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Pafuri Camp

Discuss the different camps and roads of the Kruger National Park
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Re: Pafuri

Unread postby Multiflorum » Wed Oct 06, 2010 7:09 pm

Here are some of my thoughts on Pafuri.
If they come across in a somewhat unstructured manner, I apologize, but I wish to speak from the heart since this is what one should do when you talk about the magic of Pafuri.

I agree with Johan. I take it that he has spent time at Pafuri.
I too have spent quite some time there and will be going back there soon.

Since I have been going there, it has resulted in me spending less time down south.
In school holidays I avoid southern Kruger completely.
The only downside to Pafuri is the distance from JHB - no less than seven hours by car which means you can't really go there for a weekend unless you are prepared to spend lots of time traveling.
The good thing I suppose is that many people avoid the place, especially in summer when it can get unbearably hot.
I recall a day just before Christmas 2009 when the maximum temperature reached 49 degrees Celsius.

In terms of biodiversity, Pafuri is quite different from the rest of Kruger.
For the birdwatcher and botanist, the concession presents the best opportunity to see some very special birds and trees which you won't easily see south of the Luvuvhu.
Think here of Pel's Fishing Owl, Bluecheeked bee eaters (of which there are quite a good number in summer) or the Paperbark Corkwood, or if you are into aloes, Aloe Angelica (Wylies Poort Aloe) which you are unlikely to see down south.

If your interest is the big five, Pafuri may disappoint you (compared to Lower Sabie)since lions you will not see easily.
The best time to see the big five would be now (before the rains) since the Limpopo is completely dried up and the Luvuvhu the only source of water, save for a few pans on the Limpopo Floodplains like Makwatsi.

The result of this water scarcity means that game viewing is excellent, with big herd of buffalo, elephant and plenty of game along the Luvuvhu including of course lion and leopard.

In summer game viewing is less rewarding to be honest given the abundance of water but the birdwatching then is of course unlike anything else in Kruger.
After a thunder shower, it is not uncommon to see ten or twenty Steppe Eagles or Lesser Spotted Eagles in a small area.
I am also told that the elephants go south in summer while I have it on good authority that some of the bulls are now crossing into Gonarezou through the narrow corridor that links Kruger with that reserve.
It may be that they have done so in the past but stopped as a result of the civil war in Mozambique.

There are places up at Pafuri (like Lanner Gorge, Mutale Gorge and the Limpopo Flood Plains not to mention Nyambi pan, a small little pan you walk to since there is no road to the pan itself, set among many fewer trees and which provides excellent shade on a hot day which present unrivaled natural splendour and which you will not encounter anywhere else in South Africa for that matter.

The first time I walked in the bush there it reminded me more of East Africa or Botswana than Kruger.
Don't get me wrong, there are some fantastic places in the Kruger (think of the views from Nkumbe, Nwanetsi, the Kanniedood dam road from Shingwedzi to Nyawutsi bird hide or hiking along the Olifants river) but yet, there is something different about Pafuri - the sense of isolation, Thulamela, the gentle flow of the Luvuvhu brown water - I am not sure, but the place has a certain magnetism which draws one back time and time again.

The camp itself is excellent.
If one can afford it, one should go there.
Although generally more expensive than Kruger, it is still far more affordable than places like Singita or Sabi-Sabi.
Also, they are always looking at attracting South Africans to go given that international visitors tend to visit seasonally.
Hence, specials are not uncommon and one should keep a lookout for them.

No camp in Kruger is quite like this and that includes the bush veld camps.
I find that the Kruger camps nowadays get noisy - I have had some bad experiences in places like Shingwedzi where staff have their families over for the holidays and then play loud music - no chance of such music at Pafuri, the only music you will hear at Pafuri as you rise at 05h00 is the dawn chorus of the birds that make the trees and vegetation along the Luvuvhu their home.

Then there is the excellent quality of the guides up there.
If one goes there with a particular interest in say birds or amphibians, they will go out of their way to accommodate that interest.
Although there are some excellent SANParks guides, I sometimes get the impression they are not quite so passionate although this is the exception rather than the rule.
I have generally had very good experiences with SANParks guides.

In all, Pafuri has no equal in all of Kruger and until one has seen the beauty of a disappearing sun at Lanner Gorge as it illuminates the rocky outcrops before disappearing to the west or a sunrise at Banini Pan or an afternoon drive along the Luvuvhu river approaching the Fewer Tree forest (which is far more impressive than the Fewer tree forest on the southern side of the Luvuvhu) I don't think one can truly say that you have been to Kruger.

