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Hans Merensky Nature Reserve, Limpopo

The Hans Merensky Nature Reserve lies 70km northeast of Tzaneen toward the Kruger National Park, an hour’s drive from the Phalaborwa Gate. It is a wilderness area named for German South African Geologist, Prospector and Conservationist Hans Merensky.

It is not a Big 5 reserve, but more of a wildlife sanctuary with hiking trails and family friendly facilities.

The terrain is mostly flat lowveld grasslands dotted with shrubby mopane and combretum trees, quite lush in the rainy season, but dying back in winter to provide excellent game viewing at waterholes. The Great Letaba River runs along the northern border, also providing great bird-watching opportunities.

Wildlife that can be seen includes Sable and various other species of antelope, plenty of giraffe, wildebeest, warthog and zebra. Nocturnal predators include the shy leopard, black-backed jackal and hyena. Along the river you will also see hippo, giant monitor lizards and crocodiles. There are no elephant, lion, rhino or buffalo on this reserve which promotes its hiking trails, and which has been involved in the breeding of Sable antelope and giraffe to stock other reserves since its proclamation in 1953.

Self-drive and walking safaris are available along a set route which includes a picnic and viewing spot that looks out over the whole reserve. There are also mountain biking trails, hiking trails and horse riding.

Hiking trails include the 1km Mopane Interactive Trail, great for families, the Letaba trail which follows the river and is great for birding, and the 32km 3 day Giraffe hiking trail with luxury overnight accommodation.

The Tsonga museum on the reserve is a living ‘kraal’ museum where you can learn about the Tsonga tribe’s culture and buy Tsonga arts and crafts. There is also an educational centre.

A special feature of the Reserve is the hot mineral spring at the Eiland Spa, which also features bush cabin accommodation, camping and caravaning facilities, and facilities and activities for both children and adults.

Getting there: From Tzaneen take the R71 east, taking a left after about 45km and following the signs for the reserve. From Phalaborwa, take the R71 west, turning right after 45km, then right again after 9.5km.

More info on the quaint town of Tzaneen More on the Valley of the Olifants area