Saturday, October 31, 2009

iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Wow, we truly enjoyed hiking the different trails of the Drakensberg, and now it is time to visit the other world heritage site in my province, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (

It was listed as South Africa's first World Heritage Site in December 1999 in recognition of its superlative natural beauty and unique global values.

It is undoubtedly one of the jewels of South Africa's coastline, with a unique mosaic of ecosystems - swamps, lakes, beaches, coral reefs, wetlands, woodlands, coastal forests and gr

The park incorporates the whole of Lake St Lucia, the St Lucia and Maputaland Marine Reserves, the Coastal Forest Reserve and the Kosi Bay Natural Reserve

The 332 000 hectare Park contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700 year old fishing traditions, most of South Africa's remaining swamp forests, Africa's largest estuarine system, 526 bird species and 25 000 year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world.

Hey Sita, did you know that these waters also are graced by 20 000 greater flamingos, 40 000 lesser flamingoes, as well as thousands of ducks?

With 36 species, this area has the highest diversity of amphibians in South Africa.

The park consists of five individual ecosystems. These ecosystems function totally independent yet fully integrated with each other.

The five ecosystems in the park are:

Marine System
Characterised by the warm Indian Ocean, containing the southernmost coral reefs in Africa, as well as sub-marine canyons and long sandy beaches.

Eastern Shores
A coastal dune system consisting of high linear dunes and sub-tropical forests, grassy plains and wetlands.

Lake System
Two estuary-linked lakes of St Lucia and Kosi Bay, plus the four large freshwater lakes of Lake Sibhayi, Ngobezeleni, Bhangazi north and Bhangazi south.

Mkhuze and Umfolozi Swamps
Swamp forests and extensive reeds and papyrus marshes.

Western Shores
Ancient shoreline terraces and dry savanna woodlands.

Marti wants to know what the name iSimangaliso means??
It means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this unique place, dont you think?

Wow, there is so much to do from fishing, boating and scuba diving to hiking, horseriding, game viewing, whale and bird watching......and we find ourselves in the august company of Leatherback turtles, Nile crocodiles, Pink-backed pelicans; Humpback whales; hippos, – all gracing this South African World Heritage Site with their rare and esteemed presence.

You won't find it anywhere else in the world!!

'iSimangaliso must be the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world's biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world's oldest fish (coelacanth) and the world's biggest marine mammal (the whale)' – Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hiking in the Drakensberg, a World Heritage Site

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My friends....are you ready to feast your eyes on the exceptional beauty of my province, Kwa Zulu Natal??
The tabletop peaks of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg range, which form the boundary between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, offer some of my country's most awe-inspiring landscapes.

The Drakensberg (or the 'Berg', as it's often called) is usually divided into
three sections, although the distinctions aren't strict.

The central Drakensberg...

Champagne Castle (3376m) is a mountain in the central Drakensberg range, and is the second highest peak in South Africa.
It contains a series of subsidiary peaks, am
ongst them, Cathkin Peak (3149m), Sterkhorn, Mount Memory, Monk's Cowl and Dragon's Back.

The southern Drakensberg runs down to the Transkei.

and the northern Drakensberg which runs from the Golden Gate Highlands National Park

to the Royal Natal National Park.

We are at the Royal Natal National Park

which has a presence that far outstrips its relatively meagre size, with many of the surrounding peaks rising as high into the air as the park stretches across.

We have our permits and have been warned that about the sudden storms that occur in the area...

we signed the hiker's register so that they can send out a search party if we don't return!!

With some of the Drakensberg's most dramatic and accessible scenery, the park is crowned by the sublime Amphitheatre,

an 8km wall of cliff and canyon equally spectacular from below or from up on high.

Looming up behind is Mont-aux-Sources (3282m), so called because the Tugela, Elands and Western Khubedu Rivers rise here; the last eventually becomes the Orange River and flows all the way to the Atlantic.

Except for the Amphitheatre-to-Cathedral (62km, four to five days) and the Mont-aux-Sources (20km, 10 hours) hikes, most of the 25-odd walks in Royal Natal are day walks.

