SANParks journalist Petro Kotzé has the best job in the world: visiting every nook and cranny of our national parks. She shares a recent experience with us – a wilderness...
Rightfully described as one of the most enchanted areas in Kruger, the 24 000 ha Makuleke concession lies between the Luvuvhu River to the south, and the Limpopo to the north. Between these borders you will find a plethora of fauna and flora, more than anywhere else in this world-renowned Kruger National Park. Here, the sun rises in red splendour over the Limpopo, to cast light on a skyline broken by the upturned branches of hundreds of ancient baobabs. There is no self-drive option available, and the area can only be explored by booking a guided walking trail. We joined one earlier this year, and was completely awe-struck by the experience…
We met our guides at the Luvuvhu Bridge, which forms a type of border between the desolate road from Punda Maria and the Makuleke Concession, from where we travelled to our accommodation, the Mapimbi fly camp. The tented camp is huddled in the shade of fever trees, with the Limpopo River close enough to ensure that you are woken by the call of fish eagles. We kicked our trekking off with a walk in the vicinity of the camp, exploring the Limpopo River flood system to the north. The strong smell of potato bush permeated the air as we trudged carefully over the dense, damp earth. Powder-yellow fever trees dominate the area, creating a surreal atmosphere.
Once a year, a cross-border trip to the Zimbabwean side of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) is included in the schedule, In order for guests to attend a cultural festival. It’s an awesome experience, from when you enter the country by wading through the Limpopo River, until you enjoy the sundowner back on home-soil. The package is still in its development phase and being fine-tuned each year, says GLTP international coordinator, Piet Theron. So, while it’s probably not the best choice for those used to travel in luxury; if you’re an adventurer at heart, pencil the date (around September) into your diary. Expect lots of colours, dancing, smiles, music, some speeches and the best-tasting ice-cold Coca Cola you are likely to enjoy this century. The purpose of the trip is to integrate the South African and Zimbabwean sides of the GLTP and to let the Sengwe community in this remote corner of Zimbabwe benefit from conservation. Portions of the proceeds go to the Sengwe Community through the Malipati Development Trust and the Makuleke Community Property Association.
For this day, you’d better ready your hiking boots. We started with a crisp game drive and leisurely walk through stunted Mopani veld, before trudging over basalt extrusions to sandstone cliffs. A grey headed parrot flew overhead as lappet faced vultures caught the breeze in the distance. We followed a narrow path worn out by elephants through the years, right through a gorge tightly filled with Lebombo ironwoods, which cast an eerie and almost spiritual shadow over us. After a short climb we reached Hutwini viewpoint, standing high above two soaring Verreaux Eagles and the Luvuvhu River which lay like a brown snake soaking up the sun below. Another highlight was Rietbokvlei, dotted with hundreds of birds. A bit further off is South Arica’s largest fever tree forest – a truly magical place. While we hiked through, a herd of about 75 eland look up inquisitively from the distance, ground hornbills peered over the shrubs and zebras turned their striped backs on us as they trotted away.
The end of the tour had sadly arrived, but we were lax to call an end to it too soon. During our last walk we were rewarded with a visit to a gigantic baobab tree, one of the largest in the park.
Book your tour:
The Makuleke Concession wilderness walks were recently taken over from Wilderness Safaris by Elsmore Lodges. The trails are closed during the hot, rainy season and are open from April to October. It will set you back R4558 per person. Ask for the Pafuri Adventure trail. To book, contact Sandra Mombelli on 011 646 1391 or e-mail her at Sandra@asl-foundation.org.