour of the Hector Pieterson Museum is a fusion of modern technology and cultural history.

Hector Pieterson Museum

The red-bricked museum was erected in Kumalo Street, two blocks away from where Hector was shot on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Street. Hector’s mother, Dorothy Molefi, lives in a nearby suburb called Meadowlands. She says the family is very proud of the museum and the fact that children can learn about South Africa’s history there. Hector’s father passed away shortly after the museum was opened but at least he lived to see his son’s memory immortalised in this landmark building.

Regina Mundi Church is the largest Roman Catholic Church in South Africa and is found in Rockville, in the middle of Soweto. It is famous for having opened its doors to protesting schoolchildren in 1976 when the apartheid police opened fire on them. Public gatherings were banned by the apartheid government after the Soweto Riots and Regina Mundi Church was used for political meetings.

Soweto Tours - Regina Mundi Church
Regina Mundi Church

Orlando Towers is a striking landmark in Soweto; painted luminous blue and covered in traditional artwork depicting the historical struggles and the daily life of Soweteans. The Orland Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station that stands out like two sentries overlooking the city of Soweto. The power station was erected at the end of World War II and served the city of Johannesburg for over 50 years.

Orlando Towers in Soweto

The mural on Orlando Towers was hand-painted and took 6 months to complete. Orlando Towers is popular among thrill seekers who come from far and wide to bungee jump off it, swing or freefall their way to the bottom.

Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital is located in Diepkloof and is the third largest hospital in the world with approximately 3 200 beds for patients. It was built in 1941 by the British Government and served as a military hospital, known then as the Imperial Military Hospital, Baragwanath. Today this extensive medical facility also includes a training college for young doctors and nurses.

The end of a tour to Soweto takes tourists past the impressive FNB Soccer Stadium, affectionately known as Soccer City. The massive stadium was designed to depict the traditional calabash, a hard-skinned squash that is a staple vegetable for traditional African families. The stadium is located in Nasrec, on the outskirts of Soweto.

FNB Soccer Stadium in Soweto

Soccer City is the home ground of Kaizer Chiefs Football Club and hosts national fixtures in the South African Premier Soccer League. Nelson Mandela chose the FNB Soccer Stadium to make his first speech after he was released from prison in 1990. His memorial service in 2013 was held at the stadium.

At the age of 92 years, Nelson Mandela attended the closing ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final that was held at the stadium; it was his last public appearance and a fitting end for a man who presided over the birth of a democratic South Africa. Mandela smiled and waved as 85 000 supporters rose to their feet, giving a thunderous welcome to their hero.

THE HISTORY OF TRADITIONAL SHEBEENS IN SOWETO

Soweto shebeen

Establishments in South Africa selling alcohol without a license goes back to the early Dutch settler days when the Cape Malay slaves where prohibited from selling alcohol and “partaking in too much rivalry”. During the apartheid era, Soweto residents were prohibited from establishing formal businesses and the Native Act restricted the consumption of “intoxicating” liqueur in townships.

As would be expected, makeshift taverns called shebeens cropped up and soon became associated with Black townships. They often served as meeting places for political activists. The word shebeen comes from a combination of the Irish-Gaelic word síbín and the Zulu word shibhile, both meaning ‘cheap’.

The economic effects of the Great Depression were devastating to an increasingly poor and landless rural population, forcing huge numbers of Black people to move to urban areas to seek wage-paying jobs. African women struggled to find work in the formal sector and many resorted to applying their traditional skills to making home-brewed beer. These women became known as “shebeen queens”; making and selling a type of beer known as  umqombothi to the migrant labourers.

Shebeens provided these hardworking men a place to relax and socialise, shrugging off the oppression of life under apartheid rule. Despite being illegal, shebeens provided the community with a safe place to express their cultural traditions; enjoying their own music, traditional dancing and authentic food. The shebeens were often raided by the apartheid police and owners and patrons found themselves behind bars.

