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Grootwater 4x4 Trail

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39km from Lephalale

-23.917, 27.8415

30km, 4-5hrs, Grade 1-5

+27 82 735 1369

Configuration: A network of short 4x4 trails interlinked with farm roads.

Terrain: Mountains, sand, lots of rocks, gravel and mud.

This is a self-drive route; no guiding needed. This is a year-round destination. Summer rains will increase the mud factor. There are self-catering accommodation options as well as a campsite, a swimming pool, bar and pool table. There are at least four short trails at Grootwater that should keep you happy for at least one day. Other activities at Grootwater include hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, quad biking and birdwatching.


Grootwater is situated on the banks of the Poer-se-Loop River in the beautiful, unspoiled northern region of the Waterberg. Poer-se-Loop winds its way slowly north through the Waterberg Mountains before joining up with the Mokolo River, just north of Grootwater and the Mokolo Dam Nature Reserve. Just 250km from Pretoria, Grootwater is a lovely weekend destination with something for the whole family. Keep your eyes peeled while driving for the large variety of birds and game such as kudu, impala, bushbuck, duiker, blue wildebeest, warthog, bush pig, brown hyena. Even leopard, if you’re extremely lucky.

Several short trails like Apies or Koedoe will take you across varying terrain and obstacles, including mountains, rocks, sand and mud. The amount of mud is obviously linked to the recent rainfall so October to March visits should be a bit muddier. You will always be assured of some very challenging rock driving at Grootwater. Luckily the rocks and stones along the trail are mostly smooth and the risks of damaging your tyres not high. There are some very steep descents where concentration is required as some could get nasty. Don't get overconfident. These rocky areas make good ground clearance essential.

Two self-catering accommodation options exist. There’s Vaalbos Camp with its fully equipped chalets sleeping four. Otherwise there’s the rather rustic, but peaceful and secluded bush camp with thatched huts. The campsite is located on the shady banks of the Poer-se-Loop River and has ablutions and braais. Once you’ve tackled all the routes you can explore further on your mountain bike or on foot along one of the hiking trails. There is also a quad track to challenge and canoes to paddle. Otherwise just relax next to the pool or in the bar.

Follow the N1 North from Johannesburg and turn left towards Nylstroom/Modimolle at the Kranskop tollgate. Travel through Nylstroom to Vaalwater before turning right at the Lephalale /Ellisras sign. Continue for 50km and turn left onto a dirt road at the Witkop sign. Travel another 11km on this road and then turn left into Grootwater just after you cross over the Poer-se-Loop bridge.




Rugged mountains, rolling bush and abundant wildlife characterise this area. The Waterberg is one of Limpopo’s most popular eco-tourism regions. Over the past decade it has come to rival Mpumalanga’s legendary Lowveld, with the added plus of being malaria-free.

The Waterberg offers a range of wildlife and safari experiences. These vary from Big 5 private reserves and game lodges to remote wilderness hideaways and self-catering bush camps. There are also national and provincial reserves.

The region is named after the Waterberg mountain range - ‘water mountains’ in Afrikaans - that stretches west to east for about 150km from Thabazimbi to the Mokopane. The mountains form the shoulder of the Palala Plateau – the bushveld of which rolls westwards all the way to Botswana.

True to their name, the Waterberg mountains include many rivers, streams, swamps and wetlands. The Limpopo River forms the western boundary of the region and the Mogalakwena River the eastern. The Waterberg has vast tracts of bushveld savannah punctuated with clusters of trees and tall savannah shrubs. The Springbok Flats are to the south. 

The Waterberg is more than three million years old – and there are numerous archaeological finds and San paintings that give us glimpses of its past.

Mining has long been essential to the Waterberg’s economy. An Iron Age mineshaft found in the Waterberg was carbon dated to 1 500 AD. Five hundred years later, mining is still taking place. The Waterberg is one of the richest mineral deposits in the world. It’s part of the Bushveld Igneous Complex - a unique geological complex of volcanic rocks formed some 600 million years ago. The complex extends over 50 000km² and is rich in platinum, iron ore, vanadium, tin, tungsten, chromium and coal.

