Things To Do in TzaneenSelf Drive Tzaneen to Haenertsburg
Where? Tzaneen to Haenertsburg, via Modjadjiskloof, the Woodbush Forest, Debengeni Falls and Houtbosdorp
When? Best during daylight hours.
How much? Free
Route: Tzaneen, Modjadji Nature Reserve, Modjadjieskloof, Koedoes Valley, Woodbush Forest
Description: journey through the Molototsi valley to Modjadji's sacred cycad forest, the capital of the Rain Queen, through Modjadjieskloof and on through the misty Woodbush Forest to the falls
Length: roughly 250 km, some of the drive is on gravel road
Time: a day, but easily two
Overnight: Modjadjiskloof, Houtbosdorp, Haenertsburg
Tzaneen to Modjadji Nature Reserve, roughly 40 km
Tzaneen is a busy mix of chain stores and petrol stations, and a few quiet suburbs. The surrounding farms produce the bulk of South Africa's avocados, mangoes and tomatoes in soil that is rich and fertile.
The name of the town comes from the Sotho word, tsana, meaning small, round basket, clearly referring to the surrounding circle of hills.
Take the R71 east out of Tzaneen towards Phalaborwa. Cross a bridge over the Great Letaba River (Tzaneen dam on your left) and just after this, take the second left to Deerpark (farm stall on your left).
Watch your kilometres as 5 km later you turn left for Modjadji. There are two roads off to the left at this stage. Make sure to take the first, as the second merely peters out a little later.
The drive takes you through eucalyptus plantations and 2.5 km later, at the t-junction, take a right. Up until now you have driven alongside the Great Letaba Dam through the hilly Modjadjiskloof, but now you move away from the water.
After 13 km take a right (note your kilometres) at Ga-Maraka (Kgapane, straight ahead of you, has a Pick n Pay, should you need a shop) onto the road that runs parallel to the Molototsi River (which you catch sight of every now and again on your left) through the valley, passing alongside the townships of Mokwasele and Moshakga, Motsinoni, Mokwasele and Modubung – a succession of anything from brick houses to wooden shacks; cafes and shops close to the road.
Roughly 10.5 km later (if you pass an Engen garage and start seeing signs of the Molototsi Dam to your left, then you have gone too far) there should be signs indicating the Modjadji Nature Reserve. Take a right, following a side-road up through the south-eastern side of the valley along a succession of hills.
This road - the steep 5 km pass from the Molototsi valley and on into the mountain of the Rain Queen, Modjadji - has recently been tarred, making access to the reserve easier. The Modjadji Nature Reserve is the home of the world's largest concentration of a single-species cycad, called the Modjadji palm. There is a cycad nursery, places to picnic and trails through the forest (if you are quiet enough you may spot bushpigs, monkeys, antelope and dassies).
Modjadji to Modjadjiskloof, roughly 40 km
Return along the way you came. At the t-junction (where you originally turned right away from the Great Letaba Dam) continue straight. Cross a bridge over the dam and then turn right at the crossroads onto the R36 in the direction of the little town that lies at the foot of the escarpment, Modjadjiskloof (once known as Duiwelskloof because the original settlers' wagon wheels consistently became stuck in the thick mud of the valley).
This leg of the trip is particularly beautiful. The Merensky Falls, the Hans Merensky Dam to your left, and the tree-lined R36 with views out over the accompanying hills and valleys, is wonderfully scenic. 9 km later is Modjadjiskloof. Overnight: Stay in Modjadjiskloof.
Modjadjiskloof to Houtbosdorp, 50 km
Continue on the R36 through town and remain on this route for about 15 km. Just before the R36 intersects with the R81 (Mooketsi to your right) take a left onto the gravel road to Houtbosdorp through the Koedoes River valley, passing Kranskop hill about 5 km into the route, and looking out for Vaalkrans as the slope rises above the forest.
Roughly 36 km after taking the gravel road from the R36, take a left for Magoebaskloof/Dap Naudé Dam.
Houtbosdorp is a hamlet (too little to earn the title of town) right on the edge of the Woodbush Forest Reserve. It gets its name (wood bush village) from the plantation and indigenous forests of the Woodbush Forest Reserve that backs it. This area of the Limpopo is known as the 'land of the silver mist' and includes the neighbouring Magoesbaskloof and Haenertsberg.
Roughly 14 km from the intersection with Houtbosdorp enter the Woodbush State Forest. The road heads through tall eucalypts and pines. Roughly 2.5 km later, take the fork for Debengeni Falls and the Forest Drive.
This is one of the most beautiful drives in the area. It heads through dense indigenous forest with incredible views every now and again over the escarpment. Follow signs to the falls.
Either overnight in Houtbosdorp or continue another 20 km to the beautiful town of Haenertsburg.
Woodbush Forest to Haenertsburg, 20 km
Today Haenertsburg is a bustling town filled with artists and crafty types who have opened shops and restaurants here. Still very much a part of the timber industry, it used to be the heart of the Woodbush Goldfields, initiated by the brothers Haenert, two prospectors who struck it lucky (Ellen's Fortune Reef and Haenerton Reef). A stay here is to unwind at the base of the Iron Crown Mountain, one's mornings misty, one's time slowed.