Kruger NP Part 7 – Nthakeni and Pafuri

28th to 31st October 2020

Pafuri is a long drive from Punda Maria making it difficult to reach the area early in the morning. As we had previously stayed at Pafuri River Lodge just outside of the Pafuri Gate so we attempted to stay there again but had no response. Eventually someone called us and told us that it had closed down but we could camp at – Nthakeni.

Leaving Punda Maria we headed north. Passing large herds of Buffalos and finding it difficult to spot Red-billed Oxpeckers. Yellow-billed Oxpeckers were everywhere that there were herds of Buffalos or Impala.

There is a large Baobab on top of a hill overlooking the Pafuri plain beyond. Very majestic and noticeable from all around.

Nthakeni is near the village of Nkotswi and about 6 kms from the Pafuri entrance gate. About 4 kms on tar then turn off to the left for 2 kms past the village, across a river through dry pastoral land to the camp. Nthakeni is a concession from the local people who have created the camp.

Upon arrival we were met by a very friendly host and hostess – Annelise and Kobus – and directed to our campsite – Mashato. Annelise and Kobus manage the site with help from the local population. The goal is to make it ecofriendly and comfortably rustic. Cottages run on solar power.

The campsite was right on the river bank and surrounded by trees – much like the setting at Pafuri picnic site. The entry was down a steep slope with a sharp turn to the right. Facilities in our camp included our own Ablutions with hot water and a kitchen fully equipped but without a fridge. No electric power but a donkey boiler. And a great river view.

Some photos of the communal facilities:

And our view of the Mutale river:

Unfortunately in the future the two campsites by the river will be converted to Tented camps and camping will be found in and around the great baobabs nearby – no river views sadly.

Cows and a donkey roamed up and down the river ringing their bells.

Birding was excellent in the campsite – many different species to listen to and observe flitting about.

There are a couple of trails to enjoy: –

When we went to explore the trails, two of the camp dogs joined us and led the way.

What a wonderful life for these dogs. They know how to stay fit as this video shows.

Dogs will be dogs

A few of the special birds seen at Nthakeni

We spent a couple of days traversing the Luvuvu River at Pafuri, from Crooks Corner, past the Picnic site, the bridge and on to the Thulamela Archeological site. The area was quite dry although there were some lush treed areas around the river bed as these photos will show.

The drive between the bridge to Crooks Corner is always variable and interesting. The riverside trees are massive and full of life. No sooner had we turned off the S63 heading for Crooks Corner we ran into a road block – a tree had fallen across the road and we had to find a way around it. We looked for Lemon-breasted Canaries in the palms but probably it was too dry for them.

While there we noticed people on the opposite side walking along the river side. And as we were there a police patrol arrived and shouted at the men opposite. Crooks Corner still lives up to its name.

The picnic site is always a great place to see and listen to birds. We were not disappointed. There were a couple of Black-throated Wattle-eyes attending to their nestlings in one of the very large trees in the picnic site – very hard to spot and impossible for photos unfortunately. Here are some of the birds we did manage to photograph.

The bridge is a great place to look for birds and there is often animal life below. This time was no different. It is one of the bridges where you are allowed out of your vehicle but you must stay between the yellow lines on the bridge surface. Unfortunately there are people who wander over the lines sometimes going off the bridge. If that habit persists then this privilege will cease.

It was here that Sally spotted a Bohm’s Spinetail amongst the Swifts and Swallows overhead.

Mud Fun:

As we drove around the area we had sightings of birds and animals. A lone Eland youngster, a pair of mating Lions, a Leopard below a treetop full of Baboons, Crocodiles as well as Meve’s Starling, Marsh Sandpiper, Red-headed Weaver, Squacco and Striated Herons, a pale phase Wahlberg’s Eagle, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver to name a few.

Bath Time for a White-crowned Lapwing.

And then there was the Leopard lying next to the road among some dead tree trunks. At first we passed by without noticing it but something caught our eye. We reversed and there was the Leopard – keeping an occasional eye on the nearby Buffalo.

The next part of our trip was to be spent at Balule. On the way we overnighted at Shingwedzi. Most of our experience at Shingwedzi has been included in Part 5 of this series. Balule is Part 8 of this series which will follow shortly.

Our bird list for Nthakeni and Pafuri can be seen by clicking on the following link:

Hope you have enjoyed the read.

Sally and Paul Bartho

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