Category Archives: Marakele National Park

Surprise Weekend at Marakele; Sunday 13 June 2021

It was the morning after Marilize’s milestone birthday, which unfortunately coincided with South Africa experiencing a “third wave” of Covid-19 infections precluding any big commemoration with the extended family and friends. It was up to me and Joubert to make the event memorable, so we surprised Marilize with a weekend breakaway to Marakele National Park.

Having spent all day Saturday at our comfortable safari tent overlooking the dam at Tlopi Tented Camp, we decided to prolong our departure back home to Pretoria on Sunday by exploring the roads leading through the Marakele National Park before checking out. There were lots of animals and birds to be seen, but it is Marakele’s awe-inspiring scenery that steals the show every time!

Check-out time at Tlopi Tented Camp is at 10:00 in the morning. While I was packing the Duster, Joubert was keeping an eye out for thieving monkeys and getting some final photographs of life in and around Tlopi.

It was time to head for the gate. Along the way we detoured to the Bolonoto Pan and the graves of the Coetzee family, but no matter how we tried we just couldn’t stretch our weekend any further. Around midday we handed back the key for Tlopi unit 10 to the friendly reception staff and said our goodbyes to Marakele National Park, till next time.

Surprise Weekend at Marakele; Baby Elephant Rescue!

We were still watching the herd of elephants calmly going about their business on the shores of the dam at Tlopi Tented Camp in Marakele National Park on Marilize’s birthday, when suddenly there was a tremendous uproar in the herd.

Cows were trumpeting in panic and rushing to a specific spot, while one particular youngster was screaming blue murder and running away from the same place as quickly as the grown-ups were approaching.

It quickly became apparent that a tiny baby had fallen down a small embankment and into the mud at the edge of the pool, struggling to get up. Within seconds the adult cows were lending either a helping foot or trunk and the baby was lifted to safety.

While we didn’t see how the baby ended up in the mud to begin with, from their reaction to the youngster that fled the scene earlier, and who was still screeching to high heaven but now circled back to the group of cows where they were soothing the upset baby, it was rather clear who the adult elephants thought carried the blame for the incident!

Surprise Weekend at Marakele; Saturday 12 June 2021

Round about 04:45am on Saturday, the territorial rasping of a leopard really close lured Joubert and me out of our cosy tent into the cold winter morning air at Tlopi Tented Camp. Try as we might using our spotlight and headlamps the big cat remained unseen, so we warmed ourselves with hot drinks, waiting for the first rays of sunshine to appear. It was the morning of Marilize’s milestone birthday, and unfortunately this coincided with South Africa experiencing a “third wave” of Covid-19 infections precluding any big commemoration with the extended family and friends. It was up to me and Joubert to make the event memorable, so we surprised Marilize with a weekend breakaway to Marakele National Park

First light made an appearance around 06:20 and a stream of birds started arriving at the dam – first a few double-banded sandgrouse, then a hadeda and a pair of egyptian geese, waking up the arrow-marked babblers in the tree shading our tent. It was only at 08:10 that the sun first peaked over the cliffs of the Waterberg towering over Tlopi and started heating up the crisp air. Somewhere in between Marilize joined us on the deck of our safari tent.

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One of the most active actors on the dam stage was a pied kingfisher that regularly made attempts at dive-bombing fish in the shallow water, and was very successful at it too, providing us excellent views and photographic opportunities from very early on in the day.

There appears to be a very healthy population of bushbuck in the thickets around Tlopi. They regularly ventured out into the open to drink and feed in and around the dam.

Throughout the day a family of tawny-flanked prinias put in regular appearances:

The vervet monkeys had us laughing. As soon as they spotted anything on our deck that appeared to be food they could steal – and seeing as we were celebrating a birthday it must have seemed like a feast to them – they’d arrive from all corners, including from across the dam, to come and try their luck, in vain.

There truly is no need to venture out of Tlopi Tented Camp to go and look for Marakele’s wild inhabitants – there is a constant queue of animals and birds arriving at the dam in front of the camp, and around your tented accommodation, that would keep any nature lover enthralled all day long.

From about 14:00 in the afternoon, two herds of elephants made their way past the camp to the dam. They spent quite a while enjoying the water and the greenery around the dam, allowing us to take photographs of them to our hearts’ content. The little ones were especially endearing. Be sure to catch our next post to see what drama erupted next to the dam thanks to the elephants!

At the end of a beautiful and happy day, with the sun setting to the west of Tlopi while the smoke from our evening braai (barbeque) wafted on the slight breeze, Joubert set up his camera for a few night shots after it went dark.

To be continued…

Surprise Weekend at Marakele; Friday 11 June 2021

This past weekend Marilize celebrated a milestone birthday, and unfortunately this coincided with South Africa experiencing a “third wave” of Covid-19 infections precluding any big commemoration with the extended family and friends. It was up to me and Joubert to make the event memorable, so we surprised Marilize with a weekend breakaway to Marakele National Park. We left Pretoria just after 1pm on Friday, routing through Bela-Bela (Warmbad) and Thabazimbi, and arrived at Marakele’s gate just before 4pm.

