The river winds through the sandveld into the alluvial flood plains before joining the Limpopo at Crooks' Corner. The forests on either side of the Luvuvhu – which include nyalas, large-leaved fever-berries, forest fever trees and sycamore fig trees – support a rich array of animal and bird life, while the sandbanks are often packed with crocodiles. Nyala, kudu, impala and baboons browse beneath the tall trees. Look out for leopards.
Luvuvhu River Drive to Crooks’ Corner (S63)
The Luvuvhu River Drive (S63) to Crooks' Corner (right) is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful drives in Kruger. The road follows the river through tropical woodland and there are many shady viewpoints overlooking the watercourse. The vegetation along the drive is diverse, ranging from dry thornveld and baobabs to lush riverine forest dominated by nyala trees, jackal-berries and figs. The ghostly green fever trees provide an eerie dimension to the riverine forest.
These trees have roots that reach deep below the soil and are able to tap into underground water sources unavailable to most other vegetation. There are several loops along the S63, all of which are worth stopping at.
The bird life at the water's edge is particularly abundant, often with uncommon species such as woolly-necked and yellow-billed storks, openbills and spoonbills. There are usually crocs sunning themselves on the sandbanks and pods of hippos in the larger pools.
The alluvial plains along the Luvuvhu River are home to most of the nyala in the park. Nyala (right) are very localised antelope, and in the words of James Stevenson-Hamilton, are "rather like a glorified bushbuck" with richer markings and a long fringe on the throat and back.
Besides the nyala, the animals one is likely to encounter here are kudu, impala and baboons. Although leopard are hard to see, a high proportion of these animals live and hunt in the thick undergrowth of the Luvuvhu River.
Photo: Nyala doe
The Luvuvhu River has a high population of crocodiles. These ancient reptiles feed mostly on fish and help control the balance of barbel in the rivers. Crocs often feed on other animals – a full-grown crocodile is capable of dragging an adult lion or buffalo into the water. The biggest croc recorded in the Park was from the Luvuvhu River. It weighed 905kg and measured 5,5m.
The road ends under a large sycamore fig tree at Crooks' Corner, which is at the confluence of the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers. One can gaze across at Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and listen to hippo grunting in the pools below. Pafuri Border Post Gate is a few kilometres from Crooks' Corner. It is one of the main entrances into Mozambique's Limpopo National Park.
Nyala Drive (S64)
Nyala Drive leads off the H1-8 (the main road between the Luvuvhu River and Punda Maria). The drive takes its name from the nyala trees and the antelope of the same name. The nyala is a dense, evergreen tree that fruits from late summer into early spring.
Monkeys and baboons eat the grape-sized fruit off the tree, while fallen fruit is a favourite with elephant, impala and nyala. The nyala antelope looks like a shaggy cousin of the kudu, sharing the same vertical white stripes on its coat but without the dramatic curved horns. They are restricted mostly to dense river bush and are more common in northern Mozambique than South Africa or Zimbabwe.
Along this drive, there is a good chance of seeing Kruger's rarer antelope such as the solidly built eland, the most important animal in the San belief systtem. The crested guineafowl, with its curious "Afro-mop" scratches about in the bush on the side of the road, which winds through alluvial forest to the base of the Matshitshinadzudzi mountains where Thulamela is nestled. Visits to Thulamela have to be done with a guide and can be organised through Punda Maria, Pafuri Lodge or The Outpost.