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Re: Pafuri

Unread postby flying cheetah » Wed Oct 06, 2010 8:03 pm

Wow Multiforum!!! I was reading your post with great interest as I spend 2 days in Pafuri in November and now I am even much more excited than I already was :dance:
As I am very interested in birds it must be absolutely great and now I believe there might be a fair chance to see Pels Fishing Owl :pray: Saw one in Zambia 2 years ago and that was my best Bird sighting so far!
Thank you for the detailed informations and a warm welcome to the forum :thumbs_up:
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Re: Pafuri

Unread postby Richprins » Wed Oct 06, 2010 8:12 pm

Welcome, Multiflorum! :thumbs_up:

You write very well, and I am sure you could add a lot to the forums!

There was a Pel's opposite the picnic spot last Thursday, according to the attendant, so they are around.

I'm not sure about the 7 hour trip from Jhb, though...if you klap the N1 up to Tshipise turnoff and enter via Pafuri gate it should be closer to 5 hours.

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Re: Pafuri

Unread postby johanrebel » Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:40 pm

joshilewis wrote:As far as I know, doing a trail from Pafuri camp is the only way to access Lanner Gorge (think that's the right one).
The Lanner Gorge lookout can be reached by vehicle (no public access), but if you want to walk the Gorge itself you indeed have to explore it on foot.


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Re: Pafuri

Unread postby johanrebel » Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:23 pm

Multiflorum wrote:I take it that he has spent time at Pafuri.
You are correct. 56 nights in total at Pafuri Camp when I last counted about half a year ago.

Multiflorum wrote:The only downside to Pafuri is the distance from JHB
This is indeed an issue.
I fly to Phalaborwa, rent a car and drive up through the KNP on fairly quiet roads.
It is possible to fly direct to the Pafuri Camp airstrip, if you are lucky enough to own your own aircraft, or can afford the charter flights the camp offers.

Multiflorum wrote:I recall a day just before Christmas 2009 when the maximum temperature reached 49 degrees celcius.
They recorded 47°C the Monday before last.

Multiflorum wrote: lions you will not see easily.
That varies.
They had two kills in camp recently, one impala and one nyala.

Multiflorum wrote:The best time to see the big five would be now (before the rains) since the Limpopo is completely dried up and the Luvuvhu the only source of water, save for a few pans on the Limpopo Floodplans like Makwatsi.
And a couple of springs.

Multiflorum wrote:In summer game viewing is less rewarding to be honest
Yes, but it has improved tremendously since the Makuleke took over.
Especially the general game populations have increased dramatically.
That of course begs the question what SANParks and the SADF were up to when they ran the place, but we should perhaps not go there . . . .

Multiflorum wrote:I am also told that the elephants go south in summer while I have it on good authority that some of the bulls are now crossing into Gonarezou through the narrow corridor that links Kruger with that reserve.
The first statement is correct, as the ongoing collared elephant bull research project has shown.
I'll check up on the latter.
Whatever the case may be, elephants of all sizes are very few and far between in summer.

Multiflorum wrote:the Luvuvhu's brown water
There was a time when the Luvuvhu was crystal clear all year round.
It still is on occasion, and then one knows that buffalo or elephant herds are splashing around upstream when the water suddenly goes brown.

Multiflorum wrote:Then there is the excellent quality of the guides up there.
You can say that again.

Multiflorum wrote:sunrise at Banini Pan
Good luck with that, you would have to make a heck of an early start from Pafuri Camp to get to Banyini before sunrise! :)

Multiflorum wrote:which is far more impressive than the Fewer tree forest on the southern side of the Luvuvhu
What fever tree forest on the southern side?
Is there any left?
Last time I checked I could only find the signpost.


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Re: Pafuri

Unread postby johanrebel » Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:31 pm

ndloti wrote:I was under the impression these operated as day walks from the existing camps.
The Outpost offers walks from camp, the nice thing about these is that the maximum number of participants is four. That's still a few too many, but better than anywhere else.

Pafuri offers trails, where the camp is set up by the support team at various locations.
You only carry a daypack on the walks.
The usual duration is three nights.
These trails operate in the dry (less hot) season only.
They have also recently started KNP backpack style trails, I'd have to check up on the exact details.


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Re: Pafuri

Unread postby Multiflorum » Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:01 pm

Pel's is not easy to observe.

I know of birders who have been searching for Pel's for thirty years without any luck, people who come from abroad and spent big money to track down this elusive owl that lives along the Luvuvhu.

Unless you stay at Pafuri itself (or perhaps Balule in the KNP), you will be hard pressed to find this bird.
I once saw one after a heavy storm along the Shingwedzi but I am reluctant to conclude from this sighting that these birds in fact live along the Shingwedzi river.
I know however of sporadic sightings along rivers further south even the Crocodile.

