Mutale Falls – both a Journey and a Destination

Story and photos by Louise de Waal

The track is covered in large stone “ball bearings” slipping and sliding under our tyres, clunking and pounding against metal. I worry about oil lines, but the ground clearance of our “bonsai” off-roader, a Suzuki Jimny with 190 mm clearance, is just enough to get through. On a few occasions we need to stop, rearrange the road ahead and guide the driver to ensure a smoother passage – very aware of lurking wildlife.

We were expecting a challenging 4×4 track from Mayuta Nature Reserve’s main gate to the camp, but this 15 km stretch through the reserve is rocky – very rocky.

Mutale Falls Rock Face

While our attention is mostly focussed on the track ahead, the stunning scenery in Mayuta opens up around us – koppies, sandstone ridges, deep gorges, flat plateaus and floodplain areas, covered with typical South African Lowveld vegetation. This classic Savannah biome is dominated by grasses with beautiful mopane, white and wild seringa trees, and proud baobabs with their gnarled and intertwined branches.

After an intrepid 75 minutes journey, we finally arrive at Mutale Falls Camp set high above the Mutale River with sweeping views across the river and flood plain area, and further towards the fenceless border with Kruger National Park. With only five tents and being the only guests, Mutale offers a sense of isolation and remoteness. A feeling of safaris from times gone by.

While sipping a cool beer from the solar fridge – not so bygone – we watch a herd of buffalo and nyala coming down to the river to drink. A family of ellies lazily cross to the opposite bank. Orange and pink hues slowly fill the sky. On the rocks below, baboons noisily squabble over the best sleeping spot. The bush around us comes to life, as Phumlani, the camp manager, tells us that both lion and hyena were heard the previous night.

No better way to finish an adventurous journey with a dramatic bush destination in a quintessential sundowner location.

The camp can only be reached with a high ground clearance 2×4 vehicle. 4×4 driven SUV’s without off-road tyres and insufficient ground clearance are not suitable for the current road conditions.