Young learners from various communities living in and adjacent to the Limpopo National Park (LNP) recently participated in a pioneering and innovative conservation awareness programme which aimed to empower local...
Limpopo National Park – part of a vision of trans-boundary conservation
Part of a long-held dream to link national parks across the borders of three parks, Parque Nacional do Limpopo (PNL) or, Limpopo National Park, is one third of the majestic Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP).
Nestled in Mozambique, the park stretches from Pafuri in the north past the Giriyondo border to the Massingir Dam in the south. It’s marked by fantastic scenery, endless sunsets broken by the silhouettes of acacia trees and big game like buffalo and elephant that roam among the iconic landscapes. The high increase in buffalo and elephant numbers and collaring research that has shown their movement across the borders, together with recent carnivore research results provide evidence that this new park is already a conservation success.
Visitors can expect a unique experience. Whether they choose to enjoy game and bird viewing, cultural activities, 4×4 self-drive routes, off-road experiences, a variety of luxury guided walking, canoeing or off-road driving, the park has much to explore…
While Limpopo National Park, was officially opened to the public in late 2005, the path that led to this landmark occasion already started in the 90s.
Following the Mozambique Peace Accord of 1992, the Global Environment Facility (through the World Bank) funded a feasibility analyses on recommendations made by the Mozambican Council of Ministers. This led to a 1996 report that contained a series of recommendations, including the vision of a trans-border conservation area, linking three national parks (including key interstitial areas) across three countries.
This became a reality on 10 November 2000, when the Governments of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe came to a formal agreement to establish the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) and Conservation Area.
One of the first formal implementation steps taken by the Mozambican Government was to change the legal status of Coutada 16 to that of a national park. Previously a hunting concession the over 1 000 000 ha area forms a triangle with the Limpopo River as the northern and eastern boundary, the Olifants River in the southern boundary and the Kruger National Park (KNP) as the western boundary.
Mozambique proclaimed Limpopo National Park on 27 November 2001 and requested Peace Parks Foundation’s assistance in overseeing its development as a Southern African Development Community (SADC) approved project. It is funded by the German Ministry of Cooperation through KfW (a German government owned development bank), Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the World Bank.
Limpopo National Park readily accepted membership of a much larger conservation initiative when it joined the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and Conservation Area, a conservation area of 35 000 km² (an area about the size of the Netherlands) that includes South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park. A formal treaty establishing the Transfrontier Park was signed by the respective Heads of state in Xai Xai, Mozambique on December 2002.
The PNL was officially opened in 2005 when the Presidents of the three respective countries opened the Giriyondo Border Gate between KNP and PNL, but it is still being developed today.
The Park can be accessed through four entrance gates:
Giriyondo Border Gate: This is a formal border gate situated between PNL and KNP (north-east of Letaba)
From 1 April to 30 September: Opens 08h00; closes 15h00
From 1 October to 31 March: Opens 08h00; closes 16h00
Pafuri Border Gate: This is a formal border gate situated in the north of PNL and KNP. From Pafuri Border Gate it is possible to cross the Limpopo River with a 4×4 vehicle en route to Banhine National Park, Vilanculos, etc, during the dry season only although it is possible to cross the Limpopo river at Mapai using a small community operated ferry. The road between Pafuri and Mapai falls within the buffer zone and park entrance fees are only payable at Mapai Gate.
Gate hours throughout the year: 08h00 – 16h00
Massingir Park Entrance Gate: Massingir gate is located within Mozambique in the south of the park. There are chalets and campsites located at Massingir Gate (Albufeira Camp).
Gate hours throughout the year: 06h00 – 18h00
Mapai Park Entrance Gate: Mapai gate is located within Mozambique in the east of the Park. From Mapai Park Entrance Gate it is possible to cross the Limpopo River with a 4×4 vehicle en route to Banhine National Park, Vilanculos etc. There is a camp site located at Mapai Gate (Nhampfule Camp).