Now I know some birders say that they have observed Pel's at Tinga along the Sabie and of course, there is the odd nesting sight along the Olifants which you may be able to see if you do the backpackers trail, but on the whole, staying at Pafuri gives you the best possible opportunity to see one.

I have had good sightings of Pel's on the Luvuvhu River bridge in the last year but this was only through good fortune and cannot be attributed to anything else.

Moving on to another feathered friend, one of the guides at Pafuri saw a Palmnut Vulture this winter.
I would be interested to know if anybody else has seen the Palmnut in Kruger?

Then what about the Egyptian vulture? I am not aware of any recorded sightings in KNP but perhaps some of you may know better.

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Re: Pafuri

Unread postby Barcud » Sat Oct 23, 2010 9:07 pm

I'm getting seriously itchy feet reading some of the posts here.
I love this area and have only been to a very small section of the region (Crooks corner, Nyala Drive, Pafuri Picnic spot & the bridge over the river).
Never been lucky enough to see Pel's, despite searching, but Bohm's Spinetail from the bridge, Crested Guinea fowl from the picnic spot and both Tropical Boubou & Lemon-breasted Canary at Crooks Corner were very special.

Palm-nut Vulture was seen and photographed at the Southern end of the Mphongolo Loop on the 25th August 2009 by Neil Grey.
I've not read of any other records in Kruger since then, but would be interested to know if there have been more.

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Re: Pafuri

Unread postby Multiflorum » Wed Nov 03, 2010 10:01 pm

I'm a bit under the whip at the moment but thought I would do a trip report of the trail I completed on Monday at Pafuri in the Makuleke Concession.
It is of course not quite possible to capture all the thoughts and emotions that one experiences during and after a trail, but I will try to describe some of that in this report.

I am not a serious trailist, although I have done the Olifants backpackers and the equivalent thereof along the Mphongolo river in recent times.
These were both excellent but walking the Pafuri bush offers that something different which is not quite so easy to articulate.
The Pafuri trail should however not be compared to the former two as it is not a backpackers trail but more akin to Metsi-Metsi or Wolhuter with the only difference being that no permanent camping infrastructure is left at Pafuri.

The trail lasted four days and three nights, all of which were spent at premier camp, a temporary tented camp only erected for individual trails and broken down once the guests leave.
The camp will only see the light of day in April 2011 again when the next trail season opens.

Now for those who know the Pafuri region, premier camp is about two or so kilometres upstream from where Nyala drive bends towards Tulamela but situated on the northern side of the Luvuvhu river among a cathedral of giant ana trees (faidherbia albida) that grow in the Luvuvhu floodplain, all of which are about one hundred years old I would say.
At night, the trees come alive with the call of the wood owl and the echo of Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bat.

To the north of the camp, the vegetation becomes sparser along the floodplain with the odd brack thorn (acacia robusta) here and there until the landscape is confronted by Hutwini - a hillside that forms a natural barrier on the northern side of the Luvuvhu floodplain and part of a series of hills that lead all the way to Lanner Gorge further to the west.
What is impressive about Hutwini is the number of large leave rock fig and wonderboom fig trees that scatter the rock face to eke out a living.
When one looks towards the south from atop Hutwini, using a pair of binoculars, one can catch a glimpse of Tulamela on the horizon depending on the sun's position and imagine what grand a civilization must have inhabited the hill south of the Luvuvhu.

Hutwini is special for two reasons: first, there are a pair of nesting Verreaux eagles that nest on a cliff face close by and; second, there is Hutwini gorge, a narrow gorge system that breaks open the hillside and creates a natural passageway for game to migrate to and from the Luvuvhu floodplain to the mopane veld to the north.
Walking through the gorge, one soon realizes that elephants have been using this as an autobahn for hundreds of years as evidenced by their dung that has formed a solid floor over time.

The Luvuvhu river is not that far from premier camp - about four hundred meters, but you are completely oblivious to this while at camp, since the area that separates the camp from the river is covered with many large fever berry trees that grow to over two meters high.
These appear to have filled the void left by so many of the sycamore figs that came unstuck (quite literally) during the floods of February 2000.
Walking along the Luvuvhu floodplain today, one still sees the remnants of these past giants that are slowly being etched away by termites.

