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Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Discuss activities available in the Kruger National Park, and follow all the sighting reports.
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G@mespotter
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby G@mespotter » Mon Jun 28, 2010 7:46 pm

LOVELY :clap: LOVELY :thumbs_up:

It's amazing to read how many encounters with cats you guys have :mrgreen: Besides the cats, the wilderness experience must be extraordinary!

After having done the Olifants... CANNOT WAIT for this one to come... :D

Keep me alive with the stories and the occasional pic 8)
Tambotie 20 July, Shipandane Birdhide 21 July, Mphongolo Backpack Trail 22 -25 July, Tzendze 26 July, and Greater Limpopo National Park 27 -29 July :D

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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Strider » Mon Jul 05, 2010 3:07 pm

Hello-Hello

Just back from Back 2 Back MBPT, the 1st departing on the 27th of June and the 2nd on the 30th of June.

Were slightly unlucky with the weather, and our days were dominated by overcast conditions with drizzle. This I attribute to my 1st group all being from Cape Town... Unfortunately, this also had an impact on our sightings as well.

27 – 30 June

The 1st trail we walked along the Mphongolo River, with our drop off NW of Sirheni. Along the way we passed several elephants and dugga boy, and had a great sighting of a male Leopard, 3m from the road. After the safety briefing, we walked to Dzundula Windmill. Along the way we came across Impala and Baboons. We setup Camp just west of Dzundula under 2 fantastic Jackalberry Trees. That evening the clouds started to build up and the drizzle began... We heard Lions that night, which we estimated to be along the Shisha River, just outside of our walking area. :doh:

We woke up to the Francolins calling, some guest getting confused between the Egyptian Geese and Francolins, and ultimately waking at 04:45, only to realise that they might be slightly wrong as everyone else was asleep. We walked west along the Mphongolo (without packs) and along the Shimuwini River, before heading back to the Mphongolo, the overcast cool weather allowing the animals an opportunity to spend time away from the major rivers (not needing to drink). Along the way we bumped into a Dugga Boy without horns (only a boss) at close quarters (+-7m). Back along the Mphongolo we came across Impala, Waterbuck, Bateleurs, Fish Eagles, and a surprisingly deep pool with a rather large Crocodile in it! As we were approaching Camp, we stumbled across a large 2.5m Rock Python, an awesome sighting as he was so sluggish, it allowed us to get rather close. The sighting ended abruptly when a sudden heavy downpour opened above us, and we all made a quick getaway to our tents. The drizzle continued in the afternoon, allowing us time to quickly go for a walk, south and east of our Camp, but the bush was silent, as it is after rain.

The next morning (it was still drizzling) we packed up Camp and headed down river. The plan was to only walk about 2km before finding a Camp, setting our tents up and then heading out for another walk. Along the way, we found another deep pull just below Dzundula where a Hippo and her rather old Calf where still living, we watched them for along time before moving on. We found a great Camp, and while setting up, we heard a trumpet from across the river. We quickly headed in that direction, and tracked a heard of Elephants, for about 300m before hitting some very thick vegetation. We could hear them chewing ahead of us but couldn't see them, and unfortunately due to safety reasons, we couldn't get close enough to see them. We continued on towards the Shisha, hoping that the Lions would have moved in our direction, we came across Impala and Grysbok, and had a great sighting of a Breeding Herd of Elies, who were slowly moving through the vegetation towards us, a female and her 3 year old calf coming within 30m and providing a great sighting. We then made our way back to Camp. In the afternoon, we had a short walk back to the Hippos and Dzundula, before heading north and round to the Camp. Quite but relaxing afternoon walk.

The next day we packed up for the final time, walking back to our pickup point. A little wetter than when we started but whole lot happier and relaxed.

30 June – 3 July
After a short stopover in Camp, I took a quick shower and repacked my gear, and headed out again. Hoping the weather would hold and we would have a few days of dry clear conditions. This was not to be…

We were dropped off on the middle firebreak on the Zari spruit, just SW of Wik & Weegdam. We headed north, and having started slightly later than hoped (guests had a flat tyre) we pushed quickly to the Phugwane River. We found a fantastic Camp site, were water was being pushed to the surface by a granite ridge. The water point had great signs of all the Big 5, including a prints of 2 very big Male Lions. We all got very excited about the prospects of the days to come. But the weather had other ideas, being overcast and cool, the game just didn’t seem to want and come down to drink. We followed the Phugwane west to Maribyaobasa Koppie, overlooking the area, hoping to see something in the distance. We then walked to Dili Fountain and further up along the Phugwane, turning north and back to Camp. A quiet walk with small game sightings such as Dwarf Mongoose, Terrapins (not really game, I know) and a nice herd of Kudu. The cool weather continued into the afternoon, with our short afternoon walk taking us towards the Shishanyane, where we bumped into some very skittish Impala. We found signs of every big 5 member (reasonable fresh, ranging from 1 day to 3 days old), but no actual sightings – frustration was setting in!