The peaks range in height from 3,482 metres (11,420 ft) to 3,001 m.
Nopi has decided to be brave and take a helicopter ride.....we have to see the Thukela Falls..

Btw, Marti, did you know that the Tugela Falls is the world's second highest waterfall
( ) with a total drop of 947 metres??

Wow, isnt this UNESCO site absolutely amazing??

Green pastures, clean , fresh air,
exceptional natural beauty,

soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, golden sandstone ramparts, r
olling high altitude grasslands,

the pristine steep-sided river valleys and rocky gorges all contribute to the beauty of the site, don't you agree??

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park , UNESCO site in South Africa

Today we are going to conquer The Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa or uKhahlamba (the Barrier of Spears), a 200-kilometre-long mountainous wonderland and a UNESCO world heritage site.

The largest proportion of the Drakensberg area falls in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, my province....

Welcome! Welkom! Rea Amohela! Siyakwemukela! Kamohelo!

The Zulu people named it 'Ukhahlamba' and the Dutch Voortrekkers 'The Dragon Mountain'.
The Drakensberg Mountains, with their awe-inspiring basalt cliffs, snowcapped in winter, tower over riverine bush, lush yellowwood forests and cascading waterfalls, form a massive barrier separating KwaZulu-Natal from the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Combining sheer natural beauty with a wealth of biological diversity, this 243 000 hectare mountainous region known the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park has been preserved and venerated for eons since the San people or bushmen roamed these slopes.

Tens of thousands of paintings depicting their daily life can be found on the rock faces..

And of course, there are the mountains, which must be conquered but we have
decided not to go sheer rock climbing or abseiling or white water rafting but instead we are going to take a more leisurely pace of walking the many hiking routes on both lower and upper slopes of the Drakensberg so that we can watch out for the 290 species of birds, 48 species of mammals, or the rare varieties of plantlife found in the park.

The Drakensberg ... is the soul of the Zulu lets go on a hike .....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sudwala Caves, Mpumalanga

Hasn't Mpumalanga Province been absolutely breathtaking?

Looming above the beautifully wooded valley of the bustling mountain torrent known as the "Houtbosloop", there is a majestic massif known as Mankelexele (Crag on crag / Rock upon rock). In the great massif dolomite rock there is one of the most astonishing caves in Southern Africa, and as yet unplumbed complex of passages and giant chambers extending into the mysterious heart of the mountain........

Sounds cool huh?

Can you believe that the Sudwala Caves, set in Precambrian dolomite rock, was first laid down about 2500 million years ago, when Africa was still part of Gondwanaland??

We are taking a cave tour....let's see what out tour guide has to say......

Hmmm, the caves have a natural air-conditioning system, the temperature being maintained at a constant 18°C throughout the year. Even at a distance of about 457m from the entrance, cool fresh air from an unknown source permeates the subterranean passages.

The caves were used for shelter in prehistoric times, probably due in part to a constant supply of fresh air from an unknown source in the caves.

In more modern times, the caves were discovered by Somquba,one of the son

s of the Swazi king Sobhuza I, who was fleeing from his brother Mswati II. Somquba and his followers used the caves as refuge, until Somquba was killed in an unexpected attack. Survivors stayed on under the leadership of an inDuna (headman or leader) named Sudwala, thus the name.

During the Second Boer War, in 1900, the caves were used by the Boers to store ammunition for their 94-pounder Long Tom guns.

It was thought that the caves may have been used by President Paul Kruger to store the legendary "Kruger Millions", gold bullion which reputedly disappeared somewhere between Waterval Onder and Nelspruit during Paul Kruger's flight from Pretoria to Lourenco Marques (now Maputo).

In 1914 a company was formed to excavate huge amounts of bat guano; this was sold as fertilizer to farmers

The Sudwalaskraal farm that is home to the caves was purchased in 1965 by Philippus Rudolf Owen, and he opened the caves as a tourist attraction.

After crawling through some really narrow passages we have reached the Amphitheatre, the major chamber in the Sudwala Caves.

