In and around Pafuri River Camp
Luvhuvhu River Bridge - A Birders' Delight
The Luvuvhu River Bridge is a compulsory birding stop in the Pafuri area. An hour here will almost certainly bring some rare sightings.
To get there, go into the Kruger Park at Pafuri Gate as soon as it opens (between 5:30 and 6:30 am, depending on the time of the year). Close to the gate, in dense Mopane Trees, is your best chance of seeing the elusive Arnot's Chat. Also keep an eye out for the Southern Black Tit and Red-headed Weaver.
After 20 km, get out at the bridge and look for Pels Fishing Owl, African Finfoot, Green-backed Heron and, on the southern bank, Tropical Bou-bou, Eastern Nicator, Green-capped Eremomela and other woodland species. Nearby Baobabs provide a good chance of spotting Mottled and Bohm's Spinetails, while keeping an eye out for Horus Swift in the river banks. African Fish-Eagles nest downstream from the bridge and the African Crowned Eagle often cruises above the tree line in search of prey.
The forests on either side of the river nyalas, fever-berries, forest fever trees and sycamore figs also support a rich array of animal life. Nyala, kudu, impala and baboons browse beneath the tall trees. Look out for leopards!
Crooks Corner and the "Great Greasy Limpopo River"
"The Luvuvhu River Drive (S63) to Crooks' Corner is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful drives in Kruger. The road follows the river through tropical woodland and there are many shady viewpoints overlooking the watercourse. There are several loops along the road, all of which are worth following. The vegetation along the drive is diverse, ranging from dry thornveld and baobabs to lush riverine forest dominated by nyala trees, jackal-berries and figs, with the ghostly green fever trees providing an eerie dimension. The bird life at the water's edge is particularly abundant, often with uncommon species such as Woolly-necked and Yellow-billed Storks, Openbills and Spoonbills." - Prime Origins Guide to Exploring Kruger
Birdfinder advises following the dirt road along the river to Crooks Corner, keeping an eye out for Bohms and Mottled Spinetails, Lemon-breasted Canary, African Crowned Eagle, Narina Trogon, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Eastern Nicator, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Tambourine Dove. Get out at Crooks Corner and look for Senegal Cougal and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. Go back along the tarred road for some more great birding!
Tiger Fishing - a great catch!
Pafuri River Camp guest, Johan Bruto, decided to go on a tiger hunt on Christmas Day 2011. With his wife, Rene, and ten year-old son, Werner, he went off to Makuya Park to try his luck fishing in the Luvuvhu River.
"There was no guide available at the entrance gate, so we decided to give it a go on our own. I was a bit nervous, having my wife and family with me and knowing that we were in Big 5 country. I kept a careful watch on the bush around us as we left our 4x4 and walked down to the river," he said.
He was very successful, catching - and releasing after photos - several tiger fish.
The secret of his success, he said, was finding deep sections or potholes in the river and using sardines as bait.
"The water was very clear and that helped. But when I went back the next day, after some rain, the water was too murky to catch anything," he added.
How to get there: Take the R525 towards Tshipise. Turn left at Masisi after the red-line gate (19 km), cross the Luvuvhu River (5 km) and turn left again, through another red-line gate towards Tshikondeni Mine. At the mine, follow the Makuya Park signs to the gate.
The Big Tree, Sagole
Many claim that the Sagole Big Tree is the largest Baobab in the world! The problem is how do you measure giant trees of this nature? However, it is, without doubt, one of the four international claimants to this title and the only one in South Africa. It is also between 2 500 and 3 000 years and is said to be the oldest living thing on earth. The tree has a circumference of 43 metres and stands 22 metres tall. While a portion of its trunk has been defaced with carved names, nothing really detracts from the awesome immensity of the sight.
This is the best place to see mottled Spinetails in the late evening and early morning. As the tree's site is on communal land, with relatively poor roads, if you are not confident of driving back to Pafuri River Camp in the dark, you can arrange a guided tour via the camp office. There are also rock paintings and caves to be seen in this area.
Great birding walks and picnics at Golwe, Vhurivhuri
Golwe Picnic and Campsite is extensive and shady, set in a quiet Venda valley. It is owned and run by members of the Vhurivhuri community. All proceeds are used for the development of the community and the support of unemployed people living in the village. Marked circular trails lead from the picnic site up the valley and to a waterfall. The area can be reached in conventional two wheel drive cars. Firewood can be bought and traditional catering is available if booked in advance. Bird specials include African Broadbill, Pink-throated Twinspot, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Crowned Hornbill. Christopher Nethonzhe is the local, Birdlife SA accredited, bird guide. He can be booked through our office.
Take the challenge! Spot the small five
Many of our visitors have seen and got photographs of the Big Five, but very few can say the same about the Small Five! Why not have a go at getting them all?
The Antlion larvae can easily be found living in conical pits in soft sand, but also live freely on the bark of trees and in vegetation. Their food consists mainly of small insects, particularly ants, which are trapped when they fall into the antlion's conical sandpit. The antlion will flick sand over the struggling ant to prevent its escape and will then take hold of its prey with pincer-like mouthparts which they use to suck out liquid content.
