Pafuri Camp nestles on the bank of the perennial Luvuvhu river in the far north of the Kruger. It shares an exclusive concession of over 24,000 hectares of pristine wilderness with only one other Lodge operator. This is one of the less well-known parts of the Kruger, and we hope that it stays so as it offers indubitably the best of the Kruger once you have got the Big Five out of your system down south.
Service is a strong point, with friendly staff drawn mainly from the local Makuleke community who will know your name even before you arrive here. You feel this right from your welcome, where half of the contingent turns out to greet you and unload your stuff whilst you relax with a drink, take in the view, and get an introductory briefing. They turn up again in the most unexpected places and contexts during your stay (much like the elephants) as you will find out for yourself.
Accommodation is under canvas, consisting of twenty luxuriously appointed traditional Meru-style tents. Family rooms sleep four people and are larger than the already spacious doubles and twins. All have two showers (indoors and out), their own private deck area, and boardwalk access. The camp is well spread out around a central building where you will find the boma, main pool, restaurant and lounge areas, and an unusually nice curio shop. The Pafuri East section (7 rooms) can be taken by private parties and has its own dining area and plunge pool.
Pafuri Camp enjoys privileged access to hitherto out-of-bounds parts of the Park, patrolled then only by Rangers and the military. This includes the noteworthy Lanner Gorge, a visit to which is an essential part of any stay where you can enjoy sundowners at the spectacular viewpoint overlooking the hippos and crocodiles far below.
In addition to the normal excellent morning and afternoon/ evening drives, Pafuri Camp also offers two special activities. Birding is probably the best in the Kruger here, worth a special trip, and Pafuri lays one on as a half day option combining a drive with a walk. The Pels Fishing Owl is a particular local special; they have been seen from Camp.
A second specialist drive focuses on the area's rich archaeology and history. Both are highly recommended.
Game is relatively abundant here due to the presence of water year round - the Luvuvhu is one of only five perennial rivers in the Kruger. There are established prides of lion locally, and the riparian system supports a healthy population of leopard, including the camp's semi-resident glimpsed walking under (or on!) the boardwalk. At the easternmost boundary at Crooks’ Corner, the Luvuvhu supports a large population of hippo and crocodile where it meets the Limpopo river.
Elephants seem omnipresent around Pafuri Camp, and make frequent use of the banks of the river around your room to feed and splash about whilst you relax on your deck. They are not infrequent visitors within the boundaries of the Camp itself (best seen to be believed, but consult the Gallery below or listen to our podcast if you require further proof). In the dry winter season when water is scarcer, large herds of both elephant and Cape buffalo arrive from farther afield to drink at the Luvuvhu, and are magnificant to behold.
Pafuri's photogenic game and scenery are complemented by some extraordinary flora. The groves of gigantic baobab trees are not found elsewhere in the Kruger, and include a magnificent specimen that has been dated to 3,000+ years of age. The fever tree forest creates a colourful shady retreat as the bush drops down to the flats of springs and glades in the seasonal floodplains.
The remote location, and low density of tourism development in the whole concession, make it a fantastic area for walking. Pafuri Camp offers walks as a regular alternative to game drives, and the two activities can be combined to explore farther afield. Walks typically last for around two hours, are suitable for anyone with a modest level of fitness, and take place at the cooler margins at the start and end of the day. In a group of no more than eight people, you will be accompanied by an armed Guide and tracker to ensure your safety. Four day, three-night walking trails are available from Pafuri and are covered on a separate webpage on this site.
|Pafuri Camp has a prize location down low on the Luvuvhu river bank. There is a real Lord of the Rings feel to it. Elephants are very frequent visitors to the camp (listen to our podcast for one "in my room"). The cat life is as lively as it gets in this region with leopard frequently seen by guests.|
Pafuri Camp is a fantastic place to sit on your verandah and watch the natural world go about its business. Pafuri is the sort of camp that empties out at drive times and you may well end up seeing as much stuff from your deck or by having a wander around in the solitude.
It's a larger camp, and can get quite busy with (the few) larger groups who make it this far north (it takes at least 5 hours to drive here from Hoedspruit/ Phalaborwa, 6 from Nelspruit, 7 from Johannesburg). It is worth taking a slower drive through the Park and breaking up the trip with overnight stays en route, or flying in if you are pressed for time.
The rooms are old-style tented affairs - generous in size and very nicely furnished - and are well hidden in the lush riverine forest margin, so you can't really see your neighbours. Meals are communal affairs held in different locations each night, and a good chance to swap tall tales with other Guests and enjoy a local musician or some dancing. The main deck is spectacular when set up for dinner by the light of numerous lanterns. Have a nightcap around the fire before retiring to enjoy the facilities.
For game drives, there is plenty of room to escape into the bush and explore the large private concession. Three quarters of the Kruger's biodiversity is here, and you feel the contrast with the monotone mopane veld to the immediate south. Keep an eye out for the Sharpes' grysbok and eland, only really seen in these northern parts, as well as plentiful nyala, bushbuck, kudu and waterbuck. You need to get out and walk the wilderness to really feel its' magic, and these antelope are good to see on foot.
A justifiably popular lodge. You need to spend a few night's here as there are (without giving too much away) a variety of surprises in store for those with a bit more time. Good with children in the group with dedicated family units and informal kids' activities during the day.
David Manttan is a founder of Kruger2Canyons.com