It seems only fitting that we should start the report back on our recent visit to Marakele National Park at Bontle, the beautiful little bushveld campground set on the plains below the imposing Waterberg mountains, and that we called home during our three night stay.
Bontle actually means “beautiful” in Setswana, and surveying the place from beneath a shady tree you can’t help but agree. Just outside the camp a waterhole attracts a constant stream of birds and animals, with a range of low hills to the south forming a beautiful backdrop to the scene.
Wildlife has open access to Bontle, which is unfenced. While you don’t have to be concerned about being trampled by an elephant or eaten by a lion (these species occur elsewhere in Marakele, but not in the Kwaggasvlakte-section where Bontle’s located) you may well find yourself at close quarters with a variety of birds, various species of antelope, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, baboons, bushbabies, springhares, jackals, ostriches and even white rhinos when you pop your head out your tent!
The campground accommodates 36 tents and caravans (all the campsites have electric plugpoints) around three communal ablution blocks (one of which is accessible to campers in wheelchairs). Ten safari tents are fairly recent additions to the offering at Bontle. Four of them sleep 4 guests each and the others 2 each. One of the two-bed tents have also been built with the needs of guests in wheelchairs in mind. The little kiosk at the entrance gate and reception office, about 1.5km from Bontle, conveniently stocks firewood, ice, sweets and cold drinks. Stock up on fuel and groceries in the nearby town of Thabazimbi.
This was our first stay at Bontle (managed by South African National Parks); on previous visits to Marakele we stayed at Tlopi Tented Camp in the bigger portion of the Park where the “Big-5” roam. But now that we’ve had a taste of Bontle’s beautiful tranquility it is hard to imagine that we’ll be able to resist the urge to return for very long.
More on Marakele in upcoming editions of de Wets Wild!