Below is a trip report of our weekend at Marakele. Please forgive the photos as I am still learning the equipment. They are merely to show what we saw. It is a little long winded too
What an amazing weekend away
Marakele is a truly beautiful place. This is definitely going to become a favourite park for us to visit, especially due to its close proximity to Pretoria.
We arrived just after 4pm on Friday afternoon. There was another private vehicle parked at the gate and a SANParks game viewing vehicle with some very excited staff around. Two gentlemen and a lady also got onto the game viewer and I noticed one of the gentlemen carrying what looks like a briefcase and a steel contraption with a hook on the one end. I immediately presumed there might be a snake causing a problem somewhere in camp. I enquired at reception while completing the necessary admin and was told that they are releasing two pythons that were caught in someone’s yard in Thabazimbi. I immediately felt that we were going to have a good weekend.
We proceeded to drive to camp and when arrived we were met with impala and warthog at the waterhole. The campsites around the waterhole were all already taken, and although we were disappointed at first for not having a nice view over the waterhole we did find a campsite in the Sable loop, I think it was number 4 or 5. In hindsight this was perfect for us, very private and away from the hustle and bustle of the Rhino loop. We quickly setup camp and got back in the car for a short drive. We saw zebra, kudu and another herd of impala.
We went back to camp and made the standard evening fire. Just after dark we heard the cracking of dry branches and I shined the torch in the direction where the sound was coming from. A small herd of Zebra passed us by. Wonderful!
We were up early the next morning and left camp at 7am driving towards the western side of the park. We did not see much on the road towards the gate separating the western and eastern parts of the park. We were taking it very slow and coming up the hill we found, what I believed to be a mother rhino and her calf in the road. We were very lucky and spent a good 5 to 10 minutes with them before they moved off into the bush. Great start and we were very excited by this sighting.
We continued onwards and did not get very far when we found another small herd of zebra. We slowly meandered on towards Tlopi and as we came around a corner we saw a herd of about 15 – 20 elephants next to road feeding. They were very relaxed and we could see elephants of all ages, from a small calf to a huge cow.
After spending about 15 minutes with them and after few more cars gathered we decided to move on. We continued up the hill pass the Tlopi camp turn-off towards the view point. At some point two cars approached from the front and I reversed to where I could move slightly off the road for them to pass. As I reversed a klipspringer bolted across the road between our vehicle and the one approaching from the front. After the vehicles passed we moved forward again and found the klipspringer not far from the road.
Still moving towards the view point we also found these three magnificent kudu bulls in the valley below the road. Kudu is my favourite antelope and these three must have some of the best horns I have ever seen.
We continued on and just before reaching the viewpoint we encountered another pair of klipspringers. The ram was standing to the one side of a large rock and only after a few seconds did we notice the ewe on the rock.
We reached the view point and took in the breath taking views. We also saw the vultures circling above. Not the greatest photo.
The trip back down the hill was uneventful, with the klipspringers still on the rock and the 3 x kudu bulls still in the valley. After passing Tlopi camp again, we encountered this young elephant bull next to the road. He was very brave and on our way passed he trumpeted to show us who the boss is.
On the way back to the camp to make lunch we saw warthog and ostrich.
Back at camp we were joined by an ostrich walking, very relaxed, through camp.
We relaxed around camp for a few hours and listened to Boks losing to the Aussies on the radio before taking another drive.
We drove a few of the loops in the eastern side of the park, but this did not produce anything particularly exciting. We again drove through the tunnel to the western side of the park, with the belief slowly setting in that this might be our weekend to spot the lions, which unfortunately was not the case.
We decided that we would follow the Lekganyane road towards the Mbidi road, and as we approached the turn-off we spotted another three klipsringers crossing the road. We passed the turn-off towards them. Again they were very relaxed and gave us plenty of opportunity to photograph them.
We turned back and took the roads as described above. Although we did not see much on this route it was exciting going down the road the marked “4x4 Only” and I took the opportunity to engage low range.
Back on the tar road we spotted a group of kudu cows very near to the spot where we saw the three klipspringers not more than an hour before. I must say that the bush is extremely dry and these kudu where not in great condition at all. I am not sure if this can really be seen on the photos.
We headed back towards the eastern side of the park and heard some angry elephant in the distance. We got to the gate separating the eastern and western part of the park and decided to do another turn around as we had some time left before gate closing time. About 2 km back west we encountered this elephant in the road.
After spending some time with this elephant we decided to head back to camp and found a giraffe next to the road. Moments earlier another vehicle passed us and I thought the dust set a nice scene for this photo.
That evening we had two bush babies in the trees around our fire. I also had an attempt at a night photo of our camp.
Next morning we packed up camp and had a quick shower before heading out for one last drive. We spotted plenty of plains game in and around camp, with kudu, impala and ostriches among them.
On the road heading west we spotted a giraffe with a young one. Not the greatest photos again, but the difference in size between the mother and her young can be seen.
On the western side of the park we again spotted a group of elephants feeding next to the road.
And a young kudu bull crossing the road very close to the elephants.
At the turn-off towards Tlopi camp we encountered this group of elephants with a few small ones.
Somewhere we managed to spot two rhino.
We drove the Mdibi road in the opposite direction from the previous day and did not see anything exciting. We then slowly made our way back to the main gate and exited the park just after 12pm back to Pretoria.
We truly had an amazing time at Marakele. The only negative point I can raise is that the ladies ablution in the Sable loop did not have warm water for the entire weekend and apparently no water at all on Sunday morning. The ladies made use of one of the showers in the men’s ablutions on Sunday morning. We thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and feel rested and refreshed. We are heading to the Kgalagadi in October and this was the perfect weekend to get us excited for that trip. I will encourage any one and everyone to make sure that Marakele is on the to-do-list in the future.