KRUGER NATIONAL PARK – self drive
Pafuri is easily accessible from Johannesburg (about 6 and a half hours), but Punda Maria gate is the usual option for visitors coming from the south wanting to experience the Pafuri area.
Pafuri Gate takes you along the H1-9 directly into the northern sandveld between Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers. This is one of the most ecologically diverse areas of the Park and is known as the 'northern biome'.
The vegetation includes a diverse mixture of South African lowveld and tropical African woodlands. Here you will find various trees, including bushwillow species, silver cluster leaves and white syringe. From Pafuri to the Luvuvhu River there are rare plants and animals that can be found nowhere else in South Africa.
In the winter, hundreds of Elephant and Buffalo invade this area. While driving over the Luvuvhu River bridge, take time to stop and admire the river and surrounding forest area.
Keep an eye out for the Sharpe's grysbok and the suni antelope which may be hidden in the thickets on the river banks. You will also be able to see rare birds like Pel’s Fishing Owl, Bohms Spinetail, African finfoot and white crowned plover. More uncommon birds found in the area include thickbilled cuckoo, rackettailed roller, Arnot's bush chat, bush shrike, narina trogon and the trumpeter hornbill.
While driving around the Luvuvhu area, be on the lookout for the flood markers that show the high water point reached by the floods of February 2000.
FACTS ON PAFURI:
- Pafuri has a variety of habitats, from sandstone cliffs to lush riverine forests, mixed sandvelds, woodland and tropical floodplains
- Pafuri is a top birding spot because nowhere else in South Africa can such a range of tropical birds be seen
- The Luvuvhu River woodland is home to Nyala and Kudu, Baboon, Impala and Duiker
- There is a high Leopard population along the Luvuvhu
- The Luvuvhu has hundreds of Crocodile and Hippo
- The Makuleke area is the winter home of Elephant from Kruger, Zimbabwe and Mozambique
PAFURI PICNIC SITE:
There is just one look out point in the whole northern section of Pafuri, the Pafuri picnic site (S63), which should be your first stop when entering Pafuri. This is a charming little spot surrounded by luscious Anna trees and thick bushes. There are braai (barbecue) and toilet facilities and a place where you can buy firewood and cool drinks. Spend some time on this site, relishing in the many wildlife and vegetation that surrounds you.
Watch the birds go about their daily business, observe the Crocodile waiting for a kill, or simply just relax in the beautiful surroundings. The area is often visited by bee eaters, kingfishers and woodpeckers and you will be able to hear the call of the majestic fish eagle gliding across the water.
One of the things to keep an eye out for is the high water mark indicating the level of which the water reached during the 2000 floods. This is marked on the wall of the toilet facility, about 8 metres from the usual water level.
Also discover the history and archaeology of the area by visiting the nearby Thulamela Iron Age site. Pafuri is abundant in birds with ranger Frank Mabasa having recorded about 257 species at this site in just one year.
Boundary of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe
In the 1900s this area was a safe-haven for gun runners, poachers, fugitives and anyone else dodging the law. It was an easy hop across the river whenever police from one particular country approached. There is a large plaque here commemorating the legendary ivory hunter Cecil Barnard (Bvekenya), who hid on an island in the middle of the Limpopo to avoid being tracked down by pursuing rangers and police in the 1920s. Ironically, Barnard later became a ranger himself. A police station was later built here.
The road to Crook's Corner passes under majestic fig trees, jackalberries and a forest of fever trees. This is the spot where the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers and three countries, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique, meet.
The region is considered one of Kruger's biodiversity hotspots, with some of the largest herds of elephant and buffalo, leopard and lion and incredibly prolific birdlife. In May 2007 the biological significance of the area was recognised in its declaration as a Ramsar site - a wetland of international importance.
Many bird and animal species that are sometimes really difficult to spot elsewhere occur here. Keep a look out for kudu and nyala, baboons and monkeys - including the samango monkey. Hippo and crocodile can be seen in large numbers. In the summer, the area is full of rarely seen bird species, such as broad-billed and racket-tailed rollers, icterine and river warbler, and thrush nightingale.
Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kruger_National_Park