Luxury Safari Lodge
Western Pafuri, Northern Kruger National Park
MUTALE Trail Area
The Mutale Trail traverses 28,000 hectares in the northernmost part of Kruger National Park, called the Makuleke Region. It is bordered to the south by the Luvuvhu River, to the north & west by the Limpopo River and Zimbabwe, and to the east by Crooks Corner & Mozambique. Boasting spectacular scenery and woodlands unrivalled anywhere else in the Park, this area is also home to the best birding in the Kruger, if not the entire country, and is steeped in the cultural history of early civilizations and folklore of the early explorers and hunters.
5 of the Kruger's 35 ldiverse andscape types are found in this region alone, contributing to the extraordinary biodiversity of the area. It is home to large herds of elephant and buffalo, resident prides of lion and mountainous terrain ideally suited to leopard. White rhino are often sighted and you are likely to see Sharpe’s grysbok, eland, nyala and tsessebe antelope, which are not easy to find elsewhere in the Park. The amazingly varied terrain of the region includes mopane woodlands, fever tree forests, acacia thickets, natural springs, open savannah and some of the largest and oldest baobab trees in the park (to learn more about the landscapes represented in this region, please see the bottom of this page).
The region is named after the local Makuleke tribe who lived in the area until they were forcibly removed under Apartheid to make way for the expansion of the Kruger Park in 1967? With the advent of the New South Africa and a successful land claim on the part of the tribe, this sad story has a happy ending (so far). In 2003, the Makuleke were awarded their land back and they have chosen to allow the area to remain as part of the Park in the hope that eco tourism would prove to be a viable alternative to agriculture and cattle farming. Let’s pray that this is so because this region is by far the most scenically spectacular and biologically diverse area of the entire Park. Ownership of the lodges built here will revert to the tribe after 30 years, by which time, hopefully, a viable and sustainable eco-tourism economy will be in place whereby the local people (not to mention the fauna and flora) may profit from future generations of tourists having the privilege of exploring this magical place. Africa would truly be the poorer should the wildlife here be replaced by goats, cattle or mining.
The region's rich historical and cultural heritage can be explored by guided visits to Crooks Corner and the ancient Thulamela archaeological site overlooking the Luvuvhu River. Artefacts dating from 1460 to 1640 have been found, tying them to the last phase of the Great Zimbabwe culture. In the late 19th century, the old Ivory Route passed alongside the Luvuvhu River to Crooks Corner at the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers and the border of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
This is a Luxury Safari Lodge with 12 double rooms built high up on a hillside with breathless views over the Luvuvhu River to the south, all connected by a half kilometre long walkway. It must be said that the architecture is quite extraordinary and certainly not that of the typical safari lodge. Using simple, clean lines and combining elements of steel, concrete and open space, the unashamedly contemporary design of the lodge emphasises its beautiful surrounds but blends and preserves the wilderness that is its home.
The contemporary design of each room makes use of concrete and steel with retractable remote controlled screens which may be opened to offer 180-degree views of the river valley below, or closed depending on the weather. The living area of each room comprises an outdoor terrace with daybed, indoor lounge and bedroom with king size bed under mosquito netting. The award-winning en-suite bathrooms offer full views of the surrounding bushveld, or can be screened off for privacy.
Morning walks with afternoon/evening game drives, with the option of full-day walks in the cooler, dry season from April to September. Should you so choose, you may also do a morning game drive instead of the walk, according to your preference or the weather.
Flight time to/from Johannesburg: 1 hour 45 minutes by charter aircraft (to a landing strip ½ hour from the lodge).
Drive time to/from Johannesburg: 6 ½ to 7 hours.
Drive time to/from Nelspruit: 6 hours.
Drive time to/from Phalaborwa: 5 hours.
- Fully serviced, luxury accommodation.
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Morning game walk and late afternoon game drive in open vehicle with sundowner drinks and snacks, or full-day walks between April and September with meals on the trail.
- Transfers to and from pafuri landing strip for fly-in guests.
- Teas and coffee.
