Over the next two days at Pafuri Camp, Brian took us back to where the leopard had killed the bushbuck, and one evening we were rewarded with a fantastic sighting of her. She was in the same acacia albida tree where we had first spotted her, but this time she was fat and replete from eating the bushbuck. Nothing was going to disturb her, as she lay lazily on the branch.
Brian drove us almost underneath her, and we watched her from below. She yawned and stretched a few times, as Brian shone the spotlight on her. But she had no time for us, and simply snoozed while we watched her. It’s tempting to think she’s a cute pussycat, but I wouldn’t like to cross her path at night when she’s hungry!
Other highlights included a trip to Crook’s Corner, where the Luvuvhu River meets the Limpopo, and where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique connect. It’s a legendary place which has been used in the past two centuries as the retreat and hideaway of ivory hunters, thieves and labour recruiters for the mines on the highveld.
On the way to Crook’s Corner, we drove through the largest tract of fever tree forest in Pafuri. It’s one of the most impressive sights I’ve seen on my journey this past year – thousands of yellowish-green fever trees extending seemingly without end into the distance. Brian told us that it’s a relatively new forest, which grew in the 1930s after a cyclone moved through the area, flooding the plain and creating just the right conditions for the fever trees to grow. As you’ll see when you visit, there are no young trees growing…
Underneath the trees, the veld has been grazed clear by buffalo and impala, so it makes for incredibly walking…it’s a wonderland, and instills a veritable sense of contentment and peace. In fact, the whole of Pafuri makes for great walking, and guests have the option of booking a three-night walking trip with Brian. Visitors spend the nights at a tented base camp several kilometres from the main camp, and are guided each day to walk in a new part of Pafuri. I definitely want to come back and do that!
At Crook’s Corner, we got out of the vehicle and walked a short way to the confluence of the two rivers. The Limpopo at this time of year is completely dry, while the Luvuvhu was flowing and relatively deep. Several large crocs lay on the sand banks, sunning themselves. What’s interesting to me is that historical records indicate that the Limpopo was a perennial river, flowing all year round. However, upstream agriculture and mining are heavy utilisers of the water, and when there’s a drought, the great Limpopo River is a big stretch of sand.
(I’ll be heading next to Mapungubwe National Park, which is also situated on the Limpopo River, and a battle is currently being fought over a coal mine which is being planned just a few kilometres from the national park…and water rights are one of the pressing matters under debate. Who has rights to the water? The people, the land or the animals? Or all three? How much should be taken from the river, and what should be left for the sustained existence of the natural ecosystems? These are crucial concerns in an arid country like South Africa, and especially in places like Pafuri and Mapungubwe. )
We had sundowners on our last evening at one of the biggest baobab in Kruger National Park. It was a real monster…and has probably been standing for over 2 000 years. Seeing a tree like that gives great hope and inspires confidence in nature’s resilience, and is a symbol of the permanence of life. The tree could stand for another 2 000 years, and in that time, the human lifestyle would have changed massively…yet trees like the baobab will still be standing (I hope!). Just how much of nature will be left is anyone’s guess, but long may the baobab, the leopard and the elephant survive and thrive here inPafuri.
On the last morning, Brian took us to Lanner Gorge in the north-west of Kruger. It’s a bumpy drive to the top of the look-out point, but definitely worth it. For regular visitors to Kruger, the views of Lanner Gorge would certainly confuse you…it doesn’t look anything like “Kruger”…the steep sandstone cliffs are cut through by the Luvuvhu River, and there’s nothing to suggest that you’re in the lowveld. We had our coffee and biscuits on the edge of a cliff, looking down into the gorge, where a huge croc was sunning itself on the sand. A perfect way to end my time in Pafuri…and in Kruger itself.
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