Wake up call at camp is around 05h00 and after coffee, rusks, some fresh fruit and toast prepared over an open fire, one sets off for the morning walk that could last until about 11h00, depending on how the day heats up.
A brunch is served on returning to the camp and after an afternoon siesta, one sets off for the afternoon walk which lasts about two hours from 16h00 until 18h00.
Sundowners are served around an open fire upon return to the camp when one can sit around the fire and reminisce over the days sightings before and after supper which is served around a big dining room table - except, in this instance, the dining room consists of an open expanse covered by a canopy of giant ana trees that play host to different orchestras with the only differential being whether it is day or night.

The afternoon walk will usually involve a loop along the Luvuvhu and if it has been a hot day, one might cool off in a shallow pool of the Luvuvhu, exercising due discretion as to the presence of crocodiles and hippos. One might also be fortunate enough as we were to see a Pel's fishing owl perched in the upper branches of an Ana tree as it arises from its slumber and prepares for the night's fishing expedition.

We had a landy at our disposal which allowed us to venture into fairly isolated parts of the concession from where we did walks that lasted a good few hours.
One morning we went to the Limpopo floodplains and walked along the northern section of the fever tree forest from a small pan called Mapimbi into a north westerly direction.
On occasion, the fever trees would make way for a pan system out in the open with the northern lala palm scattered all around.
We saw trumpeter Hornbill in good numbers, a little sparrowhawk, an African harrier hawk, many a broad-billed roller, lappet-faced vultures, a black-chested snake eagle as well as a party of retz helmet shrike.

One afternoon we walked to Nyambi pan which is east from the main bridge crossing the Luvuvhu river and towards Crook's corner.
What is remarkable about the pan is that it comes as a bit of a surprise - the Luvuvhu floodplain suddenly makes way for a cluster of fever trees and giant Jackal berry trees shaped around the pan.
My guess is that when the pan is full, the mass of water will probably cover the space of two soccer pitches.

Just as we had settled in for a good night's sleep on our first night, we heard the roar of lions to the north echo off Hutwini followed shortly thereafter by the coughing sound of a leopard in the thick undergrowth close to the river.
Occasionally, one would hear baboons voice their objection to some or other predator passing through and not too infrequently, the wail of the thick tailed bushbaby.

On the morning of the second day, we awoke to the roar of lions once again and it was decided that we would track them.
We left camp shortly after 06h00 and soon picked up the spoor of a few individual lions no more than five minutes after having left camp walking towards Hutwini along the floodplain.

Our attention was soon diverted though as we came across one of the Verreaux eagles perched on the ground enjoying breakfast which we later observed to be an immature white-backed vulture.
There was some irony in this - vulture culture prescribes that vultures do the cleaning out but here it was a hapless young vulture that became the subject-matter of that dogma.

We soon discovered that the lions had gone up Hutwini and it was decided to go up the hill from the eastern side following a well trodden game path frequented by elephant and buffalo.
After about an hour's climbing, we came across the fresh tracks of a lion moving in a westerly direction. The lion was about forty minutes ahead of us I was told but we had to make a choice now - do we go back to camp or do we push ahead in the hope of catching a glimpse but bearing in mind that "lion on mountain usually equals lioness with cubs"?

Having come this far, we pushed ahead, but not before seeing an eastern Nicator shaded in the depth of a small Lebombo ironwood forest.

The climbing was not so taxing, but we had little luck in tracking the lion until another two or so hours had passed when we became aware of the presence of a small herd of buffalo on the hill that appeared somewhat skittish.
Given the rather small floor area that made up the hill table, we climbed a bit higher towards a rocky outcrop just in case we were caught in a buffalo stampede.
This also provided us with a grand seat should there be a buffalo hunt.

We picked up some fresh lion tracks and there he was, after having traced the tracks for about four hours, an adult male lion, regal as ever, holding court on a large boulder about thirty meters from us.
I am not sure if the lion saw us, as he appeared far more interested in the buffalo.
We eventually lost sight of him and tried to pick up his tracks but it soon became evident that he was heading further west, possibly heading to a small spring where it was likely that he would meet up with the rest of the pride that had been heading in that direction.

The lion sighting is not what defined a trail like this.
Yes, it certainly added to the excitement and perhaps awakened some primordial instinct that we all have, but on the whole, what made the trail special was the complete desolation and closeness which one felt to the land and her animals, an experience one does not get from staying in tourist camps.

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Re: Pafuri

Unread postby Multiflorum » Fri Nov 05, 2010 5:04 pm

Mockford House has an old world charm and gives a real feeling of what it must have been like to live in Pafuri during another time.
Not many know about it outside the bird watching community.
That is maybe not such a bad thing. Unless you know where to look, you will drive straight pass and not even know that it is there.

The remarkable thing though is that Harold Mockford lived there from 1939 to 1985.
Think about that for a moment, from WWII through the Mozambican civil war to the time of PW Botha's presidency in this country.
In that time, there was WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, civil rights in the US, the cold war, our own apartheid history and so much more.

