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 On The Rocks At The Thabaphaswa Mountain Sanctuary (Limpopo Province)

On The Rocks At The Thabaphaswa Mountain Sanctuary (Limpopo Province)

The Thabaphaswa Mountain Sanctuary is well worth a visit, not only for its wonderful rock formations and vegetation but because it is quite conveniently located between the fork of the N1 and the N11 north of Makopane (Potgietersrus). This makes it a popular sleepover destination for travellers on their way to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kruger Park, and Mapungubwe.

Thaba means mountain, and Phaswa refers to the Nguni cattle that are well-known in this area where the landscape features mountains, hills, and koppies, with scattered thickets and clumps of vegetation that, when seen from afar, form patterns resembling those of the Nguni hides. These mountains and hills served as historical settlements, battlefields, and as graveyards for the Langa Ndebele and some of their chiefs. Evidence for early exploration and mining still exists on the vast plain northwest of Mokopane. Mining heritage includes trenches, shafts, and old mine infrastructure. The landscape attracts 4X4 enthusiasts who want to test their basic skills because there are terrains with varying difficulty to choose from. Thabaphaswa is only about 300kms from OR Tambo airport, so you won’t want to travel too far from home to experience the natural splendour of the Bushveld and the spectacular mountains.

Some of the 4×4 trails are technically more difficult than others, but the purpose is not in the first place to test the capability of your 4×4 but rather to enjoy nature. The Look Out Point is located 16 km away and represents gaining altitude all the time to the top, where the environment is quite different than below. The vegetation is known as “the Pietersburg Highveld” where you will find Proteas and different tree species that thrive at the higher altitude.  The Lookout is a large flat rock from where one has a great view of the valley below, the Witvinger Nature Reserve, and the North face of the Thabaphaswa Mountain. Alternatively you can deviate from the trail and drive along the mountain stream to Teffo’s Dam, below the lookout point.

The 2km Bobbejaan Loop trail traverses the Mahlare Mountain behind the homestead and is only recommended for those that are looking for a technically more difficult trail, due to the many loose rocks. The Ndebele Neck Loop trail is only 1.5 km long and goes past Hein’s and Christoph’s dams. The Percy Fyfe Trail is located in an area outside Thabaphaswa and follows the service road of the railway line to the North. It passes several game farms and also goes through the Percy Fyfe Nature reserve. One then travels back to Thabaphaswa via the Lunsklip country road with a total of approximately 50 km. The N1 Mahlare Route to the Kanniedood Mountain hut and the Rock Climbs starts at the homestead and represents a quite steep climb up the Mahlare mountain. One can only reach the Kanniedood Camp with a 4×4. To reach the Rock Climbs one must drive past the Kanniedood Camp to the designated parking area.

Regarding accommodation, you can choose between three bush camps namely “The Dome Rock”, “Kanniedood” and “Fig Tree”. These all offer single and bunk beds, built-in braai areas, ablution facilities, wash-up areas, heated showers, and a semi-equipped kitchen (some units share a communal kitchen). The camp equipment includes braai grids, pots/pans, kettles, 2 plate gas stove, and gas lamps. No fridges are provided, and guests are required to bring their own cooking and eating utensils and cooler boxes. There is NO electricity at the camps but the farmhouse has solar power for emergency use such as charging mobile devices.

The triple-storey Kanniedood Camp hides away under the soaring Corkwood trees. High up on a steep rock face, this 14-sleeper camp allows for spectacular views right from the perch. By the way, the camp got its name from the woody Corkwood trees with the Afrikaans name “Kanniedood” which means “cannot die”. The name makes sense because Commiphora’s branches grow very easily. The common name ‘corkwood’ was given because the wood is soft but suitable for carving household utensils and ornaments. No doubt you will find the trees and the wooden souvenirs in the area!

The 4 very unique units at Dome Rock are made from glass walls and are dotted amongst giant boulders, giving guests privacy (and comfortable beds) while being close to nature.

The Fig Tree Camp caters to a total of 16 persons on bunk beds. The camp comprises a reed shelter with an iron roof and is situated adjacent to a communal braai area. The Cot House has an annexed camping site and shares the Lapa and ablutions with the campers.

If you are travelling to the Groblersbrug/Martins Drift border post route, you can cross the Limpopo River at Groblersbrug and overnight at the Rhino Sanctuary or camping venues North of Francistown in Botswana. If your journey takes you to the Tuli Block in the South Eastern corner of Botswana, you can take the road from Thabaphaswa to Alldays and cross the border at one of the smaller border posts on the Limpopo River. If you are on your way to Mapungubwe National Park, or the Northern parts of Kruger National Park, take the N1 from Thabaphaswa. When you return from Botswana, Mapungubwe, or Kruger, a one-night stay at Thabaphaswa might be good to clean your gear and vehicles or rest before embarking on the final stretch home.

While you are cleaning your gear, the family can try out the Thabaphaswa Mountain Bike Trails, a network consisting of 4 loops that range in distance from 7 to 15km, of varying difficulty. Birders will not be disappointed in Thabaphaswa, especially during the summer months. There are about 180 identified bird species in the area and, because of its accredited “Birder Friendly ” status, Thabaphaswa forms part of the Greater Limpopo (Capricorn-Letaba) Birding Route.

You can drive out to discover the surroundings of Mokopane and snack on some Mopani Worms at the Mashashane Cultural Village, or go see the regal white lions, pop in at the Arend Dieperink Museum or visit the historic Makapansgat Caves. There is much to see and do, so whether you stay a day or two, we are sure that the Thabaphaswa Mountain Sanctuary will ROCK you!

Bookings:  082 389 6631

Coordinates: 24°03’27.4″S 29°02’38.7″E

Address: Farm Groenkom,

Percy Fyfe Road, Mokopane

Before you set out to investigate the Nguni mountains, bring your 4×4 to us for a service or repairs: https://n14x4.co.za/rmi-workshop/

N1 4X4 is one of South Africa’s biggest suppliers of new, used & reconditioned parts for Cruisers and Toyota 4WD’S.

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