Gate hours throughout the year: 06h00 – 18h00
Traveling within the park:
The main access road between Giriyondo and Massingir, including access to Campismo Albufeira, is accessible by sedan vehicle. All other roads require a high ground clearance or 4×4 vehicle. A 4×4 vehicle is essential during the wet season. As roads are not well developed and signposted, and it is advisable to make use of a GPS when traveling through the centre of the park.
All visitors are expected to comply with the park rules, including obeying the 40km/hr speed limit, not littering and being courteous to wildlife, fellow visitors and communities within the park.
The distance between Giriyondo and Massingir is 70km and will take the visitor approximately one hour and 45 minutes. The road has speed bumps and elephants frequently use the road so travel with care. Where signposting is insufficient the visitor should stick to the more travelled, gravel road.
Sufficient time must be allowed to accommodate for gate opening times. Accommodation or camping should be booked at either Albufeira or Aguia Pesqueira as there are no camping facilities at Giriyondo.
Traveling outside the park
From South Africa: Access can be gained through Kruger National Park. Giriyondo gate is about 45km north of Letaba camp (1+ hour) and about 90km from Phalaborwa gate (2+ hours). Phalaborwa gate is approximately five and half to six hours driving time from Johannesburg.
Massingir Town: Located six kilometres from Massingir Gate are shops with some basics, like airtime, drinks; bread rolls or pau, fuel and a bank with ATM (Mt currency). Payments must be made in cash only. Certain stores may accept Rands.
Massingir to Chokwe: After 105km a T-junction is reached where one turns left to Mapai and Chicualacuala and right to Chokwe. After a further 25km one reaches Chokwe which is a little under two hours’ drive from Massingir. The road is surfaced.
Chokwe onwards: At Chokwe you can travel straight through Chokwe and onto Macia which is 190km (three hours) from Massingir Gate. The distance from Macia to Bilene is 34km (half an hour) and to Maputo is 170km (two and a half hours). Macia, Chokwe and Chibuto have ATM, fuel and basic supply shops.
Safety Tips: All the roads are surfaced but pass through community areas and some have potholes and livestock (eg cattle) so travel with care. There are active traffic officials and the speed limit must be obeyed. EN1 speed limit is 100km/hr which is reduced to 60km/hr in developed areas. Elsewhere a maximum speed of 80km/hr is suggested outside of developed areas.
Make sure that your vehicle is equipped with reflective triangles and at least one yellow reflective jacket. If are towing, you have to display a blue and yellow triangle on the front of your vehicle as well as on the back of the trailer/caravan. Carry sufficient cash to pay a traffic fine should you inadvertently be caught speeding and request a receipt.
Fines range upwards of 1,000Mt for “small” transgressions. Ensure you reach your destination well before sunset, which in Mozambique is between 17h00 in winter and 18h30 in summer. People are generally very helpful but in the outlying areas do not speak any English.
Should you for any reason need any assistance preferably, where possible, stop at a filling station or shop.
*Note: Times indicated are driving times and exclude stopping time
Vehicle Third Party Insurance: Compulsory third party vehicle insurance is obtainable through PNL at Giriyondo and Massingir gate or can be purchased prior to traveling in the case of personal preference or use of Pafuri border gate. The cost for a sedan vehicle is approximately R180 for 30 days.
Compulsory overnight in GLTP when passing through Giriyondo: Giriyondo was opened to facilitate tourism development within the GLTP. Relaxed enforcement has resulted in the border being used outside of this purpose including for commercial reasons. This has resulted in repeated breaking of park rules such as speeding and littering, illegal movement of people and un-roadworthy vehicles. This has resulted in a negative tourism environment along these access roads and has also increased risk on people and wildlife.
As a result, similar to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a compulsory overnight stay in either KNP or PNL has been enforced from 1 December 2011 to re-instate Giriyondo function of promoting tourism and conservation within the GLTP. To utilize Giriyondo, travellers must either present a camping/chalet receipt for the previous night or a booking confirmation form for the subsequent night of passing through Giriyondo.
