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Have you ever been to the Pafuri region in the northern Kruger?

If the answer is ‘no’, then it’s high time you gave this blog a read. It’s a very special place and I’m still buzzing after a visit in early September. I took plenty of notes on the trip and want to share them to help your planning.

ABOUT RETURNAFRICA

Firstly, let me set the scene for the destination. Situated between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers on the 26,500-hectare Makuleke Contract Park is a hidden gem, Pafuri Tented Camp. All the tents are situated along the Luvuvhu River offering spectacular views of nature. Like other camps in Kruger, daily activities are both morning and evening game drives but Pafuri is also really great for bush walks.

RETURN AFRICA Luxury-Tent-overlooking-Luvuvhu-River

WHAT TO EXPECT

  • It’s a Birder’s Paradise – The Pafuri region is home to over 450 species of birds, including the Pel’s Fishing OwlRacket Tailed RollerThree Banded & Bronze Winged Coursers, Arnot’s Chatand if you’re lucky, you can spot a Bohm’s Spinetail.
  • Beautiful landscapes such as Lanner Gorge, Crooks Corner, and The Fever Tree Forest

GETTING TO PAFURI LUXURY TENTED CAMP

Woken by our alarm at 04:00 on a Friday morning, we could hear the chirping of early birds outside the window, and not just the hadedas. It was a reminder of the sounds that awaited us in Pafuri, so there was no temptation to hit that snooze button one more time. It was time to pack our gear and say our sad goodbyes to our fur babies for the weekend.

At 06:04, we hit the road to Pafuri Camp. Driving there from Johannesburg takes about seven hours, but it’s easy. For folks who don’t want to drive themselves, there are options of a road transfer, or even a shared charter flight to the Pafuri airstrip.

THE ROAD TRIP

Pafuri Luxury Tented Camp is in the Makuleke Contract Park, situated in the far north of the Kruger National Park. For you techies, the GPS Co-ordinates are: 22°25’15.81”S / 31°13’45.81”E. It’s easy to find the way on Google Maps or Waze: just type in RETURNAfrica Pafuri Camp and the device will advise on the best route to take. This is the way we travelled:

  • N1 North to Louis Trichardt (Makhado)
  • Continue on the N1 over the Soutpansberg and turn right onto the R525 towards Tshipise
  • Continue past Tshipise to Pafuri Gate
  • Enter the Kruger National Park via the Pafuri Gate. We drove for 30min (50km/h inside the park) on the H1-9 about 22kms to the Luvuvhu River Bridge
  • Just before the Luvuvhu River Bridge, turn left to Pafuri Camp

RECOMMENDED FUEL STOPS ALONG THE WAY

  • Total Petroport Panorama – a few km’s north of Pretoria
  • Engen Kranskop 1 Stop North (Wimpy, KFC, and convenient store) – near Modimolle
  • Caltex Starstop the Ranch (Seattle Coffee Company, if you’re a coffee snob like Jaco, you’ll love their blends) – 25km’s south of Polokwane
  • Total Petroport Capricorn – 60km’s north of Polokwane
  • Caltex Baobab Toll Plaza (last garage before you turn right on the R525 to Pafuri Gate)

TRAVEL EXPENSES

SANPark Gate Entry Fees: R100.00 per day for South African citizens and residents (be sure to have some cash on you, they do struggle with the internet and their card facilities may be offline, just to be safe)
Fuel: R1200.00 return (Ford Figo and no you don’t need a 4×4 to enjoy the Kruger, our small car did just fine)
Tollgates: R546.00 return

TOTAL COSTS: R1851.00

PAFURI CAMP

No amount of photos or stories can do justice to the beauty of each tent at Pafuri Camp and you simply need to experience it for yourself. There are 19 tents, 7 of which are family units that sleep families of up to 4. Each one has an indoor and outdoor shower, and a private deck perfect for birding and reading. You can read more about the facilities here.

