The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is the fourth largest game reserve in South Africa and home to the Big 5. It’s found in North West Province, west of the city of Pretoria. A leisurely 2-hour drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria means its accessible to local holidaymakers and international tourists pressed for

The beauty of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve is it’s in a certified malaria-free region. Malaria is a serious disease contracted from the malaria-carrying mosquito. Families with young children opt for Pilanesberg because there is no risk of malaria.

Accommodation in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve ranges from affordable self-catering units or camping sites in a large resort to luxury safari lodges situated in remote areas with exclusive access. It’s ideal for a 2-day safari holiday or stay longer to explore the area. The world-renowned Sun City Casino & Entertainment Complex is an easy 20-minute drive from the Park so add an extra day to your itinerary to fit in a fun day in the sun at this incredible resort.

Pilanesberg Game Reserve is known for its dramatic landscapes and abundance of game and birdlife. It lies nestled in an ancient volcanic structure which is circular in shape and rises from flat savanna grasslands. The unique landscape is formed by three concentric ridges or rings of hills; the outmost has a diameter of about 24 kilometres.

The mighty Elands River flows south of the Pilanesberg and the Park itself is renowned for its man-made dams which attract game and birds to its lush banks. A popular activity includes game viewing at one of the many bird hides in the reserve which gives visitors a chance to stretch their legs and spend time soaking up the peace and tranquility of the bushveld.

The name “Pilanes” is derived from a historic figure, Tswane chief Pilane, and “berg” means mountain in Afrikaans; although the dominant landmark is not a mountain but is in fact an alkaline ring complex.

There’s so much to do and see at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve; within its borders and the surrounding region. We’ve picked the Top 5 in each category to provide you with interesting information to kick start your safari holiday in South Africa’s favourite game reserve.




It’s not a mountain

The mountain or “berg” as the Afrikaans-speaking population call it is a striking feature of the game reserve. However, it’s not a mountain; it is the Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex. The striking mountain you see on a visit to the Pilanesberg is part of a vast circular geological feature; the remains of the crater of a long-extinct volcano which is the result of eruptions that occurred some 1 200 million years ago.

The geological marvel is one of the largest volcanic complexes of its type in the world. There are a few similar alkaline volcanic structures found elsewhere but the Pilanesberg game reserve can lay claim to being located on the largest of them all.

The vast circular geological feature is the crater of a long-extinct volcano and the result of eruptions some 1,200 million years ago. The rare rock types and formations make it a unique geological feature and a sought-after destination for geologists. Distinct types of syenites occur in the crater area, including several rare minerals.

The crater was formed 2 000 million years ago. At its peak, the volcano stood majestically some 7 000 metres in height. Volcanic eruptions occurred, and lava spewed out over several decades. The crater collapsed, and ring fracturing occurred around the volcano.

Magma squeezed into these fractures which resulted in several “onion rings” which is a visual manifestation of rocks of different ages. Over millions of years, erosion stripped away the volcanic crater and reduced its height.

What we see today is not so much a volcanic crater but a cross-section through the magma pipes that occurred at great depths below the mountain’s summit.

The first inhabitants were the Tswana tribe

Traces of Tswana habitation that have been found in the Pilanesberg area by archaeologists date back to 1 750AD and some traces found in the surrounding region date back to 1 300AD. The Tswana tribe occupied the territory between 300AD and 600AD.

The Tswana tribe moved away for a while for a reason archaeologist can’t explain and returned in 1 200AD. There are also many Stone and Iron Age sites found throughout the Pilanesberg, making the area a fascinating region to explore if ancient history interests you.

The first Europeans to arrive in the Pilanesberg area were a handful of traders who travelled to the region in 1892 from Cape Town. Robert Schoon and William McLuckie were accompanied by a missionary by the name of Robert Moffat. The famous Big Game hunter, William Cornwallis Harris, was known to have hunted in the Pilanesberg in the late 1930s. He reported on the troublesome tsetse fly problem that plagued the valley at the time and kept inhabitants away.

Hendrick Potgieter brought the first Voortrekkers to the Pilanesberg in 1839 and settled them near Phoken. The lush valley was soon planted with crops such as citrus, winter wheat, tobacco and coffee which thrived in the temperate, frost-free climate of the north-western region.

Mining exploration began in the early 1850s and vast quantities of coal, iron, copper, cobalt and gold have been found in the region giving rise to the mining emporium that dominates the economic landscape of the North West Province.

Operation Genesis broke world records

In 1969, the idea of developing the Pilanesberg into a recreation and nature reserve was proposed by members of the University of Potchefstroom. Politicians supported the concept, but it was only in 1979 that the Pilanesberg Game Reserve was established.

The dynamic property magnate Sol Kerzner had by then had made a bid to own the land surrounding what is now Mankwe Dam to establish his fantasy casino and entertainment resort. The late Lucas Mangope, president of Bophuthatswana, refused his application in anticipation that the land would fall into the proposed game reserve. Kerzner went on to build the world-renowned entertainment resort on leased land bordering the south of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.

Buoyed to get things started, Mangope embarked on a mission to rehabilitate the land that would become the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The area had been used for intense commercial farming and then handed over to rural farmers; the land had been neglected and was degraded and depleted. Alien plants were removed, eroded land was rehabilitated, derelict homesteads and outbuildings were knocked down and an old fluorite mine was dismantled.

Then began the largest movement of animals ever attempted at the time. Dubbed Operation Genesis, 6 000 animals were relocated to the Pilanesberg at the cost of R1.5 million. An additional R1.8 million was spent on buying the game. Years later, Operation Phoenix would surpass the record where 10 000 animals were relocated to the Pilanesberg’s sister park, Madikwe Game Reserve.

The animals which arrived early were held in holding areas adjacent to what is now Manyane Camp as the finishing touches were put to erecting the fences and building dams. Over 200 animals died because of either stress or the cramped conditions; otherwise, Operation Genesis was regarded world-wide as a resounding feat.

The number of animals in the Pilanesberg were kept to 50% of the maximum carrying capacity to allow the area to rejuvenate naturally. From the late 1980s, numbers have increased significantly. Lion were reintroduced to the area in 1993; wild dogs were reintroduced in 1999. Both species are carefully managed through conservation breeding programmes.

It’s not a South African national park

Contrary to widespread belief, South Africa’s favourite game reserve is not a South African national park. The wildlife sanctuary is managed by the North West Parks Board (NWPB) and not the national government. As of April 2018, NWPB falls under North West Development Corporation (NWDC) which falls directly under the Premier of the North West Province.

The Pilanesberg region has been home to two main tribes who have for decades inhabited what was formerly an independent homeland, Bophuthatswana. The Pilanesberg area was proclaimed a national park of Bophuthatswana in the 1970s and 52 farmers were bought out and relocated.

The town of Pilanesberg was leveled to create the national game reserve and all that remains of the old dusty town is the Magistrate’s Court, which now serves as the Pilanesberg Information Centre. The only other sign of its former inhabitants are graveyards that lie nestled in thick grasslands and can only be seen when controlled burning takes place.

The game reserve was originally viewed as the national park of Bophuthatswana, although it has been referred to as either Pilanesberg Game Reserve or National Park since it was founded in 1979. The late president of Bophuthatswana, Lucas Mangope, was instrumental in establishing the wildlife sanctuary but he was disposed of in a coup by the old government and the ANC and put into what was otherwise known as protective custody. Bophuthatswana was reincorporated into South Africa, but the reserve has remained in the hands of the local tribes.

The name Pilanesberg is rich in history and has not been changed by the new government of South Africa. Chief Pilane’s grandfather fought with the British against the Boers and had a reputation for being invisible. He was compensated by the government of the British Colony and given land for services rendered.

The northern corner of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve was originally owned by the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela tribe. The southern part was originally farmland owned by Boer farmers that settled there from the 1860’s; they were responsible for building Houwater Dam (now Mankwe Dam) which is a dominant feature in the reserve. These farms in the south were bought by the government in the 1960s.

The Bakubung tribe settled in the area, having arrived from the nearby town of Ventersdorp. The area was then declared an independent homeland as an area for members of a specific ethnicity and called Bophuthatswana which means “gathering of the Tswana people”.

Chief Tsidmane Pilane from the Bakgatla tribe came to an agreement with the government of Bophuthatswana that their mountainous region would be included in the new reserve. Sixty families were moved to a new town to the east of the reserve under the care of a tribal authority.

Pilanesberg growing in size and popularity

The Pilanesberg Game reserve is an area that spans some 572 square kilometres. Its size increased from 552 to 572 square kilometres as part of a 10-year plan to establish a wildlife corridor between the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and Madikwe Game Reserve. There continues to be several additions of land as private owners opt to drop their fences and incorporate their private game farms into the Greater Pilanesberg region.

Black Rhino Game Reserve is a private reserve that has recently been incorporated into the Pilanesberg Game Reserve on the north-western boundary. Its sweet veld vegetation complements the Pilanesberg’s predominantly mixed sour veld. This in turn attracts a wide variety of game which can safely traverse between the two protected regions. Sightings of the Big 5 are common and the private concession is well-known for its incredible wildlife and birds.

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is easily accessible from South Africa’s two major cities; Johannesburg and Pretoria. It’s an easy 2-hour drive to the game reserve or visitors can opt to fly-in as the Pilanesberg Airport is close to the reserve. Coupled with its close proximity to South Africa’s favourite entertainment destination, Sun City; the Pilanesberg Game Reserve has grown in popularity. It was recently voted South Africa’s #1 game reserve in a recent tourism poll.




Pilanesberg Game Reserve lies nestled in an ancient volcano setting which is not actually an old volcano but rather an alkaline ring complex which was produced by volcanic eruptions some 1 200 million years ago. It is renowned world-wide for its unique geological features and rare rock types.

The Pilanesberg region has survived decades of erosion which has created an incredible landscape of rocky hills and lush savanna grasslands, interspersed with thickets, wooded gorges and barren open plains.

The game reserve lies in a transition zone between the dry Kalahari Desert and the lush Lowveld bushveld. Unlike the Kruger National Park, these two unique eco-zones merge seamlessly to create a unique eco-zone which supports a variety of game. There are over 132 species of trees in the reserve and at least 68 species of grasses.

The typography of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve is a visual feast; from syenite koppies, thick forested ravines, scrub bushveld, rolling grasslands and lightly wooded areas. At the centre of the park stands Thabayadiotso, the “Proud Mountain” which has been created because of volcanic eruptions and extreme erosion.

There are 5 distinct eco-zones in the Pilanesberg created by the typography of the game reserve:

North-facing slopes

These slopes receive more sunlight and are hotter and drier than the south-facing slopes. As a result, the vegetation on the northern slopes is vastly different to the southern slopes.

Common trees found on the northern slopes include the red bushwillow and the live-long tree. Red bushwillows thrive in the rocky, sandy soils and are prolific in the area. They have four-winged seeds which are slightly toxic but were used by rural folk as a tonic to cure stomach upsets. The ‘live-long’ tree grows up to 8 metres in height and is recognisable by its creamy-yellow flowers that appear in early April. The tree produces tasty purple-black fruit which the birds and browsers love.

South-facing slopes

The south-facing slopes are cooler and receives less sun, so the vegetation retains moisture. This is ideal for tree species such as hook thorn, beech, wild pear and buffalo thorn. The mountain cabbage tree species flourished for over 140 years in the area when elephants were absent. After elephants moved in, this species is now restricted to the highest hills.


The lower lying areas in the alkaline ring complex that makes up the Pilanesberg Game Reserve become waterlogged in summer. The extra nutrient and water creates what is known as ‘sweetveld’ (sweet grasslands) that grazers love.

The savanna grasslands are dominated by sweet thorn, umbrella thorn, karree, leadwood, tamboti and buffalo-thorn trees. Common game found in the open grasslands include zebra, wildebeest and tsessebe. There is more food per hectare in this eco-zone than any other habitat in the reserve which can sustain large herds of game.

Ouklip plains

Over decades, the water from waterlogged areas evaporates leaving behind iron-rich minerals. These nutrients bake in the hot sun and become a hard layer of rock which locals call ‘ouklip’. A thin layer of soil builds up on top of the ouklip, but it is not deep enough or rich enough to support large trees and lush vegetation. Trees struggle to take root through the hard ouklip layer but grass species flourish.

Valley and hillside thickets

Pilanesberg Game Reserve is known for its thickets of sweet thorn and black thorn which occurs in brak soils in the valleys and rocky outcrop surrounds. Outcrops of red syenite have weathered into red-brown boulders that support thickets dominated by lavender fever-berry, large-leaved fig and red balloon trees. This is a smorgasbord for hungry browsers.

Thickets provide less food per hectare than the open savanna grasslands and only attract browsers who enjoy the leaves, thorns, fruit, pods and bark. Thickets also provide refuge from predators and are favoured by small herds of game who rely on camouflage for their protection. Several species of antelope will hide their young in the thickets until they are strong enough to join the small herd.

Four types of thickets are found in the Pilanesberg; gully thickets, which are remnants of ancient forests that have survived dry periods; termitaria thickets, which are extremely rich in nutrients from the food and excrements of termites which are attracted to these areas; riverine thickets, which thrive as a result of underground and surface streams and waterline; and break-of-slope thickets, which form because of vital minerals and nutrients found in water collected at the bottom of a slope.




The Pilanesberg Game Reserve offers a wide range of accommodation catering for local visitors looking for budget-friendly self-catering accommodation to international tourists looking for a luxury safari experience staying in 5-star lodges.

Here’s where you can stay in the Pilanesberg if you’re wanting family-friendly accommodation that doesn’t wreck the budget:

Bakgatla Resort

A 3-star resort with self-catering accommodation in brick chalets and canvas safari tents; suitable for families and groups of friends. Bakgatla Resort also has a large camping and caravan site and picnic facilities for day visitors. The resort is managed by Golden Leopard Resorts

Bakgatla Resort is set at the foot of the Garamoga Hills and is ideally positioned to explore the main attractions of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, including Mankwe Dam and Thabayadiotso (Proud Mountain).

Bakgatla Resort has all the facilities expected of a family-orientated resort, including a large swimming pool, children’s playground, onsite restaurant, convenience store and laundromat. The resort caters for large groups and special events, with onsite conference facilities and catering.

The self-catering brick chalets sleep 5 people; with a double bed in the main bedroom and 3 single beds in the loft. Each unit is air-conditioned and has a kitchenette, small lounge, private patio and braai (barbeque) facilities. The canvas safari tents sleep 2 people; with a small kitchenette and en-suite bathroom.

Bakubung Bush Lodge

Bakubung means ‘Place of the hippo’ and was named as the lodge overlooks a large waterhole that is home to a resident pod of hippos. The modern lodge offers guests stylish accommodation in the heart of the Pilanesberg where game is plentiful and bird life is prolific.

Bakubung Bush Lodge has 76 rooms; catering for single travellers, couples and families. Each unit has is air-conditioned with an en-suite bathroom, coffee and tea-making facilities and a large flat-screen TV with a satellite channel. The rooms are beautifully decorated with quality linen and finishes; boasting panoramic views of the waterhole and surrounding bushveld.

The lodge offers 24-hour room service and caters for conference groups and special events with a business centre onsite and Internet lounge with free Wi-Fi. The lodge is built in a horse-shoe shape which means the rooms, spacious sitting area and outdoor deck have a view over the water hole where hippos, elephants, lions, antelope, zebra and giraffe are regular visitors.

There is something for everyone visiting Bakubung Bush Lodge; including a sparkling swimming pool and a poolside bar, children’s play area with volleyball and tennis courts, an onsite arcade and game room and a miniature golf course. For a bit of pampering, book a session at the world-class spa at Bakubung Lodge.

Daily game drives in an open safari vehicle can be arranged if you’d prefer to explore the Pilanesberg with a professional guide. Bush walks with a guide can be pre-booked through the receptionist. Kids not going on game drives with their parents can join the Junior Ranger programme for a fun morning’s entertainment.

A daily shuttle service takes guests to Sun City, a world-renowned casino and entertainment resort which is only a short 20-minute drive from the lodge.

Evenings are spent enjoying dinner in the restaurant or you can order room service. The lodge hosts a bush braai (barbeque) every Wednesday and Saturday which offers overseas visitors a taste of authentic African cuisine enjoyed in the bushveld under starry skies.

Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge

Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge is a 4-star luxury safari destination located in the heart of the Pilanesberg Game reserve. The stylish lodge overlooks a large waterhole with an impressive underground bird hide which offers guests a front row seat of the stunning bushveld and excellent game viewing.

The lodge has 90 rooms; 54 rooms have twin beds catering for single travellers and couples and 36 rooms have double beds. On the property, there are 54 self-catering chalets which are members of a Timeshare scheme.

Kwa Maritane boasts an elegant restaurant and bar with award-winning chefs at the helm or you can order room service which is available 24/7. Guests staying at the lodge on Wednesday and Saturday are treated to an authentic African bush braai which is an al fresco dining experience enjoyed under the stars.

The lodge specialises in hosting large events such as weddings, conferences and conventions, dinner dances and banquets. They also have a specialised team which manages product launches and team-building and incentive tours. Guests have access to free but limited Wi-Fi in the Internet lounge and business centre in the main reception area.

Other onsite facilities at Kwa Maritane include a medical service on call, a fully-equipped gym and a world-class spa. Treat yourself to a Thabayadiotso treatment or a manicure and pedicure while watching game visiting the waterhole. The spa also boasts a rasul chamber and hydro pool.

Outdoor activities include spending time in the underground bird hide which is equipped with a live webcam or lounging in the lush gardens which boasts 2 swimming pools with a slide and a baby pool, 2 flood-lit tennis courts, mini-golf course, trampoline and children’s play area.

Young kids not joining their parents on a morning game drive can join the Junior Rangers Programme which is suitable for children aged 6 to 12 years. It’s a supervised morning with educational activities like game drives, bush walks, birding, picnicking and film shows.

Daily game drives with a professional safari guide can be pre-booked through the receptionist if visitors prefer that to the self-drive option through the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served at the Kwa Lefakeng Restaurant which overlooks the waterhole and the Rock, which is a stunning rocky outcrop. Enjoy delectable buffets and carveries in the restaurant or opt to eat out on the terrace.

Manyane Resort

Manyane Resort is located right next to the main entrance gate to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. It offers budget-friendly self-catering accommodation in brick chalets, studio rooms or canvas safari tents. It’s most popular as a camping and caravanning destination for local holidaymakers. The camp site is electrified.

A brick chalet at Manyane Resorts sleeps up to 4 people; is air-conditioned and has a kitchenette, small lounge, bathroom and a private patio with braai facilities.

The canvas safari tents sleep 2 people; with a small fridge for self-catering visitors.

A studio room sleeps 2 people; with a shower and bar fridge for self-catering visitors.

Manyane Resort offers the full package for families with children; large swimming pool, children’s playground with mini-golf, onsite restaurant, convenience store and laundromat. The resort caters for large groups and special events with onsite conference facilities and catering.

Please note: Manyane Resort is located right next to a large residential settlement and complaints of loud music and noise are common on TripAdvisor reviews.

Pilanesberg Tented Safari Camp

Pilanesberg Tented Safari Camp is a quaint option if you’re looking for a more rustic safari experience. There are 8 safari tents nestled in a wooded thicket which look out onto the Pilanesberg bushveld. Each unit sleeps 2 people; with linen provided, mosquito nets and basic camping facilities. Visitors make use of communal bathroom facilities

The safari tents are positioned around a fire pit; with a lounge and dining area set up under a large tent. A continental breakfast and an evening braai is included in the rate, prepared by staff and the camp hosts.

Enjoy a relaxing break at the rustic Pilanesberg Tented Safari Camp which gets you close to nature and away from the busy holiday crowds at the bigger resorts.




Buffalo Thorn Lodge

Buffalo Thorn Lodge offers luxury self-catering accommodation for the exclusive use of its guests in the stunning Black Rhino Reserve which has been added to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in recent years. The lodge has elegant free-standing suites, sleeping a maximum of 10 guests.

Each unit has a King-size bed with quality linen, air-conditioning, a luxury en-suite bathroom and a lounge leading onto a private deck with a jacuzzi bath and outdoor shower. There is a mini bar fridge in each unit and complimentary coffee and tea-making facilities, as well as a large flat-screen TV, home theatre system and digital satellite channel. There’s a Wi-Fi hotspot available in the lounge area.

Guests take over the whole lodge for an intimate safari experience, with a professional safari guide on hand to take guests on pre-booked daily game drives and bush walks. Other facilities on the property include a sparkling swimming pool, outdoor dining area and open-fire and gas braai (barbeque) facilities. The kitchen is fully equipped with modern utilities and the lodge is fully serviced by staff that come in daily.

Black Rhino Game Lodge

Black Rhino Game Lodge is located in the Black Rhino Game Reserve which is a private concession in the Pilanesberg National Park. The lodge is for the exclusive use of guests and no day visitors are allowed in the reserve and at the lodge.

There are 18 luxury suites nestled in a stunning Tamboti forest; each with air-conditioning, an en-suite bathroom, large flat-screen TV with a satellite channel, coffee and tea-making facilities, mini bar and a private patio that overlooks the beautiful bushveld.

The open-plan lounge and dining area in the main lodge lead out onto a shady timber deck with a sparkling pool which offers guests a respite from the heat and excellent game viewing. Enjoy delectable meals catered for by a private chef and spend evenings under the stars enjoying authentic African cuisine.

Children of all ages are welcome at Black Rhino Game Lodge. Children 12 years and older pay the full adult rate and are permitted on game drives. Baby-sitting is available for younger children.

Ivory Tree Game Lodge

Ivory Tree Game Lodge lies in a natural amphitheater in the northern corner of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, surrounded stunning riverine bushveld and a hazy mountain range in the distance. Apart from excellent game viewing on guided safari tours, guests can enjoy a range of outdoor activities which include archery, air gun shooting, interactive drumming and riding quad bikes.

Aha Ivory Tree Game Lodge has 67 tastefully decorated luxury rooms; ranging from exclusive suites which boast every conceivable luxury to standard rooms decorated with African décor and offering ultimate comfort and luxury.

A favourite attraction at aha Ivory Tree Game Lodge is its acclaimed Amani African Spa which offers guests a truly decadent pampering experience. It’s a banquet for the soul and senses where therapists use a unique blend of brands from their Africology range.

Enjoy a 5-star dining experience in the lodge restaurant prepared by private chefs or experience an authentic bushveld braai (barbeque) at the boma where traditional African cuisine is served under the

Morokolo Game Lodge

Morokolo Game Lodge is situated in a remote corner of the Black Rhino Game Reserve on the northern slopes of the Pilanesberg mountain range. It offers exclusive accommodation in stunning bushveld surrounds. Morokolo is the Setswana name for the indigenous Num-num tree which grows in the bushveld surrounding the lodge.

The lodge has 8 spacious luxury suites and caters for a maximum of 20 guests. Each suite is stylishly decorated with air-conditioning, an en-suite bathroom and a comfy seating area which leads out onto a shaded private deck. There is a well-stocked mini-bar in each room and coffee and tea-making facilities.

The main reception leads out onto a stunning outdoor patio with a sparkling pool and jacuzzi. The air-conditioned lounge offers guests a respite from the heat and entertainment for guests such as a bar with a large flatscreen TV, pool table, board games and reading area. Enjoy delicious meals served by a private chef in the lodge restaurant or out on the shady patio overlooking the bushveld.

Morokolo Game Lodge can be taken over by a whole group for a private event or for a business conference. It has an open-plan area which can be set up with conference table and seating for up to 12 delegates.

Guests enjoy daily guided safari tours in open safari vehicles with a professional safari ranger and bush walks can be pre-booked. The area is rich in game and birdlife with regular sightings of the Big 5 around the lodge.

Tshukudu Bush Lodge

Tshukudu Bush Lodge in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve is a stunning lodge located in a unique setting on a hill slope. Guests must climb 132 steps to reach the lodge which means it’s not an option if you have physical challenges and for children under 12 years.

The lodge has 6 spacious luxury sites for a maximum of 12 guests; each individually decorated and well-appointed to make the most of the panoramic view of the game reserve. This bushveld hideout blends seamlessly into the environment, nestled among rocky outcrops and wooded thickets.

Luxurious features include sunken bathtubs and a private deck overlooking a permanent waterhole. Game viewing is excellent in the area and sightings of the Big 5 close to the lodge are common. Tshukudu Bush Lodge is renowned for its exclusivity and superb personalised service.

Each suite is air-conditioned and has an en-suite bathroom, open-plan lounge with a fireplace, fully-stocked mini-bar and tea/coffee-making facilities.

Meals are enjoyed in the lodge restaurant or on the outdoor deck. Enjoy authentic African cuisine under the stars prepared by a private chef.

Tshukudu Bush Lodge can be taken over by a whole group for a private function or conference. There is a small boardroom onsite which can accommodate 12 delegates.




Game drives

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is home to the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard) and abundance of predators and antelope. Birdlife is prolific; the reserve has a number of well-appointed bird hides for birding enthusiasts.

The best time for game drives in the Pilanesberg is early morning and late afternoon. This is when it’s cooler and the game are more active. Predators generally hunt at dusk and dawn.

Visitors to the Pilanesberg can drive in their own vehicles to explore the expansive 57 000 hectares of pristine bushveld or they can opt to join a guided safari tour in an open game vehicle with a professional ranger.

There are a number of designated picnic spots in the Pilanesberg reserve where you can stretch your legs and look for game and birds at the waterhole. Or you can stop at the Pilanesberg Information Centre for a respite from the drive; stretch your legs, freshen up and enjoy a light meal at the restaurant.

Bush walks

Most resorts and safari lodges in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve offer guests the opportunity to go on a guided bush walk with a professional ranger. This is an opportunity not to be missed as it provides guests with a different perspective of the bushveld.

Learn more about the different habitats in the game reserve and the animals and birds that are commonly found in each. Study grasses and animal tracks while soaking up the peace and tranquility of the African bushveld.

Hot-air ballooning over the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Visitors who get a chance to sail over the Pilanesberg Game Reserve get a bird’s eye view of the Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex and the incredible habitats which are home to the Big 5 and an abundance of antelope and predators.

A hot-air balloon safari in the Pilanesberg are run by a professional independent operator and are one hour long. The rate includes sparkling wine after landing and a full English breakfast, and you’ll receive a first-flight certificate at the end of the experience. Transport to and from your lodge can be arranged.

Visit Sun City

Sun City Casino & Entertainment Resort is an iconic feature of the Pilanesberg and world-renowned for its fantasy architectural design and facilities.

There’s no other resort in South Africa that offers as much entertainment and variety of accommodation as Sun City. Guests have the option of staying in self-catering Timeshare units at the Sun City Vacation Option or one of 4 hotels on the property that range for luxury accommodation at the original Soho Hotel to ultra-luxury at the magnificent Palace of the Lost City.

Activities range from surfing and sun tanning at the Valley of the Waves with its artificial beach and waves to gambling, dining out, sipping cocktails at a sparkling pool, walking through lush tropical gardens and playing golf. Visit Waterworld with the family before heading off to the crocodile park, children’s playground and animal world.

Visit Predator World

If you want to get closer and more personal to lions and other predators, visit Predator World which is located a short drive from Sun City.

Qualified guides take you on a safari tour of Predator World and share interesting information about the animals you see. Predator World is home to lions, cheetahs, leopards, African servals, spotted and brown hyenas, meerkat and one Bengal tiger.

Enjoy light refreshments and a meal at the restaurant before heading back to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve to see their cousins in the wild.




The Big 5 is something you’ll hear often on any safari tour in Africa. Who or what are the Big 5 in Africa?

This was the term given to five wild animals that hunters feared and treated with absolute respect because of how dangerous and unpredictable they are. Today, the term relates to five spectacular animals that visitors to a game reserve want to see and tick off their bucket list.


Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world. Herds are highly sociable and dominated by the oldest female elephant, called the matriarch. A mother elephant gets lots of help from the other “aunties” in the herd who together raise the baby. A young male elephant stays with the herd until he’s about young adults (15 years old) and then will leave to live with other bull elephants.


Elephants are herbivores; they only eat plants, grass and fruit. They visit waterholes and rivers often during the day and love to splash and roll around in the water. They use their long trunks to spray mud onto their backs which protects them against harsh sun rays.


A full-grown adult elephant needs a lot of water each day; the equivalent of 275 1l bottles of coke. They use their trunks to suck up water which is an incredible part of their bodies; it’s extremely sensitive and needs to be protected.


Elephants are known for their amazing memory and they’re one of a few mammals on earth that will grieve when one of the herd dies. An elephant will live up to 60-70 years in the wild if not slaughtered for their tusks by poachers selling to the illegal ivory trade.


Cape Buffalo

A buffalo might look like a lumbering cow in the bush but hey are one of the most feared animals in Africa. These large beasts are one of the Big 5 which is a term hunters used for wild animals they dreaded having a personal encounter with in the bush.

Cape buffalo are bovines and closely related to the cow family. A bull can weigh up to 900 kilograms which is why they earned themselves the nickname “the black death”. What makes a buffalo most dangerous is its horns; females have hook-shaped horns and males have what look like a helmet. What they call the ‘boss” is the middle part of a bull’s horns that have grown together and connected in the middle.

Buffalo are herbivores, meaning they only eat leaves, grass and foliage. They’re mostly found grazing on grassy plains with few trees, which is a partly defense mechanism against predators like lion.

You’ll often see buffalo close to waterholes and rivers. This is because they need to drink at least once a day. Like elephants, they use mud as a sunscreen.


Leopards are part of the cat family; a female is called a leopardess and a baby leopard is a cub. Females are slightly smaller than males.

The easiest way to tell the difference between a leopard and a cheetah if its your first time on a safari tour is leopards have rosette patterns on their fur, which are markings that look like small black roses. The colour of their fur and rosette markings help leopards to blend into their habitat; either resting in tall trees with thick foliage or stalking prey on the savanna plains.

A fascinating feature of leopards is their ability to spring high into the air to catch prey like grouses and francolins which take off in a panic when they spot a leopard. A leopard can leap up to 6 metres into the air. They’re agile hunters and fast runners; they’re also great tree climbers and swimmers.

Leopards are solitary animals except during mating season. They spend most of their time in trees; sleeping off a big meal or surveying the plains for a potential meal. Leopards are carnivores, which means they mostly eat meat. They’ll eat anything from rats and birds to small antelope like impala. They hunt at night and rest in trees during the day.

A leopard carries its prey up a tree and lodges it in between strong branches until it is ready to eat. This is its way of keeping its food away from scavengers like hyena and jackal. A leopard will graze for awhile on a catch and then rest.

Cubs are born blind and only start to see 10 days after birth. They’ll live with their mothers between 2-4 years and learn everything they need to know from her.

Leopards are highly threatened in Africa due to loss of habitat and illegal poaching for their fur.


Lions are known as the Kings of the Jungle but it’s the lioness (female) that rules the African bush. They do all the hunting and child rearing while big Daddy lounges in river beds and under trees waiting for his next meal. A pride of lions usually consists of 10 to 15 animals; usually a dominant male with a few female companions and young cubs.

A lion needs up more than 8 kilograms of meat a day and a lioness needs about 5 kilograms a day. The pride only starts hunting at dusk and will be on the prowl until dawn. A lionesses can run at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour and will travel long distances over the course of the night to find food to feed their pride. Their favourite meal is zebra and wildebeest.


There are five different species of rhino in the world and Africa has two; the black and the white rhino. The main difference between the two is their lip which is adapted to their preferred habitat: a black rhino has a sharper, hooked lip which it uses for browsing on tree leaves and shrubs; the white rhino has a flat, broad lip which is suited for grazing grass.

The rhino is the second largest mammal after the elephant; a white rhino can weigh over 3 500 kilograms. They are instantly recognised by their striking nose horn which is where they get their name. Tragically, rhinos are being poached to near extinction because of the illegal trade in rhino horn.

Rhinos have a very large body but a small brain. They don’t have good eyesight and rely on their sense of smell and hearing to pick up danger signals. You’ll find white rhinos grazing in open savannah grasslands in small groups of 3 or 4; black rhinos are more solitary animals and prefer to hide out in thickets and riverine forests.

A group of rhinos is call a crash; which is an excellent term to describe the sound they make when they come crashing through the bush. They’re called white and black rhino but both species have a grey hide.




African serval

African servals are sleek and elegant, with the longest legs of any cat relative to their body size. Their toes are elongated which makes them highly mobile. They have unusually large ears which makes them efficient hunters where they use sound rather than sight at times to catch prey, and they have a special bony skull structure which also aids its sense of hearing.

Serval are part of the cat family. They’re easy to recognise in the bush; they have yellowish/orange-coated fur which is covered in black spots. This marking is good for camouflage in the thick bushveld. Each serval has its own distinctive markings, no two servals have the same pattern. Its tail is short and covered in black rings with a black tip.

Another way to recognise a serval is by its huge ears and long legs which are disproportionate to the size of their body. Its ears act as radars because they rely largely on their hearing to hunt. They can even hear small rodents and rabbits moving underground. They’ll hunt day and night, depending on what prey they’re going after. They live off rodents, bush squirrels, fish, frogs, snakes and small birds.

Domestic cats have a success rate of 10% when stalking and catching prey; servals have a 50% success rate which makes them very successful hunters. They’ll even leap into the air to catch flying birds or grouses taking off in flight.

Servals are solitary animals and only pair up during mating season. They are highly territorial and will use pee on and scratch trees to mark their territory. The females create a safe den when they are ready to give birth and will usually have one to three cubs.

The cubs are born blind and only open their eyes about two weeks after birth. They drink milk for the first five months and after that will join their mother to hunt. Cubs stay with their mother until they’re one years old and then will lead an independent and solitary life.

Fortunately, serval numbers have steadily increased over the past few years as they have been under threat from loss of habitat and hunting. Their main threat in the bush are leopards, hyenas and wild dog. Their long legs make them fast runners, reaching speeds of over 45 miles per hour in a chase. Only a cheetah is faster than a serval in the African bush.

Black-backed jackal

The black-backed jackal is a predator commonly found in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. It is named after the dark fluffy patch running down its back which looks like a white-flecked saddle. It looks like a fox in the bush and has similar habits.

Black-backed jackals hunt in pairs or a pack of up to 4 companions; usually starting late afternoon until dusk. You can hear them when they’re on a hunt because they have a high wailing call which builds up to a loud chorus when they’re very excited. They are a nuisance for lions and leopards because they often follow in their wake on a hunt and yap like little dogs when excited.

A unique characteristic of jackals is they are monogamous and form life-long bonds with a partner. Youngsters from one litter stay on to act as helpers for the next litter, often suppressing their own breeding instinct to stay on and protect the litter. They’ll remain with the pack until they’re one year old and then branch out on their own, joining friends in the area.

Unfortunately, jackals are the most significant vectors of rabies and have been associated with epidemics that appear in four- to eight-year cycles. Their existence is also threatened by loss of habitat and at the hands of humans; caught in snares, poisoned or killed.


Cheetahs are the racing Ferraris of the wild. This is the fastest land animal with the ability to accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometres/hour in 3 seconds, which is faster than most super cars. They reach speeds of between 112 and 120 kilometres/hour in short bursts and can cover a distance of 460 metres in one chase.

Unfortunately, cheetahs use up all of their energy in this massive burst of speed and need to catch their prey or else they go hungry because it takes them some time to recover. A cheetah uses is long, muscular tail like a rudder. Its flat shape helps control their steering and keeps them balanced when they’re bolding through the bush.

A unique feature of the cheetah species is they have a semi non-retractable claw; like a dog claw and not a cat claw. They use their claws like cleats on a rugby boot; giving them loads of traction as they take off a great speed. Their pads are hard like tyre rubber which helps them get a better grip in a chase.

A noticeable difference between a cheetah and a leopard if this is your first safari tour is cheetahs have what looks like a long black tear mark running from the inside corners of their eyes to the outer edges of their mouth. It is believed that the tear mark acts like the black marks football players use under their eyes to cut down on glare. They also work like sight on a rifle to help the cheetah keep a prey in sight during a chase.

A leopard has black rosettes on its fur; cheetahs have solid black spots. The spots are also found on their skin; the black fur grows out of the black spots on their skin.

The cheetah is the fastest land mammal and at full speed their feet will barely touch the ground; covering the ground with large strides up to 6-7 metres between steps. Unfortunately, cheetahs can’t keep up this great speed for long. If they don’t catch their prey in the first short chase, it takes them awhile to recover their strength which means dinner is delayed for a while.

Cheetahs are carnivores (meat eaters) and love small antelope like impala, duiker and steenbok. When they catch their prey, they kill it by biting into its neck and cutting off its air supply.

Cheetah cubs are the cutest; they have a gorgeous mantle which is long scruffy hair running down from the back of their neck to the base of their tail. The idea is the mantle makes them look like a small honey badger who are fearsome creatures; it helps them blend into the grass where they can be kept safe from hungry lions and hyenas.

A mother cheetah gives birth to anything from 2 to 8 cubs but sadly the survival rate of young cubs is dismally low; many don’t survive the first year. The cheetah is highly endangered with less than 8 000 cheetahs left in the wild.


Two species of hyena are found in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve; the spotted hyena and brown hyena. Both species have powerful jaws which compensates for their lack of claws. They have non-retractable nails which are suitable for running and making sharp turns, rather than catching prey.

Hyenas are highly sociable and live in a pack with an alpha male and alpha female. They live in open savanna grasslands and live off a diet of literally anything; from birds and rodents to small antelope and snakes as well as what they can scavenge on. Hyenas are both hunters and scavengers. They are also cannibals and will attack and eat other hyenas, especially young hyenas.

Hyenas are nocturnal animals; setting off at dusk and hunting until dawn. They are highly territorial and mark their territory with white droppings produced in the anal gland. It is foul smelling and lets other hyenas that wander into their territory that the place is occupied.

Hyenas are best known for their laughter; this is a cackling sound which alerts other hyenas that food has been found. Their worst enemies are lions and wild dogs and there is often tension in the bushveld when the three species cross paths.

A female hyena gives birth to between 2 to four cubs which she’ll keep hidden and protected in a den. They’ll drink milk from her for 12-18 months but supplement this with meat from 5 months. Often young cubs will fight each other to establish dominance in a pack and get the best feeding spot; sometimes these fight end up fatally. If they survive their childhood, hyenas can live to the ripe old age of 25 years in the wild.