The Waterberg region includes the towns of Bela-Bela, Modimolle, Mabatlane, Lephalale, Mookgophong and Thabazimbi. The largest town is Bela-Bela, a lively centre for surrounding farms and game reserves, and famed for its hot springs. The name Bela-Bela means ‘water that boils’ in Tswana.

The towns of Modimolle and Mookgophong are steeped in interesting Iron Age, Nguni and Voortrekker history. The quaint village of Matlabane is a meet-and-greet spot for many travellers to the area, and Lephalale is the centre for the region’s thriving hunting industry.

The heart of the Waterberg is the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, a 400 000ha protected wilderness area offering a mix of nature, culture and heritage. It was declared by UNESCO in 2001 on the basis of its mountainous habitat, magnificent red sandstone cliffs and evidence of human occupation dating back thousands of years. It was first inhabited by the San people, who left their legacy in the form of rock art and cave paintings.

The only savannah reserve of its kind in southern Africa, the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve includes private and provincial game reserves. It also has areas of cultural and archaeological significance. The region has a strong conservation ethos, and eco-tourism and sustainable practices underpin many lodges and reserves here.

The Waterberg offers an exciting mix of wildlife and wilderness experiences – from traditional game lodges to tailor-made adventures. You can go hiking, camping, 4x4 off-roading, horseback riding and birding. The Waterberg is famed for two significant birding sites. The Nylsvley Wetlands is home to over 400 species of waterbirds. The Marakele National Park is home to the largest Cape vulture colony in the world. The area also has conservation training programmes, wildlife rehabilitation centres and educational school camps.

Look out for

Marakele National Park - The name Marakele is Tswana for ‘place of sanctuary’ and this wild and remote reserve is just that. Marakele has craggy hills and deep wooded kloofs, with rare cycads, tree ferns and yellowwood trees. This is an unspoilt part of the Waterberg, home to all the large game species from rhino to elephant and the big cats. It is also home to the world’s biggest Cape vulture population – over 800 breeding pairs.

Nylsvley - The Nylsvley Conservancy is a favourite destination among South Africa’s birding community. It is part of the country’s largest flood plain. Stretching over 70km from Modimolle to Mokopane, Nylsvley is a world-renowned RAMSAR site. In the rainy summer months the grasslands of Nylsvley are transformed into lake that stretches for kilometres. It virtually becomes an international bird airport. The Waterberg Nylsvley Birding Route covers Nylsvley, the Waterberg mountains and Marakele National Park.

The Waterberg Meander - The Waterberg Meander is a self-drive route through the heart of the region that takes you to a series of interesting sites, community projects and tourist attractions. Visit local arts & crafts projects, explore the ancient hill of Melora, meet the Waterberg Red Beds, an unusual geological formation, check out the glorious mountain peaks known as the Seven Sister of the Waterberg, or visit a monument dedicated to explorer David Livingstone.

Bela-Bela’s hot springs - Long known for their healing properties, the hot mineral springs at Bela-Bela bubble out of the ground at about 2 200 litres per hour, at a temperature of around 53ºC. The water is rich in sodium chloride, calcium carbonate and other salts with natural healing properties. The Bela-Bela Aventura Resort is a popular spot for its water world activities. There are many health and pampering opportunities in and around Bela-Bela.

The annual Big Five Marathon - The 42km-long Big Five Marathon is known as the wildest of them all – they say it’s tougher than South Africa’s famous 88km-long Comrades Marathon. Held at Entabeni Game Reserve in the Waterberg mountains, this annual marathon attracts thousands of runners from around the world. Out here there are ravines and gorges, rivers and lakes, and stretches of unspoiled bushveld. There are no fences; just wide open spaces and a tough challenge for marathon runners.

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