Today the traditional shebeens are a fixture of the Soweto social scene but have evolved to cater for a younger, trendier set of both Black and White patrons and international tourists. A visit to a shebeen in Soweto is an incredible experience; not only is it a chance to soak up the ambience of this vibrant city but it is also a chance to pause and remember the hardships and oppression the average person in Soweto experienced before they shared the joy of freedom and equality.

WHERE TO EAT OUT IN SOWETO

The most well-known restaurant in Soweto is Wandie’s Place in Dube. The restaurant operates out of a typical Soweto four-roomed house that once was an illegal shebeen, selling food and drink without a licence. Today it is a vibey, fun hangout that has hosted the likes of Will Smith, Richard Branson and Chris Rock. Food is served buffet-style and includes local cuisine such as umngqusho, morogo and chakalaka.

Wandie’s Place can probably be credited for introducing non-Sowetans to experience authentic African cuisine and started a trend where curious White co-workers – who had never set foot in Soweto – came to the city as a guest of a Black friend for a genuine township experience. The walls of the bar area are plastered with business cards and a quick look at them gives you an idea of how far some people have travelled for a delicious meal at Wandie’s Place.

Sakhumzi Restaurant is located in Vilakazi Street and is the ideal place to eat traditional township cuisine while soaking up the rich historical atmosphere. The restaurant serves up a variety of dishes that includes mogodu (tripe) and ujege (steamed bread).

Restaurant Vilakazi is another hugely popular eatery on this famous street, serving up a menu that is described as “South African fusion food”. Popular dishes such as oxtail stew and samp with butternut and spinach are given a classy twist to cater for foreign taste buds.

Nexdor offers tourists uncomplicated, simple but good quality meals. It is situated in the heart of Vilakazi Street and becomes a thriving nightspot after dark.

Ntsitsi’s Fun Food is one of Soweto’s most famous street stalls. Situated in Diepkloof, it is famous for its Soweto-style kotas. A kota is a township version of bunny chow; a quarter loaf of bread that is hollowed out and filled with potato fries and Russian sausages or a meat and veggie stew. Ntsitsi has 40 variations of kotas on their menu.

Chaf Pozi is located right below the Orlando Towers. Tourists who have bungee jumped off the towers or just got back from a bicycle ride through Soweto enjoy the relaxed atmosphere with its Soweto-style shebeen décor. Chaf Pozi is famous as a chesa nyama destination.

For finer dining, visit the Jazz Maniacs and Rusty’s Bar at the Soweto Hotel. This restaurant is located in a four-star establishment, situated in the middle of the city. The dishes served are a fusion of traditional African cuisine and modern Western cuisine. Walk-in customers are welcome and their food prices are very reasonable, despite the fact that it is a rather posh restaurant.

The Sowetalian was established by a chef whose father is Italian and mother is Sotho (from Lesotho). Items on the menu are a fusion of typical township cuisine and authentic Italian dishes. The restaurant is located close to the Regina Mundi Church.

WHAT TO ORDER AT A SOWETO RESTAURANT

Chesa nyama or shisa nyama (meaning burnt meat in Zulu) is the same as an American barbecue. Meat bought from the butchery owner is cooked over an open fire and served with traditional side dishes. We’ve compiled a list of traditional township dishes which you should study before you go on a tour of Soweto.

Number one on the list is mieliepap (maize meal porridge) or pap as the locals call it. Pap served for breakfast is more liquid and runny and served with milk, butter, cream and sugar. Meat and vegetable stews are usually served with “stywe pap” (Afrikaans for firm). It has a doughy texture and is traditionally eaten with your hands; rolling a piece of pap into a ball and scooping up the meat and gravy like you would a dipping sauce.

Pap is dry and fairly unappetising on its own so it is always served with either a meat stew, chakalaka or shebu, which is a sauce made from green vegetables and chillies. Considering the majority of traditional Africans live on the breadline, anything goes into the sauce; beetroot, carrots, cabbage, onions, potatoes and morogo (a variety of wild weeds collected from the fields).

A good chesa nyama meal is usually accompanied with a glass or two of umqombothi; a popular traditional home-brewed beer made from sorghum mixed with maize meal, water and yeast and left to ferment.

