Baleni is an environment where nature, economy and spiritualism have a rich integration. With an economy strongly dependent on traditional salt-mining, visiting Baleni allows the responsible traveller the opportunity to see how modern people integrate ancient traditions and techniques into their 21st century lives.
Baleni is situated near the banks of the Klein Letaba River, on land belonging to the Mahumani Traditional Authority. Staff from Baleni can take guests for a walk down to a geo-thermal hot spring – the only undeveloped hot spring in Southern Africa. Maintaining a water temperature of around 42 degrees, this spring is a sacred site for the local Tsonga community. Your guide will explain the spiritual significance of the spring, and educate you in the expected terminologies and behaviours for visitors. After washing away your bad luck in the spring, your walk can continues to the salt harvesting site.
During the winter months guests can watch local ladies harvesting salt from the crystals that are deposited from the geo-thermal spring. This is an ancient skill and of important economic value to the people of the area. (Salt-harvesting demonstrations can be arranged for a fee at any time of the year – please pre-book.) In addition, with prior arrangement, guests can do a trip into the local village to meet crafters and residents of the area.
The area around Baleni provides an outdoor playground for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers. Single-tracks created by cattle meander through the mopani scrub, allowing you an endless variety of loops. Bird watchers will be delighted with the variety of birdlife, especially along the Klein Letaba River. This is a ‘get outdoors’ venue where the whole family can keep active.
Baleni Cultural Camp has 5 stand-alone thatched rondavels, each with two ¾ beds and a bedside stand. Linen is provided as part of the tariff. Ablutions are en-suite, with flush toilets, shower and basin. A stand-alone communal bathroom is available for campers. Solar provides energy for lights & hot water, and USB and 12V (cigarette lighter-style) charging for phones etc.
The kitchen, dining and camp-fire facilities are communal, and give adventure travelers an ideal opportunity to get to meet and interact with other like-minded travelers. You will share a gas hob and camp fire for cooking, as well as fridge and freezer for storage of food. The necessary pots, crockery, cutlery are also supplied. There are charging points for solar and 12V camping fridges.
There is basic solar lighting, and lanterns are provided around the camp for light at night. If planning to braai or make a fire, don’t forget to bring firewood. While it is safe to drink, some people don’t like the taste of the local water, so you are advised to bring your own bottled drinking water. This is a low-risk malaria area. Precautions are advised.
The area around Baleni is fairly flat, so provides easy walking options. The best hiking is along the banks of the nearby Klein Letaba River and is relatively close to camp. These walks, especially during the winter salt-making season, will pass the local women harvesting salt.
A shorter walk from camp will get you to a hot spring, which stays at about 42 Degrees Celsius. This is a sacred site for the locals, and our guides will take you there and explain their traditions and rituals.
There is plenty of space and workable routes you can use if you’re into trail running. While there are no predefined routes, you to explore at your leisure.
Baleni is an untapped resource for mountain bikers. There are many winding cattle paths for single track lovers. While the guides will happily advise you on a route, the best idea, in our minds, is to head off and find your own trail. We’d also suggest you make sure to double slime your tyres or go tubeless if possible, as Baleni has masses of Buffalo Thorn.
For a more detailed view on the area and what it’s really like for mountain biking, have a look at Jacques Marais’ record on his Endomondo Sport Tracker here.
If you’re more into 4×4, then there are plenty of 4×4 trails, although the only really technical driving is in and around the river. Remember to deflate your tyres slightly before venturing into the sand.
Valid from 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017
Fully catered & 2 activities:
– R1430 per person, per night sharing
– Rack Rate: R620 per person, per night sharing
Inclusions & Exclusions:
Full-service Inclusions: Accommodation with linen, towels, all meals, 2 activities Full-service Exclusions: Gratuities Self-catering Inclusions: Accommodation, self-catering facilities with gas cooker, fridge, freezer, cooking utensils, crockery, cutlery; a solar lights in rooms and USB-solar charging facilities. Solar or 12V fridge re-charging facilities. Self-catering Exclusions: Meals, Activities, gratuities.
Linen: Linen, including towels, is currently available and included in the rates at the camp.
Please note: optional meals or activities must be pre-ordered & paid when booking accommodation. We do not carry any stock of alcohol, soft drinks or bottled water in the camps, and guests are advised to bring their own. Should this not be suitable, please advise us at the time of booking and we will quote for your specific requirements.
Single Supplement: 30%
Children under 12: 50% of the adult rate
Activity rates (must be pre-booked):
– Guided walk through the local geo-thermal attractions (hot spring, ‘magic mountain’ and along the banks of the Klein Letaba river): R155 per person
– Guided visit with the salt makers who will come in especially for your group to teach you the real process of extracting salt from the sand: R1100 for a group
Capacity: 10 beds / 5 units
Excluded: Wood for braais
Directions from Phalaborwa
Drive 16 km on the road to Gravelotte R71 and turn right on Road D3260 to Selwane (1). Drive 39 km and turn left at the four way stop towards Giyani (2) After 18 km turn right onto a gravel road just after the new Gandla Filling Station (3) Follow the road and drive through an entrance gate to the camp. Continue following the road to the first Ivory Route signpost, where you will turn left (4). Follow the signposting to the camp (5). The camp is 8 km from the main road.
Total distance from Phalaborwa is 81 km and approximate driving time is 1 hour. Be on the lookout for stray livestock along the road.
Drive 39 km on the road to Phalaborwa R71 and turn left on Road D3260 to Selwane (1). Drive 39 km and turn left at the four way stop towards Giyani (2) After 18 km turn right onto a gravel road just after the Ghandla Filling Station (3) Follow the road and drive through an entrance gate to the camp. Continue following the road to the first Ivory Route signpost, where you will turn left (4). Follow the signposting to the camp (5). The camp is 8 km from the main road.
Total distance from Gravelotte is 104 km and approximate driving time is 1,5 hours. Be on the lookout for stray livestock along the road.
Directions from Giyani
Leave Giyani on road to Tzaneen R81. 1.5 km after crossing the bridge over the Little Letaba river turn left (1) No signpost. Drive 30 km until you reach the village Shawela. Turn left onto a gravel road with a sign for Baleni Rest Camp (3) Follow the road and drive through an entrance gate to the camp. Continue following the road to the first Ivory Route signpost, where you will turn left (4). Follow the signposting to the camp (5). The camp is 8 km from the main road.
Total distance from Giyani is 38 km and approximate driving time is 30 minutes. Be on the lookout for stray livestock along the road.