Hippos are massive and one of the most dangerous animals in the wild if encountered unexpectedly on land or disturbed in their territory. The name comes from the Ancient Greek word for ‘river horse’ but there is nothing sleek and slim about hippos.

Hippos spend the day submerged in waterholes or large pools in rivers; keeping low so they don’t get sunburnt. They secrete an oily red substance which looks like blood but is actually a skin moistener and acts as sunblock.

An adult hippo needs to resurface every 3-5 minutes and you’ll spot them in a river pool because you’ll hear them snorting and see them blow bubbles. A hippo can sleep underwater and will rise to the surface and breathe with out waking up. They’re highly territorial in water and will fiercely protect their territory from other hippos.

Reproduction and birth both take place in water. A baby hippo arrives weighing some 45 kilograms at birth and suckles underwater by closing its ears and nostrils. A female hippo has only one calf every two years. She’ll have her baby away from the pod and then rejoin her family for its protection against lions, hyenas and crocodile.

Hippos come out of the water at night to graze on grass. They can walk up to 10 kilometres from their pool in search of nutritious grazing. They have short, stubby legs but can still clock up great speeds if need be in a chase; reaching a speed of 30 kilometres an hour over a short distance.

Hippos will spend up to five hours grazing and can consume over 60 kilograms of grass at night. This is actually not that much considering how massive they are. Hippos are classified as a vulnerable species mainly because of loss of habitat from agricultural and land development.


Giraffe are the tallest mammals on Earth and look slightly prehistoric. Just their legs alone are taller than the average human. They are fast runners and can clock up a speed of 40 kilometres an hour over a short distance. They can cruise at 15 kilometres an hour over a longer distance.

Giraffes have short necks which are too short to reach the ground, so they have to spread their front legs wide or kneel on the ground to drink water. Fortunately, a giraffe only needs to drink once every few days as most of the moisture they receive is from the plants they eat.

They spend most of their lives standing up; they even sleep and give birth standing up. You’ll find them roaming the dry savanna grasslands or browsing through wooded thickets. They prefer to stay out in the open, so they can keep an eye on the veld for lions who are their main enemies.

Giraffes are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants. They love acacia trees and use their long necks and long tongues to reach the tastier leaves on the top of the thorny trees. A giraffe tongue is a whopping 53-centimetres long. They eat all day and will chop up to 45 kilograms of leaves and twigs every day.

You’ll often find giraffes in the company of other antelope and zebras. They are excellent spotters because they’re so tall and alert their companions of lion, wild dog and hyena when they spot something in the bush.

Burchell’s zebra

There are a few species of zebra in sub-Sahara Africa and Pilanesberg Game Reserve is home to the Burchell’s zebra. They are instantly recognised by their striking black and white stripes; otherwise they look like small horses in the bush. You rarely see a zebra lying down in the bush; they sleep standing up.

Zebras are herbivores and life on a diet of grass and less often eat shrubs, twigs and leaves. They spend their days hanging out on open savanna grasslands and stay away from wooded thickets because this makes them vulnerable to predators like lion, hyena and leopard.

Zebra have excellent eyesight and hearing and usually respond very rapidly when hearing or spotting a predator creeping up on therm. They’ll shriek and squeal to let their companions know to flee. They fool a lioness in chase by running in a zig-zag motion. When one zebra is caught by a predator, it can usually rely on its mates to form a circle around the hunter and try to chase it off.

Each zebra has its own unique black and white pattern; it’s like their own personal fingerprint and no two zebras have the same pattern. They live in herds of up to 1 000 and a young zebra foal will imprint on its mother’s distinctive pattern as soon as it can stand up and see straight. A male zebra is called a stallion and a female is a mare.


Impala are called the ‘fast food’ of the bush and found in large herds on the open savanna grasslands. They are a yummy snack for lions and a fairly substantial meal for a solo leopard and cheetah or small pack of wild dog and jackal.

They have a tan coat with distinctive white and black markings. A unique feature of an impala is the white fluffy undercoat of its tail; when fleeing from a predator or merrily leaping through the bush, the white underpart is clearly visible. This helps youngsters to keep up with their mothers in the bush and the rest of the herd to regroup after a scare.

Impalas live in herds of only one sex; you’ll get groups of females and their young and separate bachelor herds. They only merge in mating season in the rainy months. A female impala can delay the birth of her foal for a few days and weeks and tends to drop her young during a heavy rainstorm. The rainwater washes the scent of blood away and gives her a few hours breathing space to hide her new baby in thick shrubs. It’ll stay there for up to 4 months until it is old enough to join the herd.

When threatened or chased, impala make a loud noise which is the signal to run. They leap high into the air which confuses predators; sometimes jumping 33 metres in length and 3 metres high. Its main enemies are lion, wild dog, cheetah, leopards, hyena and pythons. A large python can swallow a fully-grown impala in a matter of minutes.

Male impala are large than their female companions and have large, wide horns. They are herbivores and mainly live on grass with the occasional snack of leaves and shoots. They are not fussy about what they eat and can survive dry periods by adjusting their diet to what is growing in the bushveld. Baby impalas will suckle from their mother for up to 6 months. Female babies stay with the herd and the males will leave when they’re about one year old to join a bachelor group.


If you’ve watched the movie Lion King, you’ll have fallen in love with warthogs. They’re the ugliest and cutest creatures you’ll find in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. They look like mud-soaked pigs covered in bumps on their weird elongated faces which look like large warts.

Warthogs are covered in sparse bristles and they have a scraggy main. They have a long tail which ends in a wiry tuft. Game rangers call them ‘bush radios’ because their little tails stand straight up when they’re running which looks like a radio antennae.

A warthog has 2 pairs of tusks; the upper tusks are longer and curve toward each other. These are used for fighting and to ward off predators. They may be short and squat, but they can clock up big speeds in a chase; running up to 50 kilometres per hour over a short distance. When threatened by lion or leopard, they will dart into a burrow; exposing only their sharp tusks to the ugly outside world.

These scruffy bush hogs are herbivores; mainly living on grass and a diet of underground tubers, bulbs and roots which they dig up with their snouts and shorter tusks. A funny characteristic of a warthog is its eating habit; it crouches face forwarded on padded knees to eat grass like a holy man on a prayer mat.

Warthog have very poor eyesight, but they make up for it with an excellent sense of smell and hearing. They’re noisy little creatures and you’ll hear them snorting and grunting through the bush, particularly during mating season. A group of warthogs is called a sounder; it’s usually a small group made up of mom, dad and the kids. Female warthogs give birth to up to 4 babies; each one has exclusive use of its own teat. Even if one baby dies, the ‘free’ teat is never used by the other babies.




Blue wildebeest

The blue wildebeest is also known as a gnu and belongs to the antelope family. It’s an odd-looking antelope and a common sighting on the open savanna grasslands of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Lions love wildebeest and they’re an easy source of food for bigger predators like hyena and cheetah. Fortunately, they have a high production rate and you’ll find large numbers of them in game reserves in South Africa.

The blue wildebeest is one of the largest antelopes found in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve; it has a large, oblong-shaped head and built with a strong upper body which makes it look out of proportion and slightly lopsided. Its hindquarters are slender; it has a mane like a horse and both males and females have curved horns.

Wildebeest are herbivores and spend their days grazing on short grass. They need to drink water at least every second day so you’ll often spot them near or at waterholes and rivers. Wildebeest live in large herds which are made up of a mix of males, females and youngsters. The large herd structure provides greater protection against predators.

The wildebeest species is most famous for its mass seasonal migration in central Africa which is a fascinating spectacular and draws hundreds of avid wildlife enthusiasts to the Serengeti Masai-Mara. Up to 2 million animals move clockwise around an enormous ecosystem which is driven by ancient instincts to find fresh grazing and water. This migration includes wildebeest, zebra and gazelles and an assorted cast of crocodiles which lie in wait at the river crossing points to gorge on the moving masses.

Wildebeest herds can grow to around 150 during the mating season. The dominant males perform spectacular antics to impress the females and they’ll urinate and defecate to mark their breeding territory and to keep other males away. They also attract females by rubbing a scent produced in the preorbital and interdigital gland into the ground.

Females give birth to one baby which is delivered in the middle of the herd. Females drop their babies in unison, with 80% of calves born during the same 2-3 weeks just before the rainy season. Calves can walk as soon as they’re born; and are able to run with the rest of the herd within a few days. They’ll suckle milk from their mom for the first four months of their life but also start grazing on grass within 10 days of being born.


Eland are the second largest antelopes found in the Pilanesberg Game Ranger and one of the most impressive in stature and good looks. They have an orangey-brown coat which slowly turns greyer with age. A rough black mane is a stand out feature as well as a beautiful pair of horns.

Vertical white stripes run down their sides, they have dewlap (fold of skin) under the throat and the fur on the top of a male eland’s head is quite dense. Both males and females have tightly spiraled horns.

Elands are herbivores and they spend their day browsing in semi-arid regions in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve sticking to wooded thickets and shrubveld around rocky outcrops; enjoying a diet of succulent leaves from flowering plants which are high in protein. They supplement their diet with a selection of tubers, pods and seeds. They are primarily browsers but will eat grass in the dry winter months.

Eland do not need to drink that often as they get most of the water they need from the leaves and tubers they eat. In times of drought and the dry winter months, they can conserve water in their system by increasing their body temperature.

During the mating season, eland converge on the lush green grasslands where food is more plentiful. Males spend their time testing the females and chasing them around until they are ready to mate, which can take a few hours. A male will mate with a few females; often locking their big horns with other males in a nasty fight for the right to mate.

Females give birth to one calf at a time. She’ll leave the herd to give birth and rejoin it a day later when the youngster is able to stand and follow its mom.


A herd of gemsbok is an unusual sighting in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve because it’s not their home ground. Gemsbok favour hot, dry areas and more commonly found in the arid reaches of the Kalahari and Namib Desert. The reason they’ve adapted to living in the Pilanesberg is because of the unique eco-system of the game reserve where the dry Kalahari Desert merges seamlessly with the lush Lowveld vegetation.

Gemsbok are herbivores and browsers; they enjoy a diet of leaves and fruit and get most of the water they need from the plants they eat. They can withstand temperatures reaching up to 45 degrees Celsius and can survive for long periods without fresh water. They conserve their energy by spending hours standing still in the shade.

Gemsbok are large antelopes and a striking sight on any safari; their colouring is a beautiful tan/light brown with prominent black and white markings on their face and legs. A bold black stripe runs on the lateral sides of their body. Its most impressive feature is its horns; their long horns are straight and almost parallel and serve as a deadly weapon to protect themselves from predators. They’ll impale a lion which is why they usually keep a weary distance from elands.

Because they are habituated to dry desert conditions, eland are most active at night. From the age of 5 to 6 years, eland males become territorial and will keep to a territory of around 10 square miles. They mark the area with dung and will lock horns in a nasty fight with another male who enters its territory. Fights between males are vicious and often fatal for one of them. Fortunately, they have thick skin on their necks and shoulders which helps prevent serious injuries during a fight.

Gemsbok live in herds of between 10 to 40 animals which are made up of one dominant male, their female companions and youngsters. The lusher the vegetation in the area, the larger the herd. A female gemsbok gives birth to one baby and will hide it in dense grass during the day to keep it safe from predators.

A baby eland joins the herd in the evenings to browse for food, but it depends on milk from Mom for the first 6 months of its life. Its little horns start growing at 6 weeks which is about the time you’ll start seeing it out and about with the bigger herd.

Greater kudu

The greater kudu is a magnificent species of antelope and a real crowd pleaser. It’s instantly recognised for is majestic stature and striking pair of long, spiral horns. In early years, kudu were hunted for their horns which were used as traditional trumpets for tribal dancers.

Kudus stand 1-and-half metres tall; the male is larger than the female. It has visible white stripes down the side of its body and white spots on its fur. A dark mane runs down the length of its spine. Its fur is a blueish-grey brown which provides it with ideal camouflage in its preferred habitat.

Kudus are herbivores; they will eat a combination of grass and roots, leaves, fruit and tubes. They can survive long periods without fresh water as they get most of the moisture they need from the food they eat. Watching a kudu eating is quite comical; it chews, swallows and then regurgitates what it is eating and then repeats. So, you’ll see lumps of food going up and down its neck like they’ve swallowed a rat that’s trying to escape.

Kudu hang out in small groups which made up of a dominant male, a few female companions and youngsters. They communicate by making a gruff, barking sound. Kudu males are territorial and don’t like to share their herd with other males; they get into nasty fights with other males which are often fatal for one or both of the males when they lock horns and sometimes can’t be separated.

Female kudu give birth to one baby; she’ll leave the group and isolate herself and the baby for at least two months. The baby kudu is kept hidden in thick grass for the first 5 weeks until it is old enough to join its Mom to browse for food. Young kudu grow rapidly and can fend for themselves from six months, although they’ll stick close to their Mom until they’re old enough to venture out on their own.

Sable antelope

Sable antelope are beautiful animals and highly sought-after on a safari tour in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. They are instantly recognisable for the majestic stance, stunning deep-black pelt and magnificent curved horns. They are not listed as endangered, but sightings of sable antelope are rare and special in most game reserves.

Sable have an elongated, elegant head with pointed teeth, sharp claws and a long tail. They spend most of their time foraging for food in open savanna grasslands but are also agile climbers and will seek refuge in rocky outcrops when predators are close by. They’ll rest in well-hidden burrows in thick riverine forests or inside the roots of large trees during the day and only come out to graze in the evenings (crepuscular species).

Sable antelopes are carnivores (meat-eaters); they live on a diet of weasels, hares, rodents, fish and slugs. They’ll eat berries or seedpods to supplement their diet if food is scarce. Sable will travel up to 10 kilometres a day in search of food; using a keen sense of smell and hearing to find prey and to avoid predators.

Sable are solitary and territorial animals; they occupy a territory of up to 16 square kilometres and mark their territory using secretion from a gland in their abdomen. A sable male will aggressively fight with other males to protect its territory and keep them away from the females in the area. They have a unique courtship ritual which usually involves jumping and running to attract attention.

Female sables give birth to one baby in a nest built in tree holes using grass, moss and dry leaves. Babies are born blind and covered in a thin fur; it stays in the next for the next for the first few weeks to keep them safe from predators and only join the herd when they’re old and strong enough to fend for themselves. The female sable stays with her baby in the nest and the male brings food back for both. A baby sable with suckle milk for the first 6 months but is old enough to eat solid food from about 7 weeks.




Common duiker

This duiker is called the common duiker because it enjoys the widest distribution of all African antelopes. It’s also called the bush duiker, Grey duiker or savanna duiker. The bush label is incorrect however, as duiker prefer to hang out in open savanna grasslands and tends to avoid riverine forests and wooded thickets.

The name ‘duiker’ comes from the Afrikaans word for ‘to dive’. This is a description given to the delicate antelope because of its habit of ducking and diving into bushes when it feels threatened. Duiker live on a diet of leaves, fruit and seeds and are also known to eat carrion and insects. The can go extended periods without water because they get most of the moisture they need from the food they eat.

The common duiker is a petite and shy antelope which usually lives on its own or with a female companion during the mating season. Their fur varies from dull grey to reddish-yellow depending on the region with white under parts; only males have short horns.

Common duiker are a delicious snack for leopard, cheetah, hyena and wild dog. They’ll escape being caught by taking off at a great speed and confusing the hunter by ducking and diving into bushes. It’s a resilient species and a cute sighting on a safari tour.


Bushbuck is another common species of antelope seen in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. They’ll alternate hanging out in riverine forests and wooded thickets to open savanna grasslands. They have adapted to living in both moist and dry climates and will seek out areas wherever food sources are abundant and nutritious.

Bushbuck are easy to identify in the bush; their fur has a yellow, reddish and brown patterned colouring and tends to be darker if areas with dense forests. Its ears, chin, tail, neck and legs are covered in white, geometrically-shaped markings and it has dainty legs and hooves.

Only male bushbucks have horns; they are sharp with a single twist at the bottom. It’s a fearful weapon when needed to protect itself against predators. They are a solitary and shy species; usually active during the night but you’ll spot them during the day on a safari tour resting in the shade.

Bushbuck are herbivores and spend a big part of their day grazing on grass. They supplement their diet with fruit that fallen from trees as well as tubers, tree bark and shrubs. They don’t need to drink fresh water that often because they get most of the moisture they need from the food they eat. This includes fresh dew on leaves and water in tubers and roots.

For some reason, bushbuck do not tolerate insect-eating birds sitting on their backs and as a result, are often covered in ticks. This makes them susceptible to diseases transmitted by insects, particularly a deadly disease called rinderpest.

Bushbuck are not territorial and will wander around a small home range which overlaps with the home range of other bushbucks. When threatened by a predator or frightened by a noise, bushbuck freeze or drop to the ground and lie dead still in the thick grass. They sometimes produce a series of hoarse barks as a weak from of defense.

They’re not fast runners but they can escape being caught by jumping high into the air or leaping into water because they’re good swimmers.

A female bushbuck gives birth to one baby a year and may have up to two pregnancies a year. After the baby is born, the mother eats the placenta and dung to remove all smells which attract predators. The baby bushbuck is kept hidden in thick vegetation for up to 4 months while the mother is foraging for food. It only joins it Mother when it is strong and old enough to fend for itself.

Mountain reedbuck

The mountain reedbuck is a medium-sized antelope and a graceful and shy animal. Its fur is mostly grey with a reddish-brown hue on its head and shoulders. It has long, narrow ears and a fluffy white tail and visible white underparts. Males have curved horns.

The reedbuck is a herbivore and spends its days grazing on open savanna grasslands. It needs an adequate supply of water and is commonly found near or at waterholes and rivers. As their name suggests, they prefer a mountainous habitat and are usually found grazing on mountain slopes or resting in the shade in thick wooded thickets.

It runs with an unusual rocking gait with its tail up and its white underparts clearly visible. They live in small herds of up to eight in a group, but the herd grows during the breeding season to up 30 animals. When disturbed, a large group will disperse and regroup later.

Rams are forced out of a herd when they’re about a year old and they set up small bachelor herds. When old enough, they’ll challenge the dominant male in the herd for territory and his females. There is usually one dominant male in each herd.

Red hartebeest

There are 8 species of hartebeest but the most common one found in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve is the red hartebeest. They like to hang out on open savanna grasslands or sparsely wooded thickets.

The red hartebeest is easily identified by its short tan, golden and reddish-brown fur which is covered in long hair. It has an elegant elongated head, narrow face, pointy ears, humped shoulders with a downward sloping back and long, thin legs.

Both males and females have long, curved horns. They are set close together and covered in rings on the bottom half. Males are territorial and aggressive during mating season. They mark their territory with their own dung to warn other males to stay away.

Their natural enemies are jackals and cheetahs as well as lions, hyenas, leopards and wild dog. They might look clumsy and lopsided but they’re fast runners; reaching speeds of up to 60 kilometres per hour over a short distance when chased by a predator.

Red hartebeest are herbivores and active during the da. They live on a diet of grass but will graze on shoots and leaves during the dry winter months in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.

A female hartebeest gives birth to one baby a year. She’ll leave the herd and give birth in dense bush. The baby is kept hidden for the first two weeks while it is weak and fragile and only joins the herd with its mother when it is stronger. Baby hartebeest depend on their mother’s milk for the first 4 months of its life and will stay with its mother until the age of 3 years. After that, male hartebeest are forced out of the herd and set up small bachelor group in their own territory.


Tsessebe are larger antelope and easily identified by their distinctive horns which are shaped like halfmoons. They have a dark faces and purple patches on their shoulders. Their withers and upper body are reddish-brown.

Tsessebe are herbivores and spend their lives grazing in open savanna grasslands. They like grass which is sweet and fresh and will gravitate to burnt areas to graze on fresh grass shoots. Tsessebe play a vital role in a game reserve ecosystem because they eat a wide range of grass species but tend to only eat the leaf, and not the stems. They need to drink often and are commonly found near or at waterholes and rivers.

Tsessebe are social antelopes and live in small, close-knit herds with a dominant male, 6-10 females and youngsters. Young males are forced out of the herd and will set up bachelor groups which often consist of up to 30 animals.




Goliath heron

The Goliath heron is a large wading bird found in dams, wetlands and rivers in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. You can’t miss them; they’re large birds. In fact, it’s the largest heron in the world.

A Goliath heron stands at over 1.5 metres tall and has a wingspan of at least 2 metres. It takes off slowly and looks quite cumbersome when in flight. Unlike other herons, it does not fly with its legs held horizontally; it drags its legs through the air.

This heron is covered in slate-grey and chestnut feathers; its head, face, back and sides are a rich chestnut colour. It has black streaks across its fore-neck and upper breast and black streaks on its lower breast and belly. The Goliath heron has a black beak and black streaks running for its eyes to its bill.

Goliath herons spends hours on the banks of rivers and dams hunting for large fish; it tends to ignore small fish and survives on 2 or 3 large fish a day. It’ll supplement its diet with frogs, rodents, lizards, snakes and insects. It’ll also happily scavenge on carrion.

Kori bustard

The Kori bustard is a large bird and a favourite sighting among bird enthusiasts. It’s one of the heaviest birds you’ll find in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve; it has an amazing capacity to fly regardless of its size, but it tends to avoid flying if possible.

An unusual but common sight is seeing a Kori bustard with a handful of bee-eaters riding on its back as it strides through the grass. Bee-eaters hitch a lift and snack on insects that are disturbed by the Kori bustard. A Kori bustard survives on a diet of seeds and lizards, as well as other small delicacies it finds on the ground.

Kori bustards have a polygynous breeding habit; one male displays to attract several females and then mates with all of them. He leaves the females to care for the eggs and young by themselves. Female Kori bustards build a nest on the ground and incubate the eggs, often going days without food. When the chicks hatch, its mother brings them food that she has softened so it’s easier for the babies to eat.

Saddlebilled stork

The saddle-billed stork is a large wading bird and a striking feature on river banks and at dams and lakes. It tends to stick to wetlands and floodplains.

This stork is large; an adult stands at about 150 centimeters and has a wingspan of about 270 centimeters. It’s the tallest of the stork species but not the heaviest; it’s lightweight compared to its peers. Females are a lot smaller than the males.

It’s easy to spot a Saddlebilled stork in Pilanesberg Game Reserve; it’s plumage is striking with an iridescent black head, neck, back, wings and tail and the rest of the body pure white. It has a massive red bill which has a black bank and yellow frontal shield. Its legs and feet are black, and it has funny pink knees.

The only way to tell the difference between a male and female Saddlebilled stork is to look at its eyes; the female has a golden yellow iris and the male’s is brown.

In flight, the Saddlebilled stork keeps its neck outstretched. Because the bill is so heavy, it tends to drop below its belly which makes it look very odd when it’s flying.

Saddlebilled stork enjoy a diet of mainly fish, frogs and crabs but they will supplement their diet with birds and small reptiles during the dry winter months.

Secretary bird

The secretary bird is large terrestrial bird of prey with extraordinary features. It gets its name because of its unusual plumage; it has a crest of long feathers at the back of its head which look like quill pens used by clerks in the 19th century. Others say the name is derived from the Arabic word “saqr-et-tair”, meaning hunter-bird, which translates into French as “secretaire”.

The secretary bird is endemic to Africa and usually found stalking elegantly across open savanna grasslands. It is a bird of prey and lives on a diet of rodents, snakes and small mammals. It has extraordinarily long legs and it has to bend its legs to forage for food and drink. The lower half of its legs have heavy scales to protect them when walking through thick bush and scrub.

A secretary bird stands out in the bush not only because it is tall but because it has a distinctive body shape and gait; it has long crane-like legs, an eagle-like head with a noticeable hooked bill and rounded shoulders. Its wingspan is over 2 metres.

Even though it is such a large bird, it does fly when it needs to; its two elongated central feathers stick out beyond its feet during flight. They can also run fast, and local people have nicknamed them the ‘devil’s horse’. They run for a distance with their wings outstretched and take off slowly to get airborne.

Secretary birds spend all day on the ground foraging for food but roost at night on the top of Acacia trees. They usually return to the same tree each evening as the sun sets.

Marabou stork

The marabou stork is a large wading bird and is part of the Ugly 5. It’s a very unusual looking bird and often looks like it’s been in a big fight and come off second best.

It’s huge; a marabou stork stands 150 metres tall and has a wingspan of over 3 metres. It has a bare head and neck, a black back and white underparts. It is easily identified not only because it really is an ugly bird, but it also has an unusually large bill, a pink gular sack at its throat and a neck ruff. Juveniles are browner and have a smaller bill; only reaching full maturity when its 4 years old.

The marabou stork makes a big fuss during mating season; putting on a bill-rattling show to attract a mate. It makes a weird guttural noise which comes from its throat sack. The female will lay two or three eggs in a nest that is usually built close to a river or wetland where food is more readily available.

The marabou stork is mostly a scavenger and its naked head and neck has been adapted to digging into old carcasses; even walking into the cavernous stomachs of dead elephants, rhino and buffalo. A bare head is easier to keep clean than a fluffy head, so nature has done a good job in giving them such weird bald heads. You’ll usually find marabou storks in the company of vultures and jackals; all hanging around kills to see what they can scavenge.

Marabou storks supplement their diet by scavenging for small mammals (dead or alive), reptiles and snakes. It’s also dig around termite mounds, fish in rivers and hunt for grasshoppers, caterpillars, frogs, rodents, crocodile heads, new-born chicks and bird eggs. Anything and everything goes down its gullet when a marabou stork is hungry.





There are 26 different species of this beautifully coloured bird. They’re a delight to spot in the bushveld considering most bee-eaters are migratory and have probably travelled thousands of miles to their favourite breeding spots. Only the Africa Little bee-eater travels short distances between the rainy and dry season.

They are easy to identify by their striking plumage, slender bodies and elongated central tail feathers. They have long, curved beaks with a sharp point designed to impale insects. You’ll often find them clinging onto near vertical cliff places using their sharp claws.

Bee-eaters mainly eat flying insects which, as you can guess, bees are their favourite. They’ll also catch wasps, hornets, dragonflies and other larger insects. They seize them in short dashes and then take them back to their perch to eat them. The European bee-eater is known to remove the sting of an insect by hitting it on a hard surface and then wiping the insect on the surface to remove the sting. Bee-eaters feed on about 250 bees or insects a day.

Bee-eaters live in colonies and often nest in holes dug out of the sides of cliffs. Breeding pairs create long, vertical nesting burrows which they’ve excavated in earth or sandbanks; usually along river banks. Each tunnel is about 1 meter deep with a nest chamber at the end. Bee-eaters pick one mating partner in a lifetime and return in consecutive years to mate, resurrect their burrow and care for the young.

A clutch is made up of 2-9 spherical white eggs – depending on the species – which are laid at 2-day intervals. Both parents share the task of keeping the eggs warm and feeding them when they are born. They feed them on insects which they teach them to catch on their own until they are able to take care of themselves.

Cattle egret

The cattle egret is a common sight in the bushveld and usually the companion of herds of animals which it tags along with to feed off insects and grubs disturbed by the animals. It is a stocky white bird with thick neck, sturdy bill and a hunched posture. The cattle egret has a plume of fluffy feathers on it buff which is prominent in the breeding season.

The cattle egret feeds in dry open savanna grasslands, catching insects and small vertebrate prey. They remove ticks and flies from game such as buffalo and wildebeest which is beneficial for them.

It nests in a platform of sticks in trees and shrubs, usually near waterholes and rivers. Birds of prey and snakes often raid their nests.


Francolins are members of the pheasant family and look a bit like bush chickens with short tails. Males have spurs on the back of their legs which they use for fighting. They are mostly seen foraging on the ground for insects, seeds and edible vegetation but they do fly fast with whirring wings over a short distance.

Francolins have a hooked upper beak which it uses for digging at the base of shrubs; looking for tasty grubs and bushveld insects.

Francolins found in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve include the coqui, crested and Natal francolin.


This species is an incredible find on a birding safari tour of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. If you’re lucky, you’ll see it in the middle of a spectacular aerial mating display which is its stand-out feature. The male korhaan flies straight up and then tumbles down in a dramatic fashion before gliding in to land. It has a bush red crest which makes the occasion more dramatic.

You’ll find korhaans foraging for food in open savanna grasslands; living off a diet of small reptiles such as lizards, geckos and bush snakes. They also snack on butterflies, bees, wasps, locusts and ants which they catch in the air.

Its nests are built on the ground with straw and leaves; placed under a thick bush to protect them the young from predators. They are usually found in small family groups although male korhaan branch out on their own during the breeding season.

You’ll find the black korhaan and red-crested korhaan in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.

Kori bustard

The kori bustard is the heaviest bird found in Africa that is capable of flying. It is mostly grey in colour with a black crest on its head and yellow legs.

An unusual but fairly common sight in the bush is a kori bustard walking along with bee-eaters hitching a ride on its back. The bee-eaters catches insects that cling to the bustard’s back and those disturbed by the bird walking through the bush.

They are heavy birds so spend most of their time foraging for food on the ground. Their diet consists of seeds and lizards and other small edible mammals or vegetation.

Kori bustards are polygynous; one male displays to attract several females and he mates with all of them. He leaves the females to care for the eggs and young by themselves. Often females go days without eating when they are sitting on eggs in the next. When the chick hatch, the female kori bustard brings food to them which has been softened in their gullet to make it easier for the chicks to eat.




Blackheaded oriole

Blackheaded orioles are striking birds with a bright yellow body and contrasting black heads and flesh-coloured beaks. They are mostly found in dense shrublands or wooded riverine forests; preferring acacia trees and broad-leaved woodlands.

They make a beautiful sound which sounds like babbling water, accompanies by imitations and whistles. Blackheaded orioles forage for small fruit and also snack on large insects. They love caterpillars and grubs.

Cape turtle dove

The Cape turtle dove is also known as the ring-necked dove. You’ll see this species of dove in abundance in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and its birdsong is a familiar sound in the bushveld; it makes a penetrating and rhythmic three-syllable crooning sound. It is easy to identify; with a semi-collar of black feathers on the lower nape of its neck.

It prefers open savanna grasslands and lives on a diet of seeds and small natural grains. Like all doves, they depend on surface water and congregate in large flocks at waterholes in the dry season to drink and clean themselves.

Fiscal shrike

This striking bird has earned itself the nickname Jacky Hanger because of its habit of impaling its prey on acacia thorns which it does to store food to eat later. It is easy to identify; with a black upper body and white underparts with a characteristic white ‘V’ on its back and a long back tail with white outer feathers. Its bill, eyes and legs are black.

They are solo birds preferring their own company; usually busy hunting for insects and small mice which it spots from a perch on top of a small tree or shrub. It’s found in a wide range of habitats; from acacia thornveld to wooded shrublands.

Forktailed drongo

The forktailed drongo is very easy to identify; it is a glossy black bird with a long, forked tail. Its bill is black and heavy, and it has red eyes. Females are a little duller than their shiny male partners.

The Forktailed drongo has short legs and sits very upright on its perch; catching flies or small insects flying in the air or small prey off the ground.

Glossy starling

The glossy starling is a beautiful bird with striking plumage. Its head, throat and back are a stunning blue colour and it has vivid orange eyes and black legs. They look a lot like a starling but prettier.

Glossy starling mainly forage on the ground and in foliage looking for small fruit, seedpods, insects and small invertebrates. They’re found most often in woodlands, riverine forests and open savanna grasslands. Glossy starlings made for life and only change partners if one dies; they build nests in a hole in a tree trunk and lay up to 6 blue eggs.


Everybody loves the hoopoe species and its call is a popular soundtrack in the Pilanesberg bushveld. This quirky looking bird has bold strips, a long, curved beak and a funky hairdo.

It gets its name from the Latin term ‘upupa’ which describes its call; it makes a loud ‘oop’ in sets of three. It also says ‘char’ for a warning and babies say ‘tii’ when they want food. The hoopoes beak is its most important feature; it uses it to spare its food which it then tosses up into the air and catches. It also beats its prey on a rough surface to remove wings, legs and other parts.

Hoopoes don’t make typical nests; they nest in holes in tree trunks or on sandy cliffs. The females stay inside the hole with the eggs until they hatch. The male hoopoe brings food back to the female and chicks. The female and chicks let off a weird secretion which makes the nest stink. This puts off predators and keeps them away from the nest.


Hornbills are a quirky feature of the bushveld and instantly recognisable for their thick, long, down-curved bill which is brightly coloured and sometimes has a casque on the upper mandible.

You get two species in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve; the yellow-billed and the red-billed hornbill. The yellow-billed hornbill is the most common and usually seen scavenging in the rest camps and lodge gardens.

Hornbills are omnivorous; living on a diet of fruit, insects and small animals. They cannot swallow food as their tongues are too short to manipulate it, so they toss it back down their throat with a jerk of their head.

Lilac-breasted roller

This species is a favourite among bird lovers and a beautiful bird to spot in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. It is known for its beautiful plumage; with a large green head and a striking combination of brown, violet and greenish-blue feathers.

Lilac-breasted rollers favour open savanna grasslands and are often seen perched on electrical or telephone wires or on the top of dead or dry trees. It lives on a diet of grasshoppers, beetles, lizards, crabs and other small amphibians. It picks its prey off the ground and takes it back to its perch to eat.

Lilac-breasted rollers make unlined nests in tree holes or in termite mounds. They sometimes take over nests belonging to woodpeckers and kingfishers. They lay up to 4 white eggs which both the male and female incubate; sharing the task of foraging for food and feeding the young when they’re born.

Rollers get their name from their spectacular courtship ritual which involves a fast, shallow dive from high above and a rolling, rocking motion accompanied by a loud raucous call.

Pin-tailed whydah

The male pin-tailed whydah is instantly recognisable; it has a black back and crown and a spectacularly long black tail and bright red beak. The female and non-breeding males are duller and don’t have the long tail extension.

This species is a brood parasite which means it lays up to 4 eggs in the nest of other birds; mainly waxbills and finches. Its eggs are also white, so the other bird doesn’t suspect a thing. A whydah does not destroy the hosts eggs like the common cuckoo; it just leaves the eggs in the care of the other bird. A baby whydah mimics the gape of the host’s fledging.

The male pin-tailed whydah is territorial, and one male will mate with several females in his small group. He puts on an incredible courtship display which involves hovering over the female and showing off its tail. It produces a distinctive call which sounds like rapid squeaking and churring.

Red-billed woodhoopoe

The red-billed woodhoopoe is a common feature in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and has become habituated to living in built up towns and cities. They are usually heard rather than seen in gardens; with a distinctive cackling cry that goes on for ages.

They usually nest in a hole in a tree or in abandoned barbet nests. They lay up to 4 blue eggs and the female is left alone to incubate the eggs and feed the babies when they’re born.

Red-billed woodhoopoes are found in open woodland and savanna grasslands. They live in areas with large trees which is their preferred habitat for nesting and rooting. The live on a diet of insects which they scratch out from rotten wood and in crevices in the bark.




Black-breasted snake eagle

The black-chested snake eagle is a large bird of prey with a dark-brown head and chest. The female has the same colouring as the male but its slightly larger.

You’ll find the black-breasted snake eagle in various habitats; as long as it has open terrain to hunt and large trees to perch and nest in. It gets its name from its diet which is made up mostly of snakes, as well as lizards, frogs and other small mammals.

Crowned eagle

The African crowned eagle is known as a ‘hunting machine’ and hunts prey which is usually bigger than itself. This includes vervet monkeys and duiker.

It has a long tail and broad, rounded wings. These two features are a great combination for agile and rapid hunting techniques. The male and female crowned eagle hunt as a pair; one will distract a monkey and the other one makes the kill.

The crowned eagle has brown, mottled feathers which makes it well camouflaged; sitting silently inside the tree canopy instead of on the top like most other eagles.

It kills its prey using its powerful feet and massive talons; usually fatally wounding it with one blow.  You’ll learn to recognise the males call after a few sightings; a loud ‘kewee’ which it gives out to let other birds of prey know they’re in his territory.

The crowned eagle makes a large messy nest which is made from large sticks. It goes back to the same nest every year, fixing it up and adding more sticks so the nest become bigger and bigger over time. Some nests are about 2.3 metres wide.

The female crowned eagle lays 2 eggs and is left alone to incubate and care for the babies when they are born. The male crowned eagle brings food to the nest while the female is sitting on the eggs and brings food for the babies. The stronger chick will usually kill off its weaker sibling, so a breeding pair usually only has to feed the one baby.

The crowned eagle is classified as a threatened species due to loss of habitat.


Brown snake-eagle

The brown snake-eagle is a fearless bird of prey which is capable of killing and carrying of snakes over 2-metres long. It sits perched on top of large trees surveying the bushveld for its prey. When it sees a snake, it swoops down and seizes it behind the head; crushing its spine with its powerful talons and beak.

If a snake turns on it, the brown snake-eagle flaps its wings violently to confuse the snake. It has heavily-scaled feet to protect it against snakebites. They do often fall prey to their own prey and are often blinded by spitting cobras or crushed by a python.

The brown snake-eagle always swallows a snake had first; the tail-end which is the safest bit is saved to feed to its chicks. A baby brown snake-eagle is capable of swallowing a snake that’s up to half a metre long.

It addition to snakes, brown snake-eagles live on leguaans, chameleons and other small reptiles and mammals. They are often seen in woodland areas and in trees around rocky granite outcrops.

Fish eagle

The African fish eagle is an iconic bird species which is known for its distinctive black, brown and white plumage and beautiful call. It lives on a diet of fish but has also been known to go for small water birds and even flamingoes.

It is classified as a kleptoparasite meaning it steal prey from other birds and will scavenge on dead animals caught by other eagles and predators. They’ll eat their catch on the ground next to a river or waterhole. You’ll always see them nesting in trees on the banks of a water source and usually in pairs; they hunt early morning and late afternoon and spend the rest of the time perched on the top of a tall tree.

Martial eagle

The martial eagle is the largest bird of prey in Africa and regarded as the most powerful and efficient hunter. They can knock a grown man off is feet and have enough power in one foot to break a man’s arm. It has a massive wingspan, distinctive white legs and very large talons. Juveniles look very different to the adults.

Martial eagles live on a diet of guineafowl, francolins and bustards. They also hunt for hyrax, mongoose and small antelope such as steenbok and impala. In farmland, they’ll hunt for domestic goats and lambs.

