Blouberg Nature Reserve covers a wide variety of vegetation and habitats including a small Sycamore Fig forest, Tamboti woodland and a wetland which has a resident flock of Crested Guineafowl and is visited by Greater Painted Snipe in the summer. The reserve has over 270 species, including Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Crimson-Breasted Shrike, Kalahari Scrub-Robin and Southern White-faced Owl. One of the highlights of the reserve is the ´Vulture Restaurant´ and hide, which is best visited in the winter months. Cape, Lappet-faced, Hooded, White-headed and White-backed Vultures and even a Rüppell's Vulture can be seen at close range. There is a large Cape Vulture breeding colony on the nearby cliffs, where a male Rüppell's can be seen nesting with a female Cape Vulture. There is also a good variety of game species in the reserve, including buffalo, eland, gemsbok, cheetah, leopard, caracal, spotted and brown hyaena. Visitors can choose between four types of accommodation, ranging from the fully-equipped Mashatu Camp cottages; tented Tamboti Bush Camp; private Molope Bush Campsites with ablution block; to the very basic Modumele Wilderness Campsite. The reserve also offers a 4-day Wilderness Trail.
Buzzard Mountain Retreat is situated on the southern slopes and top of the Soutpansberg. Habitat varies from sweet mixed bushveld to mistbelt forest and Afromontane grassland. Proteas are found in the grassland and Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Grassbird, Malachite Sunbird and Gurney´s Sugarbird may be seen. The high cliffs overlooking the mountains provide excellent views of a variety of raptors, including Lanner and Peregrine Falcon, Verreaux´s Eagle and Jackal Buzzard; Cape Eagle-Owl live on the rocky plateau. The trails through the forests below the cliffs allow for sightings of Orange-winged Pytilia, Green Twinspot and Lemon Dove. Forest Buzzard and Ayres´s Hawk-Eagle can also be seen. Day visits must be booked in advance. The affordable accommodation consists of self-catering stone cottages, basic wooden cabins or camping.
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Camp Africa is situated on forestry land close to Hanglip Forest with a view of the plains to the south of the Soutpansberg. Birds in the area are typical forest species such as Knysna Turaco, Lemon Dove, Chorister Robin-Chat and African Firefinch. A pair of Crowned Eagles nest in a large tree nearby. The camp consists of five huts which were originally used on the old Soutpansberg Hiking Trail; each hut contains two single beds and a double bunk. There is a kitchen area, ablution block, outdoor lapa, licensed bar and grassy campsites. The camp is owned and run by Masazane Expeditions who also conduct guided 4x4 trails in the Soutpansberg.
Chinaka Game Lodge is on a 4,100ha property just north of Vivo, close to Blouberg Nature Reserve and the Soutpansberg. The vegetation comprises sweet and mixed bushveld with farm dams and there is a wide variety of plains game as well as leopard, caracal, brown hyaena and bat-eared fox. There are hides at the dams and Chinaka offers game drives and walking trails. There is a good mix of bushveld birds and a range of raptors, with some special birds including Crested Guineafowl and Kori Bustard. Accommodation options include three self-catering rooms with a well-equipped outside communal kitchen; and four chalets accommodating two, three or four people. There is a small restaurant, bar, dining area, TV lounge, pool, braai area, deck overlooking a waterhole and even a mobile bush spa! Chinaka is a suitable venue for small weddings or conferences and also offers corporate team-building experiences and school holiday camps. Guided hikes to Blouberg Nature Reserve can be arranged.
The Kliphuis is situated in the Entabeni Plantation, high in the mountains between Afromontane grassland and extensive Mistbelt forest. Forest Buzzard, Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle, Bat Hawk, Lemon Dove, Orange Ground-Thrush, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Olive Woodpecker and Black-fronted Bush-Shrike can be seen here. There are two one-day trails starting from the house and passing through forest and grassland areas. The original forester’s house has been renovated and can accommodate 8 people on a self-catering basis. A more rustic option is the hikers´ hut, which can accommodate 22 people; your will need to bring your own bedding, cooking and eating utensils. A high clearance vehicle is recommended.
Miombo (Brachystegia) woodland is common in Zimbabwe and countries further north, but this is the only known patch in South Africa. Special bird associated with Miombo woodland that have been seen here are White-breasted Cuckooshrike and Southern Hyliota, Pink-throated Twinspot is frequently seen and you might find Blue-spotted Wood Dove. There are unconfirmed reports of Red-throated Twinspot and Spotted Creeper. There is a community campsite with a basic ablution block at the entrance, and a marked trail into the woodland.
