With more and more day- and overnight-trails opening every week, hiking is rapidly becoming one of Mpumalanga’s major drawcards for visitors. There are literally hundreds of spectacular hiking trails on offer, lasting anything from several hours to several days.

Examples include day hikes at Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) sites, such as the Belvedere Day Hike from Bourke’s Luck. This full-day trail takes in some hefty gradients and leads down to the Dientjie Falls in the foot of the Blyde River Canyon, where buck abound, baboon calls echo and eagles and ibises soar overhead. The Bourke’s Luck area also offers a number of other day trails and a 30-kilometre three-day overnight trail. All are self-guided.

Another option is the newly-reinvented Jock of the Bushveld Day Hike, running along the edge of the escarpment, taking in Paradise Camp from the book Jock of the Bushveld and offering great grassland bird sightings along the banks of the many streams. It even has its own geocache site.

Sabie offers the popular Bridal Veil hike, a gentle wander along the Sabi River to this popular waterful, with some challenging detours for the more adventurous, and the walk to the Forest Falls. Known for being the only falls in Mpumalanga to be wider than they are high. Hazyview offers the popular Matumi Trail, a shady wander along the Mac Mac River, from its confluence with the Sabaan and Sabi Rivers. Cool off in the forest, chase butterflies and find a rare Narina Trogon or a red duiker among the manifold matumi trees.

Situated in the Nelshoogte Forest Reserve between Barberton and eManzana (Badplaas), the Queen Rose Trail is arguably one of the most scenic hiking trails in South Africa. The two-day, 26km hike takes adventurers through indigenous forest, over mountain passes, through the Montrose timber plantation and along the Queens River.  Spectacular scenery and rich in wildlife, including over 350 bird species.

The hike includes 20 river crossings, some with suspension bridges to keep boots and kit dry, as well as several natural pools where hikers can take a break and cool down.

Alternatively, the Num-Num Hiking Trail is a self-guided 3-5 day hiking trail situated between eManzana (Badplaas) and eNtokozweni (Machadodorp), in the Skurweberg Mountains, Mpumalanga. This trail has been rated by Green Flag as moderate-to-difficult, meaning hikers have to be of reasonable fitness and agility. Along the route, hikers may encounter suspension bridges, ladders and steep up- and down-hills to get into stunning gorges. The route winds through a spectacular variety of Highveld Escarpment terrains including indigenous forests, sandstone mazes, ancient grasslands, waterfalls and panoramic views of the Komati River Gorge.

Overnight accommodation is in five unique and comfortable camps that have equipped kitchens and hot showers.

The Kruger National Park offers numerous trails with possibly the most exciting being the opportunity to backpack the length of the park in a rigorous hike broken up into 100-kilometre sections. The SANParks Honorary Rangers are offering this as a chance to ‘Follow in the Footsteps of the Giants’.

As a further indication of the increasing popularity of hiking in the province, passionate hiker Kevin Ruthven’s has also founded Lowveld Hikers. This innovative institution is more of a hiking club than an established hiking trail, whereby Kevin manages to find obscure trails and walks, predominantly along the Mpumalanga escarpment but sometimes further afield, and invites members (and visitors) to join him in appreciating the natural beauty that the region has to offer.  He has access to properties that very few could obtain permission to hike without him. At least two hikes are organised every month.  Check the events calendar on the Facebook page for forthcoming hikes.

The Mpumalanga Highveld also offers a broad range of challenging walks, including the Ama Poot-Poot trail near Dullstroom with both day-trail and overnight options and taking in lovely views, ravines and mountain streams. Nearer Middelburg, day routes include the Slagthoek Trails, with longer options following the Olifants River Gorge,  through open grassland, up steep climbs and down wooded gorges.

With more and more trails opening every day and with the launch last week of the first phase of The Marula Route, a cultural trail running through the rural communities along the western border of the Kruger National Park between the Paul Kruger and Orpen gates, Mpumalanga is definitely the space to watch for hikers.

For more information, check out the following websites:

http://www.safcol.co.za/ecotourism/

http://www.mpumalanga.com/things-to-do/adventure-sports/hiking

http://www.thenum-numtrail.co.za/

http://www.sanparksvolunteers.org/camps_trails.php

https://www.facebook.com/lowveldhikers/ 

Our world is more than just a planet. It is the only one with life – as far as we know – and although our planet has countless beautiful destinations, you don’t have to travel very far to find one…

Photo credit: Katrine Smit.

Being based in Mpumalanga means being surrounded by a vast number of must-see destinations, like the Kruger National Park, Malolotja Nature Reserve and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Swaziland, the abounding Mozambican beaches and even the Maloti Drakensberg Park.

