5 Reasons to stay in the Highveld after your Kruger Safari

Lots of our guests fly to the Kruger National Park and its adjacent private game reserves for their Kruger safari and fly straight out again. Unless you are seriously short on time, I think that’s a real shame, as the countryside around Kruger National Park, such as the Blyde River Canyon, is stunning.

The Panorama Route

Blyde River Canyon

The Panorama route is the name of the drive alongside the Blyde River Canyon at the start of the Highveld.This area of sculpted peaks and deep ravines, tumbling streams and green valleys provides a marked contrast to the sub-tropical bushveld of the Kruger. The panorama drive alongside the Blyde River Canyon, a majestic red sandstone gorge with sheer cliffs plunging into waters below, is magnificent.

It can also be used to get from your Kruger safari in the northern  area such as the Timbavati or the  Northern Sabi Sands down to the Hazyview area where many of the country lodges are situated. This is well worth taking either as a scenic day drive or as a way to get from A to B. Nearby is Pilgrim’s Rest, a restored mining village that was the epi-centre of the 19th century gold rush, and the town’s many preserved houses and museums bring alive this fascinating history of false hopes and dashed dreams.

 2) Relax & Lie In

After the very early mornings of a Kruger safari, it is good to be able to lie in for some real R&R. A number of the lodges such as Cybele Forest Lodge or Olivers have stunning spa facilities so you don’t even need to leave the lodge to enjoy yourselves . This is particularly needed if you are spending time at two different safari lodges. We recommend breaking up your Kruger safari experience with 2 nights at a country lodge in between.

Enjoy some activity

Zip lineA Kruger safari in a private game lodge or in the Kruger park itself inevitably involves lots of sitting in game vehicles and lots of eating of good food. The Blyde River Canyon area provides the perfect antedote with plenty of soft adventure activities on offer such as like ziplining, white water rafting, kloofing, hiking around Blyde River Canyon or perhaps some more sedate rambles to visit pretty waterfalls around Sabie.

And two practical reasons:

Flight Connections

If you are connecting to another destination within the region such as Botswana, Victoria Falls or Mozambique, you often have to stay overnight in Johannesburg as the flights depart in the morning between 11 and 12 noon. You can avoid this overnight city stop if you catch the early morning flight from Kruger Mpumalanga Airport (or KMIA for short) up to Johannesburg.

You cannot stay at a game reserve and catch this flight as there is not enough time to get to the airport (the reserve gates don’t open until 6am) but you can spend a night or two at a country lodge.

Similarly if you want to fly direct from the Kruger Airport to Victoria Falls (which departs mid morning), you would have to miss your final game drive if you were staying at a game lodge, whereas you can have a leisurely breakfast at a country house hotel before the short 30-40 minute drive to the airport.

5) Driving back to Johannesburg

Finally if you want to drive back to Johannesburg rather than flying (more cost effective if you are a family) then the drive from your Kruger safari will take at least 6 hours and often more like 7 hours. Not pleasant with kids! However the drive from one of the country lodges is a much more reasonable 4 to 4½ hours depending on which one you choose, and at least half of that drive is very scenic.

Trip Report on Cybele Forest Lodge

Cybelle SpaRecently we stayed at Cybele Forest Lodge & Spa close to the Blyde River Canyon area and I thoroughly recommend this lodge, ideally for at least 2 nights (or 3 nights – see the special below). It is an old hunting lodge in the middle of a forest which has been turned into a very convivial country house hotel. There is a range of room types to suit a range of pockets from their well-appointed and spacious luxury rooms up to their massive Paddock Suites which come complete with their own garden and large private pool. These are great for honeymoon couples and even families with kids of 10 upwards as there is a mezzanine level which can accommodate two children with their own shower room. Cybele has long had a reputation for excellent food and there is an extensive a la carte menu as well as a tasting menu with wine pairing. The breakfasts were superb and as well as the Spa, there is a very well equipped gym if you are feeling a little guilty about your food intake! There’s also a charming walk along the riverside and a secluded swimming pool in their extensive gardens.

Special at Cybele Forest Lodge

If you have more time, you can take advantage of our 3 for 2 special – stay 3 nights at Cybele Forest Lodge but pay for only two…

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...


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