Wild41 summer 2017/18 preview

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2013 T0




Gravel roads A weekend on dirt tracks Wellness Find inner peace in nature


Lazy lions Full frontal or side-on shots? 4 Wish list species Spot them here!

Adventure & ACTIVITY

Game drives & guided walks MARAKELE When the birding bug bites BONTEBOK 01023

DE HOOP Hike mountain, vlei & beach MAPUNGUBWE Cycle for a good cause


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explore | conserve | enjoy

www.wildcard.co.za SUMMER 2017/2018





33°27’48.7”S 20°35’18.7”E

Put down your marker at any of our 25 reserves for your perfect summer getaway. With so many different destinations and activities to choose from, you will most likely find more than one favourite. Experience activities such as hiking, camping, mountain biking, bird watching, 4x4 trails, horse riding and many more.

021 483 0190 reservation.alert@capenature.co.za Book online: www.capenature.co.za

Standard daily conservation fees apply. Free access for Wild Card members.


Wild SUMMER 2017/2018

“This was the closest I’d come to an elephant. The look on my sister’s face was one I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” – LERATO TSHABALALA


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62 4 Letters 8 Chalets that rock Mountain Zebra’s new luxury accommodation 12 Bucket-list ticks Cape Point and Mapungubwe 14 Elephant shrew Look for this Kgalagadi critter 37 Summer trip planner Are you ready to go glamping?

PEOPLE IN PARKS 72 Kruger first-timers Kids learn about conservation

38 Mountain bike in Mapungubwe This fundraiser is your ticket to riding wild among giants



16 Adventure: On our shortlist 18 Explore the bush in Marakele Guided walks and game drives get you closer to the action 24 Go birding in Bontebok Why young and old are devoted to this hobby 30 Hit the trail in De Hoop Three days of tailor-made hikes

52 Travel on gravel Along back roads for an impromptu escape from Cape Town 62 Wellness holidays Connect more deeply to nature through yoga, massage, meditation and immersive trails PHOTOGRAPHY 82 Shooting lazy lions How to get good pictures of flat cats

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80 NATURE 44 Small cat diaries Where to see pint-sized predators 59 Salt of the earth Why this precious mineral matters 68 We brake for wildlife The effect of roads on animals 76 The wattle effect Birds with facial decorations

93 Become a member 94 Map of the Wild parks 96 Competition Win a stay at Marakele National Park

BOTANY 80 Fever tree 88 Enchanted by the ghostly green trunk and yellow flower pompoms

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90 Parks protocol Be a responsible camper and limit your impact

KIDS Game time Have fun while learning some everyday animal sayings


Johannes van Niekerk

Adventure as boundless as the views

#FindYourWild Garden Route National Park: Camping from R205, chalets from R1120 Reservations (012) 428 9111 E-mail reservations@sanparks.org www.sanparks.org




WILD CARD ENQUIRIES 0861 GO WILD (46 9453) wildcard@sanparks.org International Wild Card members call

+27-12-428-9112 EDITOR Romi Boom | wilded@tipafrica.co.za DEPUTY EDITOR Magriet Kruger | magriet@tipafrica.co.za ART DIRECTOR Riaan Vermeulen | riaan@tipafrica.co.za DESIGNER Leon Kriel TEXT EDITOR Marion Boddy-Evans PROOFREADER Margy Beves-Gibson DIGITAL EDITOR Arnold Ras CONTENT DIRECTOR Igna Schneider EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Joan Kruger CREATIVE DIRECTOR Petro du Toit MAGAZINE ENQUIRIES


CONTRIBUTORS Mems and Farida Carim, Trevor Carnaby, Julienne du Toit, Calvin Fisher, Albert and Marietjie Froneman, Leon Kriel, Kelly Lodewyks, Don Pinnock, Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi, Joël Roerig, Janine Stephen, Di Tipping-Woods, Morgan Trimble, Lerato Tshabalala, Marion Whitehead PHOTOGRAPHY & ART Afripics, Bridgena Barnard, Romi Boom, Sabie Botha, Mems and Farida Carim, Albert and Marietjie Froneman, Roberto Isotti, Leon Kriel, Kelly Lodewyks, Chris Marais, Bernie Olbrich, Scott Ramsay, Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi, Arnold Ras, Joël Roerig, Daleen Roodt, Shutterstock, TheGoodHoliday.com, Morgan Trimble, University of Pretoria, Heinrich van den Berg, Adriaan van Jaarsveld, Elmar Venter, Marion Whitehead

PUBLISHED BY Tip Africa Publishing PO Box 13022, Woodstock, 7915 T: (+27) 021-447-6094 F: (+27) 021-447-0312 wilded@tipafrica.co.za EDITORIAL QUERIES 021-448-5425 BUSINESS & SALES Jaco Scholtz jaco@tipafrica.co.za | C: 083-303-0453 PUBLISHER Theo Pauw theo@tipafrica.co.za | C: 082-558-5730 Reproduction Resolution Colour Printing Paarl Media Printed by


aving spent a weekend in harmony with nature at De Hoop Nature Reserve, I’m writing this from a state of zen (almost). All over the globe, the soul-filling reward of transformative travel lures visitors to places where we can deepen our connection to the natural world. Whether you choose to walk or meditate away the daily grind, the value of immersive experiences is certainly something many Wild Card members appreciate. Read about our top picks on page 62. Landscape as a spiritual space, where heritage is both tangible and intangible, is recognised in the latest addition to the Unesco World Heritage List. The ‡Khomani Cultural Landscape, a site embedded with indigenous knowledge of semi-arid desert hunting and gathering, now forms parts of the holy grail of legacy sites. The landscape comprises the entire Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and forms part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Over 722 animals, including blue wildebeest, hartebeest, springbok, gemsbok, ostrich, eland and giraffe, have been translocated to the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities following a land settlement agreement with government and SANParks. The objective is for the communities to benefit from conservation initiatives linked to a sustainable wildlife economy. South Africa’s World Heritage Sites now number nine. Other Wild Card properties on the list are Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, and the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas. We jumped at the rare invitation to cycle off the map in Mapungubwe (page 38), where cranking pedals is all about inspiring children to care for their natural heritage. To add even more spark to our adventure and activity theme, we go on game drives and bush walks in Marakele, travel with millennials to Bontebok National Park (for the birds’ sake) and embark on an ingenious last-minute road trip on gravel. That’s our kind of dirty weekend! For all the cat lovers out there, and we know there are plenty of you, we feature four of our favourite small cat species, as well as tips on how to photograph lazy lions. May your summer be filled with sunshine and laughter. Enjoy long, leisurely holidays with your Wild Card and travel safe.