Mockford apparently loved it so much there that he refused promotions that would involve him moving away.

I wonder what kind of experiences Mockford must have had over the 46 year period?
I know he raised two otters that lived on the property with him and his wife.
They were unfortunately shot by the police when they took control of the border post as I understand it.

During the turbulent 1970's the property was even shelled by mortar fire coming from Mozambique.
Then there are the stories of elephants that stepped onto landmines across the border and came back wandering to the park only to die eventually because of their injuries.

There is certainly lots of history about Pafuri and one wonders whether enough has been done to document it.

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Re: Pafuri Picnic Spot

Unread postby johanrebel » Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:57 am

This requires clarification.

Although Pafuri Camp does of course have contingency plans, and will provide any assistance they can in the case of life-threatening emergencies, it is a tented camp which does not even have air conditioning, nor do they provide resting space in the event of ANY emergency.
Pafuri Camp is a game lodge, not a medical clinic.

As advised, those needing medical help should rather go to the border post.


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Re: Pafuri Camp

Unread postby sharky74 » Sun Apr 03, 2011 3:40 pm

Have just returned from 20 days in Kruger and we were lucky enough to stay at Pafuri for the first three nights.
It was my girlfriends first trip to Africa and I couldn't wait to show her :D
Before going we had heard that the north of Kruger would be unbearably hot and we wouldn't see as many animals as we had down south on a previous trip.
Well, how wrong they were!

Whilst it was warm, it was never unbearably so (late February) and we were blown away by the number of animals.
The camp at Pafuri was beautiful right on the banks of the Luvuvhu, and daily we were treated to some fantastic sightings.
We had requested tents numbers 19 and 20, which are the furthest away from the dining/bar area and were lucky enough to get them.
It's a good five minute plus walk on a raised platform to get to those rooms, so at night you really do get that fantastic sense of being in the middle of nowhere.
The first night we awoke to one of the resident male lions roaring nice and close, an awesome welcome to Africa for my SO :clap:

I'd love to post a trip report for you but am not sure it belongs here or on trip report thread, being a private camp?
Also will post some pics when I know where to put them.
The amount of baby animals we saw was brilliant, as last time in Kruger we were there in August and for my SO who is a big bird lover the place was paradise.

Any feedback as to where I can post a trip report and pics for Pafuri would be appreciated. I've got some beautiful pics to share :thumbs_up:
I may not be from Africa, but since my first visit a part of me always remains there. Can’t wait for the next trip, which will be the 10th

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Re: Pafuri Camp

Unread postby johanrebel » Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:36 am

sharky74 wrote:Whilst it was warm, it was never unbearably so (late February)
You were lucky! I've spent a couple of weeks at Pafuri Camp every February since they opened in 2005, and this February was the least hot by far, with temparatures some 8 to 10°C lower than normal.

Letaba is officially the hottest place in South Africa, but I strongly suspect that if proper meteorological data had been available, Pafuri would easily take the top spot.


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Unread postby Shi » Tue Jun 21, 2011 9:48 pm

Not sure if you want these here........
















"I have a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Lebombo mountains"

2010 KNP
Nov 13-14 Lower Sabie, 15-18 Satara, 19-22 Skukuza,22-27 Biyamiti
Dec 24-27 Biyamiti, 28-29 Orpen, 30-31 Skukuza
Thought for the day
TR March 2010

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Re: Pafuri Walk.

Unread postby johanrebel » Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:34 pm

Excellent report on the trails, thank you. Very accurately describes the experience.

A few comments:

The common fig species in Hutwini Gorge are abutilifolia and ingens, and I know of at least one tettensis round the corner, so to speak (i.e. as you exit the gorge and swing up and left around the back of Hutwini mountain). Wonderboom (salicifolia)? Not to my knowledge, but I shall double-check.

The Acacias on the flood plain are predominantely tortillis (Haak-en-Steek), with robusta subsp. clavigera (River Thorn) along the Luvuvuhu itself, but not really at Mangala. Various other species on the floodplain as well, with Xanthocercis zambesiaca (Nyala Tree) being the most conspicuous.

Nwambi (with a double-u) Pan is huge when full, measuring 1.2 km in length.

The trails used to operate with a mobile camp which moved between Mapimbi, Gwalala and Premier Site, so guests stayed at a differnent location on each ofr their three nights. For logistical reasons (and the noise from the border post disturbing the peace at Gwalala), it was decided to use a single site only.

Makuleke, by the way, is a Contract National Park, which is not at all the same thing as a concession.


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