CARD MAGAZINE TM
2018 SA PUBLICATION FORUM
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• Agulhas National Park • Augrabies National Park (restaurant & activities available) • Bontebok National Park • Camdeboo National Park • Garden Route National Park (restaurant available) • Golden Gate Highlands National Park (restaurant & horse trails available) • Mokala National Park (restaurant & activities available) • Namaqua National Park • Richtersveld Transfrontier Park • Tankwa Karoo National Park • West Coast National Park (restaurant available) Reservations (012) 428 9111 | E-mail email@example.com | www.sanparks.org
CONTENTS W I L D
Addo Elephant National Park
U P D A T E
Garden Route National Park
Y O U R
36 ROA D T R I P
4 Letters 8 Phantom of the bush In search of the pennantwinged nightjar 12 Mountain Zebra bolthole Escape to a secluded cottage 14 Action at Sunset Dam Herons fight over hippos 16 Kalahari showdown Snakes go head to head 21 Trip planner Overnight by a waterhole
A D V E N T U R E S
Mountain Zebra National Park
2 0 1 9
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
B U C K E T
DESTINATIONS 22 Five adventures for 2019 Get an adrenalin fix and show your grit: these are the most thrilling options in our parks 36 Best of the best road trip What to expect on a crosscountry tour of eight parks
Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve
L I S T
PHOTOGRAPHY 68 Caught on camera How technology is changing conservation 76 Moonstruck Make the most of moonlit scenes with these tips
54 Land of plenty With pans, wetlands, floodplains and forests, Ndumo is a hot spot for over 400 bird species
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84 NATURE 48 Black and blue A closer look at wildebeest 60 Crocs of Ndumo Their seasonal movements 72 Hot under the collar Can the Kgalagadi’s fiscals cope with rising temperature? 80 Deadly accuracy How snake eagles get it right 84 Waterberry tree Tasty fruit attracts all sorts
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90 PEOPLE IN PARKS 64 On a high note Kruger’s choir members sing their hearts out for conservation KIDS 86 Let’s get muddy For some animals there’s good reason to seek out dirt
COVER: Scott Ramsay Looking towards Royal Natal National Park
WILD CARD 90 Parks protocol Control your campfire and braai with savvy 93 Become a member 94 Map of the Wild parks 96 Competition Win a stay at Jock Safari Lodge worth over R60 000
INSIDE TRACK EDITORIAL BOARD HAPILOE SELLO SANParks SHERAAZ ISMAIL CapeNature MUSA MNTAMBO Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife MBONISENI DLAMINI Msinsi Resorts ANN REILLY Swazi Big Game Parks HEIN GROBLER Wild Card
FROM THE EDITOR
On a game drive in Addo
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 DESIGNER Leon Kriel TEXT EDITOR Marion Boddy-Evans PROOFREADER Margy Beves-Gibson DIGITAL JOURNALIST Gaynor Siljeur CONTENT DIRECTOR Igna Schneider EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Joan Kruger CREATIVE DIRECTOR Petro du Toit MISSING COPIES/CHANGE ADDRESS
CONTRIBUTORS Emma Bryce, Trevor Carnaby, Susan Cunningham, Denis Costello, Anton Crone, Mark Dumbleton, Julienne du Toit, Albert and Marietjie Froneman, Rebekah Funk, Hlengiwe Magagula, Bryan and Robin Maritz, Harriet Nimmo, Mitch Reardon, Rafe Siebert, Janine Stephen, Ron Swilling, Dianne Tipping-Woods, Morgan Trimble, Chris van Rooyen PHOTOGRAPHY & ART Africaimagery.com, Afripics, Bridgena Barnard, Romi Boom, Denis Costello, Anton Crone, Susan Cunningham, Mark Dumbleton, Jody de Bruyn, Rudolph de Girardier, Chris du Plessis, Albert Froneman, Mike Kendrick, Hlengiwe Magagula, Bongeka Makabeni, Robin and Bryan Maritz, Scott Ramsay, Daleen Roodt, Shane Saunders, Karin Schermbrucker, Shutterstock, Rafe Siebert, Joep Stevens, Morgan Trimble, Warwick Tarboton, Dianne Tipping-Wood, Johann Visser
PUBLISHED BY Tip Africa Publishing PO Box 13022, Woodstock, 7915 T: (+27) 021-447-6094 F: (+27) 021-447-0312 firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORIAL QUERIES 021-448-5425 BUSINESS & SALES Jaco Scholtz email@example.com | C: 083-303-0453 PUBLISHER Theo Pauw firstname.lastname@example.org | C: 082-558-5730
hen people ask what I do for a living, I tell them that I’m in the business of holidays. This immediately gets their attention, for who’s not planning or at least thinking about their next vacation? When South Africans talk about adventure holidays, the Kruger National Park is often top of the list. They know there are other parks to be explored, but there is never time. One Wild Card member saved up his holidays to embark on a mega road trip over 6 500 kilometres, linking up national parks from Augrabies Falls to Mountain Zebra. Turn to page 36 to find out where he experienced the best wildlife sighting, most scenic park drive, most enjoyable traffic jam, best breakfast view, coolest sunset spot and the finest hikes, among others. If you’re going to be chasing adventure on a low budget, travel smart in Wild Card parks and reserves. Millennials share their experiences of the coolest outdoor trips and obsessions that focus on novelty and escape. Think lion stakeout with the Khomani San, horseback riding among elephants. Be sure to update your 2019 bucket list with these memorable quests (page 22). Following recent upgrades to Ndumo’s rest camp, Wild revisited the KZN game reserve that enjoys legendary status in southern African birding circles (page 54). After three mornings with Bongani Mkhize, the expertly guided walks get a really big thumbs up. I, too, cherish memories of Ndumo’s unique sand forest and otherworldly lakes, although back then I was unaware of the conservation programme which focuses on South Africa’s third largest Nile crocodile population (page 60). Our members regularly share amazing sightings and many of these contributions find their way to our e-newsletter and website. Two of these encounters can be seen on pages 14 and 16. Which again confirms my belief that if you want to see and experience wildlife, you have to get out and about. Make this a Wild Card winter to remember.
