South Africa is a fantastic country for a self drive holiday. A self drive holiday in South Africa is probably the best way to discover South Africa. Many people might not consider this and prefer to travel in a group. We have done many MANY self drive holidays South Africa and we can’t recommend them enough. We travelled all the 9 provinces of South Africa.
Driving in South Africa is an absolute pleasure. There’s good signage, there are petrol stations in almost every village and the best is that South African Roads are not busy at all compared to European high ways. So a South Africa holiday that includes car rental and accommodation is a perfect way to travel and drive South Africa yourself without needing a guide.
As soon as you’re out of the cities, South African roads stretch out forever and you might not see any other cars for 10 to 20 minutes. A South African road trip is actually the only way to get to all these hidden gems that we love recommending so much when we design itineraries for our clients. Big buses simply can’t get there.
A self drive South Africa is easily combined with a self drive Botswana and Lesotho as well as a road trip to Mozambique and Namibia. It all depends how much time you have. The 17 day self drive South Africa below combines South Africa and Swaziland
Introduction to 17 day self drive South Africa
The next South Africa itinerary is a popular route that starts in Johannesburg and will take you to many different highlights. We’ve included the Blyde River Canyon, a private safari park bordering the Krugerpark, the mountain Kingdom of Swaziland, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi which is the oldest safari reserve in Southern Africa and the majestic Drakensberg.
Of course we could add much more to this and if you can add a day or 2 I would definitely recommend to spend some time in Johannesburg too. Check our article here about all the fun things to do in Johannesburg.
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Map of South Africa, 17 day road trip
Day 1 – 8 Blyde River Canyon, Big 5 safaris and Kruger National Park
Day 1 Johannesburg, arrival at OR Tambo International Airport
Late arrival with your KLM flight from Amsterdam. For a late arrival at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg we recommend the City Lodge OR Tambo Hotel because it ticks all the boxes: at the terminal, cost effective, very nice rooms and a great breakfast.
Accommodation: City Lodge OR Tambo, Bed & Breakfast included
Find availability and rates for CITY LODGE OR TAMBO HERE!
Day 2, 3 Graskop / Panorama route / Blyde River Canyon
In the morning you can pick up your rental car from the airport desk. Graskop is about a 5 hour drive. A very nice stop is the village of Dullstroom where you will usually arrive around lunch time. Dullstroom has the highest train station in the country and in Winter time temperatures can drop to -10 C.. After lunch you continue your journey to Mpumalanga Province to Graskop.
Graskop is located at the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon and from there you can explore the Panorama route which includes God’s Window, Bourke Luck’s Potholes, the 3 Rondavels, Pilgrim’s Rest and several water falls. It is also possible to do a boat trip on the Blyde River Dam.
The Graskop Hotel is in the middle of the village and is a nice spot to relax after a day of exploring. The rooms are very nice and the gardens are beautiful.
Accommodation: Graskop Hotel
Find rates and availability for the Graskop Hotel HERE.
Day 4, 5 and 6 Timbavati Private Game Reserve, The Great Krugerpark area
Timbavati Private Game Reserve is located near Hoedspruit bordering the Kruger National Park. You will stay in a beautiful lodge from where you take part in jeep safaris and bush walks. There’s a water hole next to the lodge so you might find the animals roaming very close by. Your private ranger will show you as much as possible and hopefully you will get to see the Big 5. Timbavati is one of the best private reserves and sightings are usually spectacular.
The Krugerpark is one of the most well known safari parks in the world. A visit to South Africa often equals a visit to the Kruger National Park. The big difference between the Krugerpark and the private reserves bordering the park is that in the Krugerpark people are allowed to drive their own cars. This is not allowed in Timbavati. That’s why we always try to recommend good private lodges and reserves to have the most authentic and quiet safaris without the crowds AND with the knowledge of good guides who will make sure you learn as much as possible about the African Bush and the animals, plants and trees.
Accommodation: Kambaku Safari Lodge, all inclusive packages with 2 jeep safaris per day and all meals
Find availability and rates HERE!
Day 7, 8 Nelspruit / southern Krugerpark area
Tomjachu Bush Retreat is an exclusive private nature reserve set in over 550 hectares of mountain bushveld, located within the Crocodile Valley Nature Conservancy.
Tomjachu is situated only a 45 minute drive from Malelane Krugerpark gate in the southern part of the park. This is also the best part of the park to do a self-drive safari. The southern part of the Kruger National Park usually has the most animals. You can pay your entrance fee at the gate and enjoy the park at your own leisure. Please do read the safety precautions carefully and STICK TO THEM. Remember, you are entering an area with wild animals.
Perhaps after experiencing the open jeep safaris over the last few days, you are now happy to enjoy a self drive safari in the Kruger National park and take your time. The different camps in the park are like villages with accommodation, shops and restaurants. Upon entering the park we suggest you buy yourself one of the excellent maps of the park so you can plan your route.
In Tomjachu Bush Retreat itself you can do self-guided walks as there are no dangerous animals in this private reserve.
Accommodation: Tomjachu Bush Retreat
Book your stay at Tomjachu Bush Retreat HERE.