Other side dishes include tripe which is left-over cuts of a carcass, including the liver, kidneys, brains, stomach and lungs. Traditional meat stews are often made from low-quality cuts of meat such as the tongue, tail, feet and head of a cow. Locals love what they call “walkie-talkies” which is a traditional dish of grilled or deep-fried feet and heads of chickens.

Sweet potato is more popular than the common potato as it is rich in nutrients. It’s usually cooked over an open fire in its skin and then mashed up and served with butter and roasted peanuts and a squirt of honey.

Nelson Mandela’s favourite meal was umngqusho. This is samp which is broken dried maize kernels mixed with red beans. Samp is usually boiled in butter and flavoured with butter, onions, potatoes, chillies, lemon juice, salt and oil. The samp is left to simmer on a low heat until all the ingredients are tender.

Morogo is a widely-used term for any combination of edible green leaves, including wild spinach, bean and beetroot leaves. It’s delicious when boiled and served with pap and a braised onion and tomato sauce.

If you have a strong stomach, try amanqina which is a spicy, sticky stew made from the hoof of a cow, pig or sheep. Or try mashonzha which is a dish made from Mopani (common tree) worms. These worms look like caterpillars and are delicious fried, grilled or cooked with chilli and peanuts.

If you are battling to choose from the list of foreign-sounding African names for the food items at a Soweto tavern, ask your Moafrika Tours guide to recommend something on the menu that is delicious but won’t make you feel like you’re a contestant on Fear Factor. Cow hoofs, ox tongue, Mopani worms and “walkie-talkies” are not everyone’s thing but you should always trying something once.

WHAT TO DRINK IN SOWETO

The local people of Soweto love umqombothi, a traditional beer made from maize (corn), maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water. It is rich in Vitamin B and low in alcohol. It certainly is an acquired taste; a thick, creamy beer with a distinctly sour aroma and gritty texture.

Amasi (or maas in Afrikaans) is the common word for fermented milk and tastes like cottage cheese or plain yogurt. It is traditionally prepared by storing unpasteurised cow’s milk in a calabash (dried squash) or hide sack. The milk is left to ferment and soon develops a watery substance called umlaza. The thin liquid is discarded and the remaining thick fermented milk is either drunk on its own or poured over pap (cooked corn flour) or breakfast porridge. A meal of pap and amasi is traditionally served in a clay pot and eaten with wooden spoons.

See more accommodation in Soweto

Mageu is a traditional non-alcoholic drink made from fermented mealie pap (cooked corn flour). Traditional women still prepare this much-loved drink at home but it is also available in cartons at most supermarkets. The lactic acid produced during the fermentation process gives the drink a distinctive sour taste, although store-bought mageu is often flavoured and sweetened.

You might also like Botswana Safaris or Nambia Safaris

Broken by man, and then resurrected by man, the tale of the Pilanesberg is an epic story of geological clashes and destruction spanning millions of years, political struggles, environmental entrepreneurship, tremendously vast landscape architecture and ultimately, tourism success. Why not safari in Pilanesberg?

 

There is so much you do not know about South Africas fourth largest National Park and why you should safari in Pilanesberg.

Meet Pilanesberg with MoAfrika Tours, meet The Rebel Park.

So here are those 11+ reasons why you should go there and buy the T-shirt.

When algae was the only known living organism on earth, and volcanoes thousands of meters tall were all the rage, Pilanesberg got its start. Things are a bit more interesting for the current intelligent life forms, ie tourists, visiting the Park these days.

To safari in Pilanesberg National Park is to travel back in time

At Pilanesberg you can walk in the footprints of time, even if you end up walking in giant circles. This piece of land allows you the privilege of stepping into the past, 1.3 billions years in the past to be exact, and walk among the rings of a super massive 7000m tall volcano that collapsed on itself eons ago, after spewing molten lava for 1000 million years. Just again, this volcano was active for 1000 million years… It created layers of new rock formations now exposed by erosion and time. When you safari in Pilanesberg, you are moving amidst this piece of geological astonishment.

