• Trip report - Vilanculos, Mapai, Pafuri

    It is always difficult to obtain good information on these complex off-road routes. So I have tried to put together a compact summary of this trip. In dry conditions this is NOT a difficult route and can be done in any 4x4 vehicle. I did the entire trip in my Disco 3 and never engaged low range or diff locks ever. We dropped tyre pressure to about 1.5 bar and that was fine even in the soft sand sections.

    From Vilanculos drive to the EN1 (21km). Turn left back to Mapinhane (32 km) and take the road (right), marked to Mabote, that is just as you enter the town. This is a good gravel road and we could travel at 60 70km/h. The trip from Mapinhane to Mabote (110km) took 1hr 40min and we saw just one car. The trip starts to get interesting after Mabote. There is a small red/white sign to Pafuri showing to take the right fork about 4km outside the village. The road is now just a sand track and speed drops to 20-30km , even lower in a few areas. It is a single lane track, with bush on either side so traffic can be a problem, however we saw 1 car on the whole trip (a 4x4 that had crossed the river the day before). There are two good landmarks - 2 steel bridges, the first is 24km from Mabote and the second 93km. Exercise great caution when crossing as the on and off ramps are VERY steep and if your clearance is poor you can (will) hit the bottom hard. The total distance from Mabote to Machaila is about 150km and this took us about 5 hours (average speed 30Km/h).

    From Machaila to Mapai there is another good gravel road, but there are about 30 concrete drifts to cross so be careful of these . The distance is about 110km and takes about 2hours. When you get to the railway line, cross it and turn immediate right, it is about 2km to the town of Mapai. In the middle of town (there is a very small sign to Pafuri), but the road down to the Limpopo is easy to find (or just ask), turn right and travel on a sand track about 18km to the river.

    The river crossing was a real non-event, as in September (26th) the water was very low. We opted to pay the 200Mtn(per vehicle) and cross over the locally built log and rock drift. I did a walk over before we crossed and the water was running at only about 250mm, so it was a very easy drive over.

    I suppose you can do your own crossing, but it does not look that easy to find an entry point, and why get stuck when for R50 you can cross with ease. It took us (including a few pee breaks and a nice lunch stop) 9 hours from Maphinhane to the river, and we left Vilanculos at 06:00 and crossed the Limpopo at 15:30. The task of finding the Mapai campsite in the Transfrontier Park, was the hardest part of the trip, as there is almost no signage. As you come out of the river, you fork left and head in a SW direction a bit, after a few (+2)kms you come to a small village with a brick build (shop) on the right, and there is a sign to Pafuri. If you turn left there is a notice board for the TFP, travel south for about 3km and you will get to a sort-of a T junction (on the sand road), take the right fork and head West for about 2 km (still a rubbish sand road), and you will enter into a Mapani forest and suddenly the gate (just a boom) and a notice board are there. The camp is about 500m further down the road on the right. It is rustic but nice, with just 2 hot showers (on a donkey) and 2 flush toilets. You will usually be the only person in the camp. (R50 per person). The boom gate was locked, but you can walk the 500m (walk straight on the road) to the camp and find someone (with luck), else just wait or hoot a bit.

    T-Junction to the Mapai Park Gate: S 22 53.031 E031 56.500
    TFP - Mapai Gate: S 22 53.615 E031 55.521

    The road (it is again just a single lane sand track) to Pafuri is the worst part of the trip, and you can see that when it is wet this section is VERY difficult to impossible. It is very slow going, lots of dry mud dongas. It is 95 km from the camp to the border post, but this takes 3 hours in the very dry conditions. The route is very pretty with some lovely fever tree forests.

    So the total distance from Vilanculos to Parfuri was 555km, and the total trip time over 2 days was 12 hours. I would never consider doing this trip in the rainy season, but August/Sept and early October should be fine. There is no game to be seen, not even in the TFP, and even the birds are few. It is however a very pretty ride with fantastic bush and trees, and very sparsely populated. There is little cell coverage, and from Mabote to Pafuri, none at all, so you are on your own. This is a very remote area, and well worth taking for its tranquillity.

    The route is on T4A, which we used and it was helpful, but it can be done without it if you stop and ask the locals at the key points like Mabote, and some of the villages.
    My fuel consumption in the Disco3 (Td2.7) heavily loaded with roof rack, 2 spares and 2 full jerries was about 13.5l/100km, the Fortuner with no roof rack did much better than that. So 100 120 litres of diesel is needed for the trip. Note that there is no fuel at the SA Pafuri gate, so we had to travel all the way to Louis Trichardt for fuel.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Trip report - Vilanculos, Mapai, Pafuri started by Pin View original post