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AUGRABIES • GROOTVADERSBOSCH • JACKALS • BLACK HARRIER • KRUGER FLOWERS • MAPUNGUBWE TREES • ROCK ART • RIVERS • WILD CORRIDOR MTB TOUR
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ENVIRONMENTAL MEDIA 2014
HIT THE ROAD THE 1 000 KM CHALLENGE:
Where would you go?
GREEN HOT SPOTS!
TRAVEL WITH OUR EXPERTS
REASONS TO VISIT AUGRABIES
“Let the children love nature”
Zest for life 12014
FEISTY FOXES & SPUNKY JACKALS
HOW TO: GET CLOSE TO BLACK HARRIERS CAMP IN GROOTVADERSBOSCH | TRAVERSE MKHAYA ON FOOT
MAXIMISE THE IMPACT OF YOUR PHOTOS OUTDOOR MUSEUMS: 5 PARKS THAT SET THE STAGE
explore | conserve | enjoy
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“We had a great view of the magnificent sandstone mountain from our tent door.” – Mark Dumbleton
4 8 10 12 69 94 96
WILD BITES Letters Mkhaya Bush Trail Bitterpan 4x4 Trail Birding Beat Get a Wild Card Map Competition
PHOTOGRAPHY 84 Art Wolfe’s pictures Inspiration for your photo book
PARKS 14 10 reasons to visit Augrabies Find out why we’re packing our bags and how kids are becoming conservation champions 30 Journey into the past Rock art and ruins make an earlier world come alive 54 The 1 000 km challenge Three parks on just two tanks of fuel? Wild takes a road trip on a student budget
WILDLIFE & NATURE 22 Day of the jackal These wily creatures show their dog cousins a thing or two 48 Black harrier in focus Camera traps shed new light on the behaviour of this endangered raptor 70 Rivers of life Five of our most revered watercourses and the parks where you can experience them
Wild SPRING 2015
KIDS 90 Connect the dots These animals wear spots for a good reason
BOTANY 62 Kruger’s wild flowers Rediscovering a rare species 78 Mapungubwe’s giants In search of champion trees 82 Tamboti Why do its beans jump?
COVER IMAGE ALBIE VENTER
ADVENTURE 38 Camping in Grootvadersbosch Connect with nature and your family in the magical forest 92 Wild Corridor MTB Tour Ride for conservation from Addo to the Garden Route
“It is a five-day cycling extravaganza both for and about conservation.” – HEIN GROBLER
INSIDE TRACK EDITORIAL BOARD GLENN PHILLIPS, SANParks SHERAAZ ISMAIL, CapeNature GWYNNE HOWELLS, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife RAY NAGURAN, Msinsi Resorts ANN REILLY, Swazi Big Game Parks HEIN GROBLER, Wild Card
WILD CARD ENQUIRIES 0861 GO WILD (46 9453) firstname.lastname@example.org International Wild Card members call +27-12-428-9112 EDITOR Romi Boom | email@example.com DEPUTY EDITOR Magriet Kruger | firstname.lastname@example.org ART DIRECTOR Riaan Vermeulen | email@example.com TEXT EDITOR Marion Boddy-Evans PROOFREADER Margy Beves-Gibson CONTENT DIRECTOR Igna Schneider EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Joan Kruger CREATIVE DIRECTOR Petro du Toit MAGAZINE ENQUIRIES
firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTORS Stephan Barnard, Emma Bryce, Christal and Mark Dumbleton, Albert Froneman, Marie-Sophie GarciaHeras, Enrico and Erna Liebenberg, Jacques Marais, Cheryl Samantha-Owen, Joël Roerig, Ron Swilling, Eric Thorburn, Dianne Tipping-Woods, Albie Venter
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FROM THE EDITOR
ON THE TRAIL
holiday is threefold delight: first the anticipation and the planning, then the pleasure of being away, and finally the enjoyment of the memories. So it was wildly exciting to conceive a road trip with newlyweds Christal and Mark Dumbleton. The guidelines were simple: the trip should be extremely affordable (remember The editor outside Mapungubwe National Park’s interpretive centre. when you were students and permanently out of pocket?) and not longer than 1000 km. To share in the fun of where they went and what they did, click here. A treasure hunt with four top botanists, and a good dose of spring fever, made us swoon about Kruger’s wild flowers (click here). Imagine finding a white flower that had not been seen for six decades, right alongside the H5! This gives new meaning to a sighting of rare species. From the tiniest of blooms we turned our attention to megaflora as we went in search of champion trees in Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site (click here). Larger-than-life giants are plentiful here, not only baobabs but also ficus and vachellia (previously known as Acacia) species. Superlatives come naturally to Mapungubwe; the interpretive centre, which blends into the landscape, is a former World Building of The Year. The new buzzword, alongside nature tourism and adventure tourism, is heritage tourism, with archeological treasures, just like sculpture gardens and art galleries, increasingly featuring in wilderness areas around the word. You’ll find outdoor museums in several Wild Card parks and reserves. We look at some of the most intriguing. This spring, put your Wild Card to good use in 80+ parks and reserves. Some of them are but a hop, skip and a jump away!
WIN FREE RENEWAL Where did you go with your Wild Card? Send us a picture of your card in the parks and you could win free renewal of your membership. Congratulations to Andre De Beer, who snapped this image at the Timbavati picnic spot in Kruger.
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LIFE AFTER PENSION It has been my privilege to visit the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park 17 times since 2003. My dad, now aged 90, has accompanied me on the past nine trips, the last being in May 2015. We like to camp at Richtersberg and have a very close relationship with the goat herder dogs, which keep the monkeys away from our camp. We stay in one camp for at least four days to ensure that we
THREE DECADES AGO AT ITHALA
THREE WEEKS AT MLILWANE
The article about Ithala Game Reserve in the autumn 2015 issue brought back a lot of memories as we used to visit this special place quite often. Living in northern KwaZulu-Natal, it was nearer to us than the great Kruger. Thirty years ago it was still the wild west. At first there were no entry fees but later it was R5 per vehicle, if I’m not mistaken. The entry point was an old dilapidated gate with just a little shack next to it. We saw only antelope and, at times, giraffes, as well as hundreds of snakes. If you moved a piece of grass or a branch on your way to the braai area, you saw snakes rushing away. Years later they built the campsite and chalets. We attended many functions at the ‘developed’ Ithala and were always very impressed with everything. We’ll definitely try to visit again. Elma Kuyler
For the first time in many years we decided we would not go to the Mozambican coast for our annual December holiday. After scouring the Net, we decided on Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, a decision we will never regret. Wonderful campgrounds and clean facilities, which were maintained throughout our three-week stay. Travelling into Swaziland can be described as only a pleasure. The border crossing was simple and friendly, the scenery lovely. The staff at Mlilwane was most hospitable. The residents, nyala and warthog in particular, are spectacular to watch and together with zebra, they made daily visits to the campsite to watch the humans. If we never have a more perfect holiday, our memories of Mlilwane will be enough. Nicola Low, Johannesburg
experience the beauty of the area, its sunrises and sunsets. Our TV at night is counting the satellites going overhead. We practise catch-and-release fishing. In April, I caught 62 yellowfish. My father says one should live each day to its full potential. There is life after pension — go camping! Carel van Jaarsveld, George
THE JOYS OF VROLIJKHEID With a whopping 40% ‘Winter Deal’ reduction, you couldn’t find a cheaper getaway near Cape Town than Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve. We phoned CapeNature on the Thursday morning and luck was going our way — ‘Bakoorvos’ was to be our home for the weekend. After a leisurely meander through Elgin, Villiersdorp and on to Robertson, popping in at farm stalls and sampling great wines, we arrived at Vrolijkheid. We found beautifully refurbished farmhouses, tastefully decorated, with brand new appliances. Clusters of candles for load shedding and a bottle of Slangkop red and white wine on the table, compliments of CapeNature. What a happy welcome. We had just enough time to ramble across to the bird hide before a wondrous sunset and a thrilling sighting of a fish eagle above the dam.