With such abundant wildlife and pristine nature all around us, it’s not at all hard to find a hiking trail, secluded beach or invigorating waterfall a few hours in any direction, but we’ve found little sanctuaries mere minutes from home.

Mbombela is considered a city, but the streets meander through an endless number of treetops and fortunately, unlike most urban jungles, there’s more greenery than concrete. Not only does it have a magical botanical garden with its very own rainforest, it also has two sizeable nature reserves! One of them has a few hiking trails that take you over a tranquil little river, down a granite boulder and through mossy paths covered with mighty tree roots.

If you follow one of these tracks, they lead to more openness and typical Lowveld fauna. The trick is knowing which way to go when you reach a fork because most of the trails lead back to the beginning, but one of them goes past a mighty boulder. You will likely not consider climbing it at first, but the best view awaits at the top!

After quite a climb, you will reach a more level trail that leads to some tall grass and thorn trees. The first time you wander on this path, you might doubt yourself as it isn’t marked out, but it carries on until you reach another large boulder… This is the one. When you have braved this path and made it to the top of the granite beast, the 360-degree view of Mbombela and all the mountains that surround it will astound you.

Photo Credit: Quinten van Rooyen

Late afternoons offer the most incredible view of the setting sun and all the colours that light up the sky but be sure to make your way back down soon as this trail is not recommended at night.

Sitting up there surrounded by all the majesty of nature, letting your sight stretch as far as you can, will make you feel victorious, yet minuscule at the same time. It almost reopens your eyes to all the beauty that you might not notice every day, and if you listen closely to the warm wind that comes from miles away, you will feel re-energised, ready to take on another day at the office.

YGo Adventures is aimed at helping people rediscover ways to explore and experience the joy nature provides. We believe you shouldn’t have to venture far to find beauty, but if you do, you should do it in style.

Our tours can be tailor-made to make your travel dreams come true. Guided or not, we will put together itineraries that will take you places that give the words “dream holiday” a whole new meaning.

Contact us directly for more info, and look out for our next edition where more hidden treasures of Mpumalanga will be revealed.

Text: Katrine Smit

Written by: Sylvia von Lindeiner – Waldau

Anyone who likes to fish has the wish to hook a big Tigerfish at least once in their life. They are a highly sought-after freshwater game fish because of their speed and aerial displays when hooked.

Tigerfish

When I asked my friend Eddy van Deventer why he is so passionate about tiger fishing his reply was short “Well it’s very simple! Tigerfish gives an angler one of the best fights!”

The best spot to do so is, hand down, the mighty Zambezi River – home to some of the largest tigers on the planet. “Tiger-heaven”

I am personally not the best fisherman or more like the worst. My friends who are very much into fishing like to refer to me as a ‘civilian’, apparently a commonly used term in Zimbabwe among the guys who participate every year at the Kariba Invitation Tiger Fish Tournament, to describe someone who is absolutely useless when it comes to fishing.

Tigerfishing

But despite being terrible at catching fish (or anything for that matter- even the right man), I would never say no to a fishing trip with these non-civilians as a fishing trip in Zimbabwe on the mighty Zambezi does not only give you the ultimate chance to experience the catching a massive Tigerfish but also guarantees you extraordinary Big Five game viewing and the most stunning and calming scenery.

The Zambezi Valley bids the perfect mix of game fishing and first-class game viewing from some unique safari lodges.

Fishing on the Zambezi or in Kariba is always done from boats with crocodiles and hippos around you. Sometimes the boats get tied up on the sandbanks for lunch and some bank fishing in the afternoon. But be careful of wildlife!

According to some of my friends, who certainly know more about this subject, the three main areas to catch Tiger in Zimbabwe are the Upper Zambezi, Kariba and the Lower Zambezi:

The Upper Zambezi above Kariba promises you a catch throughout the year. However, from August to December it is recommended to go trolling whereas January to April drift baiting is most recommended.  June to September are the best months to use spinning as a fishing method.

Kariba, where they prefer to go trolling spinners or other artificial lures as well as live bait. Lake Kariba is approximately 220kms long and in parts up to 40kms wide and gives anyone stunning game viewing and fishing occasions from the many lodges and houseboats that are available. Most houseboats are fully equipped with delicious cuisine, a crew and tender boats which allow to go and explore the lake and further fishing spots.

And last but not least- the lower Zambezi, where they mainly use live bait or fillets and go drifting with the current. Once again – one is also promised spectacular game viewing with buffalo, numerous elephants, lions, leopards and many antelope species. Birders will certainly also love this area and so if the fishing is getting a bit quieter- the nature and wildlife, as well as all the birds, will not let you get bored until those hungry tigers finally bite again!

Zambezi River

All these areas are best during the summer months but fish can be caught throughout the year.

