Year in the Wild Blog

Kruger catch-up – Week 9 – ending at Pafuri’s Thula Mela

So, this is my last blog post from my last week in Kruger, which is also my last week of the official Year in the Wild 2013-14. I’m still processing (in my head and heart) much of what I’ve seen, and I’ll upload a blog in the next few weeks that tries to distill the essence of what I’ve learnt and felt.

Pafuri is my favourite part of Kruger. Located in the very north of the park, the scenery is completely different to the rest of the 2 million hectare protected area. Fever tree forests, lush riverine bush, beautiful rivers and hundreds and hundreds of baobabs.

The birdlife in this area is considered the best in the park too, but for me, another great reason to come here is Thula Mela, the reconstructed ruins of a civilisation dating back to about 1450 AD. Experts reckon about 2 000 people (ancestors of today’s Shona and Tsonga people) lived here, with cattle and farm fields, but also trading ivory and other items with surrounding tribes and communitites. Two “royal” graves were also found, and after the skeletons and artefacts were studied, the bones were re-interred.

It’s the second time I’ve been here, and once again, I was moved by the experience. It’s a very beautiful spot, on top of a series of small hills, overlooking the Levuvhu River. There are at least 50 baobabs in the vicinity, and the reconstructed walls are beautiful, and a credit to the stone masons who used the original rocks.

The guides are excellent, especially Daniel Shibambu, who makes the place come alive through sheer enthusiasm and love for the place. Phil Lennon from 50/50 TV program was filming me at Thula Mela, and the guides made it that much easier to do the shoot!

One of the legends of the north of Kruger - Frank Mabasa. Frank is the caretaker at Pafuri Picnic Site in the very north of Kruger. But he is more than a caretaker. He is one of the country's best birders, and has built up a remarkable reputation in the region for his sightings and for teaching visitors about the area. He lives at his house bear Pafuri camp site with his wife Esther, in a part of Kruger which has very few visitors. Which is so wrong, because Pafuri is probably the BEST part of Kruger, with incredibly different, beautiful scenery and remarkable birdlife in particular.

Phil and I went with these good gentlemen to Thula Mela archaeological site in Pafuri. A trip to Thula Mela should be on everyone's "must-do" list. From left to right: Carel Nkuna, Daniel Shibambu and Witness Mamatho...

Daniel, Witness and Carel inside the reconstructed walls of one of the kraals at Thula Mela - the walls were rebuilt by modern stone masons, using the rocks from the original walls, which after five centuries had collapsed.

Thula Mela is one of the most atmospheric and evocative places in Kruger. There are at least 50 baobabs around the ruins, and the views of the Levhuvu River are superb. The trips to Thula Mela are arranged through Punda Maria. And the guides are excellent...very informative.

To give you an idea of the size of the baobabs at Thula Mela...spot the men to the right of this tree.

Me and my Ford Everest at Crook's Corner, where the Levuvhu River meets the Limpopo River. To the north is Zimbabwe, and not far east is Mozambique.

African rock python. We spotted this young snake on the Pafuri river road...I haven't seen one for a while, so it was great to get some decent photos.

They are very beautiful snakes. Because I was with SANParks guides - Daniel and Carel - we got out the car to get a bit closer to the snake, which lay very still for about 15 mins, before moving away quickly.

There are some impressive crocs in the Levuvhu River! Swim, anyone?

For more, go to www.yearinthewild.com and www.facebook.com/yearinthewild. Check out my Flickr photos at www.flickr.com/scottnramsay and my Instagram photos at www.instagram.com/wildscotty. Twitter on www.twitter.com/yearinthewild.

Thanks to my partners Cape Union MartFord EverestGoodyear, and K-Way.

As well as WildCardEeziAwnFrontrunnerGlobecommHetznerNational LunaOutdoor PhotoSafari Centre Cape Town, Tracks 4 Africa, and Vodacom.

Conservation partners BirdLife South AfricaBotswana Department of Wildlife and National ParksCapeNatureEastern Cape Parks and TourismEzemvelo KZN WildlifeGorongosa National ParkiSimangaliso Wetland Park, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Parque Nacional do Limpopo, South African National Parks and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

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