These can be obtained from Mr Lodovico Salinha on mobile: +(258) 084 3011 719 or, e-mail
South African and Mozambican citizens do not need visas when visiting either country. All other passport holders require visas unless stipulated to the contrary in your country. Mozambican Visas can be obtained at border at a cost of approximately $110 or €80.
Car papers indicating the registration number, engine number and chassis number are required. Should the vehicle not be registered in your name, a letter from the owner is required giving you permission to take the vehicle across the border. If you are still paying-off the vehicle, a letter is required from both your insurance company as well as the financial institution allowing you to take the vehicle across the border. Rental vehicles can cross the border; however, the necessary documents must be on hand, including written permission from the rental company.
If you are towing a boat or trailer, registration papers are also required for these.
A South African driver’s license is valid in all the SADC states. Mozambican driver’s licenses are also valid in South Africa. Other passport holders do require an international driver’s license.
Giriyondo border gate is a tourist border gate and is not open for commercial traffic.
The Giriyondo Border procedure is as follows when entering from South Africa:
• SA Immigrations office: Passport to be stamped out of South Africa. Should Foreigners be planning to return to South Africa then they should ensure that their South African visa is acceptable (e.g. won’t expire). As a guideline passports should have at least six months validity remaining and have at least two open pages.
• KNP office: Provide your KNP entry ticket and sign the KNP exit register.
• SA Police office: Complete your vehicle temporary exportation paperwork available from the SA Immigrations office. Drive your vehicle to the police inspection office, produce your vehicle/trailer documents, have your vehicle inspected and Temporary Exportation documentation signed and stamped. If you are traveling with (new looking) expensive equipment (e.g. computers) that you will return back into South Africa with it may be prudent to complete a DA65 (Temporary Exportation documentation) for this equipment as well.
Proceed to Mozambique.
• Mozambique Immigrations office (blue uniform): Complete the customs document and hand in together with your passport. Obtain your visa for up to 30 days from customs (no charge for South Africans but a cost of approximately $108 or €77 applies for other foreigners) and your entry stamp in your passport.
• Mozambique Customs Office (blue uniform): Produce your vehicle papers and stamped South African Vehicle Temporary Exportation document. Complete the forms provided and pay approximately 26Mt or R10. Obtain your signed and stamped Mozambique Temporary Importation papers. The customs official may wish to inspect your vehicle to check vehicle documentation and to ensure no importation into Mozambique outside of regulations.
• Mozambique Border Police (dark green uniform): If requested, show your passport and entry stamp for verification.
• PNL Office (brown or light green uniform): Pay your park entry fees at the PNL office and purchase your vehicle 3rd party insurance.
When returning the procedure is followed in reverse with exit stamps being obtained in passports and vehicle/trailer/equipment documentation being handed in.
Always be respectful, polite and courteous and you will receive the same treatment in return.
• Tobacco products: 200 cigarettes OR 100 cigarillos OR 50 cigars OR 250 grams of smoking tobacco *
• Alcoholic drinks: 1 litre of spirits AND 2.25 litres of wine *
• Perfumes: 50 ml perfumes OR 250 ml of toilet water
• Pharmaceutical products: Quantity considered reasonable for consumption
• Other foods: Up to a value of 5,000 Mt (est R1,500) or equivalent per person per 30 days. **
* These allowances do not apply to persons under the age of 18 years
** If inspected and you exceed the 5,000Mt limit an official tax rate of 46% is used to tax any foodstuff. You should prove the value of the goods bought by showing the receipts (till slip). If you do not have any receipts the custom officials will estimate the value of the goods and you will be taxed accordingly.
Prohibited or restricted items: includes narcotic drugs, firearms, weapons, pornographic material and counterfeit goods.
Machampane Wilderness Trails Camp: This is a privately operated luxury tented accommodation facility about 30 km from Giriyondo border gate. The camp has a rich wildlife and birding environment and overlooks the beautiful Machampane River. All meals are included as well as guided game walks and game drives.
The camp operators, Transfrontier Trails, also offer guided wilderness walking trails and
guided self-drive 4×4 trails through PNL.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (+27) 021 701 7860 for more information and reservations.
