Platjan…. A border post that’s a bit of a gamble in the rainy season, but being one of the closest entry points into Botswana if you venturing into Tuli, it’s one of the better options. Fortunately the staff are pretty switched on there and tend to answer the phone rather efficiently. A quick phone call confirmed that the river was low enough for us to be able to cross the Limpopo and avoid going the long way round.
Exit & entry processes are super quick here due to large trucks not being able to cross the bridge over the river, so 20 minutes later we’d left SA, entered Botswana and were on our merry way.
Our destination was Limpopo River Lodge. This special place is our usual stopover either coming back home or en-route to anywhere in Botswana. This time however, we’d decided to make a long weekend of it and booked a campsite for four nights.
A 20 minute rattle down the corrugated road brought us to the turn off to the reception area where one collects the key to access the campsite. After filling in guest documentation and grabbing a map of the area, we climbed back in the car and drove the short 2 minutes to the locked boom at the entrance to the campsite.
The reserve is a strange set up as the land is an extremely narrow, but long area, with the “main” (read very corrugated dirt….) road running straight through the middle. This main road is also the access road for all the other lodges, private homes and camping areas along the river.
Half an hour later, we arrived at our campsite, number 6, always our favourite as it’s set apart from the rest of the sites, of which there are only 6 anyway. A massive tree with a huge spread of shade provides welcome coolness throughout most of the day. It’s extremely pretty here, with the river literally 5 meters away. Further up a slope is the very rustic, private ablution for campsite 6, which being elevated, offers a gorgeous view of the river while you shower. In the campsite itself, there’s running water, which I wouldn’t recommend anyone drink, a dustbin and a built in circular braai. The campsite is huge, comfortably fitting in at least 2 cars and ground tents.
The beauty of Limpopo River Lodge is that one can self-drive. This gives you the opportunity to come and go as you please. Chucking the camp chairs into the back of the Pajero we can head off to one of our many favourite spots and sit under a tree near a waterhole and just chill for the morning or afternoon. The wildlife soon gets used to us being there and eventually all the buck come down to drink, ellies wade into the water for a good bath, the timid zebra eventually break cover and come to drink and we’ve even seen a slender mongoose come through the bush and lap at the water mere meters from where we’ve sat. Such special moments…..
With the majority of the vegetation being mopani trees, the mopani worms are abundant in the summer months, covering vast areas of each tree, munching their way through a myriad of leaves before moving into the next stage of their life-cycle. Raptors too are abundant here and we’ve had many an occasion where we’ve sat on the river bank in our campsite watching owls & fish eagles come and go. The seasonal woodland kingfishers call all day & the drumbeat-like call of the southern ground hornbill is often heard, though seldom seen, and we had one occasion where we sat watching an African harrier hawk clinging to the huge boughs of a tree on the opposite bank, pulling scorpions and other delicacies out of their hiding places.
One night, we’d finished braaiing and were chilling round the fire when we heard a rustle in the grass. Turning our torches to light up the shadows, a porcupine emerged, completely unperturbed by our presence. This is the only time I have ever seen one of these in the wild. Later we also had a spotted genet pop in for a visit. And just before bed, brushing my teeth at the tap in the campsite, while leaning against the tree trunk, a scorpion suddenly emerged from its crack in the bark, right next to my hand! Never a dull moment here……
Self-driving each day takes us over and across all sorts of terrain, from dry river beds to rocky elevated outcrops with views to die for. Baobabs are dotted everywhere and if you’re prepared for a bit of a drive, there’s a rather smelly bat colony living within one of these ancient giants. Although the reserve is relatively small, we spent most of the days out exploring the different routes, which judging by the rough tracks aren’t traversed too often.
One afternoon, we pulled up to one of our favourite waterholes. With no wildlife in sight, I climbed out the car and walked to the opposite side of the waterhole to take a landscape shot with the wide angle lens. Happy with the result, I walked back to the car and as I reached the bonnet, a huge bull elephant broke through the bush that I’d just been standing in front of!! He ambled slowly over to the car, stopping literally in front of the bonnet. Lifting his trunk, he had a good sniff of us and then turned around and silently disappeared back into the bushes. If I’d stayed there for another 30 seconds, I may have been mincemeat….. But I live to tell the tale, and the elephant still remains my absolute favourite animal.
We’ve frequented Limpopo River Lodge a good few times over the years and like most bush destinations, it delivers something different everytime. Always teeming with birdlife and if you open your eyes, you’ll be amazed at the small things trundling through the campsite. Through the seasons we’ve seen terrible drought as well as destroyed campsites due to flooding…. But I’ll always return to this special place as you never know what mother nature will dish up next time.