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Wild® magazine and Wild Card® are registered trademarks of SANParks. Opinions expressed in this magazine do not reflect those of the Wild Card or any of the Wild Card programme partners. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, but Wild magazine cannot be held liable for inadvertent mistakes. Prices correct at the time of going to print.

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Connect with us at www.wildcard.co.za | wilded@tipafrica.co.za | PO Box 13022, Woodstock, 7915

FANS OF BERG-EN-DAL This year we decided to visit the southwestern section of Kruger and what a surprise was in store for us. Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp was very comfortable and the staff very efficient. The dam on the perimeter of the camp was unfortunately dry, but we nevertheless had good elephant sightings in the riverbed. In the five days we spent in the area the only member of the Big Five not photographed was lion. The area is certainly worth a visit.



Tony James

Send us your letter for the chance to win. Tony James wins a pair of Strand sandals (R599) from HI-TEC. Looking for durable footwear that can take you from beach to boulders with ease? Designed to walk on rocky surfaces, the Strand sandal has a sole that provides grip and a footbed with extra cushioning. Keep your feet cool and safe this summer as you head out to explore nature.



I was in the Kruger National Park over a weekend in September for my birthday. On Friday we entered at Malelane and proceeded to Crocodile Bridge. On Saturday we explored the tar road between Crocodile Bridge and Nkuhlu picnic site. On Monday we left via Paul Kruger Gate. The rangers were outstanding in sharing information about the animals. For us the park was the best it has been in the past four years. We saw the Big Five in no time and saved a lot of fuel! There was a disturbing and irritating sight of a GP-vehicle with half the driver’s body out the window. The occupants did not find anything wrong with this behaviour. If it was the father, the one who has to teach his children the right things, guide and protect them, he is a bad example. I cannot blame the visibility of rangers and/or security in the park, but these attention seekers should be punished to ensure they do not repeat their unwelcome stunts. I am happy that my family did not see any joke or humour in this gentleman’s behaviour. Graham Ndlovu

We were recently driving slowly up the Auob riverbed in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, when we saw a gemsbok with what looked like a horn protruding from its cheek. It was quite far away, but the binoculars showed that the animal was very relaxed and chewing on this horn. Can you explain this strange behaviour? Jannie Engelbrecht

FLOWER FEAST Our family enjoyed the flowers in West Coast National Park. The reception, value-for-money breakfast and hospitality of the staff were wonderful. We were also treated to whales jumping out of the water at one picnic spot. Definitely worth paying a visit. Pieter Myburgh


Jaco Powell, zoologist, field guide, SANParks honorary ranger and co-author of the new Kgalagadi SelfDrive, responds: All antelope species, even steenbok, chew on bones, hide and horns. It is quite impressive to see a steenbok chewing on a bone by a carcass, making some people think it actually made the kill... Antelope chew on horns for any and all of the minerals available. If the horn is from a carcass, it may still have a piece of bone protruding, so calcium and keratin, and even some phosphates, will be on offer. SUMMER 2017/2018 WILD 5


Activity permits are not access cards – like Wild Card – but permits to undertake certain high-impact recreational activities in a national park.

We have just come back from a flower trip that included entry to the Cape Point section of Table Mountain National Park. I was very surprised to find that while my Wild Card gave me access to the park in my car, if my wife and I entered the park on our cycles, this cost us another R180 per person. What I do not understand is the fact that our carbon footprint is zero, the exact opposite of our Landcruiser. Surely SANParks should be encouraging people to rather visit parks of this nature on their bicycles? Instead we have people racing in and out of the park in buses and cars, polluting the air and throwing rubbish out their windows and leaving roadkill in their wake. I could possibly understand it if provision had been made for dedicated cycles routes and the charge was a recovery for their maintenance thereof. This is not the case, because you ride on the tar and there are limited alternative tracks. Peter Duncan


My Activity Permit is not included in the cost of a Wild Card, the latter being a national access card for leisure. My Activity Permit covers only activities within Table Mountain National Park. The park is a globally recognised biodiversity hotspot and has to be protected in a sustainable manner that takes into account the enjoyment of future generations and not only current users. To cycle in the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park, you need to present a level 3 activity permit or you need to purchase the daily cycling permit. If you have a level 3 activity permit, you have unlimited entries to Cape of Good Hope to cycle, as well as other areas within the park where cycling is allowed such as Silvermine and Tokai. You will not be required to pay entrance fees to carry out your specified activity. Income that the park generates, including contributions made by Activity Cards, is used to fund the conservation of the mountain chain from Table Mountain to Cape Point. The park measures 24 000 hectares and the funds currently utilised for veld infrastructure, conservation and management, which includes cycle tracks, is far in excess of the money raised by the activity permit system. Maintenance is an ongoing process. In Tokai, for example, basic maintenance of the bike tracks is undertaken, but resources are also needed to close illegal tracks. The park is appreciative of the efforts of volunteer groups who assist in this regard.
As SANParks’ core business is biodiversity conservation, its resources are directed at conservation programmes such as alien invasive plant clearing (R15 million), fire management (R8 million) and rehabilitation (R3 million) on an annual basis. Only once the environmental integrity of an area and its landscape is ensured, may the sustainable use of an area be considered.

