Beyond the dusty bushveld and koppies, and rising at the north eastern tip of the Drakensberg escarpment, Magoebaskloof is a treasure of verdant hills, valleys and a dense forest. Between Polokwane and Tzaneen in the Limpopo province, Magoesbaskloof is surprisingly close to Joburg and made for an ideal weekend getaway a few weeks ago.
Magoebaskloof was a welcome oasis that seemingly escaped the brunt of the drought. Lush forests covered the mountainous countryside and afforded a perfect opportunity for leisurely walks. We were staying at Kuhestan Organic Farm (see previous blog post), which is itself surrounded by forests. From there, we embarked on a walk through pine forests, the dry needles making a soft yet crunchy carpet underfoot. The path crossed a mountain stream, which although just a trickle in places, provided a soothing murmur. Ancient cycads stood as sentinels on the pathway. The pine forest gave way to eucalyptus plantations, and eventually pristine indigenous forests. It’s here that the world’s tallest planted trees stand firm, rising to over 80m.
The beauty of the Magoebaskloof is in its indigenous forests. It is the largest indigenous forest in the province and one of a few remaining ones that is not close to the coastline. Moss covered trunks, intertwined canopies, and a floor of ferns characterise the scene. But the highlight was the drive through the dense Woodbush State Forest. A very rough dirt road, following the twists and turns of the mountains, and almost completely shaded by indigenous forest giants, made for an amazing hour. The distance is not far, but the state of the road means the going is slow (but well worth it if you have a high clearance vehicle).
Closer to one of the ends of the Woodbush State Forest, another gem awaits. At the bottom of a valley, the Debengeni Falls cascade over a series of rocks, creating beautiful and scenic pools. It’s a favourite picnic spot with locals, so get there early if you want to enjoy it in peace. You need not drive along the rough road there – there’s a quicker access directly from the R71. It’s still a gravel road, but suitable to regular sedans.
Back on the R71, the Magoebaskloof has other interesting diversions. Farm stalls, cheese and berry farms can keep you occupied. Taking one of the back routes to Tzaneen, the popular Magoebaskloof Canopy Tours provide an option for the more active. And if you need to wind down again, stop at the Pekoe View tea plantation. The hillsides are covered in lush bushes of camellia sinensis, and at the top, with a commanding view of the surrounding landscape, the Pekoe View tea room serves up light meals with a view.
- Magoebaskloof is under 400km from Johannesburg. Take the N1 to Polokwane (300km), and then the R71 towards Tzaneen. The village of Haenertsberg marks the start of the sights of Magoebaskloof.
- Check out the maps on the Magoebaskloof Tourism website for details.
- You’ll need a high clearance vehicle to attempt the Woodbush State Forest road, which is a one way loop starting on the Houtbosdorp Road.
- Debengeni Falls can be accessed from a turn-off on the R71, and is clearly sign posted. It’s accessible to sedans. A small entrance fee is payable per person and per vehicle. There are picnic and braai spots available, but no shops.
- There are many accommodation options in the area. I stayed at Kuhestan Organic Farm (see previous blog post for more).
- There is a small supermarket and petrol station in Haenertsberg, or else the closest large towns are Polokwane and Tzaneen.