Directions from the south: Travel east from Louis Trichardt / Makhado on the R524, drive through Thohoyandou to Sibasa and to then to the T-junction indicating Donald Fraser Hospital (left) and Masisi (right).Turn right towards Masisi, continue for 12 km, then turn left towards Thengwe. Continue for 5.1km, then turn right towards Mutale. Continue for 21 km until you see a signboard and turn-off to Gundani to the right, after 3km you will arrive at the campsite. Travelling time from Thohoyandou is around 45minutes.
Directions from the north: Travel from Pafuri / Musina on the R525, then turn left to Sagole Spa and the Big Tree. West of the Big Tree is a road to the south marked ´Sibasa´. Take this road, pass Shakadza, then see the start of the tar road. Continue on the tar road until you see the signboard and turn-off to Gundani on the left.
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Harnham House is nestled in a valley in the Soutpansberg 14km north of Louis Trichardt / Makhado just off the Bluegumspoort Road. The vegetation is largely grassland with forest patches in the kloofs; there are also mountain streams and dams. There are no marked trails, but you are free to explore around the 500ha property. Birds found here include Long-crested Eagle, African Wood Owl, Black Saw-wing, Cape Batis, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and Streaky-headed Seedeater. There are various accommodation options. The Guest House has five bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, lounge with fire place, pool, jacuzzi and boma. Mountain Cottage is a self-catering unit with two bedrooms accommodating 6 guests. There are two 4-bedded chalets at the dam and there is also a campsite with ablution facilities. Full catering can be arranged in advance.
The eastern tip of the Soutpansberg Mountains ends near Punda Maria in the Kruger National Park. Habitats in this northern section of Kruger are surprisingly diverse. The low-lying hills around Punda Maria are home to Crowned Hornbill, Mosque Swallow and Eastern Nicator. Tall Mopane and broad-leafed woodland expanding from the base of these hills holds specials like White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Arnot's Chat and Racket-tailed Roller. In damp, low-lying areas Senegal Coucal, Black Coucal and Little Bittern can be seen. One of the most exciting areas for birding is in the north, along the Luvuvhu River. Specials such as Pel's Fishing Owl, White-crowned Lapwing, Bohm's and Mottled Spinetail, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Lemon-breasted Canary are to be found here. This is also the best area to find Dickinson's Kestrel.
Scarce species which have also been seen here include Sooty Falcon and River Warbler. The Kruger Park can be visited independently or you can join one of the guided birding trips in the park. These guided trips provide an opportunity to see more and learn more than you would by travelling on your own. If you do explore Kruger on your own, it is best to spend two or more nights in one of the camps and drive along the secondary roads and loops. Recommended drives are the Mahonie Loop (S99), S60 and S61, S58 and S52 near Shingwedzi. An early morning visit to the Luvuvhu River Bridge, Pafuri Picnic Site and Crooks Corner is a must! Detailed maps, general information and information about accommodation options can be found at the park gates and on the SANParks website.
Lajuma is situated high on the southern slopes of the Soutpansberg; it has been declared a Natural History Site and forms part of the Luvhondo Nature Reserve within the UNESCO Vhembe Biosphere Reserve. The property has Afromontane and riverine forest, wetlands, woodlands, thickets and grassland. Bird specials include breeding pairs of Verreaux´s Eagle, Crowned Eagle and Jackal Buzzard. Crested Guineafowl and Narina Trogon are abundant; Mountain Wagtail, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Grey Cuckooshrike and White-Starred Robin can be seen, as well as six species of pigeons and doves. There are three types of accommodation, all of which are en-suite and fully-equipped for self-catering. Waterfall Lodge is situated in an isolated valley overlooking a small waterfall; it consists of two chalets, each with a double and single bed, and an enclosed lapa with kitchen, lounge and fireplace. Forest Chalet is nestled against a forest looking onto the mountain; it can accommodate two people or a couple with small children. The Wilderness Camp can accommodate up to 30 people in six units. The Lajuma Research Centre hosts students involved with various research projects in the area.
