Taking the Road Less Travelled

Back Road 4x4 Trips

Beach Driving in Mozambique

Kgalagadi’s Wilderness Camps

What’s so special about this Route?

If true remote wilderness is what you’re looking for, Kgalagadi has it in heaps. You’ll hear many tales of lion, cheetah and leopard encounters and if you stay long enough, you’ll be the one telling the tales.

Does your 4X4 need a greater challenge? The sooner you realise that your ‘big city car’ is made for back roads the sooner you will free yourself to embark on some of your greatest journeys yet.

Our Experience

The best move on the trip was booking into one camp for two nights. The animals roam across such vast distances, you’re not always guaranteed sightings: one night we didn’t see or hear a peep, the next we were one-on-one with a leopard.


The night sky is brittle and beautiful, the tightly arranged stars of the Milky Way glittering like marcasite. We eavesdrop on a pair of jackals calling back and forth to each other.  And in the depths of the night, we’re treated to a resounding orchestra of ‘whoo-oop, whoop, whoop’ from spotted hyenas, followed by a chorus of yowling, whinnying jackals.

Our Advice to You

Three wilderness camps – Urikaruus, Kieliekrankie and Gharagab – were tied for absolute favourite camp in Kgalagadi. Tastes differ though, so choose one or more – you can’t go wrong! And treat yourself to an extra day at your chosen camp.

Trip Summary

Features: Wilderness camps with flush toilets, hot showers and oodles of class. Plus, dune driving and exhilarating big cat sightings.

Road Conditions: Heavy corrugations, stony, very sandy, with high grass and steep sand ascents and descents.

How to Get there

·         From Johannesburg: N1/N14 to Upington

·         From Durban: N3/N5 to Winburg, N1 to Bloemfontein, N8 to Kimberley, R64 to Groblershoop, N10 to Upington

·         From Cape Town: N7/N14 to Upington

Mac Mac Summit

What’s so special about this Route?

Gain access to private land normally out of bounds to the public. Enjoy awesome mountain vistas, lush tropical scenery, tree ferns, thickly wooded hills, mist, waterfalls and spray. Plus, see the third-largest canyon in the world, with depths of up to 750 metres.

Our Experience

Once we were in enchanting Motlatse River Canyon country, it would have been crazy to ignore the beautiful sights of the escarpment. Thousands of tourists can’t be wrong. So, in spite of the tar (not a loose stone or corrugation to rattle our wheels), we stayed both at the top and at the foot of the canyon, allowing for very different perspectives.

Our Advice to You

Do the 4x4 trail then take time out to explore the Panorama Route. Heat, haze, fires, mist or rain all play a part in visibility, so be flexible and play it according to what the weather gods serve up.

Trip Summary

Features: A 4x4 trail through private plantations and over mountaintops; plunging canyons and waterfalls.

Road Conditions: The 4X4 trail is muddy, rutted and stony with embedded rock and wash-aways.

How to Get There

·         From Johannesburg: N12 to Middelburg, N4  to Mbombela

·         From Durban: N3 to Ladysmith, N11 to Middelburg, N4 to Mbombela

·         From Cape Town: N1 to Johannesburg, N12 to Middelburg, N4 to Mbombela

Southern-Central Mozambique

What’s so special about this Route?

Vistas of the sea and the coastline is relatively unspoilt with shimmering, powder-fine sands, coconut palms, milkwoods and mangroves. Experience 4x4 sand driving. Test your 4x4’s resilience to potholes and endlessly bad roads.

Our Experience

The distances we travelled were so vast that it was nirvana to sink our feet into soft sand, stare across the water and make like sloths for a couple of days. In spite of the bad-luck stories, endless rumours of bribery and reports of extreme poverty, we were pleasantly surprised. The trick is to set off with no expectations. Mozambique stole our hearts.

Our Advice to You

Try beach lodges along different parts of the coast – the ambience does differ – then dig in for a while. You might never leave, like the drifters from all around the world, who hung out a bit longer than intended and are now running the beach complexes. They simply never said goodbye.