Author: Ina Stevens

A burning red ball of fire with hues of orange fading into a magnificent Africa sunset, lush greenery and wild animals roaming on swaying grasslands springs to mind when I’m descending into Mpumalanga.

My husband James was born and bred in the Lowveld and always dreamed about his own piece of land in this tropical lush part of our country. For me, life on a farm would just be too remote but when he showed me this beautiful location I fell completely in love with Marloth Park. It is then here we found our perfect piece of paradise…

Marloth Park situated on the banks of the Crocodile River, is a Holiday destination for local and international guests alike. Giving you the opportunity to relax, unwind and appreciate nature and wildlife at its best. It boasts four of the “Big Five “in its own game reserve Lionspruit, with the exception of elephants. The rest of the game such as zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala and warthogs roam freely between the houses, they are quite tame and use to humans, which makes for a very” close”  viewing experience. Many lookouts along the river offer magical picnic spots, it leans itself to having a romantic sundowner with spectacular views at dusk.

One can often spot the” Big Five” while driving or walking along the fence road neighbouring the Kruger National Park, with elephants so close you can almost touch them,  Lions feasting on a kill and lurking Wild dogs and Hyena waiting to scavenge. Should you wish to visit Kruger Nation Park, Crocodile Bridge gate are a mere 14km away. Due to its close vicinity of the Mozambique and Swaziland borders, the Park is also a very popular stopover.

You will find this small community friendly and helpful. There are several restaurants offering mouth-watering cuisine and a few shops as well as hair and beauty salons which usually are a big plus for city girls like me!

Bird watching is very popular and those familiar sounds of a Fish-eagle can be heard echoing through the sky. But the true beauty is the calmness, the quietness in your soul, sitting next to a fire with dancing flames, hearing a lion’s majestic roar, looking up at the Milky Way with millions of flickering stars in the night sky. The peace and tranquility it brings to mind are almost indescribable… something you will just have to experience for yourself!

Authors: Annelie & Neil Pretorius

Wow! I don’t even know where to begin. This place is just magnificent and exceeded all our expectations and more.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is situated in the Kalahari Desert region of South Africa and Botswana and is about a nine-hour drive from Pretoria on the N14.

A few years ago my husband came across a Facebook group called Kgalagadi Sightings where visitors to the park posted their personal photos of their experience in the park. We fell in love with it and could not get enough of the photos of all the lion, cheetah, leopard and spotted hyena.
 

So we started planning our two-week trip to the South African side of the park mid-2015. We decided to visit the park during April/May 2016 as it was is just after the rain season and temperatures were bearable and the evenings a bit cooler. We started buying our camping gear … As it was our first visit to the park, we decided to book accommodation at the three main fenced rest camps namely Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata-Mata, and to do a three-night, four day 4×4 eco-guided tour en route to Nossob.All these rest camps comprise of very neat ablutions and laundry areas and even have electricity connectivity. Twee Rivieren has a restaurant and tiny shop and there is cell phone reception too.

Our holiday began on 22 April; we left Centurion very early that morning. We checked in at Twee Rivieren for the next 2 nights and days. Twee Rivieren is situated on the bank of the dry Nossob Riverbed. We travelled up the Nossob River bed between Twee Rivieren Camp and Nossob Camp, we left our camp early at 07:00 and was surprised to see 2 lionesses’ on the dunes not long after we left our camp, we stopped for a few minutes, but they disappeared behind the dunes and we decided to drive on, 10 minutes later we came across a few cars in the road, next to the road a lioness and her 2 cubs was drinking water in a puddle, I was ecstatic to see the 2 cubs so close to our car. The highlight was when I noticed the most beautiful lions walking in the direction of the mom and cubs, went and paused for a rest period on one of the Kalahari’s idyllic red dunes with the morning sun in his face, I snapped so many photos of that beautiful moment. We saw big herds of springbok, oryx, blesbuck, blue wildebeest mainly travelling on their own, vultures, a small group of meerkat playing, but no hyena, cheetah or leopard sightings.

We stayed another night at Twee Rivieren and from there, prior to our visit to the park we booked a 3 night, 4 day guided 4×4 eco trail group tour across the red dunes to Nossob, where we stayed at 3 unfenced camps, without electricity, running water and a long drop toilet, but that was all part of the experience. During our trip, we were taught a lot about the dunes, fauna and flora in the Kalahari desert. I definitely recommend the eco-tour. We didn’t see lots of game but saw ostrich, kudu, lion and lots of birds.

