Bokpoort (D190)

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Scenery at Bokpoort Scenery at Bokpoort - Photo: Mike Leicester

Bokpoort is a tar road pass that follows a natural poort through the mountains from the lowlands of Limpopo up onto the plateau. It is one of the five original passages into the Limpopo interior used by early explorers and settlers. From the south, the roads leading to the pass are tarred, but all approach roads from the north have a gravel surface and are not in a particularly good condition, so be aware of this if driving a normal sedan vehicle. The pass has a height gain of 177 metres over a distance of 5.6 kilometres, producing a fairly gentle average gradient of just 1:32.

Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.)Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....

[Video cover photo: From the northern end of the poort looking south - Mike Leicester]

FULL-SCREEN MODEMODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.

Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the south, start from Mookgopong (Naboomspruit) at the intersection of Thabo Mbeki Street (which is the R101) and Nelson Mandela Drive (which is the R520), at GPS coordinates S24.520404 E28.713253. Travel in a north-westerly direction on the R520 for 10.6 kms to a T-junction at S24.443207 E28.659132, then turn left onto the P165. Travel in a westerly direction for just 500 metres to S24.443675 E28.654101, then turn right onto the D190. Follow this road for 14.8 kms to S24.354528 E28.566946, which is the southern start of the pass.

Bokpoort southern endBokpoort at the southern end looking north / Photo: Mike LeicesterTo approach from the north, start from Mokopane (Potgietersrus) at the intersection of Thabo Mbeki Drive and Nelson Mandela Drive (which is the N11), at GPS coordinates S24.180877 E29.013851. Travel in a north-westerly direction on the N11 for 8.0 kms to S24.132871 E28.962486, then turn left onto the R518. Travel in a westerly direction for 21.5 km to S24.042731 E28.785805, then turn left onto the D345. Travel in a south-westerly direction for 11.4 km to a T-junction at S24.119378 E28.718608, then turn right onto the D192 – the road changes to a gravel surface at this point. After 8.0 kms, you will reach the start of Bastard Nek (detailed elsewhere on this website). Travel up the pass for 4.4 kms to S24.091626 E28.633384, which is the southern end of Bastard Nek, then continue along this road for another 31.6 kms to S24.309739 E28.543022, which is the northern start point of Bokpoort. The road surface changes from gravel to tar just before the start of the pass.

Eugene MaraisEugene Marias - Afrikaans author / Photo: Wikimedia

We have filmed the pass from north to south. The pass has a constant gentle descent, with the road passing between two steep hillsides on either side. The vegetation, particularly on the left-hand side, is thick and lush, due to the small clear stream which follows the course of the pass for its entire length. The pass generally follows a north-south heading, with only a few minor corners every couple of hundred metres for variation. The road surface is good, although there are some patches and potholes. The only apparent dangers on this pass would be the occasional rockfall on the upper reaches, and the very real possibility of animals crossing the road, appearing suddenly out of the tall grass. The kloof opens up as you near the end of the pass, which is reached at a 4-way intersection.

Bokpoort is synonymous with the famous South African writer, poet and ethologist, Eugene Marais, who lived for several years at Doornhoek. It was here that Marais did his notable work on termites and baboons, and it was on this pass that he first collected specimens of extremely rare cycads, which are only found in two localities in the Waterberg.

Marais was born in Pretoria in 1871, the last of a brood of thirteen children. He attended school in Pretoria, Boshof and Paarl, and matriculated at the age of sixteen. By the time he was twenty, he was the owner of a newspaper called Land En Volk, and he became deeply involved in local politics. He began taking opiates at an early age and graduated to morphine (then considered to be non habit-forming and a safe drug) very soon thereafter. He became addicted, and this addiction would rule his affairs and actions to a greater or lesser extent throughout his life. In 1897 he went to London, initially to study medicine, but he soon changed to law and qualified as an advocate. He returned to South Africa via Mozambique just as the Second Anglo-Boer War ended in 1902.

Grave sitee of Eugene MaraisGrave of Eugene Marais in Pretoria / Photo: Boere Afrikana

From 1905 Marais studied nature in the Waterberg and wrote in his native Afrikaans about the animals which he observed. His studies of termites led him to the conclusion that the colony ought to be considered as a single organism, and resulted in a book called “Die Siel van die Mier”, translated into English as “The Soul of the White Ant”. He also observed and studied various snakes, including the black mamba, spitting cobra and puff adder. Moreover, he observed a specific troop of baboons at length, and from these studies sprang various magazine articles and books, including “My Friends the Baboons” and “The Soul of the Ape”. He is acknowledged as the father of the scientific study of the behaviour of animals, known as Ethology.

Marais’ work as a naturalist gained less public attention and appreciation than his contributions as a literalist. He discovered the Waterberg Cycad, which was named after him (Encephalartos Eugene-Maraisii). He was the first person to study the behaviour of wild primates and his observations continue to be cited in contemporary evolutionary biology. He is amongst the greatest of the Afrikaner poets and he remains to this day one of the most popular, although his output was not prolific.

There is evidence that Marais’ time and his research in the wild northern mountains brought him great peace and joy, and provided him with artistic inspiration. But Marais was a long-term morphine addict, and he suffered from melancholy, insomnia, depression and feelings of isolation. In 1936, deprived of morphine for some days, he borrowed a shotgun, on the pretext of killing a snake, and shot himself. He was just 65 at the time of his death.

[Write up and research by Mike Leicester]

Fact File:


S24.309739 E28.543022


S24.309739 E28.543022


S24.354528 E28.566946














5,6 km




5 minutes


40 kph


Tar (D190)






Mookgopong (32 km)

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Mountain Passes South Africa

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.

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