Sunday we spent hiking 12 km through the park, walking the MTB trail and part of the 19 km Rooikat Trail to the top of Klipspringer Gorge, escorted the entire way by a jackal buzzard. We saw birds in abundance: weavers, fiscal shrikes, mousebirds, pied barbets and, of course, the inevitable plethora of LBJs. Alan Martin
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10 TICKS FOR MOUNTAIN ZEBRA
ADDO ALWAYS DELIVERS
1 Very friendly staff from the moment we arrived at reception, until we left four days later. 2 A ranger, very willing to share his knowledge with us and allowing us to befriend his springer spaniel, Redd, in the parking area. 3 The attention given to a wounded zebra that we had reported to reception. 4 A comfortable and wellequipped chalet, with our recycling collected daily. 5 Superior linen on the beds — equal if not better than what one could expect in a five-star bush lodge. 6 A beautiful swimming pool area, complete with an operational pool cleaner. 7 A well laid-out and demarcated camping area. 8 Very neat picnic sites, with clean ablutions. 9 Plenty of animals, prolific birdlife and superb mountain scenery. 10 We even experienced a Karoo thunderstorm, with rolling thunder, fierce lightning and a good downpour of rain. Clive and Christl Hoard, Tokai
We have spent many wonderful trips caravanning at Addo Elephant National Park, which has a relaxed and friendly feel to it. There is a surprising variation in topography and vegetation for a relatively small area. We usually drive one of the loops, then choose a place to stop, typically at one of the waterholes, and wait to see what will come to us. If there are no large animals, there are always birds around, and usually warthogs, the odd mongoose, black-backed jackals and meerkats keep us entertained. We always manage to tick at least one creature not previously seen there by us. This year it was a beautiful martial eagle looking very much at home.
Of course, the main drawcard is being able to get close to the elephants (now about 600, I believe). I have heard people say ‘seen one, seen them all’, but we can’t agree. Almost every encounter is different and the babies and youngsters are always a delight. On our last trip we twice saw a large herd of 50 to 60 elephants close up at Rooidam. This included a bunch of ‘teenagers’ that gave us a good laugh by playing in the water. One even pulled a friend in with his trunk and then dunked another by batting him with his considerable rump. After entertaining us for half an hour or more, they ran off like naughty children. Errol and Nicola Welch, Knysna
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WINNING LETTER Carel van Jaarsveld wins a Dron jacket (R999) and a Felix 25L backpack (R499) from HI-TEC. Send us your letter for the chance to win. Be prepared for spring’s changeable weather with the waterproof HITEC Dron jacket. It packs into its own pocket, so it’s easy to take along on all your adventures. Use the HI-TEC Felix daypack, which has two compartments and two side pockets, plus a built-in rain cover.
KRUGER CONVERTS Our destinations have always been cross-border to Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia for totally wild camping, because we believed that was the only way to get to the animals. Well, SANParks has changed our thinking. We have now done Olifants, Satara and Shingwedzi as overnight stops (basic accommodation, but spotless), and ensconced ourselves for five nights at Balule, then on to Tsendze for another five nights. We had amazing sightings including the elusive Pel’s fishing-owl, the pearl-spotted owlet and rhino, which I pray my kids will have the privilege of seeing one day. Peter Emmanuel, Knysna
THE EXTRA MILE During our recent stay at Orpen Camp, I lost my family signet ring. On the drive home, I received a phone call from Serakane Keetse at Orpen, informing me that staff had found my ring and that it would be mailed to me from Skukuza. True enough, on arrival back in Cape Town, the ring was waiting for me at the Post Office. This is what I call going the extra mile for your guests. Looking forward to my next stay at Orpen Camp in 2016. Michael Strauss, Cape Town
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M K HAYA G A M E R E S E RV E
Using the splendid Stone Camp as a base, Wild joined a guided walking safari in Mkhaya Game Reserve, Swaziland’s flagship park. By Cheryl-Samantha Owen
Comfort zone G
Mkhaya Game Reserve in Swaziland is about five hours’ drive from Gauteng.
uide Bongani Mbatha had an air of confidence that spoke of time spent in the bush and a deep understanding of wild animal behaviour which comes only with experience. It was almost five in the evening as we traversed Mkhaya Game Reserve on foot and I was delighted to have such a knowledgeable guide in these early witching hours. Mkhaya is Swaziland’s flagship reserve, known for its intimate encounters with four of the Big Five and as a refuge for endangered species such as sable antelope and tsessebe. I did have a lighter skip to my step knowing lions have never been introduced here, so as to prevent predation on these valuable animals. Within half an hour we found what I had been hoping for, two white rhinos. They were unperturbed by our footsteps and the noise of cameras as we crouched a few metres away. But, when a third joined
them, the trio quickly moved off in the opposite direction. Bongani assured me we would have even better opportunities to see rhinos on foot on our morning walk, and we continued onwards, through forests of Senegalia nigrescens or the knobthorn tree, the reserve’s namesake, and across a dry, sand riverbed towards our night’s destination. Stone Camp greeted us with a trail of paraffin lanterns and a crackling campfire. Mduduzi Maseko, the night watchman, walked me to my semi-open stone and thatch cottage, saying he was on watch until 05h30. I fell asleep to the antics of bush babies in the room and hyenas singing their signature tune close by. I had been warned not to leave anything on the stone wall around my room, as the hyenas have a penchant for chewing anything within reach. Bird song heralded dawn in the riverine forest around us and I woke to a flask of
“Some you can approach on foot, others you can approach only in a vehicle. We are lucky, this one is a very relaxed mother and we can walk close to her.”
fresh coffee. By 06h00, I was in an open Landy, wrapped up and ready for rhino. Between Bongani and another seasoned Swazi adventurer, Darron Raw, it was decided to do a mixture of game driving and walking, rather than the usual threehour walk, to hop on and off at places where Bongani expected to see the most game. We found a female white rhino in the low bush scrub in an area that used to be a cotton field. Her name was Pikinini, meaning “small guy”, but it was the eightmonth-old calf curled up next to her that was the little chap. Our guide knew his rhino. “Some you can approach on foot, others you can approach only in a vehicle. We are lucky, this one is a very relaxed mother and we can walk close to her,” he whispered. And, so we did. Far closer than I had imagined possible, without her so much as even lifting her head. Pikinini’s ears, however, did www.wildcard.co.za
not stop moving. Rhinos may have poor eyesight for stationary objects, but I have no doubt they could hear my breathing. I could hear hers. Apart from one moment, when the calf jumped up, giving the mother a fright and raising her to her feet, this beautiful rhino stayed in what is known as the ‘comfort zone’, the most relaxed of four described states. We stayed with her, even inspecting the ground around us for scorpion and spider holes, until the call of breakfast became irresistible. Before leaving the park, we made a stop at a well-frequented waterhole, where we had the opportunity to photograph hippos at eye level, there being only one, very small, crocodile in the water. What I hadn’t seen were the handsome Swazi Nguni cattle, so that, combined with the call of a longer bush trail walk, will beg my return for more of Mkhaya. /
Mkhaya offers fully catered bush trails for groups of four to six between 1 April and 30 September. Booking is essential, no children under 13. Luxury walking safari: R3 280 a person (two nights at Stone Camp, guided walks and drives). Jubela’s Camp walking safari: R1 850 a person (two nights in rustic fly camp, guided walks only). One-night stays available. Mkhaya is staffed and patrolled entirely by people from neighbouring communities and currently boasts what is arguably Africa’s most effective anti-poaching unit. Expect to see elephant, black and white rhino, buffalo and a wide range of plains game. Don’t forget to pack your Wild Card, as well as your passport for the border crossing from South Africa into Swaziland. Big Game Parks’ Central Reservation +268-2528-3943/4
B I T T E R PA N 4 X 4 T R A I L The Bitterpan 4x4 Trail is for the use of residents only.
