Makuleke Concession – Kruger National Park by Janine Southwood

Over the last couple of months I have been fortunate to visit the Makuleke Concession in the very North of the Kruger National Park. This size of this concession is 19 842 hectares.  Flight from Lanseria airport is around 1 hour and 30 minutes in a King Air, 10 seater.

To start with a bit of history, the Tsonga speaking Makuleke tribe were originally from Mozambique but settled in the Pafuri region in the early 1900’s. In 1969 the Government of South Africa wanted to incorporate the Pafuri triangle into the Kruger National Park and relocated 1500 Makuleke tribe members.  In 1996, the Makukele put in a claim for their land back.   They chose not to resettle on their land but to engage with the Private Sector to invest in tourism, thus resulting in the building of several game lodges, that being The Outpost and Pafuri.

The Pafuri triangle has 2 main river sources – that being the Luvuvu River that eventually flows into the Limpopo River – at this point where they meet is Crooks Corner (got its name many, many years ago due to its perfect location for an unsavoury character to hide out and run from the law – this small ‘hideout’ is where 3 countries (Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa) meet making it easier to hop across borders without being stamped carrying all your stolen goods.

Dry Limpopo river
Dry Limpopo River
Luvuvu River meeting Limpopo River
Luvuvu River meeting Limpopo River

This concession is truly spectacular with so much diversity. Of course being Kruger National Park, there is wildlife all around however this is not big Cats territory. They are there, but elusive and are seen on rare occasions.  This does give opportunity to seek out and study the natural wildlife in the area, being the trees, the geological infrastructure as well as the brilliant birding in the area. Although this concession only accounts for about 1% of the Kruger National Park, it does ‘house’ 75% of the plants and animals represented in the whole park. The Makuleke Concession has seen a bit of rain lately but not nearly enough as they should have had, as is story in the rest of South Africa. But in saying that the area is green and flourishing. The Luvuvu River is flowing gently but the Limpopo River is dry.

Makuleke Concession 2

Highlights for me were Lanner Gorge, named after the Lanner Falcon which resides in the gorge.  The views from the gorge are breath-taking and one can see for miles.  The history of the rocks in this gorge is incredibly fascinating and dating back over 250 million years back.  En Route to Crooks Corner we passed through Fever Tree Forest which is also remarkable and unique.  Has almost a ghostly and eerie feel to it, having so many Fever Trees together with absolute silence.   Not forgetting this is Baobab country and of course at every corner there is the majestic ‘upside down trees’ we call Baobabs.  Again they just have such a status about them and you feel like you have to bow down at each one with respect.  On our drives we saw Zebra, Giraffe, Impala, Kudu, Nyala, Hyena, big herd of Buffalo, elephants, Martial Eagle, Bush Babies, crocodiles, hippo’s baboons and so many more beautiful birds, the list is endless. So I would definitely recommend Pafuri or the Outpost for a combination Safari, Of course cats are pivotal to any safari so combine with Sabi Sands, Timbavati, Mashatu and once you set  foot on this unique area, you can focus on the natural surroundings.

Fever Tree Forest
Fever Tree Forest
Lanners Gorge
Lanners Gorge

The Outpost

The Outpost Lodge is located in the western corner in the Northern Sector of Kruger National Park, not far from the Limpopo River.  The lodge itself is set up high overlooking the Luvuvhu River. Rooms are positioned amongst a very tranquil and scenic region. There are 12 very spacious rooms with amazing views overlooking the spectacular terrain. Rooms are very big and are open planned all facing outwards to the scenery. All rooms are decorated in very natural colours blending into the environment. Everything is 100% at your own pace, true to ‘African time’.   Food was up to 5 star lodge standard and just outstanding.   Our first night welcomed an amazing African thunder storm and lots of rain, which is definitely a requirement on an Africa bucket list. The staff were top notch! They were exceptionally friendly and always went out of their way to ensure our stay was FIRST CLASS. Overall, a great experience!

The Outpost 1

The Outpost 2

Pafuri Camp

Return Africa is the company who has now rebuilt the camp and has built 3 sites. First being Pafuri Camp. This camp is very authentic and almost belongs in Botswana.  There are 19 rooms and they all sit along the Luvuvu River.  Rooms are tented on an elevated foundation with a great veranda overlooking the river.  The room faces the river with the bathroom behind.  No baths but a lovely big shower inside and one outside.  From the central area there are elevated walkways to the rooms.  On several occasions I was escorted to my room by kudu and of course the infamous curios vervet monkeys.  Central areas very spacious with a great pool area complimented by a bar.  Throughout my stay at Pafuri Camp, the river in front of the lodge was visited by a couple of old male buffalos. Dinner one evening was in their boma which was a true African experience and definitely adds great value to the stay.

Pafuri 1Pafuri 2

Pafuri Tented Camp Site

Not far from Pafuri Camp is Pafuri Tented Camp Site.  I loved this little camp – accommodates 10 pax max.  Such a great little camp for the adventurous.  This camp offers walking trails between April to October.

Pafuri Tented 1Pafuri Tented 2

Baobab Hill House

Then lastly they offer a private home called Baobab Hill House – This was once the Pafuri ranger’s station. Very farm style and rustic but wonderful for a group of 8 – it has 4 rooms and comes with ranger and vehicle.  It is self-catering but you do have the option for lodge to do catering or you can have meals at Pafuri main camp and utilize their bar.

Baobab Hill House 1Baobab Hill House 2

Staff at all the camps were phenomenal and many have been with Pafuri since Wilderness Safaris opened the camp many years back.   One to mention is Godfrey who runs the camp.  Hard to find words to describe such a character.  Full of stories that keep you gaping for more. He is charming and unforgettable. His warmth is carried down to all his staff.

Makuleke Concession is a specialist safari seekers’ destination. Being so north, it is very much a ‘no man’s land’ – very little ‘traffic’.  You are truly hidden away in a remote and unique part of the Kruger National Park leaving you to discover the earth and its contents all by yourself.

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