Marakele, May 2012
Heading up over the Mobipi route provided extensive views of the entire southern park and the distant spectacle of a glider circling above the vulture cliffs before heading off in the Vaalwater direction.
As it was only mid-day we decided to risk the long, steep and narrow drive up to the vulture view point, tarred but deteriorated compared to our visit eighteen months previously. Deep potholes and rockfalls added undesired hazards, exacerbated by our wide and ponderous vehicle. Nevertheless with due care and the consideration of vehicles traveling down, we made it safely to the top.
There we were greeted by a spectacular display of formation flying. The glider was back, apparently accepted by the vultures as Wing Commander in an aerobatic display around the mountain tops. At times the glider passed no more than 100m from our view point, the air rushing over its wings the only sound, followed in formation by at least 100 vultures.
Both the vultures and the glider made full use of the thermals and air drafts to soar and sweep about the crags. With no power other than that provided by nature, the glider pilot was able to sweep deep into the ravines, reappearing effortlessly above the cliffs. What extraordinary flying skill. Videos and photographs cannot do justice to the scene. Vultures are seen by many as disgusting birds but in the air they are exceptionally graceful.
Sadly, the glider and a vulture collided resulting in the vulture plummeting to the ground and the glider heading off to base, presumably damaged. It was too far off to see the detail but a sad end to an exceptional performance by the Marakele Vulture Aerobatic team.
With the afternoon drawing on, we set off back to camp, tired but exhilarated. A very rewarding day which ended with the delightful spectacle of a large white rhino grazing in the camp. Other campers told us it had been in and about the camp for the previous two hours. Shortly after our arrival it wandered off into the bush.
We decided to spend our last day in camp watching the animals visiting the water hole. Throughout the day we had a steady processing of grazers drifting in and wandering off.
The next morning we headed off for the next leg of our holiday, four nights at Mazhou camp in Mapungubwe.