Limpopo Safari Adventure (9 night / 10 day)
The Limpopo Safari Adventure offers the adventurous a traditional African Safari. With part of the route guided, you will self-drive in your own 4×4, and camp for 4 nights in Big 5 reserves in unfenced areas with the equipment provided with your vehicle. You will complete the Mafefe Trail in the Wolkberg, the Luvuvhu 4×4 Trail and the western portion of the African Ivory Route – a grand adventure in the old-style of wilderness exploration. The entire trip is self-catering and mostly off the grid. Drivers need to have 4×4 driving experience, and all participants need a deep sense of adventure, energy and enthusiasm for a holiday that’s an exploration of the wilderness areas of South Africa’s Limpopo province.
Day 1: Arrive Gauteng, collect vehicles, shop and on to Nylsvley Reserve
Having collected your 4×4 vehicles, you will need to stock up food for the first 6 days of the trip. It’s only on Day 7 that easy re-stocking is available. All groceries, drinks, water & firewood must be taken along. We suggest you shop at Menlyn Shopping Centre in Pretoria. Then head north, up the N1, and away from the city. Your first night will be at Nylsvley Nature Reserve. A Ramsar Wetland, the reserve is famous for it’s birding, in an area well-stocked with plains game, including sable and roan antelope. Tonight, you will use the full facilities provided by your fully kitted vehicle. This is your chance to check that you understand how it all works!
Day 2: Nylsvley to Mafefe Camp
Your guide will meet you at Nylsvly at 8am, ready to start an epic journey exploring the wilderness.
The route up to Mafefe Camp is initially along the Olifants River valley and through beautiful scenery. Suddenly, 40 kms before the camp the road will take a sharp detour and the start of the 4×4 section of the day’s travelling will become obvious. This route takes you up from the valley onto the escarpment of the Wolkberg Mountains. Eventually it flattens as you reach the high pastures, and you arrive at Mafefe Camp.
Built in the traditions of the Northern Sotho mountain people, the camp has 5 x 2-sleeper rondawels, with communal bathrooms and cooking facilities. Settle in for the night, prepare your evening meal and enjoy the solitude.
Total km’s for the day: 430 kms / 6.5 hours
Day 3: Mafefe to Letaba Ranch: Camp 1
Plans for the next day will have been made over supper the night before. By this stage you will have realised that having a local guide means that the trip will be customised on the go if circumstances require changes, or you have special interests. Feel free to discuss your interests with your guide who knows the area very well. Today’s downward route off the escarpment will be a massive test for your 4×4 driving skills, and a very slow process. It will allow you to increase your off-road driving skills and leave you with a strong sense of accomplishment by the time you arrive at the bottom of the mountains. Follow the guide through the foothills, through some small villages, and head into Letaba Ranch, towards your first wild camping night.
Letaba Ranch is a Big5 reserve that’s on the side of Kruger National Park. The fences between the reserve and Kruger have been removed, so the animals move freely between the two areas. Your first night’s camp is usually at a waterhole. The guide will encourage you to get there as early as possible to give you good time to set up camp. Over the next four days you will unpack and set up camp 4 times, hopefully getting quicker and more efficient each day!
Total km’s for the day: 140 / 200kms ; 4-8 hours (route and 4×4 skills dependent)
Day 4: Letaba Ranch game viewing: Camp 2
Now that you are in the game reserve plans will be dictated by animal movements. For examples if there is waterhole activity you will remain quietly in camp, enjoying the passing traffic only moving on after the animals do. There are several routes available for the day and driving time can be cut to a bare minimum of about 20kms, or extend to up to 100km, depending on game movements and your interests. The second night’s camp will be to the north of the first, and its location once again depends on the movement of the game.
Total km’s for the day: 50-100kms; 1-4 hours driving (game dependent)
Day 5: Letaba Ranch to Makuya Reserve: Camp 3
Today will include both time in Letaba Ranch, as well as a distance through rural Limpopo, so that you can enter the northern reserve of Makuya Reserve in good time to get to the ideal camping sites. In selecting your route between the two reserves, if any supplies are needed, the route through the town of Giyani is recommended. Time of year will also help dictate routes because shorter days in winter require getting to the campsites earlier because the sun waits for no man, and pitching camp in the dark is not ideal.
