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Rehabilitation of natural bush in the camps

Discuss the different camps and roads of the Kruger National Park
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Kingfisha
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Rehabilitation of natural bush in the camps

Unread postby Kingfisha » Tue Jul 10, 2007 10:28 am

I would like to come back to the discussion around water restrictions in KNP.
In all our 'traditional' camps the lush lawns and gardens are great to look at and forms part of the character of the camps.
This may be a dangerous statement, but I believe parks management should seriously look at replacing those with other indigenous plants and turn the camp gardens back to the original vegetation.
The continuous watering of these lawns and gardens must use MUCH more water than we think....

For example the new camps are all natural and have very little lawn and/or planted vegetation.
Look at the bushveld camps and the new camps at Mapungubwe.
OK, I just threw a cat among the pigeons....hope it is not too controversial. :|

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Unread postby KNP Spokesman » Tue Jul 10, 2007 10:44 am

Hi Kingfisha

I don't think your post is controversial at all. I think it could be a good discussion.

If you look at all the new (or newer) camps, we are certainly giving preference to the indigenous vegetation. Have a look at Mopani for example and compare it to Letaba and there is a huge difference.

The problem would be to try and replace what is there already with indigenous bush. That would be a relatively slow process but it has already started with the simple fact that ONLY indigenous trees may be planted in camps. The alien eradication teams are also in the process of removing any aliens found in camps and staff villages (surely our first priority).

But what would the majority of guests say to the removal of lawns and the subsequent rehabilitation to the natural bush of that particular area - I am thinking particularly of Pretoriuskop here?

It would be interesting to get other opinions on this matter.

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Unread postby Snoobab » Tue Jul 10, 2007 10:58 am

A bit of a catch 22 situation.
I am all for removing alien bushes, trees and shrubs but the lawn is another thing.
I know my folks love Letaba and have been going there for years and to them the lawns are a big attraction as with P/kop.
I understand the reasoning about the lawns and there need for lots of water but I feel they add so much to the camps that have them. Just MHO.

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bert
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Unread postby bert » Tue Jul 10, 2007 11:05 am

Also love the lawns. Like the one next to the river at Lower Sabie.
Alernative could be (costly) to pave some sections and provide
more benches.
Or pave with Acre for Africa bricks.

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Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Tue Jul 10, 2007 12:59 pm

I remember once reading about a "drip irrigation" system developed in Israel.
You don't get much drier than that.
I wonder if these alternatives have been considered.
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Unread postby Senyetse » Tue Jul 10, 2007 1:00 pm

KNP should continue with their current policy. Eradicate ALL INVASIVE alien plants, keep the old camps as they are, all new camps and extensions to older camps (ie day visitor areas) indigenous plants only.

Keeps everyone happy. But of course that doesn't solve water problems entirely but it reduces water usage.
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Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Tue Jul 10, 2007 1:12 pm

Alien invaders are a real problem. Another problem is that most grasses, particularly green grasses are fairly greedy.

On the other hand, one does need an environment that is soothing and welcoming to visitors.

As I mentioned in my last post, at some point I read that the Israelis, who are forever water short, had developed a "drip system" that eliminated heat vapour.
In other words, every drip went straight into the ground,and not up into the air.
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Unread postby francoisd » Wed Jul 11, 2007 10:52 am

For the life of me I cannot "see" the type of grass used for the lawns in the camps.

Anyone know the answer?
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Unread postby francoisd » Wed Jul 11, 2007 1:12 pm

The reason for my question is that some "indigenous" grasses need much less water than for instance an invasive species like Kikuyu (no idea how you spell it).
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Unread postby richardharris » Wed Jul 11, 2007 1:22 pm

I love the mix of 'gardens' in the various camps. I would hate to see Letaba changed in any way at all - it is a fabulous camp, very peaceful, and attarcts amazing birdlife.

Shingwedzi is the opposite extreme, with some superb trees and bushes but just dust to walk on. But its in such a dry area there is no other alternative!

Punda and Mopani have other ideas; areas to walk through which are 'real bush' and fascinating in their own way.

Variety is everything.

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Unread postby Stephen » Sat Jul 14, 2007 12:58 pm

Please allow me a moment to qualify and quantify what has happened at Biyamiti.

Biyamiti was opened during 1991, and since that time there has been no natural de-bushing, by elephants for instance, happening inside the camp itself and bar two occasions where fire partially burnt down areas of the natural bush inside the camp very little vegetation control has been done inside the fence.

When one compares the sections of bush inside the camp to sections outside the camp there is a vast difference in the density of the vegetation. That leads to mainly two problems.
Firstly the build-up of plant material becomes a fire hazard especially during the dryer months.
Should the bush inside the camp take on fire we will have our work cut out to actually save the camp from being totally destroyed.
Remember we do not have a fire brigade just around the corner and the closest help will be at least 45 minutes away. (Murphy's Law also says it will happen at night - which of course is just complicating matters).
Secondly the build up of plant material has also resulted in the vegetation obscuring any view towards the river and from cottage 10 towards 15 the bush was so intrusive towards the front of the cottages that it almost had a claustrophobic effect.
So yes this had an influence as well in the decision (after all I am working in Hospitality so I need to listen to the requests from our guests as well.)

