South African Eco-travel: There is something for everyone
Thanks to Genie Retief for this piece…
The Big Five! Leopards and lions. Elephants and giraffes. These bring visions of Africa at its best. Hot sunny days. Star-studded skies and sultry summer nights with the sounds of the African bush complete the intrigue of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And there is more!
Mpumulanga is the wildlife province of South Africa…
Mpumalanga Province in the east of South Africa is the wildlife province, offering a great variety of experiences and activities. Here you will find a mix of nature with rich culture and history. Mpumalanga is situated in the north-east region of South Africa and it is bordered by Mozambique on the east and the Kingdom of Swaziland to south and east.
The province is a treasure of artistic and cultural diversity – from early San rock art to the beadwork of the modern day Swazi and Ndebele people. Vibrant music and tribal dancing will enthrall visitors.
Here also is to be found Kruger Park, undoubtedly one of the world’s finest game parks, and it is here that your exploration of Mpumulanga should start.
Mpumulanga is the home of the famous Kruger National Park…
Larger than many small countries, the Kruger National Park lies in the Lowveld region of Mpumalanga – hot to very hot in summer, with mild winters, and a summer rainfall region with 500-700mm falling between the months of October and April.
As a rule of thumb don’t be too preoccupied with unearthing the Big Five to the exclusion of the enjoyment you experience from the wonderful variety of antelope and small game, the birds, reptiles and interesting species of insects, such as the dung beetles, also to be found in the wilderness areas.
Time spent in Kruger National Park offers the opportunity to those with the patience to observe a glimpse of fascinating interaction and ageless balance between predator and prey as well as the general contact and behaviour that exists between species, and of course between individuals and family groups within these species.
In Kruger National Park the wilderness is preserved in a near pristine condition. The landscape has a mystique all its own that will surely captivate all who spend time here. Sightings are always good, especially in the southern regions of the Park where there is a higher concentration of game of wider variety.
Opportunities not to be missed are guided game-viewing drives, night drives and walks in the wilderness for the more adventurous. Why guided game-viewing?
A little bit about Kruger National Park…
The Park is made up of several eco-zones. Each has differing landscapes, soils and underlying rocks which dictate the plants and trees that grow there. These in turn attract different herbivores. Predators likewise express habitat preferences that are suited to their hunting techniques and their preferred prey. A good guide, and in South Africa there are many, who knows the interaction between habitat and species will ensure not only the best sightings but a deeper interaction and education on what you are seeing, and much that you would otherwise miss. The field knowledge of licensed guides will always guarantee a wonderful experience, especially for those pressed for time.
Once you have experienced the best of the best, you have plenty more in store to sate your senses…
A drive along the Panorama Route brings you to the Mpumalanga escarpment, part of the northern reach of the Drakensberg Range.
Due to unique weathering and erosion Blyde River Canyon, second only to the Grand Canyon in area and scope, has been formed along the east facing edge of the escarpment. This also is the greenest canyon in Southern Africa. Spectacular views greet you at every turn, and of course breathtaking sunrises and sunsets will daily have you standing in awe of nature.
The other side of Mpumulanga…
The Panorama Route drifts through a landscape of forested hill country with an abundance of waterfalls: Lone Creek, Bridal Falls, Horse-shoe Falls, Sabie Waterfall, Mac-Mac twin falls, Lisbon falls, Berlin falls. Take in awesome vistas beside God’s Window, with the world at your feet, and the Pinnacle. Photograph the sculptural wonder of Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
After the poetry of the bush, take a graceful and romantic hot-air balloon ride and see the beautiful Lowveld region from the air.
Feeling even more adventurous?
Why not spend time hiking, gecko-ing, kloofing, wall climbing, zipline-ing, do a skyways trail, mountain board, abseil a waterfall, go quad biking, opt for horse-riding among wild animals. Go caving by candle light. Go microlighting. Never heard of some of these adrenaline boosters? You have a treat in store……
Take a trip into the past and pan for gold! Go elephant riding!
Want more? Visit the rehabilitation centre for wild animals, or a centre that breeds endangered animals such as the African Wild Dog, or visit the Chimpanzee Centre.
Then there are the golf courses where you aim to hit the golf ball just past the impala standing near the green, while you watch out for bigger game that might be lurking nearby.
Bird watching can be done wherever you go. Exciting species are to be seen at every turn.
Angling is an activity which will bring anglers satisfaction. In the upland areas of Mpumalanga fly fishing for trout is a draw card. In the warmer Komati river there are tiger fish, yellow fish and bream. All these species can be caught on a fly rod. The tiger fish catches are generally quite small but what they lack in size they make up in fighting power, and fighting one of these spirited fish on light tackle is an experience you won’t forget.
Travelling to Africa and South Africa in particular, will be an experience you will savour long after returning home – and be warned: you will forever have lost a piece of your heart to the wilderness you visited.