The Maluleke Contractual Park is now owned by the Maluleke people. These people were forced off their land in 1969 by the government of the day and the South African National Parks who wanted to extend the Kruger park to the Limpopo river. In 1996, the Maluleke people created the Community Property Association and after a prolonged legal challenge have had 22 000 hectares of land between the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers returned to them. The mediated settlement returned full ownership of the land to the Maluleke people in return for the guarantee to use the land in a manner compatible with the protection of wildlife. The agreement also gave them full rights to commercialise the land in a manner consistent with the wildlife management policies of SanParks. Today, the Maluleke Contractual Park is managed by the Maluleke Joint Management Board which includes Maluleke Community Property Association and SanParks representatives.
” Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” ~ Henry Ford
The Joint Management Board created a zoning framework in which two private sector operators were given the right to Build-Operate-Transfer several upmarket lodges. An ecotraining camp was also set up in the Contractual Park. The three concessionaires are Return Africa who operate the Pafuri Tented Camp, Rare Earth which operates The Outpost and Pels Lodges and Ecotraining which has a camp on the Limpopo floodplain.
“Cooperation is the root of civilisation.” ~ Jerry Haworth
On the last leg of our northern Kruger adventure we stayed three nights at Pels Post. The view from our room looking west and the vista was spectacular. We looked down over the Luvuvhu river and across to a forest of Baobabs and the Mutale sandstone ridge.
A female fish eagle perched in one of the large trees adjacent to our room. She had an excellent view of the river and its fishing potential.
Another view from our room at Pels Post this time looking east down river.
Down below us in the river was this Goliath heron hunting among the reeds for its next meal.
One morning after we had returned from the game drive and finished a “scrummy” breakfast we returned to our room to relax and enjoy the spectacular view. The view was dynamic with wildlife moving on the ground and raptors riding the updrafts. We watched a pair of African hawk-eagles riding the updraft on our side of the valley. They gave us a wonderful display for about ten minutes.
“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.” ~ William Wordsworth
The weather was mercurial, at times it threatened to storm and the cumulus clouds looked heavy with rain and at other times it was partly cloudy with filtered sunlight. The weather did not disturb an elephant bull on the far side of the river from foraging on the large trees.
Another bull joined the first bull elephant. They seemed to be adolescent males as they were still play fighting and pushing each other around to establish who was the strongest.
Our morning drives were highly productive. One morning we crossed the main tarred road and drove down onto the Limpopo side of the ridge. We saw numerous pairs of Namaqua doves. The male is the more beautiful of the pair with his black face mask and black chest marking and his pinkish beak with a yellow tip. The pair of Namaqua doves were foraging for seeds on the gravel road.
The only bee-eater species we saw was a gorgeous Little bee-eater but they were numerous. I know there were White-fronted bee-eaters down near the Limpopo river because we could hear them but I never saw one.
” Outer beauty turns the head, but inner beauty turns the heart.” ~ Helen J Russell
We watched the Little bee-eaters successfully hawking insects and bees.
“It is better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times.” ~ Asian Proverb
An unexpected surprise. A young rock python was lounging in a small tree along side the road at around our eye level. We stopped and sat and watched it for about twenty minutes and it was motionless during that time.
Driving further down the ridge towards the Limpopo floodplain we found a very inquisitive family of Dwarf mongooses. On several occasions they all scattered and hid, and each time one-by-one they came out onto the rock to see if we were still there.
Driving down the rock ridge we passed numerous rock figs which had their roots firmly anchored into the crevices of the rock. The white to yellow roots and stems of the large-leaved Rock fig were conspicuous. This tree is well adapted to attaching itself to rock faces and and is known to split rocks.
Down on the edge of the flood plain, among numerous Baobabs we found a herd of Kudu. Kudu are mainly browsers but some members of the family were foraging on the grass. There was so much food for the herbivores down on the floodplain.
An adult Purple roller. We also saw the ubiquitous Lilac-breasted rollers but never got to see Racket-tailed roller which is usually only found in this area of South Africa, as it is the most southern part of its range which extends up to Tanzania. Like all rollers the Purple roller is a perch hunter and feeds mainly on insects and lizards.
