Years ago I was invited by SANParks to travel the Lebombo Trail with a group of friends. The normal group leaves Croc Bridge Rest Camp on a Sunday morning and we checked in on Sunday afternoon and set up camp. Croc Bridge has a small well stocked shop and is nicely treed with clean ablutions and cooking and washing up areas. We headed for bed after supper knowing that we would have an early start the next day. The trail is considered to be one of the best eco trails in South Africa and booking should be done well in advance as it is popular. During the rainy season after October, it closes as the muddy conditions render it impassable.
We were allocated a ranger for protection and as a guide the next morning. The trail follows the Lebombo mountain range from Croc Bridge to Pafuri in the north bordered by the Limpopo River. One needs to be self-sufficient, you get to visit three camps to get groceries, shower and refuel. On the first day, we had good sightings of White Rhino and Elephants as well as an abundance of small game and birds.
The real beauty of this trail is the fact that you camp wild and sleep in the bush. We took an off-road trailer and caravan to make it more comfortable and I even took a small portable shower so that we could shower at the end of the day.
Our guide was excellent and took us through the various ecoregions as well as the fauna and flora. There was one small river crossing and some mud and light ascents but the route is not challenging. It is designed to be an experience that is not hard on a vehicle, yet 4x4s with low range and good ground clearance are recommended.
Our first night was near Lower Sabie in an unfenced camp with the only facilities being two enviro-loos. One stops a fair bit as the guide shares a wealth of information. The campsites are pristine but are left as undisturbed as possible.
One needs to be plenty of equipment, I took an off-road trailer which gave me lots of space and a rooftop tent. However, when booking they give you a recommended list of equipment;
- Tents and sleeping bags
- Stretchers and mattresses
- Tables and chairs
- Firewood, firelighters and gas for lighting and cooking
- A cooler box or electric fridge
- Drinking water
- A camp kitchen
- Food for three meals a day ( also took rice and frozen vegetables and salads ten to go limp )
- They recommend a portable wash basin for ablutions and dishes. ( I took a small fold-up basin which was more than adequate ).
From an equipment perspective, they suggest the normal stuff;
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Photographic Equipment
- A roll of bin bags which are disposed of when you stop at the rest camps
- Recovery Equipment
- Tyre pressure gauge and a pump
Personal items will be any medication, towels, toilet paper, sunblock and hats as well as clothing. As it is an eco-trail they request that you bring biodegradable soap. I always use one that can be used as a shampoo and contains citronella oil which is a good bug repellent.
We were all relatively seasoned campers who knew how to pack well. I benefited from the space offered by the trailer.
I ran my fridge off a portable battery system to be able to run it 24/7, and I packed meals in the order that we wanted to eat them.
The group shared tasks and even food as we all had a share of special goodies. Breakfast tended to be bacon bits and scrambled eggs with fried tomato and mushrooms. It was a real treat to cook in the open and sit down to a hearty breakfast. Lunches were light as we needed to keep moving. The days passed and we ended at Crooks Corner where we said our goodbyes and made for an exit to get back to Johannesburg before sunset. It was an amazing experience enjoyed by all. You will see some of the most amazing sunsets in Africa. Please note it is a malaria area.