The next morning, the skies greyed up a little more and it began to drizzle, the rain was now getting to me… (5 days and counting). We decided to leave the Camp as is (don’t want to pack up in the rain) and walk east along the Phugwane to Wik & Weeg Dam, and hopefully on towards the Zari – hoping to see more action that side of the Dam. But the rain continued, slowing down our progress and generally being miserable. It was great walking weather, but poor game viewing conditions. As the rain continued and we started to think maybe it would be best to spend the rest of our day in bed, we spotted a grey body moving just above the horizon… then another, and another. It was a breeding herd of Elephants, we 1st counted 10, then 15, then 25, then 31 and finally 33 elephants, who we watched as the slowly made their way down to the river. We forgot about the rain… They slowly meandered their way down to the Phugwane, but a sudden trumpet and herd began to move quicker, their speed increasing as the moved towards the water. In the distance a Male with a confident gait followed, obviously in Musth and a little frisky, was hoping to meet with one of these lovely ladies. The Matriarch obviously not keen for his attention, picked up the pace, as they arrived at the river, they were met with a steep descent into the riverbed below, this didn’t stop them, they dropped onto their back legs and slid down the bank! Another Male then arrived from the NW interested in the noise and continuous contact calling of the herd. The musth bull having stopped for a scratch on a large leadwood, had allowed the females some space, giving them time to drink. However, the girls were not happy, crossed the river and started making their way towards us… our cue to move, so as the ladies climbed the bank we quickly moved into the river, and watching the herd disappear with the 2 Big Males in tow… Our clothes were soaked but spirits were high and souls were singing – what a great sighting!

We decided to head back to Camp, and on our way came across a business of Banded Mongoose foraging in a drainage line, as they moved they seem to discuss the little morsels they were finding. Completely oblivious to our presence, they moved within metres. We watched them for a few minutes before an adolescent got sight of us, signalled the warning, and they all disappeared. Sighting of the week for me!

In the afternoon, the Sun came out warming and drying us out. We chose to walk north of the Camp, were we found a great area for game viewing, which I am sure in the future is going to produce a lot of action, but due to weather we only got sightings of Impala.

The next morning we packed up Camp and made our way back to the pickup point. All feeling rejuvenated, and well rested.

On arriving back in Shingwedzi, I wanted a shower, and some dry clothes, but my soul was telling me turn around and gone straight out again. I guess I will have to wait till Wednesday!

Enjoy

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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Asanja » Sun Jul 11, 2010 5:59 pm

MBPT 4-7 July 2010

On the afternoon of the 4 of July we were dropped of on the Bouboup drainage line, west of Phondo hills. We walked up the Bouboup towards Quivi ra Machangane ( a large pan, with an artificial water point established on it, named after Mr. Mike English who discovered the pan, Machangane was his Tsonga nick name, so called because of his ability to speak the native language fluently) ON the walk in there was much sign of buffalo and elephant, and a strange little black and white banded snake which I have yet to identify. While on a water break we heard the distinct noises of a breeding herd of buffalo. We were able to approach fairly close to the heard, using their innate curiosity to our advantage, however the hear appeared unsettled and soon lost interest in us. Close to the camping site we encountered a lovely elephant bull feeding in the drainage line, he was aware of our presence however smelling the air intently and listening, however hw was unable to pin point our location. We arrived at the reservoir, filled up the buckets and moved of to a camping site. The night as clear and calm.

The next morning we left camp with only our day packs, and headed north to investigate a string of pans that run along the watershed. The majority of the smaller pans/wallows had dried up but Nyamanulo still carried much water. The group enjoyed a siesta under a Jackal berry, and then we headed back down to the drainage line and back to camp. On route we bumped into to another two different elephant bulls, however the highlight of the day was a quick glimpse of a side stripped jackal, as well as discovering some unique trees involved in strange interactions with other trees of different species. Back at camp there was enough time for the group to enjoy a quick dip in the reservoir to wash away the days sweat before collecting fire wood and settling down for the night. During the evening an elephant bull was heard drinking from the reservoir, and a leopard made his/her presence known.
On the second morning we packed up camp and headed towards the Pondo hills area, spending some time walking in the dry drainage line in order to appreciate some of the many large trees growing on it banks. The sycamore figs are alive with activity at the moment. A few inquisitive giraffe crossed our path as well as a family of warthog. We took a siesta in the drainage line again and used an old elephant digging site to collect cool clear water, an young elephant bull made a quick inspection of our siesta spot before moving off, only to make his appearance again on the afternoon walk back to camp. In the afternoon we set up camp and headed out towards one of the smaller koppies to appreciate the stunning view offered of the area. That evening the same elephant bull from two earlier encounters came and fed not 50 m from were the group was settled round the fire. Once his curiosity was satisfied he moved of into the night leaving us in peace.

After a relaxed cup of coffee, and packing up of tents on the last morning we headed back to the pick up point on along the north bank of the drainage line. The vegetation in stark contrast to the large open areas of the southern bank. There is still much surface water in the drainage line, large pools inhabited by some large crocodiles if their excretions are anything to go by.

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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Imberbe » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:54 am

Thanks Asanja!

Great to share in your experiences. :thumbs_up:

Can you explain what you meant with: "some unique trees involved in strange interactions with other trees of different species."
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Strider » Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:55 pm

Hi,

Here is my report for the MBPT which ran from 07/07 - 10/07. We had a total of 8 guests, 4 men from Bloem and 4 men from Jozi. It was bound to be an interesting trail...