RETURN AFRICA Tent-entrance_

WHAT OUR DAYS LOOKED LIKE

05:00 – 05:30: Woke up to get ready for our AM bush activity (bushwalk on one day and game drive on the second)
05:30 – 06:00: Sipped tea & coffee at the reception area as we waited for our morning game drive
06:00 – 09:30: Explored Pafuri in an open-air game viewer with Kewan (two thumbs up to his guiding skills)
09:30 – 10:00: We returned to camp and indulged in an amazing brunch (my only regret is not ordering a mimosa, but next time)
10:00 – 15:00: Time to kick off our shoes and relax. We enjoyed a good book on our private deck, caught a sneaky siesta (highly recommended), marvelled at the beauty of the Luvuvhu River, had a drink or two at the outside bar, relaxed by the pool and I worked on my blogs.
15:00 – 16:00: High tea was served along with a light meal before leaving for our afternoon game drive.
16:00 – 19:00: Evening game drive. If you’re looking for breath-taking sunsets and extraordinarily diverse landscapes, then Pafuri is the perfect spot. We stopped in The Fever Tree Forest to catch the sunset shine through the fever trees. This was absolutely gorgeous, a golden hour at its finest. Driving back to Pafuri Camp we admired the stars which decorated the night sky in the Makuleke.
19:30 – 21:00: Dinner served, and we sat down to a candlelit table, enjoyed our pre-selected three-course meal. Afterward, we chatted with some of the other guests and wrapped up the night with a drink at the bar.

OUR GUIDE KEWAN

Back in the day, Kewan Bagley was a banker whilst living the 9-5 life. One day a friend sent him an image of the Drakensberg and right there he decided to retire early, pack his bags and embark on a whole new way of life in the bush. Kewan has been part of the RETURNAfrica family since 2017, armed with a FGASA Professional Trails Guide qualification. In 2019 he embarked on an 8-month sabbatical in Sri Lanka where he walked and explored that extradentary country. Luckily for us, he returned to the bush and to RETURNAfrica. The knowledge he has on the region and the various birds in the area is impeccable!

RETURN AFRICA Kewan

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

The entire weekend at Pafuri Camp was amazing, however, there are a few experiences that stood out the most:

The beautiful sunrise over Lanner Gorge. At 04:00 we left Pafuri Camp with our guide, Kewan, to Lanner Gorge, which we found drenched in the pale light of the moon and stars. At 05:36 the sun started to rise over the gorge. I know I keep talking about the sunsets in Pafuri, but their sunrises are just as incredible.
The bushwalk to Nwambi Pan. Instead of a morning game drive, we opted for a bushwalk to Nwambi Pan (highly recommend). During a short brief, Kewan mentioned the do’s and don’ts of a bush-walk, and my favourite had to be “only food runs in the bush”. So, basically don’t run, EVER.
We spotted the well sought after Pel’s Fishing Owl. We had just finished dessert on our final evening when a guide spotted the Pel’s Fishing Owl sitting on a log in the Luvuvhu River. What a beautiful and unique sighting.

RETURN AFRICA Lanner-Gorge-1

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

The entire weekend at Pafuri Camp was amazing, however, there are a few experiences that stood out the most:

The beautiful sunrise over Lanner Gorge. At 04:00 we left Pafuri Camp with our guide, Kewan, to Lanner Gorge, which we found drenched in the pale light of the moon and stars. At 05:36 the sun started to rise over the gorge. I know I keep talking about the sunsets in Pafuri, but their sunrises are just as incredible.
The bushwalk to Nwambi Pan. Instead of a morning game drive, we opted for a bushwalk to Nwambi Pan (highly recommend). During a short brief, Kewan mentioned the do’s and don’ts of a bush-walk, and my favourite had to be “only food runs in the bush”. So, basically don’t run, EVER.
We spotted the well sought after Pel’s Fishing Owl. We had just finished dessert on our final evening when a guide spotted the Pel’s Fishing Owl sitting on a log in the Luvuvhu River. What a beautiful and unique sighting.

RETURN AFRICA my pafuri escape

FINAL THOUGHTS

We thoroughly enjoyed our entire stay at Pafuri Camp. We got to see Lanner Gorge and the Fever Tree Forest. The bushwalk was one of a kind, and if you have the time, request a bushwalk prior to arrival. LOVED IT. I would highly recommend to any South African, especially if you’re looking at escaping the hustle and bustle of the city life after lockdown. There are special South African resident rates available on the website, so whether it is a first-time visit or a return, don’t wait.

Untold Adventures – Carmen van Wyk