Thorium (not related to Norse God Thor or new movie Thor Ragnarok) uncovered in the Pilanesberg reserve

Thor _ #Thor #thor2 #chrishemsworth #chrishemsworthThor #Marvel #Avengers #AvengersAgeOfUltron

A photo posted by Paula Cuello (@pauli_cuello) on

The Pilanesberg Ring Complex, the circular remnant of volcanic activity clearly visible from outer space, contains large resources of rare elements like Thorium, Fluorine, light rare earths, Uranium and don’t laugh, Strontium, true story.

Pilanesberg – nature ‘put a ring on it…’

We don’t know if Beyonce has visited the Park yet but 1.3 billion years ago a process started that “put a ring on it”, more specifically, Pilanesberg is the only reserve set within the confines of an alkaline ring complex.

Pilanesbergs’ extinct volcano is so pretty artists have painted it, astronomers have photographed it, and you get to drive around in it


The crater formation created by the recurring volcanic explosions 1.3 billion years ago, and the collapse of the volcanic cone, led to the interesting circular formations that can be seen today, and which has inspired much documentation. Thomas Baines, a 19th century English artist painted the ring of hills of Pilanesberg in 1869 on his way to Botswana. Baines is well known for his paintings and sketches detailing colonial times in South Africa and Australia.

Spotting the Big Five, without fearing the Big M

Whether an area is malaria free does impact on the plans of some travelers. As Pilanesberg is a malaria free park, one of the few that can boast the Big Five, it stands out from other National Parks in more high risk malaria areas where visitors need to take special precautions. More good news is that because of its location, it’s quite near to top notch medical centres in cities like Pretoria, Johannesburg and Rustenburg, should you have any medical issues. Another good reason to safari in Pilanesberg.

You get two biomes for the prices of one, wait what?

Lion checking the elephant pack on my back #Pilanesberg #Wildlife #SouthAfrica #TravelBlog

A photo posted by Genaro Bardy (@naro1) on

Biomes are large areas where plants(flora) and animals(fauna) have adapted successfully to exploit their surroundings like forests or deserts. Pilanesberg can boast two biomes, Arid Savanna that transitions to Moist Savanna. To be more precise, Pilanesberg sits between the dry Kalahari and the more moist Lowveld vegetation(bushveld) and because of this you get a really unique mix of animal life that you can focus that big camera lens on.

A cosy sanctuary for endangered animals

The Pilanesberg National Park, because of its unique location and geological significance, can support a wider variety of endangered animals than other parks of similar size, punching way above its weight class if you’re looking for a good spot to safari. This has meant that really cool animals like the black rhino, tsessebe, wild dogs, roan and sable roam the planes of Pilanesberg. What is a tsessebe? This is a tsessebe, found in the Pilanesberg National Park:

It’s big, it’s really big

#balloonsafari #hotairballoon #sunrise #viewfromthetop must be spectacular #oneday #pilanesberg

A photo posted by Stephanie Latsky (@stephlatsky) on

Pilanesberg National Park is the fourth largest Park in Southern Africa. We like big Parks and we cannot lie…

Pay homage to Pilanesbergs’ rough start

Established in 1977, the Pilanesberg National Park was not always a land of pristine wilderness. It was farmland in the 1950’s, and before that it belonged to the local Tswana speaking people of the area, the Bakgatla baKgafele clan under leadership of chief Pilane around 1850. From 1850 onwards, the Bakgalta land was carved into farms for white settlers, without compensation. After 1913, the white farmers land was slowly expropriated, with compensation, by the Apartheid government and the Bakgatla people were allowed to return, with the whole process lasting until 1960. David Beuster, the managing director of Agricultural Development Corporation (Agricor) which fell under the Bophuthatswana Department of Agriculture, raised funds for the establishment of the park in 1977.