It’s quite a challenge to reach remote Bitterpan in the Kgalagadi, but as long as you realise that not all sand is created equal, you’ll be fine. By Wild editor Romi Boom
win tracks, a red desert and a roller-coaster drive take you to the original Kgalagadi wilderness camp at Bitterpan. The rewards are evident when you finally gaze across the pan and discover the isolation and exclusivity. Getting to the camp involves a 53 km drive from Nossob, the first half of the one-way 120 km Bitterpan 4x4 Trail. It’ll take about 2,5 hours. You check in at Nossob Rest Camp, get your permit stamped and leave through a restricted access gate. High ground
clearance is important as some of the ruts are deep. Be sure to tie down absolutely everything, inside your vehicle, too, as the ruts will throw around your gear. Although it was not my first time on the trail, I had forgotten about its little surprises. Soon after setting out, there are some steep dunes that wake up nonchalant drivers. Then, just as you get into the rhythm of the trail, you face a number of tricky long dunes. When you think you have reached the summit, there is an additional slope to negotiate, so
it is necessary to keep the momentum up without jumping the crest. You will probably have to take a second attempt at some of the dunes, being more careful to select the correct gear. There is a steep dune close to Bitterpan camp itself. If you plan to arrive around check-in time (14h00), the sand will be hot and this is when the correct tyre pressure is crucial. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by tourism assistant Willem Vilander, who has enjoyed the solitary lifestyle for the past 11 years. Bitterpan Camp is unfenced
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including meerkats.
and in the middle of the wilderness, apparently forgotten by time. Built on stilts, each unit overlooks the waterhole. At twilight, we were treated to a half-hearted standoff between a lone gemsbok and two black-backed jackals. The next morning, we set out early and the going was easier as, despite being deep in places, the sand was still cold. After about 2,5 hours, we joined up with the main road at Craig Lockhart, having spotted several steenbok and a healthy herd of red hartebeest. This 4x4 trail is a fun trip and most of it is easy, but if you are careless and unskilled, you could get stuck, even with a serious 4x4. Don’t despair, a search and rescue party will be sent out if you don’t report to camp within a decent timespan.
The reed cabins at Bitterpan sleep two, each with a separate bathroom. There’s a communal kitchen and braai area. Cost R1 300 a night for two. Book with Central Reservations on 012-4289111 or at www.sanparks.org To read more, visit www.wildcard. co.za and search “Kgalagadi Wilderness Camps”.
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B I R D I N G B E AT
WHOâ€™S CHEATING? Behind the pretty plumage of waxbills and whydahs lies a complex family history. By Albert Froneman
fter the rains, when the breeding season starts, a game of hide and seek begins between the violet-eared waxbill and the shaft-tailed whyÂ dah. The reason? The whydahs are brood parasites, laying their eggs in waxbill nests and leaving childrearing to the hosts. I am always on the lookout for violet-eared waxbills when I visit arid parks such as the Kgalagadi or Mokala. These exquisitely coloured little birds are residents and prefer slightly arid savanna woodland. They mate for life and
following the summer rains pairs construct an oval ball-shaped nest with thick walls of grass lined inside with soft bird feathers. The nest is usually located in a thick acacia bush and the concealed entrance faces inward into the dense part of the bush. Clearly all these precautions are not enough to hide their nest from whydahs as typically a third of all nests are found and parasitised by shafttailed whydahs. The shaft-tailed whydah is one of my favourite birds to photograph. The males change into their
spectacular breeding plumage with flamboyant tail during summer. I have on many occasions sat and listened to the warbled song of the male, which he broadcasts from a prominent perch overlooking his territory. Interestingly, the song of the male very closely resembles that of the violet-eared waxbill, his host species. Male whydahs are highly territorial and sing at a call site to attract females. Their singing and courtship will coincide closely with the breeding cycle of the waxbills. The male whydahs will
vigorously defend their territory, aggressively chasing other males out of their area. The females are attracted to the maleâ€™s song and visit his call site, where an elaborate courtship display takes place. During this display the male hovers over the perched female. As he flaps his wings, his elongated tail feathers flop up and down. The courting may last for a few minutes before mating takes place. The female whydah now sets off in search of a host nest. Again she listens out for a display song, but this time it is not being sung by an www.wildcard.co.za
imposter; she is now looking for a violet-eared waxbill male singing to his female. She carefully follows the waxbills around and, by paying particular attention when they carry nesting material, she eventually stakes out the position of their nest. She waits patiently for her chance to sneak into the waxbill nest where she proceeds to remove and eat the eggs already in the nest. Then will she lay her own egg inside. Records exist where up to five whydah eggs were found together with some waxbill eggs in a nest.
There are even instances of the whydah female entering the nest while the male waxbill is incubating and still being able to successfully lay an egg in the host nest. The fledgling whydahs closely resemble the waxbill fledglings, even the markings inside the mouths are similar, and they are all raised together. When you go birdwatching this spring, keep an eye, and an ear, out for these birds. Their songs are charming, their pretty feathers are gorgeous, and their behaviour is outrageous.
PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
WHAT A RUSH! Itâ€™s exhilarating to experience the power of the falls up close.
Augrabies TO VISIT
Just like everybody’s other favourite park near the border with Namibia, Augrabies Falls National Park lies in the arid Kalahari landscape. Besides feasting your eyes, there is also ample to do. By Ron Swilling
T READ THE BLOG ONLINE www.wildcard.co.za
he terrain in South Africa’s wild west is quite different from the classical game parks in the east, such as Kruger. For starters, there aren’t any elephants. Secondly, there aren’t any lions. This means you can jog, cycle and hike to your heart’s content. Not that Augrabies is skimpy on the tick list, as you’ll find giraffes, six species of antelope and a posse of predators. Think African wild cats, foxes, jackals and elusive leopards. Here are 10 reasons to visit this special park.
PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The male Augrabies flat lizard is dazzlingly coloured with a bright blue head; the female is a drab brownish grey.
1 Sunsets and scenery
3 Riverine habitat
5 Hartmann’s home
Augrabies is not simply about the waterfall, although it is the prominent feature of the national park. The park is a photographer’s paradise and the magnificent viewpoints in the game area are not to be missed. They are reached by the dirt road that meanders through the landscape towards the river, providing an interesting variety of sights. The drive, which begins near the rest camp, is suitable for all vehicles and takes approximately three hours.
This is a park where you can jog, cycle and walk, so bring your tackies, hiking boots and mountain bike. All the main roads are accessible and there are no predators to be concerned about. Join in the annual Augrabies’ five to 10 km fun runs and half-marathon, or partake in the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon. Three short walking trails are available, ranging from 2 km to 6.6 km. The longer three-day, 36 km Klipspringer Trail is open in winter months only.
