If you love camping and particularly enjoy remote bush camps, check out my list of our favourite campsites in the Limpopo province of South Africa.
You will also find a number of these sites reviewed on Travel Gigolo‘s channel.
Matamba Bush Camp
Matamba Bush Camp rates really high on our list of all-time best campsites in Southern Africa, not just Limpopo camping. You can also check out my post, “7 Reasons Why: Matamba” if you like your information in a punchy format.
Matamba is closest to the town of Vaalwater, and is about a 3.5 to 4 hour drive from Johannesburg, depending on traffic conditions getting out of Gauteng. The best plan is to take at least a half day’s leave on a Friday, to ensure you get there before they lock the gates at 6pm. Arriving between 6 and 8pm costs extra, and no arrivals will be entertained after 8pm.
Vaalwater is your last location to stock up on fuel, ice, and food supplies, but as Vaalwater is not a particularly bustling metro, my recommendation is to stock up before leaving home. Matamba is the very epitome of a bush camp, and there is no shop on-site. That said, there is a bit of firewood made available at each campsite, and you can buy more wood directly from them if needed.
The hosts will meet you at the gate personally, and show you to your campsite. They’ll have a quick chat and remind you of the rules (for example, no driving around once you’ve parked at your campsite) and show you the amenities. You can also buy a map of the property from them at this point, which will show you all the walking routes and watering hole locations, and such. The hosts usually come around to check in at least once a day.
People who love remote spots and enjoy the quiet and solitude that such destinations offer. Perfect for feeling like there is nobody else around, while listening to animals moving around just beyond the circle of fire light.
Not suitable for:
Extremely sociable (read: noisy) groups of people who are looking for a place to cut loose and enjoy having a few too many. Respecting the bush and wildlife also means you have to keep your wits about you. And, your neighbours and the owners won’t appreciate a lot of noise here.
The four Tau Camp sites all have an electrical point, a tap, a firepit, a fire smother, a bin, and loads of birdlife.
The only exception is the fifth campsite, which is for guests staying only a single night en-route to somewhere else. This site is more bare bones.
The kitchen space and the various bathroom facilities dotted between the campsites are shared amongst all the Tau Camp sites.
The sites are spaced approximately 100 metres apart, allowing for a sense of solitude and privacy.
The other area, Mara Camp, is located quite some distance from the Tau campsites, and has no electricity, but does have its own bathroom and an open-air wash-up space. Hot water is also provided by gas. This campsite is booked by one group only.
There is nothing quite like an open-air shower on a warm Limpopo day.
The small pool makes for exquisite cooling off and relaxation, and if you’re lucky, the giraffe will just wander on past.
Walking around the various routes, you’ll come across herds of herbivores.
Mornings are a pleasure at camp, especially when you’re just sitting quietly enjoying your coffee, as birds flit about everywhere!
Syringa Sands Bush Camp
We’ve only recently discovered Syringa Sands but have added it to our favourite Limpopo camping list without hesitation. The large property consists of exactly one campsite, as well as two cottages. All of these are situated kilometres from one another. Syringa Sands is located very close to Marakele National Park as well as Welgevonden Game Reserve. Both of these are Big Five parks, so you can arrange a game drive and have quite a special weekend away.
Alternatively, you can just enjoy the splendour of Syringa Sands itself, which also has a fair bit of wildlife wandering around the farm. It also offers some hiking and self-drive trails, as well as a dam for a bit of fishing.
Host Sean du Toit will probably pop past and say hi, and if you’re lucky, regale you with the amazing recent history of the area, and how all the passes and farms came to be named and settled. It is well worth a listen, and a fascinating chronicle.
Syringa Sands is also best reached via the town of Vaalwater, again a spot to stop for supplies en-route. It’s a little bit closer to Johannesburg than Matamba, but the Google Maps route will take you on a fair bit of gravel, much of it not in wonderful condition, so it will probably also take about 3.5 to 4 hours to reach via the recommended Vaalwater alternate (longer) route.
The campsite has no electricity, but offers a gorgeous lapa and would make for a really great group getaway. There is also a boma. The dam is right next to camp, and this is open to anyone staying on the farm, so you may see people pop in for a spot of fishing, or passing by on one of the various walking routes.
Self-sufficient campers who have their own source of electricity and lighting or don’t mind not being able to charge phones and such. If you’re there to take photos, though, you might want a plan in place to charge batteries. You can have the entire site to yourself even if you’re just two, but it does make a great setting for a group of friends. You also don’t have to be particularly quiet here, as the next person is kilometres away and as such, your group won’t necessarily be disturbing the peace. It’s also a great spot for people who enjoy fishing and game viewing.
Not suitable for:
Novice campers or people who like their creature comforts and electricity.
There is a gorgeous lapa, so even if the heavens open up in true Limpopo thunderstorm style, you’ll be dry and happy.
There is an open-air boma with a built-up circular bench wrapped around it, and this makes for a great space to enjoy a bonfire and campsite chatter.
There is a Weber kettle braai, as well as a built-in braai in the boma section.
The bathroom, set a bit away and behind the lapa, consists of one toilet, one shower, and two basins. Hot water is supplied via gas.
There is no lighting, so be sure to bring your own. The bathroom’s entrance has a motion-sensor solar light.
There is a fair amount of open space so you can set up a number of tents. They allow for a maximum of 8 people.
The dam. Fishing is great (when we went in summer) and there’s even a boat so you can get to the middle and try your luck there. We caught a number of bass, and a few barbel.
The bird life is incredible.
Keep an eye out for fire flies in the evenings, and you may also spot a jackal.