On day 6 we arrived at Nossob camp, we started the day off by just relaxing at camp for a change. The following morning, we left early to see if we could spot some hyena, as we were informed at reception that there is a den not far from camp, so we headed in the direction of Polentswa waterhole. We didn’t drive far and came across 3 lions having an early morning nap in the sun on the road near Bedinkt waterhole. We couldn’t believe it, we were the first car to view the sighting and had the 3 all to ourselves for nearly 20 minutes. We drove off and had coffee and nice rusks in the bakkie at one of the many waterholes along the road, before driving back to the camp for an afternoon nap. The following morning, we left as the gates opened at 07:00, made sure we are the first vehicle to exit.

Today is the day we are going to spot some hyena I told my husband, full of optimism we left and drove for about 10km next to the Nossob riverbed heading again in the direction of Polentswa waterhole when I spotted 2 creatures in the distance walking very fast, grabbed the binoculars and yes, it’s 2 hyena. I was in my element as I have never seen a hyena in the wild. We drove to get ahead of them, but they were still very far in the distance walking in the riverbed, and then they turned towards us and walked straight up to our bakkie and sniffed on the bakkie’s tires. What and awesome experience to see them so up and close. My day was made! Once again we headed to a waterhole and had our daily coffee and rusks in the bakkie before we drove on for some more game viewing and came back around 15:00 and set up camp and lit the fire. Nothing can compare to the peace and quiet and the night sky in the Kgalagadi with distant jackal calls in the distance.

On day 8 we headed to Mata-Mata, situated on the bank of the Auob River, this side of the park borders Namibia to the west. Mata-Mata offer 2 hour long guided night drives, we saw bat-eared foxes, muskeljaatkat, spring-hare, scrub hare, Cape fox, African wildcat, jackal and night owls and lots of antelope. The rest of our trip we stayed at Mata-Mata and travelled up and down the Auob Riverbed  and saw Masego the famous young leopard hunt an African wildcat in a tree next to the road after exploring various trees looking for prey, we followed her on this particular day for more than an hour between Dertiende and Veertiende boorgat.

The riverbed is also home to large herds of giraffe and we came across them everyday sightseeing, we saw Masego the leopard almost every day. One morning on our daily route we saw 2 hyena walking in the direction of Veertiende boorgat and followed them slowly, they reached the waterhole and both jumped in the water trying to cool off while drinking water. This was so interesting to watch as they were playing. Like at Nossob they walked straight up to our bakkie and sniffed on the wheels but this time biting at it with their sharp teeth, my husband had to pull away to avoid any damages to the tires. We spent the last two days at Twee Rivieren before heading back to Pretoria. During our trip, we were lucky enough to see a total of 32 lions, some leopard and two cheetahs in the distance near Mata-Mata, among others.

All three rest camps have little shops with all necessaries, a petrol station to refuel. Twee Rivieren and Nossob have swimming pools. We bought delicious freshly baked “rooster brood” every night while at Mata-Mata and Nossob. You can place your order at the shops in the morning and collect your items after 06:00. At Mata-Mata there is a little shop across the border on the Namibian side that sells delicious lamb chops and boerewors at a very good price. You are allowed to cross the border without a passport to visit the shop, just inform the security at the border.

Kgalagadi is an absolute must for bird lovers, we saw yellow-billed kite, black-breasted snake eagle, tawny eagles, bateleur, pale chanting goshawk, lanner falcon, Namaqua sand grouse, Namaqua Dove, spotted eagle owl, veer aux eagle owl and tow species of vultures. The camps are also home to yellow mongoose and ground squirrels. They are not shy at all and will even walk up to your camp chair if you sit very still. One even tried to take a dead butterfly out of my hand! Big herds of gemsbok and springbok can be spotted throughout the park along the roads and at waterholes. Unfortunately, we didn’t see meerkat up close, but maybe next time.

I can definitely say that this breakaway to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was and will be remembered as one of our most memorable and relaxed holidays yet. We returned revitalised and the park definitely exceeded our expectations. The staff is friendly, fellow campers greet you in the morning on your way to the ablutions and on the roads. People are very considerate and everyone gets a chance to view a sighting. We are already planning our next trip with friends to the Botswana side of the park this year April. We cannot wait to put our feet in the sand and get that overwhelming feeling of joy that comes with it.

Aurthor:  Isak du Toit

After I read the articles on Marloth Park in Edition 6 of YGo e-mag, my friends and I decided to go and see for ourselves what the big fuzz is all about.

Since it is less than 100 kilometres from home in Mbombela, we went for the weekend. We arrived on Friday just in time to witness a  spectacular sunset after which we spent the evening around the campfire enjoying the sounds of nature.

On Saturday we explored Marloth and caught a glimpse of its wildlife such as giraffes, warthogs, impala, kudu, zebra, some of which freely roamed the streets. We also visited the two shopping centres, where we met up with some of the locals – all genuine and friendly people.