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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. Letters may be shortened for clarity.
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GRAB AND GO On our recent visit to Addo Elephant National Park, four lions made a buffalo kill on the roadside just past Graham’s Pan. We arrived in time to see the last huge black-maned lion leave the kill. It did not take long before four black-backed jackals appeared, prepared to take the risk and score a delicious morning meal. All of a sudden, out of the spekboom thicket, three large brown hyenas showed themselves. We have been regular visitors to national parks for the past 30-odd years, and have had only one sighting of brown hyena, a 10-second flash on the road edge in Karoo National Park. Extremely cautiously, with eyes and snouts fixed in the direction of the recently departed lion, they approached the carcass. One by one they claimed their prize, carrying off the leg portions and skin leftovers. Unlike the jackals who feasted at the carcass site, the hyena were prepared only to ‘grab and run’. Brian and Janet Alexander
Send us your letter for the chance to win.
Brian and Janet Alexander win two Milloy daypacks (R599) from HI-TEC. The Milloy 35L daypack is great for day-to-day use but perfect in size and features for technical hikes, too. The pack has a unisex fit, includes a handy hydration system and is made from 100% polyester.
KRUGER DETECTIVES Recently in Kruger we spotted two black-backed jackals jogging purposefully towards a herd of impala. Jackals don’t hunt healthy adult impala so something looked suspicious. The herd imperceptibly but unperturbedly parted for the jackals to keep jogging on. Jackals generally are easily distracted opportunistic meanderers, so this path of purpose again looked suspicious. Up on the ridge a kilometre beyond the jackal, there was a glint of sun from the windscreen of a parked car. A good detective asks good questions. Would a reasonable jackal doggedly jog towards cars a kilometre away? And why do cars stop on an open road where there isn’t even a zebra crossing? Evidence is circumstantial but the undercover detectives suspected a lion kill. Following a hunch, their suspicions proved well founded! For the six proud young lions it was a case of magies vol, ogies toe but for the smug detectives it was eyes open, case closed. Owen Buchanan
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ON THE EDGE The autumn 2019 issue of Wild featuring Augrabies Falls National Park arrived in our postbox only a few days before we left for a two-night stay in the park. Gorge Cottage took our breath away. The views were spectacular and looked exactly like the photos. Being so high up, we had great bird sightings, including a pair of Verreaux’s eagles at eye level. We were visited by dassies and klipspingers. Come sunset, we were treated to one of the best views ever. We then witnessed the moon rising, followed by awesome star gazing; all this while braaing right on the edge of the gorge. The cottage itself was very comfortable and we enjoyed every minute of it. After viewing the sunrise with our coffee, we did the Dassie Trail, which was well marked. On our game drive we saw Hartmann’s mountain zebra, giraffe, klipspringer and gemsbok. At the end of the day we cooled off in a pristine pool. A quiet park away from the crowds, Augrabies is a unique African experience with much to offer. Lynn Baak
MOKALA HEROES My parents, who are almost 80, were enjoying beautiful Mokala National Park when my mom suffered a severe medical trauma. The staff were fantastic: they called an ambulance, then waited three hours with my parents for it to arrive and even drove my dad in his vehicle to the hospital in Kimberley. A massive thank you to Andries, Marta and Kevin for their support in a time of need. ‘Over and above’ the call of duty does not even begin to describe their actions. Patricia Smith
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From the hide at Lake Panic just outside Skukuza, we saw a Nile crocodile with some type of sensor attached to its back. What is the purpose of the device? Gavin Duffy The greatest Kruger treat is a visit to Lake Panic bird hide. The scene changes every 15 minutes. A young fish eagle begging for food, its mating parents thinking only about a new family. A malachite kingfisher stimulating its young to find fish on its own. Antelopes coming to drink and buffalo enjoying a bath. What is the purpose of this tracker on the back of a crocodile? Rob and Marion de Vos, The Netherlands Crocodiles are tagged and collared for monitoring purposes. It’s been discovered that some crocs in Kruger’s Olifants River Gorge make seasonal excursions 36 km into neighbouring Mozambique. Read more on page 60. – Ed.
