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TThe R518 from Mokopane (formerly Potgietersrus) to Marken in Limpopo province is a scenic road route that takes you through the heart of the Waterberg Mountains. It’s part of the Waterberg Meander, a journey through idyllic scenery that weaves through community projects, natural attractions and places of historic and cultural interest. You also get to see the amazing Waterberg Red Beds.
One of the highlights of the R518 from Mokopane to Marken, the Waterberg Red Beds are so called because of the distinctive rusty colour in the banded layers of sandstone that form these impressive mountains. This red is a result of iron particles trapped in the sandstone that began rusting some 1.9-billion years ago.
From the town of Mokopane, a small agricultural centre, the R518 heads towards the western Waterberg range and climbs from the low bushveld to dramatic mountain heights. The views are amazing, and the Waterberg Red Beds are a photographer’s delight.
The R518 continues to the small town of Marken, taking you through gorgeous bushveld scenery. This is the wild heart of the Waterberg, part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, a 400 000-hectare protected wilderness. The San people, who left their legacy behind in spectacular rock art, are the earliest known inhabitants of the area.
The Waterberg region has become one of Limpopo's most popular eco-tourism attractions, offering rugged mountains, rolling bush and plenty of wildlife, with the added bonus of being malaria free.
The Waterberg also offers a variety of wildlife and safari experiences, varying from Big 5 reserves and upmarket game lodges to remote wilderness hideaways and self-catering bush camps.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel.: +27 (0)14 718 3381
How to get here
Take the N1 North from Johannesburg or Pretoria to Mokopane, where you can turn onto the R518/N11.
Best time to visit
For the best game viewing, you should visit in the dry season, from July to September; this is also the coolest and most comfortable time of year.
Self-drive is the best way to get around the region.
Around the area
Be sure to wander along the Waterberg Meander, visiting the attractions on offer – apart from a plethora of nature and game reserves, there are adventures with elephants, golf courses and country clubs, family safaris and high-adrenaline options like zip slides on offer.
Tours to do
Take a guided tour of Melora Hill, an Iron Age site that has yielded interesting artefacts related to its early human occupation. You can also take a guided tour of the Makapan Valley World Heritage Site, the sister site to Sterkfontein at the Cradle of Humankind. Makapan Valley dates back some 3.5-million years, to when our hominid ancestors roamed these plains.
Length of stay
The road trip itself, from Makopane to Marken, will only take an hour or so. But set aside at least three days to explore the delights of the Waterberg region – more if possible, because there is a lot to see and do.
What to pack
Sturdy walking shoes or boots, a hat, sunscreen, camera and binoculars.
Where to stay
Take your pick from a variety of options in the Waterberg, ranging from exclusive wilderness lodges to self-catering hideaways.
What to eat
Head for a lunch stop at the Black Mamba, a bistro combined with an arts & crafts shop, in nearby Vaalwater. The Black Mamba serves light and tasty meals, and you can sit outside under the trees.
For the best curios and crafts, head for the Black Mamba in Vaalwater, which sells an interesting selection from across the continent.