Looking to tack a quick safari adventure onto your South Africa vacation? This self-drive itinerary starts with game drives and bush walks in the unspoiled Sabi Sands Reserve. After spotting Big Five wildlife like lions and rhinos, you'll drive to Tzaneen to spend a day at a local farm and finish strong with nature hikes and thrilling zipline tours in the mountains of Limpopo province.


  • See Big Five safari animals, like lions, on game drives and bush walks
  • Go on nature hikes and visit organic farms in Limpopo province
  • Soar over the forest canopy on a thrilling zipline adventure 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sabi Sands, Afternoon Game Drive Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Day 2 Morning Bush Walk in Sabi Sands Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Day 3 Drive to Tzaneen, Visit Organic Farm & Dairy Tzaneen
Day 4 Magoebaskloof Canopy Tour Tzaneen
Day 5 Morning Nature Hike, Depart Tzaneen  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sabi Sands, Afternoon Game Drive

Spend your first day in South Africa on a safari game drive

If you only have five days to plan the self-drive safari adventure of a lifetime, you can't do better than South Africa—especially the country's northeast region. There are plenty of national parks, private reserves, and unspoiled mountains, all within an easy drive of one another. The best hub to explore these wonders is Johannesburg, the country's largest metropolis and your starting point. Pick up your rental car and set off on a scenic four-hour drive to the Sabi Sands, a 494-square-mile (1,283 sq km) private game reserve renowned for its exceptional wildlife-viewing opportunities.

You'll stay at Umkumbe Bush Lodge, the reserve's first "glamping" experience. It's a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the rugged bushveld (subtropical wilderness) landscapes while enjoying modern comforts like air-conditioning and a swimming pool. But the location is the real star—sitting next to the Sand River under a canopy of native trees; it's the perfect place to enjoy the surrounding wildlife.

Speaking of wildlife, after dropping off your bags, meet your guide for an afternoon game drive. Spend a few hours in an open-topped 4WD vehicle prowling the park. This ruggedly beautiful savanna is home to over 100 species of mammals, including the Big Five safari animals: lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinos. It's also a paradise for birders, as the hundreds of species here include various hawks, eagles, storks, and parrots—don't forget your camera!

Day 2: Morning Bush Walk in Sabi Sands

Explore the reserve on foot and see track animals by their prints
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This morning, you'll explore Sabi Sands on foot on a guided bush walk. See the wonders of the bushveld up close as you explore trails that are inaccessible by vehicle. Your ranger guide will be there every step of the way, pointing out the exotic flora and fauna native to the reserve. Some interesting specimens, like African termite mounds, are often missed when traveling by car. A real highlight is learning to track animals by their prints—the way bush folk have been doing since time immemorial.

Relax back at the lodge for the rest of the day, spending the afternoon poolside or choosing a quiet spot to observe the diverse wildlife that frequents the shores of the nearby Sand River. Later on, you'll have the option to join another game drive or bush walk excursion at dusk, when the animals are at their most active. While Sabi Sands is renowned for its Big Five sightings, particularly the normally elusive leopard, you're also likely to spot plenty of other remarkable species across its savannas—including kudu, warthogs, jackals, hyenas, Cape porcupines, and aardvarks.

Day 3: Drive to Tzaneen, Visit Organic Farm & Dairy

Travel beyond the reserves to the beautiful mountains of South Africa (photo courtesy of Graceland Eco-Retreat)

Say goodbye to Sabi Sands this morning and drive about three hours north to Tzaneen. Located in Limpopo province and nestled in the foothills of the Wolkberg Mountains, this charming agricultural town is surrounded by lush subtropical vegetation. The surrounding countryside abounds with picturesque landscapes, and the town is a convenient hub for exploring these natural wonders.

Upon arrival, experience the agriculture highlights of Tzaneen on a tour of the Wegraakbosch Organic Farm and Dairy. This family-run operation is over 100 years old, and in that time, the owners have endeavored to operate it as naturally as possible, with minimal environmental harm. This involves using solar power, growing pesticide-free produce with water from natural springs, and cleaning the dairy without chemical soaps.

During the visit, you'll stroll the fields, learn the secrets of natural farming, and gather organic eggs. At the dairy, you'll participate in a cheesemaking workshop, feed calves, and learn to hand-milk cows. At the end of the afternoon, you'll drive to the nearby Graceland Eco-Retreat, a comfy family-run lodge in the forest. Settle into your own airy private studio or chalet, where floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Kudu River Valley (and if you're lucky, the resident giraffes grazing the surrounding bush).

Day 4: Magoebaskloof Canopy Tour

See South Africa from above as you soar over the tree line

Leave after breakfast on a drive to nearby Magoebaskloof, a rugged mountainous region inaccessible until recently. The scenic landscapes include indigenous forests, towering mountain plateaus, vast river gorges, and cascading waterfalls. It's the perfect place for adventure sports and a haven for birders—its misty Afromontane forest canopies are home to rare Cape parrots, crowned eagles, black-fronted bush shrikes, and mountain wagtails.

You'll see these forest canopies up close today when you transfer to a platform at the Letaba River Gorge. Here, you'll put on a helmet, strap into a harness, and soar over the canyon on a zipline. As you fly from platform to platform, you'll pass by 65-foot (20 m) waterfalls, come face-to-beak with kingfisher birds as they swoop over the river below, and watch for more colorful birdlife and chattering monkeys in the trees. After the tour, you'll return to your eco-retreat and have the rest of the day free.

Day 5: Morning Nature Hike, Depart Tzaneen

Take a final hike through the forests of Magoebaskloof, home to vervet monkeys and rare birdlife

Finish strong with one last outdoor excursion. Rise early and lace up your hiking boots for a jaunt around Magoebaskloof. The region is known as "The Land of the Silver Mist," with landscapes right out of a fairy tale, featuring lush valleys, native forests, and mist-shrouded mountains. Rare and magnificent avian species like the secretary bird and African grass owl have been spotted in the surrounding grasslands, while Sykes' and vervet monkeys, caracals, bush pigs, and bushbucks roam its woodland.

The trail you'll follow takes you through rich pine forests, over crystalline streams, and past romantic waterfalls to the small town of Hanaertsburg. The route continues back to Tzaneen, where you'll meet a driver for the ride back to your accommodation. Then, it's time to get back on the road and continue your adventure, or head to the airport to drop off your rental car and board a connecting flight home. Safe travels!

More Great South Africa Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to South Africa? Check out these other South Africa itineraries, explore more ways to spend five days in South Africa on safari, and learn about the best time to visit South Africa.


Map of Self-Drive Safari in South Africa - 5 Days
Map of Self-Drive Safari in South Africa - 5 Days