• Level 1 – Dog-walking (R270) • Level 1 – Multi User Level 1 card additional member (R100) • Level 2 – Hang-gliding and paragliding, sport climbing (R450) • Level 3 – Horse-riding, mountain biking, line fishing and transport (R550) • Level 3 – Additional member (R230)

Find out more about the Cape Town tourism offices where you can purchase My Activity Permit: Visit https://www.sanparks.org/parks/table_mountain/tourism/access-cards-permits.php Call the Tokai tourist office on 021-712-7471 | Email tablemountain@sanparks.org. 6 WILD SUMMER 2017/2018



FIVE IN A ROW For the fifth consecutive year, Wild has won the prize for Best External Magazine at the SA Publication Forum Awards. The competition recognises excellence in corporate publications. This year the Wild team took it further by also scooping the award for Best Electronic Newsletter. Make sure you receive the bimonthly e-newsletter in your mailbox by subscribing on www.wildcard.co.za.

MAGNIFICENT MAPUNGUBWE Wild Card Team, I’m absolutely loving your magazine. Inspired by your mag, we have just returned from a magical long weekend at Mapungubwe – awesome. Mind-blowing landscape, great wildlife and birding. Magnificent museum, excellent accommodation and brilliant guide. An amazing experience! Planning to visit again. Robert Paxton Turn to our article on page 38 for a new way to experience the park.

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. Email your image to competition@tipafrica. co.za (subject line: Card). For rules, visit www. wildcard.co.za/category/competitions.

Natalie Kotze wins free renewal with this picture of her family’s visit to the Spoeg River Caves in Namaqua National Park.



House ROCK THE Upmarket and sophisticated aptly describe the new accommodation in Mountain Zebra National Park, but the most unforgettable by far is the view, wall to wall, floor to ceiling. By Julienne du Toit • Photos Chris Marais

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taying at the new luxury Rock Chalets in Mountain Zebra National Park is all about the optics. In the morning you awake to an Imax-style movie amphitheatre in your bedroom, the floor-length windows opening to a sky that turns from black to pink to blue, the clear dawn light sweeping up the ironstone cliffs of the Bankberg in dramatic silence. If there weren’t lions, cheetahs and charismatic mountain zebra roaming about this park with its open horizons and Pierneef-purple mountainous backdrops, you might be tempted to watch

this astounding real-time movie until mid-morning, in your pyjamas, under fine linen and mohair blankets. I know I was. The Rock Chalets, opened in September, add a sophisticated, upmarket element to the accommodation offerings at this highly biodiverse and popular national park outside Cradock in the Eastern Cape Karoo. The two luxury chalets are set on a level dolerite ridge above the popular mountain cottages. They’re within walking distance of the shop, restaurant and other amenities, but high enough that you look clear over the treetops and roof tops. It’s like being able to see the

You look across a rocky stage, punctuated by fascinating boulders.


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1 Guided walks are an excellent way to get to know the Karoo bush. 2 The park has three 4x4 trails that visitors can explore free of charge. 3

4 3 This is how a great day of game viewing should end: enjoying a braai with a view. 4 The rock chalets are comfortably furnished and boast modern appliances. 5 One of Mountain Zebra’s engaging residents. 5

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The charm of this park is how effortless it is to see the animals.

surrounding ring of mountains from the height of a starling in flight. The chalets are furnished with leather couches, a fireplace for cold Karoo nights, air conditioning, flatscreen television, DStv, and a modular kitchen. There are even private outside showers as well as full walk-in showers and free-standing baths in the large en suite bathrooms. The signature feature is that the huge floor-length windows fold open to completely link outside with inside for the bedrooms and living area. You look across a rocky stage, punctuated by fascinating boulders split by the Karoo’s intense heat and cold. We watched bustling fat skinks, Karoo chats landing and flexing their wings, red-eyed bulbuls come to drink from the rain-filled hollows, and the graceful flight of a pale chanting goshawk. The peace that radiates from mountains and the evocative call of the brown-hooded kingfisher settled into our bones. Part of the charm of this park is how effortless it is to see the animals, usually

with vivid backdrops. The easiest to spot are the black wildebeest with frisky white tails, mountain zebra with their precisely striped coats and chocolate-orange muzzles, red hartebeest and springbok on the plains, and kudu in the thorn tree thickets. Watch out for lions and stately eland bulls along the rivercourses. As the sky turns from blue to pink, look out for an aardwolf or two. There are also cheetahtracking tours on offer. In the late afternoon, with the braai fire going and a glass of something chilled to hand, watch the ironstone stage before you as the sun slips slowly behind the heights. Like us, you are almost certain to see a charming Cape rock elephant shrew scampering out from its safe spaces among the boulders, its long whiffly nose seeking out unwary insects. Then the sky slowly turns a darker shade of midnight blue, etching the silhouettes of the Bankberg. The curtain is drawn and a starry darkness descends, ready for the quiet melodrama of dawn. /

TRIP PLANNER Accommodation The new Rock Chalets cost from R3 170 a night for up to four people. Conservation fees R48 an adult, R24 a child, free for valid Wild Card members. Contact SANParks Central Reservations 012-428-9111, www.sanparks.org. www.wildcard.co.za

Relaxed black wildebeest against the park’s trademark mountain scenery.

Mountain Zebra National Park lies about 250 km north of Port Elizabeth. SUMMER 2017/2018 WILD 11



Two young men, two weekends far from home, two bucket-list ticks: from Limpopo to Cape Point, and from Cape Town to Mapungubwe.

Clockwise from top: Pristine coast; Lucky Rapitsi; Wild Shots Outreach participants.

CONSERVATION FEES Boulders R75 a person, Cape Point R145 a person, valid Wild Card members free


I live in a small rural town in Limpopo where I work as a journalist at the local newspaper. My first visit to the Cape was filled with natural wonders: penguins and whales, the iconic Cape Point and inspiring wildlife photography. By Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi

recently had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town, my very first time on a plane, to attend the Wild Shots Wildlife Photography Sym­ posium along with a group of young photography students. We spent Sunday, Heritage Day, exploring the beautiful Cape Peninsula, thanks to SANParks and Wilderness Safaris. We were accompa­ nied by one of the Wild Shots speakers, Lets Kamogelo, an inspirational photo guide from Botswana. The experience of a Hout Bay boat trip and seeing whales was more than I could ever imagine. Our second stop was Simon’s Town for a visit to Boulders Beach with its many birds that can’t fly. We learnt how important these creatures are and that, just like our rhinos in

A boardwalk leads down to the penguins at Boulders Beach.

