Lapolosa Wilderness is a bushveld haven, offering a series of trails and hiking experiences in the mountains of Sekhukuneland. Our bush hikes are about engagement with the wild beauty of Africa. You’ll be immersed in nature. Expect to be inspired, rejuvenated and at peace while exploring gorgeous landscapes on foot.
The word wilderness derives from the notion of "wildness" — in other words, that which is not controllable by humans. Wilderness areas are the most intact, undisturbed, wild, natural areas left on our planet — those last truly wild places that have not been developed or significantly modified by human activity.
Wilderness areas are important for biodiversity, species survival, ecological studies, conservation, solitude, and recreation. Wilderness is deeply valued for cultural, spiritual, moral and aesthetic reasons. We at Lapolosa believe wilderness areas are also vital for the human spirit and creativity.
Simply, being a wilderness area is the primary goal of Lapolosa. When the land is protected, then the wildlife, the flora, the entire ecosystem flow naturally from there.
Bush hiking offers the best way to get out into the wild and experience nature at its very best. To that end, we’ve established a trail system that traverses the Lapolosa Wilderness lands (and beyond), and we strive to foster experiences that support personal reconnection with nature.
1. Walking in the bush gives you the opportunity to experience Africa from the ground, in the safe hands of your guide. You feel the bush rather than simply observe it. You’re in the animals’ domain, experiencing the world on their terms. It’s exciting!
2. The small details that are overlooked on game drives become more apparent from the slower pace and lower angle of being on foot. The amazing engineering skills and cooperative work involved in the creation of a termite mound, for instance. Bird calls, tracks, insects, plants, geology; everything takes on more significance and you gain a much deeper understanding of your environment.
3. Bush walks enhance your awareness and knowledge of what is going on around you as you are engaging all five senses on a heightened level. The tempting smell of wild sage, the velvety feel of an acacia seed pod, the fibrous taste of mother-in-law’s tongue root, the wind-like sounds of an enormous flocks of quelea, the thrilling sight of spotting big game at eye level – it’s exhilarating.
4. Bush walks take you to places inaccessible to vehicles, enabling you to experience and interact with your surroundings in a more rounded way. Whether it’s appreciating a particularly fabulous panorama, studying a gorgeous acacia tree up close or spending time in an ancient cave dwelling studying ancient rock art, all these experiences are only possible on foot.
5. Your knowledge of the bush will also be boosted by the plethora of fascinating facts that can be imparted on a bush walk – the medicinal use of plants, bush survival skills, tracking, geology, local folklore and historical info, to mention but a few. Bush walks can be tailored to your special interests. Tell your guide if you’re a keen gardener, amateur photographer or wannabe Bear Grylls!
6. Bush walks can also be lots of fun – playing detective to try and work out which creature might have made the tracks in the sand. One can also try guess the types of animal dung and if you’re really brave engaging in the local sport of impala dung spitting! A good guide brings all this to life and it’s really satisfying to see what you can work out for yourself.
7. Spending some time walking instead of driving is also, of course, more eco-friendly and reduces your impact on the local environment as well as your carbon footprint.
8. Bush walks are a great way to burn off a few extra calories and make room for an extra rusks with your afternoon tea.
9. These are gentle, informative hikes, not forced marches. You don’t have to be an ultra-marathoner, as guides can tailor the pace, distance or route to suit the group or individual.
10. Last but not least, bush walks are good for the soul! Reconnecting with the wild has been proven to be essential for human wellbeing. So what are you waiting for?
Every day the group will set out on a new bush hiking adventure. You’ll be walking for the better part of the day through varying terrain, so a good level of fitness is helpful to be enjoyable.
These are considered luxury trails, in the sense that most days will return you back to the main camp for rest and relaxation – alluring for those who like hot showers and dislike heavy backpacks. However, we do plan a 2-day, overnight hike every week as camping wild in remote places is a privilege and incredibly fulfilling experience.
Many of our bush trails are adorned with a sublime array of gorgeous waterfalls and rock pools, offering hikers welcome respite from the sun. The sweeping views from atop the mountains of Sekhukuneland are incredible.
We also have trails to bushman paintings. The longer mountain range that Lapolosa overlaps (Drakensberg) boasts the greatest concentration of San Bushman rock art in South Africa, much of it in remote, supremely beautiful surroundings such as Lapolosa!
*Itinerary suggestion: 1-2 weeks at Lapolosa followed by 1-2 weeks at Siyafunda is fantastic for mixing spectacular bush hiking trails with a Big 5 safari experience*
One day a week, the group will participant in activities that support reserve management at Lapolosa Wilderness, such as anti-poaching, bush encroachment, construction/maintenance, community and more. The work can be unglamorous at times, but the camaraderie, team spirit and beautiful surroundings make it a rewarding experience.