Wow, the P. R. Owen Hall is 70 metres in diameter and 37 metres high, with a constant temperature of 17°C!

In July 1970 the famous Russian singer, Ivan Rebroff, tested the suitability of the big hall for concert purposes. His remarkable voice, with a range of four octaves, resounded gloriously through the caverns in a series of songs.

Afterward he gave his considered opinion that the acoustics were "at least equal, if not positively superior to those of any concert hall or opera house in Europe!". For concert purposes more than 500 people could be seated in this dolomite chamber.

There are a number of
calcium structures in the cave.

Curtains and walls of stalactites and stalagmites can develop if the water drips along the length of a crack in the ceiling.

The growth rate for a stalactite at the Sudwala Caves is approximately 2,5cm in a hundred years!!

Wow, there is the "The screaming monster" which is approximately 160 mill
ion years old!!

The age of these formations are geologically determined by the "Rhebedium Stronptium" test, which measures the radio active decay of formations.

One can clearly see in the different layers and textures in the rock a reflection of the result of the different weather patterns taking place in the building of an ancient seabed.

There are also microbial fossils of a cyanobacterium (first oxygen producing plants on the earth) known as collenia in the rock; these formed 2000 million years ago!!

In the Pre-cambrian, all the early animals were soft bodied and thus did not fossilize well at all. However there are primitive plant fossils called "collenia" to be viewed in the Sudwala caves. They were a type of blue-green algae that used to float on the ocean.They were tubular shaped and approximately 2 m in length. It got compacted in the rock, because at high tide sand and silt would get washed over it and get caught up in it, another layer would grow and the same process would occur.

The Caves have been illuminated and spotlights placed in strategic positions, bringing into proper relief the strange shapes of the Speleothems (the name given to these cave formations) created by nature through the centuries......oh, wow, isnt "Fairyland" just so beautiful?

Hey Nopi, did you know that these caves are even believed to have inspired world famous author Rider Haggard to write his classic, King Solomon's Mines??

Wow, the Dinosaur Park next to Sudwala Caves is really cool!!

btw, guys South Africa is home to several other caves ......

  • Baboti Caves
  • Blombos Cave
  • Boesmansgat
  • Cango Caves
  • Coopers Cave
  • Echo Cave
  • Gladysvale Cave
  • Gondolin Cave, North west Province, South Africa
  • Klasies River Caves
  • Kromdraai Fossil Site
  • Makapan's Cave (Makapansgat)
  • Motsetsi Cave
  • Onmeetbarediepgat
  • Pinnacle Point Caves
  • Plovers Lake
  • Sterkfontein
  • Sibudu Cave
  • Sudwala Caves
  • Wonder Cave Kromdraai
  • Wonderwerk Cave

  • Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Mpumalanga - South Africa's Waterfall Wonderland

    Mpumalanga means 'place of the rising sun' but you know it could so easily have been called 'place of many waterfalls'.

    The Panorama Route that we have been on includes an unofficial Waterfall Route.

    This area of eastern Mpumalanga has more waterfalls than any other area of South Africa - some small cascades and others dramatic curt
    ains of water.

    It is rather unusual to find a "Berlin Falls" and "Lisbon Falls" in the
    heart of Africa isnt it?

    Wow! The 92m high Lisbon Falls is the highest waterfall in the area - and is a magnificent twin fall plunging over a semicircular rockface.

    Next stop Forest Falls Nature Walk......the walk is easy going through pine plantation and indigenous forest and wow, another amazing waterfall....Forest

    Not too far down the road is Mac Mac Falls, named after Mac Mac village, the site of the 1873 gold rush.

    Interestingly, the waterfall was originally a single stream, but intrepid gold miners changed that when they blasted the falls in an attempt to reach the rich gold-bearing reef over which the falls flow.
    The 65m high Mac Mac Falls have been declared a National Monument.

    The Bridal Veil Falls are aptly named and long and narrow, tumbling from a great height to appear as a misty veil.

    Lone Creek Falls is another national monument.