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Limpopo, African penguins are threat­ ened with extinction. Our guide then took us to Cape Point. What a marvellous place to visit. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the importance of the lighthouse and the beauty of this iconic site. Down at the beach, we refreshed our souls with sea­ water. The feeling of being at the beach for the first time is definitely one of the high­ lights of my life. Cape Point is a heavenly place full of hidden treasures. I never thought I would visit the sea, but here I was, a young guy from Limpo­ po at Cape Point, with a special feeling in my heart and mind. I filled a bottle with salt water to take back home to remember the amazing trip to Cape Town’s many natural wonders. /


SOUTH For years I’d been itching to see Mapungubwe National Park’s imposing baobabs, fall asleep in a safari tent and explore the mysterious Mapungubwe Hill. When SANParks announced the launch of a heritage lecture series there, my bag was as good as packed. By Arnold Ras


t was a sunny morning as we made our way to Mapungubwe Hill. Bao­ babs were everywhere to be seen. In the distance, elephants and other game walked by. This was where the Gold­ en Rhino was discovered, incontrovertible proof of a powerful kingdom that flour­ ished more than seven centuries ago. Mapungubwe’s Interpretive Centre is an architectural gem that has won no fewer than seven awards. The building was as impressive as I’d hoped it would be and blended seamlessly into the surroundings. Due to concerns around the trade of ancient artefacts, visitors to the centre are not allowed to photograph any of the items on display. My heart nearly stopped when I finally stood next to the famous Golden Rhino. Even though this one was a replica,

it evoked admiration and respect for the people who had crafted the original. Officially launching the lecture series, Webber Ndoro, director of the African World Heritage Fund, said Mapungubwe should be referred to as a heritage land­ scape, not merely a site. SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni urged millennials to visit national parks and highlighted the importance of touching the Earth lightly. “Mother Earth provides ben­ efits to the people. Our parks should be places of peace.” Back home in Cape Town, wiping the last traces of Mapungubwe’s dust from my shoes, I couldn’t help but admit that the park had stolen a part of my soul. That night, I closed my eyes while being sur­ rounded by hundreds of baobabs. /

Clockwise from top: Lookout point; SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni; Arnold Ras; the Golden Rhino.

CONSERVATION FEES Mapungubwe R48 a person, valid Wild Card members free Mapungubwe’s awardwinning Interpretive Centre.

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NOSY PARKER Elephant shrews occur in Africa only.

Named for its long snout, the elephant shrew sniffs out insects among the Kalahari dunes.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park lies 265 km north of Upington.


In the Kgalagadi, along the southern Nossob road, look out for a true desert specialist between Kaspersdraai and Rooikop waterhole.

inding an elephant shrew in the Kalahari is a greater achievement than spotting a lion. It’s neither an elephant nor a shrew, but gets its name from its long, highly mobile snout. Elephant shrews do not occur on any other continent and like to keep to a specific location, moving to new territories when food becomes scarce. One such location has been at 45 kilometres from the Dikbaardskolk picnic site (GPS: S25°29’09” E20°38’08”), though there’s a chance they may no longer be there by the time you get there. If so, look at the type of habitat and search any similar if you wish to see these tiny mammals. In the Kgalagadi basin the elephant shrew lives in a sandy habitat with thin grass cover and scattered, small, woody shrubs of blackthorn or three thorn. It survives in areas where annual rainfall is as low as 100 mm and with little surface water. It feeds on insects, mainly ants and termites, and from them it obtains the moisture it needs. Because it is not

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dependent on free water, it is truly a desert specialist. Look for the following: LOOKS LIKE A MOUSE If you catch a glimpse of a creature that looks like a mouse yet is light fawn in colour and has big round eyes, you may have spotted a bushveld elephant shrew [as the species in the Kgalagadi is known – Ed.]. You will recognise it by its rapid hopping gait as it ricochets for cover into the thicket. Stop and quietly keep watch. Your patience will be rewarded. Testing the air with its mobile little ‘trunk’, it will cautiously appear again and continue going about its normal activities. Its nostrils are situated at the tip of the trunk and its thin, tapering, bright pink tongue is long enough to curl easily around the top of its muzzle. It uses this to catch prey and to lick its fur clean after eating. BIG ROUND EYES AND EARS Notice the big eyes, which are large in relation to the size of the head, and the broad, upstanding ears that are mobile and



continually twitching and turning, expressing its mood. Look for tell-tale runways radiating in all directions from a burrow under a bush to shrubs nearby. These they regularly patrol but they avoid spending time in the open.

Vocal communications within the audible range are high-pitched squeaks and purrs. A further way of communicating is by scent. Secretions from scent glands in the mouth are spread over the heads of others during grooming.

DRUMMER LEGS The hind limbs are much longer than the forelegs because these are not only used for locomotion, but also play an important role in communication by foot drumming. When alarmed, an elephant shrew stamps or vibrates its hind feet. The drumming pattern is specific to a species and the different species do not understand the ‘language’ of the other. In this way crossbreeding between species is prevented.

TWIN BABIES Elephant shrews have only one sex partner. The males remain sexually active right throughout the year but breeding seems to be seasonal, occuring from August to March. The bushveld species usually produces twins, which are born when insect food resources are likely to be abundant. The young are independent within a few days. Good luck in finding this extraordinary creature of the desert. /

This is an extract from Kgalagadi Self-drive – Routes, Roads and Ratings by Philip, Ingrid and Heinrich van den Berg, and Jaco Powell (HPH Publishing, R500). This comprehensive guide provides valuable insider information for seasoned Kalahari lovers and first-time travellers. All the photos were taken from a vehicle on regular roads.