NOT EARLY BIRDS My wife and I go to the bush and make use of our Wild Card as often as possible. However, we are not those people who arise at the crack of dawn to be first out of the camp gate as the sun rises. Instead we pull up the duvet as we hear those enthusiastic few queuing at the camp gate. While camping at Maroela in the Orpen area of Kruger, one morning we had a leisurely breakfast and eventually left the camp at around 10:30. We had driven not more than 20 m from the camp gate when my wife shouted ‘leopard’ and there she was: a beautiful female just about to cross the road in front of us. She was laid back and calm, giving us great photo opportunities. The early bird does not always get the worm (or leopard!). Peter and Sue Cole Isn’t that what Kruger is all about? The promise of a surprise around every corner makes us want to return time after time. – Ed.
PLASTIC VS PAPER Is it not odd that you publish content about avoiding single-use plastic yet distribute the magazine in plastic envelopes? I enjoy the contents but would prefer to receive it under brown paper wraps. Roger Fisher We would be much happier to mail Wild wrapped in paper, but this puts us in a much more expensive mailing category with the post office (size). The money thus saved goes directly to conservation. – Ed.
ERRATA On page 31 of the autumn issue, in the article on Mokala National Park, the pictures at the top of the page show a red hartebeest, sable and roan. Our apologies for the incorrect caption. On page 89 the photo of bird and nest is not the Cape weaver, but the southern masked weaver, as pointed out by Hattingh Basson and Pieter le Roux.
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 pic to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: Card). For rules, visit www.wildcard. co.za/category/competitions.
Schalk Kotzé and wife Jani Geyer win with this photo taken on De Hoop’s Whale Trail. www.wildcard.co.za
It appeared supernatural, so when the opportunity arose to see one in the flesh, I put my chances at nil.
WINGED SPRITE Trailing streamers, the pennant-winged nightjar is a sight straight out of a fantasy book.
GRAIL In Pafuri the phantom of the bush showed itself – twice – to guests on Punda Exposed, an event organised by SANParks Honorary Rangers. By Anton Crone
hen I initially saw photos of a pennant-winged nightjar, it resembled a blurred creature suspended above the earth with long streamers trailing each wing, like a ghostly gymnast. It appeared supernatural, so when the opportunity arose to see one in the flesh, I put my chances at nil. Last November, my wife and I joined friends on the Punda Exposed event which is based at Punda Maria Rest Camp in the north of Kruger. Organised
by SANParks Honorary Rangers West Rand, it was a departure from the previous Punda Mania event, which challenged teams to count as many birds as possible. “We wanted to expose guests to other things besides birds, to get them to realise there is so much more to the area,” said organiser Tracey Yates. “The thing I enjoy most is seeing people appreciate what they don’t know, and getting exposed to the fauna and geo logy of this wonderful part of Kruger.”
JODY DE BRUYN
Kruger’s far north is known for its lush vegetation and dramatic scenery.
WINTER 2019 WILD 9
“Sit here quietly,” said Bishop. “He’ll come at about twenty to seven.”
Kruger’s Punda Maria Rest Camp lies 550 km from Johannesburg.
SEE THE GHOST
Read more about the ghost of the night on www. wildcard.co.za/seepennant-wingednightjar-pundamaria-kruger. The 2019 Punda Exposed event takes place from 14 to 17 November. For more information and to book your place, contact westrandbirders @gmail.com 10 WILD WINTER 2019
The new event is worthwhile whether you’re a serious birder or not. Instead of game vehicles made up of competing teams, experts such as ornithologist and mammologist Ulrich Oberprieler and safari guides Bishop Shilowa and Marius Swart spend time with each vehicle expounding on everything that makes the north of Kruger different. The region is not inundated with cars as most visitors head for the south of the park. Sharpe’s grysbok is one of the mammals unique to the north, a shy little antelope we often saw stepping gingerly through the brush, white speckles radiating along its flanks. We were thrilled to see roan antelope and a herd of eland that crossed our path, the male’s tendons clicking loudly in its peculiar signal of dominance. Not unique to the region, but just as thrilling were four African wild dogs padding across
the road. One stopped and gave off a haunting call. “He is ‘hooing’ to find the rest of the pack,” said our guide, Bishop, who could conjure the most divine sightings. One of them was a Cape fox peering out of a burrow, which happened to be right near a pearl-spotted owlet perched in a tree. Shale surrounds the hills of Punda Maria telling the story of a land once inundated with lakes. The more we travelled, the better we understood how water carved this ancient landscape of canyons and flood plains. The rich flora of the region tends to dwarf elephants. Trees of immense size abound. Fever and fig trees tower over them like shrubs tower over mice. It broached the world of fantasy, which leads me to the most fantastic sighting of all. We stopped on a hill at dusk, a little late for sundowners as our guides directed us to a gully. “Sit here quietly,”
A Cape fox peers out of its burrow.
