Overview – Waterberg Biosphere
Philip lives in South Africa and has authored many guidebooks to African destinations, including the Bradt and Insight guides to South Africa.
Philip lives in South Africa and has authored many Africa guidebooks, including the Bradt and Insight guides to South Africa.
Philip is the author of many Africa guidebooks, including the Bradt and Insight guides to South Africa.
Philip is the author of the Bradt and Insight guides to South Africa.
The Waterberg, a massif in the little-visited Limpopo province, is home to the ambitious UNESCO conservation project: the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. This is a partnership between different reserves and settlements in the area to create an ecosystem reconciling conservation with sustainability and human development. In short, a less pristine wilderness area that allows some sort of human presence. For tourists, the Biosphere encompasses the highly regarded Lapalapa wilderness area, Marakele National Park, the upmarket Welgevonden private game reserve, and many smaller reserves and safari lodges.
Pros & Cons
- Beautiful, rugged scenery
- Many bush camps, private reserves and parks to choose from
- Several outdoor activities offered, including horseback riding and mountain biking
- Waterberg Meander self-drive route available
- Excellent birding
- Some smaller reserves and ranches are lacking wilderness appeal
Waterberg Biosphere Safari Reviews
The Waterberg Reserve is home to different parks and reserves offering very different wildlife experiences. Marakele and Welgevonden are the largest reserves and offer Big Five safaris. Marakele is mostly a self-drive destination, and Welgevonden is a classical Big Five private game reserve. There is talk of removing the fences between these two reserves, which would be a step forward in conservation and preserving the ecosystem. Several other small game farms offer a less authentic wildlife experience. Some of them are home to the Big Five, but most of them have plains grazers only and offer outdoor activities such as horseback riding and mountain biking aside from game drives. All of the private reserves have been stocked with animals and, if not all of the Big Five, most have included white rhino. All of the small reserves have leopard on their checklist, but these are leopard that live in the greater wilderness area and aren't kept in or out with fences. They are seldom seen.
The Waterberg is a scenic mountain range with an average height of 600m and several peaks rising to 1400m. The extensive rock formation was shaped by hundreds of millions of years of riverine erosion. The area contains three broad habitat types: sour bushveld, wetlands and mountain slopes. It is known as the Waterberg Moist Mountain Bushveld Savanna.
Places to Stay
Marakele National Park can be visited on a day trip, but all of the other reserves are visited on overnight packages. Some are fully inclusive, and some are self-catering.
- Welgevonden Private Game Reserve
Classic safari, Big Five present, second largest private reserve in Waterberg, several independent lodges offering affordable, mid-range and upmarket options, most include all meals and wildlife viewing activities, and some also include beverages
- Lapalala Wilderness Area
Classic safari, Big Five present, one of the largest and most ruggedly scenic private reserves in South Africa, one small lodge offering a super-exclusive safari experience inclusive of meals and wildlife viewing activities
- Marataba Mountain and Safari Lodges
Classic safari, Big Five present, in a vast and exclusive northern extension of Marakele National Park, two upmarket lodges fully inclusive with meals and wildlife viewing activities
- Entabeni Safari Conservancy
Classic Safari, helicopter flights, Big Five present, upmarket, fully inclusive options with meals and wildlife viewing activities
- Ka'Ingo Private Game Reserve
Classic Safari, canoe on Makolo River, Big Five present
- Mabula Game Lodge
Classic safari with Big Five present, self-catering villas and lodge accommodation including game drives, restaurant on the premises
- Ants Nest & Ant's Hill Private Bush Homes
Horseback riding, rhino and endangered antelopes (sable and roan), no lion and elephant, upmarket safari packages including accommodation, all meals, drinks and wildlife-viewing activities
- Izintaba Game Farm
Game drives, but none of the Big Five, plains grazers only, mid-range self- catering accommodation, dinner, lunch and breakfast available at extra costs
- Shelanti Game Ranch
Classic safari, no lion, affordable accommodation including self-catering and fully catered options, activities are extra
- Jembisa Lodge
Game drives, plains grazers only, self-catering and upmarket fully inclusive options
- Lindani Game Farm
Affordable, self-catering houses to rent to groups and families. No dangerous game, wildlife-viewing activities extra
- Mokabi Lodge
Game drives, mountain biking, horse riding, plains grazers only, mid-range accommodation, game drives by arrangement, restaurants available just outside the reserve
- Kololo Game Lodge
Game drives, mountain biking, hiking, plains grazers only, mid-range accommodation includes dinner and breakfast, one game drive included
Weather & Climate
The weather and climate of the Waterberg Biosphere is comparable to that of South Africa in general. More info:
Best Time to Visit
The best wildlife viewing in the Waterberg is in the drier winter months from May to September. The vegetation thins out as it gets drier in winter and animals tend to congregate around water sources. To simply enjoy the bush atmosphere – including bush breakfasts, sundowner drinks and nighttime barbeques – the warmer summer months from October to April may be better.
The Waterberg is located about 250km/124mi north of Johannesburg. You can drive here with a rented car, but 4WD would be recommended for a self-drive safari in Marakele National Park. Most of the other parks will provide game drives, and you can drive up in a 2WD car. It is possible to organize a charter flight to Welgevonden Game Reserve.
Health & Safety
The Waterberg is a malaria-free area. Please read our vaccinations and malaria page for South Africa and our general wildlife viewing safety precautions page for more info:
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Waterberg Biosphere Safari Reviews
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Most Helpful Expert Review
Melissa is an award winning travel writer for Fodors, Frommers and Insight, including guides to Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Waterberg – weekend wilderness
Only 2-3 hours drive north of Johannesburg and Pretoria, the magic 14,500 sq km (5,600 sq mile), the Waterberg mountain range in Limpopo Province has become a hugely popular playground for city dwellers, but it is a secret that South Africa...
Latest User Review
Mountains and Rivers very Good, Bush veld , with quite a few Private Reserves , with the necessary facilities. Photography, Vulture, breeding colonies and Rehabilitation, Big 5 Rehabilitation and Breeding , Hot Air Ballooning