I chose to walk the Mphongolo River area from Mbomene Waterhole to Grootgeluk Wind pump. We started late on the 7th, as the boys from Jozi, were slightly unprepared (even though they were old pro's having been on the ORBPT). It was a warm, slightly overcast but dry day which I was quite glad about as my previous 2 trails had been rather wet! We got dropped off at Mbomene just before 3 and made our way upstream passing Shibauwene Watergat, finding a great camp under several Jackalberry's! On the way we came across allot of animal signs: Elie, Hippo, Waterbuck, Kudu, White Rhino, Lion, Leopard, Impala and loads of Buffalo - the gang were all here and it seemed in healthy numbers. The Mphongolo and surrounding area is still bursting with water, but due to the clay rich soil it is pretty brown and murky! In the evening we had Hyeanas call in the distance, and around 1am, we had a male leopard wandering around the Camp calling continuously! Fantastic!!

The next morning after a quick coffee and some breakfast we headed out South West, hoping to find the hot springs in the area - Malahlapanga. We followed down the Malahlapanga spruit coming across Impalas, Grysbok, Kudu, and Waterbuck. There were fresh signs of Buffalo everywhere, but nothing worth following. On the spruit we came across a Greater Honeyguide who I decided to follow (having always wanted to see if the tales were true or not), and low and behold we bumped straight into an Elephant Breeding Herd. Fortunately, the wind was in our favour, and we tracked down wind to a clearing, watching them as they approached within 30m, a young bull inquisitive to these unusual shapes (and funny noise = Camera shutter) came within 10m, after watching us for a little while I decided to introduce myself with a load "Oi!", he immediately fled back to the herd, who was now some distance away, having picked up our scent and were moving quickly in the direction Mphongolo River. We continued on, crossed the Mambaule spruit and headed east along it. We came across relatively fresh Buffalo tracks and chose to follow. They continued downstream, and having almost forgotten that the whole point of the morning walk was to "find" Malahlapanga, we followed their prints right to the spring. The area really required a good look and play in the warm water - so we got a bit waylaid exploring the spring. We also found a 4m Rock python hiding in the central peat of the hot spring, and my assistant Jannie, made an attempt to pull it out of the bushes, but it size was rather intimidating so we chose just to leave it alone... After a nice break, we headed further along the spruit back to the river, crossing and heading back to Camp along the northern bank of the Mphongolo.

In the afternoon we walked east, past Shibauwene and Mbomene, coming across allot of White Rhino Signs from the morning. We also came across what I believe to be one of the last Hippo's this far up the Mphongolo. In the evening, we heard buffalo's cross the river just downstream of us, moving (very) close to the Camp, after which 2 male lions and (I believe) a female serenaded us from 3 to 4 km away! Our Leopard friend also returned later that night, just reminding us of his presence.

The next morning, we decided to track the Buffalo who passed our Camp (we still hadn’t seen Buff even though they were every where), we struggled to find the spoor in the long Bothriochloa grass, and ultimately abandoned the spoor and headed across the river towards where we heard the Lions the night before. We came across a "highway" to water and a fantastic area for Rhino and literally got lost in the area just enjoying the beauty and peacefulness as we walked. We stopped to look at spoor, dung and several trees and plants. While interpreting some spoor, we heard the buffalo... they were just east of us... about a km or so away. We changed out bearing and headed towards them, but then we heard another group to our west... closer. After a quick debate we headed after the "new" herd as quickly as possible. We finally got to the river, and found their prints going east to our camp. Another quick debate and we decided to continue on the river towards Grootgeluk and see if we can find them on the way back. Grootgeluk being one of many unmaintained wind pumps in the Park, which now lie empty, as in line with the Kruger Water policy. We explored the area round the pump, and even though the wind pump itself was seemed to be working, the elephants had broken the pipes leading to the reservoir. There should be temporary water in the area, when the wind blows, but for now the reservoir and trough were dry. We turned around and headed back to Camp, along the way we finally found our herd of Buffalo, a nice group of about 30 who gave us a few nice views of them before the disappeared into the Mopani's. It was a long walk (roughly 20km), and once we arrived back in Camp and everyone had a quick bite to eat, after which the entire group passed out. If you had come across us it would have looked like a battlefield, with 9 dirty men lying forlorn in the bushes, I say 9 because I chose to finish reading my book! :D

In the afternoon, we took a slow looping walk down to our White Rhino midden from the day before (he had marked it again in the morning) passed our friendly hippo, back along the north bank, and back to Camp. We spotted Impala, waterbuck, steenbok, grysbok and several birds on the way.

In the evening we chatted about the bush, shared stories of misadventures and generally enjoyed our final night together. A Hyeana came to say "hi" after dinner, but didn’t stay long - lopping away, very quickly!

After a lazy morning, we woke to the Lions roaring further away, packed our gear up, and walked down the river, stopping at our White Rhino midden and the Hippo before changing direction to our pickup site.

Another fantastic backpacking trail. Can't wait for the next two - 25 to 31 July

Cheers

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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Porcupine » Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:37 am

Sorry for the delay in sending this report but it has been hectic lately, Please find below the report on the 12th Mphongolo Back Pack Trail, which took place from the 13th to 16th of June 2010. We took out 4 guests (Mexicans! 2 men traveling together and a couple a Mexican and a Canadian who currently live in Canada. World Cup 2010 guests!!! My daughter also joined us.

