The idea and introduction of the Wilderness trails in the Kruger National Park were the brainchild of the Gentleman christened Mike English, former Regional Ranger in the Kruger National Park.
Mike started his career in the KNP at the Shangoni Rangers Post.
After the Makuleke people moved out of the Pafuri Game Reserve area, Mike frequently visited the area in the company of Mr. Johan Kloppers the District Ranger who was then temporarily in charge they both supervised and helped with the building of the new Field Ranger pickets, they camped and did patrols in this wonderful part of the KRUGER.
He then for many years dreamed about Wilderness Trails and dendrological / botanical Day trails in the riverine Levhuvu and Limpopo bush and adjacent areas. Maybe it was this dream that caused him to apply for a transfer.
Mike was transferred as Section Ranger to Pafuri on 26th April 1973. He envisaged the trails when he heard that the Pafuri area was going to become part of the KNP. The scope for different kinds walking trails was wide open for the Pafuri area, along both the Limpopo and the Levhuvu Rivers.
Mike often visited the series pans in the flood plains and also seen and experienced the lush riverine bush along the Great Limpopo and parts of the Levhuvu he realised that the bird life is extraordinary and in season visits to the flooded pans would be exceptional.
A Wilderness Experience here would be most enlightening due to the different species of wild animals roaming this botanical wonderland on the flood plains and in the riverine and surroundings of the Great Limpopo.
Mike envisaged the potential of a three night trail along the southern banks of the Levhuvu, upstream and westwards from the Mbombene drift. The old anthrax camp at Mbombene could be the base for the first and last nights out in the AFRICAN bush.
Mike realised that he had to convince his superiors about his plans.
On 9 June 1974 he took Dr. Rocco Knobel the then Chief Director of Ntional Parks Board to Lanner Gorge and showed him the gorge as well as the area south of the Levhuvu River.
Mike mentioned his idea of starting walking trails in this 200 square km area south of the river as seen from Lanner Gorge, now a large part of the Nyalaland Trails area. Mention was also made of day trails along the Limpopo. While the iron was hot he also mentioned the possibility of a trail from Mbombene Drift westwards along the Levhuvu and back.
9 June 1974 was indeed a historic day as it was the first time that walking trails in the KNP were discussed in earnest.
Dr. Knobel was indeed impressed by the beauty of the area, but also expressed his concern with the danger factor with walking trails and sleeping in the open. He promised to give the idea some serious consideration and would also discuss it with some other appropriate people. A specific concern was the high number of breeding herds of Elephant in the area.
Mike replied that Tommy Orford the Ranger in charge of the Mabalauta section of the Ghona-Re-Zhou National Park just over the border in Rhodesia North-east of Pafuri had been doing trails for the past 5 years without any serious incidents with Elephant or any of the other dangerous species.
Mike took leave during April 1975, the English family consisting of Father Mike, Wife Andre and Sons Don and Ross set off on a holiday in Rhodesia and visited the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and the Mabalauta in Ghona-re-Zhou National Park.
At that stage there was a mutual agreement between the Rhodesian National parks and Wildlife Management and the South African National parks for free entry and accommodation in each other’s Parks.
Here below is a copy of the letter of introduction written by Mr. Dolf Brynard requesting free entry and accommodation for the English family.Large
Ranger Tommy Orford and his wife Dawn hosted the English family at the Mabalauta Ranger’s Post; they stayed at the Shimuweni rest camp at Buffalo Bend on the Nuanetsi River. The English family was the only occupants as the tourist season only opened on 1st May.
Each of the five huts was placed under a large Baobab tree, giving the Camp its Shangaan name. There were still two more Baobabs without huts, two more huts were designated for the future – seven huts would be the limit.
The matter of trails were frequently discussed and the experienced Tommy extended an open invitation to the English family to join him for a few days on one of these.
Mike could have no better introduction to trails as Tommy already had a few years experience of this wonderful experience.