The main road between Mopani and Shingwedzi divides the mopane woodlands to the west from the mopane shrubveld to the east. Elephant are the dominant browsers in the mopaneveld. The best game viewing in the north is around Shingwedzi, particularly Kanniedood Dam and the Mphongolo Loop.
There are often large herds of buffalo around Mopani and lion sightings are not uncommon. Look out for rarer Kruger antelope such as the tsessebe and roan. They are often found between Letaba and Mopani camps, particularly near the Girioyondo border post turn-off on the H1-6.
- Mopane woodlands to the west of the Mopani-Shingwedzi main road
- Mopane shrubveld to the east of the Mopani-Shingwedzi main road
- Impressive riverine forests along the watercourses of the Shingwedzi flood plains
- Lebombo foothills around Shilowa
- Transition from sub-tropical to tropical vegetation begins north of the Tropic of Capricorn
The north is a rewarding birding destination – there are sleep-over hides near Phalaborwa Gate and Mopani Camp, and important vleis east of Mopani, while the Shingwedzi flood plains are one of the country’s top summer birding destinations. Shingwedzi is renowned for its big tuskers – most of the legendary Magnificent Seven inhabited the Shingwedzi flood plains. The northern Lebombo can be accessed via the Tropic of Capricorn Loop (S143).
Best Drive in the North
Shingwedzi flood plain drive (Nyawutsi bird hide to Babalala Picnic Site via the Mphongolo Loop):
This drive takes one from the edge of the Lebombo into the Shingwedzi flood plain system.
There is wonderful riverine forest and birding at Kanniedood Dam and along the Mphongolo Loop.
Stop off for refreshments at Shingwedzi Camp.
Allow four-and-a-half hours including a stop.
Lion are often active in the area late in the day, preparing for their night-time hunt in the riverine bush. Buffalo and waterbuck are their most favoured prey in this part of Kruger.
Camps in The North
The elephant’s trunk is more versatile than the limbs of any other animal – in the words of writer Richard Estes, it is an “all-in-one grasping, smelling, drinking, squirting, broadcasting tool” that is also used as a club if it attacks humans.
Elephant trunks can be up to two metres in length, weigh as much as a rugby player and can hold up to 17 litres of water. Elephants can outpace humans – they are capable of charging at 40km/h for short distances.
It is advisable not to go closer than 50m to an elephant in Kruger, and always be careful not to get between a mother and its offspring.