Last Post is situated on the Bandelierkop Geological Complex in a scenic range of hills which form the transition between sweet bushveld and Lowveld. There is a variety of habitat types and high biological diversity; walking is the best way to explore the area. The birdlife includes Purple-crested Turaco, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Wahlberg’s Eagle and African Hawk-Eagle, Black-headed Oriole, Scarlet-chested Sunbird and Bennett´s Woodpecker. Orange-winged Pytilia may also be seen in the valley. There are two accommodation options: Camp Mocking Chat is situated high above a gorge with views of the surrounding countryside. It is a rustic camp accommodating 18 people in 6 rooms with a central kitchen, lounge, dining area and swimming pool. The Emerald Spot provides 3 permanent tents, campsites, a central kitchen and ablution facilities. Guided walks and drives are offered.
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Leshiba stretches along the top of the Soutpansberg Mountain; a wide variety of habitat types are found on the property: open grassland, woodland, arid mountain bushveld and mistbelt forest. There are 12 marked hiking trails of varying lengths. Over 260 bird species have been recorded here as well as over 380 different plant species. Game includes leopard, white rhino, wildebeest and giraffe, which can be seen on foot or mountain bike. Leshiba also offers guided walks, horse riding and game drives. There are four accommodation options: The Venda Village Lodge is a Venda-style village created together with internationally-renowned Venda artist, Noria Mabasa. The Village has 5 en-suite traditional huts and courtyards, lounge with fireplace, pool deck and luxury open-air bathroom with a view! There are two luxury suites with private plunge pools and patios sited close to the lodge with fully-equipped kitchens and lounges; guests can choose self-catering or full catering. The remotely-situated Hamasha Bush Camp accommodates 8 people in two units with 2 en-suite bedrooms each, with a lounge, kitchen and braai area. Luvhondo is ideal for groups and can accommodate 16 people in twin beds or 28 people in bunk beds.
This 300 hectare farm is located on the western slopes of the Soutpansberg 10km from Louis Trichardt / Makhado. It extends from a bushveld area at the base of the mountain up to the forest and to the top of the mountain where Proteas can be found. The network of walking trails on the farm passes through these different habitats. Over 200 species can be found on the property; some of the specials include Eastern Nicator, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, African Wood Owl, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Green Twinspot, Narina Trogon and Crowned Eagle The accommodation consists of guest houses with self-catering facilities, guest rooms and camping facilities. The guest houses and rooms are located in and around the original farmhouse with a surrounding garden and nearby swimming pool. There is also a craft shop and the Lodge can cater for breakfast, lunch and dinner on request.
Mmabolela covers 6,500 hectares of bushveld with 12km of Limpopo River frontage. The combination of permanent pools in the Limpopo River, tall riparian woodland and arid thornveld intersected by numerous ephemeral streams provides a rich diversity of habitats and plant communities. The reserve is renowned for its exceptional wealth of birdlife; over 300 species have been recorded in the area, with specials including African Finfoot; Verreaux’s Eagle Owl; Broad-billed Roller and Dusky Lark. In addition many migrants traverse the area during spring and autumn. There are a number of 4x4 or SUV self-drive roads that cover the entire reserve or, for the more energetic, walking, jogging and cycling tracks. Self-catering accommodation is offered in two fully equipped and staffed houses. The Weerderdooper Homestead has three double rooms with four en-suite double rooms in the adjacent cottages. The quaint Tuli Homestead has four double rooms. Visits to Mmabolela are limited to homestead guests only, ensuring an exclusive go-where-you-will stay.
Mogalakwena River Reserve covers 4,000ha of bushveld with a variety of habitats and fauna and flora. The viewing deck of the Lodge is an ideal site to view African Finfoot, Black Crake, Dwarf Bittern and various Kingfishers and Herons. Other resident birds include Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Black-faced and Violet-eared Waxbill. Mogalakwena River Lodge has a central building with four en-suite rooms, dining and open lounge areas and a swimming pool; as well as four separate en-suite chalets. There is also a well-equipped conference and function venue; Bush Camp; Artist’s Retreat and Research Centre. The lodge offers game drives, bird and game walks; guests are also able to visit the Craft Art Development Foundation where Pedi women produce various crafts.
This 2,000 hectare reserve is situated in the heart of the Soutpansberg Mountains. It lies on the northern slope of the mountain with a number of rivers and streams, resulting in a wide range of habitats including Arid Mountain Bushveld, riverine forest and semi-deciduous scrub forest together with high mountain grassland, rocky slopes and high cliffs. A large variety of birds are to be found: Verreaux’s Eagles nest in sight of the lodge; Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Narina Trogon, Purple-crested Turaco and Crested Guineafowl can be seen around the lodge. A number of specials sighted here include Pink-throated Twinspot, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Golden-backed Pytilia, Cape Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, Black Stork and Bat Hawk. There are various accommodation options: Mashovhela Lodge has 6 en-suite chalets, 2 family units and 2 safari tents; there is also a fully-licensed restaurant and conference centre. Lokhovhela Mountain Cottages offer self-catering chalet accommodation for 16 people; a separate luxury en-suite cottage accommodating 6 people; and 4 en-suite dormitory-style chalets accommodating 4 people each. There are also several different camping options.