It was indeed a weekend well spent.  If you love nature like we do, we definitely recommend Marloth Park for a tranquil break away to enjoy the wildlife the village has to offer.

Marloth Park – we will be back soon!

Author: George Yannakopoulos

In a Subaru Outback

Hi, and welcome to – what we hope – will become a regular feature in this publication. An eclectic mixture! of travel, motoring news, road testing, and hopefully a few smiles – a smorgasbord if you like! Please tell us what you think – in a constructive way. Any suggestions any welcomed and we will endeavour to adhere to as many requests as possible.

Remember that YGo is different because it is interactive…Enjoy.

G.

Great dinner on Saturday night – perfectly rounded off by a 1993 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Thanks, Stellio! Sunday morning dawned and with it came the need for a decent breakfast but unfortunately “force majeur” conspired to create a power outage. But all is not lost. In the driveway gleams a Subaru Outback. Not quite the range-topping model – that honour goes to the ” oh so smooth” 3.6l V6 – but a 2.5l luxury All Wheel Drive vehicle nonetheless. Really, in today’s context in South Africa, considering the roads, beautiful country and our love for the outdoors, it leaves me gobsmacked why Subaru does not sell thousands of these models annually! But today I am one of the privileged few. I have one at my disposal.

So, vague thoughts of a drive to Gamkaskloof take shape and 8:30 sees the Subaru Outback from Action Rentals pointing its nose in the direction of Oudtshoorn. A relaxed drive through De Rust and Meiringspoort offers a very unique experience indeed. If you haven’t been to this part of the world, or if you haven’t visited it recently, it is well worth reacquainting yourself with it. De Rust is the perfect base from where to enjoy an active holiday, from climbing and mountain biking in the Kamanassie and exploring the Cango Caves, Meiringspoort or Seweweekspoort, to visiting Gamkaskloof (also known as “Die Hel” or “The Hell”) and Prince Albert via the Swartberg Pass. Visit an ostrich farm or go on a wine route excursion to treat your taste buds to some of the country’s finest cuisine, or you can even go fossil-hunting on the endless plains of the Great Karoo. We, however, will not indulge in an adrenalin activities today. Leaving the breathtaking views of Meiringspoort behind, we hurry to catch breakfast at the hotel in Prince Albert.

Mission accomplished!  A slightly delayed breakfast but re-energising in the extreme. Spinach and Popeye come to mind… But then it was time to set off on our mission for the day. Gamkaskloof 37. Travelling time: two hours. So reads the sign in the Swartberg Pass which indicates where to turn towards this World Heritage Site. It is a nice gentle start to this road which, although a bit rocky, can be safely and easily traversed in your Subaru. Giant rocky outcrops and lots of proteas characterise the route. The damage caused by a fire a couple of years ago is now barely visible. New shoots hide the scarred vegetation. The scenery should, however, be enjoyed with caution, as the treacherous terrain can challenge a distracted driver. No real challenges en-route, but the narrow roads and wild terrain do require focus and concentration – encountering a car travelling in the opposite direction will often require one of the vehicles to reverse to where the road allows for a safe passage. The Subaru’s reverse camera earns its keep here. While always useful in manoeuvring what is undoubtedly a big vehicle, it allows accurate and effortless positioning on the road. Even more so on the final approach to Gamkaskloof where the descent is steep and the road barely wide enough for one vehicle in places.

And so, after a relatively slow but comfortable two-hour drive, we arrive at “Ouma Sannie se Winkel” for an ice-cold drink and to stock up on delicious fig preserves, and of course, enjoy a chat. It is out of season and visitors are few. We smile at the story of the tourist who drove this route in his normal vehicle. He misjudged the depth of a stream and the error resulted in an expensive recovery exercise. Not much risk of that happening to the Outback. X-drive and nearly 215mm of ground clearance will see you effortlessly through. Maybe that’s is why Popeye sprang to mind earlier. All Subaru SUVs seem to have the ability to switch from effortless cruiser and suburban run-around to strong and capable off-roaders – without a leaf of spinach in the tank!

After a short walk and some leg-stretching, it is time to begin the return leg of the trip. Just as scenic and breathtaking, and approaching from a different direction it changes one’s perspective completely. A couple of hours later we find ourselves back in the Swartberg Pass. We take a sharp right this time and return through the rest of the Swartberg towards Oudtshoorn. This is again a beautiful drive but enough to rekindle any buried vertigo issues! The descent takes us to Kobus se Gat– a windswept restaurant on a desolate hillside – where a burger pacifies the hunger pains.

The final stretch passes unobtrusively and, upon our arrival home at 19:00, we are elated to find that the power has been restored.