They build their nests in tall trees that grow on steep hillsides or in a gorge. From this position, they can sweep off the nest for prey walking below. Pairs have up to two nests which they alternate using each year. The female is mainly responsible for incubating the eggs, but males will occasionally sit on eggs to give the female a break. She’ll hunt for her own food and does not rely on the male martial eagle to bring her food.

Martial eagles are commonly found in thornbush habitats and open savanna grasslands. They spend the majority of the day perched and usually limit hunting to late morning. Martial eagles rely on thermals while hunting so are not active in the late afternoon. They’ll soar for hours in updraughts. Most of their kills are a surprise attack; reaching great speeds and attacking for a far distance to surprise unsuspecting prey.



Cape vulture

The Cape vulture is endemic to southern African and mainly found in South Africa, Lesotho and Botswana and parts of Namibia. It favours nesting on cliffs.

Adult Cape vultures have a creamy colour with contrasting dark back and tail feathers. The adult is paler than the juvenile and its underwings are almost white at a distance. Its head and neck are almost featherless; with yellow eyes and a black bill.

The Cape vulture is classified as highly endangered and its numbers have been declining steadily mainly from loss of habitat and poisoning from pesticides used by farmers.

Lappet-faced vulture

This species of vulture is found in patches throughout Africa. It prefers to live in dry savanna, thornbush, arid plains, deserts with scattered trees and open mountain slopes.

In the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, the lappet-faced vulture is usually found in open savanna grasslands with a few trees and minimal grass cover.

Hooded vulture

The hooded vulture is a scruffy-looking, small vulture with dark-brown feathers, a long thin bill and a bare head, face and neck. It scavengers on carcasses and closely follows lions, hyenas and wild dogs to scavenge on their kills.

The hooded vulture is listed as critically endangered.

White-headed vulture


White-backed vulture

The white-backed vulture looks like a typical vulture with down feathers on its head and neck, very broad wings and short tail feathers. It has a white neck ruff which contrasts with its dark plumage.

A large flock of white-backed vultures will soar high above the open savanna grasslands waiting patiently for a kill. They’ll come down and scavenge on carcasses leftover by lions, hyenas and wild dog. They give out a screech when they lock eyes on a carcass to let the rest of the flock know. They’re also very noisy when they’re eating.

White-backed vultures are classified ad an endangered species.




African rock python

The African rock python is the largest snake in Africa; reaching a length of up to 5 metres long. They kill their prey by crushing it. Food sources include dassies, hares, cane rats, birds and sometimes small antelope and warthogs.

African rock pythons are found in mixed woodlands near water. They are very good tree climbers. A rocky python is easy to identify; it has a long, stout body with blotchy patters which vary in colour from brown, olive, chestnut and yellow. It has a triangular shaped head and sharp, backward-curved teeth. It has a mark on top its head which is outlined in yellow.

The African rock python is a non-venomous snake and uses constriction to kill its prey. After the snake gets a grip on an animal, it tightly coils around it; causing asphyxiation or cardiac arrest.

Black mamba

The black mamba is one of the most poisonous snakes in Africa and the most feared by game rangers in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. They grow to great lengths; often up to 2 metres long. They strike fast and slither at a speed of up to 15 kilometres per hour.

Black mambas live on a diet of birds, rodents, dassies and other small mammals. They mostly found in dry bushveld areas; often moving into abandoned termite hills and animal holes. You’ll find them basking in the sun in winter on massive granite rocks.

The black mamba is a venomous snake; it’s extremely aggressive and kills its prey by injecting a potent neuro and cardio-toxic mix. It’s capable of killing more than 10 men in a period of an hour. Without proper and urgent treatment, the mortality rate of a black mamba snake bite is 100%.


Boomslang are highly venomous snakes which prey on bird’s eggs, small mammals and reptiles. The prefer to live in thick woodlands close to water sources. The rear-fanged species is one of the most venomous snakes in the world.

The name Boomslang comes from the Afrikaans term for ‘tree snake’ because it is a tree-dwelling species. It has very long fangs and can open its mouth a full 180 degrees to bite.  It’s a timid snake and avoids human confrontation but when it bites someone, it is often fatal if the person cannot get immediate treatment.

Mozambique spitting cobra

The Mozambique spitting cobra is a scary snake and one of the most poisonous in Africa. It rears up two-thirds of its body when disturbed and displays its wide hood. It spits venom with incredible accuracy; usually straight into the eye of its prey or a human victim.

The snake uses its neurotoxic venom to cause temporary blindness; it’s bite causes severe tissue damage. If you are bitten by a Mozambique spitting cobra, get to a hospital immediately for urgent treatment.

Mozambique spitting cobra live on a diet of birds’ eggs, small mammals and reptiles. They are found in mixed savanna woodlands and usually hide out in hollow trees and abandoned animal burrows found close to water.

Puff adder

The puff adder cause more human bites an any other African snake combined because of its habit of lying motionless; camouflaged in leaves and bush. When trodden on, it releases venom that is extremely toxic. The puff adder is a fat, sluggish snake which grows to about 1.5 metres long.

It lives on a diet of rodents, birds and other snakes. It is found in various habits in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and is fond of lying in the sun to keep warm.

Puff adders move in a similar way to caterpillars; they’re also good swimmers and climbers. When disturbed, they hiss loudly and form a tight coil before striking in a sideways motion. A single bite can inject between 100 and 350 milligrams of cytotoxic venom. A lethal dose for an adult human is around 100 mg.





Crocodiles are the closest living relatives to dinosaurs and have lived on Earth for about 240 million years.  They have one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom and kill their prey by closing there jaws down hard on an animal; then they will go into what is called a ‘death roll’ in water to drown their prey.

Crocodiles are carnivores and live on a diet of fish, birds, small antelope and small crocodiles. They cannot chew their food; they have 24 sharp teeth and tear apart flesh and swallow huge chunks of meat at a time. They’ll sometimes swallow small rocks or pebbles which aids digestion.

Crocodiles produce tears when they eat; hence the saying “crying crocodile tears’. This is because they swallow too much air which affects the glands which produce tears and forces tears out its tear ducts. They are often seen lying motionless with their jaws wide open. They do this to cool themselves down because crocodiles don’t have sweat glands.

The skin on a crocodile’s back is hard as bone but their underbelly is very soft. They have excellent eyesight, especially night vision. Crocodiles are like alligators but much larger; they have a V-shaped jaw and some of their teeth can be seen when the jaw is shut tight. Alligators have a U-shaped jaw and its teeth are not visible when its mouth is shut.

An interesting fact about crocodiles is the temperature of the next determines the gender of a baby crocodile. Higher temperatures produce male crocodiles; cooler temperatures produce female crocodiles. 99% of crocodile babies are eaten in the first year of their life; mainly preyed on by hyenas, monitor lizards and larger crocodiles.

Leopard tortoise

The leopard tortoise is the 4th largest species of tortoise in the world and found most often in semi-arid grasslands and shrublands in southern Africa. It falls into the group of the Little 5 of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve; along with the rhino beetle, red-billed buffalo weaver, elephant shrew and ant lion.

A leopard tortoise has a distinct shell pattern; it has a yellow, yellowish-brown and reddish carapace (upper part of the shell) with black blotches and spots that look like the pattern of a leopard’s fur. It has a sharp, beak-like mouth which it uses to tear up and chew plants.

They are herbivores and live on a diet of grasses, mushrooms, fruit, succulent plants and prickly pear cactuses. They sometimes eat old bones to supplement the calcium they get in their diet. This keeps their shell in good condition and ensures they produce high quality eggshells in the nesting season.

When threatened, a tortoise releases urine and stored water. This puts predators off eating it but may result in it dying from dehydration if it cannot replenish the water in its system quickly enough. So, please don’t pick up a leopard tortoise if you see one in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.

A tortoise can survive 80 to 100 years in the wild. Their main predators are jackals, anteaters and wild dog.

Rock monitor

The rock monitor is also known as a leguaan or a white-throated monitor. It’s the second longest lizard found in Africa and one of the heaviest. They can grow up to 2 metres in length, with a tail and body equal in size.

They have a bulbous, convex snout and a pink or bluish forked tongue. Their scales are usually a mottled grey-brownish colour with yellow or white markings. When threatened, a rock monitor will bite and lash its tail. It’s a vicious creature when confronted but its bite is not poisonous.

Rock monitors listed as threatened and are a protected species. You’ll find them sunning themselves or hunting for food in semi-arid regions, savanna grasslands, rocky outcrops and on river banks. They make their lairs in burrows or in holes in trees or rocky cracks.

Rock monitors survive on a diet of insects, millipedes, rodents, reptiles, birds and bird’s eggs. They’ll cover great distances to feed their large bodies; and they hibernate in winter.

Cape terrapin

The terrapin is a close cousin of the turtle and tortoise; all three are regarded as some of the oldest living creatures on the plant and can be traced back 180 million years to when dinosaurs roamed this Earth.

We only get one species in South Africa and that is the serrated hinged terrapin. It’s the largest hinged terrapin and possesses a unique feature; the hinge in its shell closes after it retracts its head for added protection.

Terrapins are found at water holes and rivers; often languishing in the mud or hitching a ride on the back of a hippo. They are carnivores and survive on a diet of snails, insects, frogs and fish. They’re also scavengers and will eat carrion (dead flesh of an animal) if food is scarce. Another quirky thing they do is eat ticks and parasites off buffalo when they are wallowing in mud.

When threatened, a terrapin lets of a foul-smelling substance to ward off predators. This is produced in a musk gland. They are ferocious creatures and not cute like their tortoise cousins; they have very sharp claws and a powerful snapping jaw. It doesn’t have teeth and tears off chunks of meat (and fingers) using its lethal jaws.

Females lay anything from 7 to 25 eggs at a time but sadly, many of the hatchlings are eaten by predators just before or after they hatch.

Water monitor

Water monitors are a powerful species of monitors and known for their strong leg muscles and sturdy body. They will pursue prey across land and underwater at great speeds over a short distance and are formidable hunters. Its body is covered in striking yellow patterning which serves as camouflage in reed beds where it likes to hang out.

Water monitors are carnivores and live on a diet of crabs, frogs, lizards, small mammals and birds. They have an insatiable appetite for the eggs of crocodiles, tortoises and terrapins; using their large claws to dig up nests and steal the eggs.

Female water monitors dig into a termite mound when it’s time to lay her eggs. She’ll lay between 40-60 eggs at a time; using the heat of the termite mound to incubate her eggs. Termites immediately repair the hole made in their mound which means the eggs have a warm, humid and safe environment to develop. There is no parental care and baby monitors must dig their own way out of the mound when they are born.

The Kruger National Park needs little introduction. It’s an iconic national game reserve located in the north-east corner of South Africa in the lush province of Mpumalanga. It’s easily accessible and significantly cheaper than the private game reserves in South Africa and provides visitors with just as much excitement and brilliant game viewing.

You can drive in through the towns of Nelspruit and White River, which is approximately 5-hours’ drive from Johannesburg, or fly-in either through Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) and take a safari transfer vehicle to the Park or fly-in directly to Skukuza Airport which is based just outside the main rest camp of KNP.

It’s the largest game reserve in South Africa with nearly 2 million hectares of wild bushveld that stretches for 20 000 square kilometres from Pafuri in the north to Malelane Gate in the south. It shares a border with Mozambique that runs the length of its east boundary and the southern-most tip of Zimbabwe on its north boundary.

Kruger National Park competes with the likes of the world-acclaimed Okavango Delta in Botswana and the Serengeti and Masai Mara in Tanzania/Kenya for its incredible array of wildlife, birds and biodiversity but what makes KNP one of Africa’s best-loved game reserves is it is easily accessible and highly affordable.

Life-long loyalists to KNP love it for its incredible biodiversity that ranges from mixed bushwillow woodlands in the east and open tree savanna in the south to sandveld thickets in the west and mopane shrubveld and alluvial plains in the north. Every corner of Kruger Park has something special to offer.

Birdlife is prolific; the Park is renowned as a birder’s paradise with rare sightings of endangered bird species that have found sanctuary in the remote wilderness. Many species that are listed as threatened on a global scale can be found in healthy numbers in the reserve, and the alarming decline of some species has even been halted.

The expansive open savanna grasslands are home to scavenging predators, eagle-eye raptors and a vast array of antelope. Don’t be in a rush to tick off the Big 5 because you’ll miss the insects, reptiles and smaller animals that play a vital role in sustaining the Park’s unique ecosystems.

Where do we begin?

Greater Kruger National Park is huge and so diverse that you can visit year after year and always find a new spot to explore. You may prefer the extreme solitude of the north or the vibrant ambience of the Southern circle. You may be looking for the Big 5 or one of the tiny Firefinch bird species; everyone has a different reason to visit Kruger.

Let’s kickstart your journey through South Africa’s favourite game reserve with a review of the Big 5 in each category for easy identification.


The Kruger National Park is made up of vast conservation areas that span the north-east of South Africa, the west boundary of Mozambique and the tip of Zimbabwe. The large protected area incorporated into the national reserve is the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The addition allows wildlife to move freely between different habitats and gives tourists access to remote wilderness zones that were previously out of reach.

Together with the Greater Kruger National Park, wildlife enthusiasts have nearly 2 million hectares of wild bushveld to explore.

Remote wilderness
Visitors to these remote regions are only allowed to explore the area on foot and only one group at a time is allowed access to the isolated reaches of the Kruger National Park. Bookings are essential.
There are no facilities in the remote wilderness zones; only portable camps at designated points.

Primitive wilderness
Visitors may only access these areas on foot in the company of a professional ranger. Limited access in self-drive vehicles (4x4s) is allowed by pre-arrangement from SANParks. Access routes are restricted to visitors with bookings for small bush camp facilities or private concession sites.

Wildlife concessions
Private companies operate luxury safari lodges in parts of the Kruger National Park that are restricted to guests with bookings. Game viewing is restricted to 2-track dirt roads in the company of a professional safari operator. Accommodation is only available at the exclusive lodges, but bookings are essential.

Low-intensity wilderness
Self-drive vehicles have access to a combination of tar and dirt roads that are suitable for sedans. Safari vehicles and tour buses may not access these areas which means the wilderness areas are less congested with safari traffic.
Accommodation in these areas are either one of the larger bush camps or the small self-catering rustic camps.

The camps don’t have the convenience of facilities such as shops, restaurants and fuel pumps but this is no problem as visitors get what they need from the popular rest camps. There are picnic sites with toilets along some of the roads in this area.

High-intensity wilderness
Expect more vehicles and cars in these regions as these regions fall within the busiest parts of the Park. Self-drive roads are accessible to buses and safari tour vehicles and are the main routes to the large, popular Kruger rest camps.
The rest camps have convenient facilities such as restaurants, fully-stocked shops, education centres, medical facilities and petrol stations. Accommodation ranges from self-catering bungalows for two or family units for up to 8 people.

Read more –

The region is a network of quiet dirt roads that take you to picnic spots and look-out dams and main tar roads that link the many Kruger camps. This region is perfect for visitors who have limited time in the Park and prefer to stick to the well-worn paths as opposed to venturing further north into the isolated wilderness regions.


The Kruger National Park is divided into four quadrants with no fewer than six eco-systems; baobab sandveld, Lebombo knobthorn-marula bushveld, mixed acacia thicket, combretum-silver clusterleaf, woodland on granite and riverine forest.

Deciding which bio-diversity region you’d like to visit depends on what animals and birds you’d like to see, and whether you want to get away from the busy tourist crowds in the Southern circle or stick to the easily accessible rest camps if time is limited.

South-east Kruger
The south-east region of the Kruger National Park is accessed by Malalane Gate in the south and Numbi and Phabeni Gate on the south-east boundary.

The busy H3 road takes you from Malalane Gate past Afsaal Trader’s Rest to Skukuza Rest Camp which is basically the “head office” of the Park. The H1-1 from Numbi Gate and S1 from Phabeni Gate will take you to Skukuza. Everything in between is a combination of tar and dirt roads that traverse the lush south-east corner of the Kruger National Park.

The region is characterised by mixed bushwillow woodlands, Pretoriuskop sourveld and Malalane mountain bushveld. Around Phabeni Gate you’ll find a wonderful mix of marula and knobthorn open tree savanna. The highest point of the south-east region is Pretoriuskop which is well-known for a magnificent rock outcrop nicknamed Ship Mountain. This hull-shaped rocky outcrop is the site of an old wagon trail which crosses a stream that marks the birthplace of Kruger’s famous dog, Jock of the Bushveld.

Rolling granite plains are interspersed with wooded thickets which are home to an abundance of antelope and prolific birdlife. Enjoy common sightings of white rhino, elephant and buffalo who favour the open savanna grasslands that lie at the feet of rocky outcrops. Predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena are drawn to the area which is richer in small plains game such as impala as well as zebra and giraffe.
Popular camps in the south-east region of the Park include Pretoriuskop Rest Camp and Berg-en-Dal.

South-west Kruger
The south-west corner of the Kruger National Park lies between the Crocodile River in the south, the Sabie River in the north and the Lebombo Mountains that run the length of the western border of Mozambique.
The lush south-west region is accessed at Crocodile Bridge Gate and the H4-2 route takes you on a scenic journey through Delagoa thorn thickets, marula and knobthorn open tree savanna and southern Lebombo mountain bushveld.

The highest point of the south-western region is Khandzalive Mountain which rises some 840 metres off the dolerite plain. Ancient rock figs cling to the side of the granite hills and are home to rock dassies, baboon and klipspringer. If you’re lucky, you may also find the odd leopard hiding out in the rocky outcrops in the region.

White rhinos are particularly fond of the south-western corner of the Park and wander between Pretoriuskop, Mbyamiti River and south of Lower Sabie. The southern biosphere supports greater numbers of game and you should see all the Big 5 if you’re staying in the Park for a few days.

The combretum woodlands, acacia species and bushwillow thickets in southern Kruger attract herds of kudu, impala, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, white rhino and elephant. Cheetah and wild dog are more common in the southern Park because of lower numbers of lion in the region.

Popular camps in south-western Kruger include Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp and Lower Sabie Rest Camp. Skukuza straddles the east and west line in southern Kruger.

Lower-central Kruger
The lower-central region is accessed at Orpen Gate and Satara Road takes you on a scenic drive past Orpen Rest Camp to Satara Rest Camp which is in the middle of the narrow biosphere belt.

Around Orpen, you’ll find flat southern basalt and gabbro plains with an incredible array of marula, knobthorn acacia, leadwood, sickle-bush and russet bushwillow species. This is home to the Big 5 and you’re likely to see white and black rhinos as well as plenty of elephants and buffalo. Predators include lion, leopard, cheetah, caracal and serval.

There are a few private concessions between the S36 route and Talamati. This area is characterised by rolling granite plains and mixed bushwillow woodlands. The foot slopes are open savanna grasslands with duplex clay soils which supports unique species including magic guarri, and scented-pod, red and sticky acacias.

A big drawcard to the lower-central region of the Kruger is its large numbers of lion. There are about 60 prides of lion in the central region and they straddle the lower and upper reaches which is home to an abundance of antelope, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest.

Upper-central Kruger
Olifants Rest Camp and Letaba Rest Camp are popular rest camps in the upper-central region and accessed from Phalaborwa Gate on the eastern boundary.

The biosphere to the east of Letaba and Olifants is characterised by black clay soils and flat northern basalt and gabbro plains. Magnificent specimens of mopane and leadwood trees are found in the area, as well as red bushwillow and flaky-bark acacia.

Between Orpen and Letaba, rolling granite plains are interspersed with bushwillow woodlands which thrive in the shallow, sandy soils. Between Satara and Olifants, the eco-zone changes dramatically around the Olifants River with unusual species such as purple-pod, cluster-leaf and white-leaved raisin growing in the shallow, clay soils.

Northern Kruger
The band between Letaba Rest Camp and the far-north region of the Park is semi-arid and characterised by stark vegetation such as shrub mopane which thrives on the hot, low-lying plains. Ironically, northern Kruger has an abundance of water for game because five major rivers run through the narrow corridor.

The rivers in the northern Kruger are home to two-thirds of the Park’s hippo population and attract sizeable herds of elephants. Birdlife is prolific, and you’ll spot plenty of bush pig and riverine antelope in the shady undergrowth of the Luvuvhu River.

If you draw a line down the centre of northern Kruger, you have the Limpopo National Park on the right side and Greater Kruger National Park to the left. Limpopo National Park is made up predominantly of Nwambia sandveld thickets which thrive in the arid clay soil. Left of centre you’ll find rolling granite plains and woodlands made up of red bushwillow and mopane shrubveld.

A thin band of basalt and calcrete pebblebeds runs the length of the north-east border separating Limpopo National Park from Mozambique. The lush Limpopo, Luvuvhu and Shingwedzi valleys are rich in species such as corkwood, purple-pod clusterleaf, Lebombo-ironwood and euphorbia and Baobab trees.

Far North Kruger
The far northern tip of the Kruger National Park is a world-renowned for its unique biosphere and prolific birdlife. In fact, bird-loving tourists from around the world return to the area year after year for rare sightings of species not found anywhere else in Africa. It is accessed from Punda Maria Gate in the far north-east corner.

The incredible biosphere of far north was created by rich soils deposited where rivers such as Shingwedzi, Luvuvhu and Limpopo cross the flat plains. Diverse species such as sycamore figs, nyala trees and southern lala-palms are found in the far north, as well as magnificent tree species such as the natal mahogany and fever tree.

Nwambia sandveld thickets break up the alluvial plains with species such as sand camwood, small false mopane, wing-pod and red bushwillows, and stink-bushwillow thriving in the deep sandy soils. The area becomes more clayey towards the west with thickets of mopane tree savanna.

The area around Punda Maria is characterised by undulating hills and valleys on Soutpansberg sandstone and quartzite. Unusual tree species in this lush eco-zone include kudu-berry, burkea, pod-mahogany, white kirkia, propeller-tree and Lebombo-ironwood.

You’ll also find an array of rare and endangered species in the far north that have found sanctuary in the remote wilderness. These include the knocking sand frog, nocturnal bush pig and the rare Sharpe’s grysbok. Added to this are samango monkeys and packs of endangered wild dog.

The sandstone hills west of Punda Maria is the only place where you will see the Natal red hare and yellow-spotted dassie (hyrax). Over and above these incredible rare species and its unique biosphere, the far north is far less congested with tourists and known for its tranquility and solitude.


Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp

Berg-en-Dal (meaning mountain and dale) is situated on the bank of Matjulu Spruit and surrounded by rocky hillsides and lush Malelane mountain bushveld, including rare species such as African Olives.

The self-catering accommodation ranges from camping and caravan sites to traditional Kruger 2- or 3-bedroom bungalows and two 6-sleeper guest houses. It was opened in 1984 and is one of the “newer” rest camps in the Kruger.
There is a restaurant and take-away onsite which overlooks the Matjulu Dam. There is also a well-stocked convenience shop, laundromat and petrol station at Berg-en-Dal.

Day visitors are permitted and may use the designated picnic facility.

A new addition to Berg-en-Dal is a conference facility that accommodates up to 300 delegates.
Popular attractions around Berg-en-Dal includes San (Bushman) paintings in the surrounding hills which provided the ancient tribe with protection from wild game when they moved through the area on hunting expeditions.

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp

This historic rest camp is situated close to the far south-west corner of the Park and easily accessible if you are visiting from Mozambique or Swaziland. It overlooks the Crocodile River which attracts hordes of game to its watery course and the lush Malalane farmlands on the other side.

The camp falls within the ‘Southern Circle’ which is renowned for its high concentrations of antelope, prides of lion and prolific birdlife. There is also a larger proportion of white rhino in the southern region which makes it an ideal safari destination if you are limited for time.

Self-catering accommodation is a combination of traditional Kruger bungalows and safari tents and has caravan and camping sites. It also offers disable-friendly accommodation. There is a coffee and take-away shop and convenience and liquor store onsite as well as a laundromat and fuel station.

Crocodile Rest Camp is regarded as one of the best run camps in the Kruger and management prides itself on offering the ultimate in comfort and quality service. It’s one of the smaller rest camps in Kruger and is rich in history, having seen hordes of European explorers descend on the area in the 18th century enroute to seek their fortune in the gold belt of Monomotapa.

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp was one of the first 4 ranger posts when the former Sabie Reserve was proclaimed in the late 19th century. The bridge across the river formed part of the Selati railway line which linked the Malelane farming valley to Skukuza Rest Camp.

Lower Sabie Rest Camp

Lower Sabie Rest Camp is very popular, and visitors need to book well in advance for a place to stay. Wildlife and birds in the area are abundant because it’s positioned on the perennial Sabie River. It’s a family-orientated camp in Kruger with many activities available for young and old.

Self-catering accommodation ranges from family cottages, huts and bungalows to a luxury guest house and safari tents and caravan sites. There are also wheelchair-friendly accommodation options. In recent years, semi-luxury 2-bedded safari tents have been added to the accommodation portfolio which offers visitors a more exclusive safari experience.

The vast green lawns of the rest camp are shaded by a massive sycamore fig tree as well as marula, Natal mahogany and fever trees. Different times bring different bird species which appeals to avid bird watchers.
The surrounding bushveld is home to the Big 5, with herds of buffalo up to 800 strong and an unusually-high number of warthog. Lion, cheetah and leopard are regularly spotted in the area, and sightings of herds of elephants and rhino are common.

A favourite attraction at Lower Sabie Rest Camp is its large restaurant with a wide deck that offers guests a panoramic view of the surrounding bushveld and riverine forest. It’s equipped with everything a family or tour group needs including a well-stocked shop, take-away and coffee shop, liquor outlet and laundromat.

The large swimming pool in the main camp is for visitors only. Day visitors can enjoy a meal at the restaurant or use the camp’s picnic facilities which has its own swimming pool. There’s kid’s entertainment over the holiday season, including film shows on conservation and wildlife.

Pretoriuskop Rest Camp

Pretoriuskop Rest Camp is the oldest in the Kruger National Park and the area is rich is history and wildlife. Game walks and tours of the historic sites in the area can be pre-booked and well worth it to learn more about intrepid explorers who roamed the southern valley decades ago.

Self-catering accommodation ranges from a luxury tented camp, traditional Kruger bungalows and family guest houses to electrified camping and caravan sites. The units are grouped into 3 circles centered around the reception area with expansive lawns between which are mowed by resident impala and warthog.

The rest camp has a licensed restaurant and take-away shop, as well as a well-stocked convenience store. Facilities include a laundromat and fuel station. The camp is disable-friendly with accommodation for wheelchair-bound visitors.

A major attraction at Pretoriuskop is the natural rock swimming pool with picnic facilities. The beautiful pool is built up against a massive granite rock with a plunge pool at the top for small children.

Pretoriuskop Rest Camp is a short 10-kilometre drive from Numbi Gate which is the closest gate to the towns of Hazyview and White River. It’s a popular stop-off for day visitors and tourists who are limited for time.

The rest camp was named after a nearby hill (koppies in Afrikaans) where a Voortrekker by the name of Willem Pretorius is buried. Pretorius was a member of Carl Trichardt’s 1848 expedition to Delagoa Bay in Mozambique on the east coast of Africa. The intrepid explorers were searching for a trading route through the Lowveld to the Portuguese harbours in Mozambique and travelled along a dusty route that is now Voortrekker Road.

João Albasini was the first European trader and elephant hunter to settle in the Lowveld. Between 1845 and 1860, he established various trading posts along the routes between the harbours in Mozambique and the inland mines and centers of the ivory trade. Albasini buried Willem Pretorius at the base of the hill around which the camp was built. The ruins of his homestead north of the rest camp have been partially re-built.

One character that the southern part of Kruger is most famous for is Sir Percy Fitzpatrick who was an early transport rider. His famous dog, Jock, was born in 1885 at a spot marked along Voortrekker Road, which runs south east of Pretoriuskop.

Pretoriuskop Rest Camp dates to the days when tourists were first allowed into the private game reserve and allowed to spend the night at what was then very rustic accommodation. A hut used by the legendary Harry Wolhuter at Pretoriuskop Rest Camp dates to 1930 when he worked in the Park as one of the first wardens. It has been restored to its former glory and well worth a visit for a glimpse of those early rudimentary game ranging days.

Skukuza Rest Camp

Skukuza Rest Camp is the administrative capital of the Kruger National Park. It’s a vast camp that attracts hordes of international tourists bought in by the bus load so it’s not ideal if you’re looking for peace and tranquility in the Park.
It has facilities to cater for your every need from a large upmarket restaurant, take-away deli and coffee shop and massive shop to banking facilities, internet café, library, medical centre and onsite doctor and fuel station.

Recent upgrades include a conference centre for up to 158 delegates. The new Skukuza airport is located a short drive away which makes it a perfect destination for international tourists and business people alike who prefer a fly-in/fly-out option.

The Skukuza staff village is close to a magnificent 9-hole (18-tee) golf course, and there is a massive pool in the village for staff members and their families. There are 2 swimming pools in Skukuza for guests booked into the rest camp.

Self-catering accommodation at Skukuza Rest Camp ranges from semi-luxury lodges and safari tents to family guest houses, traditional Kruger bungalows and camping and caravan sites. There are 21 furnished safari tents positioned along the river walkway which are perfect for visitors wanting a more authentic African safari experience.

When you get back to camp after your daily game drive, walk along the river promenade for more sightings of elephant, buffalo and hippo cooling off in the Sabie River. Regular visitors to the camp include fluffy-tailed bush babies and cheeky yellow-billed hornbills.

Skukuza Rest Camp caters for disabled visitors with drop-curve walkways to the entertainment area and education centre, as well as wheelchair-friendly accommodation.

The most popular attraction at Skukuza Rest Camp is the Stevenson-Hamilton Knowledge Resource Centre which houses a library and museum. The rest camp was named in honour of James Stevenson-Hamilton who was the first Warden of Sabie Game Reserve (now Kruger National Park). Stevenson-Hamilton made sweeping changes to the game reserve; he stopped poaching and worked tirelessly to create a haven for South Africa’s precious wild animals.

The centre was opened in 1961 and you’ll find fascinating artefacts from the old game ranging days, as well as valuable documents that are a record of the history of the national game reserve. One of the most renowned pieces is the skin of a lion that attacked Wolhuter while out on his horse; with a visible hole where Wolhuter managed to stab the lion while in the grip of the powerful beast’s jaws.


Balule Private Camp

Balule is a private camp situated 13 kilometres from Olifants Rest Camp. It’s an intimate destination, known for its vintage charm, gas showers and paraffin lanterns. If you’re trying to avoid the crowds that descend on Olifants Rest Camp, Balule is a special option. The private camp is not open to day visitors.

This private camp is for die-hard bush lovers who hate crowds and are happy to “rough it” in nature. It’s included as one of the Big 5 accommodation options in central Kruger because it is hugely popular for wildlife and birding enthusiasts and booked out at least a year in advance.

Self-catering accommodation is rustic and basic; with 15 camp sites and 6 budget-friendly rondavels. There is no electricity in the camp, only gas or paraffin provides energy for a communal fridge and freezer, lighting and showers. There are no fans or windows in the budget huts; staying at Balule is a real step back in time to the old game ranging days.

There is no shop or restaurant onsite, so visitors must bring everything they need for there stay, although Olifants Rest Camp is a short drive away if you run short of something. There is a communal kitchen with scullery and gas stoves.

Guest check-into Balule at Olifants Rest Camp; campers have access to a petrol station, cellphone signal, the restaurant and shop, and swimming pool facilities at Olifants if they need a break from living wild in the bush. Balule Private Camp is a satellite camp of Satara and Olifants rest camps.

Letaba Rest Camp

Letaba Rest Camp is a green oasis in the middle of the semi-arid central region of Kruger Park. The area is renowned for sightings of big cats and birdlife is prolific. The camp is close to three major dams which are a permanent water source and attracts hordes of antelope, giraffe, zebra as well a being home to a resident pod of hippos.

The camp is positioned on a sweeping bend of the Letaba River with spectacular views of the bushveld and riverine forest. The area is characterised by flat northern basalt and gabbro plains with black clay soils. Tree species that thrive in this area include mopane, leadwood, bushwillow and sickle-bush. Red bushwillow and flaky-bark acacia grow in the shallow clay soils in the river valley.

Self-catering accommodation ranges from traditional Kruger bungalows, guest houses, family cottages and furnished safari tents. The camp has electrified camping and caravan points, and a day visitor picnic site with its own swimming pool.

Facilities include a good restaurant and take-away outlet, a well-stocked convenience store, a swimming pool and communal area, laundromat, medical and banking facilities and a fuel station.

The buildings lie nestled under the shade of magnificent species of sycamore fig, Natal mahogany, sausage and apple tree. Green lawns and indigenous gardens add to the character of the camp where tame bushbuck and impala wander between the bungalows. The camp is vibrant when the aloes and impala lily are in full bloom, which attracts a variety of birds. Look out for the white-bellied and marico sunbird, crested barbet, black-headed oriole and black-eyed bulbul.

A major attraction at Letaba is the Goldfields Environmental Education Centre. The facility was established in 1993 and houses impressive elephant displays; including the ivory tusk of one of the most famous of the Magnificent 7 tuskers and a full skeleton of an African elephant on display. The Letaba Elephant Hall receives over 80 000 visitors a year and plays an important role on educating people on elephant conservation.

Letaba means ‘river of sand’ which is the name given to it due to its proximity to the expansive Letaba River which is often dry in the hot summer months. Game viewing and bird watching in central Kruger is excellent and Letaba Rest Camp is the perfect base if you want to pair it with a stay at Olifants Rest Camp.

Olifants Rest Camp

Olifants Rest Camp is situated high up on the foot of Lebombo Mountain and offers panoramic views of the Olifants River and bushveld. Olifants is one of the more spectacular settings and hugely popular for wildlife and bird enthusiasts.

The mighty Olifants River is a permanent water source and attracts an abundance of game, including large herds of elephants. The area is characterised by rhyolite hills and low mountains with lush plantations of red bushwillow, round-leaved bloodwood, knobthorn acacia and sickle-bush. Purple-pod cluster-leaf and white-leaved raisin shrubs thrive in the shallow, clay soils that flank the river.

Self-catering accommodation ranges from traditional 2-, 3- or 4-sleeper Kruger bungalows and a few luxury guesthouses. The bungalows are fitted with an en-suite shower and kitchenette stocked with basic provisions. One of the 2-sleeper bungalows has been adapted for disabled visitors. Olifants Rest Camp does not have camping or caravan sites but there is a day visitor picnic spot in the camp with braai facilities.

There is a small conference centre equipped for up to 20 delegates. Other facilities include a good restaurant and take-away outlet, laundromat, fuel station

Olifants means ‘elephant’ in Afrikaans and was the name given to the rest camp and surrounding area as it was the home of the world-renowned Magnificent 7 elephants. These ancient animals were legendary because of their massive tusks, many which dragged on the ground they were so long and heavy. The original display of one of the big tuskers has been moved from Olifants to Letaba Rest Camp.

The original surveyor of the area, GR von Weilligh, left his mark on a baobab tree in 1891; which can be found a short distance from the camp.

Orpen Rest Camp

Orpen Rest Camp is a small camp located close to the Orpen Gate, on the western boundary of the Kruger Park. It’s perfect if you’ve travelled a long distance to get to the Kruger Park and want a convenient base to explore the central region. It’s a popular destination as the area is renowned for its cats with common sightings of lion, leopard and cheetah.

The area is characterised by open savanna grasslands with scatterings of marula, knobthorn acacia, leadwood, sickle-bush, russet bushwillow and round-leaved bloodwood trees. The rest camp bungalows are nestled in a grove of shady trees and overlook a large waterhole. The rock garden is vibrant in season when aloes and Barberton daisies are flowering.

Self-catering accommodation ranges from traditional thatched 2- or 3-sleeper bungalows with access to a communal kitchen and ablution block. There are a few large air-conditioned guest cottages which sleep a maximum of 6 people in each, with an en-suite bathroom. There is a well-stocked convenience store onsite and a small coffee shop but no restaurant. Other facilities include a swimming pool and fuel station.

Game is concentrated in the area around Orpen with large groups of antelope that are attracted to the sweet grass. This in turn attracts predators to the area. A popular attraction close by is Rabelais Dam which is home to pods of hippo and attracts elephants and buffalo to the area.

Orpen Gate and Rest Camp is a relatively new acquisition. The land was generously donated by Eileen Orpen after the death of her husband. The entrance to Kruger on the western boundary was at Rabelais on the periphery of the original farm. A small white rondavel marks the place of the original gate which served as the entrance between 1926 and 1954, and there is a small museum onsite dedicated to JH Orpen and his wife.

JH Orpen was a surveyor and member of the National Parks Board which sponsored boreholes for the park. His wife, Eileen, bought up 7 farms immediately to the west of Rabelais Gate during the 1930s and 1940s which she donated to the national reserve; extending the total area by almost 24 500 hectares. This donation was much-needed as it addressed the need for a permanent water source for the growing number of game.

Satara Rest Camp

Satara is the second largest rest camp in Kruger and the most popular so visitors need to book a bungalow up to a year in advance. The camp has been modernized over the years with the addition of private kitchens, air-conditioning, overhead fans and smart public facilities.

The central region is renowned for its quantity of lions and quality sightings of leopard and cheetah. For this reason, Satara is affectionately called the ‘cat camp’.

Birdlife is also prolific and bird lovers are rewarded with unique sightings that include lappet-faced and Cape vultures, kori and black-bellied bustards, secretary birds and other such exciting birds.

Satara Rest Camp has retained much of its colonial Africa ambience with red-roofed buildings, traditional thatched rondavels (round huts) and neat lawns.

Self-catering accommodation ranges from 2- and 3-sleeper bungalows, family guest lodges and electrified camping and caravan sites. Wheelchair-friendly accommodation is also available.

There is a good restaurant and take-away outlet onsite and a well-stocked convenience store, and other facilities such as a large swimming pool and children’s playground, a television lounge, laundromat and fuel station. There is a picnic spot with a boma on the perimeter of the camp which is available for day visitors.

Satara gets its name from the Hindi word ‘satra’ meaning 17. In the late 1800s, before the Kruger was proclaimed a national park, the region was carved up for human settlement by the Transvaal Republic government. An unnamed Indian surveyor was sent to the Satara region to divide the land and he marked out 17 plots.