Day 9 – 17 Swaziland, Durban & Drakensberg Mountains
During the 2nd part of this South African self drive Holiday, you will visit the Kingdom of Swaziland, enjoy some more safaris near Hluhluwe and explore the iSimangaliso Wetland Park with wonderful beaches, nature walks and possible mountain biking. Durban is a great city by the beach with a tropical climate and from there you head out into the majestic Drakensberg Mountain range. If you travel in July/August, you might even find snow here.
Day 9, 10 Swaziland, Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Swaziland is a small kingdom bordering South Africa and Mozambique so today you will be crossing a border so keep your passports handy. You will cross the border at Jeppe’s Reef / Matsamo. You will first leave South Africa and your passport is stamped, then a few hundred meters further you will cross into Swaziland and you passport will be stamped again. On the border at Matsamo you can have coffee and perhaps enjoy the cultural Swazi show and singing.
Swaziland has about 1 million inhabitants and is more or less as big as Belgium. The people are friendly and warm and you will find the atmosphere quite relaxed. Swaziland has its own currency which is 1:1 to the ZAR of South Africa.
Reilly’s Rock is the former home of the O’Reilly family who are important conservationists in Swaziland. Reilly’s Rock, situated inside the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, was also the place where late Prince Bernard of The Netherlands used to hide away on his many trips to Africa.
At Mlilwane you can enjoy walking safaris as well as mountain biking. You can book sunset safaris or a visit to the villages nearby. Enjoy the Swazi hospitality!
Accommodation: Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Book your next stay at Reilly’s Rock HERE.
Day 11, 12 Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park
On day 11 you will cross back into South Africa to the province of KwaZulu-Natal. You will leave Swaziland on the south through the Lavumisa border and drive down the N2 high way. You will pass many pineapple farms. KwaZulu-Natal is the home of the Zulu’s, many many wildlife reserves and the city of Durban. Durban has the biggest Indian population outside of India so you will find people of all colours of the rainbow in this province. Your first stop will be to visit the area of St Lucia, Hluhluwe and the False Bay area.
Hluhluwe River Lodge is located in a wonderful setting with a superb view of Lake St Lucia. Apart from the pristine surrounding environment the lodge is also perfectly located to access the surrounding game reserves, beaches and local attractions. Hluhluwe iMfolozi National Park, the oldest national park in South Africa where the Big 5 occur, is an easy 30 minute drive and Mkuze Game Reserve is a 1 hour drive away.
The beaches of St Lucia and Sodwana Bay are both a 1 hour drive from the lodge. The Hippo and Crocodile boat tour at St Lucia Estuary is highly recommended, these tours can be booked when at the lodge with one of our preferred tour-boat operators. Excellent guides deliver an informative and fascinating interpretation of the estuary ecosystems and the roll of Hippo and Crocodiles within that realm. There is also wonderful bird life and beautiful pristine scenery to be enjoyed.
Accommodation: Hluhluwe River Lodge
Ready to make a booking? Click HERE to find the best rates!
Day 13, 14 Durban
Durban is the 3rd biggest city of South Africa after Johannesburg and Cape Town however it feels MUCH bigger than Cape Town. It is located by the beach of the Indian Ocean so the water is WARM year round (unlike Cape Town). Durban has had a make-over for the 2010 Soccer World Cup and one of the most spectacular soccer stadiums in the world. You can go up with a little train or climb up and enjoy the views from the top. Check out all the activities here.
We suggested a hotel in Florida Street which will give you nice restaurant options in the evening. During the day it is great to rent bicycles on the beach front and cycle for the day.
Durban is well known for the vibrant markets and if you enjoy markets we recommend you book a tour to experience them all with a local guide to get a feel for the pulse of the city.
Tours cost R100 per person (subject to change). Call: +27 31 309 3880 to make a booking.
Accommodation: Quarters Hotel, Florida Street
Book your next South African Holiday at the lovely Quarters Hotel HERE.
Day 15, 16 Drakensberg region / Estcourt
The highest point in the Drakensberg is about 3482 m and the mountain range stretches over 1000 km. It creates a natural border between Lesotho and the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and the Freestate. In the Drakensberg many very old rock paintings can be found and if you’re lucky you might spot an Eland.
In case you don’t want to hike or walk, we recommend The Midlands Meander drive where you can visit all kinds of arts, crafts, wine and much more. A detailed map will tell you more about it and you can take your time to visit all the different shops and stalls.
Giants Castle is about 35 km away from the lodge and best for very good hiking trails.
Antbear Guestlodge is a special place, a destination on its own. Each room is very individually designed with the most exquisite wood work that will leave you in awe.When we spend 2 days here with the entire family, we just stayed around the lodge, did small hikes, Rosie played with a little lamb, we got lost in the labyrinth and just enjoyed the magnificent views. My brother and his family decided to drive out to Giants Castle and hike with the boys. Everybody happy!
Andrew, the owner, is an avid story teller who is very passionate about his lodge and the work they do.
Accommodation: Antbear Lodge including dinner, bed & breakfast
Antbear Guest Lodge is one of the most special lodges I know off so don’t wait and make your booking HERE!
On day 17 you will drive back to OR Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg for your return flight home.
From Antbear it is about 420 km back to OR Tambo International Airport so you will have plenty of time to catch your late KLM flight.