(work in progress)
Vistors are not allowed to drive off road is allowed in any of South Africa's national or provincial game reserves. In private reserves, game rangers may take vehicles off road - for example, to view animal kills - but this is the exception rather than the rule and is only allowed with the permission of the reserve management (a privelege that is very unlikely to be extended to visitors).
The logic behind this is twofold and eminently sensible. Firstly driving off road leads to soil compaction and/or erosion, which not only scars the landscape - often permanently, especially in arid environments, which are particularly sensitive. In addition, off road traffic destroys grazing and habitat, and smaller animals seeking refuge in long grass may also be run over.
Secondly it is a safety consideration. Roads in reserves - even if they are dirt roads - are regularly maintained to provide driving conditions which allow visitors to remove themselves from situations of potential danger in a swift and safe manner. Off road conditions are very different, and getting stuck in the mud or soft sand when a bull elephant in musht is charging you is not a situation you want to find youself in!
If you need yet more persuasion to abide by this very sensible rule, bear in mind that driving off road in reserves where this is prohibited is a sure fire way to invalidate the expensive holiday and car insurance you bought for your dream safari ... assuming that the bull elephant has left you in a condition to lodge a claim in the first place!
I would caution you to be a little conservative in calculating travel times when you're planning your itinerary in the scenic eastern part of Mpumulanga.
Because of the steep topography, distances that look short 'as the crow flies' on the map often take much longer to cover than you think. For example, to get from Graskop to Hoedspruit takes well over an hour because you have to take the Abel Erasmus Pass down the escarpment and come through Strydom Tunnel. This road (and many others in the region) can be slow, as they are winding, pass through villages with speed restrictions and carry quite heavy traffic - all you need to do is get stuck behind a truck on one of these sections and your travel time will markedly increase.
On a happier note, you won't want to progress all that fast, because the scenery is so stunning that you'll want to savour it! So remember that the journey is as much part of the travel experience as the destination, and allow yourself plenty of time to stop and linger en route - you won't regret it!
Most people that I transfer to lodges in or around hoedspruit don?t know of the conservation fee that must be paid. At the moment it is R90.00 P/Pin the Timbavati and R60.00 in Sabi Sands (17-12-2005). Please ask your travel agent about the conservation fee that must be paid in all the game reserves in SA. It will help you to plan your money.
Also the airport at hoedspruit is privat so a airport tax must be paid and that is not included in your air ticket.
All driving must preferably done during the day. The roads are 90% in a good condition. stay with in the speed limit, and if driving at night drive slow (60km/h). After heavy rains pot holes may appear which are not necessarily roadmarked or visible.