Tag Archives: Tlopi Tented Camp

Marakele in February

In Middle February we had the opportunity of a quick weekend visit to the Marakele National Park in the Waterberg of Limpopo Province. With us still experiencing a good rainy season here in the north of the country, the Park’s scenery was lush and green and it was good to see the Waterberg (Water Mountain) living up to its name.

We were booked into Tlopi Tented Camp again, and with its wonderful view of the dam and mountains beyond and an abundance of animal life all around it was as near to heaven as can be imagined.

On Saturday afternoon we explored the plains and foothills of this section of the Park. Animals were to be seen in abundance, but the amazing scenery also kept clamouring for attention.

Some very interesting insects came to visit our fully-equipped safari tent after dark.

At dawn on Sunday morning there was just one place we wanted to go; up to the Lenong Viewpoint atop the Waterberg. The narrow, steep, winding road that takes you there, the immense vistas and the fresh air up there takes our breath away every time. 

Eventually we had to descend from the mountain, go back to Tlopi to pack our belongings, and head for home – at least we could console ourselves with a few hours drive through the Park to get to the gate and the outside world.

Our 2021 In Pictures

Take a look back with us at the wonderfully wild South African places we visited in 2021.

 

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…

Exploring Marakele

A “Place of Sanctuary”; that Marakele National Park certainly is. As its Tswana name suggests, this Park of around 650km² in size offers protection not only to some of the most awe-inspiring scenery one could hope to find, but also to an impressive variety of fauna and flora. Humans too can find a safe and peaceful haven here in the malaria-free Waterberg range, as we were reminded again on our recent visit.

A public road splits Marakele into two sections. Kwaggasvlakte in the south-western corner is much smaller than the main portion of the Park lying to the east. Kwaggasvlakte is where the Park’s entrance gate and Bontle  Camp is located, and is characterised by flat, sandy plains on which mixed bushveld is the main vegetation type.

Overlooking a waterhole in the northern corner of the Kwaggasvlakte section, Bollonoto Hide offers a great place from which to enjoy the constant stream of game and birdlife arriving to quench their thirst.

A subway connects Kwaggasvlakte to the bigger, eastern portion of the Park. It is in this more mountainous section of the Park where elephants, buffaloes and lions also occur, just some of the 91 species of mammals that the Park hosts. Tlopi Tented Camp is available to guests who’d like to overnight in this section of the Park, which is dominated by a wholly different type of vegetation, described as “Waterberg Moist Bushveld”. A good network of roads allows visitors to explore widely – some of Marakele’s roads are only accessible to 4×4 vehicles, but most of the Park’s 80km road network can easily and comfortably be traversed in a sedan.

A very narrow tarred pass leads to Marakele’s most impressive attraction, the Lenong View Point on top of the Waterberg massif. Lenong lies at an altitude of 2050m, over a kilometer higher than Bontle on the Kwaggasvlakte below – a fact you become well aware of when your ears pop on the very steep and winding ascent. From the viewpoint you normally have fantastic views over the plains below and the mountains around, and perhaps get a close-up glimpse at Marakele’s prized colony of Cape Vultures soaring on the thermals. Unfortunately the weather didn’t play along when we went up to Lenong on our latest visit, the top of the mountain being cloaked in a thick and teeth-chatteringly cold fog. However, dipping below the clouds on our way down we did get glimpses of the wonderful views to be had from up there.

Our latest visit to Marakele was just 3 nights long, and honestly we found that too short to fully savour all the Park had to offer. The broken terrain does make game-viewing a little more challenging than in many other parks and reserves, especially if you are mostly after the “Big 5” (which we luckily aren’t, we just enjoy being “out there” and enjoy anything we find along the way), but as far as spectacular scenery and serenity is concerned Marakele has few equals.

Marakele National Park is managed by South African National Parks, and the access gate is located just 12km outside the town of Thabazimbi, which offers most of the modern conveniences. Thabazimbi is easily accessed from Gauteng along the N1 and R516 via Bela-Bela or via the R511 through Brits.

Road to Marakele (2)

Marakele National Park

The aptly named Marakele National Park is most certainly a “place of sanctuary” to much of South Africa’s indigenous wildlife, as the translation of the Tswana name suggests.

Located in the Waterberg mountain range in the Limpopo Province, there are two main reasons for the park’s extraordinary diversity of plant and animal life. Firstly, it is located in the transition zone between the country’s drier western and wetter eastern climatic zones. Secondly, it has an impressive altitudinal range between 980 and 2100m above sea level. Thus the park has a rich variety of habitats housing a wide variety of fauna and flora – many of which is endangered or unique to the area, and as a result it forms a core area of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve.

The Waterberg cycad (Encephalartos eugene-maraisii) is one example of a rare plant species finding sanctuary here at Marakele. This plant was named in honour of naturalist, author and poet Eugene Marais who spent much of his life here in the Waterberg, his work inspired by the beautiful landscapes, fascinating wildlife and warm people of the region.

Marakele may be home to Africa’s Big Five, but pride of place certainly goes to the population of Cape Griffon vultures that have made their home among the towering cliffs – at 800 breeding pairs it is one of the biggest colonies of these endangered birds left on the planet.

The best place to see the vultures are from the Lenong viewpoint located high on a cliff edge, where they soar by in breath-taking proximity. The very narrow road leading up to the viewpoint may be one of the steepest and most hair-raising drives in South Africa, but the spectacular views from the top is a sight to behold and treasure.

 

 

The Park was originally proclaimed in 1986 (then named Kransberg after a prominent peak in the Waterberg range) and has been continuously expanded to its current size of almost 650km². Accommodation is available at Tlopi Tented Camp while the Bontle Camping Area provides decent facilities for caravanners and campers. Guided activities are on offer, and other facilities include a hide next to a waterhole that provides excellent opportunities to photograph birds and game, and two rustic picnic spots.

Visit Marakele National Park and you will soon realise that humans too can find sanctuary from the humdrum of everyday life here.

Sunset over Marakele National Park

Sunsets

We’re participating in LetsBeWild.com‘s Wild Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s challenge is Sunsets and we are submitting this collection of sunset pictures taken in South Africa’s wild places.

(click on an image to view the picture carousel)