Sabi Sand is famous for its big cats.

South Africa & Zimbabwe Classic Affordable Safari | Big Cats, Waterfall & Winelands | 9 Nights Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Victoria Falls & Cape Town

Southern Africa boasts several ‘must-see’ destinations, from the wonderful setting and gastronomic delights of Cape Town to the natural wonder of the world that is Victoria Falls. These two iconic locations are both included in this itinerary, with a Sabi Sand safari for starters. Wildlife, waterfalls and waterfronts: this trip has it all.

  • From the leopard lairs of the greater Kruger to the lush lawns of a family-run hotel within earshot of Victoria Falls and on to the cosmopolitan buzz of Cape Town’s bustling waterfront, this affordable African safari ticks all the most important Southern African boxes.
  • Opportunities for thrilling close encounters with big cats on Sabi Sand game drives, tours of Victoria Falls, canoe excursions and sunset cruises along the mighty Zambezi, Cape Peninsula tours and wine-tasting outings in the Cape Winelands.
  • The intimate Nkorho Bush Lodge has maintained the authentic feel of the olden days in Sabi Sand, with just seven thatched chalets and a unique rock pool.
  • With 56 rooms, the family-run Ilala Lodge is the closest good quality accommodation to Victoria Falls, which are just a short walk away through the manicured gardens. The lodge has a lovely pool.
  • The high-rise Southern Sun Waterfront hotel has impressive views from its comfortable rooms and could not be closer to the restaurant, shopping and nightlife hub of the V&A Waterfront. It has a fully-equipped fitness centre and an outdoor pool.

Three nights at Nkorho Bush Lodge

The concrete jungle of Johannesburg was soon but a memory as the last skyscrapers slipped below the horizon. Our journey to Nkorho Bush Lodge involved the best of both worlds: a flight to absorb some of the distances involved in traversing this immense country, and then a road transfer that let us see more of South Africa at ground level. We passed through the pretty town of White River, and then on through a landscape of farms and places with wonderfully evocative names (my favourite was Hazyview) before agriculture gave way to bushveld and the places where the wild things were.The Sabi Sand is known above all for its big cat sightings, and we were keen to maximise our time on the prowl for these predators. Before we started, we needed to mark our territory – not as a lion would, but simply by unpacking a few items in our thatched chalet (one of just seven in this wonderfully classic lodge). Our afternoon game drive was more about the hunted than the hunters, but was no less enjoyable for that, especially as we got to ‘kill’ a G&T and some biltong as the sky coloured.Over dinner in the leadwood boma the previous evening, our guide had identified a resident male leopard from his call, so early the next morning we were on his trail. Pug marks in a dry riverbed almost gave the game away, but it took the eagle eyes of our tracker to spot the big cat in a cave entrance. As if on cue, he emerged from the shadows and lay in an early morning sunbeam – we couldn’t have asked for a better view of this ‘rock star’. As he was visible, we could also observe the reactions of nearby impala.It takes something special to put a leopard in the shade, but then seeing a pride of lion feeding on a buffalo was quite the start to our last full day. Truth be told, only one was feeding – the grizzled old male snarled at any one who came close, and even the cubs seemed wary of him. His meal was more decisively interrupted when a small herd of elephant passed close by. Catching the scent of the predators, the matriarch performed a mock charge to register her displeasure, with her calf following her example at a discreet distance.

The concrete jungle of Johannesburg was soon but a memory as the last skyscrapers slipped below the horizon. Our journey to Nkorho Bush Lodge involved the best of both worlds: a flight to absorb some of the distances involved in traversing this immense country, and then a road transfer that let us see more of South Africa at ground level. We passed through the pretty town of White River, and then on through a landscape of farms and places with wonderfully evocative names (my favourite was Hazyview) before agriculture gave way to bushveld and the places where the wild things were.

