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Eight Passes Route
3 Jan 2014

Eight Passes Route

The Eastern Cape Highlands, also known as "The Wild Side of the Drakensberg" is a safe and off-the-beaten-track mountain destination with spectacular scenery. The air here is clean and invigorating, but the weather is totally unpredictable so come prepared for four seasons in one day. Summer is bright and sunny; autumn brings magnificent colours; winter has lovely fairytale snow; and in spring the landscape blooms with fresh green grass and wild flowers. 

While visiting you should not miss the opportunity to tick off the ultimate driving adventure with the 'Eight Passes Challenge'. This is your chance to combine spectacular scenery with some of the highest public passes in SA. All eight passes are easily accessible and can be linked to either create consecutive day drives, or be tackled as a circular multi-day drive...

(GPS coordinates: -30.967472, 27.594352)


Koranna Getaway 4x4 Trail
2 Jan 2014

Koranna Getaway 4x4 Trail

The majestic and unspoilt Korannaberg Mountains set in the Eastern Free State offer stunning views, spectacular landscapes, awe-inspiring starry night skies and breathtaking sunsets. Don't miss this opportunity to explore the folds of the Koranna Mountain range in an ideal destination for those who want to get away from it all.

There are two routes at Koranna Getaway, but the Kloof Trail is the 'Big Boy' - even though it is also the shortest. This route was initially built more than a hundred years ago by woodcutters needing to pull trees down from the mountain. Later on local farmers started using it as a cattle track to drive their cattle to the grazing areas on top of Koranna Mountain...

(GPS coordinates: -28.882103, 27.317682)


Malopeni 4x4 Trail
1 Jan 2014

Malopeni 4x4 Trail

When you set off on the Malopeni Eco Trail you are in for an amazing wilderness experience condensed into 24 hours. The vast Kruger National Park offers this experience to thousands of tourists, but the Malopeni Trail makes it intimate. You'll access remote areas where the wildlife is still skittish when you approach and few others will be there to see it. A variety of experiences await, including seeing different animal spoor, animals, plant and bird species as well as a variety of different landscapes.

At night counting stars and listening to grunting hippos while sitting around a fire is definitely one of the greatest African experiences around. And your morning coffee on the banks of the Letaba River staring over the ageless plains as Africa awakes is just brilliant...

(GPS coordinates: -23.945745, 31.166043)


Glenmore 4x4 Trails
30 Dec 2013

Glenmore 4x4 Trails

Head into the rugged beauty of the Great Karoo and enjoy real Karoo farm hospitality with a bonus fish eagle wake up call in the morning. If your main objective of the weekend is 4x4ing, you will not be disappointed. Even though the trails are not extreme, there are five of them and they all vary in difficulty from easy to moderate. They are aptly named the Kudu, Springbok, Dassie, Duiker and River trails after the abundant animal and bird life of the region and offer something for every level of experience. 

As the trails are in the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area, there is an abundance of plants, animals and birds. The scenery is magnificent and changes from rugged mountains to vast open plains. A maximum of 15 vehicles are allowed on the trail at any one time. The trails are all well mapped, so relax and take time out to spot some of the 79 bird species identified on the farm...

(GPS coordinates: -33.17744, 23.695461)


Ferndale 4x4 Trail
26 Dec 2013

Ferndale 4x4 Trail

The Henderson Valley just outside Cathcart is the perfect setting for adventurous 4x4ing. Ferndale is an active angora goat, sheep and cattle stud farm dominated by mountains, deep gorges and forested kloofs.

The four official 4x4 trails, which are graded 3-5, offer something for everyone and can be driven in either direction, independently or combined. This allows you to create your own individual course and experience...

(GPS coordinates: -32.311881, 27.330766)


Nossob 4x4 Eco Trail
24 Dec 2013

Nossob 4x4 Eco Trail

The Nossob Eco Trail is a guided three-night/four-day trail winding through typical Kalahari terrain, following sandy tracks and crossing over quite a few challenging dunes. An experienced guide will lead you into areas inaccessible to ordinary visitors. The fun part is that you get to stop, get out, and investigate things like a dancing white lady, a trapdoor spider, or the spoor of a puff adder or ant lion…

(GPS coordinates: -25.421074, 20.597375)


Bojaankop 4X4 Trail
22 Nov 2013


As you may have gathered by now, the only thing hardcore about the Nightjar off-road team is its bakkie. It’s not that we mind a bit of a hard slog now and again, but it has to serve a greater purpose. In other words, it has to be about more than just surviving a bad stretch of road. If it’s a bad road experience you are after, rather do a road trip on the provincial roads of Mpumalanga. At least it comes with farm stalls as compensation.

The Bojaankop (baboon’s head) 4x4 trail is our kind of trail. ( The veld was in pristine condition, despite a very dry and windy winter, and at its highest point you are rewarded with an unimpeded 360 view of the peaks of the surrounding Outeniqua Mountains.

Most of the way to the top is up steep koppies, but the trail is extremely well maintained and perfectly manageable. For the more adventurous, the one end of the trail is a different matter altogether. Here the gradient increases to about 33 degrees. But what makes it hard is the loose, scruffy surface and some rain damage in its upper reaches. Not for sissies.

