Camping with Limpopo Tourism Agency

Its been almost 19 years since my last camping experience at high school in Swaziland…and two weeks ago I was privileged to be hosted by Limpopo Tourism Agency on the Luvuvhu 4×4 Eco-Trail highlighting the beauty of their game reserves, camping and 4×4 experiences.

Our journey started on Wednesday morning when we departed from Polokwane (Limpopo Tourism offices) to Phalaborwa where we met Janco Scott (our tour guide, chef and camp master) and his crew ready with 4×4 vehicles to welcome us into the true Limpopo bush experience. This is where we kissed our gadgets and internet goodbye, as cellphone and broadband reception became a rare luxury.

golimpopo-selfie

Selfie time…who doesn’t like one?

Limpopo Tourism Agency bus which shuttled us from Polokwane to Phalaborwa a distance lasting over 2 hours meandering mountains with heavy mists and a few stops due to roadworks.

Day 1 – Baderoukwe River

Luckily the weather was kind to us, not the scotcher I had expected as our host Jerry Mamabolo (Limpopo Tourism Agency – Brand Manager) had earlier predicted.

After stocking up enough drink supplies in Phalaborwa, we departed following the main road and 20km further entered Letaba Ranch (Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park) which has no boundary fence between Kruger National Park and Letaba Ranch…enabling wildlife to roam freely around the area.

The route took us through various water holes, though we were unlucky to come across game drinking at these watering holes. Our overnight campsite was on the banks of Baderoukwe River. While seating around the fire and chatting the night away, we encountered the sound of a trumpeting elephant passing by…which scared the living daylight out of us. To most of us, this was the first time that we’ve heard such a sound and considering that we were in the middle of the bush at night…it was very frightening, but we managed to recover and went to our respective tents for an overnight without any problems.

Highlight

  • Trumpeting elephant in the thick of darkness
  • Witnessing a herd of elephants meandering on the banks of Baderoukwe River and running for their dear lives when they noticed us advancing towards them trying to catch a closer glimpse.
  • Going without cell phone reception
  • Not experiencing any problems with our tour vehicles was assuring.

The African Ivory Route central reservations office in Phalaborwa Janco Scott our tour guide, chef and camp master initiating us about the trail before it began. my tent with no-frill outdoor bathroom, all-in-one package. one of our fellow campers Isaac (Videographer – Limpopo Premier’s Office) couldn’t stomach sleeping in a tent in the middle of the bush and opted instead to squeeze himself in the Landcruiser on our first night. On the second day, he finally joined the rest of us and slept in a tent for the entire tour.
golimpopo-tour-vehicle

Day 2 – Great Letaba River

After breakfast, we departed following tracks to the confluence of the Great Letaba and Little Letaba Rivers where we stopped for lunch.

Route took us up river to our second campsite which is situated on the banks of the Great Letaba River. We did not experience any encounter with game here.

Highlight

  • Viewing hippos
  • Witnessing which of the two vehicles is capable of climbing mountains without a struggle…the Range Rover proved its worth, beating Toyota Landcruiser hands down.

We camped on the banks of Great Letaba River and on our departure the two vehicles had to prove themselves in terms of which one could easily climb a steep high…the Toyota Land Cruiser managed to pull through after three attempts, while the Range Rover passed with flying colours with only one attempt.

Below are video clips of the action…

enroute to our lunch venue we sighted hippos elephant skulls Group photograph at Little Letaba…from Left – Right is Tina (Tour Assistant) , Obriel Mpofu (SA fM), Janco Scott (Tour Guide, skilled cook and campmaster), myself and January (Tour Guide) Our campsite ready at Little Letaba…Simon in blue tracksuit. Simon is extremely concerned about safety and confirmed that he’ll never dare bring his family to a bush camp.

Day 3 – Makuya Nature Reserve

Exited Letaba Ranch and slowly made our way along the Little Letaba River. Although we were technically outside the park, we managed to see a buffalo herd as we slowly made the steep descent into the wide and sandy river bed. We followed the Kruger boundary before we climbed up the steep ascent to exit the river bed.

The route took us through Giyani, Malamulele, Vhembe, Thohoyandou rural Limpopo villages, before we crossed the Luvuvhu river and arrived at the foothills of the Tshamavudzi Mountain range.

We entered Makuya Nature Reserve of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and followed the rough tracks down into the Luvuvhu River Valley to our overnight campsite on the banks of the Luvuvhu River.
riverbank-camping

Highlight

  • Seeing the elephant trumpeting was quite an experience.
  • Took a morning bath at Luvuvhu River, a reminder of my high school days in Swaziland where we often swam at Usutu River
  • This is home to baobab trees and we also had the privilege to visit the biggest baobabs tree with its interesting historical importance.

Enroute to Makuya Nature Reserve – buffalo herd cross dry Little Letaba River the only rose amongst the thorns – Maseforo Mathatho – Thobela fM (Current Affairs Presenter) Breathtaking view from Singo Safari Lodge @ Makuya Nature Reserve, beyond the rock am history… Before setting up camp at Luvuvhu River banks, which was our shower in the morning before departing back to Polokwane.

The Elephant Encounter

While on Luvuvhu 4×4 Eco-Trail at Makuya Nature Reserve in Limpopo enroute to our campsite I was busy capturing the movement of trail 4×4 vehicle in front of us, then suddenly an enraged elephant surfaced, trumpeting its unique sounds which had previously scared the living daylight out of us when we first heard the sound at Letaba Ranch. Hearing that sound for the first time at Letaba Ranch, in thick darkness while seating around a fire was very scary…enjoy the video footage below:

The Food

Our first quick lunch was ready in a matter of minutes… the traditional braai with greek salad and flame grilled bread was our dinner on the first night. flame grilled banana was our dessert on the first night. our lunch served on day 2 Lunch @ Makuya Nature Reserve – potatoes were boiled the previous night at Little Letaba River
riverbank-arrival

My Lowlights

  • Most of the small rivers around areas of Giyani, Tzaneen in Limpopo are dry with not much grazing grass and as a result livestock particularly cattle are malnourished.
  • In order to enjoy the trail, its better to outsource everything…since the trail involves a lot of work, such as packing, unpacking, setting up camp, driving and cooking. I honestly felt pity for the trio hosting us (Janco, January and Tina) as they were always busy working to ensure we’re fully catered for.

My Takehome

Rural Limpopo is abuzz with property development amongst residents taking centre stage. To say I’m impressed is a gross understatement, I’m envious of what the locals can do without the culture of bank loans constantly forced down their throats as is the norm with many of the working class across South Africa cities.

This demonstrates that its possible to own a decent property without committing to a bank loan that takes you 20 years to repay with additional interest. There is a healthy competition amongst residents to build first grade houses that have all the bells and whistles normally associated with urban suburbs. Designer homes with multiple bedrooms, double garages and roof tiles are standard.

From the rural villages that am exposed to…such is not a norm but an exception…where only a select few residents can afford such trappings of life, when many still rely on traditional basic stick and mud as their shelter.

Residents in rural Limpopo work the soil to put food on the table. Laziness is a sin…ploughing the fields by hand is standard for many residents without means of tractors. Irrespective of the size of such fields, but you’ll find them working even under scorching temperatures.

Trail Rates

Per vehicle, max 4 people per vehicle:

  • Till 28 Feb 2014: R 5 350

Special offer for SADC Residents: R4 280

Trail prices includes

  • Professional 4×4 guide with lead vehicle equipped with a satellite phone
  • Camping fees for exclusive wilderness campsites
  • Two-way radio communication between vehicles

Credits:

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

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