Mopani Rest Camp

Mopani Rest Camp was opened in 1992 and is Kruger’s newest camp. It is nestled in a grove of mopani and baobab trees on a hill overlooking the magnificent Pioneer Dam. The area is teeming in antelope and birds and falls within the ‘big cat circle’.

Mopani exudes an air of tranquility, with stone and thatch features blending into its natural bushveld surroundings. Visitors enjoy spending warm evenings on the deck of the restaurant, listing to the distant call of lions and grunting of grumpy lions. Wake up to the spectacular sound of a fish eagle calling his mate and the chattering of wild birds in the camp.

Kruger rest camp is named after the mopane trees that are abundant in the area. In autumn (September to October), the butterfly-shaped leaves change to striking hues before falling off. The surrounding bushveld is characterised by rolling granite plains and woodlands on crests of shallow, sandy soils. Species that thrive in the more arid central region include red and russet bushwillow and magic guarri.

Self-catering accommodation ranges from an ultra-luxury guesthouse, spacious family cottages and traditional 2-sleeper Kruger bungalows. A unique feature of Mopani Rest Camp is accommodation in an overnight hide that needs to be pre-booked well in advance.

Shipandane Bird Hide is used during the day by Kruger visitors and converted into a sleep-out camp in the evening. The hide has 6 fold-out beds, an eco-toilet and a small boma with barbeque facilities. It’s a perfect getaway for an authentic Kruger safari experience.

Camp facilities include a good restaurant and take-away outlet, well-stocked convenience store, a fuel station, laundromat and braai facilities. There is electricity in the camp and buildings and rooms are air-conditioned.

A major attraction in the central belt is the Shilowa heritage site that lies right of the Tropic of Capricorn along the eastern boundary. The First Site marks a point in history where humans occupied the area between 1 200 AD and 1 600 AD. A second site dates to the late 1700s when the Pedi tribe inhabited the region. Other African tribes descended on the area in the 19th century; trading copper, iron, ivory and gold with the Voortrekkers, hunters and fortune seekers.

Pafuri Camp

Pafuri Camp is a luxury safari lodge on a private concession in the Kruger Park. It lies between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu River in the Makuleke Contract Park and offers guests an unsurpassed wildlife and birdwatching safari experience. The concession falls within the Premier Transfrontier Area, which is the meeting point of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

It is in what is regarded as South Africa’s premier birding destination with incredible sightings of endangered species. These include rare sightings of the Pel’s fishing owl, narina trogon, crested guineafowl, Arnot’s chat, tropical boubou, Dickinson’s crestel, black-throated wattle-eye and the green-capped eremomela.

The area is characterised by alluvial plains with rich soils that have been deposited by the three might rivers in the region. The large floodplains boast magnificent specimens of tree species which include Ana-trees, sycamore figs, nyala-trees, southern lala-palms, Natal mahogany, fever trees and umbrella acacias.

Accommodation is in luxury safari tents; catering for couples and families. Children are welcome; however, children under 6 years aren’t allowed on game drives and children under 12 years may not go on bush walks.

Pafuri Camp is an excellent destination for foreign tourists as the guests are taken on daily morning and late afternoon game drives and pre-book guided walking safaris. Game drives take you on a magical drive on sandy roads winding through riverine woodlands and lush floodplains to Lanner Gorge, Crook’s Corner and the Fever Tree Forest.

Punda Maria Rest Camp

Punda Maria lies in the northern tip of Kruger, only 8 kilometres from Punda Maria Gate. It is miles away from the busy tourist routes and offers wildlife and birding enthusiasts with the ultimate escape into the remote wilderness.

The region is characterised by a combination of Punda Maria sandveld, Nwambia sandveld thickets and Limpopo Valley rugged veld. Undulating hills and valleys on basalt and calcrete pebblebeds and Soutpansberg sandstone and quartzite produce deep sandy soils which is ideal for red bushwillow, flaky-bark acacias and Lebombo ironwood trees.

Animal numbers in the upper north region are sparse but the area has gained notoriety for its incredible array of rare bird species and wildlife. Basically, Punda Maria is a birder’s paradise and game viewing is secondary to unsurpassed birdwatching moments.

Accommodation at Punda Maria Rest Camp is 7 luxury safari tents as well as white-washed 2- and 4-sleeper bungalows. Each unit is air-conditioned and has a toilet, washbasin and basic kitchenette with a fridge. Visitors staying in the bungalows use a communal ablution block and shared kitchen and barbeque facilities.

There are 50 electrified camping and caravan sites at Shingwedzi. Other facilities include a good restaurant, well-stocked convenience store, laundromat and fuel station.

Captain JJ Coetser was the first ranger to be posted to the area in 1919. He mistakenly named his camp Punda Maria, thinking it was the Swahili word for ‘zebra’. The correct name is ‘punda milia’, which means striped donkey. He chose to keep the name as is in honour of his wife, Maria, with whom he had 12 children.

Shingwedzi Rest Camp

Rest Camp sits on the confluence of the Shingwedzi River and the Mandzemba and Mphongolo spruits. As a result, it’s the perfect base for some of the best game viewing in the Kruger Park. There are always elephants in the river and you may be lucky to see one of the big tuskers.

One of the Magnificent 7 elephants was named after the camp, and he died near it in 1981. His tusks weighed 58 and 47 kilograms respectively. The rest of the Big 5 roam freely in the region, making Shingwedzi Rest Camp an excellent choice for international tourists wanting to tick lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo off their bucket list.

Shingwedzi River only flows in the summer months which provides visitors with a panoramic view of the mighty water course and lush riverine vegetation. However, the best time to visit Shingwedzi Rest Camp is in winter when it’s barren and dry and the animals converge on the sparse water pools to quench their thirsts.

The bushveld is semi-arid, and the region is generally dry with sparse scatterings of mopane shrubveld. However, the impala lily adds a vibrant hue to the camp when in full bloom. Other tree species on the Shingwedzi plains include the leadwood, sickle bush, mustard tree, umbrella thorn, red and russet bushwillow and the magic guarri.

Unusual bird sightings include the Verreaux’s eagle owl, Bennett’s woodpecker, fulvous duck and the great white pelican. Birds attracted to the river valleys include the dwarf bittern, black and corned crakes, Burchell’s coucal, bearded woodpecker and the chorister robin chat.

Self-catering accommodation at Shingwedzi Rest Camp ranges from a luxury guest houses, 8-sleeper family cottage, traditional Kruger bungalows and camping and caravan sites. All units have an en-suite shower/bathroom and have air-conditioning. Onsite facilities include a good restaurant, swimming pool and picnic site, laundromat and fuel station.

In its day, the Shingwedzi basin was known for its breeding herds; its big tuskers. The tusks of Shingwedzi who died close to the rest camp can be seen at Letaba Elephant Hall. The name Shingwedzi is believed to be a Tsonga name for the river; it is a combination of ‘Shing-xa-goli’ which is the name of a prominent chief and ‘njwetse’ which describes the sound of iron being rubbed together.

The Outpost

The Outpost Lodge is a private luxury destination in a remote corner of the far north of the Kruger National Park. It is situated on a hill overlooking the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers, with a panoramic view of the surrounding bushveld. It’s far, far away from the busy tourist routes and promises the ultimate African safari experience.

The Outpost was developed as a joint initiative between private investors and the local community. Visitors are taken to Makuleke Village nearby for a wonderful cultural experience, which is also an opportunity to support local woman who sell African crafts.

The luxury outpost was designed by an Italian-born architect, Enrico Daffonchio, who favoured simple, elegant lines combined with elements of steel and canvas. It’s a contemporary oasis in the middle of remote wilderness and blends in perfectly with the lush bushveld.

The Outpost falls in the Makuleke Region which is the epicenter of the Great Limpopo Park. It is made up of the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Gaza National Park in Mozambique and the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe. The vision was to create a Peace Park which provided wildlife form all three countries with a protected sanctuary.


These rest camps are off the beaten track and much loved because they’re quiet and remote. They have their own ablution and kitchen facilities, including crockery and cutlery. However, there are no shops or restaurants in the bush camps and no camping is allowed.

Bateleur Bushveld Camp

Bateleur is an exclusive bushveld camp situated on the banks of the Mashokwe Stream in northern Kruger. It’s the oldest and smallest of the bushveld camps in the Kruger and offers visitors an exclusive safari experience. Game viewing and birdwatching from the Bateleur bird hide is excellent.

The private camp was built in the late 1980s and is restricted to guests staying over. It has 7 fully-equipped self-catering chalets. Each one has an en-suite bathroom, air-conditioning or an overhead fan, and barbeque facilities. Linen and towels are provided, and the chalets are serviced daily.

There is a small shop onsite that stocks basic items such as firewood, ice and phone cards. No foodstuff is available, and guests must arrive with everything they need for their stay. Shingwedzi Rest Camp is about 40 kilometres away and visitors can stock up on provisions there or enjoy a meal at the restaurant.

Silvervis and Roobosrand dams are a short drive from Bateleur camp and restricted to guests. Apart from game coming down to drink, birdwatchers delight in sightings of the African spoonbill, yellow-billed stork and African fish eagle. Common water birds include the white-faced duck and knob-billed duck, as well as the greenshank.

Biyamiti Bushveld Camp

Biyamiti Bushveld Camp is situated between Berg-en-Dal and Crocodile Bridge on the Biyamiti River in southern Kruger. It lies nestled amongst jackalberry and wild fig trees in one of the most beautiful camp settings in the Park.

The camp is rich in history as it was built close to an old trade route which served ancient traders transporting iron, gold and copper from inland to the coast of Mozambique. It is only open to guests booked into the camp and offers guests an intimate and tranquil safari experience, away from the busy tourist routes. It is 25 kilometres from Skukuza Airport which is perfect for fly-in/fly-out guests.

Self-catering accommodation is in 15 cozy guest cottages that flank the Biyamiti River. It can accommodate a maximum of 70 visitors and is so popular, it’s booked up a year in advance. Linen, towels and soap are provided, and the cottages are serviced daily.

There is no restaurant at Biyamiti Bushveld Camp and no meat or groceries are sold at the mini shop in reception. Only basic provisions such as firewood and lighters and ice.

Biyamiti falls within the ‘southern circle’ which is renowned for its high concentration game; including a delightful mix of predators, antelope, giraffe and zebra. You have a good chance of seeing wild dog and cheetah on a self-drive or a pre-book guided safari tour or bush walk.

Access to the Biyamiti Camp and surrounding bushveld is strictly for private residents which means wildlife sightings are exclusive and not shared with hordes of tourists and safari operators. Spend time at the historical sites which capture the tale of intrepid explorers who travelled with wagons and oxen through unchartered territory, often succumbing to tropical diseases such as malaria and tsetse-fly.

Shimuwini Bushveld Camp

Shimuwini Bushveld Camp is set in a remote location on the banks of the Letaba River, north of Phalaborwa Gate in northern Kruger. It is regarded as elephant and buffalo country, with sightings of the rest of the Big 5, and an abundance of antelope and birds.

Self-catering accommodation is 15 family cottages spread out along the Shimuwini Dam with panoramic views of the surrounding bushveld. Basic provisions are provided such as cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery, a fridge, wash sink and gas stove. Bring everything else you need for your stay. Linen, towels and soap are provided.

Each cottage has its own barbeque facility and meat can be kept frozen at a communal freezer in the reception area. The camp uses solar panels for lights and overhead fans, but there are no electrical points to charge phones. This can be done when popping in to one of the bigger rest camps. The nearest restaurant and shop is at the Letaba and Mopani rest camps.

The area is characterised by flat northern basalt and gabbro plains with mopane shrubveld and red bushwillow woodlands. Shimuwini is the Shangaan word meaning ‘Place of the Baobab’ which is an ancient giant tree that looks like it’s been picked up and shoved back into the ground.

Concentrations of game in upper-central Kruger are not as high but what you do see is spectacular including elephant and big cats. The sparse, isolated hills in the west are rich in archaeological history with finds that date back to the Iron-age. The Lebombo Mountain in the east forms a natural boundary between the Kruger Park and Mozambique.

Sirheni Bushveld Camp

Sirheni Bushveld Camp is a small, intimate camp situated next to the Sirheni Dam on the Mphongolo River between Punda Maria and Shingwedzi in northern Kruger. Its location offers visitors panoramic views of the bushveld and excellent game viewing at the dam.

The exclusive camp consists of 5 bush camps nestled in a grove of trees surrounded by mopane shrubveld. It’s one of the more luxurious bushveld camps and offers the ultimate escape from the busy tourist routes.

Self-catering accommodation is 15 family cottages with a fully-equipped kitchen and outside barbeque facilities. The units are spread out along the bank of the Mphongolo River with a view over Sirheni Dam. Linen, towels and soap are provided, and the units are serviced daily.

The camp operates off solar electricity and there are no plug points for charging phones. The main office has a generator that you can use to re-charge torch batteries and phones. There is no restaurant or take-away outlet onsite; you can buy firewood and ice at the reception office.

There are two bird hides just outside Sirheni Camp which are spaced about 100 metres apart and connected by a walking trail. They are raised high on platforms with stunning views of the waterhole and surrounding bushveld.
The name Sirheni means “the grave” in Shangaan and was given to the camp as it marks the site where an old tusker elephant was buried in 1959. He tragically died from anthrax poisoning.

Talamati Bushveld Camp

Talamati Bushveld Camp is situated in open savanna plains and laid out of the banks of the N’waswitsontso River, about 25 kilometres south-west of Orpen Gate. It’s reserved for the exclusive of guests and way off the beaten tourist track, so guests are guaranteed an authentic African safari experience and peace and tranquility.

The surrounding area is characterised by rolling granite plains and mixed bushwillow woodlands. The soil is sandy with patches of clay and tree species that thrive in this eco-system include the silver cluster-leaf, large-fruited and red bushwillows, magic guarri, scented-pod and sticky acacias.

Talamati is one of a few bushveld camps in the Kruger Park that are small but more luxurious than the bigger camps. They’re all located in remote wilderness and only guests are allowed in the camp and access to the surrounding roads. A camp like Talamati is a satellite camp to a bigger rest camp; in this case, Orpen Rest Camp.

Self-catering accommodation at Talamati is well-appointed and secluded cottages nestled under a canopy of trees on the banks of the river. Linen, towels and soap are provided, and the units are serviced daily.

The camp uses solar panels to power electricity for lights and overhead fans and there is a fridge in each unit, but no freezer space. Guests can keep their meat and perishable goods in a communal freezer at reception.

There is no restaurant or large convenience store at Talamati, but visitors can eat out and stock up on provisions at Orpen Rest Camp or Satara Rest Camp. There is a large boma area for group or family barbeques which is positioned away from the accommodation, so guests can get a bit rowdy without disturbing others.

Talamati means ‘lots of water’ but this relates to a vast reservoir of underground water which is sucked up by the spongey clay soil in the region. The N’waswitsontso River is usually dry unless the region is experiencing exceptionally high rainfall but, nevertheless, the valley is lush and fertile and attracts hordes of plain game and predators that follow in their wake.


Malelane Gate

Visitors travel through the magnificent Komati Gorge and the fertile farming district of Malalane to reach Malelane Gate on the southern tip of the Kruger National Park. It’s an historic landmark as it’s served as one of the main entrances to the national park since Kruger was established in the early 1900s.

You drive over a bridge that spans the mighty Crocodile River before reaching the entrance gate, and often this is where you’ll see the best game. Herds of elephant and buffalo come to the river to drink and there’s always a selection of antelope, giraffe and zebra hanging out on the water’s edge.

The main road (H3) from Malelane Gate to Skukuza Rest Camp is a busy tourist “highway” but you have the option of several scenic loops and dirt roads for a quieter safari experience. Sightings of rhino are common as they love the open savanna grasslands and bushwillow woodlands between the Crocodile River and Afsaal Trader’s Rest.

Numbi GATE


Numbi Gate is one of the main entrance points into the Kruger National Park and the gateway to the south-west corner of the Park and the popular ‘Southern Circle’. It’s a high rainfall region and renowned for its lush vegetation and higher concentrations of game.
Pretoriuskop Rest Camp is the closest tourist destination to Numbi Gate and lies on a historic footpath now known as Voortrekker Road (H1-1). It was once a well-worn path used by intrepid traders and hunters to reach Delagoa Bay in Mozambique from inland regions.
The first public tourists to the Kruger Park entered through Numbi Gate in 1926. Pretoriuskop was the only overnight accommodation available for tourists at the time and it took 2 years before a rudimentary network of dirt roads around the rest camp could be used for game viewing.
Napi Road (H1-1) is the “highway” to Skukuza, the capital of Kruger. There are lovely scenic loops you can take to avoid the busy tar road and many waterholes and bird hides you can stop at for game viewing and bird watching.
Orpen Gate
Orpen Gate is positioned on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park and is the gateway to the lower-central region of the national game reserve. You’ll find a historic landmark 9 kilometres from Orpen called Rabelais Hut which was the original entrance into the Park. The Orpen family generously donated their land to extend the western boundary of the reserve and Orpen Gate became the new entrance.
Popular routes to take from Orpen Gate it the main road (H7) to Satara or you can take the scenic route to Timbavati River (S39) and Tshokwane (S36). The road (S140) from Rabelais Hut to Talamati is scenic and interesting; however, the area surrounding the bushveld camp is restricted to visitors booked in for a stay, so you’ll have to travel back to Orpen Gate on the same road. Fairfield waterhole on the S145 is good for game viewing, with common sightings of giraffe.
The lower-central region of Kruger Park is renowned for sightings of big cats, especially lion. The open savanna grasslands attract hordes of antelope which in turn attracts big cats and smaller predators.
Paul Kruger Gate
Paul Kruger Gate is positioned on the western boundary of Kruger and is the closest entrance to Skukuza Rest Camp. It’s the quickest way to get in and out of the “capital” of the Park which serves as the administration centre.
A massive bust of Paul Kruger stands sentry close to the entrance and was created by sculptor Coert Steynberg. Paul Kruger was the former president of the Transvaal Republic and a controversial man in modern South African history, but he was a conservationist at heart and credited with proclaiming land that served as a sanctuary for South Africa’s precious animals who were under threat from rampant hunting and poaching.
Paul Kruger Gate is positioned close to Sabie River which is a dominant watercourse in southern Kruger. There are several scenic loops you can take to avoid the busy thoroughfare (H11) to Skukuza Rest Camp with beautiful vantage points at dams for excellent game viewing.
For a day trip, take the direct route (H3) from Skukuza Rest Camp to Malelane Gate, with a stop-off for lunch at Afsaal Trader’s Rest.
Punda Maria Gate
Punda Maria Gate is the gateway to the far north corner of Kruger which is a wonderland of remote wilderness and a birder’s paradise. It has recently been upgraded to cater for an increase in tourist traffic as foreigners discover the joy of an unsurpassed safari experience.
Punda Maria Camp is a short 10 kilometre drive from the entrance. A scenic loop around the rest camp takes you along a river course which is excellent for game viewing and bird watching. There are three main drives around Punda Maria: the Mahoni Loop, the Klopperfontein Road (S60/61) past the mythical Gumbadebvu hills and the H13-1 between Punda Maria Gate and Dzundzwini Hill.
At the T-junction of the H13-1 and H1-7/8, turn left and head due north to Pafuri. This takes you to the confluence where South Africa meets Zimbabwe and Mozambique at Crook’s Corner on the Limpopo River.
The S63 takes you to the Pafuri Border Post on the far north-east boundary which takes you to Mozambique.

Most international tourists visit the Kruger National Park to see the Big 5. Who or what are the Big 5 in Africa?
This was the term given to five wild animals that hunters feared and treated with absolute respect because of how dangerous and unpredictable they are. Today, the term relates to five spectacular animals that visitors to a game reserve want to see and tick off their bucket list.
The African elephant is the largest of the Big Five as well as the largest land mammal in the world. They are gentle giants unless provoked and are usually seen calmly and silently walking through the bush, browsing on leaves and grass shoots.

Elephants are very sociable and have strong family bonds, led by a matriarch. They can live up to 100 years and magnificent specimens known as the Big Tuskers are showcased at the Letaba Elephant Hall.

Mature bulls form bachelor groups or may be seen wondering through the bush on their own. They communicate over several kilometres using infrasonic sound.

Elephant numbers are under threat from rampant poaching with unscrupulous delinquents selling their precious ivory tusks on the world black market.

Be warned; an angry elephant is extremely dangerous and are not likely to survive an attack if you irritate and provoke it while on a game drive.
Cape Buffalo
There are four species of African buffalo and the Kruger is home to the Cape buffalo. It may look like a harmless cow munching on grass in the bushveld, but buffalo are regarded as one of Africa’s most dangerous animals and have killed more hunters than any of the other Big 5.
Buffalo live in large herds that can range from a few hundred to over a 1 000. You’ll usually see them at or near rivers or waterholes as they must drink water every day. The South African nickname for buffalos is ‘dagga boys’, meaning mud boys. This is because they’re usually covered in mug after a good soak in a muddy waterhole.
They’re a delicious feast for lions and will viciously fight off predators such as lion using their massive horns. They protect their calves by placing them in the middle of the herd but the buffalo that are usually the first to fall prey to lions are the weaker and older ones that hang off the peripheral of the group or live on their own in the bush.
The ox-pecker is the Cape buffalo’ personal cleaner and they remove hundreds of ticks and parasites off a buffalo. It’s a win-win situation as the ox-pecker gets a tasty meal while keeping the buffalo free of parasites.
The elusive leopard is a master of disguise and it’s a real thrill to encounter one lounging on the branch of a big tree, licking its paws after a tasty meal of impala. Leopards are nocturnal animals which means they hunt almost exclusively at night.
They can leap more than 3 metres in the air and almost always carry their prey to safety at the top of a tree so it’s not pinched by hyenas or lions. Leopards tend to ambush their prey, stalking them in thick woodland thickets rather than open grasslands.
They are solitary animals and prefer to stay on their own. They’re not highly territorial and won’t stay in one place for more than a few days which makes it harder to keep track of them. They can run at up to 55 kilometres an hour and are extremely agile. They’re also good swimmers and will cross flowing rivers without hesitating.
If they can’t catch a juicy impala or small antelope, they’ll snack on bugs, fish, monkeys and rodents. They’re not fussy eaters and will make do until something bigger and tastier arrives. Leopard are extremely strong and will carry a heavy buck to a branch high up in a tree.
Leopards communicate with each other through distinctive calls, such as a growl if angry and a purr when happy. A hoarse, raspy cough is a warning to another leopard that it is venturing into its territory.
Lion need no introduction if you’ve watched the Lion King movie. Lions are affectionately called the Kings of the Jungle for good reason; they are a magnificent species and not even seasoned game rangers get bored of lion sightings on safari. There is nothing more spine-chilling and exciting than the roar of a lion in the still of the night.
Lions are impressive and excellent hunters, although the females do all the hard work and the male has the privilege of feeding first. They spend most of the day resting in the shade and will head off late afternoon/early evening to scout for food. A pride can sleep up to 20 hours a day.
They are sociable animals that observe a strict hierarchy within the pride. When food is scarce, many cubs starve to death as they cannot compete with the adults at a kill. Lionesses help each other with baby-sitting duties and rear cubs in a nursery-like environment.
There are two species of rhino in Africa; the rare black rhino and the more common white rhino. The black rhino is highly endangered, and the white rhino is fast becoming endangered as they suffer from the plight of rampant poaching.
The black rhino has a distinctive hooked lip which it uses to browse on shrub leaves. It prefers to stay hidden in dense woodland thickets. It is far more aggressive than the white rhino and not someone you want to walk into on a guided bush walk.
The white rhino has a square lip which is adapted for grazing on open savanna grasslands. It is the larger of the two species and a little less aggressive. Rhinos are short-sighted and rely on an incredible sense of smell. They may look bulky and heavy-footed but don’t make a mistake in the bush – they are fast and furious when on the run; reaching a speed of up to 35 miles per hour on full throttle.


They may not get all the glory of the Big 5 in the Kruger Park, but the common regulars are just as exciting to spot on a game drive.
The hippo is one of nature’s most powerful beasts. They are extremely dangerous when grumpy and irritated so stay out of harm’s way when anywhere near one of them. They can reach great speeds in water despite their barrel-shaped massive bodies.
Hippos are the second-largest land animals with first place going to elephants. A mature male hippo can weigh up to 3 200 kilograms. They tend to live in groups or a pod, with one large dominant male calling the shots.
They spend their days wallowing in rivers, lakes or dams to stay cool in the scorching African heat. Only their eyes, nose and ears stick out above the water, but you’ll know there’s a hippo in the water by its noisy grunts and splashing.
Hippo secrete an oil red liquid which acts as sunblock against burning under harsh sun rays. When completely submerged under water, their ears and nostrils fold shut to keep water out. Hippo can stay underwater for a long period of time.
Hippo are active at night and are known to walk miles into the bushveld, far from the river course, to graze. They are herbivores which means they mainly eat grass. And they eat a lot of grass, up to 35 kilograms a night.
It’s not hard to spot a giraffe on the open savanna plains of the Kruger Park. They are the tallest living land animals in the world with an adult male growing to around 5.5 metres. That’s three adult humans standing one on top of the other.
Not only do they have a height advantage for spotting hungry predators, they also have excellent eyesight. Lions are wary of giraffe and tend to keep their distance unless very hungry because the instinctively know that one vicious blow to the head by a giraffe hoof will kill them instantly.
Giraffe are herbivores and will be found grazing in thick wooded shrubveld. Their favourite snack is the leaves of the acacia tree and they use their long tongues to wrap around and pull them off the branch. Giraffe eat all day, consuming anything up to 45 kilograms of leaves and twigs a day.
Giraffe don’t need to drink much water, which is a good thing as it’s a real effort to stretch out their long, gangly legs to take a sip of water from a waterhole or river. They get most of the water they need from the leaves they eat and usually only drink once every few days.
Female giraffe give birth standing up and it’s a 1.5 metre drop for a baby giraffe to the ground. They’re hardy little things and are usually up and standing within a half hour of dropping down to earth. A few hours later, they’ve got their legs sorted and will run alongside their mother.
The way to tell if you’re looking at a female or male giraffe is to check the horn on the top of their heads. If the horn is covered in tufts of hair, it’s a female. If it’s bald, it’s a male. This is because a male giraffe’s horn is worn out from “necking” which is how they fight; butting their long necks and heads until someone backs off.
Zebras look like donkeys in stripped pyjamas and are common sightings in the Kruger. An interesting fact is that the stripes of a zebra are unique to each animal like human fingerprints and no two zebras have a similar pattern. A newborn zebra stays close to its mother and imprints her pattern.
There are two species in southern Africa and the Burchell’s zebra is the most common. The southern Burchell zebra has a distinctive brown shadow stripe in the white stripe which diminishes the further north the species occurs. They are larger than the Mountain zebra which is found more commonly in the Cape.
A herd of zebra is small, usually made up of one stallion and a few mares with their foals. Bachelor stallions are kicked out of the herd as soon as they start challenging the primary stallion for the females. The stallion will put up a good fight if a youngster attempts to cover one of his females, viciously kicking and biting each other until someone backs down.
There bold black and white stripes are hardly useful for camouflage and one wonders why nature bestowed them with such conspicuous hide. Scientists believe that the complex pattern confuses predators when they huddle in a tight circle, which makes it difficult to isolate a weaker or younger zebra.
Zebra are extremely social animals and are often seen nuzzling and grooming each other. The mares look after the foals as a collective group and the stallion will aggressively defend its family when under threat from a lurking lion. A kick in the face from an adult stallion can be lethal for a lion or at the very least break its jaw. Zebras will grunt and snort loudly to alert the rest of the herd if they get a sense danger is near.
The red-billed oxpecker is usually found hitching a ride on the back of a zebra, grazing on ticks and insects on its hide. And other birds such as the fork-tailed drongo, carmine bee-eater and wattled starlings, are usually found around their feet catching insects disturbed in the grass.
A mare gives birth to one baby zebra which will be up and standing within 15 minutes of birth and running with the herd within in an hour. A full-grown zebra can run at a speed of 65 kilometres an hour when in full chase.
The Burchell’s zebra is the closest relative to the extinct Quagga which roamed the southern plains of South Africa until the 19th century. The species is so closely related that scientists are having a lot of success using DNA from chosen individual to bring the Quagga species back to Africa.
Impala are what locals call the “fast food” of the bush. Rangers also joke that they’re sponsored by McDonald’s because they have a distinctive M marking on their rumps.
These slender, agile antelope are small, but they can move like the wind when under threat, reaching speeds of over 60 kilometres an hour and leaping high into the air to gain distance from a predator in pursuit. Impala live in large herds of up to 100 and evade capture by scattering and causing huge confusion. They release a scent from a gland in their heels when they high kick in the air which helps the herd gather together after they’ve scattered in a chase.
Female impalas (known as ewes) are clever mommies because they can delay giving birth for up to a month until it’s safe; usually during a rainstorm when the smell of blood can be washed away and always at mid-day when predators are usually off snoozing under a shady tree. Half of newborns are killed by predators within the first few weeks and it’s very sad to witness a mother bleating loudly in grief when she loses her baby.
Only rams (males) have horns which are lyre-shaped and ringed, and up to 75cm long. It takes years for a male’s horns to reach full length and until then, the bachelors cannot take on a dominant position in the herd. Rams produce a scent from a gland on their foreheads which they use to mark their breeding territory. When a ram loses his rank, his scent gland disappears.
Rangers call warthogs bush radios because you’ll see them scurrying through the bush with their little tails sticking straight up like radio antennaes. The little tuft of hair at the tip of the tail looks like a flag waving in the air when a warthog is trotting through the bush.
They are members of the pig family and only found in Africa, preferring more arid plains and open savanna grasslands. A warthog can survive lengthy periods without water; from several months to up to a year. They aren’t on the endangered list, but they are under great threat from hunting.
Warthogs aren’t the prettiest to look like and get their name from the large wart-like bumps on their long faces. Their skin is covered in hard bristles, they have a scraggy mane and two pairs of curved tusks which they use in fights in mating season or defend themselves against predators. At full speed, warthog can reach speeds of up to 30 kilometres an hour on little legs carrying a round, podgy body.
A quirky feature of the warthog family is they graze on grass and dig for roots on their padded knees. They have poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell and hearing. They set off the alarm with a high pitch squeal when predators are in the area which sends antelope and zebra bolting off.
A female warthog will give birth to 4 babies and each one has exclusive use of one teat. If a baby warthog dies, the free teat isn’t taken over by the other babies. Youngsters stay with their mother until the birth of the next litter.


The Kruger National Park boasts an abundance of antelope; big and small. The southern and central region is a breeding ground for magnificent species of larger solitary antelope and large herds of impala.
Blue wildebeest
Also known as a bridled gnu, the blue wildebeest has a dark silver-grey body marked with dark vertical bands on its front quarters. It has a long black mane and a beard that hangs from its throat and neck. Both sexes have curved horns; an adult bull’s horns are heavily bossed.
Blue wildebeest give birth to a single cow in the summer months and the calf will run with the herd almost immediately after birth.
Wildebeest have survived for generations because of a natural survival strategy where they will cross expansive planes, rivers and gorges to find better food sources during wet and dry seasons. It is a gregarious herbivore, feeding in wooded shrubveld and open savanna grasslands.
An eland is a stately mammal recognisable by its heavy physique and thick curved horns. It is light in colour with a pale throat and has a noticeable hump at its shoulders and a prominent dewlap. They also have distinctive white stripes on their flank.
Both sexes have a heavy horn that slants backwards; males are heavier than females and can weigh up to 450 kilograms. Male eland are easily distinguished by a dark patch of hair on their forehead which covers glands under the skin.
Eland ae browsers and are mostly found in wooded thickets. They can go long periods of time without water but are reliant on certain fruits to keep hydrated.
Calves are born throughout the year as eland don’t have a specific breeding season but there tends to be a peak season when females in the herd drop their young within a short space of each other. Calves are up and running with the herd within a few hours of being born.
Eland are highly sociable and very protective of their young. They form a nursery of sorts when threatened by predators, where the large males create a fortress around nursing calves and their mothers.
You’ll find eland in dry, semi-arid areas which means you’re more likely to find them in central Kruger. Eland are nocturnal mammals and browse on vegetation that has absorbed moisture during the day; providing ample sustenance when water sources are dry.
Eland are large and powerful, and their thick horns are lethal. They are preyed on most often by lion and packs of spotted hyena. Cheetah and wild dogs may go for the younger or weaker in the herd but will never take on a full-grown eland.
Greater Kudu
A kudu is a striking animal with thick, long spiral horns which can be as long as 1.5 metres. Its grey-tawny coat is marked with white strips and it has a V-shaped ban on its forehead and white spots on its cheeks. Its long main extends from the back of its head to the end of its tail.
They are browsers and are usually found in thick bushveld thickets grazing on shrub leaves which often have fruit and pods on them.
Rutting season in Kruger Park is April to May and a single calf is born six months later in January or February. The calf is kept hidden in long grass for the first 6 weeks and the mother comes to the spot to nurse it.
Kudu herds are not very big; they tend to split up when it reaches 20 in the herd. Young cows always stay with their mothers, but young bulls will break away and form a bachelor group when they are ready to start mating. Kudu bulls only join the family group in mating season.
You’ll find higher concentrations of kudu in dense shrubveld and woodlands at the foot of rocky outcrops. They rarely venture out onto the open savanna grasslands.
Sable antelope
Sable antelope are the royalty of Kruger Park; with their beautiful, charcoal-black soft pelt and striking horns. It’s a sight to behold to spot a sable antelope in the thick riverine forests where they spend most of their time. They tend to avoid open grasslands.
Sable are solitary and territorial animals and usually occupy a territory that they mark with a secretion from glands in their abdomen. They are active from late afternoon/early evening and only active during the day in mating season.
A sable antelope is grazers with a preference for grass. They are known to chew on bones from carcasses lying in the bushveld which counters phosphorous deficiencies. Calves start eating grass from a young age and are fully weaned by eight months.
A sable antelope will confront at predator when threatened, using its lethal curved horns to defend itself.
Waterbuck are large antelope with a brown-grey shaggy coat. They’re so wooly, they look be suited for snow-capped mountain reserves. They are easily distinguishable by a round white rump on their rump that looks like they’ve sat on a toilet seat with wet white paint. Only bulls have long, forward-curving horns; both have prominent round ears.
A key feature to it survival is a waterbuck emits a strong musky smell that tends to repel predators. The coat is slimy to taste and they’re not first choice on the dinner table for hungry predators. A major threat for waterbuck is crocodiles as they spend a lot of time at waterholes and rivers.
As their name suggests, waterbuck are usually found grazing on grass close to permanent water sources or knee-deep in shallow water. They play a vital role in the Kruger eco-system as they are happy to eat grass in poor condition; if they have enough water to drink on a daily basis.
A female waterbuck gives birth to one calf; there is no specific breeding season, but calving tends to peak in the summer months. Like roan antelope, young calves are kept hidden in thick grass or wooded thickets until they can join the herd. They are strong swimmers and when chased, will take refuge in deep water.
Dominant bulls are territorial and aggressively defend their turf from young bachelors. You’ll either find a small group of young bachelors on their own or a larger herd of some 30 waterbuck made up of a dominant bull, females and their calves.