    Last but not least.....the Horseshoe Falls.

    They have a circular appearance, and although not very high, are very unusual in appearance. They have also been declared a National Monument.

    We all love waterfalls and we have certainly been treated to a watery feast of a cool cascades today!

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    The Pinnacle, South Africa

    Next stop??

    Pinnacle Rock is a towering rock outcrop that stands out amidst emerald greenery of the forests – a stately king among the lush canopy of the sprawling trees.

    It is a silent testimony to the raw energy of Mother Nature, standing tall and proud at 30m.

    We are in awe.....its grandeur; the rugged brown formation bearing the harsh elements over the passage of time, unyielding and unrelenting, the tranquility evident in this peaceful haven; rich green colors of the indigenous forests, its intertwining branches providing sanctuary to life's little creatures......

    Aaaah, feel the magic in the air as we gaze upon the cheery sunlight that streams down the rough rocky outcrops and flows onto the thriving trees, pausing to peep through the gently swaying leaves.

    Isnt this place heavenly?

    Sunday, October 11, 2009

    God's Window, South Africa

    So what's our next stop Marti?? God's Window?

    Wow, God's Window is truly a wonderful sight!

    Just peek down at an expansive view of nature's wonders; the rich medley of stately trees and abundant bushes, strikingly green against the hazy brown earth; the glistening mist that softens the vibrant colors of the valley; a glimpse of the flowing rivers as they meander across the plains. Where else can you find such surreal magic?

    Nopi, just set your eyes upon the plains of the Lowveld and to the distance, the stunning Kruger Park!

    At God's Window majestic cliffs plunge over 700 meters to the Lowveld and the game reserves which have made the area one of Africa's prime wildlife destinations.

    Sita .....bask in the picturesque view and be awed by Mother Nature's grandeur; through the passing of time, with dabs of rain, wind and sun, the rough earth changes its face again and again, like a dazzling work of art that is constantly restored to an exquisite form; the swirling waters of the rivers and the memories they pick up and carry across the land.....

    From this Escarpment - a 250km long rampart of sheer cliffs - opens a vista into a plush forest, the Eden-like aesthetic appearance of which prompted the name.

    Hey Marti, did you know that on a clear day it is possible to even see the Lebombo Mountains on the border with Mozambique?

    Isn't this just so uplifting??

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Bourkes' Luck Potholes; South Africa

    We were simply amazed by the Blyde River Canyon.

    Now we are going to see Bourkes' Luck Potholes, a natural water feature that marks the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon.

    Let's go to the visitors centre. Hmm, I am impressed. It is quite informative and details some of the interesting natural and socio-historic features and is the starting point of the 700m walk to the potholes.

    The Potholes were named after a gold digger, Tom Burke, who staked a claim nearby.

    Although his claim did not produce a single ounce of gold, he correctly predicted that large gold deposits would be found in the area.

    Bourke's Luck Potholes are truly a sight to behold.
    It is a sign of nature's perseverance and amazing strength.

    Just imagine the sand, stone and pebbles that are carried off helplessly in the wake of a flowing river; visualize these chunks of debris as they are tossed and thrown against the harsh, jagged terrain........

    Through countless eons the swirling whirlpools which occur as the Treur River plunges into the Blyde River caused waterborne sand and rock to grind huge, cylindrical potholes into the bedrock of the river.

    These potholes are a silent testimony to the turbulent journey of small pieces of earth that made their mark and told their story.

    Just gazing at these beautiful potholes is simply amazing............

    Happy World Post Day

    Hey guys its World Post Day today!

    It marks the anniversary of the Universal Postal Union's establishment and is annually held on October 9.

    The union aimed to create and maintain a structure for the free flow of international mail around the world.
    Thank goodness....all of us are postcrossing addicts...totally dependent on the postal services.

    Postal services may issue special postage stamps to commemorate the ideals, history or achievements of the national postal service on or around World Post Day. These are prized by stamp collectors and philatelists (people who study stamps)

    As we are in South Africa, we went to the local Post Office to find out what the South African Post Office was doing to celebrate this day, and lo and behold they have issued the Joburg 2010 International Stamp Show

    “Joburg, a world class African city” is the slogan of this virbrant city with its fascinating history of gold mining and rapid industrial development.