Sharpe’s grysbok is a special of northern Kruger.
said Bishop. “He’ll come at about twenty to seven.” I put my camera down and focused on pouring myself some wine. There were whispers and slurps of chardonnay but at the predicted time, the world grew eerily still. Taking shape against the backdrop of leaves, a nightjar flew along the gully towards us, long streamers trailing each wing. It pirouetted above our heads, cartwheeled and dived, a paranormal silhouette in the dying light. Then it was gone. A mystical encounter. Could it ever be replicated? The next evening we all elected to return to the gully. Better prepared this time with our cameras at the ready, we waited until the world grew eerily quiet once again. Like magic the nightjar reappeared but the spell was broken. All you could hear was a salvo of clicking camera shutters. I should have left my camera alone and savoured that incredible moment. /
Remote USTIC &
For rest and relaxation, escape to the secluded mountain cottages in the craggy ranges of Mountain Zebra National Park. By Julienne du Toit
ention the mountain cottages at Mountain Zebra National Park and the first thing anyone talks about is the road getting to either of them. A large part of the journey consists of solid bedrock, with dips, rises and unforgiving boulders that could rip out the belly of a low-slung sedan. In reality, all that is needed is a vehicle with halfway decent clearance along with a light foot on the pedal. The route to and from the camp and the mountain cottages takes you past Doornhoek Dam, which always boasts interesting sightings. Quite often buffalo contentedly chewing their cud, doe-eyed as cows. The turnoff is partway along the Kranskop loop, so the cottages are a perfect place from which to explore this lesser known and scenically wilder route, where you are likely to spot specials such as eland and mountain rhebok. It is also close enough to the parkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s
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most popular game drive, Rooiplaat Plateau, where there are mountain zebra, red hartebeest, black wildebeest, blesbok and springbok in abundance. This is where cheetah and lion are often seen. The two cottages, Umthombo (which means fountain), near the Weltevrede picnic site, and Bakana (meaning beacon), in Berghofkloof, are completely separate from one another. Perfect for families or a small group of friends, each has a double bed in one room, twin beds in another, and six bunks in the third. Since the arrival of the lions, there is a fence around the cottages so children can run about in safety. As you sit chatting at the large exterior braai, surrounded by thick bush, it seems natural for your eyes to lift to the ironstone ridges, to rest on the dark flow marks of seasonal water down the smooth rocks of the Bankberg. This is where you can watch out for raptors,
RUDOLPH DE GIRARDIER
Situated high up, the mountain cottages enjoy spectacular night skies.
At first light, as your hands wrap around your cup of coffee, you’ll probably hear the melodious racket of a couple of charismatic southern boubous.
The remote location promotes utter relaxation.
for the fleet movement of klipspringers, dassies or hares. By late dusk, the bushes and aloes turn to sentinel silhouettes. That’s when any wind usually dies down completely, and there is only soothing cricket song rising above the night’s starstruck silence. Apart from being completely private, the mountain cottages are fairly basic though spacious inside, and among the park’s most budget-friendly accommodation options. There is no electricity but the kitchen is fully equipped with a gas stove and two kettles, plus a fridgefreezer. There are overhead solar-charged
lights, with the backup of paraffin lamps and candles. The toilet and hot shower are outside but close. An indoor braai helps to heat up the living area in winter. At first light, as your hands wrap around your cup of coffee, you’ll probably hear the melodious racket of a couple of charismatic southern boubous checking over the cottage precinct and its inhabitants with bright-eyed familiarity. Turtle dove calls ring off the ironstone krantzes. In a bush near the braai, you may see yellow-fronted canaries and red-eyed bulbuls darting in and out of a dense bush. You’ll barely want to leave. /
TRIP PLANNER Getting there Mountain Zebra National Park lies 250 km north of Port Elizabeth. Accommodation Mountain cottages R1 100 a night for one to four people, R262 an extra adult, R132 a child. Conservation fees R56 an adult, R28 a child, free with Wild Card. Contact SANParks Central Reservations 012 428 9111, www.sanparks.org www.wildcard.co.za
The park is 12 km outside Cradock. WINTER 2019 WILD 13
Islands in the
stream The promise of action at Sunset Dam in Kruger is neverending, offering the chance for the shot of a lifetime.