Ten hours in the car and none the worse for wear! A great outing made effortless by the Subaru Outback. The onboard computer indicates a fuel consumption of around 9l/100km. Impressive in real-world scenarios of both high speed on-road and slow off-road travel? And this from a 2.5l automatic petrol-powered four-wheel drive SUV that accommodates five people in comfort and still allows for a couple (or more) Colemans in the boot? Hugely impressive!

I would have happily done it again the next day as I didn’t buy enough fig preserve, you see…

Aurthor  – Sylvia von Lindeiner-Wildau

Imagine a little piece of heaven so wild and untouched, so pure and marvellous that heavenly is the only way to describe it. It is here where the mighty Zambezi winds its way up north and the floodplains are home to a wide variety of wildlife. It is where the trees are lush and provide shade from the relentless African sun and the elephants balance on their hind legs to reach the highest fruit. If one is looking for the ultimate “off the beaten track” experience I suggest to a trip to Zimbabwe to visit Mana Pools National Park. Here the hyenas pays your campsite a visit every night and if you are lucky – even more amazing creatures of the animal kingdom. This is the perfect destination to experience nature in all its splendor. It lacks luxury and there are no creature comforts but, in exchange, it gives you the rare opportunity to experience peace in its true essence.  Once you have visited this African Garden of Eden you will want to return again and again. The remoteness of the park and its huge expanses and overall magnificence provide a wildlife experience far superior to that of any other national park.

On the opposite side of the river, in Zambia, there are many luxurious upmarket lodges and five-star camps. Zambia’s tourism has experienced immense growth in the past decade. The decline in Zimbabwe’s economy and the resulting political crisis certainly helped to boost tourism in Zambia. Nevertheless, the natural resources, beauty, wildness and uniqueness of Zimbabwe have remained relatively untouched.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to take the road less travelled, this Zimbabwean experience is for you. It is the perfect destination for the explorer looking for the ultimate thrill. Before the collapse of the economy due to the Land Reform Program in 2001, when Zimbabwe was still the breadbasket of Africa – it was a key tourist destination, drawing millions of tourists every year. This country had a reputation for offering the finest rates in the safari industry and boasted the most renowned and knowledgeable guides in southern Africa. This destination was one of the most popular choices on the global tourist trail – offering millions of international tourists everything – from first-class safaris to exploration and adventure holidays and luxury wildlife breaks. But when most privately owned game reserves were violently disowned, international tour operators started to pull out of the country due to its bad reputation and because of security concerns. Tourist numbers dropped drastically and left the wildlife sector and conservationists in dire straits. International travellers gradually forgot about Zimbabwe and its fine natural resources, several World Heritage Sites and world wonders and focused their attention on other destinations. Zim became the hidden gem for the adventurous traveller- the perfect off-the-beaten-track destination. Nowadays very few South Africans and foreigners visit  Mana Pools.

This is Africa in its essence.  The campsites are unfenced, there are no queues through which to find your way in the park. There are no restaurants and no power supply. I personally recommend the Nyamepi campsite which is comparatively safe and also fairly close to the park office where one can buy firewood (and trust me – running out of firewood is no joke!). Although the more remote camps sound more enticing, you might appreciate a bit more hustle and bustle,  safe in the knowledge that you are not entirely alone on a dark night when lions, hyenas, hippos and elephants roam free in the bush around you.

I do, however, advise visitors not to sleep alone in a tent as it can be quite frightening at times with the hyenas sniffing around the tents all night. After all, a tent is just canvas!  I remember one such sleepless night, too scared to get out of the tent and to make too much noise – when I realized that a much bigger animal than a hyena was sniffing around the campsite. The next day an American couple told us excitedly how lucky we were to have a leopard in our camp. Although the hyenas at the Nyamepi campsite can be chased off easily,  they are not shy at all. They love to pay an unexpected visit during braai time or when everyone is fast asleep, in search of some leftover food. Therefor – try not to act like a savage and rather discard your leftovers in the dustbins. Apart from the wildlife, the Mana pools are also remarkably beautiful as they are situated right next to the mighty Zambezi.

Walking safaris offer a special challenge to the very brave. The guides are very experienced and know exactly where to go and what to do to see the biggest variety of animals. I once was lucky enough to spot a pride of lions during one such a safari. It was a thrilling experience – but also quite scary despite the guide’s reassurance that it was safe. I still froze. Funny enough, my only response was that I would not be able to run as I was wearing slops.The guide’s prompt reply was that the worst thing one could do was to run. So, if I could do it you can too! Years of experience make it possible for the safari guides to get surprisingly close to the animals.

