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.
click here to download the trail in pdf format with the gps co-ordinates download
Mapsource file download
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.