    There’s no doubt about it - the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ is the greatest event to happen in Joburg’s 120-year history, except perhaps the discovery of gold, which got the ball rolling in the first place. From a philatelic point of view, 2010 will also be an important year as the Joburg International Stamp Show, as well as the 23rd Asian International Stamp Exhibition will be held here.

    To promote this event, the South African Post Office issued two miniature sheets and two commemorative covers.

    Joburg, Jozi, eGoli, Place of Gold – whatever you call it, the vibrant City of Johannesburg is the place to be in 2010. This world class African city is an exciting place with a fascinating history and plenty to offer visitors. Dubbed the “economic enigine” of Southern Africa, Joburg has a population of more than three million, its economy produces 16% of South Africa’s gross domestic product and it is home to Africa’s largest stock exchange, the JSE Ltd. It is one of the very few major world cities not built on a river or harbour, although there are 12 river systems that run through it and 106 dams.

    The South African Post Office and the Philatelic Federation of South Africa is proud to announce the hosting of the Joburg 2010 International Stamp Show and the 23rd Asian International Stamp Exhibition. These events will take place from 27 to 31 October at the Sandton Convention Centre. This venue is one of South Africa’s major world class centres for exhibitions, meetings and special events. Among several other international events, it has hosted the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.

    October has been dubbed the “most beautiful month” by one of South Africa’s poets as it starts the summer season. This is a time when spring rains transform the drab winter landscape to lush green, interspersed with colourful blooms. According to the South African Weather Service, the average daily minimum temperature for Johannesburg in October is 11°C (51,8°F) and the average daily maximum is 24°C (75,2°F). The average monthly rainfall is 72mm. Rain in Johannesburg mostly comes in the form of late afternoon thunderstorms that clear up quickly.

    October does not fall within the peak holiday periods in South Africa and, in this instance, visitors will benefit from the upgraded infrastructure and other initiatives that had been put into place for the Soccer World Cup.

    The Joburg 2010 International Stamp Show plans to have some 1 500 frames of competitive exhibits across all FIP classes. In addition, provision has been made for a Court of Honour, a South African Post Office archival exhibit and Invited exhibits. Frames will comply with the International Convention of 16 pages per frame

    The first miniature sheet features a standard postage stamp bearing an image of the first stamp issued in South Africa inscribed with the words “South Africa”.

    The original stamp bears the words “Union of South Africa” and was issued in 1910 when South Africa became a Union. In 2010, this will mark 100 years since the original stamp was first issued.

    Both miniature sheets also bear the words “Joburg 2010 International Stamp Show, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa, 27 – 31 October 2010”.

    The two miniature sheets, issued on 9 October 2009, will not only promote the show, but will also be a celebration of this historical year. They were design by the Thea Clemons, Philatelic Services’ graphic designer.

    The second miniature sheet features an inernational small letter stamp bearing the logo of the Joburg 2010 International Stamp Show. The logo features the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg as its main design element.


    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    The 3rd largest Canyon in the world!

    We are now going to the only true canyon in South Africa.....Blyde River Canyon.

    Did you know that Blyde River canyon is the 3rd largest canyon in the world??.

    It was formed by the Blyde River, "River of Joy" cutting its way more than 1000 metres through the quartzite and Dolomite Mountains of the eastern rim of the Drakensburg escarpment. The quartzite of the system was deposited before the dawn of life on earth in a depression in the primeval granite shield of Africa.

    The Blyde Canyon nature reserve, which covers an an area of approximately 27 000ha, is internationally renown for its natural splendor. is 16 miles (26 kilometers) in length and is, on average, around 2500 feet (800m) deep!!
    The Dam itself, when full, is at an altitude of 665m (2182 feet)!!

    The Canyon consists mostly of red sandstone.