We were dropped off on the Mphongolo management track just north of the Mbomene windmill from where we walked to the windmill – not far – only a couple of kms. We encountered numerous pans (still had water but are starting to dry up) as well as fresh tracks of white rhino, buffalo and elephant on the big game paths that crisscross through this very dense section of bush. We had only walked about 1,5km when we heard a strange noise – grunt - coming from a dense mopani thicket directly in front of us. Howard & I weren’t sure about what exactly had caused the grunt but speculated that it was probably rhino or elephant. The bush was thick and the wind was fortunately in our favour. I asked the guests to take off their packs and we proceeded cautiously in the direction that we heard the grunt, there were fresh elephant tracks and dung all over the place and we heard an elephant trumpeting not too far away but we were still not sure whether the grunt we heard was an elephant or not, we ensured that we were downwind and continued…. Not too much further we caught a glimpse of what had caused the grunt… a large white rhino bull! We managed to sneak up quite close to him thanks to the dense vegetation and noticed a cow and calf in a wallow directly behind him. We had a good look at them before they suddenly heard us and charged off (almost towards us), luckily we were able to get behind a fallen down mopani tree – these rhino’s are really wild! – that got everyone’s adrenalin up! We returned to collect our packs before continuing along the path towards the windmill, there were a number of wallows and we had a good look at the signs left by the rhino and also noticed that the pans had been visited by elephant not too long before. Just before the windmill we caught up to large herd of elephant and had a good look at them, they were quite spread out. We also spotted some impala and waterbuck. The windmill is no longer operational and we had a quick look around and spoke about the water provision policy before setting out to look for a camp site. There were a lot of elephant around and lots of game activity judging by the numerous game paths & tracks that we could see. We found one large pool in the river and set up camp, in the river bed, about 1km further west to ensure we were not camping too close to this high activity area. I quickly set out to fill two of our collapsible buckets with water from the pool we had seen and the rest of the crew set up their tents and collected some firewood. That night we heard a number of night sounds including hyeana, nightjars & owls but what really kept everyone focused were a pride of lions that we heard roaring from far off to the west initially and that slowly got closer to camp until they were right at our camp (just up on the northern bank) and then carried on heading east until they were in the distance again by dawn. I was also awoken that night, at around midnight, by the sounds of footsteps (big animal) & branches breaking very close (measured 8m the following morning) from my tent – which turned out to be a large elephant bull that fed close by and walked around our tents – not more than 5m from them.


The following morning we decided to leave our tents and most of our kit behind and set off to see whether we could track down the lions from the previous night. We headed up onto the northern bank and found the tracks of the two males and two females that had passed camp during the night, we tracked them for about another 2km along the northern bank of the mphongolo until they decided to head south into the thickets along some of the game paths. The tracking was more difficult on this side but we were fortunately assisted by the lions contact calling every now and then. We eventually, after about another 1 ½ kms, managed to glimpse one lioness but it was very brief and about 30m from us in very thick mopani bush. Only three of us managed to see the lion before it was off, we attempted to locate them again but they were now very weary of us and kept on moving off. We headed back to camp, had breakfast, broke up camp and started hiking along the river in a westerly direction. We had good sightings of waterbuck, impala, warthogs, baboon and hippo (in some of the large pools) along the way and we spotted quite a number of crocodiles in the large pools close to Shibauwene. We had our siesta at this large pool and after our siesta, about 15h00, we continued walking along the Mphongolo towards Malahlapanga. En route we saw a very big herd of buffalo that were very widely scattered with little groups all over the place and a few bulls, we tried to walk around the herd but because they were so scattered we kept “bumping” into little pockets of them – they were all over the place!! Eventually we got to the thermal springs having seen some more general game along the way. We set up camp about 500m from the spring in a large sodic patch. Collected water and had a quick bath! The water has a strong sulphur smell to it but is crystal clear coming from deep below. That night we had an elephant breeding herd that walked past our camp and at least three different sets of lions roaring from different directions (one quite close to us) as well as numerous nocturnal birds, jackals and hyaenas.



The next morning, Howard and I got up while it was still dark to the sounds of giant eagle owls, hyaena, nightjars, etc – it was a bit nippy – but we sat around the fire and really enjoyed this very early part of the morning - eventually the francolins started calling and it was time for everyone to get up. We took supplies for the day (left tents etc as we used the same camp site that evening) and walked to Grootgeluk windmill. The windmill is not operational but there are still huge ele paths leading up to it. Water was not a problem as there were still many pools in the river bed. We spotted a fair amount of general game along the route and decided to take a long siesta in the shade of some large apple leaf trees overlooking one of the large pools. There were loads of elephants in the area and we could constantly hear them trumpeting and rumbling! (presumed that there was a cow in oestrus being harassed - judging by the amount of noise). That afternoon a cold front arrived bringing along with it windy & cloudy conditions. After our siesta we walked back towards the springs and walked a few “loops” around them. We found a nice specimen of a pod mahogany and then once again collected water at the spring and had nice hot bath! That evening we once again heard lions roaring close to camp, elephants and hyeana and at about 02h00 in the morning were woken by a large animal – could hear its footsteps and breathing – a white rhino bull who was hanging around our tents running towards them for a few steps then turning back to once again approach from a different direction, the closest he got was 18m from us (paced it out the next morning) – he was unsure of these strange objects!