The below camps are operated by the park itself and all bookings can be made through Lodovico
Salinha at +(258) 084 3011 719, or e-mail: email@example.com.
Campismo Aguia Pesqueira (Fish Eagle Camp): This camp is preferred by visitors looking for a quite relaxing atmosphere and is situated about 55 km from Giriyondo border gate and about 25 km from Massingir. It consists of three “nodes”.
First node: The overlander site which caters for bigger groups who wish to camp together. This node has ablution (showers and toilets) and kitchen facilities (counter and running water and a small one plate stove) as well as a number of skottelbraais.
Second node: This node consists of individual, very privately placed camping sites, each with its own skottelbraai. This node also has kitchen and ablution facilities as above.
Third node: This node consists of four wooden chalets, each of which sleeps two people and includes linen, towels, crockery and cutlery, pots and pans and a small one plate gas stove as well as mosquito nets.
Each chalet has a bathroom en suite as well as kitchenette and a deck overlooking the dam.
The camp is situated high on the escarpment and all camping sites and chalets have magnificent views of the dam which is located 250 m away. The only electricity provided is for chalet, ablution and kitchen lighting.
Campismo Albufeira: This camp is preferred by transit travellers and is situated at Massingir Gate which is about 70 km from Giriyondo border gate. The camp is close to the dam wall and consists of camping sites with communal kitchen and ablution facilities as well as chalets as described under Campismo Aguia Pesqueira above. Each camp site has its own skottelbraai. At this camp there is one four-bed chalet, while the rest are all two-beds. The chalets all have electricity, a fridge and fan and a skottelbraai outside. The park tourism facilities manager can assist in obtaining permits for boating and fishing activities on Massingir Dam.
Campismo Sandalo: Very basic camp positioned in the centre of the park and about three hours’ drive from Aguia Pesqueira. It has a water supply with showers and toilets.
Campismo Nhampfule: This is on our boundary in the north at Mapai Gate. It is also a very basic camp with water supply, showers and toilets.
Campismo Mamba: This exclusive camp is positioned in the sandveld near Mapai gate and is also a very basic camp with water supply, showers and toilets.
See further information on the park’s 4×4 Camp and Road network under the “Activities” section.
In addition to being an ideal half way stop-off point for bush to beach excursions between South Africa and the popular Mozambique coastline, the park offers wide variety of experiences including fantastic scenery and sunsets, game and bird viewing, cultural and 4×4 self-drive, off-road experiences and a variety of luxury guided walking, canoeing and off-road trails.
If you enjoy the quiet stillness of nature, then PNL is for you!
Game Viewing, Birding and Wilderness Experience:
Whilst the park’s wildlife numbers are on the increase they are in their infancy and sightings can be limited. Yet, the park does offer a large variety of game (like elephant, sable, roan, lion, giraffe, zebra and impala), birdlife and approximately 49 species of fish in Massingir Dam.
Since the formation of the park and the dropping of strategically selected sections of the border fence with KNP, wildlife has been steadily moving back into PNL. In addition, over 4700 animals have been relocated to the South West of the park. As a result, the best game viewing areas are the Machampane and Gaza Safaris sections of the park, although visitors may get lucky with sightings at the various Sandveld pans in the centre of the park.
The park’s first full aerial census was undertaken in 2010 which showed healthy growth in Sable antelope and over 1,100 elephant and buffalo in the park. To reduce human-wildlife conflict risks, further dropping of the fence line shared with KNP will only be undertaken after the resettlement process. The park has various types of vegetation and consists of vast tracks of wilderness areas, with sections unvisited by humans in decades. There are large areas of scrub mopane as well as areas of tall mopane trees. It also has a very large area of attractive sandveld constituting about 44% of the park’s surface.
The summers are very hot with temperatures soaring to over 40° C. The winters are mild. The rainy season usually starts in January and lasts until about March.
The park’s primary attraction is however the wilderness experience with spectacular scenery and excellent birding sightings. Remember your binoculars!
