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...
The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA) is one of the few remaining parts of southern Africa where you will still find natural, undeveloped areas that show few signs of human impact. Soon, visitors will be able to traverse all three parks of this conservation area, in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, via a 4×4 road network. The trails pass through unique Sandveld pan systems, Riverine forests and Lebombo mountain landscapes, and traverse unique landscape features such as the beautiful Shingwedzi Cliffs in Mozambique, the Chilojo Cliffs in Zimbabwe and the wildlife-rich landscapes in the renowned Kruger National Park.
This new tourism activity is to be launched in September of this year.
The trails are aimed at true bush lovers, and are not designed as obstacle courses or endurance tests. Both guided and self-guided options will be available. The unguided, self-drive option follows existing public roads and facilities, so travelers can select their routes and schedules according to their needs.
The guided, self-drive option adds peace of mind when traversing remote areas, plus unique insights into this special area, as the convoy makes regular stops for environmental, historical and cultural interpretation, or to simply share special experiences and photographic opportunities. This option also permits vehicles access to exclusive 4×4 routes.
The following three trails will be available:
- Trail 1: Two countries, six-day park experience
- Trail 2: Three countries, nine-day 4×4 adventure
- Trail 3: Three countries, six-day 4×4 adventure
At first, bookings will be made through the perspective park reservation offices, though a central office will be created in future.
Detailed break-down of trails
Trail 1: Two country, six-day park experience (7 days, 6 nights)
The first option incorporates the core area of the Kruger and Limpopo national parks. The starting point is at Phalaborwa Gate, and the trail then follows gravel tracks and high ground-clearance vehicle tracks within this portion of the park, before crossing the international border at Pafuri. The trail then returns via the sandy tracks in the Limpopo National Park before re-entering South Africa at the Giriyondo Tourist Access Facility.
The objective of this trail is to showcase the remote and often unexplored areas within both the KNP and the LNP. The varying landscape, stretching from the far west of KNP to the sand veld areas of the LNP, affords visitors the opportunity to experience numerous landscapes and habitats and overnight in interesting places far off the beaten track. Additionally, this route incorporates several sites of cultural significance including Masorini, Thulamela and Crooks Corner. As additional information is availed, these sites can be expanded.
Trail 2: Three country, nine-day 4×4 adventure (10 days, 9 nights)
The second option incorporates all three the GLTP partner countries, as well as all three of the key conservation components. Starting at Punda Maria Rest Camp the trail takes guests via sites such as Thulamela and Crooks Corner to Mozambique, followed by the crossing of the Limpopo River, entering Zimbabwe at the Sango port of entry, and then spending four nights in GNP, before returning to Mozambique and re-entering South Africa at the Giriyondo Tourist Access Facility.
This trail includes an important rest-day in the middle of the trip, when camp is not moved, and guests can relax, read or undertake a short drive to key features. Psychologically, this is an important feature on longer extended trips.
Trail 3: Three country, six-day 4×4 adventure (8 days, 7 nights)
Designed as an open-ended trail that provides adventurous tourists with an alternative route to Zimbabwe, this six-day, 4×4 adventure links all three components of the GLTP together.
Starting in South Africa, the route traverses a wide variety of landscapes and habitats, and incorporates river crossings, ascents and descents of the Lubombo Mountains, covering vast distances on deep sand and mud in places. Starting in South Africa, the route commences at Sable Hide, follows gravel tracks up to Giriyondo, before dropping into the Shingwedzi basin. Guests overnight at Mbona Kaya. The trail then passes the iconic Shingwedzi Cliffs viewpoint, before traversing a portion of the Sandveld. The second overnight spot is at Mamboreni Pan. The trail follows the Limpopo River to Pafuri, where the river is crossed and the cutline along the international border is followed to Sango Port of Entry, after which the GNP is entered. Guests overnight at Rossi Pools. The next day, the track takes guests through the GNP to the overnight-site at Directors Camp on the banks of the Runde River, before following the final section via the impressive Chilojo Cliffs to South Gate. From here guests can choose to visit several World Heritage sites such as Great Zimbabwe, the Motoppos and Khami, visit areas such as the Chimanimanis or, travel up to the Zambezi Valley.
This route could also be driven in the opposite direction as an alternative return from any of the iconic places mentioned earlier.