This adventurous, semi-mobile walking safari enables one to explore the sublime wilderness areas in the Pafuri Region at the top end of the Kruger National Park in the company of a very experienced and personable guide. It’s a complete one-off and quite unlike any other walking safari in South Africa. After a night spent in the comfort of a private bush house, you’ll spend the first half of the week fly-camping in the wild, exploring the Luvuvhu and Mutale Rivers, and adjacent areas; you’ll travel light as overnight gear will be transported round and dropped off close to your overnight camping spots, where fire watch rotation during the night is a challenge to be relished. The second half of the week is spent in the relative comfort of the Pafuri Walking Trails Camp, where you’ll explore other parts of the Makuleke Wilderness Area on foot. Limited dates are available and book up fast.
luvuvhu discovery trail highlights
- A scenically stunning area, with a sense of remoteness in unspoiled wilderness
- A good balance between comfort and roughing it – “relatively” soft adventure
- Led by a very experienced and personable guide, with support team
- An opportunity to delve deeply into nature and bush lore over an extended period
- Bathe in river pools
- A proper mobile stage though a Big-5 wilderness area, quite unlike most South African walking safaris which are single camp experiences
- Fire watch!
- Birder’s paradise (over 450 species of birds) with unique species only occurring in Pafuri
The first night is spent in the comfort of Baobab Hill House, a former ranger’s house set in an idyllic position just north of the Luvuvhu River and within the Kruger National Park, on a small hill dotted with Baobabs. Accommodating 8 guests, it has a simple, colonial feel and has been refurbished tastefully and to a high standard, without being over the top – its home from home in the bush and usually rented privately. The house features a lovely, broad veranda and outside gazebo, along with a fire pit and small swimming pool – all the essential ingredients for enjoying the outdoors whilst at “home”. Here you’ll have the opportunity to start getting to know the other guests on the safari, whilst kit and food for the next few days (the fly-camping stage) will be checked by the guide, who will also run through the logistics and safety aspects of the trail. Enjoy a typical South African braai in the evening, provided by your hosts; breakfast in the morning will be self-catered.
The next 3 nights are spent out in the bush, commencing at the Mutale Gorge in the western extremity of the trails area and ending at the Pafuri Trails Camp. Over 4 days the trail group will the area around the Mutale and Luvuvhu Rivers. This stage of the safari is a proper wilderness experience – you’ll be sleeping out beneath the stars (no tents!) in wild camping positions, the location of which will be chosen when out on trail, depending upon how you move as a group and where game is found. These campsites have absolutely no facilities – a small fire is made for the purposes of safety, not for cooking, and the group will take turns to conduct fire-watch on a shift basis. This element sounds daunting, but it is a challenge to relish – sitting and stoking the fire in the middle of the night as the only person awake, listening to the trills and calls emanating from the African bush is a wonderful way to connect with nature. There are no facilities and a spade will be used to dig a toilet; you sleep on a thin mattress on the ground, wash using river water when possible and wear the same clothes. You’ll leave nothing behind but footprints.
The route followed is not fixed. Some of the time you’ll walk along the rivers and you can bathe in pools if water levels allow. Overnight gear and supplies will be packed into large rucksacks and dropped off by vehicle as close to the chosen camping positions as possible. During the day, you walk with just a light day pack carrying your essentials, although you should note that there is also a chance that you might be asked to truly backpack all gear to one of the overnight camps because there is no vehicle drop-off point nearby. Travelling light is important, as is fitness. Food, which is to be provided by you for this stage of the trip (we can also arrange for trail food to be provided for you), should ideally be in the form of easy-cook, lightweight wilderness trail meals; cooking is done on small camping gas stoves that you have to carry. A communal kettle is carried and this can be used to boil water for hot drinks on the fire. In the interests of safety, no alcohol is permitted on this wild camping stage of the trip.
Once you commence this stage there are no shortcuts. Campsite to campsite is between 6 to 8 hours on foot, not rushing, but spending time appreciating the wilderness. Many sections are steep and rocky. If the group reaches a campsite destination with time to spare, the opportunity may exist to drop off kit and do further exploration.
The last 3 nights are spent in comparative comfort at the Pafuri Trails Camp, an unfenced tented camp which is fully serviced and catered. Enjoy soft, comfortable beds, delicious food and ice-cold beers! Although comforts will be significantly elevated compared to the previous 3 nights, this is still very much a bush camp; you’ll explore the great diversity that the Makuleke concession has to offer, walking out direct from the camp or using a vehicle to take you out to areas further afield to walk there. For greater detail on the trails camp, safari format and the area in which you’ll be walking, please consult the Pafuri Walking trails page HERE.
fitness & suitability
A reasonable level of fitness is required for this safari. On the fly-camping stage you’ll walk for about 7 hours each day, and there are many steep, rocky sections to cross. The trail is not for the inexperienced and you should have completed previous multiday hikes and spent some time in wilderness areas. If you can jog for 4kms on 4 consecutive days, that is a good indicator of the required level of fitness. Fitness enhances the trail experience. You must also be fluent in English and be 18 years or older. Owing to the safety requirement of maintaining the fire at night during the wild camping stage, the trail requires 8 persons so that this duty can be rotated.
When & how to join
A number of fixed date trail departures are set each season (see box on the right) and it should be noted that these fill quickly – the trail is deservedly popular!
The trail takes place in the South African winter, which is the dry season. Average temperatures in June and July are around 25 deg.C in the day and 10 deg.C at night, but it can drop to around 5 deg.C. It is warmer in April or September, which is a good time for trails.
It is possible to create trails for groups of a minimum of 4 persons, provided these fit with the trail schedule and the booking profile of Pafuri Trails Camp.
3 May – 10 May
31 May – 7 June
31 July – 7 August
30 August – 6 September
Other trail dates can be created for groups of a minimum of 4 persons, provided Baobab Hill House and Pafuri Trails Camp have availability for the dates requested.