By Chris van Rooyen
unset Dam at Lower Sabie Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park is a favourite spot for bird photographers. Regulars know the early morning light angle is perfect and there is always some action going on, offering great opportunities for the patient photographer. On this occasion, several grey herons were using the pod of resident hippos as hunting perches for fishing. However, there were more herons than hippos, which led to constant squabbling among the herons as newcomers tried to muscle their way in. Inevitably, this resulted in some spectacular skirmishes. All the while, the sleepy hippos seemed oblivious to the little dramas playing themselves out on their backs. /
NIKON D3S, 600 mm f/4 lens, f/8, 1/3 200 sec, ISO 1 800
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With more herons than perches, the skirmishes were ongoing and the sleepy hippos were none the wiser.
MAPUNGUBWE NATIONAL PARK
KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER PARK
MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
GOLDEN GATE HIGHLANDS NATIONAL PARK
AUGRABIES FALLS NATIONAL PARK
ROYAL NATAL NATIONAL PARK
MOUNTAIN ZEBRA NATIONAL PARK
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Marakele National Park is the setting for an unforgettable drive.
WALK of FAME On an epic cross-country circuit, Oscars of the Wild were awarded for the most memorable park experiences. By Denis Costello
hen South Africans talk about adventure holidays, the Kruger park exerts a gravitational force that is hard to escape. Have you seen the wild dogs near Skukuza? Have you done the Mphongolo Trail? And what about the Pafuri area, tucked up in the borderlands? I knew there were other parks in South Africa to be explored, but there was never time. I decided to make time. With some holidays saved and maps consulted, it looked like I could manage eight parks in four weeks, so a mega road trip beckoned, some 6 500 km through seven provinces. True to form, I would start in Kruger and make my way from there on an anticlockwise route. Travelling on empty ‘R’ roads that run against the grain of the major highways, I linked up national parks from Augrabies Falls to Mountain Zebra.
Eight parks in four weeks, a mega road trip beckoned: 6 500 km through seven provinces. www.wildcard.co.za
WINTER 2019 WILD 37
The beauty of a road trip is how the habitat variations unfold in subtle degrees. The journey was broken in farm-supply towns such as Vryburg in North West Province and Hanover in Northern Cape, their hotels an echo of better times. The beauty of a road trip is how the habitat variations unfold in subtle degrees. At Mopani Camp in Kruger, I spotted the first baobab tree. A day later I was in a forest of them. In the arid northern Cape I pulled over to examine an artful sociable weaver nest on a telegraph pole, not realising it would be the first of hundreds to come. The biggest revelation was the other parks are not just smaller versions of Kruger. Yes, there are some constants, such as cheeky vervets and busy guinea fowl, and knowledgeable guides in each, but every park has distinctive characteristics and endemic species. South Africa is known as the rainbow nation for its diversity of peoples but the expression can equally apply to its natural attractions. Now I know that Kruger is but one star among many.
Most scenic park drive
From the valley floor you’ll make your way up and up, to the top of Kranskop. 38 WILD WINTER 2019
In Marakele National Park, the road to Lenong Lookout climbs amid thornveld browsed by mountain reedbuck and klipspringer. It passes beneath dramatic sandstone bluffs, and winds to a 2 100 m peak on Kranskop. Cape vultures ride the warm updrafts, while views of the Waterberg massif disappear into the haze. It’s even better on the way back, facing into the sunset. What a drive.
BALANCING ACT The rock formation known as Policemanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Helmet in the Drakensberg.
Finest hike Not just my favourite walk of this tour, but perhaps the best anywhere in South Africa is the trail to Policemanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Helmet, a rock feature in Royal Natal National Park, through grasslands, tree ferns and flowering proteas. Lasting three hours, it was perfect for an afternoon outing and I had it completely to myself. www.wildcard.co.za
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Cheetah cubs on the scene of a springbok kill.
Best wildlife sighting Naturally there are plenty of candidates in this category, and not just the big beasts. On the Mphongolo Backpack Trail, it was fascinating to watch a spider hunting wasp prey. On a dawn drive in Kruger, a pack of African wild dogs hunted impala under the noses of giraffe. But the standout was finding a cheetah with her two cubs at a springbok kill in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, an encounter missing only a voice-over from David Attenborough.
The Kgalagadi delivers dramatic encounters just calling out for a voice-over by David Attenborough.
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THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a race for survival when a cheetah sprints after a springbok.
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An unforgettable visit from an elephant at Pafuri Walking Trails Camp.
Closest camp wildlife encounter Camp life is immersive, from flocks of red-headed finches and cheeky ground squirrels in the Kgalagadi to a pair of civets sitting politely by the braai stand in Mopani Camp in Kruger. For sheer drama, unfenced camps notch it up a level as proved by the elephant that came to feed on ana trees in Pafuri Walking Trails camp in the Makuleke Concession of northern Kruger. Everyone gave him plenty of space.