Although Augrabies Falls National Park is in a semi-desert environment, there is a verdant strip of riparian habitat along the Orange River that is home to a variety of unexpected flora and fauna species, including trees, birds and frogs. The presence of Cape clawless otter in the park indicates that the river ecosystem is relatively healthy. Look out for huge mixed flocks of aerial feeders such as Alpine swift, African black swift, brownthroated martin and rock martin.
Closely related to the Cape mountain zebra, Hartmann’s mountain zebra Equus zebra hartmannae is perfectly adapted to the rocky terrain of Augrabies Falls park. There is a good chance of spotting these handsome animals in the western section of the park. Smaller and more agile than the plains or Burchell’s zebra, they live in smaller breeding groups. They have no shadow stripe superimposed on the white and the stripes don’t join on the stomach. Due to their endangered status, they are closely monitored by the park rangers.
4 Iconic trees The quiver tree Aloe dichotoma, the iconic tree of the Northern Cape and southern Namibia, is vulnerable to damage by large herbivores such as giraffe and eland, kudu and gemsbok. A 6 km fence has been erected around a 210 hectare area in the park where there is a high density of quiver trees.
Did you know? When the Orange River is in flood, the sound of Augrabies Falls can be heard 15 km away.
9 Ancient land
7 Place of great noise
8 Reptile hotspot
People come from far to witness the spectacular sight of the thundering falls, even more so when the river is in flood. In 1988, a particularly wet year, there was approximately 7 800 cubic metres of water a second, compared to an average of 30 to 60 cubic metres when the river is low.
Legend has it that when the Khoi first heard the sound of the falls, they thought it was the sound of a huge beast and ran away. Eventually they decided to investigate, thinking that perhaps the animal was in pain and needed help. When they got closer, they discovered the falls and called it Aukoerebis, place of great noise.
About 40 different species reside in the park, including various agamas and the local endemic celebrity, the iridescent blue Augrabies flat lizard with splashes of orange and yellow on its legs. It’s one species you’ll have no trouble identifying.
JEAN DU PLESSIS
At Augrabies it is possible to see the effect of fascinating geological processes. Moon Rock, a popular tourist attraction in the park because its summit offers impressive views, is a coarse-textured dome which originated because of the uplifting of the surface of the Earth millions of years ago. Its smooth surface is due to exfoliation, with large patches of rock scaling off, almost like the layers of an onion. This erosion is caused by immense changes in temperature. While the interior of the rock remains fairly constant, the outer surface expands and contracts, eventually breaking loose in ‘pop-ups’. The region comprises rock that is 1 300 million years and older. The landscape that we see today was once 15 kilometres below the Earth’s surface.
10 The park’s best kept secret Augrabies might well be the poster face of responsible tourism. Turn the page to read how the park reaches out to the local community and the next generation of nature lovers.
PARK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Children of nature
JOHANNES VAN NIEKERK
Fun and games is the lingo of youth outreach at Augrabies National Park. Wild was caught up in the smiles and exclamation marks of environmental education. By Ron Swilling
Two kids sit spellbound by the force of the Orange River. www.wildcard.co.za
reathe in that nice clean air,” intern Hannah Bosence advised as she pointed out lichen on a rock and explained to the eager children around her how it is indicative of good air. “So, tell me again children, what is the name of this organism?” “Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiichen,” they happily chorused. So it continued as we walked the Ebony Trail at Augrabies Falls National Park and Hannah identified ebony and sweet-thorn trees, and spoke about our threatened riverine systems. She picked up giraffe vertebra and eland droppings, asking the students from the nearby Cillie village to guess what animals they came from. She received a variety of answers to her questions, but no takers for the eland‘drolletjie’ spitting competition. When groups switched, we had a turn to drive through the park in the game-viewing vehicle with the head of the project, People and Conservation Officer Christine du Plessis, spotting klipspringers, dassies and giraffes. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life!” exclaimed nine-year-old Elné, as she peered out at the graceful longnecked creature. It was the first giraffe she had ever seen, the first national park she had ever visited and the first time she had ever been on a school excursion. For many in the group, it was also their first camping trip. They were elated and swamped with stimuli, and their enthusiasm was infectious. I found the Kids in Parks programme so inspiring it was difficult to tear myself away. The threeday programme is a mixture of
information, fun and exploration of the park, imbued with a good deal of reverence for the environment and presented with care, knowledge and forethought. I was caught up in the energy of it, sitting in on biodiversity talks, recycling games and walks to the edge of the gorge to peer down into the crashing waters of the Orange River, home to the water snake with a glittering diamond on its forehead. Or, so the story goes.
esides the intensive Kids in Parks programme, there are several other programmes and projects involving the local communities. Christine has initiated a programme she calls ‘Kids in Augrabies’, bringing 25 learners at a time from nearby schools to the national park for a morning of activities. Why 25? That’s the number of seats in the park bus. ‘Conservation Soccer’ began when she became aware that most local schools don’t offer sport and there were keen soccer players among the under 14s in the Augrabies community. The regional office donated the trophy and Christine collects the children using the park bus. Working with the South African Police and community development workers, she co-ordinates an annual tournament, which rotates between the communities. It usually begins with a clean-up competition to clear the rubbish around the soccer field and an introductory talk on the environment, and ends with a light lunch. In grape season, farmers often donate produce. “Most of the children don’t have
e weren’t done. It seems I had only touched the tip of the outreach iceberg in this captivating park. The annual Arid Parks Cultural Festival rotates through the national parks in the arid region. Each park sets up a stall on the culture from their area and brings a cultural group along to participate in the programme, while the host park prepares an entertaining programme and provides a traditional lunch. Several years ago, Augrabies Falls National Park initiated a Nama kappie (bonnet) project for women from the community. Kappies are part of traditional Nama dress and the project is a means of sharing their culture with others while pro-
viding a small income. Namataradi women have taken part in the last three cultural festivals, proudly wearing their kappies, discussing the project and dancing the traditional Nama Stap. During SANParks week, when all South African citizens are granted free access into the national parks, activities for school children fill up the mornings and the afternoons are for presentations and talks with community members. Christine transports the elderly and disabled to the park for these events, providing an exciting and muchanticipated outing. The variety of programmes provide a fresh perception of our national parks. No longer are they islands to be visited by only a few, but green hearts of the country accessible to all. Community involvement is both a way of opening the parks to all South Africans and an effective way to pass on our heritage, our land, and to nurture a respect and love for it. “From understanding comes the desire for conservation,” Christine explained. It was time for my last morning with the Kids in Parks programme and the message from the previous day still rang in my head: ‘We have only one Earth, so we need to look after it well.’ An origami snakemaking session, aimed at creating a friendlier relationship between the children and reptiles, was followed by farewells. Bags and small backpacks were given to the children, as well as a set of basic stationery. The children beamed as they boarded the colourful Kids in Parks bus that was to take them back home. They were set to conquer the world armed with a pencil and sharpener, and the knowledge that they, too, can make a difference.