The Sabi Sand is known above all for its big cat sightings, and we were keen to maximise our time on the prowl for these predators. Before we started, we needed to mark our territory – not as a lion would, but simply by unpacking a few items in our thatched chalet (one of just seven in this wonderfully classic lodge). Our afternoon game drive was more about the hunted than the hunters, but was no less enjoyable for that, especially as we got to ‘kill’ a G&T and some biltong as the sky coloured.

Over dinner in the leadwood boma the previous evening, our guide had identified a resident male leopard from his call, so early the next morning we were on his trail. Pug marks in a dry riverbed almost gave the game away, but it took the eagle eyes of our tracker to spot the big cat in a cave entrance. As if on cue, he emerged from the shadows and lay in an early morning sunbeam – we couldn’t have asked for a better view of this ‘rock star’. As he was visible, we could also observe the reactions of nearby impala.

It takes something special to put a leopard in the shade, but then seeing a pride of lion feeding on a buffalo was quite the start to our last full day. Truth be told, only one was feeding – the grizzled old male snarled at any one who came close, and even the cubs seemed wary of him. His meal was more decisively interrupted when a small herd of elephant passed close by. Catching the scent of the predators, the matriarch performed a mock charge to register her displeasure, with her calf following her example at a discreet distance.

Three nights at Ilala Lodge

Our return journey to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport followed a slightly different route, giving us the chance to appreciate more South African scenery. As our flight approached Livingstone, seats on the port side of the aircraft were at a premium as they gave superb views of the column of spray above the falls. Crossing the border was a breeze – two new passport stamps if you please – and we loved driving across the impressive Victorian iron bridge (more about that later) even though a kink in the Batoka Gorge hid the cascades from sight for now.Ilala Lodge proved to be so close to Victoria Falls that they almost didn’t need to water their lawns. We were told that the volume of water rushing over the lip of the precipice was unusually high for the time of the year, due to early rains. Not that we were complaining as we checked out our garden room with French doors that led onto our private patio. We resolved to get fully acquainted with the falls the next day, and instead took a leisurely sunset cruise as the skipper steered skilfully between rocks that might be hippo.Being so close to the falls, we willingly accepted our guide’s invitation to walk there with him, passing the carved wooden giraffe stalls at the entrance to the national park. We learned about the unique, rainforest-like ecosystem that’s sustained by the airborne moisture. The noise level rose exponentially as we approached the cataracts, and a rainbow arched overhead (as though this scene needed any further embellishment). To be so close to such a raw display of natural power was both humbling and invigorating, and then – perhaps inevitably – our clothes but not our spirits were thoroughly dampened.We’d earmarked our last full day for adrenaline activities, and we had no shortage of choices. We started where our time in Zimbabwe had begun: on the iron bridge that links it with Zambia. Below us, 111m of, well, nothing – but we were unafraid. Actually, that’s not true at all, but as I’d lost the bungee-jump bet with my partner, a brave face was required. My ankles securely attached, I shuffled to the edge of the platform, and took a small step into social media immortality. Our afternoon canoe excursion in search of African finfoot was positively sedate in comparison!

Our return journey to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport followed a slightly different route, giving us the chance to appreciate more South African scenery. As our flight approached Livingstone, seats on the port side of the aircraft were at a premium as they gave superb views of the column of spray above the falls. Crossing the border was a breeze – two new passport stamps if you please – and we loved driving across the impressive Victorian iron bridge (more about that later) even though a kink in the Batoka Gorge hid the cascades from sight for now.

Ilala Lodge proved to be so close to Victoria Falls that they almost didn’t need to water their lawns. We were told that the volume of water rushing over the lip of the precipice was unusually high for the time of the year, due to early rains. Not that we were complaining as we checked out our garden room with French doors that led onto our private patio. We resolved to get fully acquainted with the falls the next day, and instead took a leisurely sunset cruise as the skipper steered skilfully between rocks that might be hippo.

