Makuleke – Secret Kruger National Park

December 9th 2019  |   South Africa  |  by   Richard Smith
Lion at Makuleke

Makuleke is little known, even among safari specialists. Test it if you like. Call six safari companies and see how many can place it. One might be able to, and a couple of others might ask if you meant Marakele, but I’m confident most won’t know where it is or why you would go there.

This dramatic wildlife area, bordering both Zimbabwe and Mozambique, is in the far north of Kruger National Park, and is a wedge of land between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers. It is owned by the Makuleke tribe and while visitors are limited, animals move freely in what Wikipedia refers to as “a natural choke point”.

Elephant crossing the river near Pafuri Camp

Elephant crossing the river near Pafuri Camp

With gorges, fever tree forest and ancient baobabs, its habitats are very different to Kruger’s better known Sabi Sands and Timbavati areas. There is good wildlife in the dry season, from June to November, including large herds of elephant and buffalo, hippos, crocs, and wonderful birdlife. But perhaps best of all is the tiny number of visitors, so seeing other people and vehicles is rare.

There is a choice of camps, with the cantilevered suites at The Outpost offering dramatic views from their elevated position above the Luvuvhu river valley.

Incredible views from The Outpost

Incredible views from The Outpost

The tented rooms at Pafuri Camp are also set alongside the Luvuhu. While wildlife drives and walks are available there’s a strong temptation to simply enjoy an ‘armchair safari’ enjoying the variety of animals that pass in front of the verandahs. A number of Pafuri Camp’s tents are suited to families with second bedrooms for children.

Excellent wildlife viewing from the tents at Pafuri Camp

Excellent wildlife viewing from the tents at Pafuri Camp

Another nearby choice for families visiting this area is Baobab Hill Bush House. Previously a ranger station, it’s now a four bedroom homestead offering ideal accommodation for families or friends seeking privacy and comfort in the bush.

Daily flights from Johannesburg make Makuleke more accessible than its visitor numbers suggest, and it combines easily with another hidden gem, the Tuli block just across the border in Botswana. I love surprising people with this combination which offers out of the way places, excellent wildlife and super value for money.

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