Total km’s for the day: 160kms; 3-6 hours (game/route dependent)
Day 6: Makuya Reserve Camp 3 to Camp 4
While Makuya Reserve is small, it is mountainous, and has very rocky tracks. This means that no-one goes anywhere quickly in Makuya. The topography makes for beautiful scenery, and the day’s route will include World’s View
Day 7: Makuya Reserve Camp 3 to Mutale Falls
Today you will head to the viewpoint of the Luvuvhu Gorge. After nights of camping wild, there will be a certain anticipation as you pack up on the last morning, knowing that tonight you sleep between cotton sheets with an en-suite bathroom! Get into camp early enough, and you will have the opportunity to go for a walk with the guides of Mutale Falls camp. If it’s warm enough this will be an ideal opportunity for swimming in the Mutale River at the Falls. You will be self-catering in the camp kitchen.
Total km’s for the day: Total km’s for the day: 50-100kms; 1-4 hours driving (game dependent)
Day 8: Mutale Falls to Blouberg Camp
It’s a 330km / 4.5 hour trip from Mutale Falls to your next night’s accommodation at Blouberg Camp. The route is tar for most of the trip, and it’s an easy drive in comparison to what you’ve been doing over the past week. The half-way stop is the town of Louis Trichardt. This is where you will refuel and replenish your groceries. We recommend you stop at the shopping centre on the N1. (After the traffic circle, turn left at the next stop street, and immediately right into the parking area of the centre. Here you’ll find Mike’s Kitchen – ideal for a meal after a week’s bush cooking. The Pick ‘n Pay and it’s bottle store in the centre will make it easy to restock.)
After replenishing, follow the road through the town, passing through the villages of Vivo, Indermaak & Bochum before getting to Blouberg. The camp is to the north of the town, under the shadow of the Blouberg Mountain. Get into camp early enough to enjoy an easy 20-minute walk up from the cap to beautiful rock pools for swimming in the river.
Total km’s for the day: 330kms; 4.5hours driving (plus time for shopping)
Day 9: Blouberg to Nthubu
Because Blouberg to Nthubu is only a 2.5 hour drive, you can spend the morning in Blouberg Camp, enjoying the abundant birdlife, or lazing along the babbling river outside the camp. If you feel really energetic, arrange for a camp guide to show you one of the hiking paths up the mountains and explore this beautiful area.
After leaving the camp you first head west, then south to Nthubu Reserve. The camp is in the Masebe Reserve, with the camp being in the smaller, western portion of the reserve. Arrive in time to engage with the local team at the camp who will take you exploring and show you the local San rock art and other fascinating sites in an area surrounded by sandstone massifs.
Your last night on the African Ivory Route will be back in safari tents, with a quiet, private area for an outdoor fire and time to contemplate the extraordinary diversity you are experienced over the last 9 days.
Total km’s for the day: 120kms; 2.5 hours
Day 10: Nthubu to Gauteng
The return trip to Gauteng is 4 hours and goes through the fabulous northern Waterberg region. The route goes down to the town of Vaalwater and joins the N1 at the Kranskop Toll Plaza.
Total km’s for the day: 350kms; 4 hours
Minimum 1 guest, maximum 10 guests (5 accommodation units, each with 2 x ¾ beds). We strongly recommend no more than 4 people per twin-cab vehicle. Children permitted if all adults in the group are part of the same party.
Camping at Nylsvley Nature Reserve (night 1), Accommodation at Mafefe (night 2), Bush camping sites for nights 3,4 5 &6, conservation fees for Letaba Ranch and Makuya Reserve, Accommodation at Mutale falls (night 7), Accommodation at Blouberg (night 8), Accommodation at Nthubu Camp (night 9); Conservation fees for Masebe Reserve, Lead guide in own vehicle with 2-way radio connection between guide and visitor vehicles from Day 1 (meeting at Nylsvley) to morning of Day 8 (on leaving Makuya Reserve).
Guest vehicles (4x4s required with fully kitted camping & self-catering facilities); all food, fuel & tolls, gratuities and items purchased along the way.
Facilities in camps:
Nylsvley:- camping, using the equipment provided with the fully-kitten vehicle. This is your opportunity to check that everything is in place and works.
Mafefe: – accommodation in Pedi-style rondawels without linen. Communal ablutions with gas-heated hot shower, flush toilet.