    The highest point of the canyon, Mariepskop, is 6378 feet above sea level (1944m) whilst its lowest point where the river leaves the canyon is slightly less than 1840 feet (+- 560m) above sea level.

    This means that by some measure the Canyon is over 4500 feet (about 1400m) deep.

    It is unquestionably the largest 'green canyon' due to its lush subtropical foliage, and it has some of the deepest precipitious cliffs of any canyon on the planet.

    It is the second largest canyon in Africa, after the Fish River Canyon, and is known as one of the great wonders of nature on the continent.

    The Reserve is home to wildlife some species of are rare, such as Taita falcon found in only a few haunts in the world. It is also home to a bewildering variety of plants from orchids to lilies and tree ferns to cycads.

    Look ...there are the "Three Rondavels", huge, round rocks, thought to be reminiscent of the houses or huts of the indigenous people, known as rondavels.

    The stories of the Three Rondawels is truly enthralling...Made of quartzite and shale, these vast peaks are named after a Mapulana chief and his wives.

    Just peer closely at the peak to the right; although rounded and weathered from the battering wind and sun.
    Feel its resilience as it stands unyielding and strong against all elements through the passage of time; small wonder that this magnificent peak was named Mapajanenga - "The Chief".

    And following in his wake, from right to are three distinct peaks which have been named after his wives - Maseroto, Mogoladikwe and Magabolle.

    Magnificent and majestic in their own right, these peaks are awe-inspiring; united in their bond to the grand Mapajanenga as all peaks stand tall from the same base; yet, each peak reaches for the stars, in their own little niche on the rock face, marking their distinct personalities.

    The grace and charms of this land simply linger with us as we make our way to our next destination along the Panorama route.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Echo Caves, a South African Historical Monument

    Ok Marti we are going to start our journey at Echo Caves, situated near Ohrigstad in Mpumalanga on the Panorama Route.

    Expansive caverns that stretch for miles, towering cave roofs that sheltered nomadic tribes and beautiful limestone formations that are a sight to remember – Echo Caves offer all this and so much more says our tour guide.

    By the way, is anyone claustrophobic?? The caving tour is not recommended for people with claustrophobic problems.

    We have a really chatty tour guide so I think that this wil be a rather informative tour...yippeee!

    This underground wonderland was stumbled upon in 1923 by the owner of the farm called Klipfonteinhoek when he was searching for a source of water.
    Great was his surprise when he realised that some of his cattle had already mysteriously disappeared into the cave!! After exploring the cave it was soon realised that this dark underworld carried with it the most beautiful gems of nature.After the completion of
    the Abel Erasmus Pass and the Strijdom Tunnel in 1959 the cave was opened as a tourist attraction and was later declared a National Monument.

    There are electric lights, staircases and railings, and most passages are high enough to walk upright and crawling is kept to a minimum.

    So why Echo Cave??
    The name Echo was given to the cave, as a certain stalactite formation produces a distinctive echoing sound when tapped on.

    We listened in wonder to the anecdotes of an extraordinary past; and thought back in wonder to the days when these stately stalactites were instruments to raise the alarm against trespassers....

    Of course Feroz had to test it......and yes, t
    his echo can still be heard on the outside of the cave today.

    The spectacular limestone and dripstone structures inside these natural caverns make for interesting imaginary figures which can be seen in chambers throughout the cave as it winds through the mountain.

    "Where else can you feel the raw energy of Earth as you walk amongst the rugged terrain that have withstood the test of time? asks our tour guide of us.

    "Listen to the whisperings in the wind for these walls have many tales to tell; within these sturdy walls, the lives of the ancient Sans people unfolded as they explored this rugged and beautiful terrain, a group of nomadic people who were one of the oldest people" he says

    Thus, the San rock engravings amidst these caves are truly noteworthy for it is the work of those who have walked amidst the rich African surrounds in its pristine state, way before the onset of urban grayness and monotony.

    "Can you feel the magic surrounding these caves; it unveils the stories of mankind's forefathers, for numerous implements and tools from the Middle and Late Stone Ages were uncovered in this area" ....our tour guide is just so passionate about this place....awesome!