Best breakfast view
Every park probably has a candidate, from the pans of the Kgalagadi to the baobabs and sandstone koppies of Mapungubwe. But the winner has to be the majestic Amphitheatre of Royal Natal National Park. A panorama that lifts the spirits as high as the Drakensberg. Imagine waking up to this panorama... visit Royal Natal National Park to make it happen.
Park rangers lead climbs to the top of Salpeterkop where a surprise awaits.
Stunning sunsets await in Golden Gate (top), Augrabies (middle) and Mapungubwe (bottom).
Coolest sunset spot
A chessboard used by British soldiers more than 100 years ago.
Top history monument The museum and ancient stone ruins at Mapungubwe are amazing, but my best moment from history was more recent. During the South African War (also known as the Anglo-Boer War) the area around Mountain Zebra National Park in the Eastern Cape was contested and today contains the graves of soldiers who died in the conflict. Park rangers lead climbs to the top of Salpeterkop mountain, where a surprise awaits: a chessboard neatly incised in the rock by British soldiers, who played against neighbouring lookout posts using signals. www.wildcard.co.za
Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no shortage of candidates for this one. Perhaps sitting amid the cooling mist and soothing sounds of the chasm in Augrabies Falls National Park? Or the deck of the Golden Gate Highlands Hotel, in the eponymous Free State park, with a grandstand view of the splendid Brandwag Buttress which is a giant, multi-hued geology lesson. In Mapungubwe, when the heat of the day subsides, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s as if the whole park exhales and relaxes, especially at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers, with its choice of viewpoints on wooden decks. As the sun dipped, light filtered through the sandy haze and reflected from the waters, where elephant, cattle and buffalo waded. WINTER 2019 WILD 43
Lions are regular visitors to !Xaus Lodge (see page 32).
Most alarming wake-up call
At Bontle camp in Marakele National Park, the tents have doors with glass panes, and at five in the morning I heard a sharp tapping. I looked out to find a yellow-billed hornbill picking a fight with his reflection, a battle that was to go on for 30 minutes. But the winner is the handsome lion in residence for the duration of my stay at !Xaus Lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Nothing says youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in Africa like the sound of a lion cough on the other side of canvas.
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DESERT DREAMS !Xaus Lodge in Kgalagadi looks out over a vast pan frequented by wildlife.
Nothing says youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in Africa like the sound of a lion cough on the other side of canvas.
Looking out over the pan.
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Self-drive tips In the parks, many roads are dirt but well graded. Routes that are 4x4 only are clearly signed. Don’t be tempted to drive non-stop in parks. Pull up at a waterhole, turn off the engine and just sit.
A picture of colour: the friendly crafters at Royal Natal National Park.
Best craft shopping At !Xaus Lodge in Kgalagadi, the local San community shows traditional skills in working with local materials including knobthorn, seed pods and ostrich shells. For sheer colour and friendliness, it’s impossible to beat the basket weavers at Royal Natal National Park.
Self-driving in parks can be productive, but it’s more relaxing to go on the guided drives from rest camps. All of the parks mentioned offer guided walks, a great way to recover from a long drive and get close to the smaller natural wonders.
BUDGET To keep costs down, pack a cooler box and take the selfcatering option. For accommodation costs and booking, see kznwildlife.com for Royal Natal and sanparks.org for all other parks mentioned. On a multi-park trip, a Wild Card quickly pays for itself.
Biggest wildlife road block It was endlessly fascinating to see how animals ignore humans in vehicles. In Marakele, I met a herd of mother and calf elephants feeding by the roadside. With no way to pass, it was time to turn off the engine and listen to their munching for an hour. They rightly reminded us it’s their place and we are but visitors. /
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Make sure to budget for activities such as cheetah tracking in Mountain Zebra (R400 a person) or the cultural tour in Mapungubwe (R260 a person).
This is one road block you won’t mind: elephants in Marakele National Park.
Allow R4 000 for fuel for a 6 500 km trip by sedan.
PEOPLE IN PARKS
“These voices are a balm and a weapon and a language that connects us all.”
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song Hear my
Voices of the Wild is a choir made up of people working in the Kruger National Park.