Landscape designed and restored from the bottom up

Along with Lucas Mangope(who was later overthrown), head of the Bahurutshe clan, David Beuster of Agricor hired landscape designers to design the Park from the ground up. Farrell and Van Riet, Landscape Architects and Ecological Planners worked alongside Ken Tinley, a young visionary ecologist. Willem van Riet and Tinley were both big fans of Ian McHarg, a renowned American landscape architect. The two started by restoring the former ecology of the area, and realising their designs for the landscape.

You can visit The Rebel Park

The huge challenges faced by those who created the Park should be recognised as well, and if it wasn’t for their rebellious spirit, the park may not exist today.
The fact that the 55 000ha park was designed by landscapers is ‘rebel’ enough, but the landscapers of the Pilanesberg, the two men who restored the Park to its natural state, Willem van Riet and Ken Tinley, aimed to create something different with the park than what had been known up to that time. They rocked the boat. In a report, they suggested the Park be used to sustain and empower local communities economically(a new concept at the time) and help to develop the region around them with tourism. Up to this point, conservation areas were viewed in isolation and not as engines of economy as large translocation of game and their subsequent sale, was not yet a reality. To create their vision, the area was cleared of all traces of man, areas where cattle grazed were restored to bushveld and 30 farmsteads were knocked down. The duo suggested in their report that animals be re-introduced in large numbers. They also rebelled against the way protected areas were managed at the time by suggesting trophy hunting in the park and making education on the environment a priority in the area.

You get to witness one of the grandest ecological experiments ever undertaken in Southern Africa.

In the 80’s, funding secured by businessman Anton Rupert from the International World Wildlife Fund led to the re-introduction of over 6000 animals into the park, amassing 22 species that were not found there, before that time. Since then the ecology of Pilanesberg has kept itself in check. The Park is known for its spectacular game viewing, as is evidenced by the Instagram photos snapped by those who have experienced Pilanesberg.

Take a drive in the halfway mark

Smack bang in the middle of the volcanic crater, a crack occurred cutting the Pilanesberg in two which has since formed a valley which you can follow on Tlou Drive.

Chief Pilane, what would he have said, now that the Park stands immovably, drawing tourists internationally and locally for a magical experience amid the valleys of an extinct volcano which hides Thorium? You’d be forgiven to think of Pilanesberg as some planet somewhere at the outer part of our solarsystem, but its right here, just a few hours from South Africas bustling Johannesburg. It is 55000 ha of secret, 55 000 reasons anyone who believes Kruger is the only park worth visiting in SA, is missing out. 

Check us out on Blogspot

References:

 

Origins of the name

Soweto TowersSoweto obtained its name from the first two letters of South Western Township which was the original description of the area.
“Soweto is a symbol of the New South Africa, caught between old squatter misery and new prosperity, squalor and an upbeat lifestyle, it’s a vibrant city which still openly bears the scars of the Apartheid past and yet shows what’s possible in the New South Africa”

Rich political history

map of sowetoSoweto’s rich political history has guaranteed it a place on the world map. Those who know very little else about South Africa are often familiar with the word “Soweto” and the township’s significance in the struggle against apartheid.

The area has also spawned many political, sporting and social luminaries, including Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu – two Nobel peace price laureates, who once lived in the now famous Vilakazi Street in Orlando West.

The township has also produced the highest number of professional soccer teams in the country. Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows all emerged from the township, and remain among the biggest soccer teams in the Premier Soccer League.

Soweto Road SignJust a few kilometres drive from Diepkloof is Orlando, home to Nelson Mandela’s first house, not surprisingly a popular tourist attraction. Mandela stayed here with his then wife, Winnie, before he was imprisoned in 1961 and jailed for 27 years.

The house is now a museum, run by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and contains memorabilia from the short time they lived there together before Mandela went into hiding. Mandela now lives in Houghton, a suburb several kilometres north of Johanneburg’s city centre, with his third wife, Graca, widow of the late Mozambican president Samora Machel.

A place to party

Recent years have seen Soweto become a site of massive development projects and a major tourist attraction in the country.

With such investments happening, shabeens( local bar / club ), history attraction and restaurants make Soweto a great place for a good day/night out.