We can also organize a 2 day, 1 night camping safari to Kruger National Park for an additional $295 USD per person (minimum of 4 participants needed to run).
The beauty of Lapolosa is underpinned by the meeting of two eco-zones: the Highveld and the Lowveld. The topography ranges from wetland to savannah and from forested gorges to dry rocky outcrops. This gives rise to a biodiversity of flora that will have the botanist in you avidly looking out for Combretum, Acacia, Weeping Wattle and Cabbage trees. We have limited areas of Fynbos, with Protea bushes brightening up the veld, and the sweetveld and sourveld are home to many beautiful grasses and wild flowers.
Lapolosa is a birdlover’s paradise. Over 300 species of have been identified on Lapolosa so far and many migratory birds are also attracted to the forests, wetlands and bushveld. Bring your binoculars and a good birding book and you’ll be able to spot 8 species of Kingfisher, 5 species of Woodpecker, and the amazing weaver birds with their elaborate nests. Raptors such as the African Fish Eagle are regularly seen hunting over the Buffelskloof Dam and any carcasses quickly attract the White Backed Vultures.
On your hikes, you’re likely to run into a wide variety of plains game such as giraffe, zebra, kudu, waterbuck, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, duiker, bushbuck, mountain reedbuck, steenbok, klipspringer and impala. Other oft-seen wildlife include baboon, warthog, bush pig, ostrich, serval, genet, caracal, civet, honey badger, African wildcat, mongoose, porcupine, pangolin, aardwolf, aardvark, otter and more. If you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll see an elusive leopard or brown hyena. You’ll certainly get up close and personal with the vervet monkeys at camp. And of course, a night is never complete without the howls of the resident jackals.
Lapolosa is not a Big 5 reserve, therefore the bush hiking trails can be enjoyed without fear of dangerous game.
Steeped in history and beauty, Lapolosa is a spectacular 20,000 acre preserve located on a magnificent escarpment of rolling mountains and plains in South Africa. It is home to a myriad of indigenous wildlife, birdlife and flora, and the atmosphere provides an antidote to the stresses of everyday living. Coming away from Lapolosa, one is left with a feeling of true intimacy with Africa.
Lapolosa Wilderness was formed in 2001 to protect and preserve Africa's wildlife and habitat. Lapolosa (derived from the Sepedi word meaning “place of rest") was established as a conservancy, by joining together large South African farms with the aim of restoring the environment back to its natural state and establishing a larger preserve for the benefit of African wildlife.
The area Lapolosa encompasses was hunted clean in the late 1800s to feed the inrush of miners when gold was discovered. South Africa has the highest gold producing ore-reserves in the world, and the first discovery occurred in the Lydenburg area. Later Lapolosa was home to as many as 11 cattle ranches.
Lapolosa is a unique conservation initiative to restore the land to its original state as wilderness. Lapolosa is re-introducing indigenous wildlife onto the land they once naturally roamed, ultimately re-establishing all of the original flora and fauna to the area. Lapolosa will also continue to acquire habitat to expand the wilderness as funds allow.
The main camp is completely eco-friendly and "off the grid." We strive to maintain harmony with nature by using solar power and fire-driven water heaters. Drinking water flows from one of Lapolosa’s many natural springs and there is no permanent electricity, although limited solar power will be provided for charging cell phones, camera batteries, laptops, etc. A good flashlight / headlamp is strongly recommended.
Volunteers may bring personal laptops for internet (usage cost per megabyte for 3G datacard). Cell signal is also available. Laundry can be done by hand.
Participants may bring personal laptops for internet (usage cost per megabyte for 3G datacard). Cell signal is also available. Laundry can be done by hand.
Accommodation is simple and rustic. Participants sleep in comfortable dorm style rooms, with shared bathrooms. Pillows and fitted sheets will be provided, however volunteers must bring their own sleeping bag. Lapolosa will suit people who enjoy natural places, simplicity and practical work.
Couples, friends or families volunteering together who wish private accommodation may reserve a lovely private chalet with amazing valley views and outdoor "safari" shower for an additional $95 USD per person per week (or 1.5x single supplement).
Our guides are responsible for each participant during their time at Lapolosa, from arrival until departure. They are your point of contact to act as guide and mentor, and generally look after your well-being.
The weekly cost is GB£395 / US$495, including meals, accommodation, bush hikes, transfers to/from Lydenburg on Mondays and reserve donation.