Being so close to the falls, we willingly accepted our guide’s invitation to walk there with him, passing the carved wooden giraffe stalls at the entrance to the national park. We learned about the unique, rainforest-like ecosystem that’s sustained by the airborne moisture. The noise level rose exponentially as we approached the cataracts, and a rainbow arched overhead (as though this scene needed any further embellishment). To be so close to such a raw display of natural power was both humbling and invigorating, and then – perhaps inevitably – our clothes but not our spirits were thoroughly dampened.

We’d earmarked our last full day for adrenaline activities, and we had no shortage of choices. We started where our time in Zimbabwe had begun: on the iron bridge that links it with Zambia. Below us, 111m of, well, nothing – but we were unafraid. Actually, that’s not true at all, but as I’d lost the bungee-jump bet with my partner, a brave face was required. My ankles securely attached, I shuffled to the edge of the platform, and took a small step into social media immortality. Our afternoon canoe excursion in search of African finfoot was positively sedate in comparison!

Three nights at Southern Sun Waterfront

We were getting better at sitting on the correct side of the plane, and this time we were rewarded with views of Table Bay and Table Mountain just before we landed.We were excited to be in the Mother City – and so were our taste buds! The Southern Sun Waterfront hotel was a real landmark, and ideally situated for everything we had planned. Conscious of being in a foodie mecca, we popped into the fitness centre (more for the superb views than the exercise) before taking a stroll among the international crowds which thronged the V&A Waterfront. Over a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (South African, of course) we reflected that we’d come a long way – and when we got the bill, were pleased to see just how far our money would also go, due to the favourable exchange rate.The Cape Peninsula extended like a long, rocky claw into the ocean, and the combination of rugged cliffs and crashing waves meant that there was plenty to admire on our private peninsula tour the next day. As well as the dramatic scenery, we enjoyed the antics of the penguins at Boulders Beach, and the sensation that we really were heading to the ends of the earth. A superb seafood lunch overlooking a pretty fishing harbour had us deciding to sell our home and move here immediately. The tang of the salt air and our guide’s friendly, informative style did nothing to diminish our resolve.To soften the blow of having almost arrived at the end of our time in Africa, we had decided on a tour of the Cape Winelands. Sensibly, we had opted for a guided excursion, so that we could more fully enjoy some of the superb wines produced in this very special region. It soon became apparent that the ‘Fairest Cape’ was as bountiful as it was beautiful, and we fell in love with our first-ever glass of Pinotage. The sabrage demonstration was a definite highlight, and added a little edge to what was a sublime day of cheese, crackers and cracking vintages.

We were getting better at sitting on the correct side of the plane, and this time we were rewarded with views of Table Bay and Table Mountain just before we landed.

We were excited to be in the Mother City – and so were our taste buds! The Southern Sun Waterfront hotel was a real landmark, and ideally situated for everything we had planned. Conscious of being in a foodie mecca, we popped into the fitness centre (more for the superb views than the exercise) before taking a stroll among the international crowds which thronged the V&A Waterfront. Over a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (South African, of course) we reflected that we’d come a long way – and when we got the bill, were pleased to see just how far our money would also go, due to the favourable exchange rate.

The Cape Peninsula extended like a long, rocky claw into the ocean, and the combination of rugged cliffs and crashing waves meant that there was plenty to admire on our private peninsula tour the next day. As well as the dramatic scenery, we enjoyed the antics of the penguins at Boulders Beach, and the sensation that we really were heading to the ends of the earth. A superb seafood lunch overlooking a pretty fishing harbour had us deciding to sell our home and move here immediately. The tang of the salt air and our guide’s friendly, informative style did nothing to diminish our resolve.

To soften the blow of having almost arrived at the end of our time in Africa, we had decided on a tour of the Cape Winelands. Sensibly, we had opted for a guided excursion, so that we could more fully enjoy some of the superb wines produced in this very special region. It soon became apparent that the ‘Fairest Cape’ was as bountiful as it was beautiful, and we fell in love with our first-ever glass of Pinotage. The sabrage demonstration was a definite highlight, and added a little edge to what was a sublime day of cheese, crackers and cracking vintages.