Bush camping: – totally wild camping in unfenced areas in Letaba Ranch and Makuya Reserve. No services and guests must follow bush-protocol for ablutions (using own water supplies) and management of ashes from fires and removing all their own waste. The guide will help those who are unfamiliar with the routines and need assistance but does not clean up after trailists.
Mutale Falls (in Makuya Reserve): – Big 5 reserve, unfenced. Accommodation in safari tents with linen, and an en-suite with gas-heated water in shower and flush toilet.
Blouberg: accommodation in Hananwa-style rondawels with linen and bucket-shower in en-suite. Gas-heating of kettle for shower water.
Nthubu (in Masebe Reserve): Plains game reserve, unfenced. Accommodation in safari tents with linen and bucket-shower in en-suite. Gas-heating of kettle for shower water.
The camps of Mafefe, Mutale Falls, Blouberg and Nthubu all have the following facilities and features: Self-catering kitchen with gas hob, fridge and catering equipment. No food or firewood is suppled. Paraffin or solar lanterns for night light, no cell phone reception. USB charger in kitchen for cell phones. Water is safe to drink. Outside boma area for braai or campfire available.
The itineraries are offered and executed on the understanding that routes, camping sites and roads used might change to accommodate the local situation on the day. Excessive rain can make roads unpassable, camping sites in the Big5 reserve may be altered by rangers and local community activities might require re-routing from a given area for safety reasons. Traveller safety and security will always be the priority. Please have at least one mobile phone number on a South African network for any group travelling this route, and the number needs to be supplied to the tour organisers as soon as it’s available. For the guided section of the route, the guide will have the authority to pick the route and will select that which is deemed to be within the skill level of the drivers.
Day 2: The 4×4 guide meets the group at Nylsvley at 9am. Guides group up to Mafefe Camp.
Day3: Guides down the escarpment. (The guide will use discretion on which route to use, based on assessed ability of the trailists). Guide leads group to enter Letaba Ranch through ranger gate, and selects camping site.
Day4: 4×4 Guiding along ranger roads in Letaba ranch to next camping site (usually on the banks of the Great Letaba river.
Day5: Guiding between Letaba Ranch and Makuya reserve. Guide leads group to enter Makuya Reserve through ranger gate and selects camping site.
Day 6: Guiding along ranger roads in Makuya Reserve, including stopping at World’s View
Day 7: Guiding along the ranger roads in Makuya Reserve, including Luvuvhu Gorge, to Mutale Falls camp
Day 8: Guiding from Mutale Falls, out of Makuya Reserve, to the tar road R525. The guide leaves the group here, and they will self-guide the balance of the trip.
Ethos of the guided section of the trail in the Reserves: The purpose of the Trails is to afford trailists an intimate encounter with the wild-side of this remote area. Your guide will, within reason, adjust the pace of the journey to accommodate the group’s interests but trailists are reminded that the distances and topography of the area are challenging.
You are embarking on a “wilderness experience” and the privilege of encountering special game viewing moments needs to be mentioned. It is the holistic experience of travelling through this remote area, feeling its solitude and witnessing its recovery that will imbue you with the spirit of “bygone pioneers”.
Weather Conditions: Conditions during the summer months can be very hot and humid with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees. Winter nights can be very chilly with temperatures dropping to around 6 degrees. Participants on the trail must be well prepared for the climatic conditions and should be reasonably fit.
Clothing: Clothing should be comfortable and durable. Neutral colours such as khaki are preferable because they hide the inevitable dust and dirt that is attracted to your clothing. A tracksuit, either woollen or lightweight, depending on the season, is useful for the evenings. In summer rain gear is suggested. Comfortable walking shoes and sun hats are always advised.
Safety Policy: The general rules and regulations of Letaba Ranch, Makuya Park & Kruger National Park apply to our guests. Trailists depend on the trails guide for their safety and for guidance. For their own safety and that of the other trailists, the instructions of the guide should be obeyed at all times. Failure to co-operate in this respect could lead to the immediate cancellation of the trail. For reasons of safety and sensitivity, excessive consumption of liquor is strongly discouraged. Liquor may only be consumed at the overnight campsites.
Malaria: The trail is in a malaria area and prophylactics are essential. Trailists should consult their doctor.