South Africa, Botswana & Zimbabwe | Private Kruger, Salt Pans & Victoria Falls | 10 Nights Greater Kruger Private Reserves, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Victoria Falls

This luxury safari includes stays at some of the most distinctive luxury lodges in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Strikingly stylish accommodation at Ngala Tented Camp, San Camp and Matetsi River Lodge both complements and contrasts with landscapes that inspire wonder, relaxation and your innate sense of adventure.

Three nights at Ngala Tented Camp

We came to South Africa’s Greater Kruger with big cats on our minds, already having learned that Ngala Tented Camp takes its name from a local word for ‘lion’. When we met our guide and tracker team, Grant and Dennis, we discovered that we shared a passion for seeing big cats up close. Still, we couldn’t have hoped for a better start: our afternoon game drive included a leopard in a tree overhanging the dry riverbed, crunching on impala ribs. Our own snacks, further down the river, were washed down with a welcome G&T as the sun set.The next morning, we left the lodge on foot to learn more about the ancient art of tracking animals on foot. Grant carried a heavy rifle which, he told us with quiet pride, he’d never had to use in anger. Dennis was armed with just his encyclopaedic knowledge of the bush. Paying careful attention to the wind direction, he deftly differentiated between old and fresh tracks and took us to within 80m of a large bull elephant, who, it seems, never realised we were there. As we retreated, Dennis noticed lion tracks – including those of at least one cub, which was news even to him.Our third day focused on the then-dry Timbavati River. We opted for a relaxed morning by the lap pool (which mirrored the curves of the riverbank), spotting some of the 350 local bird species. Grant and Dennis went out again in search of the cubs, and found the den site (although the cubs were too young to be visited yet). It was not a lion-free day, however – unexpectedly, in mid-afternoon, a young male padded past us along the sandy riverbed. Later that evening, our tracks mingled with his as we enjoyed a romantic riverbed dinner by flickering lantern light.

We came to South Africa’s Greater Kruger with big cats on our minds, already having learned that Ngala Tented Camp takes its name from a local word for ‘lion’. When we met our guide and tracker team, Grant and Dennis, we discovered that we shared a passion for seeing big cats up close. Still, we couldn’t have hoped for a better start: our afternoon game drive included a leopard in a tree overhanging the dry riverbed, crunching on impala ribs. Our own snacks, further down the river, were washed down with a welcome G&T as the sun set.

The next morning, we left the lodge on foot to learn more about the ancient art of tracking animals on foot. Grant carried a heavy rifle which, he told us with quiet pride, he’d never had to use in anger. Dennis was armed with just his encyclopaedic knowledge of the bush. Paying careful attention to the wind direction, he deftly differentiated between old and fresh tracks and took us to within 80m of a large bull elephant, who, it seems, never realised we were there. As we retreated, Dennis noticed lion tracks – including those of at least one cub, which was news even to him.

Our third day focused on the then-dry Timbavati River. We opted for a relaxed morning by the lap pool (which mirrored the curves of the riverbank), spotting some of the 350 local bird species. Grant and Dennis went out again in search of the cubs, and found the den site (although the cubs were too young to be visited yet). It was not a lion-free day, however – unexpectedly, in mid-afternoon, a young male padded past us along the sandy riverbed. Later that evening, our tracks mingled with his as we enjoyed a romantic riverbed dinner by flickering lantern light.

Three nights at San Camp

Before we moved on to Botswana, we overnighted at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg, which gave us a chance to see a bit of the vibrant city. Early the next day, we took two hops to the magnificent Makgadikgadi Pans – what a thrill to see them from above before landing near San Camp.The magnificent ‘emptiness’ of the Makgadikgadi Pans instantly captivated us, and we spent the morning simply taking them in from the comfort of our luxury tent. After high tea in the main tent, we walked along the shore of what had once been an ancient lake, our guide telling us an epic tale of captured rivers with characters as diverse as San nomads and Victorian explorers. We found stone tools lying on the surface – holding a manmade object that was many thousands of years old gave us a sense of connection. We sipped our drinks contemplatively as the sun set, highlighting the curvature of the earth’s surface.An early start amply demonstrated how the temperatures here can fluctuate throughout the day. It turned out that we weren’t the only residents to be feeling a slight chill in the air. At the habituated meerkat colony, they were beginning their day, scanning the sky and turning to face the warmth of the rising sun. One climbed onto my partner’s head for a better view! From here we drove to the site of Chapman’s Baobab, a landmark tree that had fallen in 2016 but still had green leaves. It was just as impressive (if a little sad) in the horizontal.Over breakfast we learned a little more about the Makgadikgadi Zebra Migration, an annual event that’s relatively unknown. And then it was time for us to embark on our own remarkable journey, a walk with the Zu/’hoasi Bushmen guides who have been working closely with San Camp for many years. What to the untrained eye could seem an almost barren landscape is a treasure trove of hidden secrets to them. But theirs is not a tale of a desperate struggle to survive; rather, they celebrate and enjoy this remarkable landscape, which gives them everything they need.

