Gannaga Adventures

Tanqua Karoo National Park Panorama

Trips to the lesser known parts of Southern Africa


Luvuvhu 4x4 Eco Trail - Mapungubwe National Park - Marakele National Park - Pilanesberg National Park - Mokala National Park - April 2012

You can download the Garmin GDB file of this trip here

Day 1 - 665km:
Ceres - Colesberg
Stayed at Sunset Chalets - recommended
Ate at Bordeaux Restaurant - also recommended

Day 2 - 617km:
Colesberg - Johannesburg
Stayed with my daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law

Day 3 - 536km:

Johannesburg - Shona-Langa Resort (or Shonalanga) near Phalaborwa on the banks of the Olifants River.
Ablutions need lots of attention - there was no water at all in the men's section.
The staff were very friendly, but obviously not too worried about the maintenance.
BUT, and this is a big BUT, it is a brilliant camp site, none the less - just make sure you have everything - just in case.

Warning Sign
We were greeted by a herd of elephants on the other side of river. Water buck also made an appearance.
Water bucks at Shona Langa

We saw and heard plenty of hippos, too.
Watch the vervet monkeys if they are not resting.

Ape on swing

Day 4 - 46km - 3,5 hours

This was the start of the Levuvhu Trail.
We were met by our very able guide Kwagga (real name Almero) and his partner Niekie - the navigator - since they only tracked the route by GPS on this trip.

The driving was easy. 1 Star 4x4.

Camp Site Day 1

The camp, like all others on the trail, is unfenced, as you can see above. This is necessary to see any unwelcome visitors during the night.
A PortaPotti inside your tent/vehicle is highly recommended.

Soon after arrival, this fellow showed up and kept us entertained for a long while.

Elephant at camp one

During the night a leopard barked, if that is the right word.
Kwagga watched him come to within 100m of our camp.
A Saddle Billed Stork showed off his / her brilliant colours.

Day 5 - 47km - 6 hours

Bit of a disappointment today. The Letaba Ranch part of the trail could not be travelled all the way since commercial hunting takes place and someone had wounded a buffalo the day before and they were still looking for it.
We had to go around that part of the ranch passing through many settlements / villages.
Some of us still found that part very interesting, especially seeing amazing palaces built among traditional rondavels. We all guessed that the palaces belonged to municipal or state employees.

Had to drive long stretches along Letaba Ranch and Kruger NP fences.

Still had some great views - for example, the Letaba River.

River View

Camp Day 2 - we had to follow a dry river bed for about 800m before our guide found this spot. The temparature was 41°C when we stopped.

Camp Day 2

Day 6 - 106km - 7,5 hours - lots of bouncing over rocks - 2 Star 4x4

On this stretch we had our only puncture among the 5 vehicles.
A side wall was torn (but it was repaired in Musina later on for only R170).

We still had to pass through many settlements. Strange that neither Garmin topo maps or Tracks4Africa show them.

You vehicle WILL get scratched on this trip, so if you do not want memories engraved on your vehicle, do not do this trail.
Fortunately none of us were bothered about the undergrowth and sometimes it felt like we were going through a jungle.

A seed guard for the radiator is also a good idea for this trail.


Tracks and scratches

The autumn colours were amazing.

Autumn Colours

The gate below, with two different locks, is another one of the quirks of this trail.
The only people going through the gate are the guides and their guests on the trail.
Still there is a guy living in the building in the background who unlocks the one gate - this is the veterinary gate guy. A form has to be filled in.
We then had to wait about an hour for one Edward who was from the local tourism authority to open his gate. Another form.
This is inefficient job creation at its worst.
There is even a new conference centre, never used, at this spot.

But, at least, we now entered the best section of the trail - the Makula Section.

Locked Gate

Great camp site - we were told that we could swim / wash in the river close by since the guides had never seen crocs or hippos there - so we did and only a little nervous.

Camp Day 3

Day 7 - 42km - 6,5 hours - lots of bouncing - 2 Star 4x4

Came across an anti-poaching unit. Did not stop for a chat.

World View one of the highlights of the trail

World View

The last camp site was being prepared for a school fund raising project for over 20 4x4's - thank goodness we left early. Strange after being told that we would be the only people in the whole of the reserve.
But there were proper ablutions. Buffaloes passed within 200m.

Camp 4B

Day 8 - 21km - 4 hours

Last day of trail. Stopped at the Levuvhu Gorge view point

Levuvhu Gorge

and even had to do a river crossing - not a problem that day, but will be after rains.

River crossing

and ended at the Kruger National Park's Pafuri Gate.

We had some discussions as to whether it's worth to pay R4000 - R4500 per vehicle for this trail.
Opinions varied. Consensus was that Days 3 & 4 were the best.

Some felt that Days 1 & 2 were a waste of time, especially driving along the Kruger National Park fence for hours on end, with no game in sight.

I did not mind driving through the villages, because I had not seen that part of South Africa before.

So if you want a mild 4x4 experience with some spectacular scenery, with obviously no animals guaranteed, then this trail is for you. Be prepared to be bounced around for hours at a time.

We camped at the Pafuri River Camp which I can recommend.