The second thing you may have gathered about the Nightjar household by now is its strict division of labour. So, for example and without exception, when stuck it is the Big Chief’s job to shovel or hoist as required, and it is Mama Nightjar’s job to laugh (usually derisively) and take photos. Given that the Big Chief’s ego was still a little bruised from getting stuck in some pretty innocuous sand the previous week, we decided to do an in-and-out from the easy end. 

Matjiesvlei ( offers a variety of accommodation options, from camping to lovingly restored cottages, in a classical farm friendly setting.

My Kingdom for a Spade
20 Nov 2013


Three thoughts crossed my mind as we drove into the Walker Bay Nature Reserve. 

I reminisced about a time when we were out photographing ground squirrels in the Karoo. Not keen to lose sight of a colony on the move, we decided to “feel” our way through the veld, but were brought to an abrupt stop when both left wheels simultaneously dropped into discarded borrow entrances. We had to dig our way out, but only after having walked about half a mile to borrow a spade.

The second thought was about how “over the top” it looks to mount a spade on a roof rack.  

The final thought was that the Fisherman’s Trail was just a regular set of sandy tracks and not really a 4x4 trail at all.

So in this tranquil half slumber, we drove on to the first parking spot. The track here runs just behind the final set of dunes. In two places the dunes had done their seasonal wandering and spilled ever so slightly over the track. I did pick up a little speed, enough to commit, but not enough to get through. And as you may know, by the time you have to press on the accelerator when driving in sand, it is usually too late. This time there was no handy farmstead half a mile away, so I dug with a piece of stick while Mama Nightjar rolled around in mirth and took photos. (Duties being very much segregated in this household when it suits her mood).

So, despite comments above, I guess I will be looking into mounting brackets after all!

Guided 4X4 Off-Road Trail
17 Aug 2013

Experience Driving on a Guided 4X4 Off-Road Trail

I was welcomed by a team of off-road professionals with various 4X4 vehicles and wanted to find out which dirt monster was the preferred choice for roughing it in the big wild universe. Suspension... torque... compression ratio... cylinder... brake force distribution... blah blah blah... 4X4’s are very complicated metal carriages to understand! 

The time came for me to experience an off-road guided 4X4 trail and I couldn’t stop pondering how this vehicle was going to hover over ditches the size of super sized potholes and climb hills that were so steep. The driver assured us that we were in safe hands and we headed off on our journey. It was such an exhilarating experience to say the least... would we get over the hill or get stuck in the wild being chased by a herd of buffalo? All this adventure got me so excited and each successful obstacle made me more of an off-road 4X4 fan. 

This experience was a truly thrilling one that I would recommend, especially if you’re thinking of purchasing one. You may not understand all the terms and technology verbalized but actually experiencing the vehicle in action makes it all an easy decision.

The Punt at Malgas
23 May 2013

What a novel way to cross a river. We have used the punt across the Breede River at Malgas a number of times over the years, but still feel like little kids in a candy store when we do so. The novelty just never wears off. The tariff for a crossing is R40 for cars and bakkies (R15 for a tractor), but there are monthly and annual tariffs, so for some folk this must be like a trip to the office. The ferry is “hand operated”, meaning there are two guys who pull it across, and the whole process takes no more than a few minutes from one side to the other.

Kingsley Holgate
2 Apr 2013

Nightjar Adventurer 2013.
The Adventurers: Kingsley Holgate
The Adventure: Great African Rift Valley Expedition

Kingsley Holgate is almost a household name, and many see him as The Greybeard of Africa for his numerous adventurous exploits.  The Great Rift Valley is equally revered, with the track that it leaves across Africa visible from outer space!  In an epic meeting of giants, Kingsley and his team travelled from Djibouti on the Horn of Africa to the Gorongosa Mountains in Mozambique, distributing mosquito nets, eye glasses and water purifying Lifestraws all along the way.    

Home of the wild trout
17 Mar 2013

Our blogs have been unusually quiet this weekend, so you might have wondered where in the world Nightjar Travel went?! Well, we went somewhere wild... to the home of some of the most spectacular trout fishing in South Africa, and some of the best home cooked meals we've had in years.

Yup, we are in the Eastern Cape!  It's hard not to feel like you're on holiday and forget the rest of the world exists when you're this far up in the Drakensberg foothills, but we will do our best to remember our responsibilities and keep up the blogs this week :-)  and we'll keep the tales of the one that got away to a minimum (but seriously, as long as my arm).

Lion on the Mananga Trail
22 Feb 2013

I love the expression on this young male lion’s face. He had just woken up from what appeared to be a long and lazy nap under a magic guarri bush (euclea divinorum). I spotted him and his equally scruffy but content looking brother, at the turn-off to the Mananga 4x4 Trail, about 11km north of the Satara Rest camp in the Kruger national park. The best thing about this trail is that you have the road virtually to yourself, as only 6 vehicles are allowed on it each day. It passes through an area that has a reputation as big cat country. It’s well-deserved in my opinion; I’ve had frequent special encounters lion, leopard and cheetah in this part of the park.

You can read more about the Mananga Trail here 

 - Dianne Tipping-Woods


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