Pafuri Rivercamp is a private tented tree-house camp on the banks of the Mutale River. Situated 3km from Pafuri Gate of the Kruger National Park, the camp is an ideal base from which to explore Northern Kruger, Mozambique, Makuya Nature Reserve and Venda. It is situated in a prime birding area where over 450 species of birds can be found; some of the specials include Dickinson’s Kestrel, Orange-winged Pytilia and Racket-tailed Roller. The Rivercamp is comprised of Main Camp, Bush Camp and secluded Campsites with an informal and relaxed atmosphere. The tented rooms and kitchens are fully equipped and serviced, linen and towels are provided, there is a fridge in each room. There are also braai facilities, a lapa, restaurant, swimming pool and laundry.
Shiluvari is situated on the bank of the Albasini Dam overlooking the Luonde Mountains. Excellent on-site birding includes 8 different heron species including Black-crowned Night Heron and White-backed Night Heron. African Finfoot and Osprey (summer months) are commonly seen on the dam, Buff-spotted Flufftail are heard and Grey-headed Kingfisher and Honey Buzzard are sometimes seen. Shiluvari specialises in birding activities and offers guided trips into mistbelt forest, Lowveld riverine forest and Miombo woodland. Special birds seen on these outings include Arnot´s Chat, Bat Hawk and Pel´s Fishing-Owl. Shiluvari´s cool, thatched chalets overlook the dam and mountains and can be booked on a bed-and-breakfast or dinner-bed-and-breakfast basis. Birders can request flexible catering arrangements and the Lodge is able to assist with arranging qualified local bird guides.
Zvakanaka is a 74 hectare farm in the Eastern Soutpansberg just north of Louis Trichardt / Makhado. The vegetation ranges from grassland to wetland and semi-deciduous scrub forest. There are numerous trails on the property, a serious walk to the top of the mountain will reward with stunning views in all directions. The variety of habitats on the farm ensures plentiful and varied birdlife; species to be found include Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Crowned Eagle, Eastern Nicator, Lemon Dove, Green Twinspot, Crested Guineafowl, Black Sparrowhawk, Narina Trogon, Grassbird, White-starred Robin and Scaly-throated honey guide. There are two self-catering cottages: Igababa Cabin accommodates two people and Madala’s Cottage accommodates four people. Both cottages are very private with beautiful views of the mountain through the expansive glass windows and doors. Both have outdoor double baths and plunge pools and both cottages are strictly non-smoking zones. There is also a campsite with four exclusive sites, placed to give optimum privacy. Three sites have cement-floor shelters with power points and lights, each also has a four-plate gas stove, kettle and sink. There are four toilets and two showers, as well as a washing machine and fridge-freezer, for communal use.
Golwe Picnic and Campsite is a large shady site situated in a secluded valley in Venda off the Masisi Road. There is good bird watching in and around the campsite; African Broadbill can be heard calling at dawn. 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. The campsite offers a convenient base from which to visit Mpaphuli Cycad Reserve, Makuya Nature Reserve and the Gundani Brachystegia Woodland. We recommend that you book local bird guide Christopher Nethonzhe to guide you along the trails; he can be contacted at 076 302 9383. Golwe is owned and run by members of the Vhurivhuri community; all proceeds go towards the development of the community. The campsite has four campsites, ablution facilities with hot and cold water and flushing toilets, braai stands and picnic tables; firewood is for sale. The site is accessible to 2-wheel drive vehicles and caravans.
Directions from the south: Travel east from Louis Trichardt / Makhado on the R524, drive through Thohoyandou to Sibasa and then to the T-junction indicating Donald Fraser Hospital (left) and Masisi (right). Turn right towards Masisi, continue for 37 km, then turn right towards Lambani / Gunda and follow the signboards to the site for another 1.8 km.
Directions from the north: Travel from Pafuri / Musina on the R525, turn off towards Tshikondeni Mine at Masisi. Do not take the left turn to the mine but continue straight towards Sibasa / Thohoyandou for another 25km; then see the sign to the site on the right.
