Focus on Malelane, Mpumalanga, South Africa

Malelane at the gateway to Kruger National Park

Mpumalanga, which means "land of the rising sun" in the local SiSwati language, is a province of extraordinary natural beauty.

Mpumalanga is not a highly developed province with large cities and towns - instead, visitors to the province are brought closer to nature. Mpumalanga is particularly well known for it's wildlife parks - from the world renowned Kruger National Park to several luxurious private nature reserves can be found within the province. Large numbers of a variety of game occur in the areas including the 'Big Five' - elephant, black rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo.

Situated at the gateway of the Kruger National Park, the Malelane (which means Small Lala Palms) offers a unique opportunity to experience the thrill of exploring the African bushveld, situated on the banks of the Crocodile River in Mpumalanga, close to all the best attractions in this region.

General Information

Kruger National Park, in South Africa is best known for the 'Big Five' - Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo and Rhino - and is truly the flagship of Africa and South Africa's game reserves. It is the primary destination in South Africa for many international tourists. Each year more than half a million visitors are registered.

The National Park was opened in 1898 at the instigation of then-president Paul Kruger. After hunters had considerably decimated the originally rich game stock, all the land between the Sabie and the Crocodile Rivers was put under the protection of Nature Conservation to ensure the survival of the remaining animals. Only as recently as 1961 was the extended Kruger Park fenced in.

The park stretches from the Crocodile River in the south up to the Limpopo River, which is the international border in the north. Altogether it is 350 km long, 65 km wide and comprises an area of about 20,000 sq km.

A web of roads of 1863 kilometers leads through the National Park, 697 kms of them being tarred. For the visitor there are numerous differently equipped rest camps, most of them scenically positioned. Within the park boundaries, travel is only allowed between sunrise and sunset. After dark one has to stay in one of the fenced rest camps.

The best time for observing the animals is the dry winter season. Then the grass is low and bushes and trees don't have leaves, so that one can have an unobstructed view. Because it virtually doesn't rain in winter, the animals come to the waterholes to drink in the mornings and evenings and can easily be watched from the car.

The game stock in the Kruger National Park is globally unique. 114 different species of reptiles, 507 bird and 147 mammal species are represented here. About 3000 hippos and just as many crocodiles live in the rivers which have water all year long. On land, the Impala antelopes are the most numerous animals, with more than 90,000 specimens. Some 30,000 zebras and 15,000 buffaloes also bustle about in the vast savannah, and 5,000 giraffes and 8,000 elephants keep them company. Only the rhinoceros seems to be a bit under-represented with a population of only 300. However, the number of predatory cats is considerable: 1,500 lions, 900 leopards and 300 cheetahs are part of this magnificent eco-system.

The vegetation in the Kruger Park consists mainly of Bushveld, a combination of grassland, various shrubs and trees. In the northern parts of the park the vegetation is, due to the higher rainfalls, denser than in the south. There is also the characteristic African baobab tree.

History of the Kruger National Park

The first explorer to set foot in the region was the Dutchman François de Cuiper who led a Dutch East India Company expedition to explore. However, the expedition was attacked and driven by local tribes-people near Gomondwane. Only around 1838 Voortrekker expeditions led by Lous Trichardt and Hans van Rensburg were able to successfully establish forward outposts.

Hundreds of Europeans and farmers came to the Lowveld lured by rumors of gold and the great quantity of valuable commodities such as ivory and skins. This caused the number of game to dramatically decrease due to hunting and trading of animal skins and horns.

President Paul Kruger was told about the rapid destruction of wildlife in the area by hunters, after which he succeeded to persuade the Transvaal parliament to establish a protected area for the wildlife in the Lowveld region.

The "Sabie Game Reserve”, bordered by the Crocodile River in the south, the Sabie River in the north, the Lebombo Mountains in the east and the Drakensberg Mountains in the west, which is now the southern part of the Kruger National Park, was established in 1898. These reserves would eventually expand into today's Kruger National Park.

The Anglo-Boer War stopped any further development of the reserve, but the British, after winning the war, proceeded with the plan to develop the Sabie Game Reserve and gave the task to Major James Stevenson-Hamilton in 1902 to protect the animals against hunters, ivory poachers and cattle farmers. The Park was opened to the public in 1927 for visitors to view animals and plant life in a area where they are protected.

After the Anglo-Boer War, James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed as the first park warden. He spent the next 40 years protecting what the war had destroyed. His actions are no doubt an ever-living contribution to the Kruger National Park's current existence.

In addition to his animal conservation, James Stevenson Hamilton was also responsible for acquiring another 10 000 hex acres for the reserve. After World War I, the Kruger National Park was protected by the government of South Africa and remains under the watchful eye of the government even today.

The very first ranger in the reserve was Paul Bester who made his residence in a rustic rondavel (hut) which is now the site of the headquarters camp, Skukuza. Documents concerning the History of the Kruger National Park can be viewed at the Skukuza Library.

Half a million years ago, the first San stone age hunters roamed the plains in search of game. The modern day bush men have left fascinating rock paintings all over the Republic of South Africa, and, Kruger National Park contains over one hundred sites of these paintings.

The Kruger National Park is a living memorial to President Paul Kruger and those who have upheld his vision of a protected wilderness reserve which will forever remind us of that which we are so dangerously close to loosing.

Wildlife

The Kruger National Park is best known for the "Big Five" - Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo and Rhino - and this is what most visitors are trying to see, and most people manage to observe at least one pride during their stay.

There are about 1800 Lions scattered throughout the Park, most commonly found in the grasslands, where the favorite prey of Zebra and Wildebeest are found.

About 1000 Leopards are found in the Park, but they are shy animals that hunt at nighttime and hides away during the daytime. Even if they do venture into open ground, it is difficult to spot the lithe, tawny-yellow body with black rosette spots, as it blends in perfectly into its surrounds.

It is easier to observe the beautiful Cheetah, the fastest of all land animals, capable of reaching speeds of 75 km/h and more in short, explosive bursts of sinuous movement. These, however, have to compete for food with larger predators, and prefer clear grasslands in order to run down their prey, with the result that their number is not growing at a very good rate.

Elephants are everywhere in the Park and to be seen in groups of around 30, as are the 25 000 Buffalo in herds of up to 200. White Rhino number about 1800, and the scarce Black Rhino number about 500.

Crocodiles and Hippo's are in abundance, as are the various antelope species, especially the Impala, which number about 120 000.

Then there are the Kudu, Zebra, Giraffe, Wildebeest, Waterbuck (Nyala), Warthog, Sable, Reedbuck, Tsessebe, Eland, Hyena, Wild Dog - too many to name them all.

As are the bird-species, with the Bateleur as probably the most handsome of the birds of prey, and the Martial Eagle a common sight, even though it prefers more mountainous areas.

The only way you can experience the magnificence of the Kruger Park is to come and experience it for yourself, and while you're at it, experience this country with its unique peoples, heritage and beauty - a world in one country.

Article by: cyberprop