Mother nature at her best

Fish Eagle and Marabou Stork in South Luangwa.  pic MARIANNE PRETORIUS.  10.06.2006. © Sunday Times.
Fish Eagle and Marabou Stork in South Luangwa. pic MARIANNE PRETORIUS. 10.06.2006. © Sunday Times.

THE KRUGER National Park's Mopani Rest Camp is a colossal piece of land dominated by the mopani tree.

THE KRUGER National Park's Mopani Rest Camp is a colossal piece of land dominated by the mopani tree.

The tree is home to delicious invertebrates commonly known as mopani worms, which are seasonal.

As the light plane circles around Phalaborwa Airport before landing, you can see thousands of these trees.

Mopani Rest Camp is about 75km from the airport. The speed limit in the park is 40km an hour and there are speed cameras to snap speeders, so don' t dare put your foot down.

I thought the authorities had designed the speed limit to allow visitors an opportunity to look out for and admire the animals along the way. But I was told that it was because one speedster ran over a lion cub.

We were unfortunate to drive to the camp at dusk so we didn't see a lot of animals, except some bull elephants that stood in the middle of the road for ever. And when they decided they had punished us enough, they moved away and allowed us to pass.

Elephants seem to outnumber other animals in this part of the park and they apparently compete with the mopani worms to feed off the mopani tree.

We saw some hippos in a river. These animals are damn ugly, even at night.

The self-catering chalets are lovely and management should be applauded for not having TV sets in the rooms.

The bush is cut only once a year we were told, to give each unit as much privacy as possible. There are four bungalows and eight guest cottages, that have magnificent views of the Pioneer Dam.

After freshening up it was time for a bush braai, where we enjoyed our dinner in the company of elephants.

Other animals you are likely to see in this area are hippo s, waterbuck, impala, warthog buffalo and the rare antelope, the tsessebe.

Mopani Rest Camp is one of the larger camps in the Kruger National Park and it was established in 1989. It is also the first camp to have a sleep-over hide in the park called Shipandane.

The camp hosted the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) annual congress in 2007. It was the first time in the IUCN's 68-year history that it was held outside Switzerland.

Activities in the camp include game drives and guided walks in the company of trained guides.

If you are into birds, the camp overlooks the Pioneer Dam, where an over-abundance of waterbirds can be seen. Storks, egrets, collared (red-winged) pratincole, African spoonbill, black-winged stilt and white-winged tern are some of the more uncommon species to watch out for.

Boulders Private Camp, about 25km south of Mopani, offers alternative accommodation where one can view the mopani plains surrounding a private water hole.

There is also Tsendze Rustic Camp. Tsendze, the Tsonga word for tsendzeleka or "to ramble around like someone lost in the bush", is the newest accommodation in Kruger.

As its name implies, Tsendze provides a rustic experience within the natural environment.

Located about 7km south of Mopani Rest Camp, these camp sites are surrounded by the beautiful lead wood, mopani and apple leaf trees.

Two prominent seasonal watercourses, the Tsendze River and Nshawu Creek, run through this area that is well known for its large buffalo herds and many elephant bulls.

Shipandane Sleep-over Hide, about 3km south of Mopani on the Tsendze River, is a unique accommodation facility where you can get close up and personal with nature. It offers visitors an unusual experience to get very close to the water's edge and enjoy the view from the other side of the dam.

A bird hide by day, it transforms into a primitive overnight dwelling by night, where a select few can experience the Kruger National Park nightlife first hand.

Huge buffalo herds and many elephant bulls frequent the area, just metres from where you sleep.

They say it gives you an opportunity to experience Africa in its truest form.

The Tropic of Capricorn loop and the Nshawu pans are an excellent area to see game because there are some open plains that host blue wildebeest, Burchell's zebra, buffalo and tsessebe.

Black-backed jackal and caracal are some of the smaller more unusual species to look out for.

There was just toolittle time.