Mapungubwe National Park protects a significant stretch of Limpopo River frontage and associated riparian woodland. There is a variety of accommodation options and various wheelchair-friendly birding facilities. There is an aerial boardwalk through the forest canopy on the banks of the Limpopo River, look for Meves’s Starling, Meyer’s Parrot and Tropical Boubou and search the sandbanks for White-fronted Plover. White-fronted Bee-eaters are common and European and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters can be seen in summer. There is a surfaced pathway and several lookout platforms at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. This is a good spot to watch for raptors. There is also a bird hide at Maloutswa Pan; a good variety of water and bushveld birds can be seen through the year; Dwarf Bittern, Greater Painted-Snipe and Grey-headed Kingfisher may be seen in the summer months. The Park also contains a great number of archaeological sites dating from the early Stone Age and Iron Age; the most notable of these is Mapungubwe Hill. For further information see the SANParks website.
Balerno Bush Lodge is situated next to Mapungubwe National Park in a mixture of Mopane and broadleaved woodland with sandstone outcrops. The farm dam attracts a good variety of waterbirds and raptors. The camp is built into a rocky outcrop and the surrounding gardens are home to Paradise Flycatchers, Mocking Cliff Chats and Red-winged Starlings. The farm is safe to explore on foot and also has game species such as kudu, zebra, wildebeest and impala. The camp has seven thatched bungalows, each with a double and single bed and en-suite bathroom. There is a well-equipped central open-plan living area with kitchen, lounge, stoep, boma and plunge pool. Meals can be arranged by prior request. The owners are also able to organise access to other farm dams in the area if this is requested in advance.
Makuya Nature Reserve is situated near Pafuri Gate of the Kruger National Park. This 16,000 hectare conservation area on the Luvuvhu River is open to Kruger’s Nyalaland Wilderness Area; big game roams freely and Makuya is known for its impressive buffalo herds. There are many varied and unique plant species; major habitats in the reserve include sandstone outcrops, riparian woodland, Lebombo Ironwood thickets, Mopane woodland and Baobab ridge communities. Birdlife is abundant with over 370 species recorded in the area, including some ‘specials’ such as Böhm’s and Mottled Spinetails, Meves’s Starling, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Mosque Swallow, Grey-headed Parrot, African Yellow White-eye and Tropical Boubou.
The scenic Singo Camp provides fully-equipped tented accommodation; there are 4 tents accommodating 2 people and 2 ‘family unit’ tents accommodating 4 people; all with en-suite toilet and shower. The family units have their own kitchen facilities; there is also a large communal kitchen, dining, lounge and deck area with a stunning view over the Luvuvhu River and Kruger Park; as well as a braai area and swimming pool. There is a separate campsite for campers.
Directions: Travel on the R525 to Tshipise, continue to Masisi; or travel on the R524 through Thohoyandou to Sibasa, then to Masisi. At Masisi turn right to Tshikondeni Mine; then follow the signs to Makuya Nature Reserve.
Palala is located on a 14,000 hectare reserve in the Groblersbrug area and extends along 16km of Limpopo River frontage with fringing riparian woodland and surrounding mixed bushveld. Of the over 300 bird species recorded in the area, some of the specials are Meves’s Starling, Three-banded Courser, Tropical Boubou, White-crowned Lapwing, Allen’s Gallinule, Kori Bustard and White-backed Vulture. There is a bird hide and vulture restaurant in the reserve. The upmarket lodge with a capacity of 160 guests includes a range of luxury suites, restaurant offering fine wines and dining, outdoor lapa, ballroom complete with ceiling mirrors and crystal chandeliers, a variety of conference venues and activities, chapel, island furnished with couches and cocktail tables, outside deck and infinity pool. For those who wish to arrive in style, there is a landing strip and two helipads. Activities on offer include game drives, guided walks, bicycle safaris and fishing.
Xisaka (which means nest) is in a suburb of Giyani and provides a convenient base from which to explore this area. Nsami dam is about 10km from Xisaka and is one of the best sites for summer waders in the Soutpansberg-Limpopo Birding Route. The riverine vegetation along the Letaba River running through Giyani can also provide interesting birding. Birds which can be seen in the gardens of the Guest House include Red-headed Weaver, Klaas’s Cuckoo, African Green Pigeon and Jameson’s Firefinch. Xisaka has nine en-suite rooms, all named after birds in Xitsonga. Breakfasts and traditional Tsonga dinners are served in a large thatched lapa.