Tag Archives: Pafuri

Getting to Pafuri

Last week, we were so excited to tell you about our time at Kruger National Park’s newest accommodation offering, the Pafuri Border Camp, that we skipped over the part of our visit leading up to our time in the extreme Far North of the Park.

We’ll take this opportunity to rectify that now.

We arrived at Phalaborwa Gate on the Friday, early enough to allow a slow drive along the H14-road up to Mopani Rest Camp, where we were booked for a one-night stopover on the way to Pafuri Border Camp.

A quick afternoon sojourn past Mooiplaas, the Nshawu Vlei and Tinhongonyeni delivered no less than 6 tsessebe sightings, lots of energetic zebras, good numbers of other animals and birds, and a very dramatic storm brewing over the plains…

That evening we enjoyed a lovely meal at Mopani’s restaurant, the howling wind putting an end to any ideas we might have had of braaiing (the traditional South African barbeque) at our bungalow. Afterwards we searched for nocturnal animals among Mopani’s natural vegetation, and were not disappointed.

Leaving Mopani as soon as the gate opened Saturday morning, under heavy skies accompanied by a constant soft drizzle, we anticipated at least one good predator sighting. Sure enough, near Olifantsbadpan, we had a terrific encounter with two big female spotted hyenas and three of the cutest, most playful cubs you could imagine. Only afterwards did I realise that they were so close to our vehicle that I didn’t manage even one full body photo of them!

We expected to have good sightings of elephants around Shingwedzi, and our favourite rest camp delivered the goods just as we had hoped. It was still raining softly as we set of from Shingwedzi after breakfast, heading northward past Babalala Picnic Spot. The north of the Kruger Park is also well known for its exceptional birdlife and all these special sightings made the long road seem much shorter.

After a quick turn in Punda Maria for lunch, fuel and to stock up on some last minute goodies, we could tackle the last stretch of road to the magical paradise that is Pafuri.

Road to Mopani


Careful now, that’s quite close enough!



This buffalo, seen at Pafuri in Kruger National Park, made it abundantly clear that we shouldn’t venture any closer…

Careful” is the theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge

A new treasure unveiled in Kruger; the Pafuri Border Camp

An omnipresent sense of history permeates the grounds and buildings of Pafuri Border Camp, with the call of a wild frontier on your doorstep clarion clear and impossible to refuse.

Here at Pafuri in the Far North of the Kruger National Park, Harold and Tiny Mockford built their lives, raised a family, grew old. From 1938 to 1985, Mockford was the recruiting agent and administrative officer at the labour recruitment station established at Pafuri by the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA, colloquially simply “Wenela”, later TEBA – The Employment Bureau of Africa) to provide migrant workers for the mushrooming gold mines at Johannesburg.

Comprising the beautifully restored and period-furnished residences inhabited by the Mockfords and other WNLA / TEBA staff, the Pafuri Border Camp will offer overnight accommodation in three very spacious self-catering units: the one-bedroom (4-sleeper) Mockford Cottage, the three-bedroom (6-sleeper) Doctor’s House, and the four-bedroom (8-sleeper) Mockford House. Relaxing on the wide verandas that wrap around the houses, enclosed by mosquito gauze just as they were when their original inhabitants lived there, it is hard not to imagine what daily life entailed for those who lived and worked here all those years ago. The camp’s deep swimming pool will be a delight on hot summer days, as it was no doubt for the family Mockford. A small room next to the tiny reception office will be dedicated as a museum in which Pafuri’s fascinating history can be regaled. More “modern” amenities, such as a fuel station, shop and restaurant, is available at Punda Maria Rest Camp, approximately 65km to the South-West.

One of the biggest highlights of the new Pafuri Border Camp is its proximity to Crooks Corner, the Luvuvhu River and Pafuri Picnic Site. Being first to arrive at the river viewpoints in the morning and the last to have to leave those serenely beautiful scenes in the evening is a privilege not to be underestimated. Crooks Corner, so named because the borders of South Africa, Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) and Mozambique (then Portuguese East Africa) meet here and allowed scoundrels of all description to escape the long arm of the law, has a very special allure in the golden light of sunrise and dusk. Spending time along the Luvuvhu as the riverine forest slowly awakes in the morning delivers a serenity to the human spirit that must be experienced to be truly appreciated.

You can bet that the birdwatching fraternity will be ecstatic at the news of Pafuri Border Camp’s opening. Pafuri is South Africa’s bird-watching mecca; the diversity of its feathered inhabitants simply astounding.