On the last morning we were once again woken by the sounds of francolins, we packed up our camp leaving no signs that we had ever been there and made our way back to the pick-up point. We saw fresh signs of elephant and tried to track down a leopard (very fresh tracks) but we never got to see him as he saw us first and moved off which was confirmed by the squirrel alarm calls that we heard just in front of us. We got to the pick-up point at 10h00 just before Bishop arrived to take us back. A nice long trip (1 ½ hours) back to Shingwedzi for our well deserved cheeseburgers.



What an experience for their first visit to Africa!!!
PORCUPINE

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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Elsa » Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:27 am

What amazing and incredible experiences these trails must be. :dance:

Thanks to Asanja, Strider and Porcupine for a lovely long and detailed report.
I so enjoy reading them. :D
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby jacks » Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:51 am

Me too, Elsa, and I can 'hear' the sounds and 'smell' the smells as I read them!

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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Asanja » Thu Jul 29, 2010 9:44 am

MBPT 14-17 July 2010

On the afternoon of Wednesday the 14 of July, the group ( a Group of 5 ladies, a couple from cape town and a single gentlemen from Israel) was droped of at Ribye. It was a hot afternoon and the walk down to the Pukwane took its toll on the ladies. At the river we had a good view of three elephant bulls. We set up camp late in the afternoon, and had a quite night in the river bed. There is no surface water in that area of the Pukwane and we were fortunate to avoid a long, deep dig for water by relocating and old hole that had been dug on previous trail that went through the area over a month ago.

The first full day was spent meandering up stream, along the banks of the Pukwane and taking a tributary inland and then back don to the river. One of the very industrious ladies making us all jealous with her fried egg breakfast, so enticing it was an elephant bull in early/ late stages of musth even came to investigate. Elephant bulls were the order of the day, during lunch a big old bull came down to the river and we were able to watch him dig for water have a good soak and the fall blissfully to sleep, snores and all. The whole of the day was spent investigating track and sign and much time was spent in the shade of a tree discussing the intricacies of the environment. The bucket bath in the evening revitalized the bodies.

Fresh the next morning we packed up came and headed inland to the hot water springs. The are on the watershed is very scenic. We encountered numerous warthog, impala and kudu. We took lunch at Mfayeni, and were treated to watching various species of game coming onto drink. A family of warthog enjoyed a good wallow, a young ele bull and herd of zebra, not to mention an menagerie of birds. After the siesta we moved down to Matiovila, and at one point were walking parallel with another young elephant bull at about 40 m also heading to the spring for a drink, he never even knew we were there. While setting up camp a large breeding herd of elephants came to the spring to drink and were not at all please to detect our presence. The atmosphere in the tamboti forest is very tranquil, in the evening the Scops and pearl spotted owls produced a memorable serenade. The last morning we walked back to the drop of point, the walk out was very relaxed, cool and invigorating.

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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Asanja » Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:05 pm

MBPT 18-24 July 2010

This was the first Mphogolo back-to-back back-packing trail. The group arrived on the Sunday having booked two trails in a row. A re-supply was organized for Wednesday, a vehicle drive in and met us with extra cloths and food, allowing the guest to only have to carry food and clothing for 3 days. The Sunday afternoon we were dropped of south of Mooigesicht dam, there were general game and birds a plenty at the dam. During the late afternoon two elephant bulls came down to drink. During the night there were the distant calls from lions and the next morning after packing up camp and a cup of coffee we headed out in their general direction. Moving through the mopane scrub we heard a breeding herd of elephants moving of at great pace, having picked up our scent. The whole day was spent along the banks of the Phukwane river, we lunched in the area around Pukwane oos windmill. Set up camp a little way of from the drinking trough and reservoir, amongst some very regal Leadwood trees. Some were brave enough to indulge in dip in the reservoir, the rest Seattled from splashing on the edge of the drinking trough. The night was quite.

The following morning two bulls rather tentatively came to drink at the reservoir were we had been bathing. We headed inland for a short distance and then headed down the Shishloti ( Tsonga for “poacher) drainage. Once we hit the Pukwane river again, we were met by a lone sable bull, a very rare sighting, who seemed to follow us as he appeared out our lunch spot again. During lunch we were treated to a very timid nyala cow tentatively leading her tiny young across the dry river bed. The night was spent camping behind a fallen fig tree in the river bed.

We packed up camp again and headed further down the river with the goal of rendezvous with the vhichle at 12 o’clock. A breeding herd of elephants set the groups pulse a racing with an impressive display, reminding everyone of their sheer power. While setting up camp that afternoon a small group of buffalo were feeding on the ridge opposite. That night we were paid a visited by three inquisitive lions, who raided our washing line, they put pay to a pair of underpants, a bikini top and a towel, which was recovered a hundred meters further along their exit route. We tracked them for about 4km and saw were they had marked, and rested during the evening. Unfortunately mother nature was against us and a little before lunch time the heavens opened, and erased the spoor. We had ended up on the Zari spruit for lunch. We spent another night at same camp sight interested to see if the lions would return, but were disappointed. This incidence just goes to show the importance are keeping all your equipment stowed in your tent with you, less it be commandeered by one of the four legged creatures. Also to ensure a peaceful nights sleep, Bring along your whole tent, both your rain cover and actual tent!! Or you will be down to erecting thorn branch bomas and using emergency blankets to keep dry!!