These antelope are common features in the Kruger but still a joy to see on a safari tour.
This shy, elusive antelope is a solitary animal and usually found minding its own business in dense bush at the foot of rocky hills or along river courses. They need to drink regularly so they don’t wonder far from a permanent source of water.
Bushbuck are a close relative of the kudu and nyala, but more smaller and more elegant in appearance with a dark-greyish brown coat and distinctive white spots on the flank and prominent white socks. They have very sharp horns which are dangerous if they’re cornered or wounded.
When a male bushbuck is trying to get the attention of a female, it walks in a tense, high-stepping gait and arches its back to make its white markings stand out. There is a rigid hierarchy among bushbuck and very rarely will males fight over their breeding territory.
Bushbuck are browsers and selective feeders, preferring delicate shrubs found along the river courses. On rare occasions they’ll eat grass but only if they need to in dry periods.
The gestation period is short, so a female can have two babies a year. After giving birth, the female licks the newborn clean and eats the placenta to get rid of the bloody evidence which attracts predators. A calf is kept well-hidden in thick bush for up to 4 months before it ventures out. Its Mom visits and suckles it a few times a day and will eat its dung to remove any scent in the hiding place.
Bushbuck are fairly adaptable when it comes to behaviour and will become almost entirely nocturnal if they are frequently disturbed during the day. When accosted by a predator, they’ll either sink to the ground and lie dead still or they’ll bound a way making a series of hoarse barks.
Common duiker
The common or grey duiker is a small, shy antelope that is usually seen at dawn and dusk browsing in wooden shrubveld. It gets its name from the Afrikaans word for ‘dive’ because of its habit of ducking and diving into bushes when threatened by predators. They avoid open savanna grasslands where there is no shelter and solitary animals, usually only pairing up during mating season.
It lives off a wide range of bushveld food; anything from leaves, fruit, pods and seeds to insects like caterpillars and small carrion like bush mice and nesting birds. They can go long periods without water, getting enough moisture from the food they eat.
A male duiker has short horns and both sexes have a black bank around the lower part of the face near the nostrils. A female duiker gives birth to one young, and very rarely twins. The female will find a safe hiding place before she births and will stay hidden with her calf until it can run, which it will do about a day later.
When chased by a predator, it runs in a distinctive zig-zag motion, diving into shrubs and then darting off again. Its alarm call is a nasal snort and if caught it bleats loudly. As they are so small, they often fall prey to snakes like pythons and crocodiles at water sources where they drink.
A klipspringer has tight, coarse hair and looks more suited to the snowy alps than the scorching African bushveld. It walks on the tips of its hoofs, which as long, narrow soles and blunt rounded tips. It gets its name from the Afrikaans word meaning ‘rock jumper’ because its rounded hoofs are adapted to spring across rock outcrops and large boulders.
It’s a small but stocky antelope, weighing no more than 11-13 kilograms and standing 500-600mm high. Rams have short, pointy horns which are ringed at the base and both sexes have noticeable dark markings on their faces.
Klipspringer often fall prey to leopard, jackal and spotted hyena who can climb up rocky outcrops. Eagles and baboons are a threat for newborn calves because they are left on their own when the mother goes off to forage. When threatened, they’ll flee to higher ground and then let off a piercing whistle to alert other klipspringer of danger.
Klipspringer are browsers and will eat flowers, tender green shoots and fruits found on species growing at the foot or on rocky outcrops. They hardly ever eat grass and do not need drink a lot of water, getting what they need from what they eat.
Rams and ewes form lasting bonds and will stay in the same territory for life unless they’re forced to move elsewhere. They’re a sociable species and form groupings of an 8-10 strong family unit.
An oribi is a small, elegant antelope which has a long, slender neck and thin, dainty legs. It has a rufous-brown coat with a distinct white under belly and a short black tail. Two large pre-orbital glands are situated close to the inner corner of its eyes.
Rams have short, pointy horns which stick out straight and act as little spears. When alarmed, an oribi leaps vertically into the air with straight legs which game rangers call ‘stotting’.
Oribi are grazers and usually found in open shrubveld and savanna grasslands. You’ll often find them close to permanent water sources but that’s because they grass is more lush and sweeter in those areas. An oribi is not dependent on surface water and gets most moisture that it needs from what it eats.
Oribi are seasonal breeder and in the Kruger Park the birthing season peaks mid-summer in November/December. Lambs are hidden for about a month in thick undergrowth until they can join their mother grazing in the bush. They’re weaned at about four to five months.
They form small monogamous groups of a ram with two ewes and are territorial. Bachelor rams will be kicked out of a group when they threaten the primary ram over his ewes, and they’ll often go off in pairs for company.
You get three types of reedbuck in the Kruger; common, mountain and grey. The common reedbuck is distinctive has it has a light fawn coat much like an impala, where the other two have grey-brown coats. All three have a distinctive white underbelly. Only rams have horns.
Reedbuck are grazers, preferring grass in wet habitats. They are mostly nocturnal animals and are usually seen on early morning and evening game drives, although they occasionally graze on grass during the day.
A quirky characteristic of reedbuck is their distinctive run; which is an unusual rocking gait with its tail straight up and its white underside exposed. Oribi form monogamous pairs and females will break away from the family unit when old enough to find its own mate. Bachelors are tolerated until they threaten the main ram and then they are chased out.
Steenbok are the daintiest and bravest of the common antelope. They are solitary animals and always found on their own in the bush. They measure 520mm at the shoulder and weigh no more than 10-12 kilograms. Rams have distinctive small, sharp horns and both sexes conspicuous black facial grands that ring their large, dark-brown eyes.
Steenbok are browsers and usually found in open shrubveld, foraging for young leaves, flowers, fruits and green shoots. They can go long periods without water and get most of the moisture they need from what they eat. When food is short in dry seasons, they’ll resort to digging up roots and tubers which are also high in moisture content. On rare occasions, steenbok may scavenge on small carrion such as ground birds and mice, but this is only when there is a severe shortage of food.
A steenbok ewe gives birth to one lamb which is hidden in dense bush for up to 4 months before it is old enough to venture out to forage with its mother. To hide its scent, the ewe will eat the faeces of its young and drink its urine during its visits to nurse it. This keeps the hiding spot odour free and there is less risk of a predator finding the young lamb.
Steenbok are always found on their own, but they are happy to share their territory with another steenbok. Males mark their territory using urine and secretions for a gland under its chin. In a reserve like Kruger, steenbok rams use roads and telephone poles as boundaries.
Because they are so small, steenbok can safely hide out in open savanna grasslands when the grass is taller or may seek refuge in sparse shrubveld. They sometimes take refuge in abandoned ant-bear holes and have their young in them if it’s a safer option.
They’re a tasty snack for leopard, caracal, wild dog and cheetah and often fall prey to snakes like pythons or large birds-of-prey like the Martial eagle.


We’re ticking off the top of the iceberg with big birds in the Kruger Park, but these species are easily identified and the ones you’ll see lots of on a safari tour. We’ve left off the common ostrich and of course, he’s the biggest and tallest in the bushveld. Most people can identify a long-legged gangly ostrich so we’re including real bushveld species in the Big 5 big bird list.
Goliath heron
You can’t miss a goliath heron in the Kruger; it’s the largest heron in Africa. An adult goliath heron stands about 135 centimeters at shoulder level and weighs over 4 kilograms. Both sexes have the same distinctive plumage; with a brown-grey shaggy back and chestnut front and head. Its front neck is mottled, it has a sharp prominent beak and yellow eyes.
Goliath heron mainly feed in or around permanent water courses, living on large fish, frogs and crabs. It’s vary its diet with a selection of water lizards, snakes and insects but it is mainly a fish eater. They often have to fend off fish eagles and saddle-billed storks who are the fish thieves of the bush.
They are usually found on their own and are highly territorial. If you see two goliath heron together, it’ll be their breeding season. They are monogamous and only will take a new mate if the other one dies. They nest in nests made high up on thick branches of a tall tree. They lay between 2 and 5 eggs which are a beautiful blue colour.
They hunt by standing in shallow water and intently staring at their feet. They’ll stand dead still for ages to prevent causing ripples and will stab a fish with its sharp long beak and swallow it whole. The average goliath heron catches between 2 to 3 large fish a day; preferring bream, tilapia and carp.
The goliath heron has a recognisable deep bark which can be heard up to 2 kilometres away. If it is disturbed by a predator, it will give out a high-pitched sharp bark. It rarely ventures far from water and usually only flies along the length of a bank to get to its nest or a better fishing spot.
Kori bustard
The kori bustard is the heaviest flying bird in Africa and adult males weigh up to 20 kilograms. They are land birds and often hard to find in the open savanna grasslands because they have light brown and grey plumage that is good camouflage in the dry bushveld. They rarely fly, and some bird enthusiasts refer to them as a flightless species.
The kori bustard is an omnivore meaning it eats plants and protein; with a diet that rangers from berries to insects, lizards and small snakes. A unique quirk of the kori bustard is it drinks using a sucking/slurping motion as opposed to most birds which scoop up water with their bills.
A fascinating sighting in the bush is a male kori bustard doing its mating dance to get a female’s attention. They puff up their neck and its wings droop on the ground as it does a little bird dance. They often ruffle their feathers to look like a big white ball of fluff, and they bow to the female while puffing out their cheeks. Throw in a booming sound in the mating ritual and it’s quite a sight to see.
Males duck off when the deed is done, leaving the females to incubate and raise the chicks entirely on her own. The females often don’t bother with building a nest and will lay eggs on soft, sandy ground.
It gets its name from the word bustard which means “birds that walk”. They live the majority of their life on ground level and rarely fly because of their weight. They live for a long time and breed slowly and tend to be highly territorial. You’ll recognise them by their long, slow stride and regal posture. You’ll find the kori bustard in open savanna grasslands or lightly wooded shrubveld.
Saddle-billed stork
The saddle-billed stork is a large wading bird that is easy to recognise with its distinctive thick black and red striped beak with a yellow frontal shield. It has a striking long black neck and beautiful white and black plumage. Its long legs are black with pink hocks and it has a distinctive bare red patch of skin on its chest which darkens in breeding season.
This majestic stork is listed as endangered and there are only 25 to 30 breeding pairs in the Kruger Park, and a handful of non-breeding storks. In fact, it is more rare and special to see a saddle-billed stork than it is to see cheetah and wild dog in Kruger.
They are a prominent feature on river banks and at permanent waterholes hunting for their favourite food. They live on a diet of fish, frogs and crabs. Occasionally they may snatch a small wading bird or water reptile. They hunt by moving in a slow, stealthy manner; surprising their catch even though they are so tall and conspicuous.
Saddle-billed storks fly with their necks outstretched, unlike herons who fly with their necks retracted. They prefer to hang out in riverine forests and open savanna flood plains. The lay one or two eggs in a large deep stick nest; each egg weighs almost 150 kilograms. They are a solo bird species and will pair up with a mate during the breeding season, otherwise they prefer their own company knee-deep in river sand on the banks of a mighty Kruger river.
Secretary bird
The secretary bird strikes a majestic pose in the bush, standing tall at 1.3 metres with its distinctive grey and black plumage and red eye mask. It is unlike other raptors having long legs, wings and a tail. You’ll see it striding out on its own in open savanna grasslands, walking for up to 3 kilometres at a stretch to look for prey.
It gets its name from its crest of 20 long black feathers sticking out the back of its head. People who name birds thought they looked like the quill pens from the 19th century which they’d tuck behind their ears. Its long legs are feathers half way creating the impression the bird is wearing pantaloons. Its long tail feathers are shaggy with two black central streamers.
It has long powerful legs which it uses to stomp on small animals or hold them down while it tears at them with its beak. It mainly lives on a diet of insects but will snack on a selection of snakes like puffadders, rodents and game bird. It’s even been known to swallow small tortoises whole.
The secretary bird is commonly seen around Lower Sabie and Satara. They do fly occasionally to get to different habitats and will join in vultures soaring on thermals.
Southern ground hornbill
Southern ground hornbills are very easy to identify; they look like prehistoric dodo birds stomping through the bush. They are highly endangered so it’s a real treat to find a breeding pair or family in the bush. They are the largest members of the hornbill family.
An incredible characteristic of the southern ground hornbill is its booming call which is often mistaken for a lion’s roar. You know you’ve woken up in the Kruger Park when you hear them calling in the early morning.
Local superstition is driving these majestic species to near extinction and they are only surviving through dedicated conservation initiatives. Indigenous people believe the southern ground hornbill possesses magical powers that can bring rain and prevent lightening strikes. They have a high bounty on their head and are poached for their beaks and other body parts that are ground up to make traditional medicine.
Records show there are no more than 600 to 700 southern ground hornbills in the Kruger which are usually found in open woodland and savanna grasslands. They sleep in trees at night and forage on the ground during the day; snacking on a diet of termites and other insects, frogs, small snakes, squirrels and mongooses.
They will walk for miles a day foraging for food; sometimes over 10 kilometres at a time. They tend to live in groups of 4 to 5 and will hunt collectively; where someone flushes out prey and the others catch it. Sometimes they’ll all surround a log and tap on it with their beaks to flush out rodents, lizards or a small snake.
When you see a group of southern ground hornbills, make a note of the sighting with the date, exact GPS location, time of day, number of birds and their condition. Log your sighting on the SANParks website to contribute to an ongoing census that is conducted to keep track of these mighty but vulnerable birds.
Marabou stork
This prehistoric-looking stork unfortunately has made a name for itself as the ‘undertaker of the bush’ and is on the list of the Ugly 5 of Kruger. It has a very somber demeanor which suits its grisly task of cleaning up dead and dying animals.
You’ll find them on the outskirts of a kill and always in attendance when there has been a veld fire. They’ll pick through the burnt bush, downing morsels of ashen dead animals which range from rats and mice to tortoises and dead game birds. Its featherless skull looks like it’s been singed in a fire or devoured by a 1 000 flesh-eating parasites.
An adult marabou stork stands about 1.5 metres high and weighs about 6 kilogram. It’s the largest stork in Africa and needs to consume up to a kilogram of food a day to fill it up. Its sharp bill and bare head and neck are perfect for climbing into the carcass of a dead elephant. It uses its beak as a stabbing spear. You’ll also often find it at rivers where it will nab something large like a barbel fish.
Marabou storks gather in large numbers and as many as 200 have been spotted in and around an elephant carcass. They usually stand back and let the vultures into the carcass first but will put up scuffle if left out of the bushveld restaurant for too long.
Marabou storks are fearless scavengers and have been known to raid bird nests and crocodile nests, stealing eggs and live hatchlings. In periods of drought, they survive by gathering at drying pools and fishing out dying fish. A quirky habit of the marabou is it will defecate on its own legs to keep cool on hot days. The white droppings act as a heat reflector
Ironically, marabou storks are high flyers. They’ll catch thermal updrafts and soar up to 1.5 kilometres above the bushveld. They can spend almost the whole day soaring on thermals.
They may be part of the Ugly 5 but sightings of marabou storks are extra special. The species is classified as near-threatened in southern Africa and are protected by conservation initiatives in the Kruger Park.


Bird enthusiasts are spoilt for choice if its eagles they’re looking for in the Kruger Park. Here are 5 of the most common eagles you’ll spot on a game drive and a few fascinating facts about these majestic birds.
Bateleur eagle
The Bateleur eagle is a magnificent species and known as the Kruger’s top snake catcher. Its name is the French term for ‘tightrope walker’ which it earned because of its distinctive aerial acrobatics.
Its colouring is distinctive; with pitch-black feathers and white under its wings. It has a bright red face which is devoid of feathers, bright red legs and a mop of black tawny feathers on its head. Female Bateleurs are large than their male counterparts. Juveniles look very different until they reach adulthood at the age of 3 years, and then only comes out in full glory from the age of 8 years.
A bateleur eagle has a massive wingspan but a very short tail so it’s easy to spot a bateleur in flight as its feet extend beyond its tail.
They spend a large part of the day in the air hunting for food and will feed on anything from mice and small carrion to snakes, lizards and even small antelope like a steenbok. They’re often seen on one of the tar roads picking at road kill.
The female lays a single egg in nest perched on top of a large, tall tree. She sits on the egg to keep it warm while the male searches for food and sticks to prop up the nest. Sometimes they switch roles and the male eagle sits on the egg.
A juvenile bateleur eagle leaves the nest after 3-4 months but it continues to be fed by its parents until it reaches adulthood. Sadly, only 2% of chicks make it to adulthood.
Crowned eagle
The crowned eagle is as impressive in size as the Verreaux’s eagle, but it has a smaller wingspan. It has adapted to its habitat which is thick riverine bushveld and wooden thickets. It can swoop through dense bush to catch its prey.
You’ll find the crowned eagle sitting majestically atop tall trees on the banks of a river or permanent water hole or flying low over a riverine forest. The mottled feather pattern on its chest provides good camouflage in dappled sunlight in the forests.
The crowned eagle is known for its immense strength and beats the Verreaux’s and Martial eagle when it comes to lifting heavy prey from river beds and tree tops. They usually hunt in pairs where one bird flies low over trees to cause panic amongst a troop of monkeys and its mate swoops in to grab one that has been isolated from the group.
The crowned eagle kills its prey instantly by crushing its skull with its powerful talons. Only when it has succumbed will the eagle take it to its nest to be shared with its mate and chicks. Pairs bond for life and return to the same nest year after year. They’re a noisy lot and will sit on their nests in the breeding shouting kwee-kwee-kwee and attracting a lot of attention.
One quirky trait of the crowned eagle is it will sit on top of an ant’s nest with its wings and breast feathers smothering the mound. The insects climb all over biting into it which bird enthusiasts believed is the eagle’s way of ridding itself of excess skin and feathers.
Most of its diet consists of small mammals like monkey, mongoose, scrub hare, tree squirrels, dassies and occasionally small antelope like a steenbok. It may catch game birds and the occasional lizard which it will dismember and hide in its nest for a future snack.
The crowned eagle loves riverine forests and are common sightings on the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers in northern Kruger.
Brown snake-eagle
The brown snake-eagle is a common sighting and a species you’ll tick off your list early on a Kruger safari tour. It has very distinctive plumage; it’s a prominent percher and its legs are whitish with not feathers. It’s piercing yellow eyes are a distinctive feature.
It is one of several snake eagles in Kruger; preying on a smorgasbord of dangerous snakes such as puffadder, mamba, boomslang and grass snakes. It’s also snack on a selection of leguaans, monitor lizards and chameleons.
You’ll spot the brown snake-eagle hanging around wooded shrublands and granite koppies and are common residents around Skukuza.
Fish eagle
The African fish eagle is an iconic Kruger bird species; standing out in its majestic glory with distinctive black, brown and white plumage. Its distinctive call gives you goosebumps. If the lion is the King of the jungle, the fish eagle is its queen.
It gets its name from its love of fish and will prey on anything from small river fish to flamingoes. It sometimes eats carrion and is classified as a kleptoparasite because it has a bad habit of stealing prey from other birds. The fish eagle will eat live or dead fish but prefer them to be alive.
It has two distinct calls; one when it is in flight or perched atop a tall tree and one it uses when near its nest. The female’s call is shrill and less mellow than the male, and that is the call most visitors hear in the bush.
Like most large birds of prey, fish eagle usually hunt in the morning using heat thermals. They settle back in the nest or on top of trees from mid-morning and spend the rest of the day surveying their territory.
As fish lovers, you’ll find fish eagle in trees flanking the banks of large rivers or permanent waterholes. They are very territorial and will usually return year after year to the same nest. They only move off in very wet weather to seek a dryer spot.
Martial eagle
The Martial eagle is the largest African eagle and one of the most powerful. A full-grown male can weight up to 6 kilograms and has a wingspan of almost 2 metres.
Its upper body is dark brown with a white underbelly and black streaks. Its fluffy legs are white, and it has very large talons. A juvenile Martial eagle looks very different to its parents.
Martial eagles live on a diet of guineafowl, francolins, bustards and on rare occasions storks. It may feed off small carrion like an impala calf or steenbok and is known to snatch baby monkeys and mongoose. It prefers a meal of game birds but may snatch snakes and large lizards to supplement its diet.
A pair will build a nest high above the ground in the largest trees in the area, usually on steep hills or in a gorge. This means it has a clear sweep off the nest to hunt for food. Martial eagles will have one or two nests in a region; they’re massive structures up to 2 metres across and a metre deep. They are made using large sticks and lined with green leaves.
Once the fledging eagle arrives, the female is usually left on her own to care and feed them and the male makes himself scarce. When the young eagle is ready to fly, it will return to the next for a few days after it has gained its independence but will move away shortly thereafter.
Martial eagles are commonly found in thornbush and open savanna grasslands, perched on tall trees with panoramic views over the bushveld. They tend to hunt in the late morning using thermals created as the bushveld heats up and warm air rises.
A Martial eagle can soar for hours on thermals, often for pleasure and not just when it is hunting. It attacks its prey at great speed, coming in at a slanting angle. Most of its kills are surprise attacks on unsuspecting game birds in the open bushveld.
Verreaux’s eagle
The Verreaux’s eagle is a large African bird of prey; also known as the black eagle in southern Africa. It lives around rocky outcrops and mountain gorges, preying on its favourite food source which is the dassie (rock hyrax). When dassies are scarce, it will catch game birds, hares, monkeys and even small antelope.
These eagles are easily identified by their enormous size and distinctive black and white pattern on its back. A juvenile has a different colour to the adult species but still has the distinctive plumage. You also easily spot a Verreaux’s eagle in flight as it wing shape can be described as a paddle or spoon-shaped, and it soars in a pronounced dihedral with its wings held slightly above the back and its upturned tip makes a V shape.
It is mostly silent but will make chirruping sounds like a francolin when it finds its mate. It’s emit a scream or bark when under threat from a predator.
The Verreaux’s eagle is thriving in Kruger but still under threat as it is a unique species, preferring a single food source which is the dassie. Populations of dassies are decreasing due to habitat encroachment which means the eagle is forced to adapt its diet.


If there are vultures in the area, good chance you’ll find a predator kill. Vultures are nature’s vacuum cleaners and play a vital role in cleaning up the eco-system. They are the ultimate scavengers and will patiently wait for predators to move off a kill so they can move in and strip the carcass down to bare bones.
Vultures on a kill are ruthless and will fight for whatever scraps they can get. They will eat a kilogram of meat in a minute and strip a carcass within a few hours. They are essential for the bushveld ecology as they minimise the risk of disease by ridding the veld of carrion. After gorging themselves, they bathe in rivers to wash off the blood.
Vultures can spend most of the day in the air soaring high above ground in thermal currents. They have excellent eyesight and keep an eye for any animal activity. They will wait patiently in a large group in tall trees around a kill and can wait for up to 36 hours if its lions on a kill.
Vultures are the ultimate scavengers will a strong, hooked beak used for tearing open skin and flesh. It does not have feet suited for killing prey itself but it may drop in on a termite hill for a snack or grab the odd lizard or rodent.
South Africa has 9 vulture species and 7 of them are listed on the Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland meaning they face a real threat of extinction. Vultures are killed or badly injured on power lines but are mainly threatened by poisoning and traditional healers. In the Kruger, the tree-nesting species are under threat because there has been a marked increase in elephant numbers who knock down trees and destroy their nesting options.
Many farmers and game farm owners have set up what are known as “vulture restaurants” which are safe places designated to vultures. Large predators are kept out of the area and they’re popular tourist attractions.
Other interesting facts about vultures include; a group of 50 vultures can strip a carcass of an impala or sheep in 20 minutes; vultures feed on carrion (dead carcasses) and do not kill their own prey because they have weak feet; they don’t fly at all because they are too heavy and rely on heat thermals to keep them soaring in the air; a female vulture lays one egg every year; and always have a good bath after a bloody feeding frenzy.
Cape vulture
The Cape vulture is the only endemic vulture species in southern Africa. The species has been upgraded to endangered with only 2 900 breeding pairs found in southern Africa and has been declining steadily since the 1980s.
The Cape vulture has a creamy-buff plumage with dark tail feathers and a black bill. It’s honey-coloured eyes are naked, it has a blueish throat and silvery feathers on the underside of its wings. Juvenile Cape vultures are born without feathers which only start to appear when they get older.
This vulture species prefers open savanna grasslands and shrubveld but will nest on cliff faces or crags in mountain regions.
Lappet-faced vulture
The lappet-faced vulture was listed as Vulnerable in the Red Data Book but this has recently been amended to Endangered. It is estimated that there are only about 2 500 mature lappet-faced vultures left in their natural habitats.
The lappet-faced vulture is the largest of the vulture species found in southern Africa. It is easy to identify; with a massive beak and large bare head with pink and blueish skin. It has prominent skin folds on its face and neck which is the reason for its name. Both sexes look the same.
Hooded vulture
The hooded vulture is the scruffy cousin in the vulture world; it’s small and has dark-brown plumage with a downy nape and hind neck, and a longer, pointy beak. It’s a common species in Kruger and follows the same habits as its bigger cousins.
Its broad wings and short tail feathers are suited for soaring at great heights for long periods of time, always on the look-out for a recent kill or dead carcass.
The female hooded vulture lays one egg in a stick nest situated high in a tall tree on open savanna grasslands. They are quite territorial and will return to the same nesting area each year. It lives in large flocks and a few are dispatched each day to soar above and look for food.
This vulture species is known as the ‘garbage collector’ as they’ve become habituated humans and are often seen scavenging in rubbish dumps outside of towns and safari lodges. Their status has been uplisted from endangered to critically endangered, largely because they are very susceptible to being poisoned or killed for traditional medicine because they tend to come too close to human settlements.
White-headed vulture
One of the more stately and elegant of the vulture species, the white-headed vulture has a handsome black and white plumage and a bright pinkish-red beak. Its face and neck are naked, and they have a fluffy black mane.
This majestic species has been uplifted from endangered to critically endangered. It is estimated that there are only 160 adult birds in South Africa. Their biggest threat is poisoning and being killed for the traditional medicine industry.
You’ll find the white-headed vulture in mixed woodlands and open shrubveld. White-head vultures are monogamous and will return to the same nest or nesting area each year; although two-thirds of this species breed every alternate year.
The white-headed vulture flies lower over the ground and is often the first to arrive at a kill. They are usually found on the outskirts of the carcass as they can’t compete effectively with their big cousins. They may feed on smaller carcasses like dead rodents and snakes but rarely kill their own prey.
White-backed vulture
The white-backed vulture is the most widespread and common of the vulture species in Africa and the one you’re most likely to see in Kruger. At the same time, their status has been uplifted from endangered to critically endangered where 90% of the species has been reduced in size in the last 3 generations. It is estimated there are about 7 350 mature birds left in its regional habitat in Africa.
This species prefers open wooded savanna plains and prefer to nest in tall trees. They sometimes build nests on electricity pylons. They live in loose colonies and tend to come together to feed gregariously at kills.

Snakes are vital to the Kruger eco-system although we like to keep them at an arm’s distance; particularly if we are walking through the bush. There are a few extremely venomous snakes in South Africa but they are not considered dangerous because there’s a very slim chance that you’ll encounter one as an average tourist on a safari trip.
The snakes you’re likely to encounter on a safari tour of the Kruger National Park are all highly venomous but your chances of being bitten by one are low unless you’re living rough in the bush and disturbing them in their territories.
Here’s what you should know about the 5 most common snakes in Kruger Park and how they behave.
African rock python
The African rock python is the largest snake found in Africa. It has a long, stout body with bold blotchy patterns that vary in colour from brown, olive, chestnut and ochre. It has a triangular head with a mark on top which makes it appear like a spear.
Its scales are like all pythons, small and smooth to touch. It has heat-sensitive tips around its lips which it uses to seek out warm-blooded prey. It hunts well in the dark as it relies on this feature rather than sight.
It’s a non-venomous snake and kills its prey by constricting it. When a snake gets a grip on its prey, it coils around it tightly. Death is not caused by asphyxiation or crushing but usually from cardiac arrest.
A rock python feeds on anything; from game birds and bats to small antelope, reptiles and rodents. A large rock python will kill warthogs, bushbuck and even small crocodiles. They swallow their prey whole and may take months to digest a large meal.
It lays 20 to 100 hard-shelled eggs, usually in an old animal burrow or shallow cave. The female coils around its clutch, protecting them from predators and keeping them warm.
Black mamba
The black mamba is the most dangerous and most feared snake in Africa. It is the largest venomous snake and can reach up to 5 metres in length. It stores a lot of venom in its system and bites readily if provoked or surprised.
Fortunately, black mambas are very shy and nervous and will flee a scene before you’ve spotted it. The danger is if you surprise them or accidently corner them; then they will strike quickly and aggressively. Because they are so shy, it’s very uncommon to find them in homes or buildings.
An angry black mamba has a habit of standing straight up on its tail. Because it is so long, it reaches chest height in humans which makes a bite extremely dangerous as it is more likely to hit you closer to the heart than a ground dwelling snake.
Black mambas have strong neurotoxic venom which quickly shuts down the human nervous system and is deadly if not treated immediately. If you surprise a black mamba and it rises up to strike, keep dead still. Do not panic or run. A black mamba will usually look for a way out of attacking someone and with luck with slither away quickly in the opposite direction.
If bitten, use a compression bandage to slow down the spread of the venom but seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Every second counts with a black mamba bite.
The boomslang’s venom is hemotoxic and very dangerous. However, it lives up in trees and is hardly ever seen. They tend to scare easily and will disappear if there is a lot of human activity in their habitat.
The venom disables the blood clotting process and the victim will die of internal or external bleeding if medical help is not administered immediately. The venom is slow-acting and symptoms only develop a few hours after a bite so you have some time to get to a hospital. A boomslang bite is extremely dangerous and must be taken seriously.
Drop by drop the boomslang has the most potent venom of any snake in Africa and the amount of venom required to kill a human is so small you can hardly see it with a naked eye. However, there are hardly ever more than one or two boomslang bites a year in South Africa and the victims are usually snake handlers. This is because a boomslang snake will only bite if severely provoked. It will puff itself up and warn a person to back off before it strikes which gives you time to back away slowly.
The boomslang is a back-fanged snake meaning they need to strike a few times before they can apply adequate pressure to release the venom. Most people walking in the bush experience a dry bite from a boomslang.
The female boomslang is a grey colour with a light under belly and it has a slim head; the male boomslang is bright green with large eyes and has an egg-shaped head.
There are two species of cobra found in the Kruger and both are highly venomous; the snouted cobra and Mozambique-spitting cobra. The snouted cobra is more common than the Mozambique spitting cobra as the spitting cobra is like the mamba and prefers as little interaction with humans as possible.
When confronted, cobras either curl up tightly or they raise their heads and draw a hood.
Snouted cobras are stocky with big scales and can grow up to 2 metres in length. They are a pale yellow colour with darker mottles. They are nocturnal hunters and you may bump into on pathways at safari lodges. Always shine a torch in front of you when walking around the Kruger rest camp at night. Fortunately, snouted cobras make themselves scarce and, like the mamba, will do its best to avoid human interaction.
A bite from a snouted cobra is extremely painful; the bite area swells up and causes tissue damage, and victims experience breathing problems because the venom is neurotoxic. Seek medical help as quickly as possible.
The Mozambique spitting cobra gets its name because it will raise its hooded hit and spit venom in the eyes of its prey. If you find one in your home or property, get a professional snake handler to remove it. Always wear sunglasses when walking in the bush in case you encounter one which spits in your eyes.
Its venom is cytotoxic and neurotoxic so you’ll experience tissue damage in the bite area and breathing problems if bitten by one. They are not shy snakes and have become habituated to humans. It’s not scared to slither into a home or building at night where it will roll up to sleep off a big meal. The biggest risk is rolling onto one in your sleep so keep windows shut and air-con on from late afternoon if this thought terrifies you.
Puff adder
The puff adder is highly venomous and one of the more common and widespread species in southern Africa. The puff adder is a thick, heavily-built snake with a flat, triangular head.
Fortunately, it is quite easy to avoid getting bitten by a puff adder. Watch where you are walking if you in the bush and stay on clear, open paths at the rest camps.
If a puff adder is disturbed, it coils into a defensive S-shaped posture and hisses loudly, which is where it got its name. This is a warning signal; don’t ignore it -back up and get out of its way. If it gets very angry, it moves extremely fast and you have little chance of escaping a deadly bite.
The puff adder is well camouflaged in the bush but easily recognisable if you see it in time. It has a very distinct patterned skin which is a combination of yellow, light brown, orange and reddish U-shaped bands. Its belly is white or yellow and its head has two very obvious dark banks; one is on its crown and the other is between its eyes.
This camouflage is necessary because puff adders often fall prey to warthogs, honey badgers and large birds of prey like the snake eagles. They are dangerous because they are slow and sluggish and don’t get out of the way for humans. They rely on their patterned body as camouflage, so the danger is someone stepping on one.
80% of the time a puff adder won’t bite a person. If it is stretched out, it will coil backwards and away from you and hiss to warn you to back off. You’re in more trouble if the puff adder is already coiled and ready to strike.


Kruger National Park is home to wild animals and dangerous snakes and insects. Visitors enter the national game reserve at their own risk and must follow the Park’s rules and regulations for the safety of the animals and themselves.
These are 5 issues to take seriously on a trip to the Kruger Park if you want to have a wonderful safari experience and get out alive.
Take malaria seriously
The Kruger Park is a malaria area. The risk in southern Kruger is slightly lower than in the northern regions but it’s advised to take the necessary precautions to prevent contracting malaria wherever you stay in the game reserve.
You will only get malaria if you are bitten by the female mosquito carrying the malaria strain. Not all mosquitos carry malaria but you need to protect yourself against that one rare nophilly lurking in dark and damp corners.
Consult your doctor or visit a travel clinic for a prescription for anti-malaria tablets. Prophylaxis treatment is effective but it is wise to take other precautions such as spraying your room and yourself with a mosquito spray in the evenings, sleeping under mosquito nets, spraying your car with mosquito spray in the morning and wearing long sleeves and long pants with socks in the evening.
The incubation period for malaria is 7 to 14 days so if you experience any of the malaria symptoms from the date of arriving in Kruger, consult your doctor or go immediately to a hospital for a blood test. Symptoms include: bad headache with chills, fevers and sweats, aswell as extreme fatigue, joint pain, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.
Keep to the speed limit
The speed limit on tar roads is 50 kilometres/per hour.
The speed limit on dirt roads is 40 kilometres/per hour.
Speed traps are set up on busy roads in the park and you’ll find yourself reporting to the Chief Traffic Officer in Skukuza if caught well over the speed limit. In some cases, speedsters are banned for life from visiting the Kruger Park.
Please stick to the speed limit because you risk badly hurting or killing an animal if it runs into your path. It’s also extremely annoying and selfish to disturb other peoples visits with reckless and inconsiderate driving in the Kruger Park.
Do not get out of vehicles
Visitors must always remain in their vehicles unless in designated areas like picnic spots, bird hides and rest camps.
No body part may protrude from an open window or sunroof. Don’t let children sit on car windowsills or stand up through an open sunroof. There is a hefty fine charged if you break this rule and other visitors are encouraged to take a photo or video and post it online. Authorities will contact you and fine you if identified through a vehicle registration number.
Wild animals are masters in disguise, particularly lions. If you think you can spot one in the bush, think again! Don’t be an idiot and you’ll leave the Kruger Park alive and in one piece.
No dangerous weapons or drones allowed
Firearms and weapons are strictly forbidden unless declared at the entrance gate. Poaching of rhino and elephant in the Kruger Park is a serious problem and if caught with a firearm, you will be arrested and thrown into jail.
The same applies to drones. There is a heavy fine if you are caught using a drone in the park to view animals and take photographs. Not only do these disturb the game and annoy other visitors, they are banned because they are used by poachers.
Contravening these two rules will lead to a lifetime ban on visiting the Kruger Park.
Be respectful
Don’t be that idiot that annoys other people staying in the rest camps and enjoying a wonderful safari in the Kruger Park.
Be respectful at game sightings. Don’t hog space; move on when you’ve spent enough time there and taken a few photos. Never get out of your car to take a closer look!
Be respectful of the amount of noise you make in the rest camps and at wildlife sightings. Keep your voices down and don’t let your children shriek or call out. Turn down your radio or car music if your windows are rolled down.
Loud music is not tolerated in the rest camps and shouting and singing loudly is appalling behaviour and selfish. People come to the Kruger Park for peace and tranquility; don’t ruin it for others.
Roller-skates, bicycles, motorbikes and skateboards are strictly prohibited in the rest camps. Don’t bring very young children to the Park if you think you’ll battle to keep them entertained after the morning game drive. Malaria treatment is highly toxic for young children and it’s not worth the risk for babies and toddlers.
Don’t be an idiot and provoke wild game on the roads. Watch a few YouTube videos and you’ll see the twit in the car that revs and elephant or gets too close to it, ALWAYS comes off second best. The tragedy is an animal that attacks and harms a visitor in the Park is often shot and killed because such an incident makes them weary of tourists and aggressive.


SANParks (South African National Parks) Reservations
Telephone: +27-(0)12-428-9111
Email: reservations@sanparks.ork

Malaria info hotline (7am-7pm)
Doctor/Skukuza Medical Centre (24-hr hotline)
Kruger breakdown/repairs
Nationwide Emergency Response (SAPS)
This is the nationwide emergency for police response and can be dialed from anywhere in South Africa. The response operator will determine if the emergency call requires the support of the local police or the Flying Squad.
Calls to 10111 made on a landline are free. Calls made from a cell phone are charged at the normal cell phone rates.
Cell phone emergency call
The number 112 can be called from any cell phone in South Africa. It will transfer your line to a call centre and they will route you to the emergency service closest to you.
When this number is dialed, it is followed by an automated menu. But remain calm, because the menu exists as a form of triage (priority of treatment) control and filters out abuse of the medical and emergency system.
A call to 112 on a cell phone is free and is even possible on a cell phone that does not have airtime.
Ambulance response
The 10177 number can be used in the case of a medical emergency and can be called in conjunction with both the fire and police department respectively, depending on whether there are casualties.
The response operator needs the following information:
• nature of the emergency
• exact location of the incident (including nearby landmarks)
• details about any injuries and possible suspects
• personal information and contact details

Store them on your phone as follows:
Emergency – Ambulance (10177)
Emergency – Cell phone (112)
Emergency – National (10111)


Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and a major tourist attraction in South Africa. Spanning an area of just under 20 000 square kilometres (7 500 sq/miles), the Kruger Park is 350 kilometres long and 60 kilometres wide.

The Park is wedged between the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in the north-eastern region of South Africa, with Mozambique on its eastern border and Zimbabwe on its northern border. It was first proclaimed a protected “no hunting” reserve in 1898 by the then President of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger. Today it is one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations and world-famous for its conservation and educational initiatives.

So where do you start if you’re planning a Kruger safari? We’ve put together a comprehensive guide that covers everything from places to stay in the Kruger to best game viewing spots. If you are overwhelmed by choice, Moafrika Tours has the knowledge and expertise to guarantee your Kruger safari will be a trip to remember forever.


If you are travelling from White River or Hazyview in Mpumalanga, the best entrance into the Kruger National Park for a 1-day Kruger safari is Numbi Gate. Once you have paid your entrance fee, you have two choices; take the direct route via Voortrekker Road (H2-2) to Pretoriouskop Rest Camp or the longer route via Napi Road (H1-1) to the Skukuza Malelane road. Stop off for lunch at the Afsaal picnic site before making your way home via Malelane Gate.

The south-west corner of Kruger National Park is characterised by Pretoriouskop sourveld with large, bare granite domes and leafy woodlands and grasslands favoured more by browsers than grazers; Malelane mountain bushveld with tall granite koppies (small hills) with mixed knobthorn sweetveld; and mixed woodland and thorn thickets found in the catchment areas along the Crocodile and Sabie Rivers. This is an excellent game viewing region because of its close proximity to water.

Voortrekker Road (H2-2) to Pretoriouskop Rest Camp

Voortrekker Road is rich in history as it was the main route for João Albasini’s caravans that transported thousands of kilograms of goods from the coast of Mozambique to the Lowveld trading posts, and returned to the shipping port laden with huge piles of valuable ivory. This journey reportedly took 24 days to travel between Lourenzo Marques (now Maputo) and Pretoriouskop. The caravan expedition usually included 150 Shangaans, 70 porters and 15 or more hunters who shot game for the posse.

The road was named in honour of Carolus Trichardt, son of the Voortrekker Louis Trichardt, who was commissioned by the then Transvaal government to open up a regular route between the northern interior and Delagoa Bay. Voortrekker Road was improved over time and was used extensively to transport supplies to Lydenburg and Mac Mac during the gold rush era.

The massive granite boulder that is a distinctive landmark close to Pretoriouskop Rest Camp was known as Ship Mountain to the transport riders. It is rumoured that a stash of 19th-century gold coins is buried at the foot of the granite outcrop, belonging to Chief Matafini, a former Swazi military commander who took refuge there after he fell out with King Mbandeni in the 1880s. He allegedly buried his life’s fortune to avoid paying taxes to the Transvaal government but he was murdered by bandits and his treasure has never been found.

Ship Mountain, or Shabeni Hill as it is known today, is covered in lichen and is a remnant of a geological upheaval that occurred some 3 500 million years ago during a time when the gabbro and basalts of eastern Kruger spilt out over the Lowveld floor when an ancient volcano erupted.

A little terrier named Jock was born close to Ship Mountain. He was the beloved dog of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, a former transport rider, who immortalised the story of his pet in his famous book, Jock of the Bushveld.