Mammalian wildlife abounds in the Luvuvhu’s riverine bush, with nyala, impala, warthog, baboon and vervet monkey occurring in exceptional numbers. Several other species, including elephant, buffalo, hippo, waterbuck, kudu, blue wildebeest, zebra, and seldomly-seen predators, add to the show. An astonishing number of Nile crocodiles, some in excess of 5 meters in length and probably weighing more than a ton, rule the murky waters of the Luvuvhu.

Come 1 November 2015, this new destination, hard not to describe in superlatives and quite literally a stone’s throw away from the border post into Mozambique, will open to its first official guests. We recently had the immense pleasure and privilege to spend two nights at Pafuri Border Camp while the finishing touches were being made to the accommodation. It is sure to prove very popular with nature lovers and history buffs from all over the world. Bookings for Pafuri Border Camp is through South African National Parks. Via the N1 highway and Kruger’s most northern entrance, Pafuri Gate, the camp is located approximately 620km from Pretoria.

(Google maps)

(Google maps)

Our 2014 in pictures

Looking back at the fantastic places we stayed at while exploring South Africa’s wild places in 2014…

Letaba, February 2014

Following our explorations of the paradise that is Pafuri, in the far north of the Kruger National Park, we headed towards the central regions of the Park, for a two-night stay at Letaba Rest Camp.

It’s a long drive down from Pafuri to Letaba and, at game viewing speeds with regular stops for photographs and leg stretches at the camps and picnic spots along the way, it took us the entire day to cover the distance of 250km, reaching Letaba just before the gates closed. Covering such a distance in a national park like Kruger, you’re bound to come across some great sightings and some thrilling experiences, but we didn’t count on getting growled at when we stopped at Mooiplaas picnic site for a bit of a break. We were back in the car in a flash, and still have no idea what it was that was so irritated by our presence…

When you’re hoping for great wildlife sightings in any wild place, you have to be out-and-about at the times that the animals are most active, being the early morning and late afternoon, to maximise your chances.

Letaba sunrise

We set out early from Letaba the next morning, heading towards Olifants Rest Camp along the gravel roads that follow the courses of the Letaba and Olifants Rivers. We were soon rewarded with a great sighting of a spotted hyena, followed shortly afterwards by the highlight of our trip: an encounter with wild dogs! The dogs came running along the road in the opposite direction we were travelling in, and passed us in a flash. We had to make a u-turn and followed them a couple of hundred metres, before they decided to take a bit of a break right in the middle of the road. These animals are so rare and sightings so infrequent that we spent quite a bit of time with them before moving on.

Fish eagle

Shortly before reaching Olifants we crossed a small stream and noticed lots of terrapins and a lone juvenile crocodile sharing a pool next to the road. It soon became apparent that these animals have become accustomed to being fed by passing tourists as they started moving towards our vehicle the moment we came to a halt. This aberrant behaviour is exactly the reason why the park authorities are so strict about visitors not being allowed to feed the animals, but some choose to ignore it nonetheless. We didn’t stay long, fearing that the terrapins would end up beneath our vehicle preventing us from driving away.

We spent the hot hours of the day walking around the Letaba campgrounds, enjoying the peace and quite and the company of Letaba’s resident bushbuck and birds.

Our afternoon excursion focused on the riverine drives to the north of the camp. Again we were not disappointed, seeing two waterbuck bulls sparring, herds of other game, including elephants, hippos, impalas, nyalas, bushbuck, giraffes, buffalo and baboons, various bird species, even some fish at a river crossing, and of course beautiful scenery.

A fascinating but gruesome sighting of a ground hornbill using its massive bill to kill and devour a tortoise in its carapace was a reminder that this is still wild Africa after all…

Letaba Sunset


With the sunrise the next morning it was time to pack up and head to our next destination, the Forever Swadini Resort in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. It wouldn’t be our last taste of the Kruger National Park however, and as we were heading towards the Orpen Gate we could console ourselves in the knowledge that we were planning one last day visit for later in the week.

We’ve previously dedicated a special post to Letaba – have a look here if you’d like to read more about this peaceful rest camp

Pafuri Paradise

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 Treasure (7)

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”.

Pafuri Treasure (10)

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.

Valentines at Pafuri Rivercamp

We spent our Valentine’s Weekend at the rustic but very romantic Pafuri Rivercamp, in the extreme north-east of South Africa’s Limpopo Province.

Pafuri Rivercamp 14Feb14

We’ll share more about our travels in the Pafuri region of the Kruger National Park soon, but for a teaser have a look at our entry into the “Treasure” photo challenge.