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Zwakala campsite

Zwakala River Retreat


Richard van Ryneveld has a couple of all-time-favorite campsites in our beautiful country. The Zwakala River Retreat in the Magoebeskloof Mountains is one of these.


Stands: 1 (up to 16 people, private)

Electricity: No

Water: Yes

Ablutions: Yes (private)

Laundry facilities: No

Braai: Yes

Activities: Swimming, fishing, MTB, hiking, craft centre

Facilities: Mina”s Art Café & Farm Venue, covered kitchen area, fireplace, indigenous medicinal plant nursery

The campsite is on the banks of the often mist-shrouded Broederstroom River, which runs into the nearby Letaba River.

Zwakala is only 8 kilometers from Haenertsberg and a mere 36 kilometers from Tzaneen. The Kruger Park is also relatively close.

The magic of Zwakala – which means “come closer” – starts when you turn of the Magoebeskloof R71 on the signboarded Cheerio Road. It’s a lovely drive through forests both cultivated and indigenous on the way to the resort owned by the Tooley family, Rob and Denise and their three grownup children.

Zwakala is truly a family affair… a farm with horses, and dogs galore. Rob and Denise’s middle son, Luca, owns the state of the art brewery on site.

On my visit I was met at the gate by a couple of horses, and literally a couple of hundred yards down the road on my left was Luca Tooley’s Zwakala Brewery. Another hundred yards or so was Mina’s Art Café and Farm venue.

On the 1st Sunday of the months of March, June, and September, Mina’s is a venue for a huge Neighbourhood  Market. It’s a ‘slow food’ market, selective with nearly all the products locally sourced. With up to 18 stall holders selling everything from organic cheese to sushi, this festival of local food and products attracts over a thousand people at a time.

This is the magic of staying at Zwakala. Just on the short drive along the Cheerio road to Zakala you will pass the Wraakbosch farm that produces the organic cheese of the same name. It’s really is top class.

There must be some magic elixir in these mist-shrouded mountains that causes Magoebeskloof folk to organize festivals. Don’t miss the yearly Spring Festival, the Berry Festival and lastly the Haenertburg Food Wine and Beer Festival. The 2018 festival is scheduled to take place on 28th and 29th April 2018. Don’t miss it.

Further along you will find the world famous Cheerio Gardens. Established way back in 1946 by Sheila Thompson. Known to the locals as Box, this indomitable lady established these rambling gardens filled with azaleas and Cherie trees. In the autumn the gardens attract nature lovers from all over the world.

This whole area, known to locals as ‘The Mountain’ or ‘The Land of the Silver Mists’, has attractions that would keep you occupied for weeks.

I love the small town of Haenertsburg, dwarfed by the heights of the Wolkberg. You could easily imagine some dusty old character on his horse riding along Rissik Street to the gold assayer housed in one of the corrugated iron buildings still gracing its streets. The small museum at the top of Rissik street is well worth a visit.

Close by is one of my favorite shops, a second hand bookshop with a good collection of Africana.

A visit to Magoebeskloof wouldn’t be complete without taking the scenic winding R71 to Tzaneen. I returned from Tzaneen via the alternate R528 or George’s Valley road. This route is scenic taking in the Ebenezer Dam and for you adrenaline junkies the Magoebeskloof Canopy Tours. I rather stuck to trying to catch trout in the river running right next to my off-road camper back at Zakala.

I also took a drive to Tzaneen heading out on the R36 to Modjadjiskloof, home of the Rain Queen and her sacred cycad forest. There is a circular route for heading back, turning off  left near Moketsi and taking a drive through the beautiful Koedoes Valley and Houtbosdorp.

But back to that magic campsite on the banks of the Broederstroom River.

There’s plenty of shade down next to the lichen-laden trees lining the river bank. The campsite is in close proximity to tumbling rapids and several little waterfalls.

Zwakala can hold a maximum of 16 people, but it’s a private campsite, so it will be all yours no matter how small your group is.

The fireplace in the covered kitchen area makes up for the lack of electricity, and is a welcome gathering point during Limpopo’s infamous, icy, silver-misted evenings.

An outdoor hotwater shower and a flush loo with a view make up the ablution facilities.

The accompanying river is a fisherman’s dream (including excellent trout fishing), and several MTB trails have been marked out in the green surrounds.

By Richard van Ryneveld

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