Northern Kruger – Pafuri

After three days rambling around Punda Maria area, we travelled north to the upper most section of the Kruger Park to Pafuri which incorporates the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~ Anais Nin

The upper reaches of the Kruger Park which incorporate the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers are all about birds, botany and breathtaking vistas. If you are looking for the big cats this is not the place to go. Although it is an ideal habitat for lions, with plentiful game and huge expanses of pristine bushveld, there are presently no resident lions in the Pafuri area due to snaring & poisoning. In addition, those lions that cross the Limpopo into Zimbabwe are usually never seen again.

It was interesting to see that the baobab trees still had most of their leaves as we travelled north closer to the Limpopo river. I had never seen baobabs adorned with such vibrant greens and yellows.

A female Double-band sandgrouse foraging for seeds in the gravel road. She was incredibly well camouflaged with her back feathers blending in with this stoney section of the gravel road.

“Live your life by a compass, not a clock.”~ Stephen Covey

A view looking downstream of the Luvuvhu river from the bridge across the main road. The Luvuvhu River flows for about 200 km through a diverse range of landscapes before it joins the Limpopo River in the Fever Tree Forest area, near Pafuri in the Kruger National Park. A few kilometres up river, this body of water flows through some dramatic gorges.

A massive Nile crocodile basking in the warmth of the sandbank around the middle of the day. It was relatively cloudy but still warm.

The main road through Pafuri area is the H1-9. Two bridges enable access across the Luvuvhu river. There is always plenty of wildlife activity in the trees next to these bridges. For birders this section of the road is extremely productive.

A lone Crowned lapwing standing on top of a broken down anthill. It had been foraging for insects when we caught its attention.

The Luvuvhu river flowing away to meet the Limpopo river. The plentiful rains during the rainy season painted the vegetation on the river banks with verdant green.

A cathedral of trees. This gravel road runs along the Luvuvhu river close to Crooks corner. Other an a fish eagle calling all you could hear was the wind flowing through the trees.

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

There was plenty of water in pans away from the river but that did not stop this family herd of waterbuck from foraging on the lush vegetation along the river bank.

It had rained a lot in the days prior to our arrival in the Pafuri area. The gravel roads had many puddles of water in them. On the gravel road to Crooks Corner, we watched a Hammerkop successfully hunting for frogs. It moved along the road walking from puddle to puddle and managed to catch four decent sized frogs in about 20 minutes. As it entered a new puddle it would use its feet to scratch around the bottom of the puddle and in doing so stirred up insects and frogs. Having caught a frog it stepped to the edge of puddle and beat the frog to death by hitting against the ground. Once the frog was dead the Hammerkop manoeuvred the frog to swallow it head first in one gulp.

The bush along the Luvuvhu river is beautiful. That said there are plenty of crocodiles in the river and when walking with a guide you have to be careful of buffalo and snakes.

The Luvuvhu River rises as a steep mountain stream in the southeasterly slopes of the Soutpansberg Mountains around 200 kilometres away from the Pafuri area. Once the Luvuvhu river enters the western side of northern Kruger, it is characterised by steep sandstone/shale gorges which are home to Lanner falcons and Black eagles. One of the most impressive sections is Lanner gorge. Just down river of Lanner Gorge, the Mutale river flows into the Luvuvhu just as it flows onto the wide Pafuri flood plain.

“The river has great wisdom and whispers its secret to the hearts of men.” ~ Mark Twain

Along the Luvuvhu is a riparian forest which is home to a wonderful variety of birds and botany. The riparian trees are are home to unique birds such as the Pels fishing owl, Crested guineafowl, Racket-tailed rollers, Tropical Boubous, Retz Helmeted shrikes and White-backed herons to name just a few.

“Rivers are places that renew our spirit, connect us with our past, and link us directly with the flow and rhythm of the natural world.” ~ Ted Turner

Recalling our adventure in the Pafuri area, in my next post I describe our wandering down to Crookes Corner through baobab and fever tree forests to see where the Luvuvhu meets the mighty Limpopo river.

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.

Have fun, Mike

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