Once the home of man’s earliest ancestors – Stone Age hunter-gatherers whose handcrafted tools and weaponry quite literally litter the hills and valleys of the Pafuri Triangle – and more recently, of the Makuleke people, the northernmost corner of the Kruger National Park is as rich in cultural history as it is in plant and animal life.
The evolution of civilisation is apparent in not only the hundreds of thousands of ancient artefacts found in the area, but in the rock art and cave paintings left behind over 1.4 million years of continuous occupation. As the region’s namesake and modern-day custodians, the Makuleke have committed themselves to the preservation of this land and its cultural, geological and ecological heritage.
The Makuleke region offers a dramatically different experience from the more expeditious safaris you may find elsewhere – even further south in the Kruger National Park. Games drives are long and unhurried, taking in the extraordinary diversity of the landscape and allowing time for the appreciation of a huge variety of flora and fauna. It is a place that invites curiosity and an open mind – a place for those with an adventurous spirit.
A stay at The Outpost or its smaller sister property, Pel’s Post, is an exercise in slowing down. The journey to these two lodges, each an expression of contemporary but uncomplicated safari luxury, requires either a seven-hour drive or a charter flight from Johannesburg, which is over 600km away. Once here, we recommend that guests devote at least three days and nights to the leisurely exploration of this remarkable wilderness, taking in the sweeping floodplains, deep sandstone gorges and craggy ridges on morning and evening game drives.
The area is vast and access is limited to guests of only two lodges in the concession, so there is time to acknowledge all aspects of the bush, which includes fascinating vegetation and birds, as well as the animals more commonly associated with the Kruger. The biodiversity here is astonishing – the most varied in the Park – which makes for beautiful landscapes to explore and a rich and fascinating wildlife experience.
Elephant and buffalo are plentiful, as are zebra, warthogs, baboons and myriad antelope, while lion sightings are becoming increasingly common. The stars of the show at Makuleke however are the birds – more than 350 species are found here, including specialities like the Pel’s fishing-owl, black-throated wattle-eyed, orange-winged pytilia, African crowned eagle and racket-tailed roller.
The Makuleke concession is also in the process of being incorporated into the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park; a 35,000 km² unfenced conservation area that spans three countries. This development, along with the Ramsar wetlands that dot the area, 250 million years of geological history and reminders of the ancient civilizations that flourished here, make a stay in this very special part of the Kruger a surprisingly soulful and enriching safari adventure.