February 9, 2012

CAMP DIARIES: UNDER THE STARS ON THE BANKS OF THE LIMPOPO RIVER – MAKULEKE, 9 FEBRUARY 2012



“In our so called ‘busy civilised lives’ it was an amazing experience to be far from civilisation yet want for nothing.  To be alone in your own head with only the majesty and beauty of the wilderness for company is an incredible experience, one that everyone should share…”

This is how Stuart Gadd, a FGASA Level One field guide course student, described an outing deep into the bush in the northern Kruger National Park where our wilderness camp lies in the Makuleke concession. He was invited to accompany the trails guide students for their walk and sleep out.

He continue in his own words:

After our briefing we gathered all of our gear which basically was food, water, sleeping roll and bag, water, toothbrush and more water.  The route was explained and Skigh led the walk with Bruce (head instructor) at as back-up.

We headed in a south easterly direction past the amazing fever tree forest heading towards Nhlangaluwe pan.  This was an incredible sight because three days ago, cat fish were visible flapping about for air, now it was full of water with a black duck, terns and herons in it.

The theme of the walk was to experience the wilderness that is the Makuleke Concession. The group kept any noise to a minimum and it was an incredible experience to be at one with the sounds of nature and the sights and smells that it provided.


Everywhere I looked was something new and awe inspiring – from the dung beetles busily rolling, to the buffalo encounters that we had, through to incredible shapes of baobab trees.

We had a short break on the banks of the river and disturbed a Pels fishing owl. We all ran to get a better view, Bruce proverbially being the most excited of all of us.  We watched in awe as the owl was mobbed by four yellow-billed kites.

After this we carried on, getting very close to buffalo on a number of occasions.  I was beginning to get tired so was glad when we came to the jackal berry forest to have an afternoon siesta and lunch. 

What a magical place! It was like entering an air conditioned room. Huge trees on all sides and the floor was completely clear of vegetation.  It was a place to let your imagination wander.  A troop of baboons approached and didn’t seem to know what to make of these sleepy humans in their path.  I’m not sure who was more interested in watching, us or the baboons.

After lunch we carried on and had an encounter with a herd of more than a 100 buffalo that thundered off one way and then the other way, kicking up clouds of dust in the process.  They came very close for a better look and my heart rate increased.  A real adrenaline rush!  We carried on and maintained the silence.

After some 22 kilometres we reached the sleeping spot on the banks of the river and set up our sleeping spots.  Some people may say that they have been to gourmet restaurants but for me the most incredible meal that I have had is eating rice and noodles from a packet sitting on the banks of the Limpopo River. Our lighting was the stars and our music was the bush sounds of hippo, insects and frogs. Who could beat that, what more do you need?


We had a small fire going all night, although some of the groups’ idea of ‘small’ was very interesting.
Everyone had an hour to be on duty during the night, just in case animals came to investigate our presence.  My hour alone passed so rapidly.  It was a lovely experience to be totally alone with only the stars, fire and my own thoughts for company.

After a night’s sleep, we packed up and cleaned away all signs that we had been there and walked off towards Crooks Corner.  This was a short walk relatively, but again amazing to be walking in the wilderness.  After a short time we met up with Vaughn and I can honestly say that a cup of coffee and biscuit has never tasted so good.

In our world of materialism this was such a refreshing change and life experience.

(Thank you Bruce Lawson for the photos!)

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