What sets it apart

The itinerary for our South Africa and Zimbabwe affordable African safar was really a list of Southern African greatest hits, but there was rather more to it than that. In place of crusty old rockers though, we had ancient boulders with water cascading over them. As well as moments where we wanted to sing out loud in exuberance, there were plenty of quiet pauses filled with just companionable silence and birdsong.There were live tracks, too: the wood-sawing call of a male leopard, and the thunderous percussion of the falls. It was Zimbabwe, too, that provided us with a cover version when a gust of wind doused us in spray that defeated our brightly coloured ponchos and left us bedraggled but exhilarated.The rhythm section was a constant presence, from the timpani-like hippo grunting the night away to the ambling footfalls of passers-by along the waterfront. The male lion solo was something we’ll never forget, as he reminded us who was number one in his neck of the woods. Best of all though were the sounds that were new to us: the early-morning wake-up call that heralded fresh coffee and new safari adventures, or that special moment of silence that seemed to descend as the sun set each evening.As well as the Smoke that Thunders, the other sound that stayed with us from Victoria Falls was the contented chomping of the warthog family outside our garden room. Sounds too good to be true, no?

The itinerary for our South Africa and Zimbabwe affordable African safar was really a list of Southern African greatest hits, but there was rather more to it than that. In place of crusty old rockers though, we had ancient boulders with water cascading over them. As well as moments where we wanted to sing out loud in exuberance, there were plenty of quiet pauses filled with just companionable silence and birdsong.

There were live tracks, too: the wood-sawing call of a male leopard, and the thunderous percussion of the falls. It was Zimbabwe, too, that provided us with a cover version when a gust of wind doused us in spray that defeated our brightly coloured ponchos and left us bedraggled but exhilarated.

The rhythm section was a constant presence, from the timpani-like hippo grunting the night away to the ambling footfalls of passers-by along the waterfront. The male lion solo was something we’ll never forget, as he reminded us who was number one in his neck of the woods.

Best of all though were the sounds that were new to us: the early-morning wake-up call that heralded fresh coffee and new safari adventures, or that special moment of silence that seemed to descend as the sun set each evening.

As well as the Smoke that Thunders, the other sound that stayed with us from Victoria Falls was the contented chomping of the warthog family outside our garden room. Sounds too good to be true, no?

DAY 1–3

The Sabi Sand has lots of elephant. © Nkorho Bush Lodge

From OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Mbombela, where you’ll be met on arrival. You’ll then take a transfer to Nkorho Bush Lodge, where you’ll spend three nights.

DAY 4–6

Victoria Falls is especially impressive when seen from above.

After a transfer from Nkorho Bush Lodge to the airport, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Livingstone in Zambia, where you’ll be assisted through customs and immigration. A transfer will then take you across the border into Zimbabwe to Ilala Lodge, where you’ll spend three nights.

DAY 7–8

You can visit St James on a Cape Peninsula Tour.

After a transfer from Ilala Lodge to the airport, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Cape Town in South Africa. After being assisted through customs and immigration, you’ll take a transfer to Southern Sun Waterfront, where you’ll spend three nights.

DAY 9

Beautiful Cape Town and the picturesque Table mountain.

A transfer will take you from Southern Sun Waterfront to Cape Town International Airport for your onward flight.

  • Our safaris are tailor-made to match your personal safari dream, taking into account when you’d like to travel, how long you’d like to be away for, who you’d be travelling with, what safari lodge style you’d prefer, and more.
  • This classic affordable safari idea is simply to show you what’s possible. To see what this type of safari costs, and what’s generally included, click here.
  • You can also click through to our blog on African safari prices for a general overview of our safari price categories:

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