Basic but appealing.
500km north of Johannesburg is the Makuya National Park. Makuya is a small park that shares a fenceless border with the Kruger National Park. It is situated just outside the northern part of Kruger, and is about an hour drive from the Pafuri Gate. The online information about the park tells you that “this awesome camp is located on a mountain top that offers a spectacular view of the permanent Levuvhu river and a baobab forest, where elephants, hippos and crocodiles roam freely 200m below the camp.” Our campsite was a bit more rustic, and is situated on the bank of the Levuvhu river.
We left Johannesburg early in the morning, and reached the park at about 2pm. The formalities at the gate were easy, and we were soon on our way towards the campsite. January 2013 the northern part of Kruger experienced a very heavy rainfall. Over a period of 10 days more than 500mm of rain fell; nobody knows exactly how much as the priority was to save people rather than emptying the measuring beaker… The rain and the ensuing flooding washed away almost all vegetation along the Levuvhu and Limpopo rivers, and also any campsite or permanent fixture that happened to be in the way. The rain also washed away a lot of the topsoil in the region, and therefore also the road infrastructure. Hence, the access road to our campsite was very rugged and only accessible with a 4×4.
The campsite we stayed at is situated on the river bank, in the shade of large lovely trees, and offers a small ablution block with two flushing loos and two showers. Each stand also has a braai area (BBQ) and there is a sink for doing dishes. It was clear when we arrived that no-one had been there to camp since the flooding. There was still a lot of debris on the stands, and the ablution facilities, although clean, had no water. On arrival the manager assured us that water had been pumped into the holding tank, but alas it was empty. Never fear, prepared as we are, we took water from the river for loos, and used the bucket as our shower.
As we arrived at the campsite with time to spare before sundown, we were able to head out for a two hour walk along the river. The fenceless border with Kruger – which happens to follow the Levuvhu river – means that all animals that are happy to cross the river can be found in Makuya. It is therefore Big5 territory and requires a guide. Our walk really underlined the massively destructive force of the river as it flooded, and the guide could point out new pools, new rapids and new banks as we walked. Although very visible indications of animals (tracks and dung/droppings from Elephant, Hippo, Buffalo, Lion, Hyena, Otter) we only saw Impala, Nyala, Warthog, and a lone Crock during our walks. That evening we braaied venison sausages over the open fire, listening to the chorus of the wild. In the early hours of the morning I was woken up by the distant call of a Lion.
Day 2 started with a long walk towards a viewpoint overlooking the river. After a quick rusk at the campsite we set off at 6am. The first hour or so is the magic hour – this is the hour where nature comes alive again, the birds sing and fly overhead in search of food, and bugs, beetles and butterflies all show off their splendid colours. This hour is also the coolest hour of the day. As soon as the sun was far enough up on the sky the temperature soared. We didn’t reach our view point due to the temperature and the lush and dense bush, but we still managed to climb a hillock to find some magnificent views of the surrounding area. Back at the camp we napped, had a swim in the river, and lunched, before heading out for our afternoon walk.
For us with an interest in birds, the area offers a fantastic range. We saw the African Fish Eagle perched in a tree above the river, we saw swallows hunting insects from the big Baobabs, we saw the Mocking Cliff Chat mocking us from the cliffs, we saw the Goliath Heron fishing in the river, and we saw Verreaux’s, Whalberg’s, Black Chested Snake, and Marshall Eagles, the Jackobin Cookoo, the Squacco Heron, and the Spectacled Mousebird among many others.
Makuya also offers tented accommodation at the main camp. In addition, there are organised 4×4 tours that use the trails going through the park. These trails are quite challenging, with a need to be completely self-sufficient for the duration of the trip.
We finished our trip with a short walk in the morning, looking for any evidence of activity from the previous night. As we drove back out to the gate we were all hoping for the magic sighting you sometimes get when leaving a park – but alas, this time it eluded us.
- situated approximately 500km from Johannesburg
- access via Makhado, Tshipise, Mutale
- fees are very reasonable at ZAR10pp and ZAR20pv.
- The Singo Safari Lodge offers self-catering in a tented camp. Total capacity is 16 people. Options include tents with 2 beds or family tent with 2 single beds in 2 bedrooms. Rates from about ZAR400 for the tent per night.
- camping facilities are basic but good and offers stands with views of the river, ablution block, running water and braai area.