4×4 Self Drive Experience:
The park offers a self-drive 4×4 experience enabling the visitor to traverse the park between Pafuri (north), Mapai (East), Giriyondo (West) and Massingir (South). Visitors will experience a wide variety of scenery and will have the option of camping at Albufeira, Aguia Pesqueira, Sandalo, Mamba and Nhampfule camp sites. Camping outside of these locations is not permitted.
A trip to the beautiful Shingwedzi Cliffs area is highly advised!
Recognising the potential, the park is also developing an expanded 4×4 camp and road network. Giriyondo (Lebombo Mtn), Mbona Kaya (Shingwedzi), Mahinga (Southern Sandveld) and Mamboreni (Northern Sandveld) have recently been opened with further camps, including Pafuri 4×4 camp scheduled for opening in the near future. Each of these camps will only be accessibly by the 4×4 road network and will have a enviro-loo, fire circle and shower area. These dry camps will offer visitors the wilderness experience and are to be used on a ‘take out what you take in’ basis.
For more information contact Mr Lodovico Salinha on mobile +(258) 084 3011 719 or, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are still communities living in seven villages within the park. These communities own cattle and goats and plant seasonal crops. Whilst the animals tend to shy away from these habitats, this offers a unique cultural opportunity to observe the communities’ lives as they pass through the villages and their machambas (fields).
A resettlement programme has been initiated wherein communities within the park are given the opportunity to be resettled (to World Bank standards) to locations which will provide sustainable improvement to their livelihoods. It is expected that once the communities have been moved, the plains game will move into the areas currently occupied by the communities.
Guided Trails Experience:
The following activities are all offered through Transfrontier Trails do Limpopo and are comparable, if not better, than similar products offered in KNP.
For availability email: email@example.com / tel: (+27) 021 701 7860 / www.dolimpopo.com or pop into Machampane Camp to find out more.
Rio Elefantes Canoeing Trail: Spend three days paddling the Rio Elefantes, camping wild in rustic bush camps on its tree-lined banks. A cast for tiger fish, a pod of hippo or the sighting of a rare bird will enthral you on your 70km journey to its confluence with the Limpopo. Trails are portered and catered, and led by an experienced guide. All equipment is provided and you paddle 20 to 25 kms per day.
Elefantes Gorge Backpacking and Fishing Trail: Camp wild for five days and four nights as you traverse the plateau above the Rio Elefantes Gorge, descending to the shores of Massingir Dam to fish for tiger fish, amongst others. It’s the epitome of freedom in an amazing wilderness area. Trails are led by an experienced guide but you are required to be totally self-sufficient. The terrain is rugged and requires a reasonable level of fitness for the 15 to 20 kms hiked each day.
Shingwedzi 4×4 Eco-Trail: Explore the vast wonderland of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Our five-night, six-day guided, self-drive, Shingwedzi 4×4 eco-trail offers challenging river crossings and the opportunity to navigate seldom travelled tracks. The glorious adventure of camping-out in this remote wilderness, at the edge of pans and river courses whilst listening to the night sounds of the African bush, will imbue you with the spirit of pioneers gone by.
Palarangala Wilderness Trail: Spend four days and three nights in a remote rustic camp with dome tents and bush ablutions. Daily guided game walks follow the river or explore the Lebombo plateau close to the Kruger border. Located in an area that has been restocked with game in partnership with Kruger, you have every prospect of encountering a wide array of wildlife. Trails are led by an experienced guide and are fully catered.
Lebombo Hiking Trail: An unforgettable wildlife experience when you spend four days and three nights hiking through this pristine wilderness area, a perfect setting for game and bird viewing. Trails are portered and catered, and led by an experienced guide. You carry a daypack; hike 12 to 15 kms per day and overnight in unfenced rustic bush-camps.
For more information visit our website www.limpopopo.gov.mz or the following:
Tourism and Reservations
Mobile: +(258) 084 3011 719
Conservation and Park Management Enquiries
Contact: Park Warden – Mr Antonio Abacar
Mobile: (+258) 84 3011 726
Project Development and Support Enquiries
Contact: Project Manager – Mr Antony Alexander
Mobile: (+258) 84 3011 730