After consultation with our section ranger it was decided that a decent clean-up of the camp was needed.
We considered controlled burning but I was not comfortable with that at all.
We then decided to cut out quite a lot of the bush and manage it better in future.
Most long grass was cut (but not replaced with lawn), most trees and shrubs were trimmed and quite a number of shrubs (mostly raisin bushes and red spiky thorn) were in fact cut out.
We left special pockets of bush, like the area in front of #15 in tact, as that created a special ambiance of that unit.
Towards the back of the cottages we left the natural bush (albeit overgrown) in tact as well, as we decided that it should be manageable with our fire fighting equipment that we had at Biyamiti.

Without trying to sound too defensive on this issue, but I think it can be seen from the above that we do not just take our decisions lightly.
I am better qualified in the line of Nature Conservation than in Hospitality and would like to think that I balance the needs and safety of my guest well against the impact on nature, even within the camp (which in the end is an artificial environment with lots of human impacts).
However, when something has been left for too long it sometimes needs more drastic measures to correct.
I have always been prepared to take the responsibility of those decisions on me (and the flack that comes with it), but it is not something that is just taken lightly.

Thank you for the chance given to me to put the scenario in context.
:D
Stephen Nel
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Jumbo

Unread postby Jumbo » Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:00 am

We have visited Biyamiti many times over several years.
We have stayed in #9 before and after the removal of SOME of the scrubs.
As Wild-doc, we have also had some great sightings from the patio of #9.
Just a hint, just because the riverbed appears to be dry to you, does not mean there is no water….the water is under the surface and the ellies dig holes that are used by a variety of animals.

IMHO, the small amount of bush removed had no effect on the bird population in the camp what so ever, especially if you consider the big area of bush still in this camp.
Come to think about it, Biyamiti actually has a bigger area of natural bush in the camp than camps like Shimuwini, Talamati and even Sirheni.

On the subject of gardens in camps….I believe it is a total waste of precious water.
We have often seen, especially in Satara, sprayers been left to water lawns for hours on end, and this during the hottest part of the day….in the hot summer months this makes for great birding, but is really a misuse of water.

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Unread postby Perks. » Mon Jul 16, 2007 9:15 am

Comment...

I feel that the 'naturalisation' of certain former gardens and lush lawns should be permitted to take place, and that planning for new camps or refurbishment projects should provide only for the bare minimum of formal landscaping, in areas where visitors are sure to congregate, i.e. around reception, and shops / restaurants.

Lawns use a heck of a lot of water, and if it's done in the heat of the day, most of that water is lost to evaporation.

However, that said, as a parent of two youngish kids (ages 9 and 5 respectively), I appreciate the existence and upkeep of lawned areas, as areas in which kids can play, without the fear of snakes or bugs associated with dense bush, or of falling on hard dirt. They unfortunately do not grasp the concept of formal garden being 'alien' to the reserve. Sure, they will grow up and understand the concept, but by that time, other visitors will have little kids who appreciate the safe playspace, and so the cycle will continue. For that reason, I cannot, and will not support the wholesale intentional 'conversion' of formal gardens to indigenous bush.

Little kids need a good dose of rough and tumble, considering they're going along with their parents' wishes of spending hours and hours in the car. A good spot to have a bit of a runaround is the least we can do to reward their patience. And the byproduct is, when they grow up and have kids, they will remember that KNP had kid-friendly lawns and gardens, and we will have imparted the love of Kruger through another generation.
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Unread postby Stephen » Tue Jul 17, 2007 7:56 am

:D Greetings from Berg en Dal

Thank you Wild Doc & Jumbo.
Perks, I must say you summed it up very well. I am of the opinion that we should be looking after our kids visiting the parks to make sure that they will keep on visiting the parks as adults.

Watering of lawns is a very contentious issue and KNP management have introduced stricter rules regarding the times of watering etc. At present camps are only allowed to water the gardens four days a week and only for periods early morning up to 09:00 and afternoon after 16:00. Of course, should there be a need for it, watering will be limited further.

Warm regards :D
Stephen Nel

Manager: Hospitality Services

Berg & Dal Rest Camp: KNP

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Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Tue Jul 17, 2007 2:21 pm

Thanks Stephen for your very lucid explanation.

I do believe that we have to accept that water is a scarce resource and use it with care. That might not always be comfortable.

As much as I love the green lawns, and the peace they bring, I also welcome anything that encourages natural rhythms.
I am afraid that our love for the green and manicured puts a lot of strain on resources.
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