Set on the banks of the Letaba River, which originates at the confluence of the Groot and Klein Letaba Rivers further west and empties itself into the Olifants River near South Africa’s border with Mozambique, at the base of the Lebombo Mountains, Letaba Rest Camp is a lush, tranquil oasis where chalets are protected by giant fig, mahogany, apple leaf and sausage trees.
It gets its name from the Sesotho word for “river of sand” referring to the wide Letaba River that is shallow often exposing its sandy riverbed.
The camp itself is situated in an ecozone known as mopani shrubveld, which can generally be rather dry and often lacking in game, but due to its proximity to the permanent water source that is the Letaba River, the camp and its immediate environs is lush and rich in wildlife. Just a few hundred metres west though, and the mopani comes back into view.
Average summer temperatures range between 20-32 degrees Celsius but can get much higher and temperatures in the low to mid 40’s have been recorded. Winter averages are more pleasant between 9 and 26 degrees Celsius, with early mornings getting quite chilly.
The average annual rainfall in the vicinity of the camp is between 400-500mm/annum, most of this rain falling in the months from October to April.
Camp gates open:
Camp Gates close:
Due to it being one of the Kruger National Park’s main camps, the standard facilities are all present. There is an a la carte restaurant, ATM, well-stocked shop - where snacks, groceries and gifts can be purchased, a swimming pool, a day visitors area where gas can be rented for preparing picnics, a filling station for basic mechanical repairs, fuel and oil and last but certainly not least, their famous elephant hall.
This is a small but interesting museum dedicated to information on elephants, including information and tusk specimens of the Kruger’s famous Magnificent Seven.
Information on anatomy, biology, behaviour, and elephant ecology is also presented, as well as a life size statue of an elephant bull at the entrance to the museum. The museum itself is well worth a visit if you are staying at other, nearby camps like Olifants, Mopani or Balule.
The restaurant at Letaba is also worth a mention, as it is located on the banks of the Letaba river, giving its patrons a view over the sandy river bed and often, the animals that come to the river to drink.
Accommodation consists of en-suite chalets and guest houses, some with river views. Tented accommodation and campsites are also available with communal ablutions.
Some campsites have perimeter access meaning they are located on the perimeter fence where campers can have close encounters with wildlife that walk past.
Access to Letaba Rest camp is done via three main routes that lead to entrance/exit gates. The first and most used access point is the H1-5 that comes from the southern Kruger and camps like Satara, Pretoriuskop and Skukuza. The closest entrance/exit gate on this road will be Orpen Gate situated about 46 kilometres (2 hours drive) west of Satara Rest camp.
Western access is via the H-9 that leads to Phalaborwa gate and town. This is a tarred road, 47 kilometres long (2 hours drive). Phalaborwa is a large town in the region and has doctors, shopping malls, hotels, guesthouses and most essential services you may need.
Northern access is via the H1-6 coming from Mopani, Shingwedzi and, ultimately. Punda Maria camps, where you can enter/exit via the Punda Maria gate. Attempting this in one day would, however, not be advisable. It is approximately 198 kilometres of tarred road but would take about 6-8 hours from the gate to get to Letaba.
Our suggestion is to rather book an overnight stay at one of the en-route camps like Punda Maria, Shingwedzi or Mopani before driving to Letaba. Shingwedzi is situated between Punda Maria and Mopani and would make for a convenient and well-planned stop.
Game drives, night drives, bush walks, bird hides, an elephant museum and camp trails are all available from Letaba, many of them accessible to self-drive guests to do at their own leisure and pace.
The most popular game drive routes include, firstly, the S44/S46 dirt road that runs all along the Letaba and eventually the Olifants rivers and ends up at Olifants camp. You’re driving most of the time along riverine bush in what is, essentially, a dry region of the park, and therefore have the potential to see amazing game on your drive.
Our suggestion is to do this drive departing Letaba camp in the early morning, arriving at Olifants camp for an early lunch and returning to Letaba via the main, tarred H1-5, arriving in the early/late afternoon. Nice views of baobab trees are also possible for the afternoon journey back to Letaba.
And secondly the S62, to the east of Letaba rest camp is also a popular game drive route, also meandering along the banks of the Letaba river. Lots of elephants and hippo are seen along this route and you can also stop at the Matambeni Bird Hide. It’s not as lengthy as the previous route and can be completed, comfortably, in an afternoon.
Bush walks can and should be booked prior to your arrival at Letaba, and usually consist of guided 3-hour walks in the bush with trained, armed guides that focus on the smaller, often overlooked aspects of Kruger Park, such as birds, animal tracks, sounds and trees. If you’re lucky though, sightings of animals are possible and even predators like lions have been seen on walks.
In Letaba camp, there is a short, but beautiful trail that runs all along the camp’s border to the river. It will take about 30 minutes to complete and often allows sightings of elephant and bushbuck close to the perimeter fence. Sightings of leopards have also been seen at night on this trail.
Due to its location on the river in what is a dry area of the Kruger, congregations of animals are common and drives in this region can produce fantastic sightings.
Lions, leopards, hyenas, elephants, hippo, giraffes, zebra, buffalo and many common (and a few uncommon antelope species) can be observed around Letaba, with an especially high concentration of leopards in the area. The only member of the Big 5 that you may struggle to find in this area is rhino. They have been spotted here, of course, but are not as common as in the south of Kruger.
Birds are also prolific and of special note are yellow billed oxpeckers, rarely seen in southern Kruger. Look out for them on the backs of buffalo as they wander in large herds through the bush. Ground hornbills can also sometimes be seen in the region.
Remember your torches for walking around the camp at night. Noise is also not tolerated especially at night, and make sure your fire is extinguished before retiring to bed for the night. Vervet monkeys and baboons may be present during the day, so please ensure when you’re not around, that your food is locked away. Please remember, feeding of animals is highly frowned upon and not permitted.
To book Letaba or any SANParks properties in the Kruger or throughout South Africa, feel free to use our online booking from below, or contact Monya at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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