After performing all the requisite formalities, which these days include a questionnaire on the recent medical history of the entire family, we set off on the 17km drive to Tlopi Tented Camp in the golden glow of the bushveld sunset.

In our estimation Tlopi Tented Camp is Marakele’s most beautifully situated accommodation option, and we were very lucky to be allocated unit 10, “Loerie”, right at the far end of the camp. Tlopi looks out over a dam frequented by a large number of birds and mammals, and the mountains of the Waterberg beyond.

To be continued…

Our 2019 in pictures

Looking back at all the places we stayed in while exploring South Africa’s wild places in 2019!

Easter at Marakele

If you thought we were a bit quiet over the Easter Weekend you’d be right, as we disappeared into the Marakele National Park in the Waterberg Mountains of the Limpopo Province, celebrating the cornerstone of our Chrisitian faith with good friends and family surrounded by awesome scenery and beautiful wildlife.

Marakele’s such a treasure chest of diverse wildlife that it is hard to decide what to show and what to leave out. Let’s start then with a few of the “creepy crawlies” that we encountered while exploring the Park.

WIth Autumn now in full swing in South Africa most of the summer visiting migrant birds have departed for warmer environs already, but bird watching at Marakele over Easter was still a special treat!

What would a National Park be without some charismatic large mammals? Marakele certainly didn’t disappoint on that score, even though the lush vegetation following the rainy season did make game-viewing a bit trickier than usual.

Altogether we spent 4 nights in Marakele on this trip, arriving late on the 18th and departing again on the morning of the 22nd of April 2019. When visiting Marakele in a big group there’s no better option than to stay at the Thutong Environmental Education Centre (as we did) in a remote corner of the Park.

We’ve covered Marakele extensively in previous posts on de Wets Wild, so why not have a read through all of them if you are interested to learn more about this magical piece of our country.

Our 2017 in pictures

Looking back at the places we stayed at during another year of enjoying South Africa’s beautiful wild places.

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Breathing in our Natural Heritage at Marakele

In South Africa, we celebrate the 24th of September as “Heritage Day”, and of course to us de Wets our country’s natural heritage is our biggest pride. What better way then to spend the Heritage Day long weekend than at a place as beautiful as Marakele National Park, accompanied by a group of wonderful friends?

Marakele’s varied landscapes makes for such a diverse experience – from the top of the Waterberg massif to the plains of Kwaggasvlakte below. A few fires passed through the area some days before our visit (a quite natural occurrence in African savannas, to which animal and plant life alike are perfectly adapted) and as soon as the first rains of spring fall Marakele should be transformed into a green paradise again.

There’s no doubt in our mind that Marakele’s populations of the popular “Big Five” animals must be growing at a good rate. We’ve never seen so many elephants on any of our previous visits to this Park, and this latest visit also delivered us our first encounters with both Marakele’s buffaloes and lions. It is now only the Park’s leopards that still elude us.

By now our regular readers will know that we love walking around after dark looking for nocturnal creatures, and in this respect the Thutong Environmental Education Centre where we stayed delivered a range of arachnid species!

We’ve already shared with you a series of photos of a wasp dragging a paralysed caterpillar to a nesting tunnel for its young to feed on – have a look here for the complete set.

Wasp and prey

Marakele means “a place of sanctuary”, and it is as true for human visitors as it is for the immense collection of wildlife that calls this gem of a place home!

A big group of people needs a big place to stay. Marakele’s Thutong Environmental Education Centre is a dormitory-style facility built purposely to accommodate visiting school groups, however it is available for private groups when not being used by school children. Provided is six double rooms with en-suite bathrooms for the teachers, with a maximum of 128 children that can be accommodated in 16 seperate rooms with 8 bunk beds in each. Thutong also has a decently equipped kitchen to cook for that many mouths, and a large hall and fireplace. It is securely fenced – the necessity for which we clearly understood when we found lion tracks right outside the gate one morning!

Want to learn more about Marakele National Park? Why not scroll through all our posts about this special place, here.

Hardworking Wasp

Just to prove that a visit to a game reserve isn’t all about the “hairies and scaries”, one of the most memorable sightings of the trip we took to Marakele National Park last weekend wasn’t of one of the “Big Five” or another large mammal, bird or reptile. Instead, we watched in awe as a wasp carried (sometimes through the air, but mostly along the ground) a large, paralysed caterpillar to a specially prepared tunnel. In there, the wasp’s young can grow to adulthood by feeding on the hapless immature insect.

Back from Marakele

If you thought we were a little quiet the last few days, you’d be right. We spent the Heritage Day long weekend enjoying our natural heritage and the company of good friends at Marakele National Park. Here’s just a little sample of some of what we experienced, with a promise of more to come later in the week.