How green is your diary? For the kids from the area, the year’s environmental calendar days are all big events. During Water Week the 14 schools around Augrabies park are visited and an interactive talk is presented. This sometimes involves appointing ‘water auditors’ who are given a clipboard and sent on a walk through the school grounds looking for leaking taps and pipes. The reports are later discussed with the objective of helping the children learn to take some sort of responsibility for their environment, even if that is only to report the leaks and to follow up, or to place a vessel under the dripping tap until it is repaired. Other important calendar dates include World Environmental Week, Earth Day and Arbor Week when neighbouring schools also visit the park, and cultural days such as Heritage Day and International MotherLanguage Day.
shoes and have borrowed the high school teams’ soccer kit, which is usually several sizes too big for them, but they play their hearts out.” On Youth Day, the outreach programme is extended to offer a soccer and netball tournament for the children in the four main areas in the vicinity, Kakamas, Keimoes, Kenhardt and Augrabies. The park transports the Augrabies teams to the different areas. The children have a chance to play against opposing teams and to visit a different area, something often not available in the region where towns are far apart and the transport limited. Before the day’s events begin, Christine makes use of the opportunity to deliver an environmental talk, sometimes accompanied by a career display. Environmental talks include topics such as pollution, recycling and water. “Conservation of water is big in this arid region,” Christine told me. “We talk about ways to conserve water and encourage vegetable gardens and tree planting.”
Community involvement is an effective way to to nurture respect and love for our heritage.
10 YEARS, 10 parks Kids in Parks began far from the parks, in Pick n Pay supermarkets countrywide with an initiative selling environmentally friendly shopping bags. One Rand from every bag purchased was deposited into a trust. Within two years, two million had accumulated. Pick n Pay approached SANParks for ideas on how best to utilise the funds, and the idea of the Kids in Parks programme was born. Three buses were soon purchased and the programme was launched, offering children from surrounding communities the opportunity to visit a national park. The programme has gained momentum over the 10 years of its existence, with approximately 10 parks now participating. SANParks facilitates and organises the programme, working in conjunction with Pick n Pay, the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Education. Each park produces its own booklet with information relevant to the age group and linked to their school curriculum. Augrabies Falls National Park usually receives around 500 participants a year, or 10 groups of 50 children from grades 5 to 7, and the programme runs for about six weeks. The aim is to spark an interest in the children for conservation and the environment.
1. Kids board the gameviewing vehicle to explore the park. 2. The Ebony Trail is a chance to learn more about the regionâ€™s trees. 3. Flowers do grow in this arid environment. 4. The programme is all about experiencing the natural world. 5. A klipspringer. 6. The end to an action-packed day.
WILDLIFE A black-backed jackal dares to scavenge food from under a lionâ€™s nose.
DAY OF THE
The pair-bond is a basic trait of all five canid species in South Africa, even among wild dogs, which live in packs. But just how social are foxes and jackals? By Albie Venter
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Although the pups were trusting at the den and allowed great photography, the parents tended to keep a safe distance at all times.
Black-backed jackal pup
I BLACKBACKED JACKAL CANIS MESOMELAS
always find it amazing how lions tolerate black-backed jackals within close proximity, yet treat spotted hyenas with utter scorn. Black-backed jackals are the most abundant of carnivores in Africa, the reason being their incredible adaptability. They are catholic in their choice of food and will take anything from antelope to insects. Jackals mate for life but, while they live in pairs, their true social unit may be a much larger ‘cryptic pack’ where individuals are ready to co-operate when necessary. When jackals congregate they
display a wide array of social behaviours, such as dominant and submissive posturing normally associated with more social animals. The melancholic call of blackbacked jackals is as captivating as the cry of the fish eagle and the roar of a lion. It has been suggested that they call to others of their ‘pack’ to join up when conditions are favourable, such as at the site of a lion kill. FACT The black-backed jackal has more slender, fox-like facial features than its side-striped cousin, whose face is broader and more wolf-like.
WHERE TO SEE THEM Absent from dense forests, but otherwise very common in most parks. Try Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, as well as Addo, West Coast, Bontebok and Mountain Zebra.
Both fox and jackal species have numerous burrows or shelters and may use different ones each day. For breeding, they all use underground dens.
SIDE STRIPED JACKAL
henever I see a side-striped jackal I get very excited. Sightings are few and far between, mostly nocturnal and often fleeting. These are the rarest and least-observed jackal species in the subregion. Compared to other jackal species, little is known about side-striped jackals. They avoid open savanna and densely wooded areas, preferring moist, wellwatered, broad-leaved woodlands. They are the most vegetarian of all jackals and,
although they prefer rodents to vegetable matter, will eat fruit such as waterberries almost exclusively when in season. Most jackals are tarred with the same brush as stock killers, yet side-striped jackals seldom kill anything larger than a baby antelope. Although they scavenge opportunistically, they are much less predatory than their black-backed cousins. Pairs are monogamous, highly territorial and rarely come into contact with another pair.
WHERE TO SEE THEM Restricted to the moist eastern parts of Southern Africa. Look for side-striped jackals in the Kruger National Park and Swaziland’s Big Game Parks. www.wildcard.co.za
GERRIE VAN VUUREN
Cape foxes are mainly nocturnal, but you may see pups during the denning season in early summer, around November.
CAPE FOX OR SILVERBACKED FOX VULPES CHAMA
fricaâ€™s only true fox, the Cape fox is arguably the most delicate and attractive member of the extended dog family. One of its distinctive features is its big bushy tail. Not only is this an attractive decoration, it also acts as a counterbalance when hunting and as a decoy when this dainty fox is being hunted. Leopard, caracal and even brown hyena and honey
badger have been observed hunting Cape foxes. The Afrikaans common name, draaijakkals, aptly describes its dodging and swerving manoeuvres using its tail to distract and outsmart pursuing predators. Although Cape foxes form monogamous pairs, they are the least social of all canids and largely hunt alone. Preferred prey are rodents, lizards and invertebrates.
WHERE TO SEE THEM Most abundant in dry, open veld in the western regions of the country. Try Tankwa Karoo National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
BAT-EARED FOX OTOCYON MEGALOTIS
at-eared foxes are some of the most frequently encountered foxes, especially in the drier western parts of South Africa. The arid semi-deserts they occupy have severe seasonal and daily climatic fluctuations, so the foxes adjust their activities to escape bitterly cold or scorching conditions. They can be surprisingly diurnal during the cold winter months, with more nocturnal activity during the summer months. Their diagnostic feature is,
of course, their ears, which they point to the ground to pick up the slightest sound of subterranean insects. Interestingly, prey items can be deduced from the distance between foxes while foraging. When feeding on harvester termites for instance, foxes feed relatively close to one another at the site of the nest. Beetle larvae, on the other hand, are more spread-out and the foxes will disperse accordingly while foraging for these critters.
WHERE TO SEE THEM Tankwa Karoo National Park, Karoo National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Bat-eared foxes are also seen in the east of the Kruger National Park. www.wildcard.co.za
LEEUWDRIL, KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER PARK
Bickering and posturing, yes, but fighting rarely occurs among animals of the same species in nature. An injury, even temporary, can hamper the food-finding or flight ability of an animal, resulting in its deterioration or death. Black-backed jackals show dominance by raising the hair on their backs and lifting their tails. The less dominant animal shows submissiveness by flattening its ears and tucking its tail between its legs. Even though the animal on the right clearly shows a submissive posture, it may have been offered too late to satisfy the dominant jackal. The brief fight, which turned the two combatants into an unrecognisable pile of fur and fangs, would have eradicated any uncertainties. PHOTOS BY PIET STANDER
Canon EOS 70D, EF70-200mm f2.8L IS II USM, 1/640 sec, f5.0, ISO 400
ART IN THE PARK
Discover a different world on your next visit to the parks. Uncover the mysterious past through rock art and tumbling ruins.
n art gallery or sculpture garden in a national park? Elsewhere in the world this is not a strange concept. Heritage tourism reaches out to visitors in a multitude of ways, in the same way that adventure tourism has become a yardstick of many a park’s offerings. While we have long enjoyed naturebased tourism, there’s much to explore
besides scenic beauty and biodiversity. Increasingly, there will also be a focus on “the Nature of Heritage”. One of South Africa’s most publicised archaeological treasures, the Golden Rhino, is in Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site. The site where the Zimbabwe culture is believed to have started, the Lost City at Mapungubwe Hill,
VOICES is testament to a civilisation that prospered between AD1200 and AD1270 and is an added attraction to a park that already offers plenty in the line of wildlife and scenery. [To read more about this ancient civilisation and the artefacts discovered in the park, visit www.wildcard.co.za and search â€œMapungubweâ€?.] Mapungubwe is not the only kingdom www.wildcard.co.za
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that merits a visit. In Kruger National Park, the highly atmospheric Thulamela likewise conjures up fabulous riches through trade with faraway places such as Egypt, India and China. Our pick of heritage sites is not only for history boffins and culture vultures. Each will enrich your holiday in Wild Card parks and reserves.