It is advisable to be responsible and practice caution during your stay in the park. The short walk to the ablution blocks can quickly turn into a very scary experience. Especially at night. I personally recommend campers to walk to the ablution blocks in groups and not to wait until the middle of the night when the entire campsite is pitch dark. Always keep in mind that this is the wild. It is strictly forbidden to take any fruit into the park. It is also very important to properly discard of all your garbage. Also, ensure you are back in camp at sunset – another rule that management made for your safety.

Keeping in mind that the journey is always very much part of the destination, remember to smell the flowers along the way – try to enjoy the drive through the country just as much as your stay. If you are heading to the park from Bulawayo, why not stop at places such as the Gweru Antelope Park, or stay over at a beautiful lodge such as Pamuzina Chengeta where you can enjoy exciting activities such as elephant rides, among others. Do not miss out on the Chinhoyi Caves on your way to Mana Pools. These caves have a very mysterious and peculiar ambience. The tranquil waters of the caves are sapphire blue. There are also various quaint shops to browse through which will quickly ease your frustration about the potholes and roadblocks on your journey.

It is regrettable though most people have a bad perception of Zimbabwe as a travel destination nowadays, as its friendly people and untouched nature and wildlife have remained very much the same. But maybe it is also a good thing that a visit to the country is not everyone’s cup of tea, as this makes it a tourism destination of quality rather than quantity. Quality which offers good value for money and a one-of-a-kind experience – off the beaten track and a road less travelled.

Mana Pools National Park Central Reservations Office in Harare

Tel.:+2634706077/8
Email reservations@zimparks.co.zw

Author:  Des Jacobs

 

To me, one of the most scenic roads that very few people know about, is the one up to Mariepskop in the Hoedspruit area. Mariepskop – at 1,945 metres above sea level – is one of the highest peaks in the northern Drakensberg, and the highest point of the Blyde River Canyon.

There’s not a lot of people who are aware of this road winding up to the very top of the mountain, as well as into the heart of the Blyde River Canyon up to a very scenic picnic spot right next to the Blyde River that runs through the canyon. You can visit the top of Mariepskop and enjoy a picnic, all in one day.Mariepskop itself will leave you breathless with its dramatic views. Standing on the edge near the towers gives you a few of the Kruger Park up to Phalaborwa. From here everything below looks very tiny indeed.

The route is very scenic indeed, as it offers you the experience of driving through a tropical rain forest and you will find yourself expecting to see a gorilla peeking through the dense vegetation at any moment. Although there aren’t any gorillas, you might spot some bushbuck, and some visitors even reported sightings of the odd leopard on the way up. The mountain peak is very rocky but it boasts a wide variety of plant species. Make sure that you visit all the marked viewpoints on the route.

To get there you have to follow the gravel road from, a small village between Hoedspruit and Bushbuckridge. There are a small shop and filling station next to the main road where you turn off onto the gravel. Stay on this road for approximately 30km. The route becomes very steep at places and I would suggest navigating it in a 4×4 or a vehicle with high ground clearance. When it’s misty or rainy it can become very slippery up there and the 4×4 may come in handy, especially during your descend to the picnic spot. You need to pay an entrance fee near the top of the mountain where you will be issued with a permit to visit the peak and the picnic spot. The gates usually open at 08:00 in the morning and close at around 16:00 daily. Make sure you are out before closing time to avoid a fine and having to spend the night on the mountain.

The weather here can be very unpredictable and it can become overcast and misty very quickly, especially in the summer months. On a clear day though, you will be awarded with great views and awesome photo opportunities. Please note that there are no barriers on these sheer cliff faces and this can pose a challenge if you are not careful. Please stay well clear from the edges, especially if you have small children with you. Always walk in groups.

Afriscapes conduct landscape photography expeditions and tours, and one of these expeditions include this very mountain as well as the rest of the Blyde River Canyon. Please visit www.afriscapes.com for more info.

Please browse through my photos on my website at www.desjacobs.com

Authors: Dave van Graan and Ista van Zyl

Dave van Graan, a 60-year-old resident from Louis Trichardt in South Africa, is walking the length of Namibia to raise awareness on rhino poaching.

His journey by foot, with only his trolley – which he named Bart Mobile – as company, started on 30 November 2016 at Sendelingdrift. Dave’s friend, Koos Moorcroft, founder of  AAPS (Africa anti-poaching services) is in constant contact with him to ensure that he is well and doesn’t need anything.

The last time I spoke to him before writing the article was on 17 January 2017.  At that time he was in the  Uis/Khorixas area where it was extremely hot and dry.

He still had 450 kilometers to go to reach is destination – the Kunene River at the Angola border – if everything goes according to plan we will be back in South Africa by mid-February 2017…

Dave had a message to our readers and all his supporters: Get up, get out and live your dream.  Do not limit your challenges, challenge your limits!