The last full day we headed first inland searching for a “mythical” giant tree and then down to Wik-and-weeg dam. We spent lunch under a giant Nyala tree and were treated to watching a large breeding heard of elephants feeding not to far off. That evenings camp was nestled behind a fallen Brack thorn ( Acacia Robusta) and steep river bank. The whole night the breeding heard of elephants could be heard doing what elephants do at night, the same as they do during the day, feeding and voicing their disapproval of us, as well as the mournful calls of hyenas.

The last morning we packed up and moved solemnly towards the pick up point, with the spell of wilderness gradually being corrupted as the thoughts of the “ real “ world filtered into subconscious.

It was the unanimous agreement of the group that conducting the trail over 6 nights was definitely beneficial, as it is only on the third day that one truly begins to relax and the grip of the “civilized” world loosens allowing the senses dulled by incessant bombardment in the cities to begin to reawaken and one can begin to appreciate the natural surroundings.

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Imberbe
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Imberbe » Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:25 pm

Eich! Sounds magical!

Thank you for the report! :thumbs_up:
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Strider » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:35 pm

Hi All,

Just wanted to give quick feedback on the 2 trails I did last week. The first running from the 25th to the 28th and the second running from the 28th to the 31st of July. It was a great week out, enjoying some fantastic wilderness, exploring new areas, swimming in hot springs, digging for water and tracking game. All in all, an awesome week in the untouched surrounds of the Kruger National Park.

Water is getting scarcer but searching for water is part of the adventure, while animals are also starting to focus on the remaining permanent water points which translates to good sightings.

Mphongolo Trail Report
25.07.2010 – 28.07.2010

We (6 guys from Pretoria, the trails assistant and me) left Shingwedzi Camp on a warm Sunday afternoon, and drove out to Ribye Waterhole, North West of Shingwedzi. After the trail briefing and short wait for our gear (we forgot to take some equipment out of the trailer) we headed immediately south into the Wilderness, later swinging west to Matiovila Hot Spring. It was a quiet afternoon sightings wise, and we found ourselves a great Campsite just after 4pm, under a Canopy of Tamboti Trees. We were greeted by a pair of Giant Eagle Owls who we roosting in the area. The guys setup Camp and immediately headed for the Hot Spring, the warm nutrient rich water too enticing for words. In the evening some of the heavier loads had to be lightened, and the first to go was the liquid refreshments, unfortunately it meant that most of the Camp roared like lions when they got to bed.

The next morning we packed up Camp and headed south via Mafayeni and onto the Phugwane. We found fresh Buffalo tracks on the way which we tracked west, coming across a fantastic herd of almost 150 animals! After-which we continued south to the river stopping at Ndlulamithi Waterhole, which was almost dry and had a rather unique aroma. We collected water and took siesta, before heading west along the river. Just before Boomplaas, we found a permanent water point, with Giraffe, Zebra, Impala, Baboons, Waterbuck, Klipspringer and more Buffalo. We setup Camp and went for a swim as the sun called time on the day. In the evening we sat around the fire discussing the day’s sightings and route ahead. The Full Moon came out and turned night into Day, allowing us to see up and down the river with ease! Overnight, we had 2 hyenas come in close serenading us with their whooping call.

Realising that we had now walked quit far from our pickup we decided to head up river to the Zari and change our collection point. On the way there we a wide variety of general game: Impalas, Baboons, Waterbuck, Kudu, Grysbok, Warthog, and Crocodile. We walked through several extremely beautiful areas, including the fantastic Leadwood forest and past some gigantic Nyala Trees. We also took time to visit the Zari Graves before stopping for lunch at the Zari Waterhole, where a lone Bull Hippo was making his final stand as the water dried up around him.

PROBLEM!

I decided that instead of waking my colleague earlier that day that I would wait till lunch to make the call and change our collection point. What an error!? The Satellite phone had switched on in my bag somewhere along route (likely on Day 1 already) and had gone completely flat! We couldn’t phone and change the pickup point and were now 12km (straight line distance) from our pickup. We had no choice but to trek back with all our gear to our Campsite just before Boomplaas. Fortunately it wasn’t a long walk, and took us through several open areas where the general game was a plenty. Lesson to be learnt: Be rude, phone before you go!

On our final morning, and knowing we had a long walk out, we decided to wake up that little bit earlier. Everyone was excited to get back, and the talk of cold beers and burgers became everybody’s motivation! We headed North at a good pace, lighter than when we started (though some believed they were fitter as well) making great time in the cool weather. On the way we came across Waterbuck and Impala, and, as if to say good-bye, we heard Elephants trumpeting upstream as we crossed the Mphongolo River just before the pickup point.