This vivid depiction of a dying eland is found at Game Pass Shelter in Kamberg Nature Reserve.
ART IN THE PARK
KAMBERG NATURE RESERVE
THE FAMOUS ELAND PANEL BY ERIC THORBURN
Above and opposite: Visit Game Pass Shelter on a guided walk. Cost R40 an adult, R20 a child. Book with the reserve on 033-267-7251.
he wind was whispering through the grass as we toiled up the steep track in the Kamberg region of the Drakensberg. The track was leading to what our guide from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife described as the most famous example of rock art in South Africa, the Eland Panel in Game Pass Shelter. This panel is referred to as the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of rock art as it was this set of images which provided archaeologists with the key to unravelling the meaning of the paintings. Until then opinion had been that Bushman rock art merely depicted life as it was in those distant times, with quaint renditions of animals, birds, reptiles and people. A people whose life centred on the need to hunt effectively, using primitive bows and arrows tipped with poison.
They were nomads, leaving little evidence of their presence. All they left were their stories painted on the rocks of the shelters they occupied. Of all the animals, the eland took pride of place. Not only was it the prime source of food, but it was the ultimate symbol of power and spiritual potency. Kamberg’s Eland panel shows the eland in its death throes. The lowered head, the hollow staring eyes, the erect hair and the crossed legs as it staggers on the verge of collapse, are typical of the last stages of poisoning from an arrow. Scientists from the Origins Centre at Wits University, which incorporates the much older Rock Art Research Institute, made the breakthrough into understanding the real meaning of the images at Game Pass Shelter. The paintings depict
Of all the animals, the eland took pride of place.
THE DANCE OF DEATH the trance dance, sometimes referred to as the ‘Dance of Death’, probably the oldest ritual known to humans. A group of men and women would gather round a lonely campfire, quite often around the carcass of a freshly killed eland. The women would chant to the throb of drums, and the shaman would dance around the flames. The dance continued for hours, and the tempo increased until the shaman built himself up into a frenzy, hyperventilating, his hair erect. Bleeding from the nose, his head hanging with his arms stretched behind him, supernatural potency would then ‘boil’ within him and he would enter a state of trance. In this state of hallucination the spirit of the shaman would be transported into the ‘other’ world, where gods and ancestral spirits were encountered. He might cry www.wildcard.co.za
out for rain, or good fortune in hunting. In particular he would ask for healing for sickness, or the casting out of evil spirits in his family. Following these exertions the shaman usually collapsed unconscious. After recovering, his adventures were recorded through art. Many of these characteristics are clearly depicted in the Eland Panel. Imagine a long-dead cave artist, crouched in the rock shelter, contemplating a freshly completed painting of an eland, travelling, in the mind’s eye, through that symbolic gateway into the spirit world lying beyond the rock curtain. The San Interpretive Centres at Kamberg and Didima, and the display at Main Cave at Giant’s Castle, together create a dynamic record of a way of life, of a maligned and all-too-often forgotten people.
The Eland Panel shows various depictions of shamans doing the trance dance. One has an animal head and is wearing a kaross, while another has hooves instead of feet, and has exaggerated erect hairs much like those of the dying eland. A tall shaman behind the eland is holding the tail of the dying beast, with the obvious intention of transferring spiritual power from the dying eland to himself, thus making it easier for him to enter the spirit realm in a state of trance.
ART IN THE PARK
MATJIESRIVIER NATURE RESERVE, CEDERBERG
ELEPHANT PAINTING BY ROMI BOOM
The Cederberg has over 2 500 discovered rock art sites.
n the drier eastern boundary of the rugged Cederberg is Matjiesrivier, a 12 800 hectare CapeNature reserve, home to the captivating Stadsaal Caves. When you purchase a day permit at Dwarsrivier, or from Algeria or any of the tourism offices in the Cederberg Conservancy, it comes with a sequence of numbers to open the combination lock at the entrance to the site. The most precious rock painting is sheltered in an overhang, where the smooth face of a huge boulder served
1 MILLION YEARS Time people have lived in the Cederberg
as canvas to a long-forgotten artist. Not far beyond the gate, turn right at the sign saying Elephant Cave. A short walk from the car park takes you right up to the well-preserved rock art site, at least 1 000 years old. Clearly depicted are three groups of tall figures, clad in animal skins, and a family group of six elephants, in a delicate, fine-line style. Powerful stuff, the presence of an ancient culture. Elephants are more common in the rock art of the Cederberg than in other
Southern Africa probably has the richest legacy of rock art in the world.
regions of South Africa, while the eland is the most popular of all the antelope painted in the Cederberg. Animals have important symbolic religious meanings. Humans are also depicted, often in procession, hunting or out gathering food. Imagine the artist, assembling their materials, grinding red, maroon, yellow and orange pigments from ochre. Clay, charcoal and manganese oxide would be placed alongside. The colours would be mixed with binders such as blood, fat, egg and plant juices. The veld would be
scoured for materials to use as brushes, such as animal hair, feathers, reeds or porcupine quills. Since ochre pigment endures, unlike the black from charcoal, the humans in this scene, believed to be shamans engaging in trance ceremonies, look headless as the paint used for their heads has faded over the years. Southern Africa probably has the richest legacy of rock art in the world. Matjiesrivier is a delightful open air museum, and there arenâ€™t any queues!
The rock art proves that elephants used to be common in the area.