Here are some of the highlights from his trip to date, and some of the people he met along the way.

2 December 2016

I am on my way at last. Left yesterday morning at 1:30 from Rosh Pinah. My first town will be Aus which is 163kms away. During the day the temperature is in the high 30’s and at night it is 11 degrees. Yesterday the whole area was covered in mist.

3 December 2016

My first hot meal in three days! Bully beef is king. Bitter black tea to wash it down. Eish, I forgot to pack the coffee and condensed milk.

6 December 2016

Seymore Jonker and his party met up with me! Luckily Zelda spotted my afternoon rest camp where I was hiding from the sun.

11 December 201

Between Aus and Helmeringhausen. It was a really tough section. Thick sand, heat, cold and a 30 km uphill are some of the handicaps I had to endure. It is one of the most panoramic areas I have seen in years, but photographs don’t justice to the scenery. Pack your car or book a tour and come and visit the Southern parts of Namibia.

The guys far left and far right are South Africans who traveled from the UKand are on their way to Cape Town. We had a chat and they cannot believe what I am doing. Just look at the size of those boertjies!

17 December 2016

The section between Helmeringhausen via Betta to Wereldend.

Disaster struck at four in the morning. Both axels broke simultaneously! It took me a few hours to devise a plan but I eventually got on the road again.

Grossberg en route to Betta.

Koos Moorkroft and his lovely wife, Issie, visited me for two nights. Across the road, one can see Koos’s Land Cruiser house. Braai, stew, and plenty of beer. Thanks, guys it was an absolute pleasure having you here.

21 December 2016

The section between Wereldend and Sossusvlei.

My camp at a place called Toekoms, which means “future”. Although I cannot see a future as a farmer here, they are farming with sheep and game.

23 December 2016

I encounter Chelsey White and Nico Knight, who are currently walking from the Orange River near Rosh Pina to the Kunene to raise awareness and money for Africa Anti-Poaching Services to help protect what is left of our rhino population. The are covering 1 870kms in temperatures of 40 degrees plus! They are by far the bravest of them all here in Nam.

24 December 2016

Graeme Mouton says – thanks for creating awareness in Namibia. Some like to walk…

25 December 2016

The section between Sossusvlei and Solitaire.

I am proud to say that I have completed the first 600km. Next will be the formidable tough section of 230km from Solitaire to Walvisbay. I will cross the Gaub and Kuiseb canyons which have steep descends and ascends. I think this part of the route will take around 12 days to finish. I have arranged with Solitaire guest farm to send me some water with tourist who will travel my way

Christmas eve braai in the desert with the owners and friends from the Solitaire guest farm. The following photos were taken with a drone camera. What an amazing part of the world!

29 December 2016

The section between Solitaire and Kuiseb Canyon.

Still, a long way to go. Desert and more desert…

1 January 2017

Hanlie Ackerman and Ludwig Geyser: As promised – another visit to Dave van Graan on our bikes! (28th Dec 2016 and promised beer ) We met up about 10km north of Tropic of Capricorn between Walvisbay and Solitaire. Man, this is not an easy ride – the road is terrible! Dave really has perseverance – always a smile and a quick joke to tell – if you happen to spot him on his journey to the Kunene River, stop and support this cause – AAPS

2 January 2017

The section from the Kuiseb to Walvisbay.

Had to tie my tent to the water cans because of the strong wind.

Arranged all the way from Australia and hand-delivered to me in the desert. Thanks, guys. It was a nice touch.

6 January 2017

From Walvisbaai to MondesaWindpomp 14

Dune 7 Adventures where one can do quad bike trips.

My desert camp between Walvisbay and Swakopmund.

13 January 2017

Dave’s visit to Windpomp 14 made the local newspaper

14 January 2017

The area between Windpomp 14 and Uis

Apparently the smallest municipality in the southern hemisphere. Only five permanent households living here. But come holiday time and the place is packed.

I thought I was tough doing this walk until I met a girl from Germany. She came through West Africa, toured through countries such as Mali, Nigeria, Congo and now Namibia, all by herself. Now that is tough. You humbled me. Enjoy your trip and remember I have a place for you to stay and a big steak waiting for you at Camp Africa in Louis Trichardt on your way back up East Africa.

17 January 2017

Dave has been suffering from severe blisters since day 3 of his journey, he says pain is now his new best friend.

I intentionally chose the road passing Anixab near the Ugab River in the hope of seeing some elephants but I didn’t bargain on getting this close – a bit scary when you are on foot…

This is what Dave looks like after a long day of walking is extreme conditions. He says he is still positive, but this walk is getting long now…

Hopefully, in the next edition, Dave will tell us his whole story!

Dave van Graan, we salute you!