Pick up any guidebook about the Kruger National Park, and it will probably tell you that you’ve not experienced the “real” Kruger if you haven’t seen Pafuri.
Pafuri is a diverse wilderness in the far north-eastern corner of South Africa, where the borders of SA, Zimbabwe and Mozambique meet at the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers. Because all kinds of smugglers, bandits and poachers from the late 1800′s and early 1900′s could evade capture by the law-enforcement authorities of these countries by simply slipping across the borders, the area quickly became known as “Crook’s Corner”.
The wide variety of habitats – muddy rivers, glimmering pans, lush riverine vegetation with magnificent stands of yellow fever trees , mopane woodland interspersed with huge baobabs (some hundreds if not thousands of years old) and dramatic sandstone ridges and cliffs, are home to probably the greatest variety of birds in the country and supports large concentrations of mammals.
Along the roads that follow the course of the Luvuvhu River, five species of game are especially numerous. The antics of the vervet monkeys and chacma baboons are always entertaining to watch, and the warthogs go about their business as if without a care in the world. Impalas are a familiar sight; as they are in many other parts of the Kruger National Park. But it is to the regal Nyala that Pafuri belongs.
Pafuri however has even more to offer in terms of big game viewing with hippos, elephants, buffaloes, zebras, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, bushbuck and crocodiles being encountered often, while lucky visitors enjoy sightings of the resident lion pride.
As already mentioned, Pafuri is a bird-watcher’s heaven. Several bird species are at the southernmost limit of their range here and can be seen nowhere else in South Africa. During summer, when the already astounding diversity of birdlife swells with the arrival of migrants from further north, Pafuri is the place to be!
The Pafuri Picnic Site on the bank of the Luvuvhu River is the ideal stopover for anyone and everyone that find themselves in the magical place. Among the picnic tables and benches that overlook the river the birdlife seems especially relaxed and a keen eye is sure to notice many of the small invertebrates that hide among the leaf litter and twigs. We spent lots of time enjoying the energetic vervet monekys that frequent the site, but our most memorable sighting of this visit to Pafuri was the stiff-legged show of dominance between two mature nyala bulls, strutting their stuff as if we were not even there.
And this is exactly why Pafuri has such a special place in our hearts. It still feels like a wild frontier, a place where humans are just passing through. We absolutely agree: You haven’t experienced the “real” Kruger if you haven’t spent some time at Pafuri.
While exploring magical Pafuri on our latest (February 2014) visit, we based ourselves at the Pafuri Rivercamp, which is located just 3km outside the Kruger’s Pafuri Gate, in mature riverine woodland along the Mutale River. Rustic though the camp may be (there’s no electricity or cellphone reception and everything is built from wood, reeds, canvas, gauze and chicken mess) but you could hardly imagine a more romantic place from which to explore the Pafuri’s wilderness. The camp staff are friendly and hospitable, and the camp has a central pool, bar, lounge, and lapa where meals (which must be pre-arranged) can be enjoyed. The tents are pitched on platforms among the branches of large jackalberry, leadwood and apple-leaf trees and in the clearing below is a fireplace, picnic table and comfortable canvas chairs with your private kitchen and ablutions located to the side. There’s nothing like being lulled to sleep on a hot February night by a cool breeze passing through the leaves around you and straight through your open tent windows, accompanied by the sounds of bushbabies and nightjars! We’ll definitely return to Pafuri Rivercamp at the first opportunity.
The Kruger National Park’s own Punda Maria Rest Camp is also a highly recommendable alternative accommodation option if you want to visit Pafuri. Have a look at our special Punda Maria post if you’d like to learn more about this historic rest camp.