28 000 YEARS
8 000 YEARS
3 600 YEARS
Oldest rock art in Southern Africa
Age of some Cederberg paintings
Oldest dated fine-line images in the region, found near Lambertâ€™s Bay
ART IN THE PARK
THULAMELA, KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
SACRED STONE-WALLED SITE BY ROMI BOOM
Thulamela is currently closed for visits. Check with Punda Maria on 013-735-6873 as to when it will open.
top a hill with a view to forever, in the far north of Kruger, is a late Iron Age site that was born from the demise of Great Zimbabwe. Our pickup, a safari vehicle from Punda Maria rest camp, had left at 07h00, the golden hour when the bush awakens in winter. During the hour-long drive to the ruins we passed an army of buffalo and countless alert nyala. The scene was much the same as five centuries ago, during the rule of the chiefdom of Thulamela, when smaller tribes had abandoned Great Zimbabwe and migrated south across the Limpopo River. The hilltop citadel also benefited from an increase in trade networks from the east coast towards what is now Botswana, Zambia and Central Africa. Muslim traders brought glass beads from India and
porcelain from China, exchanging these for ivory, gold and animal skins. According to oral histories, the Shonaspeaking inhabitants, the Lembethu, believed in a mystical relationship between the land and their leader, the Khosi, whose ancestors would intercede on behalf of the nation. The Khosi was an elusive figure and could be seen only by certain confidants. Commoners most probably lived near their fields, where they cultivated grains such as sorghum and millet for porridge and beer. Flanked in front and behind by armed field guides, we trundled uphill from these fertile soils. Much of the site has been restored since its discovery amid the overgrown bush by section ranger Flip Nel in 1983. As we trod over a maze of loose stones and low walls, it was quite a
Songs from yesteryear
Have you ever considered going tracking with the Bushmen in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park? At !Xaus Lodge you can follow rooikat, aardvark and jackal spoor across red sand dunes, while sharing the legendary hunters’ stories of survival. Visit www.xauslodge.co.za for more information.
challenge to sidestep the vibrant splashes of red velvet mites. Less heedful were the elephant that had used this very same trail shortly before, disrespectfully depositing their dung on the sacred rubble and pushing over carefully reconstructed dry packed stone walls. This being an ancient elephant migration route, the presence of the animals was tangible, and with a bit of imagination, one could visualise the human activities of days gone by. Not only iron artefacts have been found, but also shards of clay containers used for cooking, eating and drinking. Two imposing baobabs, presumed more than 4 000 years old, preside over the site. They would have been mature when the Thulamela dynasty ruled the Limpopo valley. What a privilege to breathe the air of ancient Africa. www.wildcard.co.za
While you might not think it worth driving out of your way to see coastal shell middens left by Khoi herders, such 2 000-year-old archaeological deposits are an exciting sight. The Spoeg River Cave in Namaqua National Park, Klipgat Cave outside De Kelders in Walker Bay Nature Reserve, and various sites along the Whale Trail in De Hoop Nature Reserve come to mind. Various cultural heritage sites are being identified and protected in the Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park, ranging from Khoisan caves, shell middens and rock art to more recent ruins of small fisher settlements, remnants of the past forestry industries and grave sites. The Oral History Collection project taps the memories of the region’s older people about the more recent history of the forestry and fishing industries. The park also offers insight into its gold mining era on the Millwood Mine Tour, which you can read about in the autumn 2015 issue of Wild, or online on www.wildcard. co.za (search ‘Millwood’). The Nama people from the Augrabies, Namaqua and Richtersveld communities commemorate their heritage through various cultural activities, including traditional singing, dancing and story telling as well as showcasing their traditional products. Read more about this on page 14.
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FOREST BOUND Teens lace up their tackies to explore Grootvadersbosch.
Babes in the
WOODS Grootvadersbosch is a nature reserve that will keep your entire family busy, a playground for hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers and bird watchers. By Jacques Marais
here’s no Wi-Fi in the forest, but you are sure to make a better connection,” I interject from the driver’s seat. I watch in the rear-view mirror as Beth rolls her eyes. At 13, she is a recent addition to the Teenage Tribe. Next to her, The Robster is not too fazed about spending a weekend camping out in the wilds, but then this very much rates as ‘natural habitat’ for a 10-year-old boy. Grace, our four-year-old laatlammetjie at the other end of the family pecking order, is happy with any environment, as long as there is someone to boss around. I switch my attention back to the road. This part of the Overberg is generally ignored by travellers zooming amid the patchwork of yellow canola and green wheat fields stretching along the highway between Cape Town and the Garden Route. It is not necessarily a bad thing, as it means nature reserves such as Grootvaders-
bosch are never crowded, even during school breaks and other holidays. Visitors are mostly limited to daytrippers or weekend campers, with some of the reserve’s shorter hiking trails especially popular with walkers, amateur botanists and birdwatchers. The campsite is less than a minute from the entrance to the reserve, set on a grassy knoll with a 360-degree view of primary emerald forest. Tame horses patrol the wooden palisade fencing, and you can hear the local baboon troop guffawing deep within the thickets along the plunging edges of the Duiwenhoks River valley. Although the reserve itself is a mere 250 hectares in size, it borders on the extensive Boosmansbos Wilderness area, which spreads for a dozen kilo metres along fynbos towards steep mountain ranges that delineate the border between the Overberg and the arid plains of the Klein Karoo. Further south the local farming community have created the Groot-
Who can resist a natural playground with spring in the air?
Gather the troops at the campsite in the evening for a game of cards.
CHILL OUT Camping offers youngsters freedom and time to truly relax. XX WILD SPRING 2015
Thanks to the buffer zone there are now more hiking trails and mountain-bike routes.
The campsite has a lush green lawn and trees that provide shade.
vadersbosch Conservancy, a buffer zone that combines conservation with responsible agriculture and offers more hiking trails, excellent mountain-biking routes and a range of add-on adventure options. Two other families joined us for the weekend, which swelled the ranks of rug-rats considerably. Heading out on the Bushbuck Trail, the boys cannon-balled ahead among towering yellowwoods, Cape beech, red alder and around 35 species of indigenous trees. An impromptu game of spotthe-birds soon had them focused on the forest sounds. Beth and friends brought up the rear, but soon they too got carried away by the many adventures awaiting them around literally every bend along this amazing trail. At one point, a forest giant had been uprooted, falling across a stream to create a natural bridge. It was too much to resist. Whooping excitedly, they crawled along the moss-covered tree trunk on their hands and knees. Unexpectedly thereâ€™s an extensive stand of majestic Californian redwood trees, planted from 1896 onwards to counteract the depletion of the indigenous trees due to forwww.wildcard.co.za
estry activities. Theyâ€™re still youngsters compared to their brethren of more than a thousand years old in America. But together with other exotics such as eucalyptus, ash and oaks, these beauties are not welcome, and the vegetation is being slowly restored to its original state. Two well-positioned bird hides along the trail allow you to glimpse the secret life of birds, bees and butterflies high in the verdant canopy. If youâ€™re patient enough, chances are you will come away with great sightings of narina trogon, Knysna touraco, sombre bulbul and many other species from a list of 196 forest birds. With a bit of luck, you may spot the elusive grey duiker and bushbuck, or a number of other small mammal species. The apex predator is Cape mountain leopard, but while camera traps in the conservancy have captured images, your chances of seeing one along the Grootvadersbosch Trails are slim. These enchanted woods are sure to transport you and your family into a scene straight from the pages of The Lord of the Rings. There may not be elves or wizards, but you will soon sense the magic.
It is the perfect place to let your kids loose for some deep-forest adventure.
HIDE AND SEEK From your perch high in the canopy you can eyeball birds.
Information boards share interesting facts about the forest giants.
Good Sports 1
For information on all the adventure options at Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, visit www.capenature.co.za. These three are sure to thrill: Crank the Grootvadersbosch MTB Trail DISTANCE Currently 58 km, but the members of the conservancy have generated funding to increase this to over 100 km of single-track. Shorter loop options from 8 km will suit beginner riders. DURATION 1.5 to 6 hours. GRADING Easy, on public gravel road, to intermediate on purpose-built single-track. Some sections of track may be challenging, especially during wet conditions. www.gvbconservancy.co.za
Run the 2-day Grootvadersbosch Trail Run DISTANCE Day 1 is a 30 km mountain stage through the Boosmansbos fynbos ridges, following the two-day hiking route past the overnight hut. This is a tough run and only
for experienced runners. Day 2 is an easier run of 20 km, mostly along the valley floor, except for a steep and gnarly foray onto the ridge line situated above the original Grootvadersbosch Farmstead. DURATION 3.5 to 8 hours on Day 1 and 2.5 to 6 hours on Day 2. GRADING Technical. www.quantumadventures.co.za
Hike the Grootvadersbosch Trails DISTANCE Trail options range from the 10 km Bushbuck and 15 km Grysbok day hikes to a longer hike into Boosmansbos, with daily distances of 12 km and 18 km. The three- to four-hour Bushbuck Trail is an excellent family outing. DURATION One or two days. GRADING Intermediate. www.capenature.co.za
TRIP Planner Getting there For the shortest and most scenic route to Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve from Cape Town, take the turn-off to Suurbraak, 20 km on the road past Swellendam.