WHO WAS KASPER OF KASPERSDRAAI IN THE KGALAGADI? In the late 1800s, Kasper Sanderson and his party made several trips up along the Nossob riverbed to gather tsamma melons, which would be stored and used later. Kaspersdraai indicates where he decided to turn back after he couldn’t find more tsammas to collect. This place became his abode during the tsamma season and he dug a well here.


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I had the single best bush experience in 15 years of visiting national parks around South Africa. – LERATO TSHABALALA

MAGIC MOUNTAIN With the Waterberg in the background, Lerato Tshabala (centre) and sister Gugu enjoy a laugh with guide Tumelo Masoba on their morning drive.



Marakele National Park


Bontebok National Park


De Hoop Nature Reserve


Mapungubwe National Park

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During a weekend of game drives and bush walks in Marakele National Park, zoom in on intimate sightings and dazzling night skies — and experience the warm fuzzies. By Lerato Tshabalala Photos Sabie Botha


n September, my sister and I were sitting in a restaurant celebrating her birthday, blissfully unaware of the fires that had started engulfing Marakele National Park. I had visited the park in April, having the best bush experience in 15 years of visiting national parks around South Africa and other places on the continent, and wanted to share it with Gugu. Known for having the largest colony of Cape vultures in the country, Marakele’s 800 breeding pairs can usually be seen from the viewpoint on top of Lenong Mountain. We arrived at the park to find the Waterberg, which surrounds the park, wrapped in a cloud of smoke. But Marakele, like an eternal optimist facing the most dire of circumstances, put on a brave face while almost half of it was being ravaged by flames. (Fire season in the area starts in May and ends in October.) “Luckily no animals were harmed, but it has left many of the animals in distress,” said our park guide, Tumelo Masoba.

GURU Lerato Tshabalala is the author of The Way I See It. The musings of a black woman in the rainbow nation. In 2014, she was awarded a Mandela Washington Fellowship, which allowed her to study business at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA. 18 WILD SUMMER 2017/2018

Main picture: Lerato and Gugu bask in the early morning sun on the guided drive. This page, top to bottom: A Marakele elephant; guide Marius Ferreira; Tlopi Tented Camp.

The elephant bull posed, curiously watching us while edging closer and closer.

Marakele National Park lies 250 km north of Johannesburg.


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Gugu photographs elephants on the afternoon game drive.

Known as Kransberg National Park when it was proclaimed in 1994, the name was changed soon after. When I asked Tumelo what Marakele meant, he chuckled. “It doesn’t mean anything,” he said. We were confused, as in African culture barely anything that has a name doesn’t have a meaning behind that name. “Marakele is actually a twist on the Tswana word ‘Merakeng’, which means a place of herding,” explained Tumelo during our early morning bush walk. A walk in the wild During that walk, we saw the back of a rhino and decided to advance closer. Soon after, Tumelo signalled to our highly experienced bush guide, Marius Ferreira, that we needed to abort mission. Once far enough to talk, Marius, who grew up around this area of Limpopo, explained why we couldn’t get any closer. “Tumelo noticed that it was a rhino mother with a newborn and she would’ve viewed us as a threat.” However, it was the day before the bush walk that left me feeling incredibly warm and fuzzy inside. Three years ago I witnessed a rare moment between two elephant herds during a trip on the Chobe River on the border of Zambia and Botswana. When we arrived, there was a herd of elephants along the river cooling down. About five minutes later, up the

hill, another herd arrived. The two matriarchs greeted each other with a lowering of their trunks, then the group that had been there first, led by their matriarch, stood to the side while the new herd came down to have some water. When her herd was done, the matriarch thanked the other with another lowering of her trunk and led the herd out, leaving the others to continue where they had left off. There was not a single dry eye around, we couldn’t believe what we’d witnessed. Fast forward to 2017 and an afternoon game drive in Marakele during which we found three bulls on the road. It was a hot day in spring so they were flapping their ears to keep cool. I greeted them as I usually do when I see these gentle giants of the wild. One was so curious he came closer and closer to our game vehicle. This was the closest I’d come to an elephant. As if sensing how special this moment was for me (and rather superficially, how I was going to get spectacular pictures for Instagram), the elephant bull posed, curiously watching us while edging nearer and nearer. Yet there was a palpable gentleness about it. The look on my sister’s face was one I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Location is everything On our last night the magic of this national park truly revealed itself to us. On our first

1 Setting out on the guided morning walk. 2 Marius points out interesting facts about impala dung while Tumelo keeps an eye out. 3 One of Tlopi’s safari tents with chairs perfectly positioned to enjoy the view. 4 Memories are made of this — Lerato and Gugu toast the view across Tlopi Dam to the Waterberg Massif. 20 WILD SUMMER 2017/2018

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“My preferred experience was the bush walk – it was exhilarating. From my sister’s tights getting ripped (she had to trash them), Sabie’s shirt getting torn and me being stabbed by thorny branches, it was a thrill. And when we were done, our shoes were dirty from jumping across streams, landing up in mud and being covered with ash from the fires. I tell you, there’s nothing like it!”




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Stopping off to enjoy the view on the guided drive.

In the evening we sat outside, listening to the sounds of the bush, crickets and frogs, and watched the fires illuminating the mountains. night, we had stayed at Bontle Rest Camp, bringing charcoal to light a fire and braai. The next day we moved to Tlopi Tented Camp, where accommodation is worth every single cent you pay. Tlopi Dam, where animals come to drink during the summer months, lies right in front of the safari tents. Chances of seeing a buffalo, as we did late afternoon, are highly likely. In the evening we sat outside, listening to the sounds of the bush, crickets and frogs, and watched the fires illuminating the mountains. As I switched off the lights in the outside kitchen I looked up and suddenly saw the 22 WILD SUMMER 2017/2018

stars, like nature’s mood lighting the sky, bring the bush to life. I rushed back into the tent: “G, you’ve got to come see this!” Almost shouting. As soon as she walked out, my sister saw the reason for my excitement. There in Limpopo, in the dark of night, after being hidden by artificial lighting, as if putting on a show, the Waterberg mountains were visible in all their glory, thanks to the stars. As our eyes adjusted to the dark, everything was suddenly so clear, the river, clouds and the stars dancing and spinning in the night sky. “It’s amazing that we were sitting here

all along not knowing that this was behind the lights. I guess it shows that sometimes, even in the darkest places, great beauty can be found. Even the fires up the mountain look beautiful,” observed Gugu. One day, when we’re old and grey, we’ll recall that memorable night under the African sky. My sister and I shared a wondrous moment that didn’t involve social media, music or a gadget. Just two sisters, alone together, with Mother Nature providing the soundtrack.