“Nature is one of the most underutilised treasures in life. It has the power to unburden hearts and reconnect to that inner place of peace.” ~ Janice Anderson
The second morning we drove from our lodge along the ridge down to Lanner Gorge. The view is spectacular looking down on the sandstone gorge that the Luvuvhu river flows through on its way to join the Limpopo.
With the thick vegetation and rocky outcrops around Lanner Gorge, we found a lone Tree hyrax. The Tree hyrax is nocturnal and not as social as the Rock hyrax. The Tree hyrax has four-toed front feet and three-toed back feet with rounded nails, and rubbery soles that help it climb. By contrast, the Rock hyrax lives in colonies of about 50 in the natural crevices of rocks or boulders. Rock hyraxes are active in the daytime and can be seen feeding or sunning themselves near the entrances to their shelters.
The florescence of a Cleome Hitra with its delicate and beautiful mauve petals. I am often stopped by the incredible colour, elegant complexity and design of nature’s flora. The striking yellow marking on the flower’s mauve petals are diagnostic.
A Brown-headed parrot. This parrot has bright green body feathers and a brown head. These parrots feed on a variety of seeds, berries, flowers, fruits and nectar. I last saw Brown-headed parrots feeding on the flowers of a coral tree at the Paul Kruger gate of the Kruger park many years ago. I was looking out for, but never saw, a Grey-headed parrot which looks similar but has an orange-red forehead and several orange-red secondary feathers on each wing.
“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams
Another view looking down into Lanner Gorge with its huge sandstone cliffs and dense vegetation. The walking trail along this section of the Luvuvhu river must be wonderful experience.
An adult male Sharpe’s Grysbok. Only the male has horns. This was a first sighting for me. It is a shy antelope but its thick rufous-coated coat with grey flecks gives it a wiry grizzled appearance which is diagnostic. This species is smaller and stockier than the Cape Grysbok.
Sharpe’s Grysboks are nocturnal feeders and spend the day in the cover of tall grass or shrubs. This antelope is a browser and feeds on anything from grass shoots to fruits flowers and leaves from shrubs and bushes.
On our last evening we drove down onto the Limpopo floodplain. Adjacent to the Limpopo river was a band of large trees from figs to leadwoods and Lala palms. The floodplain away from the river is covered in a variety of grasses. There is another Fever tree forest in one section of this section of the flood plain. This triangle between the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers is also referred to as the Pafuri triangle, which is said to be about 1% of the Kruger park but is home to around 75% of the park’s biodiversity.
“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.” ~ Jo Walton
Sundowner time with a drink in hand watching the sun set behind a hill covered in Baobabs. Once the sun had fallen below the horizon we did not linger. There was plenty of long grass around the opening we were standing in and we did not want an unexpected visit from a “dagga boy” (an old male buffalo).
On our way back to camp we came across several Bronze-winged Coursers on the gravel road. This is a large (almost the size of a lapwing) nocturnal courser. It has dark brown upper parts and a white belly. The head has a distinct cream-white supercilium. Its forecrown, and posterior eyeline, upper neck and throat are white. The facial lores and ear-coverts are darker brown-black. This species of courser is predominately solitary, only pairing for breeding.
Even though the sun had set there was still much to see and hear in the bush. Driving back to camp we could hear the Spotted eagle owls calling. It is intriguing to think that while we are calling an end to the day the nocturnal fauna is just getting started at this time of the evening.
Our time in the northern Kruger was richly rewarding. The photography was more challenging because of the dense vegetation in places but the biodiversity of flora and fauna is amply evident. This is a place you need to travel very slowly through. There is much to see but at nature’s pace. We saw a small part of life in this area of the park. This means we will have to return many times to fully appreciate it biodiversity. This is definitely a place we will return to at different times of the year.
“The wilderness is a place of rest — not in the sense of being motionless, for the lure, after all, is to move, to round the next bend. The rest comes in the isolation from distractions, in the slowing of the daily centrifugal forces that keep us off balance.” ~ David Douglas
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.
Have fun, Mike