Grootvadersbosch is a three-hour drive from Cape Town.
The campsite All 10 individual stands have electricity points and braai areas, with views across the indigenous forest. A communal thatched braai makes for a social gathering point, while the kids can go wild on the grassy lawns and jungle gym. Bring your own grid, utensils and wood. No pets.
Cost R300 a site a night off peak, R370 in peak season, for up to six people. If you don’t have a Wild Card, conservation fees are R40 an adult and R20 a child under 12. Activity permits are charged separately. Hiking R40 an adult, R20 a child; mountain biking R30, bring your own bike. What’s in a name? Grootvadersbosch was originally known as Melkhoutskraal, a reference to the milkwood trees that occur in the indigenous afromontane forest.
T H N I E W ROOTVADERSBOSCH
N T E U V R D E A Like the sound of a weekend spent camping with family or friends? Win a stay for four in Grootvadersbosch plus the camping equipment you need, worth R8 390, compliments of Coleman. How to enter Email the answer to the question below along with your name and valid Wild Card number to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: Coleman). The prize includes two nights at a campsite plus one tent, four sleeping bags, one cooler box and four headlamps (see products below). Competition closes 30 November 2015. Visit www.wildcard.co.za for full terms and conditions. Question: How many cans fit inside an Xtreme 50QT cooler?
All Day 2-for-1 Dome Tent and Shelter (R3 899). Enjoy the best of both worlds: lounge under the canopy by day, bed down in the tent at night. The large shelter creates a porch for the foursleeper tent and offers extra protection from the elements.
Xtreme 50QT Cooler (R1 699). Keep food and drinks cold for up to five days with this hardworking cooler. Thanks to the wheels and retractable handle it’s easy to get around. It stores 2L bottles upright and has space for 84 cans.
Durango Sleeping Bag (R499). Ideal for warm-weather camping, this roomy sleeping bag will comfortably fit a strapping man. It has an inner pocket for storing valuables and a reversible zipper so two bags can be joined together.
CHT7 Headlamp (R199). Whether you’re around the braai or playing cards, this handy headlamp keeps your hands free. It has a variety of modes with different strengths of light including red mode, a must for keeping insects from your face.
The COLEMAN range of products is available at more than a hundred outlets nationwide, including Makro, Sportsmans Warehouse, Outdoor Warehouse, Cape-Agri Stores, Checkers, Pick n Pay, Midas and a range of other respected outdoor retailers.
Visit www.coleman.eu/co.za or call 0861-527-336 to find an outlet near you.
www.sanparks.org +27 (0)12 428 9111 1
Addo Elephant National Park
Agulhas National Park
Augrabies Falls National Park
Bontebok National Park
Camdeboo National Park
RESERVES and resorts
6 Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
7 Karoo National Park 8 Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park 9 Knysna National Lake Area 10 Kruger National Park 11 Mapungubwe National Park
12 Marakele National Park 13 Mokala National Park 14 Mountain Zebra National Park 15 Namaqua National Park
16 Table Mountain National Park 17 Tankwa Karoo National Park 18 Tsitsikamma National Park 19 West Coast National Park
20 Wilderness National Park 21 IAi-IAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
IAi-IAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park 21
Augrabies Falls National Park
Namaqua National Park
www.capenature.co.za +27 (0)861 CAPENATURE (227 362 8873) 1
Anysberg Nature Reserve
Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve
Bird Island Nature Reserve
Boosmansbos Wilderness Area
Cederberg Wilderness Area
De Hoop Nature Reserve
De Mond Nature Reserve
Gamkaberg Nature Reserve
Goukamma Nature Reserve
St Helena Bay
West Coast 19 National Park
Karoo National Park 7
CAPE TOWN 16
Table Mountain National Park
20 Rocherpan Nature Reserve
Graaff-Reinet 5 Camdeboo National Park
23 Hermanus 24
1 Addo Ele Nationa
Bontebok National Park 4
FOLLOW US ON Agulhas National Park 2
Mo Z Na P
12 False Bay
21 Salmonsdam Nature Reserve
17 Marloth Nature Reserve
23 Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve
18 Outeniqua Nature Reserve
24 Walker Bay Nature Reserve
16 Limietberg Nature Reserve
22 Swartberg Nature Reserve
Tankwa Karoo National Park 17 5
15 Kogelberg Nature Reserve
19 Robberg Nature Reserve
Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area
14 Keurbooms River Nature Reserve
12 Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve 13 Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
10 Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve 11
Mokala 13 National Park
18 Tsitsikamma National Park
Plettenberg Bay Mossel Wilderness Bay National 9 Knysna 19 National Park Lake 20 Area 9 50
St Franci Bay
300 Kilom etres
DUMBLETON MARK & CHRISTAL
Mapungubwe National Park 11
POLOKWANE Marakele National Park 12
Kruger National Park
Centurion Midrand Sandton
1 Hlane Royal National Park
Vaal Dam N3
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Orange Vanderkloof Dam
At Ezemvelo, present your Wild Card + ID + confirmation letter.
Kosi Bay Lake Sibaya
Pongolapoort Dam Lake St Lucia
Mokala National Park
MBABANE Mlilwane Mkhaya Game Wildlife Sanctuary Reserve 2
22 North Coast
www.kznwildlife.com +27 (0)33 845 1000
Port Shepstone N2
Graaff-Reinet 5 Camdeboo National Park
www.msinsi.co.za +27 (0)31 765 7724
Cradock Mountain Zebra National Park 14
King William’s Town Bisho
1 Addo Elephant National Park
Albert Falls Dam
4 Inanda Dam 5 Nagle Dam 6
kamma al Park
ROAD TRIP Our 1 000 km challenge covers three parks in three days. Where would you go?
Chelmsford Dam Nature Reserve
Cobham Nature Reserve
Didima – Cathedral Peak
Garden Castle Nature Reserve
Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve
Harold Johnson Nature Reserve
Highmoor Nature Reserve
Hilltop – Hluhluwe Game Reserve
Mpila – iMfolozi Game Reserve
Injesuthi Nature Reserve
Ithala Game Reserve
Kamberg Nature Reserve
Lotheni Nature Reserve
Midmar Dam Nature Reserve
Monks Cowl Nature Reserve
Ndumo Game Reserve
19 Phongolo Nature Reserve
St Francis Bay
20 Royal Natal National Park
0861 GO WILD (46 9453)
email@example.com 300 Kilom etres
Amatigulu Nature Reserve
18 Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve
International: +27 861 46 9453 | Fax: 086 502 6704
21 Spioenkop Dam Nature Reserve
www.biggameparks.org +268 2528 3943 / 4
22 Umlalazi Nature Reserve 23 Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve
Hlane Royal National Park
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
24 Wagendrift Dam Nature Reserve
Mkhaya Game Reserve
25 Weenen Game Reserve
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