Calling all adventurers, mavericks, trailblazers and ground breakers.



Bontle’s campsite is well shaded and you can game view right from your camping chair.

Travel extraordinary

TRIP PLANNER Getting there Marakele National Park is a three-hour drive from Gauteng. Conservation fees: R48 an adult, R24 a child, Wild Card members free. Accommodation: Bontle Rest Camp offers camping from R285 for one or two people, safari tents from R1 175 for one or two people. The safari tents at Tlopi Tented Camp start at R1 365 for one or two people. The secluded Motswere Guest Cottage (sleeps six) costs from R2 075 for one to four people. Featured activities Morning and sunset bush walks cost R350 a person, no children. Morning and sunset game drives are R260 an adult, R130 a child, no children under the age of six. Book with park reception on 014-777-6928. Contact SANParks Central Reservations 012-428-9111, www.sanparks.org

with Airlink to the heart of the African bush. Airlink flies direct from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Nelspruit KMIA and Skukuza Airport, gateway to the Kruger National Park. A unique 20 minute airside transfer connects you onwards to the doorstep of more safari destinations on Airlink’s Lodge Link service. A short air transfer from the lodge airstrips or Skukuza Airport to Nelspruit KMIA connects you conveniently to Livingstone, Zambia and Vilanculos, Mozambique, gateway to the Benguerra and Bazaruto islands. Airlink’s Lodge Link service connects you to the Ulusaba, Arathusa, Londolozi, Ngala and Phinda airstrips.



Fly Airlink

Limietberg Nature Reserve


Cederberg Wilderness Area DUINEPOS

West Coast National Park

Cape Town

When you depart the asphalt and allow the rubber to bite hard into the dirt, that’s soul food to a South African.

DIRT TRIPPERS Kelly Lodewyks and Calvin Fisher followed back roads on their weekend escape.


Looking for a last-minute adventure that will satisfy your hunger for wander? This story takes in one national park, two nature reserves and a wilderness area — all in two days of travel on gravel from Cape Town. By Calvin Fisher and Kelly Lodewyks

Dirty weekend I t was Sunday, midday. Normally at this point I’d be fighting off a food coma on the couch with my Staffies, but this time I was sitting alongside South Africa’s longest dirt road, the sun beating down on my back, with a too-hot wheel spanner in my hands. The massive carcass of a recently exploded 4x4 tyre was nestled on my lap. I’d just replaced it after winching the spare-wheel free from under our Nissan Navara’s belly with Kelly’s help. But, and this part is crucial, we were still smiling.

How did we get here? The plan was simple enough. We’d bust out of work at around 16h00 and point our 4x4 in a northerly direction along the Cape–Namibia route. We wanted to get our tyres dirty. See, doing great distances off the paved road is a lot like taking your shoes off when you get home after a long day. You tend to unwind, unravel somewhat in the most therapeutic of ways. When you depart the asphalt and allow the rubber to bite hard into the dirt, that’s soul food to a South African. We had two nights to unwind before hitting the grind again on Monday morning, so it was clear that we’d need to beat a tarmac

retreat for the first leg of our journey, which would begin at sunset on this warm Friday evening at the West Coast National Park along the R27. We made it narrowly, five minutes before the gates closed. Once in the park we ventured off the tar and onto the dirt roads where permissible. We barely scratched the itch, knowing full well that by the time we fell asleep it would have grown once again. But that’s fine as we had easily 250 kilometres of untarred goodness to enjoy the next day. Not to mention the sort of food that road trips are famous for. Warm inside and out from the fire we cooked on in our Morocco-like Duinepos chalet, we retired to bed. Kelly would utter ‘roosterkoek’ more than once in her sleep that night.

The real beginning Our alarm woke us at 05h50. The sun was meant to rise around 06h27 and we had found the perfect vantage point the previous night. With a shot of coffee in our bellies we set out on a short drive, then crunched over the dust and stones to the start of our hike. Loaded with camera gear, we began hiking in darkness, save for a torch we’d found at our lodgings. SUMMER 2017/2018 WILD 53

ROAD TRIP We stomped over dunes, weeds and the odd wooden bridge for about 3 km and made it with a minute or two to spare. There was just enough time to set up my camera on its tripod before fingers of sunlight crept across the horizon. Immediately before dawn, the air is at its coldest, so we huddled closely for warmth as the sun burst through, its light piercing the clouds and illuminating the endless dunes. Photo taken, we skulked off to the 4x4 and trundled back to our comfy beds at Duinepos for one more hour of sleep. The dirt wasn’t going anywhere. Let’s try that again With haste we stuffed the sum of our belongings into the cosy leathery cabin of our bakkie and began another and more thorough round of exploration in West Coast National Park. Wildlife. Flowers. Mother Nature’s finest in abundance. In a short time we saw fields of flowers of every hue and vibrancy, witnessed ostriches and prancing antelope too quick for us to identify. Birds filled the sky and were hardly sparse on land either. I filled a memory card in minutes. Our tummies reminded us that there was more to this trip than the scenery. We skipped the restaurant and grabbed some light confectionery and coffee from the café at Geelbek, figuring we’d save ourselves for a massive road-trip lunch. We were eager to start the next leg of our trip, the dusty Cederberg. The asphalt to dirt ratio leans steeply in favour of the latter. We left the West Coast behind us, but such was the impact of its natural beauty that we were already planning another trip there soon. Driving through Hopefield, we found the quaintest, most perfect farm stall. Imagine a strong smell of roosterbrood,

