Birding Venda
4x4 Trails
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4-Day route: (For a 3-Day route drop the second day.)

This route takes you through Venda via some of the best known birding sites in the area. It is scenically beautiful and on the route you will pass through forests, grassland, baobab country and see many remote rural villages.

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Description of the route:

The area is criss-crossed with tracks thus only the main junctions are described with GPS points. For the rest follow the ‘main drag’ and use your good sense. The entire route is approximately 400 km in length.

NB - You must organize a permit in advance for your first day to cross Entabeni Plantation. To do this contact Mr Willem Kotze on 015 - 583 0100 during office hours.

For a 3 day route: Cut out the second day.

What you need:

A GPS, a 4x4 vehicle (or high-clearance vehicle in dry weather), all your food for the trip and cash to pay for: campsites, curios and tipping. Be fully equipped for camping i.e. tents, sleeping bags, pots pans etc. Anti tick spray is also recommended, ‘Bayticol’ is the best.


Make sure your vehicles are full before leaving Makhado. There is very little opportunity to fill up again. Most vehicles are able to make the entire route on one tank.


You must book accommodation in advance. All accommodation on the route has clean drinking water, hot & cold showers, flushing toilets and washing up facilities. There is no electricity in the campsites so you will need to bring your own torches and cooking equipment. Firewood is for sale at campsites.


You will need to organize a permit to cross Entabeni Plantation. Contact Mr Willem Kotze on 015 - 583 0100 during office hours.

Description of the sites on the route:

Kliphuis ("2) – 1st night

The Kliphuis is situated in Entabeni Plantation, high up in the mountains between pristine Afro-montane Grasslands and extensive Afro-temperate Mistbelt forests. The 63 year old Foresters House has been beautifully renovated into a comfortable place to stay with running hot water and a fully equipped kitchen. This is where one can find Forest Buzzard, Aryes’ Hawk-Eagle, Bat Hawk, Lemon Dove, Orange Ground-Thrush, Blue mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Olive Woodpecker and Black-fronted Bush-Shrike. The Kliphuis can accommodate 8 people or more by arrangement. A more rustic option is the hikers’ hut which can accommodate 22 people for which you must bring all your own bedding, cooking and eating utensils.

High clearance vehicles are recommended.

Bookings and Information Tel: 013 – 754 2724

Thathe Sacred Forest ("20)

Thathe is an indigenous forest which is sacred to the Venda people. Here look out for forest species such as Chorister Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, Knysna Turaco, Yellow-streaked Greenbul and Orange Ground-Thrush.

Soutpansberg Mountain Tops and Lake Funduzi ("32)

Lake Funduzi is a magical place that is steeped in Venda mythology and legend. It’s condition changes seasonally, but it is always worth the visit from a cultural perspective. From Lake Funduzi you will drive along the very top of the Soutpansberg. The vegetation consists of afromontain grasslands and small patches of afro temperate forest.

Rebecca’s Pottery ("38)

Rebecca is a Venda potter who produces excellent pieces of Venda pottery.

Gundani Brachystegia Woodland ("43) 2nd & 3rd night

This is the only known patch of Miombo (Brachystegia) woodland in South Africa. Miombo woodland is common in Zimbabwe and further north. A number of bird specials associated with Miombo have been seen here. These are White-breasted Cuckooshrike and Southern Hyliota. Frequently seen are Pink-throated Twinspot. If you are lucky you might find Blue-spotted Wood-Dove. There are unconfirmed reports of Red-throated Twinspot and Spotted Creeper (so please send reports of sightings of these species).

A charming campsite has been opened at the woodland, funded by the Jensen Charity Foundation and facilitated by the birding route. The campsite will assist the community derive economic benefit from tourism, especially avi-tourism. The people who manage the campsite live in the village and are otherwise unemployed. All proceeds go directly into maintenance of the campsite and into a community fund. There are hot / cold showers, flush toilets, firewood for sale and 6 cleared tent sites. To make the best of the birding in the woodland, you should spend at least one night, preferably two, there. It can get hot, so use the late afternoon and early morning to bird.

There is a marked trail into the woodland and thus 4x4’s are not required. However do be careful in the campsite as the area is very sandy! If you do get stuck the camp assistants will help push you out.

Booking & Information: John Thavhanyedza: 072 222 9154 (Community Representative) or Vho Musanda Miranda: 072 214 0258 (Community Headman)

Rates: R30 pp camping. R5 pp for day entry. R5 per vehicle.

Muthavhasindi Nature Reserve ("45)

This nature reserve has been established to protect the Brakenridgia zanzibarica trees or ‘Magic Tree’. It is the only place in South Africa where these trees are found and its bark is used by traditional healers. There is usually a local guide that can give you an informative talk.

Sagole Big Tree ("48)

This is not only the biggest Baobab tree in the world, but also one of the few known roosting sites for Mottled Spinetail in South Africa. Plan to be at the tree at dusk so that you can witness the Mottled Spinetails coming to roost.

Phineas Ramuvhelo the Wood Carver ("52)

Phineas is a Venda wood carver who produces good quality bowls, spoons and drums from local indigenous hardwoods.

Golwe-Vhuir-vhuri Camping Site ("63) – 4th night

Golwe Picnic and Campsite is a large shady site situated in a secluded valley in Venda off the Masisi Road. The site is rural and tranquil, an ideal place to get-away to. Bird watching is good in and around the campsite. At dawn one can hear African Broadbill around the campsite. Other special birds are Pink-throated Twinspot, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Crowned Hornbill. Marked circular trails lead from the campsite up the valley and to a waterfall.

