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Malopeni Eco-trail

The Malopeni Overnight Eco Trail is a guided one night motorised adventure trail which travels along management roads in the area to the north-east of Phalaborwa Gate up to the Letaba River.

The route allows the adventure tourist exclusive access to remote areas which are not frequented by many vehicles and bring the true eco-tourist close to the realities of the African bush. Emphasis is on the wilderness, the remoteness and the seclusion of traveling through areas rarely seen by others. The trail will offer a variety of experiences which include seeing different animal spoor, animals, plant and bird species as well as a variety of different landscapes. A maximum of five vehicles limited to four persons per vehicle are guided by a SANParks guide in an official vehicle. This experienced and professional guide will act as the trail leader and will interpret the various natural phenomenon such as geology, biology, botany as well as historical and cultural information, at regular intervals. All vehicles need to be fully equipped in terms of their own camping equipment.

  • The trail starts at Phalaborwa Gate at 14:00 on the day of departure and returns to Phalaborwa Gate the following day at around 12:00 (campsite is vacated at approximately 09:00 after breakfast).
  • The over night campsite is unfenced and has a fireplace, ashdrum and two enviro loo’s (toilets with no chemical or flushing component), one for ladies and one for gents. It is a self-catering trail and guests have to provide their own water, firewood, food and accommodation (Tent). Although it is not strictly speaking a 4x4 challenge, road conditions vary from reasonably good to a few places with steep inclines and in the rainy season - muddy patches where guests are asked to engage in 4x4 (if their vehicle has this capability).
  • Without 4x4 capabilities, wheels might spin and the road might be damaged and therefore it is recommended that 4x4 vehicles be used on this trail, however high clearance 2x4 vehicles are also permitted. Only genuine off-road trailers or caravans are allowed.
  • The trail departs on a daily basis throughout the year from Phalaborwa Gate although in the case of heavy rainfall the route might be changed or even be closed temporarily. The Phalaborwa Section Ranger can also close the route any time for management related issues such as an uncontrolled fire or for anti poaching operations in the area.
  • Only 5 vehicles plus the guide’s vehicle are allowed on the trail at any one time, with a maximum of 4 people per vehicle. (No children under 12 years unless arranged prior to departure and this will only be possible in cases where one group has booked the entire trail).


Bookings can be made at Phalaborwa Gate or through central reservations on (012) 428 9111.

***Fact Sheet (Includes Tariffs)***

Description of Landscapes

The route commences in the Phalaborwa Sandveld and stretches into Mopane (Colophospermum mopane) Savanna on Basic Soils and the Letaba River Rugged Veld.

The predominant geology formations consist mainly of granite and gneiss. Soils of the watersheds are generally deep and sandy. The Phalaborwa Sanveld is characterized by the occurrence of large numbers of termite mounds, which are comprised of light grey soils. A number of well-defined and deeply incised watercourses pass through the Mopane Savanna from higher-lying areas. The Letaba River Rugged Veld represent the mid and lower drainage slopes of the Letaba River. It is generally strongly undulating with prominent watersheds and deeply incised watercourses.

The woody strata that dominate the area includes Knobthorn (Acacia nigrescens), Tree Wisteria (Bolusanthus speciosus), Mopane (Colophospermum mopane), Red Bushwillow (Combretum apiculatum), Leadwood (Combretum imberbe), Cork bush (Mundulea sericea), African wattle (Peltophorum africanum), Apple Leaf (Philenoptera violacea), Marula (Sclerocarya birrea), Silver cluster leaf (Terminalia sericea) and Purple pod cluster leaf (Terminalia pruniodes). The herbaceous layer includes Andropogon gayanus, Aristida spp, Bothriochoa radicans, Brachiaria nigropedata, Cymbopogon plurinodis, Digitaria eriantha, Enneapogon cenchroides, Hemizygia elliottii, Hetropogon contortus, Melinis repens, Panicum coloratum, Panicum maximum, Pogonarhria squarrosa, Schmiditia pappophoroides, Themeda triandra and Urochloa mosambicensis.

Historically Sable antelope were frequently seen in this area although lately Sable antelope are very scares. Impala occur widely with localized high concentrations. Relatively high densities of a wide variety of large mammals feature along the Letaba River during the winter months. Generally the densities of most species are low. Elephant, buffalo, hippo, kudu and waterbuck are well represented. Nyala are also found, although in low densities.


The trail starts at Phalaborwa Gate and proceeds east on the H9 (main road between Phalaborwa and Letaba) and then turns north on to the S131, at the Ngwenyeni/Malopeni cross road the trail proceeds north on the category D - Mankavi Road for 3km before turning west onto the Malopene management road. It goes through the Malopeni spruit to Malopeni North windmill and then onto Oorgenoeg windmill (both these windmills have been closed down) and then onto the Letaba River. The route proceeds in a north westerly direction along the southern banks of the Letaba River, through the Nhlarhweni spruit towards Black Heron dam. The overnight campsite is about 500m north west of Black Heron Dam. The trail returns along the western boundary heading south towards Phalaborwa and then turns east-wards on the Bambinyowo management road to Malopeni North windmill and then back to the S131 to Phalaborwa Gate. Trail distance: 71km.

Equipment and Accessories Guideline

Camping and other equipment

- Tent, tent pegs and hammer / or rooftop tent
- Feather duster can also be handy to dust the rear of your vehicle
- Portable shower
- Ground sheet, spade and broom
- Sleeping bag, towels and pillow
- Inflatable mattress and pump
- Gas lamp
- 2 torches (extra batteries)
- Folding table and chairs
- Gas stove/cooker, handy braai and gas bottle (2)

- Braai Grid and stand
- Wood (please supply own)
- 2 x 25-litre water containers
- Refrigerator or cool box (for ice and meat)
- Cooking pot and kettle
- Medium-sized plastic bowl for washing dishesa
- Fire extinguisher
- Insect repellent
- Table cloth

- Washing and drying cloth
- Pot scourer and dishwashing liquid
- Refuse bags
- Toilet paper
- Cutlery and crockery
- Mugs and glasses
- Wooden spoon, can opener, egg lifter and cutting knife
- Paper towels
- Wooden carving board
- Hot water flask



First Aid

- Tent, tent pegs and hammer / or rooftop tent
- Feather duster can also be handy to dust the rear of your vehicle
- Toolbox should have the necessary spanners, sockets etc.
- Puncture repair kit (wheel spanner, jack and spare tyre)
- Tie-down straps
- Fuses

- Personal toiletries (remember biodegradable soap for showering outdoors)
- Road maps
- Camera and film
- Binoculars
- Appropriate clothing
- Hat/cap
- Raincoat
- Reference books (mammals/trees/birds)
- Small plastic bowl for washing
- Sufficient food and beverages

Own medical kit with personal medical requirements (personal medication, antihistamine ointment and tabs, eye drops, paracetamol, cotton wool / gauze, plaster, scissors and tweezer, malaria tablets, etc).