Waterberg Wilderness Reserve
We were fortunate to experience Waterberg Wilderness Reserve during both the height of summer and the tail-end of winter, and see it in both these guises. Winter is great for wildlife viewing, and seeing nyala herds casually stroll through your campsite. Also, as a small consolation, the area is just a little warmer than Johannesburg, so a welcome reprieve from the bitter cold. Summer is lush and green and there are streams and pools and small waterfalls everywhere. It is an incredible transformation. And this is one of the reasons it’s one of our favourite Limpopo camping destinations. The owner, Alan, will check in with you at the end of every day to see how you’re experiencing the reserve and if everything is up to scratch at camp.
The reserve is located near the towns of Mokopane and Mookgopong. As you generally tend to drive through Mookgopong (formerly Naboomspruit) to get there, this is a convenient stop for supplies, food, and fuel. The reserve does not have a store on-site or nearby. Come prepared with wood, drinking water, and supplies. Though there is water on the property, it may not be potable for everyone, so the recommendation is to bring drinking supplies.
Waterberg Wilderness Reserve’s gems are the private campsites, each with its own bathroom all to yourself. There is no electricity and no light provided, but hot showers are available via gas geyser.
A number of roads on the site are restricted to 4×4 vehicles only but you can still see a fair amount with a regular 4×2 or bakkie. A stretch of the gravel getting to the entrance gate can get quite rough-going, depending on recent rains and maintenance by the local farmers. A sedan is not recommended.
To get here, definitely bargain on about 4 hours (or a little more if traffic is heavy), as there is also a fair bit of gravel road for the final stretch.
This is another excellent and remote campsite for self-sufficient campers who come prepared with all the necessities, as well as an inverter or solar power. It’s also best suited to 4x4s or at least a sturdy vehicle with very good clearance.
This is also a good spot for a rooftop tent, as the ground is generally stony. If you prefer to leave the rooftop tent up, there are lots of walking trails.
Not suitable for:
Regular car (sedan) campers, novice campers, or caravan campers.
The private (exclusive) campsites each have a corrugated roof over a cement work surface.
They also come with a firepit, and built-up braai each.
The private campsites also have their own bathroom unit, with a toilet, basin, and hot-water shower. Attached to this is an outside basin for washing cutlery and dishes.
Bins are provided, as well as a bucket. The bucket is for any brush that might ignite in the dry winter months. Take care when making a bonfire during the dry season, as the wind can easily sweep up sparks.
There is no electricity, and also no lighting, so be sure to bring your own lamps and headlamps.
A map is provided upon arrival, to assist with all the various routes, walks, 4×4 drives, and points of interest. The routes are easy to follow as each intersection has a number, which is also marked on the map.
Campsites are spaced apart, about 50 to 100 metres. The bush is dense in between, even in winter, so you enjoy a feeling of solitude in the bush. Occasionally, the wind will carry voices from other campsites.
The reserve features a miniature version of the famous Van Zyl’s Pass. This one is nowhere near as challenging but makes for a fun 4×4 drive anyway.
Relaxing in your camp chair at dusk, and having a herd of nyala walk right through camp, is one of my favourite experiences.
Going in summer after having first been in winter, and seeing the magical transformation of everything on the reserve, is a definite favourite.
For the most part, Zvakanaka is considered an “en- route to somewhere” stop-over but really deserves more credit than this. It’s a bit tricky as just a weekend getaway, because it’s beyond the town of Makhado (formerly Louis Trichardt), and as such is at least a 5 hour drive away. We’ve done it but I wouldn’t recommend it. What is recommended is that you stay two nights (instead of just the one) as part of an overlanding or camping road trip with multiple stops. That way, you can explore the hikes and the Soutpansberg mountains surrounding the farm.
A really great benefit of booking a stay there is that you can conceivably get there anytime (provided you let them know), and there is no final permissible arrival time. You’re given a code to enter at the gate, and this means that if you know your way around, you can pretty much set up camp and get settled in even later in the evening, provided you don’t make too much of a racket to disturb nearby neighbours. This is convenient if you’re forced to leave Gauteng after work, and you’re making your eventual way to a faraway destination.
For those not keen on camping, they also offer self-catering cottage stays. Actually, the cottages are quite amazing, featuring outdoor baths & showers, and small swimming pools, along with the great views and privacy.
The campsites are quite impressive though, so do consider camping. In fact, they offer some of the best amenities you’ll find.
The start or end to an epic overlanding camping trip. Any kind of camper will find this a great stop, no matter the vehicle or the equipment (or lack thereof).
Not suitable for:
Light sleepers. The location is quite close to the biggest highway in South Africa, the N1 (which is why it’s such a great stop-over location) but trucks travel via this road at all times of the day and night, and on the odd occasion in the middle of the night, the sound of exhaust brakes can be very audible.
A roof over a concrete platform.
A gas stove (yes really!) along with an electric kettle, electricity point, a tap, a firepit, and a built-up braai place.
Wifi, if needed (specific locations on the farm).
Firewood is available on-site at a nominal fee.
There are a great set of shared ablutions, with everything you could require.
There is even a washing machine, should you need to do laundry.
One of the campsites, Shady John’s, is a bit more basic and doesn’t offer the roof shelter.
The hike up the nearby mountain is well-marked and a lovely way to spend a morning.
Getting up early is quite rewarding, in terms of birdlife, and hearing the dew crackling in the grass-veld as the sun hits it is a little slice of nature’s magic.
So there you have it. The list is not comprehensive but certainly hits on our favourites (thus far) in the province. The Limpopo province is one of the most-visited in South Africa, and for good reason. The list of places to visit and things to see in this beautiful part of the country is massive, and you’ll be hard-pressed to exhaust it. Our list of favourites does not even scratch the surface, but the destinations mentioned are definitely great places to start.