Self-drive in the Far North. Pafuri Gate

Leopard sniffing for clues. Albert Froneman

Pafuri Gate is about six-and-a-half hours' drive from Johannesburg and is the most northerly entrance to Kruger. It is situated in mopane woodland between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers near Mabyeni Koppie (386m).


There are many fine old baobabs in the surrounding landscape. The Limpopo River runs in a parallel arc to the north of the road, but is not visible. There are a series of pans along the Limpopo which are important feeding grounds in summer for migrant water birds. Access to the pans is restricted to guests at The Outpost and Pafuri Game Lodge.
Pafuri Gate takes one directly into the northern sandveld between the Limpopo and Luvhuvu Rivers. This area is one of the most ecologically diverse parts of the Park, incorporating a variety of vegetation types and microclimates. The shrub mopane to the east of the H1-9 is one of the driest localities in Kruger. The vegetation here is intriguing as it is a mixture of South African lowveld and tropical African woodlands.

Dominant trees in this part of the sandveld are the mopane, various bushwillow species, silver cluster-leaf and white syringa trees. They form a fairly dense blanket of vegetation between the protruding sandveld koppies. There is not much game along the H1-9 until one gets closer to the Luvuvhu River where there is rich and diverse animal life.

Pafuri Gate Explorer Options
  • Luvuvhu River drives (20km of river frontage between Nyala Drive and Crooks' Corner; dust road through thick, riverine forest; allow at least half a day);
  • Main Road to Punda Maria (approximately 70km along tar through mopaneveld and sandveld; allow for three hours of driving time).

Leopard are often seen near the Luvuvhu River bridge, which has engaging views over the river and surrounding forest. This is one of South Africa's best birding spots for rarities such as Pel's fishing-owl, Böhm's spinetail and the African finfoot and white-crowned lapwing. While driving around the Luvuhvu area, look out for the flood markers that show the high-water point reached by the floods of February 2000 that had such a devastating effect on Kruger.

The pans along the far eastern extent of the Pafuri region are home to an extraordinary ancient fish – the African lungfish (Protopterus annectens brieni). Lungfish fossils have been found in the Karoo and have been dated back to about 150 million years.

narina Trogon. Albert FronemanIn the Pafuri area look out for:
Animals
Leopard
Nyala
Elephant
Baboon
Bushpig

Birds
Racket-tailed roller
Narina trogon (right)
Dickinson's kestrel
Pel's fishing-owl
Crested guineafowl

Pafuri Gate takes one directly into the northern sandveld between the Limpopo and Luvhuvu Rivers. This area is one of the most ecologically diverse parts of the Park, incorporating a variety of vegetation types and microclimates. The shrub mopane to the east of the H1-9 is one of the driest localities in Kruger.

The vegetation here is intriguing as it is a mixture of South African lowveld and tropical African woodlands. Dominant trees in this part of the sandveld are the mopane, various bushwillow species, silver cluster-leaf and white syringa trees. They form a fairly dense blanket of vegetation between the protruding sandveld koppies. There is not much game along the H1-9 until one gets closer to the Luvuvhu River where there is rich and diverse animal life.

Leopard are often seen near the Luvuvhu River bridge, which has engaging views over the river and surrounding forest. This is one of South Africa's best birding spots for rarities such as Pel's fishing-owl, Böhm's spinetail and the African finfoot and white-crowned lapwing. While driving around the Luvuhvu area, look out for the flood markers that show the high-water point reached by the floods of February 2000 that had such a devastating effect on Kruger.

The pans along the far eastern extent of the Pafuri region are home to an extraordinary ancient fish – the African lungfish (Protopterus annectens brieni). Lungfish fossils have been found in the Karoo and have been dated back to about 150 million years. Unlike other fish, this species has lungs instead of gills, which makes it able to survive in mud when water dries up. This kind of fish may represent a time when aquatic creatures evolved into land-based animals. Park scientists have relocated individual lungfish to two other parts of the Park to try to safeguard the species against extinction.

The rarer raptors. Chris SnaddontRarer Raptors of the North
Far northern Kruger is known for its rare birds. Because it falls into the Afrotropical zone many raptors not seen elsewhere in South Africa can be seen here.
Among the special raptors to look out for are Dickinson's kestrel, a small aggressive raptor, Ayres's hawk-eagle, a rare summer migrant, and Verreauxs' eagle, which nests in the sandstone cliffs of the Luvuvhu River Valley.



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