When the wild enters into their voices, Kruger’s choir measures up to the chorus of hyenas, lions and frogs. By Dianne Tipping-Woods
s the words of the well-known song “Koloi” filled the Skukuza conference venue, it was hard to believe that when Nobulawu Nhlapo decided to start a choir in the Kruger National Park in 2005, she had only a handful of volunteers with untrained voices. The Sotho song is a rousing ballad with an insistent beat that soon had everyone in the room captivated as the voices of choristers rose and fell in harmony. The lyrics are an energetic plea: “Loved ones, please let us go, our homes are far away.” It’s interwoven with the urgent realisation the car is departing, leaving them behind. The singers danced and gestured, intoning the car to wait, while never missing a beat, even as the pace of the music increased. “It’s a fun song to sing, a crowd-pleaser, but we sing a huge variety of songs, from Italian ones like ‘Va Pensiero’ to our own compositions,” said Nobulawu as we met after the choir’s performance to celebrate Kruger’s top achievers at the park’s annual staff awards. “It’s as though the wild enters into our voices; these voices are a balm and a weapon and a language that connects us all.” One of her compositions is a song about poaching. “We’re not all in the field keeping animals safe but we can fight poaching with our voices,” she explained, especially with the support of broadcasters and radio stations. “If we can find a sponsor, we’d love to take our conservation message to an international stage.” Nobulawu is also the park’s regional general manager for the Marula region. WINTER 2019 WILD 65
PEOPLE IN PARKS Her voice is a powerful, rich and disciplined alto. Watching her perform and conduct, it’s easy to imagine her with a career in music, rather than conservation. She started singing as a young girl attending Morris Isaacson, a high school in Soweto with a strong musical tradition. With deep affection she recalls mentors Conference Matsike, Daniel Pitje and Jabu Mazibuko, as well as the conductor Mary Mxadana, who was secretary to former president Nelson Mandela. This formative period in her life gave her the gifts she now shares with her colleagues at their twice-weekly practice sessions in the staff village. Her love of unamplified, beautiful music full of feeling has become a way to express her deep commitment to conservation. While Voices of the Wild has brought together her two passions – music and nature – she initially formed the choir for more pragmatic reasons. “In Kruger we live in paradise but we needed a purpose outside of work. The choir provided that. When we started, the only other structured leisure activities were soccer and netball. Music filled a space in people’s lives,” she said. Soon after forming, Nobulawu decided the choir wouldn’t be only for SANParks staff, but for anyone living and working in Kruger, including concession and support staff. Today, the choir of nearly 50 is made up of rangers, domestic helpers, police station staff and other SANParks employees. In the early days hardly anyone could read music. “We had to start with do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do.” Since then, the choir has gone from strength to strength,
winning awards, writing their own songs, and performing with the parliamentary choir and on national television. At a practice session before their performance, they worked on notations to make sure every member could read the music they sing accurately. “If there is a note, you have to look at the line where it falls, that little knobkierie, it tells you what’s required. The last line is the lowest note, this is a three-quarter note, this is a half note.” As “Koloi Indlela” came to an end to thunderous applause, the choir members resumed their seats. There was a new energy in the room, an effect Nobulawu has seen many times before. She attributes this to the choir’s ability to perform the song with their hearts and their heads. “If you don’t enact it, then you are just singing,” she added. While the choir performs all kinds of music, Nobulawu greatly admires Sibongile Khumalo, and SJ Khosa, a big influence on her and the choir. He composed the park’s 110-year celebration song titled “Great Wilderness Great”. Nobulawu breaks into song: “Come where nature stays awake, come to the park of the great wild. He was wild about our interpretation of it,” she added warmly. “The voices in our choir are trained but they are natural voices. I didn’t want to imitate anyone or anything. I looked at the environment I am in and took my lead from that,” she explained. “If the hyena calls at night, if the lion or the fish eagle calls, it does it like that all the time. We have to do it the African way. Let’s be who we are,” she said. /
Would you like to see Voices of the Wild choir in action? While there are currently no scheduled public performances by the choir, they will be part of SA National Parks Week in September 2019, so keep an eye on the press. Details about a possible event in June will be shared closer to the time. The choir can be booked for weddings and other events. If you’re interested in booking Voices of the Wild, please contact lucy.nhlapo@ sanparks.org. Nobulawu Nhlapo has transformed a group of untrained volunteers into an impressively trained choir.
Escape the cold this winter
Mapungubwe National Park: Camping R333 for two, safari tents R1â&#x20AC;&#x2030;327 for two, cottages from R1418 for two Reservations (012) 428 9111 E-mail email@example.com www.sanparks.org
Planning a bush braai? Control your campfire and keep the great outdoors pristine. By Romi Boom
BURNING AMBITION A campfire is useful and atmospheric but must be carefully managed. 90 WILD WINTER 2019
pen fires are key to camping, storytelling and nights under the stars. The glow of flames, the smell of woodsmoke, the warmth and protection of the fireside. Fire is ingrained in our DNA and adds immeasurably to being outdoors, whether in the woods, bushveld, mountains or even on the beach. For some people, the ideal campfire is two logs burning quietly, while for others, it’s a blazing bonfire made with a pile of wood and brush. In sensitive nature areas, the type of fire you may make and where are subject to strict protocol. In Wild Card parks and reserves, you don’t have to purchase a fire permit, as in some countries, but you do have to follow these steps so that your fire doesn’t get out of hand.