Our pickup was on time and although we were tired and slightly dirtier than when we started, all thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

Mphongolo Trail Report
28.07.2010 – 31.07.2010

After a quick shower and a bag re-pack I was ready to go out again. The guests were an unusual bunch, 3 Spaniards (who were very quick to point out they weren’t soccer supporters), and 2 single South Africans. Our drop off would be at the Zari Spruit an hour & fifteen minute drive out of Camp. On the way were lucky enough to see a wide variety of game including Elies, Waterbuck, Impala, Baboons, Hippo, and Nyala. After an uneventful drop off, we did the safety briefing before heading east along the Zari to our Campsite. The area was teaming with activity; we found fresh tracks of a wide variety of game that were travelling up and down the Zari Spruit. On the way we were lucky enough to bump into a female White Rhino and Calf, who we got a great sighting of through the Mopanes. We setup Camp that evening at Zari Waterhole. The night sky was exquisite as the moon only made an appearance just before 9pm. In the evening we were able to spot a Civet foraging under a nearby Jackalberry, and once we were all in bed, a Leopard let us know that this was its area!

The next morning, we headed east without packs, hoping to find the Buffalo herds of the previous trail. We walked the northern bank of the Phugwane passing Boomplaas before climbing a small Koppie to enjoy the view during breakfast. We looped back on the southern bank, searching for the Buffalo herds but without luck. On the way though we came across loads of general game: Impala, Giraffe, Waterbuck, Warthog, Baboons, Grysbok and Bushbuck. After a long morning walk, we got back to Camp just after noon, everyone choosing to get some shut eye during siesta. In the afternoon, we walked south to a local Baobab tree which is home to 2 lovely Leopard Orchids, before returning to Camp for a swim before the sun turned the horizon orange, red and then almost purple. We all sat on a Leadwood stump and watched it go down in silence as the fire burned beautifully alongside us and the day was coming to an end. Words could not describe that moment well enough. Just pure peaceful wilderness!

RAIN
Just as you start to have fun, nature has a way of letting you know she is in charge. As the afternoon wind died down in the evening, dark clouds slowly moved in from the east and with them they brought rain. Fortunately for us not the torrential downpour type which would require an emergency Camp location change but the irritating drizzle type! I lay in bed contemplating on whether to pack up and move on (like the plan was) or to wait it out, leave Camp as is and go for a walk once it stopped. Once I thought it was abating I got out quickly chatted to everyone, and realised that most wanted to stay in their tents, not move Camp and listen to the drizzle. An hour passed and it looked like the rain was here to stay and since we have nothing else to do, we all decided to go for a walk up stream and see what we could see… and well… in all honesty it wasn’t much. The drizzle seem to irritate the animals just as much as it irritated us, and everyone was lying low. Though, we did find some waterbuck, impala and crocodile on our way to Wik & Weeg Dam. At around noon the sun came out; drying us off and bringing life back to the bush. The birds began to sing and life could go on, nobody worse for ware. In the afternoon, we went for a short relaxed walk north, we decided to do it in complete silence, just to listen, smell and feel the bush around us. I think it is one of the most relaxing things you can do, and it almost makes you want to stay silent for ever! That evening, the stars seems to be slightly better than before and the Civet came round to bid us farewell

The next morning we packed up, and began our journey back to the collection point. Our route took us past our previous days tracks, and less than 100m from our Camp, with our Campsite still within site, we found fresh Lioness spoor from the night before. She came down to drink, watched us for a little while and then moved on. Amazing! On the way out we tracked buffalo, and found where a leopard had chased after a Porcupine. We also found 3 White Rhino grazing next to the Zari, who unfortunately got our scent and ran off rather quickly.

After collection, our drive took us past a breeding herd of Elies, and while watching them a magnificent Sable Bull walked out onto the the management road, looked at us for a little while and then disappeared into the the bush!

It was a great way to finish off the trail!

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G@mespotter
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby G@mespotter » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:55 pm

Ai strider..... There are no pictures needed to discribe that feeling when you're watching the sun seting like that with a crackling fire next to you, and a few peeps who appreciate nature the way you do!

Definitely can't wait to have experienced this Backpack Trail, I think once a year should become my MINIMUM :whistle:

Still agree that a tight group who knows eachother will just make such experience even better. Cannot wait to see the stars like that at night, or hear a leopard rasping through the night, lying in your thin sheeted tent. Man I envy you and your jobs. I even more appreciate your reports back, and hope to join you very often.

In the meantime, walk save and enjoy it while you can! :mrgreen:
Last edited by G@mespotter on Tue Aug 03, 2010 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Tambotie 20 July, Shipandane Birdhide 21 July, Mphongolo Backpack Trail 22 -25 July, Tzendze 26 July, and Greater Limpopo National Park 27 -29 July :D

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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Katamboega » Tue Aug 10, 2010 3:17 pm

Did a Mphongolo trail from the 1-4 August.
We walked the area from Malahlapanga-Mahlahluvane.

As always a unforgettable experience, good guests. 7 friends that do quite a bit of hiking around South Africa. But their first wilderness experience in the Kruger National Park.