- Kruger National park entry fees (ZAR120)
- regional conservation fees (ZAR100)
- Bar bill
Booking Terms & Conditions
- A 50% deposit is required in order to secure the booking.
- Full payment required 30 days prior to check-in.
- More than 30 days prior to arrival: a fee of 25% of the full amount (i.e. 50% of deposit).
- Less than 30 days prior to arrival: a fee of 50% of the full amount (i.e. 100% of deposit).
- Less than 7 days prior to arrival: a fee of 100% of the full amount.
Child and Walks Policy
No children under the age of 10 years can be accommodated, with full adult rate less ZAR200 for children aged between 10 and 15. Please note that the rooms are open air with open balconies and that the lodge and swimming pool are both unfenced. Children must be supervised at all times. The minimum age on walks is 12 and the maximum age is 65, unless walkers older than 65 are in possession of a certified doctor's letter attesting to their health and fitness.
The Mutale Trail area ranges over five distinct landscape areas as identified by WPD Gertenbach in his study Landscapes of the Kruger National Park, offering unrivalled walking areas and vehicle safaris:
1. KNP Landscape Type No. 28 (Limpopo/Luvuvhu Floodplains). As the name indicates, this landscape occurs on the banks of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers. When these rivers rise, a blockage takes place above the confluence and because the area is flat, flooding of the land adjacent to the rivers takes place. Silt is deposited and a number of pans in the area are filled. Pan-veld footslopes host a tree savannah dominated by Mopane trees, Umbrella thorns and almost homogeneous stands of Baobab trees in certain areas. The banks of rivers are a closed forest community 20 meters high, dominated by Ana trees and Sycamore figs, with dense undergrowth. The floodplains are home to magnificent Fever-tree forests ranging in height from 6 to 15 metres, bordered by open areas, where the grass can reach a height of 2 meters in mid-summer. This landscape accommodates the largest population of nyala in the KNP. Other species of game that are abundant on these floodplains are bushbuck, duiker, buffalo, kudu, waterbuck, impala and elephant. Baboons and vervet monkeys are plentiful and Nile crocodile are common in the rivers. This landscape also represents the only confirmed habitat of bush pigs in the KNP and with its dense, high trees and water pans it is a paradise for birds – many found nowhere else in South Africa.
2. KNP Landscape Type No. 27 (Mixed Bush willow/Mopane woodland)
Here, white sand of Quaternary origin mixes with gravel and basalt in a reasonably flat landscape with deep, sandy, well-drained soils supporting an open tree savannah with a large quantity of medium shrubs. Elephant and kudu occur regularly here and rare sable antelope are characteristic of this landscape. Other game species found here in lower densities are zebra, buffalo, eland, impala and steenbok.
3. KNP Landscape Type No. 26 (Mopane Shrubveld on Calcrete). This landscape type is unique, not only to Kruger, but to the whole of South Africa, with its intersected and undulating terrain of tree savannah. The game mostly found here are zebra, kudu, steenbok, Sharpe’s grysbok, nyala, eland and elephant.
4. KNP Landscape Type No. 25 (Baobab/Mopane Rugged Veld). This veld is rugged in the true sense of the word as there is a relatively high run-off of rainwater as a result of steep basalt slopes down to the Luvuvhu River. This is an open tree savannah and the dominance of ancient, gigantic baobab trees and mopane shrubs gives the landscape its name. Elephant, buffalo and zebra are the most important game species. Eland and sable antelope are seen occasionally, with impala being quite common. Nyala and kudu are fairly widespread while duiker and steenbok are well represented.
5. KNP Landscape Type No. 16 (Punda Maria Sandveld on Cave Sandstone). Sandstone outcrops extend along the Luvuvhu River, forming prominent and impressive koppies, with sandy plateaus and bottomlands unique to this region of the KNP. These outcrops accommodate vegetation unique to the area, including many rare species, with a tall shrub savannah occurring on the deep sandy soils. Elephant, buffalo and white rhino are the most important animals and kudu are ever-present, along with impala. Steenbok, grysbok and nyala are also regularly found. Due to the hilly nature of the landscape, pairs of klipspringer regularly occur and baboons are plentiful – especially along the rivers.
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