The south-west corner of Kruger Park is a good area to spot rhino. They are attracted to the vegetation around the base of Ship Mountain known as sweetveld (sweet field). The first white rhino reintroduced to Park in the 1960s were taken to a boma close to what was known as Ship Mountain. Their numbers had declined dramatically from unchecked hunting in the late 1800s.

Voortrekker Road crosses the Mitomeni Spruit – the place of the jackal-berry trees. This was a popular outspan area for transport riders and you can still see the bullet holes in the leadwood trees that the riders used for target practice. The small, fleshy berries found on the trees in the area were used to make beer, and traditional healers used the bark of the jackal-berry tree to make smoke that cured a cough.

Voortrekker Road to Afsaal picnic site

Halfway between Ship Mountain and the Afsaal picnic site is Josekhulu Drift, named after Albasini’s induna (headman) – a large Zulu man known as “Big Josef”. Close to Josekhulu Drift is the site of a trading store set up by Thomas Hart during the 1870s to sell supplies to the transporters.

To stave off loneliness in such a remote part of the country, Hart kept an array of unusual pets including a cheetah, honey badgers, jackals, parrots, monkeys and snakes. He was murdered by bandits in 1876 and buried next to the road by sympathetic Swazi warriors.

Napi Road to the Skukuza Malelane road (H1-1)

Napi Road drops down from the granite outcrops of the Pretoriouskop region into rolling plains of mixed bushwillow woodlands south of Skukuza. The bush in this area is quite thick which is not ideal for game viewing but it is an area where you are more likely to see rarer antelope such as sable and eland. This route takes you along the crest of the watershed that divides the two major catchment areas of southern Kruger, the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers.

Your first stop is the Shitlhave water hole where you are guaranteed to see a resident pod of hippo and waterbuck grazing in the tall grass. You may also see southern reedbuck. Your drive continues past Mlaleni Hill to a popular outlook point at Transport Dam. This area marks the start of the sweetveld (sweet field) region which attracts grazers like zebra, buffalo and elephant. The small granite koppies (hills) around Transport Dam are home to small groups of klipspringer (rock hoppers), small antelope that have the uncanny ability to skip up and down the steep rock face.

From Transport Dam, you have the choice of the more direct tar road to Skukuza or the N’waswitshaka dirt road (S65). The dirt road takes you off the busy main road and it’s a good place to look for cheetah.

Afsaal picnic site to Malelane Gate on the tar road (H3)

The tar road from Afsaal picnic site to the Malelane Gate crosses the Matjulu River and passes a historic landmark, Tlhalabye Hill. This road is popular for tourists looking for raptors and rhinos.

Another option is to take the dust road via Biyamiti Wier and Renosterkoppies. Both routes have interesting loop roads and the rolling woodland region is popular among birders. White rhino are often spotted in the woodlands along the road.

Where to have lunch on a 1-day Kruger safari

  • Pretoriouskop Rest Camp

This peaceful rest camp is one of the oldest establishments in the Kruger Park. It was opened in 1928 at a time when early tourists were first allowed into the park for day visits. The British royal family stayed at Pretoriouskop in 1947 during their tour of South Africa.

This popular rest camp is set in mixed terminalia and kiaat woodlands that attract browsers such as kudu and sable antelope. It was a popular outpost for transport riders on their way to Delagoa Bay because it was situated high above the malaria- and tsetse fly-ridden Lowveld. The transport riders used it as a base to prepare for the brutal journey across the plains to Komatipoort and on to the coastal port in Mozambique.

Accommodation at Pretoriouskop Rest Camp offers everything from budget-friendly campsites for tents and caravans and self-catering bungalows to family cottages and luxury guest houses. A recent addition is a luxury tented campsite that is situated on the fence overlooking the surrounding leafy woodlands.

There is a fully-stocked convenience store at Pretoriouskop Rest Camp and the Wimpy restaurant offers tourists simple, affordable meals. There is also a fuel station on the property.

Pretoriouskop Rest Camp boasts a spectacular swimming pool that was built up against a flat granite boulder. The large pool is hugely popular with families with young children and gets busy during the holiday breaks. The mini forest that surrounds the pool area is excellent for bird watching.

On a walk around the rest camp, look out for the bright bougainvillaea shrubs and red Flamboyant trees that were originally planted by the first ranger in the Park, Harry Wolhuter. He used the camp as his base in the late 1920s and would hold staff meetings under an old Natal mahogany tree that still stands proudly today in the rest camp. These are the only non-indigenous plants that have been left to grow freely in the park as they are a nostalgic tribute to a man that did so much for Kruger National Park.

This well-known rest camp is known as the “administration capital” of Kruger National Park and an excellent place for first-time visitors to visit who are interested in the history of the Park. Skukuza is the biggest and busiest of the main rest camps with a good restaurant overlooking the river, a fast-food outlet and a massive shop where you can buy everything from impala biltong to curios and bush gear.

The Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library is located in Skukuza and houses a wealth of memorabilia used by the early rangers, as well as stone tools from the San people. There is even a small memorial site for the much-loved pets of the old park rangers.

The rest camp was established at what was known as Sabi Crossing where there was a pontoon in operation to cross the dangerous river. The first Kruger Park ranger, Paul Bester, was stationed there in 1898 and built the first rondavel (round hut) as his home base. These rondavels have become a distinctive feature of the main rest camps in Kruger National Park.

During the Anglo-Boer War, Sabi Crossing was occupied by Steinacker’s Horse, a regiment of the British Forces. The rest camp was later named Skukuza when James Stevenson-Hamilton moved there and set up his headquarters. Stevenson-Hamilton was the first official Kruger Park Ranger and his historical notes of what transpired in those early pioneering days of conservation are housed in the museum named in his honour.

You may also like – Tydon Safaris

The Shangaan gave Stevenson-Hamilton the nickname Skukuza, meaning “he who turns everything upside down”. However, the name is a bitter reference to the fact that he was responsible for “driving out” inhabitants who had lived in the newly-proclaimed reserve for many years. Stevenson-Hamilton went on to transform Kruger National Park from an over-hunted, disease-ridden outpost into one of Africa’s best game reserves and conservation landmarks.

Skukuza Rest Camp is situated close to the confluence of the Sabie, N’waswitshaka and Sand Rivers. It is an area rich in game but the main attraction is sightings of leopard. The thorn thickets and mixed woodlands around the rest camp aswell as a permanent source of water attract an abundance of game which in turn attracts predators to the area.

A popular drive in the Skukuza area is the loop around the Sabie and Sand Rivers (H1-2, H12 and H4-1). There is a fairly good chance you’ll spot lion, hyena and wild dog on this drive. Other excellent game viewing vantage points include Mathekenyane Koppie on the H1-1 and Shirimantanga Hill on the S112 where Stevenson-Hamilton and his wife Hilda asked for their ashes to be scattered. Shirimantanga Hill is part of a scenic collection of hills collectively known as “Rhino Koppies”.

Skukuza Rest Camp boasts excellent facilities for tourists including a resident doctor and pharmacy, car hire and wash, a vehicle repair workshop, photograph development facilities and banking facilities. You can take an amble down the river-front walkway to the Campbell 1929 Hut Museum, which is the oldest hut in the Park. A well-maintained swimming pool is available for day visitors to use and there is a second pool at the camping site.

The main staff village is located across the river from Skukuza Rest Camp and boasts the only golfing facility in Kruger Park. It is a 72-par, 9-hole, 18-tee course set amongst beautiful bushveld trees with views over Lake Panic. The course is not fenced in and many golfers have had a game interrupted by curious buck and giraffe wondering onto the fairway. Be on the lookout for dangerous animals.

  • Afsaal picnic site

This is a great spot to stop off for lunch on a 1-day Kruger safari. The well-maintained picnic site is hugely popular with day visitors with a well-stocked shop, a fast-food outlet or braai facilities to choose from when the family gets hungry. The picnic site is surrounded by thick clusters of red ivory and enormous jackal-berry trees. An ancient termite mound near Afsaal is home to a tame colony of dwarf mongooses.

The site was originally used by the old transport riders as half-way camp enroute to Delagoa Bay and was popular as a hunting ground to replenish dwindling food provisions. The sweet grazing in the area attracted a variety of antelope all year round.

The surrounding area around Afsaal sits on a great horn of gabbro which provides nutritious grazing for animals such as zebra, wildebeest and impala. The abundance of grazers in the sweetveld plains attracts predators such as hyena and wild dog to the area. Also be on the lookout for unusual sightings of the Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, the southern reedbuck and caracal.

Afsaal is also well-known for sightings of lions that can be seen standing on the flatter boulders of the Makhoutwanini Koppies just north of the picnic site or resting in the shady, long grass beneath the trees in the leafy woodland areas.

The Biyamiti Basin lies beyond Afsaal. This wooden riverine is situated in the flood plains near Jock’s Camp and comes to life during the rainy season in summer. Gaggling parties of hornbills are a common sight in the mixed bushwillow woodlands.

The Biyamiti valley is also well-known for its rock art sites that are found in ancient hunting camps that were occupied for many years by the San, the last Stone-age people. These small nomadic groups followed the migrating animal herds and their traditional ways remained virtually unchanged for over 10 000 years until the arrival of the Bantu tribes from the north.

Exit at Malelane Gate

Your 1-day Kruger safari ends as you exit the Park at Malelane Gate. However, your journey is not over yet and you have the lush, fertile valley of Malelane and the magnificent Komati Gorge to look forward to on your drive back to Nelspruit.

Malelane is a charming valley situated on the N4 national highway about halfway between the capital city of Mpumalanga, Nelspruit, and the capital city of Mozambique, Maputo. It is also the gateway to Swaziland. The region is home to established farms that produce the country’s supply of sugarcane, subtropical fruit and nuts and winter vegetables.

The town of Malelane has also grown in popularity over the years as a destination for gourmet enthusiasts with establishments like Hamiltons Lodge & Restaurant offering visitors a delicious country meals paired with fine wines.


The first day of your 2-day Kruger safari covered the south-west corner of the Kruger National Park. If you stopped at Skukuza for lunch and spent time learning about the history of the Park, we recommend you spend your first night at Lower Sabie Rest Camp in the south-east (travel from Skukuza on the H4-1 tar road). This is a very popular rest camp so you will need to book your accommodation at Lower Sabie well in advance.

Lower Sabie Rest Camp is perfectly positioned overlooking the Sabie River, with views of the Lebombo Mountains in the distance. The modern restaurant has a stunning deck that is ideal for game viewing or just taking in the scenic beauty of the area. The endless procession of animals coming to drink at the Sabie River is a delight for both young and older visitors.

This popular rest camp has recently been refurbished and now offers luxury facilities and accommodation of a world-class standard. Luxury safari tents are a new addition, offering overseas tourists a real African bush experience. Accommodation ranges from self-catering Kruger huts and bungalows to campsites for tents and caravans.

Day visitors have access to a designated picnic area with a swimming pool and braai (barbeque) facilities. There are also picnic spots at Nkuhlu, Mlondozi Dam and Tshokwane. A well-stocked shop, an internet café and filling station are a few of the facilities available at Lower Sabie Rest Camp. The camp also offers guided bush walks and game viewing on an open vehicle for visitors booked into the rest camp but you need to book in advance.

Explore the south-east routes

Up at crack of dawn, you’ll want to get an early start to explore the south-east corner of Kruger National Park. Today you can look forward to sightings of cheetah, wild dog, elephant and rhino.

Your first stop for early morning coffee and rusks is Sunset Dam off the H4-1. This is an excellent waterhole for photography enthusiasts because you can get close to the water’s edge and catch the first rays of a glorious morning. For better game viewing, you can make your way to Duke’s waterhole (S137) where visitors often see territorial cheetah and wild dog.

Duke’s Water Hole was named after the legendary Tom Duke, the head ranger at Lower Sabie for 20 years. Stevenson-Hamilton said in his memoirs that he often felt Duke was “the only friend he had” when he faced an uphill battle to develop the Park. The water hole is full all year round and attracts prides of lion who hang around its edges waiting for animals to come drink.

There is a popular bird hide at Nhlambanyathi (S28) which gives the youngsters in the car a chance to get out and stretch their legs, or you can drive further south to Nhlanganzwane Dam. Both these spots are ideal for early morning visits when the animals and birds are most active. Be on the lookout for white and black rhino, tsessebe and bushbuck and the resident pods of hippo in the dams.

Leaving Lower Sabie, you have a choice of a few scenic routes. Although the distance of the different routes are relatively short, allow yourself a good three hours for a leisurely game drive at the strict speed limit to make it to the gate in time to leave the Park.

  • Lower Sabie to Skukuza route (H4-1)

You may prefer to head back in the direction of Skukuza (H4-1) along a very scenic route that passes through two distinctive eco-zones. The variety of vegetation attracts an interesting mix of grazers and browsers with spectacular sightings of the magnificent Tamboti and Fig trees hugging the river bank. This is leopard country, as the concentration of these magnificent cats is higher in this part of the Park than anywhere else in the southern region.

The vegetation blanking the Sabie River has changed since the destructive floods in 2000 uprooted trees and swept away reed beds. The river now follows a slightly different course since the raging river burst its banks.

For a leg stretch, snacks and refreshments, there is a picnic spot at Nkuhlu (Swazi name for the Natal Mahogany tree) about halfway between Lower Sabie and Skukuza rest camp.

  • Lower Sabie to Tshokwane route (H10)

This road leads you north of Lower Sabie over the Sabie River and along a very pretty route that gently winds through Knob Thorn, Marula savannah and wide grasslands to Tshokwane (H10). The sweetveld vegetation in this area attracts large herds of antelope, zebra, buffalo and wildebeest which in turn attract the predators. The eastern grasslands north of the Sabie River are home to the highest concentration of giraffe.

A popular spot to break the drive is Mlondozi Dam which offers visitors panoramic views over the plains and the Lebombo Mountains. Muntche Hill is an interesting stop-off as you can see a distinctive change in landscape where the flat basalt plains meet the rocky rhyolite hills. There is a 12km circular road (S122) around Muntche Hill where many visitors have reported sightings of cheetah.

Another excellent viewing point is Nkumbe, at a point where the road ascends into the Lebombo Mountain range before descending toward Tshokwane. You can look out over the Mlondozi River and try to spot game on the endless savannah plains.

Last stop on the H10 route is Orpen Dam where you will find a pleasant thatched shelter positioned close to the edge of the Munywini River, at the base of the Lebombo Mountain. This is an excellent spot for bird watching and of course, sightings of crocodile and pods of hippo.

This is a great drive if you are planning to leave the Park via the Crocodile Bridge or Malelane Gate. It takes you into a region of southern Kruger characterised by majestic granite koppies (small hills) which are some of the oldest rocks in the world. The most impressive is Khandizwe Mountain (839m) which is the highest point in Kruger National Park.

This region is known for experiencing the highest rainfall in the Park which in turn means that it boasts incredible biodiversity. The Zulu milkberry, red ivory, white pear and the Cape chestnut trees in the area are spectacular features and attract an array of birds to the region.

The quirky Klipspringer and Mountain reedbuck is prolific in these parts and only found in the southern region of Kruger National Park. Leopard sightings are common as they tend to favour the granite hills for their lairs. A waterhole situated under Matjulu Hill is popular for sightings of white rhino, kudu and giraffe.

Wild dog and cheetah also favour the densely wooded environment and Berg-en-Dal is the only area where you will find the southern grey Rhebok. For breath-taking views of the western mountain range and the expansive flat savannah plains, stop at a site on the Steilberg Road (S120).

The region was inhabited by the San people and is rich in artefacts from the Late Stone Age and Iron Age. Potsherds and bones dating back hundreds of years where found when Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp was built in the early 1980s. There are approximately 100 rock art sites in the south-western corner of the Park which can only be visited with a guide. The 3-day Bushman Trail is your best option to view these magnificent archaeological sites but the trail is so popular, you have to book a year in advance.

  • Biyamiti (S114), Bume (S26) and Randspruit (H5) Roads

This region is defined by low hills with rough and sandy soil and sweet grass that attracts the browsers. The Bume Road (S26) is more scenic alternative to the Crocodile River Road as the drive meanders along streams and riverbeds which is excellent for game viewing.

The abundance of Knob thorn acacias, bushwillow and Marula trees in the area provides excellent nutrition for browsers and you’re guaranteed to see large numbers of giraffe, kudu and duiker.

Herds of elephant make their way down to the rivers that are flanked with leadwood, jackal-berry, sycamore figs and sausage trees. Small groupings of black rhino are concentrated in the Nwatimhiri and Gomondwane thickets north of Crocodile Bridge and south of the Sabie River. This is also an area that you will find Sable antelope, the largest and most spectacular of all antelope in the Kruger National Park.

Pick up the Biyamiti Loop (S23) off Bume Road and make your way to Biyamiti Weir. Flocks of European bee-eaters make this region their home in our summer months and birding in general is excellent. Otherwise you can head eastwards along the Randspruit Road (H5) which takes you past the site of Sardelli the Greek’s trading store on the banks of the Vurhami River.

The best drive in the southern part of Kruger National Park is the road (S139) that follows the Biyamiti River past Biyamiti Bush Camp. Only visitors who are booked into this small and intimate camp are allowed access to this part of the Park so it’s well worth booking into the camp for a night to experience the privacy and isolation of the area.

Exit via Crocodile Bridge

Once you have thoroughly explored the Biyamiti Basin, it is time to head home and your nearest exit point is Crocodile Bridge Gate. If you need to fill up your car or your tummies, you can stop off at Crocodile Bridge Camp which is a short drive from the gate.

Be on the lookout for white rhino as they favour the mixed woodland vegetation. The shy black rhino usually stay deep in the thorn thickets. Sightings of lion, spotted hyena, leopard, cheetah and wild dog are also common in this southern-most corner of the Park. The area is dominated by open savannah grassland on basalt which provides sweet, nutritious grazing for common game such as impala.

If you find yourself on the Gomondwane Road (H4-2), stop off either the Gezamtombi or Gomondwane waterholes for excellent game viewing. This historical road was the first road built in the Kruger National Park and was laid out by CR de Laporte in the early 1920s in what was then Sabi Game Reserve.

It follows the route that Chief Magashula used to travel from his kraal (home) in Phabeni to Delagoa Bay and tracks made by the first traders that made up João Albasini’s entourage. Remnants of the San people who once lived and hunted in the area are found on overhanging sandstone rock near the Hippo Pool (S27).

This scenic route out of the Park is known as the ‘Southern Circle’ and boasts high concentrations of hyena, prides of lion and rest of the Big 5. It is rated as one of the best game viewing drives in the Park and can get quite congested. Make sure you allow yourself enough time to explore the area and still make it to the Crocodile Bridge Gate in time.

There are always animals to see as you cross over the Crocodile Bridge on your way out of the Park. If you have a few moments to spare, you can make a quick turn to Gezantfombi Dam which is a short drive away from the bridge. If you time it right, you’re guaranteed to see elephants cooling off in the water.

Once out of Kruger National Park, you have a scenic drive to look forward to through the lush, fertile Malelane valley and the magnificent Komati Gorge. Then it is homewards on a dual-carriageway through the capital of Mpumalanga Province, Nelspruit, to Johannesburg.


After a thoroughly enjoyable day exploring the south-west routes, we recommend staying at one of the private satellite camps that are ideally positioned for the next part of your Kruger safari; exploring the central belt of the Park. You have a choice of Talamati Bush Camp, Tamboti Tent Camp or Maroela Private Camp.

These private camps book up a year in advance; if you can’t get a booking, the most accessible option is Satara Rest Camp. The camp environment is child-friendly, with ample space within the camp to roam around safely. It has a rustic feel with most of the self-catering bungalows set out in a series of circles. Accommodation in Satara comes standard with an evening choral show which includes chirping fruit bats, screaming cicadas, the gentle calls of owls and nightjars, the whoop of hyena, the screech of jackal and the distant roar of lions.

Satara Rest Camp is situated on an open plain surrounded by groves of stunted knobthorn and marula trees aswell as a light mix of wooded thickets. If you get to the rest camp with some time to spare, you can stop off at Girivana Water Hole which is a short drive from the camp and excellent for game viewing.

This area boasts the highest concentration of lion and sightings of hyena are also common. The predators are attracted to the open grasslands that are home to large herds of grazers, such as the common impala (affectionately known as the fast-food of the bush). Keep an eye on the sky for circling vultures as that means there has been a lion kill close to the camp.

Exploring the central region of Kruger National Park

The central belt of Kruger National Park is dominated by sweetveld (grass) that grows on fertile soils layered on shale and volcanic basalt. The delicious vegetation is a gastronomic delight for grazers and browsers and the area is well known for its abundance of impala, kudu, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck and sable antelope. There are also large concentrations of buffalo and giraffe which in turn bring predators to the area.

A belt of granite in the central-west region produces clay soils that are rich in nutrients. Magnificent tree species such as the marula and knobthorn dominate the savanna grasslands. These trees produce delicious fruit and flowering leaves that attract an array of birds, butterflies and browsers such as elephant, kudu and giraffe. Higher concentrations of black rhino are found in the central belt for the same reason.

Most of the land in the central region of the Park originally belonged to the state and had been designated as farming land. These privately- or company-owned farms were expropriated or exchanged for land elsewhere and the negotiated settlement cost the government at the time a fortune. As a result, the uneven western boundary was the result of the government limiting the number of farms it had to purchase.

Five seasonal rivers meander across the central region of the Park and game is abundant in seasons with high rainfall. However, the region is also afflicted by extremely dry spells that have, at different times, depleted animal numbers. In the late 1960s, the Park’s board granted permission for a number of man-made dams to be built in the central region which has resulted in game herds concentrating in areas that were only traditionally visited in summer. This is problematic from a conservation point of view but fantastic for visitors on a Kruger safari.

The abundance of game in the central region means Satara Rest Camp is an extremely popular tourist destination. It is estimated that there are no fewer than 60 lion prides within a 20 kilometre radius of the camp and on average one lion kill every three days. Many smaller camps and tented camps have sprung up to capitalise on the popularity of the central basin and these camps provide visitors with a more private and isolated bush experience.

Cheetah sightings in the central region are rare as the habitat of southern Kruger is more ideal for them. The high density of lion in the central region is problematic for cheetahs and has also had a negative impact on the number of endangered wild dog in the area. Lion account for at least one third of wild dog pup deaths and therefore these quirky painted dogs avoid areas with a higher concentration of lions.

The spotted hyena holds its own against lion and the breed thrives in the central region of the Park. It is estimated that at least 1 200 spotted hyena reside in the central bowl. As both lion and hyena favour impala as a quick and easy meal, there numbers put a strain on the breeding herds of these common grazers.

Game drive routes from Satara

This is the route to take if you are heading north in the direction of Olifants Rest Camp or Letaba Rest Camp. The road takes visitors along a flat and monotonous landscape dominated by knobthorn and marula trees. It is not the most scenic route to Olifants Rest Camp but the abundance of animals in the region makes it ideal for game viewing. There are a number of water pans along the road which is great for birders.

Follow the N’wanetsi River along the S100 and stop off at the Shibotwana and Nsasane waterholes before coming out on the Gudzani Road (S41). The exclusive N’wanetsi Singita Lebombo Lodge is located in this area, a privately-owned lodge that attracts the rich and famous.

N’wanetsi and Sweni outlook points are a good place to stop if you need to stretch your legs or you could pull into the Sonop and Shishangani waterholes which are excellent for game viewing and early evening sundowners.

The Olifants region consists of three ecosystems with savannah grasslands to the south, Mopaneveld to the north and the riverine forest of the Olifants River. Mountainous thornveld with black rocks and mixed woodland form a barrier between the northern mopaneveld and the southern mixed bushwillow woodlands.

The S90 road takes tourists on a Kruger safari that winds through grasslands dominated by knobthorn trees. Large herds of game are found in this area and the road is a lot less congested than the main roads in the southern part of the Park.

  • Satara Rest Camp to the Timbavati picnic spot (S39)

The road travelling along the Timbavati River is regarded as one of the best routes in the Kruger National Park. It is also the home of the famous White Lion of Kruger. The S39 follows the Timbavati River for almost 50 kilometres, crosses many geographical zones and is rich in biodiversity. Thornveld and mixed woodland melts into Mopaneveld with granite outcrops, gabbro, ecca shale and basalt dominating the region.

At Waypoint 482, take the S127 to the Timbavati picnic spot which is located at a point where four roads merge together. The Piet Grobler Dam is located at Waypoint 487; it’s a large concrete dam built across the Timbavati River. It was named in honour of Piet Grobler, the grand-nephew of Paul Kruger, who played a significant role in establishing the Kruger National Park.

If you want to push on, make your way to Ratelpan Bird Hide (S39) and the Goedgegun and Roodewal water holes. The S39 route runs along the Timbavati River and is an incredibly scenic drive with great game viewing. Birders should be on the lookout for the kori bustard, which is the heaviest flying bird in the world and known for impressive aerial displays performed in the mating season.

This is a Riverine and Thornveld area, although large stands of the exotic Lala Palm are found at Ratelpan. The bird hide at Ratelpan is one of eleven in the Park and overlooks the river. A delightful sight is watching a herd of elephant wonder down the bank on the other side for a refreshing drink and swim. Birders will be on the lookout for the Comb duck, Pied and Giant kingfishers and the thick-billed Cuckoo.

Photographers flock to Leeubron Water Hole on the S39 as it is regarded as one of the top 10 sites for wildlife photography. Animal numbers in this central region have steadily increased since the fence dividing the western Kruger from the private reserves in the Timbavati was removed.

  • Satara Rest Camp to Orpen Rest Camp

If you are not heading north for a longer stay, your third day of a Kruger safari will see you explore the middle-western belt of the central region before you head towards Orpen Gate, passing the many private and tented camps in the region. You will leave behind sweetveld that makes up the ecology of the eastern plains for the sourveld of the western part of the central region.

The most direct route from Satara Rest Camp to the Orpen Gate is the tarred H7 main road. A short drive from the camp is the gravesite of William Lloyd who was a ranger at Satara in 1920. It’s worth a quick stop, if only to appreciate the hardships rangers and their families endured in those times.

In those early days, the Satara ranger’s camp was so remote that it could only be reached on foot or horse back. Lloyd and his young wife and small children lived in complete isolation. Lloyd succumbed to pneumonia and died, forcing his wife to send a message to Stevenson-Hamilton who immediately travelled to the camp to offer his assistance. By the time he got there, Lloyds’ wife had buried her husband in a shallow grave under a tree close to the house.

There are three small camps in the Orpen area but when it’s time to stop for lunch and to fill up your tank, head to Orpen Rest Camp. Maroela Camp and Tamboti Tented Camp offer basic facilities mainly geared for campers.

The Orpen area is popular among birders as it is well-known as raptor and vulture territory. The most common sightings are the Cape vultures and Bateleurs. You are also guaranteed of seeing large herds of buffalo on the H7 route through the Orpen area. These massive bovines may look like domestic cattle but they are one of the most dangerous animals in the African bush and part of the Big 5.

Large concentrations of wildlife are also found at Nsemani Pan and surrounds which is located a short drive from Satara Rest Camp. The pan is located on a narrow strip of ecca shale that divides the granite woodlands of the west from the basalt plains in the east. The thornveld is broken by rocky granite outcrops, with the most impressive being Mathikithi Koppie. It’s also probably the best place to see white rhino aswell as an impressive concentration of elephant, giraffe and kudu.

Exit via Orpen Gate

Just before you leave Kruger National Park through Orpen Gate, you have the opportunity to stop and stretch your legs at an outpost situated close to the gate. Rabelais Hut is the site of the original entrance gate to the central region and is located on the old Orpen road to the east of N’wamatsata Drift, approximately 9 kilometres from Orpen Rest Camp.

The original hut that served as the reception and guard house has been well preserved. The rest camp and gate was named in honour of the Orpen family, the original owners of the farm. Orpen Gate was relocated to its current position in 1954 when the boundary fence was moved further westward as a result of the expropriation of the farm lands.

Rabelais Hut is now used as an information centre and a small living museum. The hut and the nearby waterhole derive their name from the French writer and satirist Francois Rabelais.


With two days left of a 5-day Kruger safari, we recommend you spend your fourth night at Letaba Rest Camp in the north-eastern region of the Park. This rest camp is ideally located to explore an area of the Park that promises spectacular views, prolific birdlife and excellent game viewing. The name Letaba means ‘river of sand’ in Sotho.

Letaba Rest Camp is situated on a sweeping bend of the Letaba River, midway between the southern and northern boundaries of the Kruger National Park. Against the drier, sandy landscape the camp stands out like a green oasis. It is situated in Mopane shrubveld surrounded by mixed grass plains and apple leaf trees. Taller trees like leadwoods, tamboti and nyala are found along the drainage lines and riverine forest.

To get to Letaba Rest Camp from the Olifants area, either take the main Olifants-Letaba tar road (H1-5) or the slightly longer Letaba River dust road (S46/S44). The main tar road takes you through relatively flat Mopane shrubveld while the Letaba River Road ambles along the south bank of Engelhard Dam and the winding route alongside the river.

The Olifants River is known as one of the most spectacular stretches of the Park, where rugged veld meets the lush riverine forest. There are often leopard sightings along this road, although the area is appreciated more for its scenic beauty and birdlife than its abundance of animals. Birders will be on the lookout for the rare saddle-billed and black storks that chose the Olifants River as one of their main breeding grounds.

When you’ve finally settled into your accommodation at Letaba Rest Camp, keep an eye out for a new species of spider that was first discovered in 2003. The baboon spider has, to date, not been recorded anywhere else in the world except in a patch of Mopane trees near the camp.

Explore the Letaba area

The Letaba basin is known as an archaeologists dream destination as it is believed to be the area the first Bantu-speaking tribe moved to when they travelled from the northern regions of Africa to settle on the Letaba River in about 400 AD. Remnants of early human inhabitants make it an extremely interesting part of the Park to explore if you’re not there just for the wildlife.

The northern region of Kruger National Park is dominated by Mopaneveld and alluvial flood plains and has a much lower carrying capacity than the southern region. It is known rather as a rewarding birding destination, with the Shingwedzi flood plains being one of the country’s top summer birding spots. Shingwedzi itself is renowned for its big tuskers as most of the legendary Magnificent Seven made the flood plains their territorial home.

Game drives in the Letaba-Shingwedzi-Punda Maria area (H1-7)

There are not many roads in the northern region of the Park and the only link from the Letaba area to Punda Maria Rest Camp is the H1-7. This is a spectacular route with a number of loops that take you from the drier mopaneveld through a stunning riverine forest.

  • Mpholongolo Loop (S56)

This 20-kilometre detour takes about 2 hours and offers visitors on a 5-day Kruger safari spectacular bird and game viewing in an isolated part of the Park. Lion, buffalo, elephant and leopard are common sightings on this route.

The area is semi-arid but an ample water supply from the Shingwedzi and Luvuvhu Rivers attracts a decent stock of wildlife. Mopane trees thrive in this sun-baked region, which have the ability to withstand longer periods of dry weather. In areas with poor, shallow soil the trees grow as a multi-stemmed shrub and play an important role in an elephant’s diet. Caterpillars of the emperor moth, known as mopane worms, feed on the leaves and are a delicacy for the local African people.

  • Letaba River

This river is one of seven major tributaries in the Park and forms part of a corridor of biodiversity that includes the Olifants, Shingwedzi, Tsendze and Mphongolo Rivers. Imposing trees grow along its bank, including the tall apple-leaf, sycamore fig, nyala, tamboti and jackal-berry trees. Large pools that break up the flow of the river are home to crocodile and pods of hippo.

During a severe drought in the mid-1940s, the Letaba River stopped flowing. This dry spell had a devastating impact on the hippo population and the dry years that followed further decimated their numbers. In 1970 an American industrialist, Charles Engelhard, financed the construction of a large dam on the river downstream from the Letaba Rest Camp. Three other dams and a number of reservoirs (artificial dams) were constructed at later dates, including the Kanniedood (cannot die) Dam.

The construction of artificial water sources created some controversy among conservationists but the decision was finally made to build the dams to safeguard the animals that are highly dependent on a good water source. Wildlife numbers have steadily climbed in recent years through conservation initiatives and the most rewarding result is that the concentration of elephants in the Letaba area has grown significantly.

As mentioned, the northern region of the Park is paradise for avid birders. The Mopane woodlands attract an array of unusual birds that are not found elsewhere in Kruger National Park. Birders should be on the lookout for the mourning dove, the endangered Arnot’s chat, grey-rumped swallow and brown-throated Martin.

  • Lamont Loop (S55)

This loop is located north of Shingwedzi and takes you on a winding route alongside the wide, sandy river bed. It is an excellent road for sightings of elephant grazing among the mopane shrubs. Nkulumboni South and Nwarihlangari are two water holes that you can visit but don’t expect to see anything too exciting as the concentration of game is very limited in this area.

  • Babalala to Dzundzwini (H1-7)

This area is a mix of mopane shrubveld and mixed mopane woodlands. The lush wetlands around the Babalala picnic site attract an array of birds, in particular the migratory water birds. The wetlands are part of the Shisha River system that form a series of protected vleis (wetlands) that have been identified by BirdLife SA as an important habitat for some of South Africa’s rarest birds.

The Babalala picnic site offers braai facilities with a good supply of wood, ice and cold drinks on sale. Be on the lookout for cheetah in the area. Birders will be keen to spot the corn crake, African crake and the more common black crake.

  • Letaba to Mopani Rest Camp (H1-6)

This is a popular route for sightings of elephant who favour the mopaneveld and wetter floodplains close to the Letaba River. Free-tailed bats come out in large numbers in the evening, setting off from the high-level bridge to gorge on mosquitoes and other pesky critters.

A good place to stop for lunch is the Mopani Rest Camp which is located on the banks of Pioneer Dam. It lies nestled in a Mopani wooded area broken only by a scattering of koppies (small hills). A signature feature of the camp is a huge gnarled baobab tree that stands in the heart of the camp.

Built in 1992, Mopani Rest Camp is the youngest of the main camps in Kruger National Park. It offers visitors spectacular views of Pioneer Dam which is rich in birdlife and a higher concentration of animals than the rest of the stark landscape. For a unique bush experience, visitors can book to spend the night in the Shipandane bird hide.

Guided trails to the Shilowa heritage sites can be booked in advance. The walk takes you to a site that lies to the right of the Tropic of Capricorn and marks the so-called First Site believed to be where the first humans settled in the area in the period 1 200 AD and 1 600 AD. A second site dates back to the late 1700s when the Pedi inhabited the area. They were driven out of the region in the 1800s by the Tsonga chief Gugunyane.

After lunch, take the H1-6 which is a series of loop roads that follow the Tsendzi River south of the camp. Confluence Lookout is a good spot for better game viewing. Thereafter, take the Tropic of Capricorn Loop (S143) where you will cross over the imaginary line at Shilowa Mountain on the edge of Lebombo. Shilbavatsengele is an excellent lookout point.

For a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape dotted with majestic baobab trees, make your way up Bowker’s Kop which is to the north of Mopani Rest Camp. Birders should be on the lookout for the rare knob-billed duck which often makes an appearance at the waterhole opposite the hill.

  • Engelhard Dam

The routes around the Engelhard Dam take tourists on a panoramic drive through a magnificent landscape rich in biodiversity. The Matambeni bird hide and the Engelhard view site are two good lookout points which can be reached either via the S62 on the northern side of the Letaba River or from the S46 on the southern side.

The large weir lies to the east of Letaba Rest Camp and is known as a birding paradise with regular sightings of herons, plovers, bee-eaters, storks, crakes and jacanas.

  • Von Wielligh’s Camp

A magnificent baobab tree stands sentry at the confluence of the Olifants and Letaba Rivers and marks the site where GR Von Wielligh set up camp. He was one of the original surveyors in the area and his name is still etched on the tree which he carved in 1891.

Exit via Phalaborwa Gate

Take the H14 from Mopani Camp to reach Phalaborwa Gate at the end of your 4-day Kruger safari. Your journey out of the Park will take you through woodlands of Mopane trees, bushwillows and acacias. You might not have seen much game on your last day but you should have enjoyed magnificent bird sightings.

If you have time, you can make a detour to the Sable water hole or the Masorini Cultural Village which is located at the base of the Vudogwa Mountain. Sable water hole is so named as it is known for its larger concentrations of Sable antelope. They are quite difficult to spot as these shy animals tend to blend into the dense thickets.

The Masorini Settlement provides visitors with a glimpse of how the early iron makers and traders lived in the 16th century. The site is located about 11 kilometres from Phalaborwa Gate. The ancient village has been restored and you can see where the smelters lived on the lower terrace of Masorini and where the forgers lived on the higher terraces; the forgers enjoyed a higher status.

The stonewalls, grinding stones, potsherds and the remains of foundries – which includes a well-preserved smelting furnace – date back to the 19th century. There are also implements on exhibit that date back to the Stone Age and Iron Age. There is a spectacular outlook point on the Masorini hilltop overlooking Shikumbu Hill where the Chieftain lived.



You can’t really do justice to the northern region of the Kruger National Park with only one day to spare but you’ll have enough time to whet your appetite for a return visit. We recommend you spend your last night of a 5-day Kruger safari at the Punda Maria Rest Camp which is located a short 8-kilometre drive from the Punda Maria Gate.

This section of the Park is completely different from the central and southern regions and often described as the ‘botanical garden’ of the Kruger National Park. It boasts a unique biodiversity, has higher concentrations of game than the drier Letaba area and is well-known as a bird paradise. It is also an important archaeology region, being the area that the first inhabitants settled in the Stone and Iron Age.

Visitors staying at Punda Maria Rest Camp can stay in luxury safari tents nestled in lush vegetation or pretty white-washed bungalows that have much-needed air-conditioning. For a budget-friendly option, visitors have the choice of 50 camp or caravan sites.

The rest camp was given the name Punda Maria by the first ranger posted to the area, Captain JJ Coetser. He thought Punda Maria was the Swahili name for zebra which is the first large animal he saw on his arrival. The correct spelling is actually ‘punda milia’ meaning ‘striped donkey’ but the name stuck, despite an attempt in 1981 to change it. The name Maria is not a form of ‘milia’ but the name of the captain’s wife who stoically bore him 12 children.

Captain Coetser played a vital role in curbing rampant ivory poaching in the region which had become a haunt of smugglers, poachers and hunters. These roughnecks based themselves at the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers at a point where the borders of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) and South Africa meet. This settlement of derelict shacks became known as Crooks’ Corner.

