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Kruger National Park & Mopani

Majestic boabab tree.  © hyper7pro, License

Kruger National Park & Mopani

Mopani, the region previously known as the Valley of the Olifants (The Valley of the Elephants) stretches from the Paul Kruger Gate of the Kruger National Park, includes the area of Park to the North of that gate, and extends North to a line drawn from the Pafuri Gate in the extreme North of the Park to Soekmekaar following the line of the escarpment to the Blyde River Canyon. Here is the true lowveld, largely unspoilt for hundreds of years, a vast area full of the splendour of Africa's wild life. The whole area is being incorporated into the Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Park, a trans-frontier conservation area stretching over 35 000 square kms and involving Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Mopani is not only rich in wildlife, but offers a spectacular scene of mountains, rivers and dams. Witness the movement of vast herds of antelope and buck crossing the vast open plains. Here can be found wandering herds of elephant. There are some 8000 in Kruger, prides of lion, all the big five in fact. This is Africa, where vast numbers of mopane trees dominate the veld. In the North the mopane bushveld is interrupted by the dominating sight of the baobab, the upside-down tree. The mountains in the North are smaller and dotted about in the vast plain. To the West are the more dominating Soutpansberg mountains, while the Drakensberg escarpment is far to the south-west. On the plains in the North can be found herds of rarer antelope such as eland, roan, tsessebe, nyala and the magnificent sable.

On the eastern side of Mopani lies the northern part of the Kruger National Park. This part of the Kruger Park has several rest camps, but this northern area is wilder than the South. The rest camps are fewer and the distances between them greater. But this does not detract from the magnificence of it all – indeed it makes the bushveld even more wild and wonderful. The camps in the northern sector (Mopani, Shingwedzi and Punda Maria) all have filling stations but accommodation facilities are rather less sophisticated than some of the camps in the South.

Situated in the very South of Mopani is the town of Hoedspruit (Hat Creek), well known as the main airbase of the South African Air Force. This beautiful unspoilt part of the Valley is surrounded by several large private game reserves – Balule, Klaserie, Timbavati and Thornybush to name but a few. These reserves border the vast National Park to their East and generally speaking there are no game fences between them and Kruger. It is essential to book ahead to stay in any of the lodges at these camps, and accommodation can be expensive but in most cases is extremely luxurious. These are the game lodges to visit if you want to rub shoulders with Hollywood stars.

At Blyde River and Swadini there are Aventura Resorts – these are large and comfortable resorts offering many different activities. There is comfortable accommodation and a restaurant with bar facilities. All Aventura resorts have fresh water swimming pools.

Along the cliffs of the escarpment and plunging down to Mopani can be found more than 500 species of birds – more than half of South Africa's total bird species. In the Hoedspruit district alone are many of South Africa’s rarest and most beautiful birds. Sunbirds galore can be seen feasting on the Coral tree blossoms in early Spring. Here can be seen the rare Knysna Lourie and the Purplecrested Lourie. Mopani is truly a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Exploring Kruger National Park and the Mopani region of Limpopo Province offers an incredible array of natural wonders and wildlife experiences.

Here are ten things to do and see in this area:

  1. Safari Game Drives: Embark on guided game drives through Kruger National Park, renowned for its diverse wildlife including the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros), as well as numerous other species such as giraffes, zebras, and antelopes.

  2. Bush Walks: Experience the thrill of walking safaris led by experienced guides, offering an up-close encounter with the park's flora and fauna while learning about the local ecosystems and tracking wildlife on foot.

  3. Sunset and Sunrise Viewpoints: Witness breathtaking sunrises and sunsets from scenic viewpoints within Kruger National Park, such as the Mopani Rest Camp viewpoints, offering panoramic vistas of the African savannah and riverine landscapes.

  4. Mopani Rest Camp: Explore the Mopani Rest Camp, a popular accommodation option within Kruger National Park, which features comfortable lodges, camping sites, restaurants, and a swimming pool, all surrounded by indigenous Mopani bushveld.

  5. Olifants and Letaba Rivers: Visit the Olifants and Letaba Rivers, which traverse through Kruger National Park, providing excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, birdwatching, and scenic boat cruises.

  6. Pioneer Dam Bird Hide: Birdwatching enthusiasts should not miss the Pioneer Dam Bird Hide, located near the Mopani Rest Camp, offering a peaceful spot to observe a variety of bird species, including waterfowl, raptors, and colorful kingfishers.

  7. Blyde River Canyon: Take a day trip to the nearby Blyde River Canyon, one of the largest canyons in Africa, where you can marvel at dramatic rock formations, stunning viewpoints like God's Window, and picturesque waterfalls such as the Lisbon and Berlin Falls.

  8. Cultural Village Tours: Learn about the rich cultural heritage of the region by participating in guided tours of local villages and communities, where you can interact with residents, experience traditional dances, and sample authentic cuisine.

  9. Night Game Drives: Experience the thrill of nocturnal wildlife encounters by joining guided night game drives in Kruger National Park, where you may have the chance to spot elusive predators and nocturnal animals under the cover of darkness.

  10. Stargazing: End your day by stargazing under the vast African sky, away from city lights, and marvel at the beauty of the Milky Way and constellations while listening to the sounds of the African bush.

These activities offer just a glimpse of the diverse experiences awaiting visitors to Kruger National Park and the Mopani region of Limpopo Province, ensuring an unforgettable safari adventure in the heart of South Africa's wilderness.

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Kruger National Park & Mopani Accommodation and Information. Kruger National Park & Mopani, Limpopo.
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