sausages, jams and cheeses, with an overlay of moer coffee. You’ve pictured Die Plaasmol farm stall and, oh yes, we will return. Bellies full, we went on the hunt for some dirt. This was, after all, the weekend’s biggest mission. Less than 10 minutes and 14 kilometres up the road, we found what we were looking for, Koringberg Road. This eventually leads to the N7 again, but we soon veered off on to Die Brug/Misverstand road to Porterville, with nary a centimetre of tar to be seen for at least 60 kilometres. We were treated to lush vistas of rolling green hills and roads that were tree-lined with shards of sunlight poking through. Yesterday’s cramped office space, ledgers and whatever else we were doing was now a long-forgotten memory. We were well on our way to our final destination for the day, lodgings at Algeria. Eyes firmly set for our ‘cabin in the woods’, officially named Rietdak Cottage, we traced our way through the Cederberg along the Middelberg Pass and plenty of dirt. There are smatterings of tar along this route, let’s say around one kilometre for every 20, a favourable ratio I’m sure you’d agree. We arrived an hour before nightfall, giving us more than enough time to make a fire amidst Tolkien-esque landscapes, cook up some cowboy food and settle into a bottle of wine. And in for the night. The final leg is a curvy one Don’t be sorry it’s over, they say, be glad that it happened. Still, on this Sunday morning with a fresh fire and breakfast in front of us, reflection turned to mild depression as our departure time loomed. All sadness was dispelled like vapour a kilometre or two later when the dirt road became cooked spaghetti, sticky in places

1 The postcard-pretty blue of Langebaan Lagoon complements the russet-brown of the dirt roads in West Coast National Park. 2 Instagram-ready views are abundant in the park. 3 Once you leave the beaten track behind, the signs become more unusual. 4 Kelly and Calvin’s dirt-road circuit. 5 Relaxing with a cold one after a day of eating dirt. 54 WILD SUMMER 2017/2018

The weekend’s biggest mission is the hunt for gravel.

1 2



There’s something about the Cederberg that calms you. After a day of driving, Algeria’s mountain hideaway is a welcome respite.

5 SUMMER 2017/2018 WILD 55


1 4

3 2


You don’t need four-wheel drive, you don’t even need two-wheel drive. Sometimes all you need to get to the Tankwa Padstal is a donkey cart and a live axle.

but for the most part a wonderful mess of loops, turns and bends, plus plenty of elevation to contend with. About 45 kilometres later it was time for a quick shot of culture and with it a history lesson as we snaked our way to the Stadsaal Caves in Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve. The views are nothing less than majestic. We scanned the horizon for Bilbo, but sadly we were possibly a few centuries out of sync. In these surroundings you couldn’t convince us it was fiction. Some tomfoolery later, we were back in the 4x4, making dust clouds in the middle of nowhere, the sound of six dieselly cylinders whirring merrily. Once again asphalt purveyed hither and thither but ultimately the dirt won out, reclaiming the land so that we might play on it. This continued for some time, as the terrain morphed from Middle Earth to middle of Nevada. I burnt through another memory card before we eventually exited the other end. There was a wry smile on my lips for two reasons. We were five minutes from the infamous Tankwa Padstal and after that 100 kilometres of R355 to contend with almost all the way to our final, final destination of Limietberg Nature Reserve. Lunch was predictably epic, the sort of meal you see illustrated in Viking lore alongside great goblets of mead, but

as the designated driver, for me coffee was the order of the day. The big bada-boom About 10 minutes after leaving, the steering wheel went a bit limp, pulling lightly to the left. I began slowing down and noticed the rear axle wasn’t quite as precise as before. I slowed down further and Kelly, who was nodding off, began to stir, looking at me quizzically. “I think we have a slow puncture, dear,” I said. We climbed out, making our way around the car looking for a flat wheel. Her reply was the first clue that I had been too modest with my initial assessment. And there it was at the rear passenger side. A chewed up tyre looking pathetic. The 4x4 had essentially just shrugged it off. Oh well. This one and only foible left barely a pockmark on an otherwise flawless adventure that anyone can do, really. Ground clearance was a perk, 4x4 not mandatory, and we didn’t even have to take a day of leave off work. We firmly believe ‘the quick weekend break’ is to venture as far off the beaten track as your transport allows and forget about the grind. Open your map book or download an app to find a national park or nature reserve, and set course for a weekend of relaxation and bliss. /

WHERE TO STAY West Coast National Park Duinepos chalets from R1 025 a night for two people, go to www.duinepos.co.za to book. SANParks family-size cottages from R1  850 a night for up to four people. Book with SANParks Central Reservations on 012-428-9111, www.sanparks.org. Cederberg Wilderness Area Algeria offers camping from R180 a night off-peak (one or two persons) and R340 a night during peak season. Rustic cottages from R580 a night off-peak (one or two persons) and R940 a night during peak season. Modern stylish cottages from R990 a night off-peak (one or two persons) and R1 390 a night during peak season. Additional rates apply at campsites and cottages for extra people during off-peak season. Book with CapeNature Central Reservations on 021-483-0190 or www.capenature. co.za. Permit for visiting Stadsaal Caves costs R40 a person, Wild Card members free. Limietberg Nature Reserve Camping is R160 a night off-peak and R360 a night during peak season (one or two persons), R50 an extra person, maximum six on a stand. Book with CapeNature Central Reservations on 021-483-0190 or go to www.capenature.co.za. 1 Getting ready to leave the tar behind. 2 A tyre is a small sacrifice for a weekend to remember. 3 Kelly taking in the Stadsaal Caves. 4 Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the Tankwa Padstal offers epic meals and free Wi-Fi. 5 You may have to share the dirt with other road users such as donkey carts.