These lawless men made their living illegally trading in ivory, using labour recruited from the Witwatersrand Basin during the gold rush era. Their base at Crooks’ Corner meant they could skip across one of the borders to hide out when authorities came searching for them.

Exploring the Far North of Kruger National Park

The northern region of the Park stands out in stark contrast to the southern regions based on its unique ecology. It is situated in the tropics and has a geological base of sandstone rather than granite and basalt that is common throughout the rest of the Park. The landscape is referred to as sandveld and, although stark in parts, has stunning stands of trees where you are guaranteed to see elephants.

If you are this far north, it is worthwhile pushing on to explore the area around Pafuri. The landscape is a spectacular mix of South African Lowveld and African woodlands with various trees including the bushwillow species, silver cluster leaves and white syringe. It is known as the ‘northern biome’ and is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the Park.

Animals in this area are scarcer than the southern region of the Park, although small groupings are found on the banks of the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers. You want to visit Pafuri purely for its diverse array of rare plants and birdlife. Unusual sightings of the Sharpe’s grysbok and the Suni antelope are a rare and exciting, hiding out in the thickets along the river. You may also be lucky enough to spot one of the territorial leopards in the area.

Rare birds to lookout for include the Bohms spinetails, the African finfoot and the white crowned plover. Other unusual sightings to tick off your list include the Pel’s fishing owl, thick-billed cuckoo, racket-tailed roller, Arnot’s bush chat, bush shrike, narine trogon and trumpeter hornbill.

An unusual feature of the far northern region of the Kruger National Park is the hot springs in the Parfuri area. The region lies on a fault-line known as the Limpopo Mobile Belt, which is the joint between the Kaapvaal Craton (the crust of the earth supporting South Africa) and the Central African Craton to the north. Water heated deep below the earth’s surface makes its way through cracks in the underground sediment.

  • Luvuvhu River Drive to the Parfuri picnic site

Make your way along the Luvuvhu River Drive to the Parfuri picnic site (S63) which is the only viewpoint in this part of the Park. This scenic spot is surrounded by luscious Anna trees and thick woodlands. Thereafter, you can make your way to the Thulamela Iron Age site.

A loop road takes you to the foot of Dzundzwini Hill where you will find a giant sausage tree. This is the site of the first camp built for Captain JJ Coetser. In the 1830s the area was under the control of chief Matibee and when Louis Trichardt, a well-known Voortrekker, passed through the area, he named the hill ‘Matibeetuijn’ (meaning Matibee’s garden).

Vegetation in the camps in the region is fairly stark but one plant stands out on arrival, the impala lily. This plant produces white flowers with a pretty pink stripe and looks pretty harmless. In fact, the impala lily is deadly poisonous. San Bushmen used the sap from the impala lily as poison on the tips of their arrows that they used to kill small game and fish.

  • Dzundzwini to Shingwedzi (H1-7)

There are several water holes along this route but game viewing is fairly bleak as the area is dominated by sourveld. You can stop to stretch your legs at the Babalala viewpoint which is a thatched shelter built around an enormous sycamore fig. Be on the lookout for cheetah that are often sighted lazing on anthills jutting out the open grasslands below.

The area is known for its accipiters (birds of prey) with common sightings of the black sparrowhawk and African goshawk.

  • The Ivory Trail

This interesting trail takes you back in time to when hunting expeditions came to the elephant-hunting grounds during the 19th and early 20th century. The ancient trail left the Great North Road near the present-day town of Polokwane and passed Soekmekaar, descending into the Lowveld near Klein Letaba.

The well-worn path headed east in the direction of Shingwedzi River where there was a solitary store, the last place to stock up on provisions before heading deep into the bush. The hunters set up thornbush-covered camps at nightfall that offered them some protection from the lions in the area.

The area was occupied at the time by a Shangaan-speaking chief called Sikololo who was known for his hospitality and generosity; offering them produce from his protected gardens in exchange for game meat. To ward off wild animals desperate to get into his precious fruit and vegetable gardens, the tribal women had to stay up all night beating drums.

The ancient trail wound through the mopane forests to a camping spot known as Senkhuwa (after the wild fig trees in the area). The site of this more pleasant camp is now known as Klopperfontein, named after an ivory hunter called Hans Klopper.

Baobab Hill marks a point on the Ivory Trail where the road winds down into the Luvuvhu River Valley to Makuleke Drift. This took the hunters deep into elephant territory and the trail from here splinters into numerous bush paths.

  • Makuleke Wilderness Area

The Makuleke Conservancy is known as the ‘jewel of northern Kruger’. It is a 24 000-hectare private concession located between the Luvuvhu River to the south and the Limpopo River to the north. The region is dominated by sandveld, easily distinguished by its central African vegetation, large alluvial flood plains and rare plant species.

Extensive anti-poaching measures have seen game numbers flourish, including prides of lion that have returned to the region after almost been wiped out by poachers. Small herds of elephants cross the Limpopo area in winter from Zimbabwe in the south to graze in the thick bush, and large populations of hippo and crocodiles can be seen at the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers at Crooks’ Corner. Be on the lookout for eland and the rare Sharpe’s grysbok.

This region is well-known as a birder’s paradise, with the main attractions being the Pel’s fishing owl, black-throated wattle-eye, orange-winged pytilia, African crowned eagle and racket-tailed roller.

  • Makulele Heritage Site

The Makuleke area is rich in archaeological finds. One of the earliest Stone Age sites can be found on the northern banks of Luvuvhu River near Crooks’ Corner. Large stone hand axes found at the site have been dated back to approximately 1.5 million years.

Tools found at the site were most likely used by Homo ergaster, one of the earliest members of the genus Homo. At this time, the last of what are known as the ‘ape men’ were still in existence but under pressure from the new, bigger-brained genus Homo; the first of our ancestors to master the art of stone tool-making.

On an exploration dig at Hutwini Hills, one of the world’s oldest board games was found – the maraba. This ancient game was played out on a flat rock which served as a board, with regularly-spaced carved-out holes. The game is similar to what we call Chinese checkers.

  • Nyala Drive along the Luvuvhu River

This route takes you on a scenic drive alongside the Luvuvhu River that winds its way through the sandveld into the alluvial flood plains before joining the Limpopo at Crooks’ Corner. The route is flanked by forests made up of nyalas, large-leaved fever berries, forest fever and sycamore fig trees. These magnificent trees attract an array of birdlife and the usual sightings of nyala, kudu and impala.

  • Luvuvhu River Drive to Crooks’ Corner (S63)

This drive is the most spectacular of all the drives in the northern region of the Park. The road follows the Luvuvhu River through tropical woodland to shady viewpoints that overlook the wide river. The vegetation ranges from dry thornveld and baobabs to lush riverine forest dominated by nyala, jackal-berry and fig trees. Probably one of the most popular attractions is the forest of ghostly green fever trees.

Game viewing is somewhat limited except along the banks of the river but, on the alluvial plains, you should see sightings of nyala, kudu and impala. There are leopard in the area but they are hard to spot as they tend to hang out in the thick undergrowth of the Luvuvhu River.

Exit via Pafuri Gate

Your 5-day Kruger safari has come to an end and it is time to return home. Pafuri Gate will be the closest exit point if you have been exploring the Parfuri area. The drive back to Johannesburg from here will take about 6-7 hours so you may need to spend the night someplace outside the Park before making the long journey home.

Mutale Falls offers visitors self-catering accommodation in safari tents set on a high ridge overlooking the Mutale River. There is no electricity in the camp but the paraffin and solar lights add to the overall rustic appeal of a bush experience.

Mutale Falls is located in the Makuya Reserve that offers visitors the opportunity to visit viewing points overlooking the Luvuvhu Gorge. So if you’re not quite ready to end your Kruger safari, this reserve promises sightings of the Big 5 and magnificent viewing.

Other Rest camps of interest;

Why not plan something different for your year-end function and combine the fun of a corporate get-together with the warmth and soul of Soweto?

Private and corporate groups that have hosted year-end functions in Soweto describe it as an inspiring and uplifting experience. It opens your eyes up the real people of South Africa and exposes you to a unique blend of traditional and modern culture and community spirit.

You have the choice of a traditional Soweto shebeen serving authentic African cuisine for a mid-day function or party late into the night at an upmarket restaurant and nightclub known for its electric buzz and festive atmosphere.

Travel to Soweto with Moafrika Tours in the comfort of a luxury air-conditioned vehicle or experience first-hand travelling in a minibus taxi, otherwise known as a Ses’fikile (Xhosa for “we have arrived’) or a Zola Budd (named after the famous South African Olympics runner).

Before or after your year-end function, visit the iconic sites of Soweto which are the cornerstones of its rich political and cultural heritage. Your personal Moafrika Tours guide was born in Soweto and grew up in an area close to the heart of the historical Vilakazi Street Precinct. His knowledge and tales of struggle, jubilation and heroism will deeply enrich your life and leave you with a profound respect for the Soweteans who fought and died for the freedom they celebrate today.


Soweto has risen from the ashes of apartheid and the liberation struggle to become a thriving powerhouse in South Africa’s economic landscape. The city is rich in history and traditional culture, and home to some 1.4 million people; about 40% of the population of Johannesburg.

Massive infrastructure development has taken place over the past decade and Soweto now boasts state-of-the art shopping centres, upmarket restaurants and nightclubs and modern amenities. At the same time, Soweto retains much of its rich character; where modern spaces blend into pockets of Soweto that are remnants of the old struggle days. Many of its residents still live in abject poverty while others are reaping the rewards of a city that has found its economic feet.

Meet the Shebeen Queens

Shebeens (local taverns) are a fixture of the Soweto social scene and have evolved to cater for a younger, trendier set of both Black and White patrons and international tourists. A visit to a shebeen in Soweto is an incredible experience; not only is it a chance to soak up the ambience of this vibrant city but it’s also a chance to pause and remember the hardships and oppression Soweteans experienced before they shared the joy of freedom and equality.

During the apartheid era, Soweto residents were prohibited from establishing formal businesses and the Native Act restricted the consumption of “intoxicating” liqueur in townships. Makeshift taverns called shebeens were set up and often served as meeting places for political activists. The word shebeen comes from a combination of the Irish-Gaelic word síbín and the Zulu word shibhile, both meaning ‘cheap’.

The economic effects of the Great Depression were devastating to an increasingly poor and landless rural population, forcing huge numbers of Black people to move to urban areas to seek wage-paying jobs. African women struggled to find work in the formal sector and many resorted to applying their traditional skills to making home-brewed beer. These women became known as “shebeen queens”; making and selling a type of beer known as umqombothi to the migrant labourers.

Shebeens provided these hardworking men a place to relax and socialise, shrugging off the oppression of life under apartheid rule. Despite being illegal, shebeens provided the community with a safe place to express their cultural traditions; enjoying their own music, traditional dancing and authentic food.

Try Mandela’s favourite dish at Wandie’s Place

The most well-known restaurant in Soweto is Wandie’s Place in Dube. The restaurant operates out of a typical Soweto four-roomed house that once was an illegal shebeen that sold food and drink without a license. Today it is a vibey, fun hangout that has hosted the likes of Will Smith, Richard Branson and Chris Rock. Food is served buffet-style and includes local cuisine such as umngqusho, morogo and chakalaka.

Nelson Mandela’s favourite meal was umngqusho. This is samp which is broken dried maize kernels mixed with red beans. Samp is usually boiled in butter and flavoured with butter, onions, potatoes, chillies, lemon juice, salt and oil. The samp is left to simmer on a low heat until all the ingredients are tender.

Wandie’s Place is credited for introducing non-Sowetans to the city where they could experience authentic African cuisine and an exciting city vibe. They started a trend where curious White co-workers – who had never set foot in Soweto – came to Wandie’s Place as a guest of a Black friend for a genuine township experience. The walls of the bar area are plastered with business cards and a quick look at them gives you an idea of how far some people have travelled for a delicious meal at Wandie’s Place.

Enjoy the vibe of Vilakazi Street Precinct


The iconic street is steeped in history but it’s also become one of the most popular destinations for international and local tourists. During the day, the area is inundated with foreign visitors but at night; it’s party time for the locals. The taverns and restaurants in Vilakazi Street Precinct have become institutions and the ideal starting point for a first-time visit to Soweto.

Sakhumzi Restaurant is in Vilakazi Street and is the ideal place to try traditional township cuisine while soaking up the rich historical atmosphere. The restaurant serves up a variety of dishes that includes mogodu (tripe) and ujege (steamed bread).

Restaurant Vilakazi is another hugely popular eatery on this famous street, serving up a menu that is described as “South African fusion food”. Popular dishes such as oxtail stew and samp with butternut and spinach are given a classy twist to cater for foreign taste buds.

Nexdor offers tourists uncomplicated, simple but good quality meals. It is situated in the heart of Vilakazi Street and becomes a thriving nightspot after dark.

Ntsitsi’s Fun Food is one of Soweto’s most famous street stalls. Situated in Diepkloof, it’s famous for its Soweto-style kotas. A kota is a township version of bunny chow; a quarter loaf of bread that is hollowed out and filled with potato fries and Russian sausages or a meat and veggie stew. Ntsitsi has 40 variations of kotas on their menu.

Chaf Pozi is located right below the Orlando Towers. Tourists who have bungee jumped off the towers or just got back from a bicycle ride through Soweto enjoy the relaxed atmosphere with its Soweto-style shebeen décor. Chaf Pozi is famous as a chesa nyama (meat cooked over an open fire) destination.

For finer dining, visit the Jazz Maniacs and Rusty’s Bar at the Soweto Hotel. This restaurant is in a four-star establishment, situated in the middle of the city. The dishes served are a fusion of traditional African and modern Western cuisine. Walk-in customers are welcome and their food prices are very reasonable, even though it’s a rather posh restaurant.

The Sowetalian was established by a chef whose father is Italian and mother is Sotho (from Lesotho). Items on the menu are a fusion of typical township cuisine and authentic Italian dishes. The restaurant is located close to the Regina Mundi Church.

Get sticky and messy the real African way

When in Soweto, eat like a Sowetean. You’ve got to try a bit of everything on a menu offering authentic African cuisine even if the thought of chicken heads and feet, cow tongue and cooked pig hoof doesn’t sound that appealing.

Chesa nyama or shisa nyama (meaning burnt meat in Zulu) is essentially braaied (barbeque) meat. Mieliepap (maize meal porridge) or pap as the locals call it is served with most dishes. It has a doughy texture and is traditionally eaten with your hands; roll a piece of pap into a ball and scoop up the meaty stew like you would a dipping sauce.

Pap is dry and fairly unappetising on its own so it’s always served with either a tasty stew, chakalaka or shebu, which is a sauce made from green vegetables and chillies. Considering most traditional Africans live on the breadline, anything goes into the sauce; beetroot, carrots, cabbage, onions, potatoes and morogo (a variety of wild weeds collected from the fields).

A good chesa nyama meal is usually accompanied with a glass or two of umqombothi; a popular traditional home-brewed beer made from sorghum mixed with maize meal, water and yeast and left to ferment.

Other side dishes include tripe which is left-over cuts of a carcass; including the liver, kidneys, brains, stomach and lungs. Traditional meat stews are often made from low-quality cuts of meat such as the tongue, tail, feet and head of a cow. Locals love what they call “walkie-talkies” which is a traditional dish of grilled or deep-fried feet and heads of chickens.

Sweet potato is more popular than the common potato as it’s richer in nutrients. It’s usually cooked over an open fire in its skin and then mashed up and served with butter and roasted peanuts and a squirt of honey.

Morogo is a widely-used term for any combination of edible green leaves; including wild spinach, bean and beetroot leaves. It’s delicious when boiled and served with pap and a braised onion and tomato sauce.

If you have a strong stomach, try amanqina which is a spicy, sticky stew made from the hoof of a cow, pig or sheep. Or try mashonzha which is a dish made from Mopani worms. These worms look like caterpillars and are delicious fried, grilled or cooked with chilli and peanuts.

If you are battling to choose from the list of foreign-sounding African names for the food items at a Soweto tavern, ask your Moafrika Tours guide to recommend something on the menu that is delicious but won’t make you feel like you’re a contestant on Fear Factor. Cow hoofs, ox tongue, Mopani worms and “walkie-talkies” are not everyone’s thing but you should always try something once.

Drink the local brew

The local people of Soweto love umqombothi, a traditional beer made from maize (corn), maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water. It is rich in Vitamin B and low in alcohol. It certainly is an acquired taste; a thick, creamy beer with a distinctly sour aroma and gritty texture.

Amasi (or maas in Afrikaans) is the common word for fermented milk and tastes like sour cottage cheese or plain yogurt. It is traditionally prepared by storing unpasteurised cow’s milk in a calabash (dried squash) or hide sack. The milk is left to ferment and soon develops a watery substance called umlaza. The thin liquid is discarded and the remaining thick fermented milk is either drunk on its own or poured over pap or breakfast porridge. A meal of pap and amasi is traditionally served in a clay pot and eaten with wooden spoons.

Mageu is a traditional non-alcoholic drink made from fermented mealie pap. Traditional women still prepare this much-loved drink at home but it’s also available in cartons at most supermarkets. The lactic acid produced during the fermentation process gives the drink a distinctive sour taste, although store-bought mageu is often flavoured and sweetened.

Party like a rap star

Music is the lifeblood of young Soweteans and the city is renowned as the founding place for Kwaito and Kasi Rap, a hip-hop genre that is unique to South Africa. Soweto reverberates to a musical beat that is a combination of house music, American hip-hop and traditional African music. Many of the popular songs tell the tale of oppression and the people’s will to fight for freedom and equality.

Take a walk down memory lane

Soweto remembers its past; safeguarding its turbulent heritage with museums and statues that honour the great struggle veterans who fought for freedom and equality. The most famous attraction in Soweto is Vilakazi Street Precinct which provides you with an array of iconic sites that honour the city’s turbulent past and its struggle for freedom and equality.

Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world with the homes of two Nobel Peace Prize winners; the great Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Their former homes are located a short walk from each other.

House number 8115 is the former house of Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa. Now known as Mandela House, the simple three-bedroomed home has been carefully restored as a living museum.

A short distance away is Tutu House, the former home of his good friend and fellow Noble Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Two large metal bull heads have been erected outside Mandela House, entitled The Nobel Laureates. They stand on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane Streets, and pay homage to these two great men.

Remember the children

A massive metal structure has been erected on Moema Street to commemorate the Soweto Uprising; it depicts a group of schoolchildren facing a policeman with a growling dog. The impressive structure honours the young children who lost their lives during the student protests of 1976. A memorial wall of slate on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Streets provides visitors with a quiet place to sit and contemplate the fateful day of 1976 and the events that unfolded in its aftermath.

A striking piece of street art is visible where Vilakazi Street intersects Khumalo Street. Eight huge grey hands spell ‘Vilakazi’ in sign language. Other murals in the street include one that depicts the scene of 16 June 1976 with police and their vans, and placard-carrying children. Several concrete benches have been livened up with intricate mosaic work and a row of bollards with wooden heads has been placed on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane streets.

Hastings Ndlovu’s Bridge was erected on the corner of Klipspruit Valley and Khumalo Road in remembrance of the 15-year old boy who was the first pupil shot when the police opened fire on the schoolchildren. He was rushed to hospital but died of his head wound. A statue of the young Hastings stands sentry on the bridge; dressed in school uniform, smiling and holding his arm up. Storyboards line each side of the bridge that tell the tale of the heroic bravery of young schoolchildren like Hastings.

Various streets, museums and graveyard sights in other parts of the city commemorate Soweto’s turbulent history and tell the silent tale of tragedy, suffering and bravery. This includes the grave of Hector Pieterson at Avalon Cemetery and the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum.

The memorial site and museum was opened on 16 June 2002 in Orlando West in Soweto, marking the place where Hector was shot. It not only honours the life of Hector but also those that died on that fateful day and in the months following the 1976 Soweto Uprising.

A blown-up photograph of the dying schoolboy, Hector Pieterson, carried in the arms of a young 18-year old pupil with his crying sister running alongside is the center-piece exhibit of the museum. The photograph reminds visitors of the agony and suffering these three young school children endured, caught up in a moment of time that changed the destiny of Black citizens of South Africa. Thereafter, a tour of the Hector Pieterson Museum is a fusion of modern technology and cultural history.

Regina Mundi Church is the largest Roman Catholic Church in South Africa and is found in Rockville, in the middle of Soweto. It is famous for having opened its doors to protesting schoolchildren in 1976 when the apartheid police opened fire on them. Public gatherings were banned by the apartheid government after the Soweto Riots and Regina Mundi Church was used for political meetings.

Swing from the Orlando Towers

Orlando Towers is a striking landmark in Soweto; painted luminous blue and covered in traditional artwork depicting the historical struggles and the daily life of Soweteans. The Orland Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station that stands out like two sentries overlooking the city of Soweto. The power station was erected at the end of World War II and served the city of Johannesburg for over 50 years.

The mural on Orlando Towers was hand-painted and took 6 months to complete. Orlando Towers is popular among thrill seekers who come from far and wide to bungee jump off it, swing or freefall their way to the bottom. There’s a walkway between the two that the brave and fearless can tackle.

Spend the night in Soweto

A fun day in Soweto doesn’t have to end at sunset. Moafrika Tours can recommend guests houses in Soweto for an overnight stay. The city comes alive at night and your guide will take you to places that are popular and safe for visitors. Wake up to the sound of Soweto and experience the exciting buzz of one of South Africa’s most vibrant cities.


There is so much more to do in Soweto; you just have to ask.

Moafrika Tours is known for “never saying no to a guest” and the team can usually make something happen.

Your Moafrika Tours guide has been taking guests to the heart of the big city for over a decade and loves sharing the sights and delights of Soweto with guests. If you want to go off the beaten path, your guide will make a plan that is safe and responsible.

Moafrika Tours can organise a party tour for bachelor and bachorette parties. Now that’s something different!

Take a Sun City shuttle to one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations and discover the meaning of fun and fantasy.

From surf and fun in the sun to adrenalin-filled days on quads and waterslides, leisurely game drives, sipping cocktails at a pool bar, long walks in exotic forests, a game of golf, trying your luck at the roulette table and partying the night way. There’s something for everyone at Sun City.

A day tour of Sun City with MoAfrika Tours offers visitors a taste of life at one of the most spectacular tourist destinations in South Africa. You’ll have to come back one day for more fun and fantasy.

Sun City is a luxury resort and casino located in the North West Province of South Africa, just over two-hour’s drive from Johannesburg. Its close neighbour is the magnificent Pilanesberg Game Reserve so you can also enjoy a wildlife safari in between all the fun. MoAfrika Tours have been taking tourists to Pilanesberg Game Reserve for many years, with professional safari guides who know the popular national reserve like it’s their second home.

For a Sun City Day Tour, Moafrika Tours offers a service where you can be picked up at the Pilanesberg Airport or any hotel or guest lodge in the area and taken to Sun City for a fascinating tour of the resort and the architectural wonder of The Palace of the Lost City.

You’ll have enough time to enjoy a refreshing swim in a crystal-clear pool surrounded by tropical gardens, enjoy a delicious meal and a colourful cocktail at one of the many resort restaurants or try your luck in the casino.

A Sun City Day Tour is just one of the many excursions you can enjoy with MoAfrika Tours. Others include a Johannesburg tour, a Soweto tour, a Kruger Safari tour and a Cape Winelands tour. MoAfrika Tours offers something for everyone; whether it’s history, culture or wildlife you’re interested in.


Sun City Resort & Casino and the breath-taking Palace of the Lost City were developed by a visionary hotel magnate, Sol Kerzner. It was opened in 1979 at a time in South Africa when gambling was strictly prohibited under rigid rule of the current government.

The country was embroiled in the liberation struggle to free itself of the ruthless apartheid system; the United Nations had imposed a cultural boycott on South Africa and international artists refused to perform in the country. The South African people bore the brunt of draconian apartheid-rule; plunged into isolation on all fronts.

Kerzner created what can only be described as a magical oasis in a fairly arid corner of an independent state, known then as Bophuthatswana. Only a two-hour drive from the economic hub of Johannesburg, Sun City became an overnight success; attracting hundreds of tourists looking for a weekend of escape, fun and fantasy.

Kerzner offered substantial financial incentives to international artists to perform at Sun City and the likes of the Beach Boys, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart and Elton John performed to sold-out audiences in Sun City’s Superbowl auditorium. The resort also hosted racially-mixed world heavyweight boxing championships; the most famous being American Mike Weaver and challenger, South African Gerrie Coetzee.

Bophuthatswana was eventually re-incorporated into the new democratic South Africa in 1994 and the novelty of international performers, gambling and risqué entertainment has worn off somewhat. However, Sun City has a particular allure that keeps people coming back for more; it’s a place to escape where you can immerse yourself in a fantasy world not found anywhere else in South Africa.


Play golf at Sun City

Sun City has two 18-hole golf courses of international repute, both designed by South Africa’s most famous golfer, Gary Player. The Gary Player Country Club is best known for attraction the world’s leading golfers for the annual Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Explore The Palace of the Lost City

This incredible architectural marvel is one of the most fascinating and innovative attractions in the world. Created by a visionary hotel magnate, its design is inspired by the myth of a lost African kingdom. Attention has been paid to the minutest detail, leaving one with the impression that you have in fact encountered a mythical civilisation.

The Lost City is fabled to be the royal residence of an ancient king. Its regal status is evident in the cavernous proportions of the interior halls and rooms, the elegant towers and exterior with sculptural detail, mosaics and frescoes and a lush tropical setting complete with gurgling streams and gushing waterfalls. It has to be seen to be believed.

It was officially opened to visitors with a taste for opulence in 1992. A tour of The Palace of the Lost City and its stunning surrounds with provide small insight into the work involved in creating the vision of a man renowned for his architectural brilliance and imagination.

Try your luck at the Sun City Casino

The casino complex at Sun City is a world of glitz and glamour. The bright colourful lights and buzzing atmosphere make you feel like you’ve walked into a glowing rainbow. Sun City Casino was opened in 1979 at a time when gambling casinos were prohibited in South Africa and the complex still retains an air of freedom and fantasy.

Sun City Casino has recently been refurbished and boasts the latest technology, with round-the-clock thrills for first-time gamers and the more dedicated gamblers. There are hundreds of exciting slot machines and over forty popular table games.

Watch a music concert at the Sun City Superbowl

Sun City brings an astounding variety of performers to South Africa that play to packed audiences in the vast Superbowl. The auditorium has been re-invented in recent years offering action-packed shows and concerts of world class standards.

Eat out in Sun City

Sun City offers guests a smorgasbord of choice when it comes to restaurants. Everything from Italian dishes to Oriental delights, fine dining and budget-friendly meals are available at Sun City. Grab a light lunch with the family or enjoy a long, leisurely dinner at one of the pool bars with friends; it’s up to you.

Shop at Sun City

Indulge in some retail therapy with a choice of high-end boutiques, souvenir shops and book stores. While the kids are busy at Waterworld, indulge in some pampering me-time at the resort spas and beauty salons.

Fun times at Sun City

The Magic Company at Sun Central provides kids and adults with a day packed full with fun and excitement. There’s everything from ten-pin bowling to arcade games, betting on horses or smashing plastic crocodiles. Catch a blockbuster movie at the cinema when all the excitement gets too much.

Meet legends at the Sun City Hall of Fame

Celebrate South Africa’s legends and learn more about our famous sports stars and talented artists. Stand among the men and women who overcame extreme obstacles to make a difference in the lives of all South Africans. The Hall of Fame at Sun City is a state-of-the-art interactive exhibition that showcases the achievements of South Africa’s much-loved legends.

Party at Sun City

Action-packed days at Sun City are the best but the nightlife is even better. Dance the night away at a glitzy club, play a few games of pool, give karaoke a go or enjoy delicious cocktails at one of the many classy bars. Watch a live performance, catch a comedy show or slip away to the Gentleman’s Club for something different.

Surfing at the Valley of the Waves

Sol Kerzner brought the beach to Sun City, creating one of the most spectacular water parks in the world. The Valley of the Waves is a whole-day’s entertainment with a selection of slides and rides for young and old. The main attraction is the Roaring Lagoon; an enormous wave pool with hydraulic mechanisms that generate waves nearly 2-metres high every 90 seconds.

The brave ones love the Temple of Courage with a 17-metre drop down a 70-metre slide and the more sedate amongst us prefer a lazy tube ride on the Lazy River. There are crazy body and tube slides called the Tarantula, the Scorpion, the Viper and the Mamba – you get the picture.

Take a dip in the Royal Baths at The Palace of the Sun City

The private pool at the Palace is reserved for adults only. It’s the perfect place to unwind, away from the happy noise and bustle of Sun Central. Each Sun City hotel has a beautiful pool but they are for the private use of hotel guests.

Explore The Maze at The Palace of the Lost City

This is the largest permanent maze in the southern hemisphere and huge fun for families, teambuilding and corporate functions. It has been constructed from artificial stone and wood, creating the fantasy of walking through an ancient archaeological site.

The Maze of the Lost City covers a half-acre and offers spectacular views of the resort and its exotic surrounds. You enter The Maze via a 100-metre-long suspension bridge from Sun Central. At the end of your walk, enjoy an ice-cold craft beer or soft-drink at the Maze Bar. When night falls, flaming torches light the paths along the chambers.

Outdoor adventures at Sun City

Thrill-seekers have the choice of many adrenaline-fueled adventures at Sun City. The resort has partnered with Adrenaline Extreme and Mankwe Gametrackers to cater for everyone’s adrenaline fix; from a range of water sports on the massive resort lake to the world’s fastest zip-slide.

A trip to Mankwe Gametrackers Outdoor Adventure Centre includes a mini-wildlife safari, quad-bike riding, a hot air balloon safari and mini-golf. Try your hand at archery or join a drum circle. Take time to visit the rhino enclosure where you can meet some of the resident rhinos and learn more about the sad plight of rampant poaching.

Stroll through the beautiful gardens of Sun City

Sometimes all you need is a leisurely stroll around a lush, beautiful garden to restore your soul. Kerzner created a magical oasis at Sun City with heavily-wooded forests, trickling streams and gushing waterfalls. The gardens of Sun City are particularly special considering the area is quite arid and most of the plants are not endemic to the region.

Establishing the Sun City gardens was an epic project but what you get today is a unique biosphere that attracts a wide array of birds and creatures that have made the exotic gardens their home.

See the Big 5 at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve borders the Sun City Resort and is a short drive away from the main complex. Book a wildlife safari tour with MoAfrika Tours for an exciting tour of South Africa’s third largest game reserves.

A knowledgeable safari guide will take you around Pilanesberg Game Reserve pointing out fascinating features and facts while on the lookout for lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, rhinos and leopards. The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is renowned for its spectacular scenery, abundance of antelope and prolific birdlife so it’ll be an exciting day for the whole family.

Feed crocodiles at Kwena Gardens at Sun City

The Kwena Gardens Crocodile Sanctuary is not only a fun outing for the whole family but also highly educational. A tour of the crocodile enclosures lets you get up close and personal with some of the largest crocodiles in southern Africa. You’ll have a chance to feed the babies and take a few family snaps with them.

Get married at Sun City

The Windchime Wedding Chapel is situated on the Baobab Trail in the Lost City gardens and offers couples the most perfect venue for a wedding. Celebrate your nuptials with either an intimate dinner at one of the fine-dining restaurants or throw a big party in one of the large banquet halls.

Mountain biking at Sun City

Bring your bicycle with you on a holiday at Sun City and enjoy a leisurely ride around the massive property or tackle one of Sun City’s mountain bike trails. It’s fun for the youngsters and the trails are challenging for the more experienced riders.

Play tennis

Sun City has 11 tennis courts built to international standards. They are situated in the lush gardens below the Cascades Hotel in spectacular surrounds and five courts are floodlit.

Adrenalin-filled day at Sun City Waterworld

Sun City created an exciting venue for outdoor enthusiasts and thrill seekers. What do you want to do? Water-skiing lessons with a pro, riding the water snake or tandem para-sailing? Waterworld is nestled in a valley surrounded by beautiful hills; the view is spectacular when you get air-borne.

Birdwatching at Sun City

The man-made jungle surrounding The Palace of the Lost City is home to an incredible array of birds. Some 190 species can be spotted; ranging from the African sacred ibis, Egyptian geese and whistling ducks. The smaller indigenous species include finches, waxbills, bronze manikins and paradise flycatchers. You’ll also find many species from around the world, including robins from China and screeching parrots from the Far East.

Kerzner’s dream garden was created by bringing in an exotic mix of over 1.6 million plants, trees, shrubs and ground covers. Some are indigenous but many were sourced from across the globe, including species from Australia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar and the Comores.

Trees that attract prolific birdlife are the cornerstone of the garden design and the lush undergrowth is home to an array of small creatures that seek protection in its shady interior. To preserve water, the landscapers concentrated on plant species that are water-friendly.

At the heart of the jungle is a gorgeous rain forest which is shrouded in a cloak of mist and mystique. Forty-metre tall trees tower over the forest floor and tens of thousands of orchids dangle delicately from their boughs. It’s a spectacular way to end a busy day at Sun City.


Whatever grabs your culinary fancy, you’ll find a restaurant at Sun City dishing it up. There’s something for everyone; from fine dining to family-friendly restaurants, fast-food outlets and themed cocktail bars.

You definitely don’t go hungry in Sun City. The food court at Sun Central offers family-friendly options catering for South Africans on a tighter budget. More exotic options are available if you are a paying guest at one of the hotels.

Cabanas Pool Bar at Sun City

This is a favourite spot for hotel residents. It’s open every day and serves tasty light meals and delicious cocktails to guests spending a lazy day lounging around the crystal-clear pool. A fun waterslide at the Cabanas pool keeps kids busy while you can enjoy a good book.

Treasure Island Snack Bar at Cabanas Hotel

Enjoy a delicious meal while soaking up the sun on the pool deck. It’s the perfect place to break a day of fun at the Sun City Waterworld.

Harlequins at Soho Hotel

Refreshing cocktails and fancy bar meals make Harlequins a favourite restaurant in Sun City for the hipster crowd. The atmosphere is classy and decadent.

Luma Bar & Lounge at Cascades Hotel

For a light lunch or a leisurely evening at sundowners, the Luma Bar & Lounge at the Cascades Hotel is the perfect restaurant in Sun City if you need a calm respite from a busy day. It’s renowned for its outstanding coffee and selection of fine wines and whiskey.

Tusk Bar & Lounge at The Palace of the Lost City

Escape to a fantasy world and enjoy safari-themed cocktails in an exotic setting. The Tusk Bar & Lounge is set in a spectacular setting that transports guests back in time, stirring up memories of days gone by.

The Maze Bar at Sun City Resort

This popular establishment at the main Sun City entertainment complex offers a selection of the finest local craft beers aswell as the best of South Africa’s wines. The Maze Bar is located at the end of the Maze Walk and has an incredible view, overlooking the lush gardens of Sun City and the hazy mountains in the distance.


Visitors have many options for accommodation at Sun City. There are four stunning hotels; all designed to the highest architectural standards with fantasy themes and mystical garden surrounds.

The Sun City Vacation Club was created by converting the original staff accommodation into luxury chalets that are sold on a timeshare scheme. The Sun City Vacation Club has its own heated pool, mini golf course and restaurant with half-hourly shuttles ferrying visitors to the popular attractions at Sun City.

Soho Hotel

Soho Hotel in Sun City was the first hotel built in Sun City and is often called the main hotel. It offers guest 4-star accommodation in the heart of the resort. The beautifully decorated hotel is set in a lush tropical garden, providing an idyllic setting despite being so central to the busy casino and entertainment complex.

Cascades Hotel

Cascades Hotel in Sun City is a magnificent hotel, named for the spectacular waterfalls and crystal-clear natural pools that create a fantasy moat around the hotel. It offers 5-star accommodation and an array of facilities in the calm midst of Sun City.

The Cabanas

The Cabanas at Sun City is situated on the banks of the Sun City Waterworld Lake, offering guests a contemporary twist and a delightful base to explore the natural wonders of the resort. Enjoy delicious meals and fancy cocktails in a vibrant island-style setting, surrounded by lush tropical gardens and rolling lawns.

The hotel is positioned next to a world-class golf course at Sun City and you can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the lush course when the golfers have retired to the 19th hole.

The Palace of the Lost City

The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City is an architectural wonder and part of Sun International’s premier collection. The fantasy regal Palace offers guests an experience that is both breath-taking and surreal.

The 5-star hotel is designed around the theme of a mythical lost palace; with intricately-painted ceilings, mosaic artwork and African-styled décor. It is set in an exotic setting, with each luxurious room overlooking a magical pool and the lush tropical surrounds.


Construction began in August 1990 and was completed within 28 months. This is a remarkably short period of time for a project of such breadth and complexity. At the height of construction, 5 000 people worked on the project. Almost 2 million cubic metres of earth was moved from the site and some 85 000 cubic metres of concrete were used to create the fantasy city.

The Palace exteriors are influenced by Africa’s abundance of wildlife. Every corner of the building pays homage to our magnificent animals with moulded towers topped by palm-frond domes, while elephant tusks and wildlife carvings adorn the exterior. Six elephant tusks arch in pairs over the Tusk Lounge & Bar, made from Indonesian Square wood which is heavier than ivory.

The atrium is dominated by a life-size bronze of Shawu, one of Africa’s most famous elephants. The Big Tusker’s realistic form is bought to life in the leathery texture of its skin, ragged ears and cracked feet. Shawu towers 4.5 metres off the polished floor surface and is one of the most photographed animal sculptures in the world.

The grand interior befits a royal palace with a domed roof enhanced with serpentine paintings and floors that shine with textures of intricate mosaics. The rich detail in the décor belies the fact that everything was sourced locally; one imagines that the stylish pieces were brought in from some exotic country.

Everything in the mythical royal kingdom was hand-crafted by local artisans. Hand-carved furniture and décor items are used throughout the hotel with the most impressive décor feature being the massive 8-high doors at the royal entrance. The carpets were custom-designed exclusively for the hotel; hand-crafted specifically to Sol Kerzner’s exact standards.

The ceiling dome of the royal entrance chamber is an architectural feat. It rises 25 metres above floor level, measures 16 metres in diameter and is held aloft by six sculptured columns. The domed roof in the Crystal Court was a major architectural challenge, spanning 29 metres and supporting five floors of suites above it.