Travel with Moafrika tours

See the great wonders of Soweto when you travel with MoAfrika Tours. We cater for both day and night trips. Go to all the local hang out spots and take a look at all the historical monuments that give Soweto such a wonderful culture. View the tours we offer below:

Reference
http://www.soweto.co.za/html/i_overview.htm
http://www.southafrica.info/travel/cities/soweto.htm#.Vs2wCinjxhA 
Dave’s Travel Corner

 

Brief history

pretoria city hallIn 1855, Pretoria was founded by Marthinus Pretorius, a Voortrekker leader. His intention was to name it after his father, Andries, who was instrumental in the Voortrekker victory over the Zulus in the monumental Battle of Blood River.

It took some time to settle on a name for the new town though, options like “Pretoriusdorp”, “Pretorium”, “Pretoriusstad” and “Pretoria-Philadelphia” were all considered, but Marthinus finally settled on Pretoria.

Today the area has been renamed the City of Tshwane, but the CBD still keeps the name of Pretoria. Pretoria continues as the administrative capital of South Africa.

Significant Landmarks

Pretoria Landmarks
Church Square has always been the hub of Pretoria, although it was initially called Market Square. This was where the first church, a mud-walled building, was built. It burnt down in 1882 and was replaced by a much grander structure. Open markets were regularly held in the Square and Albert Broderick, an Englishman christened Albertus Broodryk, by his Afrikaans friends and customers established himself as shopkeeper. He also ran the community’s first bar, the ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’.

When Mr. Sammy Marks, a well-known Jewish industrialist and close friend of President Paul Kruger, was allowed to build the town’s first synagogue he expressed his pleasure by commissioning the sculptor Anton van Wouw to produce a statue of the president. A plinth was erected in Church Square to receive the bronze figure that had been cast in Rome. Unfortunately the South African War broke out and the statue was held up in the then Lorenzo Marques. This resulted in the statue only being erected in 1854, after several changes of site. Church Square was redesigned as a tramway in 1910, much to the disappointment of many of Pretoria’s residents who had tried to convince the civic authorities to create a gracious area of fountains, gardens and Continental-style paving in order to showcase Pretoria as a city.

During the rule of the old dispensation Pretoria was the Administrative capital of South Africa. The modern city has many features that retain a position of importance in, especially, the white history of the country. These include the Union Buildings, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, which still houses government establishments; the old Raadsaal (council chamber) of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek on Church Square and the house where President Paul Kruger lived until his exile in 1900.

Outside the city towers the Voortrekker Monument and the two massive forts, Klapperkop and Schanskop, built by the Boers to protect their capital against the British. Here you can also find the large and imposing buildings of the University of South Africa (UNISA).

Travel to Pretoria with MoAfrika Tours

With all this great history there is so much to see. Take one of our many day trips to Pretoria and view this rich history for yourself. We offer great packages for you and your whole family. View the available tours below:


Reference:
http://www.visitpretoria.co.za/General/history-of-pretoria
http://www.pretoria.co.za/city-info/history

Find yourself traveling to Gauteng and want a great day out? Well Gauteng is not short of things to do. We will be showing you day tours that are affordable and fill up a day with fun. It is great for families or if you find yourself traveling by yourself.

With the large amount of history behind South Africa, a lot of it can be found through out Gauteng.

To start of with a tour to the Apartheid Museum.

Apartheid Museum

Apartheid MuseumThis is a great day tour that is rich with South African history. Look into the journey South Africa to get to the rainbow nation we are today.

Soweto Tour
From there you can take a trip through Soweto and see where Nelson Mandela lived. There is a lot of culture that is still kept in Soweto. Have a tour through a city within a city.

 

Safari

South African SafariOnce have had your fun with the history of South Africa and want a bit of adventure through the wild side of South Africa then you are in for a treat.
We have great wild life parks where you can see the big 5 and some of Africas finest creatures. View more Kruger Park Lodges

If this sounds like it is right down you alley give us a call or book online today.

 

Testimonial

Zaach Smith – https://www.themattresswarehouse.co.za/– The best tour of our lives. Thank you to Moafrika Tours and Safaris.