The life cycle of this insect is known as hemi metabolic, and it will develop from egg to nymph to adult. The adult form resembles a dainty dragonfly which has an impressive wingspan of up to 16 centimetres.
The Leopard tortoise is the largest tortoise in South Africa and is the only tortoise known to be able to swim. The name originates from the similarity in the colouring of the canine leopard, but unlike the big cat, the leopard tortoise is a vegetarian and has no teeth. Instead, the tortoise has to use its beak-like upper lip to secure food including grass, flowers and the young leaves of small annuals and succulents.
The Leopard Tortoise can protect itself from predators by pulling its head and legs inside the hard dome shell; however, it is threatened by lions, leopards and hyenas, whose strong jaws are able to break through the
tortoise's protective shell.
NEVER pick a tortoise up! They are an endangered species and are vulnerable when handled.
Elephant shrews look like mice or rats but can be distinguished by their long, mobile, 'trunk-like' snouts. They have large ears, eyes and long tails, and they have large feet on their long hind legs.
A number of species of elephant shrews can be found in this area and include the short-snouted, the rock and the now rare four-toed. Generally they will emit shrill alarm calls and maintain contact by drumming the hind feet on the ground.
The red billed-buffalo weaver he largest of the weavers. These red-billed, predominantly black birds build their large communal nests of thorny sticks. The nests are usually situated on the western or north-western side of large trees and are constructed mainly by the males, with the females lining the chambers of the nests with greenery. The females then care for the chicks alone.
Verreaux's eagle-owls and white-backed vultures may occupy the platform provided by the top of the red-billed buffalo weavers' nests utilising them as platforms for their own nesting needs.
Rhino beetles are just one of the 780 Southern African species of dung beetles. These beetles have a miniature 'rhino horn', which protrudes from the head of the males only.
Ecologically dung beetles are exceptionally important as they are responsible for both the removal of waste and with assisting in the reduction of parasites. In one pile of elephant dung there could be as many as 16,000 dung beetles, which is why it is so important not to drive over dung.
Take up our challenge and see how you fare! Some of them are relatively easy to find; others are more difficult. If you get really desperate, you could consider a substitution or two. Perhaps a buffalo bean (don't touch it!) or blue buffalo grass, elephant's trunk or even cheat with a rhinoptilus africanus (double-banded courser)!
Visit a South-African birding mecca at the Pafuri Picnic Site
Pafuri Picnic Site is something of a Mecca for birders. Some respected authorities have claimed the Pafuri area provides "what is arguably the best birding in the Kruger National Park" and Birdlife SA has declared it an Important Birding area, while Birdfinder awards it the full three ticks.
On the dirt road, 200 m from the Luvuvhu River bridge towards the picnic site, look out for Crested Guinea Fowl, Common Scimitarbill, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Meves's Starling, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, Bearded and White-browed Scrub-Robin, White-throated Robin-Chat, Retz's Helmet-Shrike and Broad-billed Roller. Purple and Village Indigobirds (and their Firefinch hosts) may also be seen here as well as a range of Warblers Whitethroat, Olive-tree and Common plus the Nightingale Thrush.
Follow the signs to the picnic site and bird its perimeter. You should see many of the above specials here as well as Green-capped Eremomela, Purple-crested Turaco, Tropical Boubou, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Pels Fishing Owl in the riverine trees. The river in front is good for White-crowned Lapwing, Water Thick-knee and sometimes African Finfoot. Accredited bird guide, Frank Mabasa, (right) is stationed at the site and has an extensive knowledge of the birds in his area. Frank can also be booked for guiding through our camp office.
The Pafuri Picnic Site is a tranquil place and the tall shade trees provide a welcome relief from the hot sun. Nyala, kudu and impala usually graze around the picnic area. To get a feel for the Luvuvhu landscape, spend at least an hour at this site, watching birds, counting crocodiles and reading, relaxing or walking around. There are toilet and braai facilities and one can hire a gas skottel' as well as buy firewood and cold drinks.
Discover an Unknown Ethnic Artist
Philemon Mbedzi is, according to his own description, a totally unknown, but very prolific artist. Every bit of the walls of his home, which doubles as his studio, is covered with his pictures and paintings, all available at very reasonable prices. Most of his paintings are on sheeting, using a combination of water colours and traditional paints, and will need some form of protective coating if they are to last.
Self taught, with the assistance of a tutor, Philemon's style is eclectic and varied. His studio is well worth a visit and, if a picture catches your fancy, perhaps a small investment. Who knows, he might be famous one day!
Genuine African Artworks at Rebecca's Pottery
Rebecca's home and pottery studio in Matavhela has become a compulsory visit for everyone who is interested in authentic Venda arts and crafts. She is particularly admired for her use of metals and metallic glazes and is today acknowledged as a leading artist in her field.
She only speaks Venda, but her granddaughter or grandson will happily show you around and translate for you. Her artwork speaks for itself.