The floor of the entrance lobby is bedecked with intricate mosaics comprised of 38 different shades. Each individual mosaic was laid by hand, creating a design of a lush forest floor surrounded by six African animals. The outer circle is an intricate design of circles of zebra stripes. The concierge desk was hand-carved from sapele pommele with tops of rosa Verona and quagga marble.

The painted ceiling of the cavernous Royal Entrance Chamber was created in the same way Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It took talented artists some 5 000 hours to create the regal masterpiece.

The King’s Tower stands at 70 metres above floor level and is the tallest of the ten Palace towers. Guests can enjoy views of the crystal-clear pool below, the lush ornamental forest and the rocky surrounds that envelop the magical oasis.

The King’s Suite is the epitome of regal opulence. The walls are hand-carved from maple wood and every item in the room is custom-designed and crafted by hand. There are two enormous bedrooms in the suite, each with a king-sized bed, a sitting area, armoire and an opulent en-suite bedroom. There is also a small library in the suite, a guest powder room, a sauna and a butler’s pantry.


Sun City enjoys a tropical climate and the weather is generally pleasant all year round. Deciding when you want to visit Sun City depends on what you want to do and if you want to avoid the crowds.

The North West Province of South Africa is a summer rainfall region but it is located in a region that experiences lower-than-average rainfall. When it rains, it’s usually for a short period of time and it’s usually appreciated as a brief respite from the hot weather.

Summer months: October to March

The days are usually hot and bathed in sunlight with sporadic rainfall. Overseas visitors might say the temperatures are scorching in peak summer but all the Sun City hotels and facilities are air-conditioned so there is always somewhere to go mid-day to escape the heat. Of course, the stunning pools and beach are perfect for a refreshing swim.

Winter months: May to August

The days are usually pleasantly warm and mild but it can get quite nippy at night. This is the best time for game viewing if you plan to visit the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and there are a number of pools at the Sun City Resort that are heated.

Spring (April/May) and Autumn (Sept/Oct):

This is a pleasant time to visit Sun City as the days are not too hot and the nights not too cold. Autumn is an excellent time for game viewing at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve as the animals drop their young after the cold winter months and the migratory birds have arrived in their hundreds.

Peak season:

South African holiday-makers descend en-mass to Sun City during the school holiday breaks. The busiest times are December/January and March/April. You can check the local calendars for the annual South African school holiday breaks and plan your trip to Sun City around its busy season.


Soweto first came to the attention of the international media when a photograph of a young man carrying a dying 14-year Hector Pieterson during the Soweto Uprising made world headlines. This heartrending photograph, with his crying sister running alongside, exposed the brutality of the apartheid police and triggered an international movement to intervene in the struggle of Black South Africans who were fighting oppression and the severe domination of the National government.

Today Soweto has risen from the ashes of apartheid to become a thriving powerhouse in South Africa’s economic landscape. Soweto is rich in history and, while it enjoys the spoils of modern development, the residents of the city pay homage to its roots; safeguarding its historical heritage with museums and statues that honour the great struggle veterans who fought for freedom and equality.

Soweto Uprising

A tour of Soweto takes you past iconic landmarks to the famed Vilakazi Street that is the only known street in the world to boast being the former home of two Nobel Peace Prize winners; Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. A knowledgeable guide that was born and bred in Soweto regales tales of historical events that shaped the destiny of this great city.

A Soweto tour exposes you to the hardships of daily life of Soweteans, many of which still live in abject poverty; and then moves on to massive urban developments that showcase an upwelling of wealth and prosperity in the region. A highlight of a tour of Soweto includes lunch at a local tavern (street restaurant) where tourists can sample authentic African cuisine and interact with the warm and welcoming patrons.


Soweto is a township of the city of Johannesburg in Gauteng, South Africa. It borders the historical mining belt in the south in a region previously known as the Witwatersrand Basin and the epicentre of South Africa’s gold rush era.

The origin of Soweto

Soweto Tours - 16 June 1976
The rise of the people of Soweto

Its name is an abbreviation of the label South Western Townships, formerly a separate municipality but now incorporated in the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. When gold was discovered in Johannesburg, thousands of migrant workers and immigrants descended on the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republic (ZAR) and settled in shanty towns to the south of the city.

When the National Party of the former Transvaal Republic came into power, they imposed regulations that sought to separate the White working class citizens from the Bantu (Black African) population and new suburbs were laid out for Burghers (Whites), Coolies (Indians) and Malays (Coloureds).

Most of the Black migrant workers had by this stage moved far out of town to the farm Klipspruit (later called Pimville), south-west of Johannesburg. The council had erected iron huts next to Kliptown, the oldest Black residential district of Johannesburg. Soweto as we know it today was laid out on Klipspruit and an adjoining farm called Diepkloof. It was not unlawful in the former Transvaal Colony for “people of colour” to own property and Blacks were encouraged to buy property in an area that became known as Sophiatown.

In 1923, the national government passed the Natives (Urban Areas) Act; with the purpose being to provided improved conditions for residence living in settlements segregated as native urban areas. The Act was used to control access to these townships and to restrict their consumption of “intoxicating” liqueur. The council by this stage had bought land in the Klipspruit area and the first housing development there became known as Orlando Location. Most of the houses were temporary single-room shelters suitable for single men working at the mines.

Towards the end of World War II there was an acute shortage of housing in Johannesburg. Homeless Blacks were encouraged by a political activist to squat on vacant land in the Orlando Location; the squatter camp burgeoned until the City Council’s resistance waned and it was agreed that an emergency camp would be established for close to a thousand families. It was called Central Western Jabavu.

A second wave of land invasions took place in 1945 with some 30 000 squatters congregating west of Orlando. A new emergency camp was established called Moroka and a thousand sites made available for homeless families. It became one of Johannesburg’s worst slum areas; with communal bucket-system toilets and scarce access to running water. Both Moroka and Jabavu shanty camps were demolished in 1955; by which stage there were close to 90 000 inhabitants squatting in the area.

These rural townships received limited resources from the City Council and the inhabitants endured extreme hardships. The settlements were located far from the hub of the gold mining operations and the mine workers had to travel great distances to get to work. The mass settlement region was thrown a lifeline in 1941 when the British government built a military hospital on the road between Johannesburg and Potchefstroom. It was called The Imperial Military Hospital, Baragwanath.

The Transvaal Provincial Administration bought the hospital at the end of the war and created the Black section of Johannesburg (known as the Non-European Hospital). This renowned hospital was renamed Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in 1997, in honour of the struggle veteran who fought alongside Nelson Mandela to bring about democratic change.

In 1952, the national government passed the Bantu Services Levy Act which imposed a levy on employers of African labourers. The levy was used to finance basic services in Black townships. The City Council built 6 500 houses in Jabavu and Mofolo; using a standard design for a low-cost, four-bedroomed, 40 sq/metre house. Another township called Dube Village was established for the “more urbanised and economically-advanced Natives”. Tenants could purchase stands and erect a dwelling that conformed to approved building plans.

Match-box houses built during the apartheid era

Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, a wealthy mining magnate, arranged a loan of £3 million from the mining industry which was used to build an additional 14 000 houses. The national government, who was growing increasingly bothered by the burgeoning growth of these Black townships, passed the Native Resettlement Act, which permitted the government to remove Blacks from suburbs like Sophiatown, Newclare and Western Native Townships. Displaced Blacks were forcibly removed to Meadowlands and Diepkloof.

The City Council launched a competition to find a collective name for all the townships south-west of the central business district of Johannesburg. In 1963, the official name of Soweto was adopted, an abbreviated form of South-Western Townships. After years of tension between the national government and the independent City Council, the West Rand Administration Board took over the administration control of Soweto; a consequence of the Black Affairs Administration Act that was passed in 1971.

The chairman of the board at the time had no idea of the troubled times that lay ahead when he was famously quoted in a newspaper as saying, “The broad masses of Soweto are perfectly content, perfectly happy. Black-White relationships at present are as healthy as can be. There is no danger whatever of a blow-up in Soweto.”

The Soweto Uprising

Soweto Tours - Soweto Uprising 1976
Turbulent times in Soweto

In 1976, the Soweto Uprising brought about an extended period of conflict and loss of life. The origins of this tumultuous era started when mass protests erupted when Black residents objected to the government’s policy that forced schools to teach scholars in Afrikaans, rather than their native language.

A group of some 10 000 students marched from Naledi High School to Orlando Stadium, a scuffle ensued and the riot police opened fire. Twenty-three schoolchildren died on this tragic day, including Hector Pieterson. Dr Melville Edelstein, a lifelong humanitarian, also died on the first day of what would become known as the Soweto Riots.

A photograph captured by a young newspaper journalist of a dying 14-year boy made international headlines and the impact of the tragic end to the children’s march reverberated around the world. Economic and cultural sanctions were imposed and political activists fled the country to train for a guerrilla resistance.

Soweto Tours - 16 June 1976
School children marching to Orlando Stadium

Soweto and other Black townships became the stage for violent state repression. The Black inhabitants fought back and the leaders of the struggle movement garnered international support to bring about radical change to the oppressive and severe domination of the apartheid government. In response, the state withdrew financial support for urban development and finally handed Soweto its municipal independence to Black councillors in 1983, in line with the Black Local Authorities Act.

The embattled Black councillors struggled to address housing and infrastructural problems and were accused by township residents of benefitting financially from the oppressive regime. Municipal elections were subsequently boycotted and, in the years that followed, a depressing stalemate between the Black residents and the apartheid government prevailed.

The struggle movement gained momentum during the 1980s; educational and economic boycotts were initiated and student bodies were organised. Street committees and civic organisations were established as alternatives to state-imposed structures. Such actions were strengthened by the call issued by African National Congress in 1985 to make the country ungovernable. The state forbade public gatherings and church buildings like Regina Mundi were used for political meetings.

A young Nelson Mandela

Political unrest finally came to its bitter end when then President FW de Klerk authorised the release of Nelson Mandela and other struggle veterans. The first democratic election was held in 1995 with the ANC winning by a huge majority. Nelson Mandela was elected the first Black president of South Africa and his leadership heralded the dawn of a new democracy.

The people of Soweto

Soweto remains a predominantly Black city; with a multi-cultural mix of Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Venda and Tsonga inhabitants. The 2011 census estimated it to have a population of close to 1.3 million inhabitants; with some 6 400 inhabitants per square kilometre. Soweto is also home to small communities of Coloured and Asian residents.

Historically, Soweto was not allowed to create employment centres and the majority of residents were forced to commute long distances to work in other parts of the city of Johannesburg. Most commuters today travel the same long route on the popular mini buses whose drivers are notorious for their impatient behaviour.

The Soweto Highway, with dedicated taxiways, links Soweto with Johannesburg and Metrorail operates commuter trains along the same route. The N1 Western Bypass skirts the eastern boundary of Soweto, taking commuters to the outlying suburbs of Johannesburg.

The majority of residents still live in the old “matchbox” houses that were built by the apartheid government or the four-roomed houses built as cheap accommodation for the Black migrant workers and their families. Vacant land has attracted a mass of homeless people who endure squalid conditions in iron shanty huts. Trees and shrubs planted by the City Council in greenbelts between the suburbs add some aesthetic appeal to settlements that are otherwise quite depressing.

Formal housing settlement in Soweto

Hostels that were built by the apartheid government for single men working on the mines are a prominent feature on the Soweto landscape. Many have been improved and are home to young couples and families.

Music is the lifeblood of young Soweteans and the city is renowned as the founding place for Kwaito and Kasi Rap, a hip-hop genre that is unique to South Africa. Soweto reverberates to a musical beat that is a combination of house music, American hip-hop and traditional African music. Many of the popular songs tell the tale of oppression and the people’s will to fight for freedom and equality.

Nothing gets the people of Soweto more excited than watching a game of soccer at the FNB Soweto Stadium, especially if it is a match between the two rival soccer teams. The city is divided between Kaizer Chief and Moroko Swallows supporters. On match day, the city vibrates with the deafening sound of Vuvuzelas; a plastic trumpet that gives off an ear-splitting sound after a heavy blow. The FNB Soccer Stadium is one of South Africa’s largest stadiums.

Soccer fans with vuvuzelas

The combined spending power of the people of Soweto is estimated to be in the region of R4.5 billion. It really is a numbers game, with the vast majority of residents classified as low-income earners. Private initiatives have tapped into this goldmine of accumulated wealth and massive urban developments in Soweto have cropped up in recent years. These include the impressive Jabulani Mall and Maponya Mill.

Johannesburg City Council has invested heavily in Soweto, providing improved infrastructure such as street lights and paved roads, and city parks and sports complexes. Isolated pockets of upmarket residential developments are scattered around the city and fine-dining Western-style establishments are gaining in popularity.


Soweto Tours - Vilakazi Street

A tour of Soweto with a knowledgeable Moafrika Tours guide takes you on a journey through Diepkloof to Soweto’s most famous tourist attraction, the Vilakazi Street Precinct. Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Peace Prize winners, namely Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Their former homes are located a short walk from each other.

House number 8115 is the former house of Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa and an iconic figure of the struggle movement. Now known as Mandela House, the simple three-bedroomed home has been carefully restored as a living museum.

Mandela House of Vilikazi Street

Mandela moved into the house with his first wife, Evelyn Mase, in 1946. He lived there for a short time after his release from prison with his second wife, Winnie Mandela, until he took up residence in the presidential home in Houghton.

A short distance away is Tutu House, the former home of his good friend and fellow Noble Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Two large metal bull heads have been erected outside Mandela House, entitled The Nobel Laureates. They stand on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane Streets, representing the two great men who played such a significant role in the struggle for freedom and democracy.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Another metal structure has been placed on Moema Street that commemorates the Soweto Uprising; it depicts a group of schoolchildren facing a policeman with a growling dog. The impressive structure honours the young children who lost their lives during the student protests of 1976. A memorial wall of slate on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Streets provides visitors with a quiet place to sit and contemplate the fateful day of 1976 and the events that unfolded in its aftermath.

A striking piece of street art is visible where Vilakazi Street intersects with Khumalo Street. Eight huge grey hands spell ‘Vilakazi’ in sign language. Other murals in the street include one that depicts the scene of 16 June 1976 with police and their vans, and placard-carrying children. Several concrete benches have been livened up with intricate mosaic work and a row of bollards with wooden heads has been placed on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane streets.

The Hector Pieterson Museum

Hastings Ndlovu’s Bridge was erected on the corner of Klipspruit Valley and Khumalo Road in remembrance of the 15-year old boy who was the first pupil shot when the police opened fire on the schoolchildren. He was rushed to hospital but died of his head wound. A statue of the young Hastings stands sentry on the bridge; dressed in school uniform, smiling and holding his arm up. Storyboards line each side of the bridge that tell the tale of the heroic bravery of young schoolchildren like Hastings.

Various streets, museums and graveyard sights in other parts of the city commemorate Soweto’s turbulent history and tell the silent tale of tragedy, suffering and bravery. This includes the grave of Hector Pieterson at Avalon Cemetery and the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum.

Soweto Tours - Hector Pieterson
Famed photograph of Hector Pieterson

The memorial site and museum was opened on 16 June 2002 in Orlando West in Soweto, marking the place where Hector was shot. It not only honours the life of Hector but also those that died on that fateful day and in the months following the 1976 Soweto Uprising. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism awarded R16 million to its development and the Johannesburg City Council contributed an additional R7,2 million to the costs.

A blown-up photograph of the dying schoolboy, Hector Pieterson, carried in the arms of a young 18-year old pupil with his crying sister running alongside is the centre-piece exhibit of the museum. The photograph reminds visitors of the agony and suffering these three young school children endured, caught up in a moment of time that changed the destiny of Black citizens of South Africa. Thereafter, a tour of the Hector Pieterson Museum is a fusion of modern technology and cultural history.

Hector Pieterson Museum

The red-bricked museum was erected in Kumalo Street, two blocks away from where Hector was shot on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Street. Hector’s mother, Dorothy Molefi, lives in a nearby suburb called Meadowlands. She says the family is very proud of the museum and the fact that children can learn about South Africa’s history there. Hector’s father passed away shortly after the museum was opened but at least he lived to see his son’s memory immortalised in this landmark building.

Regina Mundi Church is the largest Roman Catholic Church in South Africa and is found in Rockville, in the middle of Soweto. It is famous for having opened its doors to protesting schoolchildren in 1976 when the apartheid police opened fire on them. Public gatherings were banned by the apartheid government after the Soweto Riots and Regina Mundi Church was used for political meetings.

Soweto Tours - Regina Mundi Church
Regina Mundi Church

Orlando Towers is a striking landmark in Soweto; painted luminous blue and covered in traditional artwork depicting the historical struggles and the daily life of Soweteans. The Orland Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station that stands out like two sentries overlooking the city of Soweto. The power station was erected at the end of World War II and served the city of Johannesburg for over 50 years.

Orlando Towers in Soweto

The mural on Orlando Towers was hand-painted and took 6 months to complete. Orlando Towers is popular among thrill seekers who come from far and wide to bungee jump off it, swing or freefall their way to the bottom.

Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital is located in Diepkloof and is the third largest hospital in the world with approximately 3 200 beds for patients. It was built in 1941 by the British Government and served as a military hospital, known then as the Imperial Military Hospital, Baragwanath. Today this extensive medical facility also includes a training college for young doctors and nurses.

The end of a tour to Soweto takes tourists past the impressive FNB Soccer Stadium, affectionately known as Soccer City. The massive stadium was designed to depict the traditional calabash, a hard-skinned squash that is a staple vegetable for traditional African families. The stadium is located in Nasrec, on the outskirts of Soweto.

FNB Soccer Stadium in Soweto

Soccer City is the home ground of Kaizer Chiefs Football Club and hosts national fixtures in the South African Premier Soccer League. Nelson Mandela chose the FNB Soccer Stadium to make his first speech after he was released from prison in 1990. His memorial service in 2013 was held at the stadium.

At the age of 92 years, Nelson Mandela attended the closing ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final that was held at the stadium; it was his last public appearance and a fitting end for a man who presided over the birth of a democratic South Africa. Mandela smiled and waved as 85 000 supporters rose to their feet, giving a thunderous welcome to their hero.


Soweto shebeen

Establishments in South Africa selling alcohol without a license goes back to the early Dutch settler days when the Cape Malay slaves where prohibited from selling alcohol and “partaking in too much rivalry”. During the apartheid era, Soweto residents were prohibited from establishing formal businesses and the Native Act restricted the consumption of “intoxicating” liqueur in townships.

As would be expected, makeshift taverns called shebeens cropped up and soon became associated with Black townships. They often served as meeting places for political activists. The word shebeen comes from a combination of the Irish-Gaelic word síbín and the Zulu word shibhile, both meaning ‘cheap’.

The economic effects of the Great Depression were devastating to an increasingly poor and landless rural population, forcing huge numbers of Black people to move to urban areas to seek wage-paying jobs. African women struggled to find work in the formal sector and many resorted to applying their traditional skills to making home-brewed beer. These women became known as “shebeen queens”; making and selling a type of beer known as  umqombothi to the migrant labourers.

Shebeens provided these hardworking men a place to relax and socialise, shrugging off the oppression of life under apartheid rule. Despite being illegal, shebeens provided the community with a safe place to express their cultural traditions; enjoying their own music, traditional dancing and authentic food. The shebeens were often raided by the apartheid police and owners and patrons found themselves behind bars.

Today the traditional shebeens are a fixture of the Soweto social scene but have evolved to cater for a younger, trendier set of both Black and White patrons and international tourists. A visit to a shebeen in Soweto is an incredible experience; not only is it a chance to soak up the ambience of this vibrant city but it is also a chance to pause and remember the hardships and oppression the average person in Soweto experienced before they shared the joy of freedom and equality.


The most well-known restaurant in Soweto is Wandie’s Place in Dube. The restaurant operates out of a typical Soweto four-roomed house that once was an illegal shebeen, selling food and drink without a licence. Today it is a vibey, fun hangout that has hosted the likes of Will Smith, Richard Branson and Chris Rock. Food is served buffet-style and includes local cuisine such as umngqusho, morogo and chakalaka.

Wandie’s Place can probably be credited for introducing non-Sowetans to experience authentic African cuisine and started a trend where curious White co-workers – who had never set foot in Soweto – came to the city as a guest of a Black friend for a genuine township experience. The walls of the bar area are plastered with business cards and a quick look at them gives you an idea of how far some people have travelled for a delicious meal at Wandie’s Place.

Sakhumzi Restaurant is located in Vilakazi Street and is the ideal place to eat traditional township cuisine while soaking up the rich historical atmosphere. The restaurant serves up a variety of dishes that includes mogodu (tripe) and ujege (steamed bread).

Restaurant Vilakazi is another hugely popular eatery on this famous street, serving up a menu that is described as “South African fusion food”. Popular dishes such as oxtail stew and samp with butternut and spinach are given a classy twist to cater for foreign taste buds.

Nexdor offers tourists uncomplicated, simple but good quality meals. It is situated in the heart of Vilakazi Street and becomes a thriving nightspot after dark.

Ntsitsi’s Fun Food is one of Soweto’s most famous street stalls. Situated in Diepkloof, it is famous for its Soweto-style kotas. A kota is a township version of bunny chow; a quarter loaf of bread that is hollowed out and filled with potato fries and Russian sausages or a meat and veggie stew. Ntsitsi has 40 variations of kotas on their menu.

Chaf Pozi is located right below the Orlando Towers. Tourists who have bungee jumped off the towers or just got back from a bicycle ride through Soweto enjoy the relaxed atmosphere with its Soweto-style shebeen décor. Chaf Pozi is famous as a chesa nyama destination.

For finer dining, visit the Jazz Maniacs and Rusty’s Bar at the Soweto Hotel. This restaurant is located in a four-star establishment, situated in the middle of the city. The dishes served are a fusion of traditional African cuisine and modern Western cuisine. Walk-in customers are welcome and their food prices are very reasonable, despite the fact that it is a rather posh restaurant.

The Sowetalian was established by a chef whose father is Italian and mother is Sotho (from Lesotho). Items on the menu are a fusion of typical township cuisine and authentic Italian dishes. The restaurant is located close to the Regina Mundi Church.


Chesa nyama or shisa nyama (meaning burnt meat in Zulu) is the same as an American barbecue. Meat bought from the butchery owner is cooked over an open fire and served with traditional side dishes. We’ve compiled a list of traditional township dishes which you should study before you go on a tour of Soweto.

Number one on the list is mieliepap (maize meal porridge) or pap as the locals call it. Pap served for breakfast is more liquid and runny and served with milk, butter, cream and sugar. Meat and vegetable stews are usually served with “stywe pap” (Afrikaans for firm). It has a doughy texture and is traditionally eaten with your hands; rolling a piece of pap into a ball and scooping up the meat and gravy like you would a dipping sauce.

Pap is dry and fairly unappetising on its own so it is always served with either a meat stew, chakalaka or shebu, which is a sauce made from green vegetables and chillies. Considering the majority of traditional Africans live on the breadline, anything goes into the sauce; beetroot, carrots, cabbage, onions, potatoes and morogo (a variety of wild weeds collected from the fields).

A good chesa nyama meal is usually accompanied with a glass or two of umqombothi; a popular traditional home-brewed beer made from sorghum mixed with maize meal, water and yeast and left to ferment.

Other side dishes include tripe which is left-over cuts of a carcass, including the liver, kidneys, brains, stomach and lungs. Traditional meat stews are often made from low-quality cuts of meat such as the tongue, tail, feet and head of a cow. Locals love what they call “walkie-talkies” which is a traditional dish of grilled or deep-fried feet and heads of chickens.

Sweet potato is more popular than the common potato as it is rich in nutrients. It’s usually cooked over an open fire in its skin and then mashed up and served with butter and roasted peanuts and a squirt of honey.

Nelson Mandela’s favourite meal was umngqusho. This is samp which is broken dried maize kernels mixed with red beans. Samp is usually boiled in butter and flavoured with butter, onions, potatoes, chillies, lemon juice, salt and oil. The samp is left to simmer on a low heat until all the ingredients are tender.

Morogo is a widely-used term for any combination of edible green leaves, including wild spinach, bean and beetroot leaves. It’s delicious when boiled and served with pap and a braised onion and tomato sauce.

If you have a strong stomach, try amanqina which is a spicy, sticky stew made from the hoof of a cow, pig or sheep. Or try mashonzha which is a dish made from Mopani (common tree) worms. These worms look like caterpillars and are delicious fried, grilled or cooked with chilli and peanuts.

If you are battling to choose from the list of foreign-sounding African names for the food items at a Soweto tavern, ask your Moafrika Tours guide to recommend something on the menu that is delicious but won’t make you feel like you’re a contestant on Fear Factor. Cow hoofs, ox tongue, Mopani worms and “walkie-talkies” are not everyone’s thing but you should always trying something once.


The local people of Soweto love umqombothi, a traditional beer made from maize (corn), maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water. It is rich in Vitamin B and low in alcohol. It certainly is an acquired taste; a thick, creamy beer with a distinctly sour aroma and gritty texture.

Amasi (or maas in Afrikaans) is the common word for fermented milk and tastes like cottage cheese or plain yogurt. It is traditionally prepared by storing unpasteurised cow’s milk in a calabash (dried squash) or hide sack. The milk is left to ferment and soon develops a watery substance called umlaza. The thin liquid is discarded and the remaining thick fermented milk is either drunk on its own or poured over pap (cooked corn flour) or breakfast porridge. A meal of pap and amasi is traditionally served in a clay pot and eaten with wooden spoons.

See more accommodation in Soweto

Mageu is a traditional non-alcoholic drink made from fermented mealie pap (cooked corn flour). Traditional women still prepare this much-loved drink at home but it is also available in cartons at most supermarkets. The lactic acid produced during the fermentation process gives the drink a distinctive sour taste, although store-bought mageu is often flavoured and sweetened.

You might also like Botswana Safaris or Nambia Safaris

Broken by man, and then resurrected by man, the tale of the Pilanesberg is an epic story of geological clashes and destruction spanning millions of years, political struggles, environmental entrepreneurship, tremendously vast landscape architecture and ultimately, tourism success. Why not safari in Pilanesberg?


There is so much you do not know about South Africas fourth largest National Park and why you should safari in Pilanesberg.

Meet Pilanesberg with MoAfrika Tours, meet The Rebel Park.

So here are those 11+ reasons why you should go there and buy the T-shirt.

When algae was the only known living organism on earth, and volcanoes thousands of meters tall were all the rage, Pilanesberg got its start. Things are a bit more interesting for the current intelligent life forms, ie tourists, visiting the Park these days.

To safari in Pilanesberg National Park is to travel back in time

At Pilanesberg you can walk in the footprints of time, even if you end up walking in giant circles. This piece of land allows you the privilege of stepping into the past, 1.3 billions years in the past to be exact, and walk among the rings of a super massive 7000m tall volcano that collapsed on itself eons ago, after spewing molten lava for 1000 million years. Just again, this volcano was active for 1000 million years… It created layers of new rock formations now exposed by erosion and time. When you safari in Pilanesberg, you are moving amidst this piece of geological astonishment.

Thorium (not related to Norse God Thor or new movie Thor Ragnarok) uncovered in the Pilanesberg reserve

Thor _ #Thor #thor2 #chrishemsworth #chrishemsworthThor #Marvel #Avengers #AvengersAgeOfUltron

A photo posted by Paula Cuello (@pauli_cuello) on

The Pilanesberg Ring Complex, the circular remnant of volcanic activity clearly visible from outer space, contains large resources of rare elements like Thorium, Fluorine, light rare earths, Uranium and don’t laugh, Strontium, true story.

Pilanesberg – nature ‘put a ring on it…’

We don’t know if Beyonce has visited the Park yet but 1.3 billion years ago a process started that “put a ring on it”, more specifically, Pilanesberg is the only reserve set within the confines of an alkaline ring complex.

Pilanesbergs’ extinct volcano is so pretty artists have painted it, astronomers have photographed it, and you get to drive around in it

The crater formation created by the recurring volcanic explosions 1.3 billion years ago, and the collapse of the volcanic cone, led to the interesting circular formations that can be seen today, and which has inspired much documentation. Thomas Baines, a 19th century English artist painted the ring of hills of Pilanesberg in 1869 on his way to Botswana. Baines is well known for his paintings and sketches detailing colonial times in South Africa and Australia.

Spotting the Big Five, without fearing the Big M

Whether an area is malaria free does impact on the plans of some travelers. As Pilanesberg is a malaria free park, one of the few that can boast the Big Five, it stands out from other National Parks in more high risk malaria areas where visitors need to take special precautions. More good news is that because of its location, it’s quite near to top notch medical centres in cities like Pretoria, Johannesburg and Rustenburg, should you have any medical issues. Another good reason to safari in Pilanesberg.

You get two biomes for the prices of one, wait what?

Lion checking the elephant pack on my back #Pilanesberg #Wildlife #SouthAfrica #TravelBlog

A photo posted by Genaro Bardy (@naro1) on

Biomes are large areas where plants(flora) and animals(fauna) have adapted successfully to exploit their surroundings like forests or deserts. Pilanesberg can boast two biomes, Arid Savanna that transitions to Moist Savanna. To be more precise, Pilanesberg sits between the dry Kalahari and the more moist Lowveld vegetation(bushveld) and because of this you get a really unique mix of animal life that you can focus that big camera lens on.

A cosy sanctuary for endangered animals

The Pilanesberg National Park, because of its unique location and geological significance, can support a wider variety of endangered animals than other parks of similar size, punching way above its weight class if you’re looking for a good spot to safari. This has meant that really cool animals like the black rhino, tsessebe, wild dogs, roan and sable roam the planes of Pilanesberg. What is a tsessebe? This is a tsessebe, found in the Pilanesberg National Park:

It’s big, it’s really big

#balloonsafari #hotairballoon #sunrise #viewfromthetop must be spectacular #oneday #pilanesberg

A photo posted by Stephanie Latsky (@stephlatsky) on

Pilanesberg National Park is the fourth largest Park in Southern Africa. We like big Parks and we cannot lie…

Pay homage to Pilanesbergs’ rough start

Established in 1977, the Pilanesberg National Park was not always a land of pristine wilderness. It was farmland in the 1950’s, and before that it belonged to the local Tswana speaking people of the area, the Bakgatla baKgafele clan under leadership of chief Pilane around 1850. From 1850 onwards, the Bakgalta land was carved into farms for white settlers, without compensation. After 1913, the white farmers land was slowly expropriated, with compensation, by the Apartheid government and the Bakgatla people were allowed to return, with the whole process lasting until 1960. David Beuster, the managing director of Agricultural Development Corporation (Agricor) which fell under the Bophuthatswana Department of Agriculture, raised funds for the establishment of the park in 1977.

Landscape designed and restored from the bottom up

Along with Lucas Mangope(who was later overthrown), head of the Bahurutshe clan, David Beuster of Agricor hired landscape designers to design the Park from the ground up. Farrell and Van Riet, Landscape Architects and Ecological Planners worked alongside Ken Tinley, a young visionary ecologist. Willem van Riet and Tinley were both big fans of Ian McHarg, a renowned American landscape architect. The two started by restoring the former ecology of the area, and realising their designs for the landscape.

You can visit The Rebel Park

The huge challenges faced by those who created the Park should be recognised as well, and if it wasn’t for their rebellious spirit, the park may not exist today.
The fact that the 55 000ha park was designed by landscapers is ‘rebel’ enough, but the landscapers of the Pilanesberg, the two men who restored the Park to its natural state, Willem van Riet and Ken Tinley, aimed to create something different with the park than what had been known up to that time. They rocked the boat. In a report, they suggested the Park be used to sustain and empower local communities economically(a new concept at the time) and help to develop the region around them with tourism. Up to this point, conservation areas were viewed in isolation and not as engines of economy as large translocation of game and their subsequent sale, was not yet a reality. To create their vision, the area was cleared of all traces of man, areas where cattle grazed were restored to bushveld and 30 farmsteads were knocked down. The duo suggested in their report that animals be re-introduced in large numbers. They also rebelled against the way protected areas were managed at the time by suggesting trophy hunting in the park and making education on the environment a priority in the area.

You get to witness one of the grandest ecological experiments ever undertaken in Southern Africa.

In the 80’s, funding secured by businessman Anton Rupert from the International World Wildlife Fund led to the re-introduction of over 6000 animals into the park, amassing 22 species that were not found there, before that time. Since then the ecology of Pilanesberg has kept itself in check. The Park is known for its spectacular game viewing, as is evidenced by the Instagram photos snapped by those who have experienced Pilanesberg.

Take a drive in the halfway mark

Smack bang in the middle of the volcanic crater, a crack occurred cutting the Pilanesberg in two which has since formed a valley which you can follow on Tlou Drive.

Chief Pilane, what would he have said, now that the Park stands immovably, drawing tourists internationally and locally for a magical experience amid the valleys of an extinct volcano which hides Thorium? You’d be forgiven to think of Pilanesberg as some planet somewhere at the outer part of our solarsystem, but its right here, just a few hours from South Africas bustling Johannesburg. It is 55000 ha of secret, 55 000 reasons anyone who believes Kruger is the only park worth visiting in SA, is missing out. 

Check us out on Blogspot



Origins of the name

Soweto TowersSoweto obtained its name from the first two letters of South Western Township which was the original description of the area.
“Soweto is a symbol of the New South Africa, caught between old squatter misery and new prosperity, squalor and an upbeat lifestyle, it’s a vibrant city which still openly bears the scars of the Apartheid past and yet shows what’s possible in the New South Africa”

Rich political history

map of sowetoSoweto’s rich political history has guaranteed it a place on the world map. Those who know very little else about South Africa are often familiar with the word “Soweto” and the township’s significance in the struggle against apartheid.

The area has also spawned many political, sporting and social luminaries, including Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu – two Nobel peace price laureates, who once lived in the now famous Vilakazi Street in Orlando West.

The township has also produced the highest number of professional soccer teams in the country. Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows all emerged from the township, and remain among the biggest soccer teams in the Premier Soccer League.

Soweto Road SignJust a few kilometres drive from Diepkloof is Orlando, home to Nelson Mandela’s first house, not surprisingly a popular tourist attraction. Mandela stayed here with his then wife, Winnie, before he was imprisoned in 1961 and jailed for 27 years.

The house is now a museum, run by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and contains memorabilia from the short time they lived there together before Mandela went into hiding. Mandela now lives in Houghton, a suburb several kilometres north of Johanneburg’s city centre, with his third wife, Graca, widow of the late Mozambican president Samora Machel.

A place to party

Recent years have seen Soweto become a site of massive development projects and a major tourist attraction in the country.

With such investments happening, shabeens( local bar / club ), history attraction and restaurants make Soweto a great place for a good day/night out.

Travel with Moafrika tours

See the great wonders of Soweto when you travel with MoAfrika Tours. We cater for both day and night trips. Go to all the local hang out spots and take a look at all the historical monuments that give Soweto such a wonderful culture. View the tours we offer below:

Dave’s Travel Corner


Brief history

pretoria city hallIn 1855, Pretoria was founded by Marthinus Pretorius, a Voortrekker leader. His intention was to name it after his father, Andries, who was instrumental in the Voortrekker victory over the Zulus in the monumental Battle of Blood River.

It took some time to settle on a name for the new town though, options like “Pretoriusdorp”, “Pretorium”, “Pretoriusstad” and “Pretoria-Philadelphia” were all considered, but Marthinus finally settled on Pretoria.

Today the area has been renamed the City of Tshwane, but the CBD still keeps the name of Pretoria. Pretoria continues as the administrative capital of South Africa.

Significant Landmarks

Pretoria Landmarks
Church Square has always been the hub of Pretoria, although it was initially called Market Square. This was where the first church, a mud-walled building, was built. It burnt down in 1882 and was replaced by a much grander structure. Open markets were regularly held in the Square and Albert Broderick, an Englishman christened Albertus Broodryk, by his Afrikaans friends and customers established himself as shopkeeper. He also ran the community’s first bar, the ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’.

When Mr. Sammy Marks, a well-known Jewish industrialist and close friend of President Paul Kruger, was allowed to build the town’s first synagogue he expressed his pleasure by commissioning the sculptor Anton van Wouw to produce a statue of the president. A plinth was erected in Church Square to receive the bronze figure that had been cast in Rome. Unfortunately the South African War broke out and the statue was held up in the then Lorenzo Marques. This resulted in the statue only being erected in 1854, after several changes of site. Church Square was redesigned as a tramway in 1910, much to the disappointment of many of Pretoria’s residents who had tried to convince the civic authorities to create a gracious area of fountains, gardens and Continental-style paving in order to showcase Pretoria as a city.

During the rule of the old dispensation Pretoria was the Administrative capital of South Africa. The modern city has many features that retain a position of importance in, especially, the white history of the country. These include the Union Buildings, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, which still houses government establishments; the old Raadsaal (council chamber) of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek on Church Square and the house where President Paul Kruger lived until his exile in 1900.

Outside the city towers the Voortrekker Monument and the two massive forts, Klapperkop and Schanskop, built by the Boers to protect their capital against the British. Here you can also find the large and imposing buildings of the University of South Africa (UNISA).

Travel to Pretoria with MoAfrika Tours

With all this great history there is so much to see. Take one of our many day trips to Pretoria and view this rich history for yourself. We offer great packages for you and your whole family. View the available tours below:


Find yourself traveling to Gauteng and want a great day out? Well Gauteng is not short of things to do. We will be showing you day tours that are affordable and fill up a day with fun. It is great for families or if you find yourself traveling by yourself.

With the large amount of history behind South Africa, a lot of it can be found through out Gauteng.

To start of with a tour to the Apartheid Museum.

Apartheid Museum

Apartheid MuseumThis is a great day tour that is rich with South African history. Look into the journey South Africa to get to the rainbow nation we are today.

Soweto Tour
From there you can take a trip through Soweto and see where Nelson Mandela lived. There is a lot of culture that is still kept in Soweto. Have a tour through a city within a city.



South African SafariOnce have had your fun with the history of South Africa and want a bit of adventure through the wild side of South Africa then you are in for a treat.
We have great wild life parks where you can see the big 5 and some of Africas finest creatures. View more Kruger Park Lodges

If this sounds like it is right down you alley give us a call or book online today.



Zaach Smith –– The best tour of our lives. Thank you to Moafrika Tours and Safaris.