This was also the first chance we had to wash some clothes.

Pafuri River Camp

Day 9 - 69km

Took a drive through the Pafuri section of the Kruger. Saw more animals in the first hour than on the whole of the Levuvhu Trail.


There were even some creepy things on display


Day 10 - Pafuri River Camp - Mapungubwe National Park - 299km

Stopped at main gate to book in and then drove mostly tar on the outside of the park to the Mazhou camp site .

Mazhou Camp

Day 11 within Mapungubwe.

The Den Staat public road between the two sections of the park is really terrible (corrugated) and you do not want to drive it more than once.

Did the tourist thing and took a guided tour to Mapungubwe Hill. Was very enlightening and the guide was knowledgeable and entertaining.


Steps to Mapungubwe

There are still many signs of the destruction of the 2000 floods.
Elephants also flatten the border fence between SA and Zim.
On that point - there is no way that the SA authorities can prevent illegal immigrants from entering the RSA. The border is impossible to guard.

The Maloutswa hide was good to us.

Bush Pigs

These views with South Africa in the foreground, a piece of Botswana in the middle and Zimbabwe in the distance make a trip to this far flung corner of SA (for us Kapenaars, at least) worthwhile.
Also amazing that 2 days ago we were at Crooks' Corner in the Kruger where South Africa, Mozambique & Zimbabwe meet.


All three countries

Day 12 - Mapungubwe - Marakele National Park - 410km

Potholes from Alldays. We found that as we entered different district municipalities that the road conditions changed, from smooth to Mozambique-like potholed.

Without warning we came to this spectacle along the road.

Spoonbills and Maribous

Managed to find a back road for the last bit to the park - the D928. Some potholes, but more interesting than a tar road.

The Marakele Bontle camp site has 38 stands, mostly with some shade.


Marakele Camp Site 2

This guy and his family can surprise you. There is a water hole close by and there is continuous game traffic.

Rhino at Marakele

Up to 6 rhinos at times come into the unfenced camp. Do NOT play with them.
During one night we had a herd of blue wildebeest sleeping within 10m of our bakkie.

Marakele consists of 2 sections - the big five section and the "safe" section. There is an electrified gate between the 2 sections. We had fun stopping at that gate, since the buttons for opening the gate were "Sorry - Out of Order" and one of us had to get out to open the gate for our 2 vehicles.

Marakele with its stunning vistas and quite frightening road up to the Sentech and radio towers is my favourite park of the trip.
We could not quite reach the top of the mountain, since it was covered in mist and it would have been pointless to continue. This pass is not for the faint-hearted and you need to be aware of who is ahead of and behind you.

To the tower

Do not try this if you have a headache

Giraffe with bent neck

The park is a delight for birders, too.

Southern Pied Babbler

Day 13 - stayed at Marakele.

There is a pub / restaurant at the park's gate, but outside of it. Had a great meal there. Seems to be a popular hangout for the locals, too.

Day 14 - Marakele - Pilanesberg National Park - 115km

We were aware that this was the start of a long weekend. Sometimes it felt like the whole of Gauteng was at the camp (Bakgatla) and I suggest you stay away from there weekends, holidays and public holidays.

Bakgatla Camp Site

We even had a guy pitching his camp 10m from us just before midnight.

We covered most of the roads in the park. Some were very rewarding game wise, others not.

Vista at Pilanesberg

Many of the roads cannot be negotiated with ordinary cars because of wash-aways and poor maintenance.

We took a lovely video of this group. Amazing how close we got. The animals at Pilanesberg are not afraid of people / vehicles.

Giraffes at Pilanesberg

Even the birds

There was even time to get romantic

Romantic Zebras


Day 15 - drove around Pilanesberg

Day 16 - Pilanesberg - Mokala National Park - 611km

Strange thing - just before Lichtenburg there is a section of road under construction, but there is no contractor, only the people regulating the traffic, since there is only one driveable lane. There is grass growing between the driveable lane and the one under construction. I wonder what happened there.

There are 2 sections in Mokala National Park, only recently joined - Mosu and Lilydale.
Since we were staying at Lilydale, coming from the north, we took the turn-off passed Modderrivier, saving ourselves about 1,5 hours of driving - have a look at the GPS files.

We treated ourselves to some chalets since the one and only camp site was fully booked for the long weekend. Thank goodness, too, since the night temperatures dropped to 7°C.

Chalet Inside

This was the view from the chalet. The river is fenced off, so we saw no animals approaching it. There are a few official angling spots along the river.

View from Chalet

The game, mostly antelope, is plenty.

This fellow was very skittish and I did not catch his best side.

Rhino at Mokala

This park even has black wildebeest and this one was checking us out.

Black Gnu



Day 17 - Drove around Mokala

Day 18 - Home - 821km

There were lots of stops at construction points along the way. We took 10 hours.

Total distance travelled ±4800km, depending whether I believe the Tracker system, which seemed to be down for  2 days, or my bakkie's tacheometer.

Diesel prices varied from R11,02 - R12,05.
Tip - stay away from the garages along the national and main roads. At Lichtenburg, for example, a small garage outside of town changed R11,38/l whereas the ENGEN garage charged R12,05/l.