Tag Archives: view sites

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; 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.

Marakele_Jun21_D-PS (7)

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…

Autumn Mountain Moments (part 2)

We made it safely back to Pretoria and I think before anyone noticed we were missing. We enjoyed a glorious morning in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, bringing to a close a wonderful, if whistle-stop, visit to one of our favourite destinations.

Autumn Mountain Moments (part 1)

Pssst…

We sneaked out of Pretoria at five this morning and headed for a quick weekend breakaway at the beautiful Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

Summertide Diary: Exploring iSimangaliso (part one)

17 January 2021

It’s a cloudy start to the day at Cape Vidal and the route for our morning drive takes us along the Grassland Loop and then to the viewpoint at Catalina Bay on the shores of Lake St. Lucia. Recent rains have swelled the lake to proportions I don’t think we’ve seen on any of our numerous previous visits to the area.

We’re slowly making our way to the picnic site at Mission Rocks for breakfast.

On arrival at Mission Rocks we delay our breakfast of coffee-and-rusks just a little to first walk down to the rocky beach and look out over the ocean. But its windy and drizzly so we don’t stay at the seaside too long before going to hide in the forest, where the picnic tables are also frequented by some colourful birds with the same aching for something to eat that we had.

Driving further south the sun finally puts in appearance and the bush becomes alive as birds and animals come out of hiding.

We turn for camp at Amazibu Pan, where the hippos are kept from their sleep by a raucous assortment of birdlife.

Heading back to Cape Vidal there’s three short loop roads that offer an alternative to the busier tarred main road, and each of them offers a glimpse into a different ecosystem. The first of these is the Vlei Loop that passes several open pans where animals congregate to drink.

The Forest Loop passes the kuMfazana Hide, where we discover a butterfly paradise – more about that tomorrow!

A turnoff from the Dune Loop leads to the Kwasheleni Tower – a new facility opened after our previous visit to iSimangaliso that we were very curious to see – but a sour old buffalo bull tried his best to keep us from reaching it.

Our patience paid off when the buffalo eventually relented and we could reach the viewing tower without further hindrance (unless you see the climbing up the dune and then the tower as an obstacle). The views afforded over Lake St. Lucia and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park from up the top of the tower was amazing.

Arriving back at Cape Vidal around the same time the clouds did, we nevertheless didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to explore the rock pools at low tide.

Having lunch on the deck of our log cabin we were visited by a variety of the local wildlife.

We didn’t take a very long afternoon drive, just a two-hour excursion along the Grassland and Dune Loops and back to camp.

 

Map of the eastern shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from https://isimangaliso.com/)

 

Summertide Diary: Exploring Mountain Zebra (part two)

2 January 2021

When dawn found the Mountain Zebra National Park under heavy skies this morning we were already underway along the Kranskop Loop.

When we arrived at the start of Rooiplaat Loop we found a male lion lying there, flat on its right-side. We sat there as the minutes passed, studying it through cameras and binoculars and finally coming to the sad conclusion that this lion was dead – there wasn’t even a twitch of an ear or any movement of its stomach to indicate a breath being taken. Disheartened, I started the car to drive off.

King Roy, fast asleep

The sound of the Duster’s engine had a miraculous effect. The lion lifted his head, sleepily. He rested his head on his paws for a while, then gave a mighty yawn before getting up, stretching his legs and then lying down again to look at us in irritation. He is magnificent, known as Roy, and despite his advanced age one of the ruling coalition of lion males here at Mountain Zebra National Park, along with Nomad whom we saw at a distance the day before .

When the next vehicle arrived at the lion sighting we moved of so that those visitors too could have a private audience with The King. The skies have cleared and it’s turning into a glorious day. On our way back to camp we passed Roy again, and he was fast asleep again.

With it being our last afternoon at Mountain Zebra we opted to visit all our favourite spots along the Ubejane and Rooiplaat Loops and the Link road between them again. There’s just something so indescribably peaceful about driving around wild Africa as dusk approaches.

We posted a special feature about Mountain Zebra National Park following a previous visit, if you’d like to learn more about this special destination.

Map of Mountain Zebra National Park from the SANParks website (https://www.sanparks.org/images/parks/mountain_zebra/mznp-map.jpg)

Summertide Diary: Exploring Mountain Zebra (part one)

1 January 2021

As soon as the gates opened on New Year’s Day we headed for the Rooiplaat Loop, the sightings board at reception having indicated that Lions and Cheetahs were seen there the previous day. And we did not wait long – right where the road skirts the Park’s boundary fence we came across a big male lion, known as Nomad, patrolling his territory.