On the first afternoon we did not go to far from the drop of point before we encountered our first game, Impala and water birds along the Mphongolo. In the first big open area we met a big elephant bull with very impressive ivory. I don't think he has been named yet in the emerging tuskers project as an impressive bull like him would not have gone unnoticed. Unfortunately he might have kept to the wilderness areas for the last couple of years and will not be seen again unless you bump into him on one of the Mphongolo trails, he looks old and i think the chances of him crossing a tourist road in the near future seems unlikely. He isn't as big as the magnificent seven but a encounter with one of Africa's monarchs at close quarters in such splendid surrounding will be something you will always remember. We sat there watching him for a couple of minutes, he was feeding venting his boules and we could hear him communicate with one of his far of Buddy's with his low communication rumbles, he never even knew we were there.

After this we headed to Malahlapanga were we encountered more general game and bumped into a young male lion, he ran of into the thickets with a couple of rumbles as we unknowingly disturbed his sleep.

We pitched camp a couple of hundred meters away from the hot water spring and got settled into camp routine, as we were getting ready to go and collect water we could figure out by the amount of ox pecker coming and going from the water that there must be a buffalo heard about. At the water we found the tracks of a big breeding herd that had drunk there during the morning. As buffalo usually ruminate after drinking and don't move too much during the heat of the day we decided to track them.
We found were they had been resting and marched on their track to catch up to them before sunset. after about 900m we could hear them in the distance and picked up some more speed as they were feeding along at quite a pace. Suddenly the noise changed and was coming closer, threw the mopanies we could see a large breading herd of elephant coming in our direction. We moved out of their way and let the pass.
the sound their bodies made threw the dry grass and dying mopane leaves amazing never hearing any plodding from their feet. After another Km we caught up to them and viewed them from a termite mound. we headed strait back to camp before sunset but found ellies close to our camp and only got back into camp routine as normal wen it was starting to get dark.

During the night the lion from the afternoon repaid us by keeping most of the guest awake by roaring close by all night and calling some friends over just to ensure that the nightly ablutions had to wait for the light of day.

The next day we headed inland and back along the Mphongolo to Malahlapanga, we spent the whole day out with some wonderful sightins and experiences, that night we spent at the same place with elephants for sunset and elephants during the night coming for a drink.

We headed down the Mphongolo the next day to later camp close to Mahlahluvane.

During our breakfast break we were sitting close to the water on some rocks when a herd of elephant came down to drink, we watched them come and go without ever knowing that we were so close to them, later during the day we got ourselves between two groups of elephant and needed to get our boots dirty wile crossing the river so as not to disturb them.

At camp that night we could hear leopard and a herd of buffalo that came to say goodbye the next morning drinking at the waterhole close to camp wile we were packing up our packs.

just another lekker trail.

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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Asanja » Wed Aug 11, 2010 7:39 am

MBPT 4-7 August

The group comprised 5 young gents from Jo berg and a couple from Pretoria. We headed out on the hour and a half drive to the drop of point along the Boubop drainage line, on route passing at least 10 different breeding herds of elephant all along the Shingwedzi river. With the bush drying up the elephants in particular are feeding closer to permanent water.

The first afternoon we headed in a easterly direction towards the Phondo hills windmill. In that area there are large open sodic sites and plenty of general game, impala, wildebeest, warthog, giraffe. We set up camp a little way of from the windmill, and went about collecting firewood, hand fresh water, there is still some surface water at that point in the drainage, but we chose to put in a little effort and dig a small well to collect the drinking water. While sitting around the fire preparing “ delicious” dehydrated food the lions made their presence known. During the night those that were not snoring ( not many!!) heard leopards, hyenas, and in the early morning giant eagle owls and fire necked night jar and ground hornbills.

We packed up daypacks and enough water to last the whole day out, and set of towards the Phondo hills. We scrambled up the first koppie and enjoyed a relaxed breakfast ad awesome view of the area. We made the treacherous decent and on route to the next koppie we were alerted to by the red billed oxpecker and sighted two buffalo bulls in the scrub, they quickly picked us up as we tried to approach closer, the undergrowth and rocky terrain made a quite approach tricky. They blundered of through the bush. We lunched under 4 regal nyala trees on the banks of the bouboup . when we reached camp and headed down to the drainage to collect water we found “ our drinking spot already occupied” by a breeding herd of elephant. We snatched what we could and headed back up to camp. After a little wait and a good look around, I took one “ volunteer” to carry the two buckets and we snuck back into the drainage and quickly collected another 20l just to get us through the night. The dehydrated food packs loosing their appeal, and the breeding herd in the area lead to an early night.

On the last full morning we packed up camp and headed upstream moving along the northern bank of the drainage, which is much thicker and dense when compared to the southern bank. The day was hot and windy ( typical August weather) and there was the lovely smell of smoke in the air, nothing smells like a bush fire. We were afforded a fantastic opportunity to view a young elephant bull, and he appeared latter again at the reservoir, were with a little more cover he was a little more confident and gave the group a little of a display. After the bull had lost interested in us we headed to the reservoir, we after a little bit of coaxing the 5 gents ventured into the pea green waters of the reservoir for a cool dip, while the other couple selected the less strenuous climb into the water troughs. The water level of the reservoir is getting quite low indicating that the area is being heavily utilized by game as a water point, this is also made more evident by the wagon wheel effect of game paths coming into the troughs. After the swim we headed out to a large open area were we set up camp for the last night. The last morning was cold and windy, making game and bird spotting difficult however the bush is never quite, we found a lovely stand of impala lilies flowering.


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