Before we moved on to Botswana, we overnighted at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg, which gave us a chance to see a bit of the vibrant city. Early the next day, we took two hops to the magnificent Makgadikgadi Pans – what a thrill to see them from above before landing near San Camp.

The magnificent ‘emptiness’ of the Makgadikgadi Pans instantly captivated us, and we spent the morning simply taking them in from the comfort of our luxury tent. After high tea in the main tent, we walked along the shore of what had once been an ancient lake, our guide telling us an epic tale of captured rivers with characters as diverse as San nomads and Victorian explorers. We found stone tools lying on the surface – holding a manmade object that was many thousands of years old gave us a sense of connection. We sipped our drinks contemplatively as the sun set, highlighting the curvature of the earth’s surface.

An early start amply demonstrated how the temperatures here can fluctuate throughout the day. It turned out that we weren’t the only residents to be feeling a slight chill in the air. At the habituated meerkat colony, they were beginning their day, scanning the sky and turning to face the warmth of the rising sun. One climbed onto my partner’s head for a better view! From here we drove to the site of Chapman’s Baobab, a landmark tree that had fallen in 2016 but still had green leaves. It was just as impressive (if a little sad) in the horizontal.

Over breakfast we learned a little more about the Makgadikgadi Zebra Migration, an annual event that’s relatively unknown. And then it was time for us to embark on our own remarkable journey, a walk with the Zu/’hoasi Bushmen guides who have been working closely with San Camp for many years. What to the untrained eye could seem an almost barren landscape is a treasure trove of hidden secrets to them. But theirs is not a tale of a desperate struggle to survive; rather, they celebrate and enjoy this remarkable landscape, which gives them everything they need.

Three nights at Matetsi River Lodge

From a place shaped by ancient waters, we flew towards Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, where the dynamic power of water was still actively carving out new paths, and creating awesome experiences for intrepid humans.Matetsi River Lodge, around an hour’s drive from the town of Victoria Falls, is ideally suited to make the most of all the activities there, but also to enjoy an authentic Zimbabwean safari experience in an exclusive wildlife concession. From the private deck of our river suite, we could experience a Zambezi River quite different to the brash, crashing creature it would become just a few kilometres downstream. Our sunset boat cruise was the ideal way to unwind, as the languid river swirled about us and pods of hippo chortled at some unshared joke. Perhaps, like us, they were just deeply content.When it came to seeing the falls the next morning, we opted for a different perspective. The light aircraft that brought us to Zimbabwe seemed positively huge compared to the Victoria Falls microlights, but once we were buckled in and racing along the airstrip, the advantages became apparent. There was absolutely nothing to obstruct our view, and in moments we were circling the falls, low enough that we could feel the spray on our faces. The noise of the motor was completely drowned out by the immense wall of sound, and my partner (in another microlight) and I exchanged delighted waves.We made the most of our last full day of our three-country safari by going for a game drive along the Zambezi River. Our expectations of seeing elephant were more than met, but the small herd of striking sable antelope was a delightful surprise. We almost had a final big-cat encounter, but the kill our guide spotted in the fork of a tree was an old one, the leopard long gone. One final surprise awaited us: a table and chairs for two in the shallows, lanterns on poles, and a charming waiter who waded out to pour our sparkling wine.

From a place shaped by ancient waters, we flew towards Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, where the dynamic power of water was still actively carving out new paths, and creating awesome experiences for intrepid humans.

Matetsi River Lodge, around an hour’s drive from the town of Victoria Falls, is ideally suited to make the most of all the activities there, but also to enjoy an authentic Zimbabwean safari experience in an exclusive wildlife concession. From the private deck of our river suite, we could experience a Zambezi River quite different to the brash, crashing creature it would become just a few kilometres downstream. Our sunset boat cruise was the ideal way to unwind, as the languid river swirled about us and pods of hippo chortled at some unshared joke. Perhaps, like us, they were just deeply content.

When it came to seeing the falls the next morning, we opted for a different perspective. The light aircraft that brought us to Zimbabwe seemed positively huge compared to the Victoria Falls microlights, but once we were buckled in and racing along the airstrip, the advantages became apparent. There was absolutely nothing to obstruct our view, and in moments we were circling the falls, low enough that we could feel the spray on our faces. The noise of the motor was completely drowned out by the immense wall of sound, and my partner (in another microlight) and I exchanged delighted waves.

