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Magic of Makuleke

Some baobabs in the area are thousands of years old. They thrive in the park’s hot, dry conditions. Imagine the events they have witnessed, the secrets they possess, and the stories they could tell.

The beauty of an unfenced camp is that animals are free to come and go as they, please. By giving them their space, we can have phenomenal interactions with them. While writing this, I hear a noise above me. I look up and see a sleepy thick-tailed bushbaby (galago) looking back at me. The bushbaby grooms itself for a minute before going back to sleep.

baobab tree in Makuleke
The majestic baobab tree in Makuleke – Photograph © Vinicio Herrera

It is incredible how much you can learn about baboons’ natural behaviour by watching them roam around the camp. You can observe youngsters playing, tiny babies riding on their mother’s backs, big males patrolling their territory and foraging behaviour. Because humans have never fed them, they don’t associate us or the camp with food.

A subtle, pleasing noise arose as the moon rose over the camp. At first, you wondered if it was a dream. You hear it again, your mind trying to pinpoint the source of the sound. Your eyes adjust to the moonlight as you look out of the tent mesh when a large shape moves between them. You smile, realising that the elephants have arrived. Observing elephants communicate using low-frequency rumbles is always a memorable experience. During the night, two giant male elephants roamed the camp, eating, walking, and scratching themselves on trees. We watched them until our eyes grew heavy, and slowly drifted asleep.

beautiful blue bird a meve's starling
A Meve’s Starling found in Makuleke – Photograph © Marie Schmidt

How can anything beat watching an elephant with your first cup of coffee?

South Africa’s Makuleke concession is one of the best birdwatching spots in the country. There is something to be admired about birds, their colours, majesty, and calls, even if you aren’t a keen birder.

As we drove to an eland carcass, hoping to see nature’s clean-up crew in action, we noticed movement in the bush. As the game viewer’s engine turned off, a female elephant emerged behind bushes to inspect us.

We had found a small breeding herd with a tiny baby. We watched the matriarch move the baby toward the back to be protected while the other herd members ate, scratched themselves on their favourite scratching post – a bent tree – and bathed themselves in the dust. Occasionally the baby would pop its head out, allowing us to catch a fleeting glimpse.

After a while, the matriarch decided to move the herd away, so we decided it was time for a sundowner on the Limpopo River.

We had yet to go far when we spotted more elephants in the distance. It was turning into an elephant day for us.

juvenile martial eagle
Juvenile Martial Eagle © Marie Schmidt
colourful bird
White-fronted Bee-eater © Marie Schmidt

It was a hot day, so Tsundzukani, our instructor, figured they would want to drink. We put our sundowner drinks on hold and drove to the nearest watering hole. The bulls arrived not long after us. Our eyes were fixed on them as they enjoyed the water, gently touching each other with their trunks. Once they finished their drink, they took a few moments in the shade before the oldest bull decided it was time to feed again. He slowly walked close to the game viewer to eat from a tree 5m away.

The ability of elephants to blend into the background never ceases to amaze me. For such a large animal, they are surprisingly adept at disappearing into the bush. Sometimes all it takes is the flick of an ear or the movement of the trunk to alert you to their presence.

An elephant herd, Makuleke – Photograph © Scott Ramsay

As sunset was fast approaching, we left them to eat. As Venus appeared in the night sky, we enjoyed a sundowner at the closest lookout point on the Limpopo river before returning to camp for Mama Olivas’ delicious spaghetti Bolognese. A perfect way to end an exciting day.

Makuleke Camp | What you can expect

Are you considering an EcoTraining course and want to know what to expect from the camps and reserves?

Take a virtual walkthrough of Makuleke camp, the beautiful Makuleke concession in the Greater Kruger National Park and all the incredible wildlife that call this beautiful place home. Situated in one of the most remote wilderness areas of the Kruger National Park, the beauty of this place will blow your mind!

About the Author:
Emma Summers

Emma Summers

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