You are encoraged to book Christopher Nethonzhe, who is the local site guide (Birdlife SA accredited) to guide you along the trails. Golwe is owned and run by members of the Vhurivhuri community. All proceeds go towards the development of the community and supporting unemployed people in the village.

The campsite has ablution facilities with hot/cold water and flushing toilets, braai stands, picnic tables and 4 camp sites. Firewood is available to buy. The area is multifunctional and can accommodate people who want to have open air meetings and parties. The site is accessible to 2-wheel drive vehicles and caravans.

Booking & Information: Christopher Nethonzhe: 076 302 9383 (Community Representative) or Ernest: 076 196 3691 (Community Representative)

Rates: R30 pp camping. R5 pp for day entry. R5 per vehicle.

Mphapuli Nature Reserve (68)

The reserve is situated on the southern slopes of the Soutpansberg Mountains. Enjoy a walk
through the cool indigenous forest to a large natural pool below a waterfall.

First Day:

The first day is a long one, so I recommend you leave early and do not spend too much time in each place. If you were to drive the route without any stops it would take approximately 6 hours:

  • Kliphuis – Thathe Vondo: approximately 2 hours
  • Thathe Vondo – Lake Funduzi: approximately 1 ½ hour
  • Lake Funduzi – Rebecca’s Pottery: approximately 2 hours
  • Rebecca’s Pottery – Gundani: approximately ½ hour

Leave the Kliphuis and turn onto the forestry road running past the Kliphuis going north ("3). At ("4) keep right. Follow the track via "5 - "10, through the forest, down to the Tshivhase Tea Estate over a dam wall, through a boom and to the R523.

Here ("11) turn left. At ("12) turn right and keep right into Thathe Vondo Forest Estate. Follow the main roads through the plantations via "13 - "19 until you get to the Thathe Sacred Forest ("20). Park your car and walk along the track through the forest birdwatching.

From the Thathe Sacred Forest back-track until ("16) then turn right. Follow the track though the plantation via "21 - "27, until you are out of the plantation and into villages. In the valley below you should see Lake Funduzi. From "28 follow the track down to the Lake ("32) via "29 – "31.

From the Lake back track until "28 and then turn right (north). Follow the main road until you reach the Siloam-Tshixwadza road ("33). Turn right (east) and continue until the village of Tshixwadza ("34) then turn left. Take this road all along the top of the mountains via "35 – "37. Stop at Rebecca’s Pottery ("38). From here turn right at " 39 and left at the tarred road ("40). A few km on at "41 turn right towards Gundani Mutsiwa Campsite (it has a signboard from the road). In the village ("42) turn left and continue to the campsite where you will spend your second and third nights ("43).

Second Day:

The second day is much more relaxed. The time estimation between areas is:

  • Gundani – Muthavhasindi Nature Reserve: approximately ½ hour.
  • Muthavhasindi Nature Reserve – Big Tree: approximately 1 hour.
  • Big Tree – Gundani: approximately 1 hour (in the dark).

Spend the morning birding around the Brachystegia woodland. At about 2pm visit the Muthavhasindi Nature Reserve. To get there back-track and turn left (south) at the tar road ("41). Follow the tar road until you see the signboard to Tshikundamalema ("44), turn left and then almost immediately left again to get to the Nature Reserve which is visible from the tarred road. Drive to the offices ("45) and ask for a guide. After this back-track north again along the tarred road, passing the turn off to Gundani and continue on until you get to a T-junction at Muswodi ("46). Here turn right. Continue until the turn off to the Big Tree ("47) turning left. Turn right into the entrance of the Big Tree enclosure ("48). Try to get here before 4 pm so that you can arrange with the guard to stay until sunset to watch the Mottled Spinetails come into roost. After dark back-track to Gundani Mutsiwa Campsite.

Third Day:

This day is also relaxed. The time estimation between areas is:

  • Gundani – Phinias Ramuvhelo: approximately 1 hour.
  • Phinias Ramuvhelo – Golwe-Vhurivhuri Campsite : approximately 1 ½ hours

Drive onto the little track that leads through Gundani village and turn left (not right) at "42. Follow this track past the tower ("49). At ("50) keep right and continue to a Tjunction ("51) where you turn right. Follow this road and stop at the wood carver Phinias Ramuvhelo ("52). Continue through the village and down along the valley. At "53 turn left. At "54 turn left to the bridge over the Mutale River. Follow this track via "55 – "60 until you get to the main Sibasa-Masisi road ("61). Here turn right. Continue until you see the sign indicating the Golwe-Vhurivhuri Campsite. Turn left here ("62). Then turn into the campsite ("63) where you will spend the night. Spend the afternoon and evening exploring the campsite and the trails.

Forth Day:

This day is quite long. Time estimations between sites is:

  • Golwe-Vhurivhuri Campsite – Mphaphuli Nature Reserve: approximately 1 ½ hours
  • Mphaphuli Nature Reserve – Makhado (Louis Trichardt): approximately 2 ½ hours.

Drive out of the campsite and back track back to the main Sibasa-Masisi road. Here turn left ("62). A little way on ("64) turn left. Follow this road over the mountain and through the villages (at "65 bear right) until you get to the Ka-Minga road ("66). Here turn right. At the turn off to the Mphaphuli Nature Reserve turn right ("67). Drive through the boom to the parking site ("68) and walk through the forest to the waterfall ("69). Back track back to the main Ka-Minga road ("67) and turn right. At the Sibasa- Masisi road ("70) turn left and at "71 turn left. At the Caltex Garage in Sibasa ("72) turn right. Follow this road over the Vondo pass. At "73 turn left towards Makhado. Take this road all the way onto the N1 and back to Makhado.

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