We made the most of our last full day of our three-country safari by going for a game drive along the Zambezi River. Our expectations of seeing elephant were more than met, but the small herd of striking sable antelope was a delightful surprise. We almost had a final big-cat encounter, but the kill our guide spotted in the fork of a tree was an old one, the leopard long gone. One final surprise awaited us: a table and chairs for two in the shallows, lanterns on poles, and a charming waiter who waded out to pour our sparkling wine.

What sets it apart

We’re both agreed that this is easily the most stylish holiday we’ve ever been on, and we’ve fallen in love with safari chic. Perhaps the luxury lodges we stayed at had an unfair advantage over city hotels, given the unspoilt beauty of their settings.We were particularly impressed by the way the designers of each lodge had been guided by the essential elements of the landscapes, but at the same time, were unafraid to make bold (and yet still sympathetic) statements.In each case, the end result was an uncomplicated luxury that focused on maximising our views of rivers and salt pans, while still catering to our every need.At first glance, some of the guest tents and rooms struck us as being a little incongruous, with angular lines and geometric shapes. We soon came to realise though that the genius of each design was to remove everything superficial and extraneous, leaving only the essential.An authentic sense of place was ensured by the use of local crafts as décor items, and by drawing inspiration from features of the landscape. At San Camp, the arrangement of the guest tents was suggested by scattered clusters of palm trees, while the shape of the lap pool at Ngala Tented Camp followed the curves of the Timbavati River below.At Matetsi River Lodge, the presence of the Zambezi River on the doorstep lent a unique energy to the lodge, with a tranquil ambience underscored by a sense of impending drama, with Victoria Falls not far away.

We’re both agreed that this is easily the most stylish holiday we’ve ever been on, and we’ve fallen in love with safari chic. Perhaps the luxury lodges we stayed at had an unfair advantage over city hotels, given the unspoilt beauty of their settings.

We were particularly impressed by the way the designers of each lodge had been guided by the essential elements of the landscapes, but at the same time, were unafraid to make bold (and yet still sympathetic) statements.

In each case, the end result was an uncomplicated luxury that focused on maximising our views of rivers and salt pans, while still catering to our every need.

At first glance, some of the guest tents and rooms struck us as being a little incongruous, with angular lines and geometric shapes. We soon came to realise though that the genius of each design was to remove everything superficial and extraneous, leaving only the essential.

An authentic sense of place was ensured by the use of local crafts as décor items, and by drawing inspiration from features of the landscape. At San Camp, the arrangement of the guest tents was suggested by scattered clusters of palm trees, while the shape of the lap pool at Ngala Tented Camp followed the curves of the Timbavati River below.

At Matetsi River Lodge, the presence of the Zambezi River on the doorstep lent a unique energy to the lodge, with a tranquil ambience underscored by a sense of impending drama, with Victoria Falls not far away.

Day 1–3

Experience private dining on your deck at Ngala Tented Camp. © &Beyond

You’ll be met as you disembark from your international flight at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, and assisted through customs and immigration. After a scheduled flight to the Greater Kruger, you’ll take a transfer to Ngala Tented Camp, where you’ll spend three nights.

Day 4

South Africa is famous for its big-cat sightings. © Andrew Schoeman

After a transfer from Ngala Tented Camp to the airstrip, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Johannesburg. A transfer will take you to the InterContinental Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport Hotel, where you’ll spend the night.

Day 5–7

San Camp’s guest tents are scattered along the edge of the saltpans. © Uncharted Africa

You’ll be met at the InterContinental Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport Hotel and assisted through check-in at the airport. A scheduled flight will take you to Maun in Botswana, and then a scheduled light-aircraft flight will take you to the Makgadikgadi Pans. A transfer will then take you to San Camp, where you’ll spend three nights.

Day 8–10

Cool off in the pool at Matetsi River Lodge. © &Beyond

After a transfer from San Camp to the airstrip, you’ll take a scheduled light-aircraft flight to Kasane, then another to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. You’ll then take a transfer to Matetsi River Lodge, where you’ll spend three nights.

Day 11

South Africa is famous for its big-cat sightings. © Andrew Schoeman

A transfer will take you from Matetsi River Lodge to Victoria Falls, where you’ll take a scheduled flight to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, to connect with your international flight.

Ready to start planning?

Let us help you curate your perfect experience.

Plan My Trip

Looking for inspiration?

Sign up for our occasional newsletter and we’ll feed your imagination with exciting safari ideas.

Ready to start planning your trip?​​​​​​​

Plan My Trip

Want to get in touch?

Contact Us

Creating your canvas!

By clicking on the heart, you’ve just added your first safari item to your canvas, which is where you can curate your personal collection of luxury safari inspiration. View and save your canvas by clicking here, and you'll be able to access it at any time by tapping on the heart icon in the menu bar.

Got it