Using an atmospheric tented bush camp as base, this excellent walking safari enables you to explore a scenically diverse private concession at the top end of the Kruger National Park, close to the borders of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The Pafuri Walking Trail is led by experienced, professional guides and the camp is staffed to ensure that you are looked after properly. The Pafuri region is noted for its particularly beautiful and varied habitats – think baobabs, yellow-barked fever trees, rocky outcrops, perennial rivers and verdant floodplains, which provide a draw for wildlife and birds. It’s also priced very reasonably.
pafuri walking trails highlights
- A scenically stunning area, quite unlike the rest of the Kruger
- A sense of remoteness in unspoiled wilderness
- 2 perennial rivers draw excellent game and birdlife
- The wonderful experience of tracking animals while on foot
- Access to the Lanner Gorge basin, Limpopo fever tree forest and Crook’s Corner
- Genuine bush camping experience, but with creature comforts – solid framed beds, hot bucket showers, stocked bar, en suite flush chemical loos
- Full camp service – sit back and relax!
- Birder’s paradise (over 450 species of birds) with unique species only occurring in Pafuri
Pafuri walking trails in detail
Pafuri Walking Trails is located in the private Makuleke Concession of the Kruger National Park, right at the top end, and sits between the perennial Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers in the Pafuri region. It’s arguably one of the best walking concessions in the Kruger owing to its wonderful scenery, seasonally high densities of large mammal species and its feeling of wilderness and remoteness. The topography of the concession lends itself extremely well to exploration on foot and even if you were to come away having not seen much wildlife (which is highly unlikely), the scenic pleasures alone and experience of wilderness will stir your soul – the picture gallery at right should give you a good sense of this.
The trails are privately run by a professional and friendly outfit and you will be looked after very well. The word “private” frequently implies high prices in Africa, but this safari is actually very reasonably priced.
The walking camp itself is set up in the shade of enormous indigenous trees. Comfortable walk-in tents with separate hot bucket showers and ‘eco-loos’ accommodate a maximum of eight trailists, hosted by a knowledgeable ranger and camp team. At night, lanterns and a crackling fire light the camp and create an intimate atmosphere in the heart of the African bush, and guests dine beneath the stars.
During the daytime, your ranger and tracker will lead you out into the concession, exploring in a new direction each day, following natural pathways that have been etched into the landscape by wildlife and tracking spoor where possible. Where you walk will depend very much upon animal activity, but you will get the chance to explore the variety of habitats on offer here. The typical pattern is to undertake a 3 to 4 hour walk shortly after dawn, when animal activity is usually at its best, covering anything between 4 and 10 kms before returning to camp for brunch and a well-deserved siesta during the heat of the day. A vehicle can also be used to access different parts of the concession, where you can explore on foot, depending upon group preferences and animal activity in the area. A shorter afternoon walk departs after high tea and usually takes in some of the area’s look-out points so that you can soak up the magnificent scenery.
The Trails Camp at Pafuri operates seasonally from April to October. You can start your safari on any day you choose, provided there is availability, and the minimum stay is 2 nights. However, unless time is short, we recommend a stay of 3 or 4 nights to get the most from the safari and truly relax. A good option is to add a night or two at Pafuri Luxury Tented Camp, or an alternative permanent camp nearby before or after the walking safari. If you have an adventurous nature, also consider the 7-night Luvuvhu Discovery Trail, which is an extended supported trail that combines a lodge night with 3 nights wild camping and 3 nights at Pafuri Trails Camp. This is run on set departure dates during the dry season and can also be set up on non-scheduled dates for groups of 4 or more.
You can drive to Pafuri, but as it’s 7 hours from Johannesburg, it makes sense to combine a safari here with a wider exploration of the region. Alternatively, it’s possible to fly as follows:
- There’s a daily flight from Johannesburg Grand Central Airport direct to Pafuri Airstrip. This is a charter service priced on a seat-rate basis for a minimum of two persons. There are complimentary transfers between Grand Central and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International (a 25 minute ride).
- There are daily scheduled flights into Polokwane and Phalaborwa airports and transfers between these airports and camp can be arranged.
The Pafuri region is scenically diverse and is quite unlike any other region of the Kruger Park, much of which undulates only very gently and has more homogeneous vegetation. Situated between the two life-bringing arteries of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers, both of which have well-developed floodplains, lies a network of drainage channels that wind their way through rocky hills, deep, shaded gorges and ethereal forests. Vegetation is varied and frequently startling, with forests of beautiful yellow-barked fever trees, monolith baobabs (particularly big in this region) and mopane woodland, intermingled with open savannah grassland. Rocky kopjes (outcrops) dotted with straggly baobabs provide endless vistas across palm-studded floodplains, acacia woodland and seams of ethereal riverine forest.
The Pafuri region is famous for the large herds of elephant and buffalo that are resident most of the year round, which concentrate in particular around the permanent waters of the Luvuvhu River in the dry winter months. Leopard have been sighted hunting the strong populations of nyala and impala that live alongside the Luvuvhu system. On the eastern boundary the Luvuvhu supports a large population of hippo and crocodile. The Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers host the highest density of nyala in Kruger and species such as eland, Sharpe’s grysbok and yellow-spotted rock dassie, which are difficult to find further south in the park, are regularly seen here. A drive along the floodplain and fringes of either of the two large rivers usually produces good general game in the form of nyala, impala, greater kudu, chacma baboon, waterbuck, warthog and sometimes grey duiker and bushbuck, while careful searching may yield the more elusive residents of the area such as lion and leopard. Other areas hold steenbok, the agile klipspringer and herds of Burchell’s zebra. Recently, and excitingly, species such as wildebeest and white rhino have been relocated to the area, from which they have been locally extinct for almost a century.
The area has long been regarded as something of a Mecca for southern African birdwatchers. Some species are found nowhere else in South Africa and the serious birder will revel in being able to find Böhm’s and Mottled Spinetails, Racket-tailed Roller, Three-banded Courser and Southern Hyliota. Other specials are Black-throated Wattle-Eye, Pel’s Fishing-Owl, Yellow White-Eye, Meve’s Starling and Tropical Boubou.
wHERE TO FROM HERE
Pafuri is located right up in the north-east corner of South Africa and takes a full day to get to by car (7 hours of driving). Unless you are flying in and out, a good idea is to make a wider tour of this part of South Africa, over the course of a week or longer. Options to consider are:
- Extend into a wider tour of the Kruger Park, either visiting national park camps or heading to the private concession areas located on the south western border of the national park, or both. From there a tour of the Panorama Region of Mpumalanga, featuring Blyde River Canyon, can be added on easily. Note that if you opt to fly to Pafuri, there are also air links with the private camps lying to the south.
- Explore Limpopo Province by car, particularly the Waterberg area. Links to the Waterberg can also be made by air if preferred.
- Continue west and south of the Waterberg to Madikwe Game Reserve. Again, if you fly to Pafuri, there are direct air links with Madikwe.
- Consider visiting the Tuli Block in Botswana, located just across the international border and only a few hours’ drive from Pafuri – leave your car securely at the border or drive across, then take transfers directly into camps. Mashatu Game Reserve within Tuli is excellent, featuring some high quality camps as well as a very good walking safari.