WHERE TO BRAAI 1. Use designated fire pits or braai stands. 2. Different parks allow different sizes and types of fires. In many national parks the braai facility consists of a skottel-shaped braai, for the simple reason that a bonfire is unacceptable in a busy campground full of children, 4x4s and trees. If your menu includes baking bread and grilling meat, plan accordingly. 3. Fires are not permitted on beaches in national parks except in designated spots. Camping stoves may sometimes be used with care on beaches in protected areas, such as the De Mond Nature Reserve. Ask at the visitor centre or contact the park before you visit so you know any relevant rules. 4. At informal camping spots in places such as Tankwa Karoo National Park, choose a place someone else has already used if possible, otherwise the
camp will be littered with leftover coals. 5. If you’re camping, make sure your tent, gear and any other flammable objects are at least five metres from and upwind of the firepit.
BUILD YOUR FIRE 1. Use your own firewood and charcoal. No collection of wood is permitted in protected areas, not even kindling. Dead wood provides an ecosystem for various organisms. 2. Preferably buy kindling and wood near the campground or in the area. Bringing wood from far away might bring along pests that will flee your burning logs and potentially invade and cause problems in their new environment. 3. Use firewood sparingly. Chop your wood into thinner pieces, to expose more of the interior. Bark doesn’t burn as well as the rest of the wood. 4. Fire needs air to grow, so don’t pile up your wood in a dense stack. Lay larger pieces of wood in a criss-cross pattern, making a small tower. Place kindling (finely chopped wood) and firestarter (paraffin-soaked teabags, etc) in the gaps between the wood. 5. Never use fuel or other chemical accelerants to get the fire going. This may lead to a quick flare up and cause skin burns.
KEEP IT BURNING 1. If the firewood is dry, your fire will burn quickly. Wetter wood will burn slower but if it is too wet it won’t catch fire at all. Wet wood will smoke more than dry wood. 2. Exercise the utmost caution if conditions are windy. 3. Keep extra firewood upwind of the
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Don’t just kick sand onto the fire as this may insulate or ‘bank’ the coals, keeping them hot even longer.
fire, so that a sudden gust won’t light it unintentionally. 4. Keep the fire small enough so it stays under control. Depending on the size of your fire and how windy it is, you may be able to sit right by it or stand a few metres away. When it’s close enough to toast marshmallows, not hands, it’s just right. 5. Sparks burn right through synthetic clothing such as fleece jackets. If clothes catch fire, drop to the ground and roll. 6. Make sure your cooking tools are long enough so you have a safe distance between you and the fire. 7. Keep burn dressing in your first aid kit in case someone is burnt by sparks, hot cooking tools or coals. 8. Day picnic areas such as Tweede Tol in Limietberg Nature Reserve and Assegaaibosch in Jonkershoek Nature Reserve often prohibit alcoholic beverages. Even where these are allowed, do not throw bottles or cans into the fire. Broken glass and half-melted aluminium will make the next visitor pretty unhappy. 9. Never leave a campfire unattended. The breeze may pick up unexpectedly with disastrous consequences. 10. Always keep water nearby in case you suddenly have to put the fire out.
PUT IT OUT 1. Extinguish your fire before you leave the picnic site or go to bed at night. The hazard of burning embers or smouldering coals is dire. Recently, two chalets in Olifants Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park burnt down because a fire was not extinguished properly. 2. If the remains of your campfire are too hot to hold a hand near, spread out the coals as best you can with your braai tongs. Even if there aren’t open flames any more, white or grey coals can retain heat for hours and flare up if the wind starts gusting. 3. If you have water available, douse your fire and coals with plenty of water when you’re ready to call it a night. If you don’t have water, use sand and dirt, but don’t just kick it onto the fire as this may insulate or ‘bank’ the coals, keeping them hot even longer than if they remained exposed. 4. In a wilderness camp, follow the guide or the site’s instructions. 5. When you leave, take all garbage with you. Burning anything but wood, especially plastics, can lead to toxic gases. Don’t burn leftover paper plates or packaging. /
SANPARKS REGULATIONS FIRE HAZARD Starting or causing of any fire, whether it be intentional or unintentional, other than in a fireplace or container purposely made available is strictly prohibited and will result in a summons being issued. EMERGENCY ACTION If your fire gets out of control, note your location and call the duty manager. To report a fire when you’re not in a national park, your go-to number countrywide is 10177. 92 WILD WINTER 2019
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See how many of our parks and reserves you can visit in a year â&#x20AC;&#x201C; you could win free membership renewal. Visit www.wildcard. co.za to find out more. www.sanparks.org +27 (0)12 428 9111 1 Addo Elephant National Park 2 Agulhas National Park 3 Augrabies Falls National Park 4 Bontebok National Park 5 Camdeboo National Park 6 Golden Gate Highlands National 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 |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
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and resorts IAi-IAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
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