A Self-drive route around the Waterberg

The scenery of the Waterberg is unbelievable

The scenery of the Waterberg is unbelievable

Departing from Bela-Bela

Start your expedition at Bela-Bela, southern gateway to the province, just off the N1. Bela-Bela is renowned and increasingly popular for its natural hot springs providing up to 22 000 liters of 53°C therapeutic water. During your visit, it would be worthwhile visiting the townships in search of the many talented self-taught artists, like Paul Moses. Paul can be contacted at 073 848 8179.

From Bela-Bela take the R516 which joins the R511 to Thabazimbi. The town lies close to the Crocodile River at 945 meters above sea-level, with extreme temperatures varying from 18°C to 40°C and an average rainfall of approximately 600mm. The biggest attraction is undoubtedly Marakele National Park, 15km from town, on the north east road to Vaalwater. This is the heart of the Waterberg Mountain Range. Apart from being home to the ‘Big 5’, Marakele has abundant bird life, including the endangered Cape Vulture.


Thabazimbi is also extremely popular amongst hunters who flock here from all over the world. Hunting plays an important role in the conservation of many African species and helps to control the game population, as well as supporting local economic development. Bow-hunting is another popular sport pursued in this region.

Leave Thabazimbi, following the R510 to Lephalale (formerly Ellisras). The roads in this area are in very good condition; but beware of the Warthog. Warthogs are widely distributed here and still occur naturally on farms.


Lephalale is a prime area for hunting. The town lies in the foothills of the Waterberg Range west of the Mokolo River. Antelope species such as Kudu, Bushbuck and Nyala occur abundantly here, but if hunting is not your game, you can venture off onto any of the many self-drive routes and be rewarded by astounding sightings of various wild-lives.

One of these self-drive routes is the Waterberg Route, from Vaalwater along the R33 to Lephalale, winding through the beautiful Waterberg Mountains, and detouring to the Mokolo Dam.

The Mokolo Route also traverses the Waterberg Region, along the Mokolo River from Vaalwater to Lephalale, and continues on to Monte Christo, a small town close to the Botswana border.

Another route, the Marula starts in Thabazimbi on the R510, via the small towns of Matlabas and Elmeston before detouring to Steenbok Pan and back to Lephalale. Matlabas, named after another tributary, lies just north of the Marakele National Park and is also supreme hunting area.

A Leopard taking a resti

The Waterberg is full of Wildlife

Leave Lephalale, take the R518 toward the small town of Marken, situated in the eastern part of the Waterberg Region, nearby the course of the Magalakwena River, and surrounded by many nature reserves. Visit a true African Bushmen Camp where you can be introduced to the simple daily lives of the Bushmen folk. During the day, the women collect fruit and berries whilst the men hunt for Duikers and Steenbok.

From Marken there are two ways to rejoin the N1 highway. You can either take the shorter R561 road north to Baltimore, which joins the N11 running south through Mokopane before converging with the N1. Or take the R518 south, a more scenic road with red sandstone cliffs, mountain passes and lush bushveld. This road passes a town called Tinmyne (Tin Mines).


From Mokopane it is not far from the Makapansgat Caves – another historical site. Mokopane is a rich agricultural area. The area is also rich in minerals, with platinum, diamonds and granite being mined.

The N1 from Mokopane south to Naboomspruit is only 52 kilometers; alternatively, the R101 runs virtually parallel to the N1 and offers exceptional scenery.


Naboomspruit/Mookgophong was established in 1910 after it was discovered, and named after the euphorbia trees (naboom) growing on the banks of the nearby stream (spruit). Mookgophong is also frequently visited by the hunters of the world.


The last town to visit is Modimolle, a further 40 kilometers south along the R101. Situated on the Mokgalakwena (‘fierce crocodile’) River, Modimolle is home to one of the largest crocodile farms in the country.

Situated between the small town of Phahameng and Mookgopong is the Nylsvlei Bird and Nature Reserve, the most expansive and best conserved flood plain in South Africa.

From Modimolle, it is a short and easy road home. Just follow the R101, to find your way back to Bela-Bela.

To complete this tour may take you 2 to 3 days of exploring the Waterberg, but not to worry: The Waterberg’s luxury accommodation ranges from camping to exquisite hotels, and offers restaurants for every taste!

Visit our restaurant and accommodation sections for more information

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Source: Showme.co.za/Waterberg

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