If, like us, you prefer fewer people, less traffic and less of a resort-style buzz, then travelling out of season (and definitely not during school holidays) is tops.

Smaller border posts are definitely the most hassle-free. Do make sure all your vehicle and border entry papers are kept together and are easily accessible. We were stopped a couple of times at police roadblocks – and were treated only with courtesy.

Even in winter, there are mosquitoes. So take your prophylactics.

You need patience in this land. Breathe deeply and relax. Nothing happens fast and sometimes even a firm booking is not a real booking.

Trip Summary

Features: Soft-sand driving, beating the tide for beach drives.

Road Conditions: Badly potholed tar, loose stone gravel, corrugations, speed humps and lots and lots of sand (beach driving only with a permit).

How to Get There

·         From Johannesburg: N1 to Polokwane, R71 to Phalaborwa (Kruger border)

·         From Durban: N3 to Ladysmith, N11 to Mokopane, N1 to Polokwane, R71 to Phalaborwa

·         From Cape Town: N1 to Polokwane, R71 to Phalaborwa

Tankwa & Karoo National Parks

What’s so special about this Route?

Here, you’ll feel like a Voortrekker only if you stay in a corbelled house. Get under South Africa’s skin via back roads with a slew of gently challenging scenic 4x4 trails. It’s rocky, mountainous and mightily marvellous!

Our Experience

We discovered a gem right on our doorstep: Karoo National Park (why has it taken us so long?!) – a beautiful, craggy-cliffed, wildly inspiring landscape. But, once again, we did not allow enough hours in the day to stop and smell (and photograph) the daisies. An uncalled-for puncture reminded us always to allow for the unexpected.


Our 4x4s took us from open air vistas to the edge of the skyline and then into a set of mountain ridges. We summitted at 1200 metres, staring into a valley of pinks, purples and blues being swallowed up by the hazy horizon.

Our Advice to You

Our philosophy generally is that it’s all about the journey; so always make sure to build some extra hours into your planned route for the day. We constantly gobbled up hours by taking photographs and surveying our planet.

Trip Summary

Features: Karoo contrasts – flat plains and spring flowers versus towering mountain cliffs and offroad trail-driving.

Road Conditions: Embedded rock, loose stones, sand stretches, steep ascents/descents, and dry river crossings.

How to Get There

·         From Johannesburg: N1 or N12 to Beaufort West, N12 to Oudtshoorn

·         From Durban: N2 to George, N12 to Oudtshoorn

·         From Cape Town: N2 to George, N12 to Oudtshoorn

NOW PLAN YOUR BACK ROAD 4X4 TRIP: www.backroadtours.co.za

Meet Mariëlle Renssen (Author of More Back Road 4x4 Trips):

This is your second book on 4x4 trips – what inspired you to write another one? 

Once we’d started to explore SA’s back roads, we realised we had only scratched the surface. There is so much natural beauty in our country, as well as beyond our borders. We’re often quite unaware of the extent of it and we simply don’t do it enough justice.

What are the best and worst parts about travelling back roads? 

The best part is avoiding traffic and getting away from the crowds. They are also often the most scenic routes; you can stop as often as you want, particularly if you’re into photography; enjoy clean country air; and explore big skies and open vistas.

The worst is if anything does go wrong you can be quite isolated. However, people in more remote parts are friendly and much more inclined to help you.

What personal qualities does one need in order to enjoy a road trip of this nature?

Enormous patience, adaptability, careful and meticulous planning and a calm, polite, patient approach is a winning formula.

Your best piece of advice to those thinking about a 4x4 adventure trip? 

Plan, plan, plan. But also, the journey is as important, if not more, than the destination!

What are the top three most essential items onboard? 

1.       1. A puncture repair kit and compressor

2.       2. A tow strap

3.       3. GPS with Tracks4Africa (it’s the best offroad mapping software.

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