    He suggested that we check out some of these artifacts that are now stored in the Museum of Man (located just a drive away).

    Wow, the Crystal Palace is one of the most beautiful halls of the cave.

    These majestic caves are some of the oldest ones in the world....

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Mpumalanga Province of South Africa

    Feroz is so excited...he has just discovered a new website about the Soccer World Cup....

    Marti has a map in her hand......this means that it is time to travel again.......

    She is quite excited .....Mpumalanga seems to be quite a picturesque province......ok, let's explore........

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Kruger National Park ; South Africa

    We had an absolute blast at Lost City didn't we??

    Ok Marti, what is our next destination?
    Marti is upset because she didnt see a giraffe at Pilanesberg National Park, so now she wants to find one........ok Marti, lets go to South Africa's largest game reserve.....specifically to find giraffe for Marti!

    Close your eyes.....try to imagine a national park the size of Israel, with huge tracts of acacia, sycamore figs and bushwillow interrupted by open sa vannah, rushing rivers and the occasional rocky fill it with lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffaloes, black rhinos cheetahs, giraffes, hippos and many species of smaller animals, and you'll start to have some notion of what it's like to visit Kruger National Park.

    Yes, Marti, the Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa!!

    It covers 18,989 square km (7,332 sq mi) and extends 350 km (217 mi) from north to south and 60 km (37 mi) from east to west.

    To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

    In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique.

    It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.

    Hey Sita, did you know that the park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, an area designated by the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve (the "Biosphere")??

    The park has 8 main gates that allow entrance to the different camps.

    The names of these gates are Paul Kruger, Numbi, Malelane, Crocodile Bridge, Punda Maria, Orpen, Phabeni, Phalaborwa and Pafuri.

    Several rivers run through the park from west to east, including the Sabie River.

    The Kruger National Park is divided into six eco-systems: Baobab sandveld, Mopane scrub,
    Lebombo knobthorn-marula bushveld, mixed acacia thicket, Combretum-silver clusterleaf woodland on granite and riverine forest.

    Altogether it has roughly 1,982 species of plants.O
    ut of the 517 species of birds found at Kruger, 253 are residents, 117 non-breeding migrants, and 147 nomads!!

    We are on a safari search of giraffe........oh, look guys.....we have
    just spotted the Big Five animals...but still no giraffe!!

    All the Big Five game animals are found at Kruger National Park, which has more species of mammals than any other African Game Reserve (at 147 species).
    As of 2009, the park has counted approximately:
    Kruger houses 114 species of reptile, including 3000 crocodiles.

    The first camp we are visiting is Lower Sabie, which graces the banks of the Sabie River, one of the few perennial rivers to flow through the Kruger National Park.

    One cannot but feel soothed by the view towards the river and the Lebombo Mountains beyond........

    The bounty and plenitude of nature are very evident, eloquently symbolised by the most conspicuous of its numerous trees, the mighty sycamore fig, which provides generously for the livelihood of many birds and insects.

    Not only do these giants produce fruit at least twice a year, but different trees produce fruit at different times, extending the gifts of life over many months.

    Watching the endless procession of animals coming to drink at the Sabie River establishes a sense of one's own place in the eternal cycle.

    BUT Marti is unhappy- still no giraffe.......ok guys, lets pack up at go to Satara....I am told that we will definitely find some there.

    Satara is well wooded and the bird-life is prolific so Sita is very happy.

    Nopi is also really pleased because she has spotted zebras!

    Finally......Marti, GIRAFFES!! Mission accomplished!

    Satara is a busy camp with the bush relatively open and the animals plentiful and diverse.

    The camp itself has a rustic charm, with the bulk of the accommodation set out in a series of circles so we have decided to sit around the camp fire and tell ghost stories.....hmmm..the clink of fruit bats is fused with the chirping of cicadas and crickets....and t
    he calls of owls and nightjars add to the symphony that is punctuated intermittently by the whoop of hyena, the screech of jackal and the roars of lion.........