I’ve been recently travelling to several Sanparks NP, one of them was Mapungubwe National Park. I havent been there before and after a 4 days stay I must say, I was not very happy about the situation in that park at all.
I am a experienced traveller and also a FGASA Field guide, I’ve been in many parks around Africa. Together with my husband I travelled 160.000 km. We’ve been also to the other side of Limpopo river at Tuli Block. What a difference!
When we arrived at Mapungubwe, I was sure that the campsite is on the Eastern Side, as there is no campsite shown on the Maps on the Sanparks Website, I was thinking that the campsite is at Leokwe Main Camp. Ok My fault.
We were booked for 1 night and 3 more nights, the first night was an additional booking. At the Main Gate the comupter system was off and I did get a handwritten permit for – 1 day – what I did realised only the next day. We were told to choose any campsite. Than we had to drive 40 km back and turn left at a road without any signboard. We managed to find the entrance and there was – No Gate – No control – Nobody. Just a cattle grid.
We found the campsite and took the last of 10 campsites. Still nobody to have a check of the permit. OK, it’s the 31.12.
The next morning we were surprised hearing somebody starting at 4:30. But OK its New Year. We left at 6 for a game drive. Soon after entering the river loop we met a herd of Elephants who were kept between some fences and the dense bush, they were obviously thirsty and very angry and could not get to the water, a high voltage fence kept them away from the water, behind that fence we saw another fence, a barbed wire fence who was partially destroyed.
We had to drive back and escaped from the Elephants. Later we saw a location where the elephants can go to the water, at the afternoon we met there another herd of angry Elephants. We had to drive back again. On several places at the river loop we found pieces of barbed wire on the ground.
The next day we drove over to the Eastern Side. Nobody realised that we had only a permit for the day before. OK, it was the 1.1.2012. Useless to say that the kiosk at the Picknick Place and at Leokwe Main Camp were closed, but that’s a minor complaint. Later I learned that they are regularly closed, resp. that at Leokwe Camp the room is used as storage. Again we found a fence along the river. At the turn of to the river, where the road comes down from the hill in direction to the confluence lookout, we met again – angry Elephants. That was a very hairy situation as ther road turns left there and it was very difficult to drive back.
Dissappointed we drove back to the campsite. We could not reach the river. Either on Western nor on Eastern side. That was the reason for coming to this park! That wonderful river view we had on the Botswana Side! We were sitting there for hours and watching the birds….
The next day we spended mostly in the campsite. There was some coming and going at the campsite, but still nobody wanted to see any permit from us. The guys cleaned the ablutions and the campsite absolutly perfect. Never had such a clean braai place at a Sanparks campsite!
But, we were shocked about all the fences. It is not only the fence at the river loop.
Another loop leads from River Loop into Gallery Wood Loop, from River side no electric fence, no barrier or grid, from the other side electric fence and barrier. Theres another fence at the Experimental site. Fences over fences….
Theese are two of three possible roads one can drive on this side of Den Staat Road. The river is completely closed away. No water holes as far as I know. Also at the Eastern Side, no acces to the river. We drove over 1800 km to stand in front of – fences?
There is only one place to go at the Western Side, thats the Bird Hide. So we did go there. Even with only half of the Campsite occupied the Hide was overcrowded.
The next afternoon I came at 3 o’clock to the hide, already 8 persons in, spreading over 2 of 4 benches, 3 cooler boxes, + baby on blanket. After me another 12 persons came in. 2 gave up and left. The other squeezed into the windows. One can imagine the noise?
It is not possible there to look at a normal Elephant behaviour. They are angry, in stress, only one time a family took their time to have a mud bath. Weve been there 6 times and saw about 8 or 9 breeding herds. All others were running away shortly after drinking.
Again, there was no control in the camp or in the park. Some guys again did leave for game drive at 4:30, some came back at 8 at night. One afternoon three parties came in, had a shower, filled up water, did go to the loo, threw away their waste and than left again.
What makes me think, are two points. I know that Mapungubwe has the problem of many owners in the area. I know that theres the problem with cattle in the park. BUT
- The fences at the river are not only useless, they create very dangerous situations. The second one, the barbed wire fence, only provokes injuries. It made me think, why did we find so many pieces of wire on the road, are there people using the wire for anything else? The first one, the electrical one, keeps Elephants on the road, where they can collide with visitors, on both sides of the park.
- The lack of control. We virtually drove three days through the park without a permit. That situation opens poaching all doors. Why is there not at least an electric gate with radio and camera at the Western side like it is at Mokala National Park? Why is there no control in the camps?
As we left the Park, we met a Sanparks car on Den Staat Road. A single Elephant Bull was walking on the road, right side of the fence (outside of the park). We gave him space to pass us, only to see in the mirror the Sanparks car chasing him into the bush.