South Africa boasts a number of memorable hiking trails, but only a few allow you the opportunity to make up the route along the way, wake to the sound of birds and be faced with leopard tracks outside your tent. The Kruger National Park's Mphongolo Trail is such a hike.

Did you know?

Experts believe rucksacks should not weigh more than a quarter of a hiker's body weight.

Some may call the four-day Mphongolo Trail in the Kruger National Park primitive, but others will relish the opportunity to get back to the basics of nature, carrying their own camping equipment and food, drinking river water and being completely free from the trappings of modern living.

This hiking trail begins and ends at Shingwedzi Camp in the northern region of the Kruger National Park and hikers will walk through the large wilderness area between the Shingwedzi and Mphongolo rivers.

With no set routes, roads or camp sites along the trail, you can decide which direction to take and where and when to set up for the night, with nothing to separate you from the local fauna but the sturdy material of your tent. Animals you may encounter on this hike include elephant, impala, buffalo, rhino, leopard, lion, cheetah, African wild dog and any number of birds.

The hike is led by two experienced and armed rangers who guide hikers through the terrain and remove all traces that the group had ever set up camp in the area. You, however, will be responsible for setting up and taking down your own tent, as well as cooking your food.

Roughing it is certainly the correct term to describe the Mphongolo Trail, but if you're not afraid to use a spade and dig a hole as your lavatory while surrounded by wild animals and spectacular scenery, this is definitely the hiking trail for you.

The Mphongolo Trail departs with a minimum of four hikers and a maximum of eight, though you can book on an individual basis.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

SANParks Reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111

How to get here

There are daily flights from Johannesburg to Phalaborwa and Hoedspruit Airports, as well as the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport from where you can hire a car and drive to the Kruger National Park. Shingwedzi Camp is about 71km from the gate, so allow for a minimum of three hours for the drive.

Best time to visit

The Mphongolo Trail departs every Wednesday and Sunday between February and November. The best game viewing is during winter.

Length of stay

The Mphongolo Trail is a 4-day hike, but spend some extra time exploring the northern Kruger National Park.

What to pack

Camping equipment, cooking utensils and stove, water purification tablets, sunscreen, hat, torch, hiking boots, toilet paper, sleeping bag, food and water. Insect repellant and malaria prophylaxis are essential.

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