We supposed that it was the proximity of the big predator that made these Black Wildebeest so jittery!

It’s early morning in the Mountain Zebra National Park and there’s so much to be seen!

It was on the link road between Rooiplaat and Ubejane Loops that we happened upon these cute little Bat-eared Fox pups and their elders. More photos of them tomorrow!

Bat-eared Fox pups

Along the main road, between the two junctions with the Ubejane Loop, we saw this pair of unusually tolerant Secretarybirds – they’re normally quite nervous and move away from the road the moment a vehicle approaches, so this was a great opportunity to watch them in action.

At the southern junction of Ubejane Loop with the main road there’s a small earth dam filled with rainwater. By the time we arrived there at mid-morning Cape Mountain Zebra families were arriving from all corners, along with some other wildlife, to slake their thirst and it was wonderful to watch their social interactions before heading back to camp.

Back at camp there was time to kill either side of lunchtime, and thankfully there’s very much of interest around the accommodation and camping area.

Our route for the afternoon would first take us into the mountains along the Kranskop Loop before taking another jaunt around the Rooiplaat Loop.

A real highlight of our afternoon drive was an encounter with a group of three Cheetahs – one adult and two youngsters – on the Rooiplaat Plateau, just half-an-hour before we had to be back in camp.

 

We posted a special feature about Mountain Zebra National Park following a previous visit, if you’d like to learn more about this special destination.

Map of Mountain Zebra National Park from the SANParks website (https://www.sanparks.org/images/parks/mountain_zebra/mznp-map.jpg)

Summertide Diary: Arriving at Mountain Zebra

31 December 2020

It’s a 210km drive from Addo‘s Main Rest Camp to the gates of the Mountain Zebra National park, and we arrive just after 13:00. The rest camp lies about 12km into the Park, but it’s hot and most animals are hiding from the midday summer sun and we don’t see much of them before reaching the camp.

After checking in we make our way to our allotted unit, cottage 20, and while Marilize and I unpack the car and settle into our accommodation Joubert is already out exploring and enjoying the birdlife in camp.

Time to go exploring as a family, and off we go to the Rooiplaat and Ubejane Loops before returning to camp three hours later.

2020 draws to a close with a beautiful sunset over the hills of the Mountain Zebra National Park

The last sighting of the year: a Raucous Toad next to the swimming pool in camp.

We posted a special feature about Mountain Zebra National Park following a previous visit, if you’d like to learn more about this special destination.

Map of Mountain Zebra National Park from the SANParks website (https://www.sanparks.org/images/parks/mountain_zebra/mznp-map.jpg)

Summertide Diary: Nature’s Valley (Garden Route National Park)

22 – 24 December 2020

Located at the mouth of the Groot River, the small holiday town of Nature’s Valley is surrounded by the western reaches of the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park. The town is connected to the N2 national highway by the Groot River Pass which makes for a magnificent drive as one descends through the forest canopy to the town below.

South African National Parks manages the De Vasselot Rest Camp, which offers two fully-equipped chalets, ten rustic forest huts and a camping area on the outskirts of town. Private holiday homes are available to hire in town where there’s also a small general store and restaurant. Several hiking trails traverse the forests and beaches around Nature’s Valley, and canoes can be hired to explore the river and lagoon.

We spent two nights at the De Vasselot Rest Camp at Nature’s Valley during our 2020-21 Summertide Ramble, arriving in the early afternoon on the 22nd and departing again late morning on the 24th of December 2020. Our chalet on the bank of the Groot River had a lovely setting from which we could wonder at the beauty of Nature’s Valley.

When the sun was out we enjoyed the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets from our stoep. When it was raining, the sound of the drops hitting the river and the quacking of the raucous toad beneath the deck combined to make a soothing lullaby, lulling me to sleep right there on the veranda.

We didn’t see the sun very often during our time at Nature’s Valley and couldn’t explore as widely as we wanted to due both to the very rainy weather and government restrictions imposed to clamp down on South Africa’s “second wave” of COVID-19 infections, and we’ll definitely have to return to remedy that. Still, there were many trails that we did explore in between (and sometimes during) the rain showers, and even walking in the camp and town proved very rewarding.