For an additional US$295, volunteers can enjoy a fantastic 2-day, 1-night camping safari to Kruger National Park during the Lapolosa experience. This safari includes everything (guide, transport, camping fees, daily conservation fees, etc) except meals in the Park. A minimum of 4 participants is necessary.
Volunteers get discounted rates when joining 2 or more Enkosini programs!
Enkosini uses USD rates as standard due to currency fluctuations. GBP rates are indications of approx recent values. Currency convertor at www.xe.com.
Flights and travel/medical insurance are NOT included. The only additional spending money required will be for personal purchases, excursions away from Lapolosa, and pre/post project travel. We do not have discounted rates for partial weeks.
Lapolosa dates are flexible, though we prefer to start the one-week program on Mondays with the Kruger safari over the weekend.
Volunteers take the Bushveld Link Shuttle, departing from the Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport to the town of Lydenburg (www.bushveldlink.co.za). The Lapolosa team will collect participants from Lydenburg on the start date.
Lapolosa is based in a malaria-free area. There are no required vaccinations for joining the program or entering South Africa, however it is incumbent upon each person to get their own medical advice (it is possible that volunteers may enter malarial zones during the safari to Kruger National Park). See FAQs for complete packing list.
No previous experience is required, however everyone should have a love of nature, positive attitude, good level of fitness, sensitivity and respect for other cultures, willingness to help and learn, and strong sense of humor. Lapolosa is run in a spirit of co-operation, and all are expected to give their best. Each day brings its own magical moments, trials and tribulations - all adding to the adventure and spirit of living and working in Africa.
We can modify routes for people of different fitness levels. If you are looking for a trails system that is more or less difficult, or more or less camping, let us know your ideal scenario and we will do our best to accommodate.
Families and groups are welcome!
“I had a really wonderful time at Lapolosa... your animals and your mountains and your crisp, fresh air and your shuddering sea of tawny-colored bushgrass and that lovely spectrum of colors which paint the land in every direction you look... when I cry or joke about staying forever, it's not because home is so bad but because Lapolosa is that good. It is magical and addictive and worth fighting for.”-Kathleen Graham, USA
“It is difficult to know where to start when talking about my visit to Lapolosa. It was one of the most amazing things that I have ever experienced. ....Lapolosa itself is my idea of heaven. To someone born and brought up in the centre of London, the quiet, the darkness and the beauty is almost impossible to describe to someone who has not experienced it.... I am so grateful for the day that I was in the AfriCam chatroom and someone mentioned the existence of Lapolosa.” -Sheila Knight, England
“A huge thank you for welcoming me into your home and giving me the most amazing opportunity and experience... I have never felt as happy, comfortable and complete as I did at Lapolosa. In the best way I don't think my life will be the same. Lapolosa has made me realize things about life and the direction I would like my life to go in... I think you guys are doing a wonderful thing, and I am proud that I was a able to contribute something to it.”-Rebecca Dicks, England
“Just wanted to let you know that we arrived home safely. We had such a wonderful time in South Africa and the highlight of our trip was spending time at your sanctuary… you are the ambassadors for those that will follow in your footsteps. Knowing now what your “big picture” plan is, I think that Lapolosa is going to be the most beautiful, tranquil sanctuary for wildlife in all of Africa!” -Jeff & Trina Gawron, Vancouver B.C., Canada
“I don’t know where to begin in thanking you for all of your hospitality while I was in South Africa. Visiting Kruger, the Baboon Sanctuary and the Elephant Sanctuary were highlights of my life… More importantly, you have introduced me to the serious threats that South Africa’s wildlife faces and I plan on doing as much as I can in the future to promote programs such as yours. I truly admire the life that you have chosen and know that wildlife is in good hands if it has you to look over it… I am looking very forward to my next visit and thank you again!” -Kelly Loyd, USA
“I'm now back from South Africa and I wanted to say THANK YOU. I had the best time ever, you're doing a great job. I'm seriously thinking of coming back for a longer period of time, four to six months!” -Sophia LeRoy, France
“A week has passed since me and my father returned home from South Africa. Our visit to Lapolosa was certainly a highlight to our trip, as my father and I have spent more than a few nights telling family and friends about our experience. The relaxed atmosphere you provided was appreciated…. getting to know local people in an informal environment was a highlight for both me and my father.” -Richard & Charles Pace, USA
“Just wanted to write and say thanks for the amazing experience I had with you at Lapolosa! Everybody here is so jealous of what I did and fascinated by what you're doing.” -Charlie Sabey, Channel Islands
“Hi everyone! I am home safely and yet I feel sick for Africa and I can’t wait to jump on a plane and come back! Thank you so much for your hospitality and friendship while I was there. I really did feel at home with you. I am really looking forward to raising money for the local school…” -Sarah Stares, Australia