Stamvrug Hiking TrailsEnquire Now
25km from Bela-Bela
+27 83 677 6999, +27 82 210 5466 goo.gl/Eeio5k
Easy to moderate difficulty; Suitable for children
The Stamvrug suite of hiking trails opened in May 1992 and was designed with the assistance of the Centre for Eco Tourism of the University of Pretoria. Since then, thousands of nature lovers have wound their way around and across the rim of a basin which constitutes one of the most unspoilt, unique ecosystems in the Waterberg. Nine years later, in 2001, the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve was granted international status by UNESCO.
It now forms part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and is the first reserve of this kind to be registered in Southern Africa. With time, fences between the upper and lower game camps have been dropped to enlarge the game camp to about 1 500 ha, so the chances of meeting up with the reserve’s resident Giraffe family or any number of other species are very good.
It is in this special environment that the reserve offers a variety of hiking options. Apart from the dedicated two-day backpacking trails, there are four shorter day trails that can be enjoyed either from the two base camps, which offer excellent facilities, or from any of the farmhouses and cottages, which offer more comfortable accommodation. Kloof base camp is situated in the gorge looking across the kranzes; and Stamvrug base camp is set in a fold of the hills leading to the upper plateau. Both can accommodate up to 24 people, making them ideal for club outings.
The reserve caters for hikers with different levels of fitness and experience. Even within one group, individuals with diverse expectations have the opportunity to hike different distances and trails of various grades of difficulty. For those who find the idea of slack-packing more to their liking, the owners will gladly transport your rucksack, or perishables between camps.
Sunset Point trail (11.3 km) initially follows the Moepel Trail before curving to the northwest to the highest point (Sunset Point) in the area. From here you can look down on Kranskop along the main Bateleur road and see as far as Vaalwater on a clear day. The spectacular 360° view on Sunset Point will add to the many awesome views over the Waterberg.
Kloof trail (11.6km) starts at Kloof base camp, wanders among the flats behind Kloof, up a Koppie and then winds around the escarpment to provide a spectacular bird’s eye view of the whole upper wetland and beyond as far as Mabalingwe. Finally it goes back over the ridge into the game-fenced area and over the grasslands until it reaches the Kaalgat Dam and Stamvrug base camp.
Porcupine trail (7.2km) is shorter and easier. It also starts at Kloof base camp. It descends to the lovely Kloof dam and the Rock pools, after which it crosses the grasslands over the N1, onto the area behind Mountain Villa, before it drops down a ravine. The trail then crosses a few more koppies, before reaching Kaalgatdam and Stamvrug base camp. Kloof trail can be walked “in reverse” as the Leopard trail.
Zebra trail (6.0km) starts from Stamvrug base camp with a mild climb up the Koppie, over a rock bed and grasslands, keeping on top of the ridge. It then descents and enters an indigenous forest at about the 4 km mark. It passes a massive Naboom tree next to a magnificent rock bed with Kransdam nearby for swimming. The trail ascends the ridge, crosses the main Bateleur road, before it enters a kloof filled with ferns, water lilies and water grass. It leaves the gorge with a short climb to return to Kloof base camp. Zebra trail can also be walked “in reverse” as the Quagga trail.
Game trail (4.1km) has been designed with the leisurely hiker in mind. It starts at the Last Gate and winds its way up to the plateau at the back of Mountain Villa, follows the game fence west on the plateau to come to a stop at Kaalgat Dam and Stamvrug Base Camp.
Bush pig trail (6.8km) starts at Kloof Base Camp, passes Kloof dam and crosses the main Bateleur road to disappear in the koppies behind Mountain Villa and joins the Game Trail up to Kaalgat dam and Stamvrug Base Camp.
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.