I am testing the waters… How do you ‘mites feel about an intense birding trip to an area in the Kruger National Park where no atlassing has yet taken place? How does three days and three nights OUT IN DA BUSH sound to you? Three days and three nights of extreme non-stop birding! That should appeal to some of you?
The Mphongolo Wilderness Trail is the newest adventure activity offered by the Kruger National Park and it is one of the greatest trekking wilderness experiences you will ever have. It is tailor-made for a birding event of epic porportions! It is a unique 3 night and 3 day trail in the open tree savannah (dominated by Mopane, red bushwillow and round-leafed bloodwood woodlands) directly west of Shingwedzi. It is bordered by the Punda Gate road in the north and the Shingwedzi river in the south. The northern section is dotted with low sandstone kopjes while plains gently undulate from these low hills towards the south.
Three rivers run eastward, parallel to each other through the area from the western border of the Park. The northernmost is the Phugwane, the Bububu is in the centre and Shingwedzi to the south.
The trail has no fixed route, nor daily schedule. Instead of the usual trek through the wilds, we plan to atlas some of the nine unmapped SABAP pentads in this wilderness area. In the end, we will determine for how long, and how many of these pentads we want to explore in the time allotted.
All our food and equipment we carry ourselves. We collect water on the way from pools, springs or streams and camp out every night. We will be escorted by highly trained and skilled Wilderness Trails Rangers, who not only provide you with protection but teach you to enjoy this unique area by interpreting the signs, sounds and interactions of the different fauna and flora. They have an intimate knowledge of the birdlife and know what to expect here and the how and the where of finding it. Of this I have firsthand knowledge; having had the privilege of sharing birding time with the first rifle on this trail during the Balule Bash late last year. Of course we’ll tap into their knowledge prior to making pentad choices so that we can select those areas that will be most productive.
Apart from sharing their vast knowledge of birds, our wilderness rangers will interpret all aspects of the bush from tracks to insects to wild flowers (to name but a few), making it a fascinating and rewarding experience. They will look after our well-being in the bush and will show us how to collect good water by digging for it. During the atlassing there will be lots of time when we will learn some bushcraft, like how to use flint to make fire, learn about edible fruit, how to use trees for survival (to make rope etc) and how to built shelters to protect us from the rain.
The greatest aspect of this trail is that you don’t need to finish as there is no end point, making for easy hiking. Depending on the make-up of the group (age, fitness levels, etc.) we may choose to camp up in one spot for the 3 nights and explore the local area, or hike with backpacks in the morning, set up camp at lunch and then explore without packs in the afternoon, or we could go the full hog and trek everyday with packs on, exploring as much as we can!
The birdlife is abundant and we should daily have sightings easily in excess of 100 birds.
The ambiance is unbelievable; it is totally devoid of man-made noises. Hardened city dwellers may find this disturbing and will actually struggle to sleep during the first night. The stars in the night sky are unaffected by light pollution and, weather-permitting, the constellations will seem to be within touch, being so bright!
Imagine the wake-up in the bush. Our camp will be situated at spots where the Dawn Chorus will be astonishing.
I would suggest these events to anyone who is keen on a completely different wildlife experience. It goes way beyond the standard safari, and you will gain far more out of the 3 days on foot in the wilderness, than you will doing a standard vehicle trip in three weeks!
Depending on interest, more than one “weekend” can be arranged. Each trip can accommodate a maximum of eight birders. So, up with the hands so that I can “see” who wants to join in.
668 Latest lifers: Pacific Golden Plover, Slaty Egret
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.