SUMMER 2017/2018 WILD 57


National parks,

RESERVES and resorts

Marakele PAGE




8 Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Uncover the secrets of the bush on a guided walk or game drive.


Bloemhof IAi-IAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park




N 14

N 10



Augrabies Falls National Park






Namaqua National Park

Conserve. Explore. Experience.


N 10

South Africa


www.capenature.co.za +27 (0)861 CAPENATURE (227 362 8873)


94 WILD SUMMER 2017/2018

Tankwa Karoo National Park 17 5


West Coast 19 National Park



11 N7


Robben Island

CAPE TOWN Table Mountain National Park Cape Point

Graaff-Reinet 5 Camdeboo National Park

Beaufort West




23 12

False Bay

Hermanus 15



Worcester Robertson




N 12

Addo Elephan National Park

Oudtshoorn 17







Swellendam Bontebok National Park 4

Agulhas National Park 2

Heidelberg Breede

Mountai Zebra Nationa Park 14







Karoo National Park 7




N 12




Saldanha Bay


Carnarvon N 10


St Helena Bay


De Aar


Lambert’s Bay

N 12


Vanderkloof Dam


1 Anysberg Nature Reserve 2 Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve 3 Bird Island Nature Reserve 4 Boosmansbos Nature Reserve 5 Cederberg Wilderness Area 6 De Hoop Nature Reserve 7 De Mond Nature Reserve 8 Gamkaberg Nature Reserve 9 Goukamma Nature Reserve 10 Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve 11 Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area 12 Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve 13 Jonkershoek Nature Reserve 14 Keurbooms Nature Reserve 15 Kogelberg Nature Reserve 16 Limietberg Nature Reserve 17 Marloth Nature Reserve 18 Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve 19 Outeniqua Nature Reserve 20 Robberg Nature Reserve 21 Rocherpan Nature Reserve 22 Swartberg Nature Reserve 23 Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve 24 Walker Bay Nature Reserve


Mokala 13 National Park

N 14


18 Tsitsikamma National Park Plettenberg Bay



7 0

N2 St Francis Bay

Mossel Wilderness Bay National 9 Knysna 20 National Park Lake 20 Area 9 50





300 Kilom etres





Explore this birding gem with binoculars in hand.



N 11

www.sanparks.org +27 (0)12 428 9111 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


Marakele National Park 12



Kruger National Park






Mapungubwe National Park 11






N 11

Modimolle Bela-Bela








Centurion Midrand Sandton





MAPUTO Barberton

N 12



N 14

GAUTENG Vereeniging


N 17

N 11




N 12


Vaal Dam N3



Piet Retief

17 19




Bloemhof Dam

2 Bethlehem




N 11


Golden Gate Highlands National Park Winburg









Estcourt 8









erkloof Dam


www.biggameparks.org +268 2528 3943 / 4

Empangeni Tugela






Kosi Bay Lake Sibaya

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 |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

Pongolapoort Dam Lake St Lucia



kala onal ark





Mlilwane Mkhaya Game Wildlife Sanctuary Reserve 2




1 Hlane Royal National Park

Addo Elephant National Park Agulhas National Park Augrabies Falls National Park Bontebok National Park Camdeboo National Park Golden Gate Highlands National Park Karoo National Park



Richards Bay

25 Tugela

24 1-2










1 Hlane Royal National Park 2 Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary 3 Mkhaya Game Reserve

North Coast



DURBAN Amanzimtoti

23 Orange

Kokstad 18


Aliwal North

Gariep Dam


South Coast

www.kznwildlife.com +27 (0)33 845 1000

Port Shepstone N2



N 10

Wild Coast



www.msinsi.co.za +27 (0)31 765 7724



5 mdeboo ational Park

Cradock Mountain Zebra National Park 14 1


King William’s Town Bisho

N 10




1 2 3 4 5 6

Albert Falls Dam Bon Accorde Hazelmere Dam Inanda Dam Nagle Dam Shongweni Dam

Addo Elephant National Park Port Alfred

a rk

Algoa Bay


N2 St Francis Bay

0861 GO WILD (46 9453)


om etres

International: +27 861 46 9453 | Fax: 086 502 6704


1 Amatigulu Nature Reserve 2 Chelmsford Dam Nature Reserve 3 Cobham Nature Reserve 4 Didima - Cathedral Peak 5 Garden Castle Nature Reserve 6 Giants Castle Nature Reserve 7 Harold Johnson Nature Reserve 8 Highmoor Nature Reserve 9 Hilltop – Hluhluwe Game Reserve 10 Mpila – iMfolozi Game Reserve 11 Injesuthi Nature Reserve At Ezemvelo, 12 Ithala Game Reserve present your 13 Kamberg Nature Reserve Wild Card + ID 14 Lotheni Nature Reserve + confirmation 15 Midmar DamNature Reserve letter. 16 Monks Cowl Nature Reserve 17 Ndumo Game Reserve 18 Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve 19 Phongolo Nature Reserve 20 Royal Natal National Park 21 Spioenkop Dam Nature Reserve 22 Umlalazi Nature Reserve 23 Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve 24 Wagendrift Dam Nature Reserve 25 Weenen Game Reserve

SUMMER 2017/2018 WILD 95





4787 Angelcy 2017


Lose yourself in the wildlife wonders of the central parts of the Kruger, surrender singularly to our mouthwatering meals and have your soul stirred by our sumptuous rooms. Find yourself in cool, contemporary 4-star luxury 200m from the Phalaborwa Gate of the Kruger National Park. Find your freedom. 015 781 3447 | gowild@bushveldterrace.co.za www.bushveldterrace.co.za | B&B rates from R1050pp* *Visit our website for information about adventures, activities and to make a direct booking Cheetah cub in a tree courtesy of Ziggi Hugo





You can now read Wild magazine on your tablet or smartphone.

The app is available for both Apple and Android devices. It also offers video and live web links, so you can access the relevant park web page straightaway. You can even find directions from your current location through Google maps. The digital format makes it easy to carry your copy of Wild with you at all times.