Year in the Wild Blog

YITW 2013-14 – Heart of the bushveld at Marakele NP

On my way north towards Mapungubwe, I spent three nights at Marakele National Park in the Waterberg region of South Africa, near the town of Thabazimbi. I first visited here in winter time, but this time I arrived in summer, and I enjoyed the contrast. This is the heartland of the bushveld habitat, and in winter it can seem a little dreary, but in summer, the land comes alive.

It’s a very diverse park, so although bushveld predominates, the park’s upper reaches on the Lenong Mountain is more typical of the Cape mountains, with flowering proteas and an endemic species of Ceder tree, named after the famous ethologist and naturalist Eugene Marais, who lived in the Waterberg and became famous for his studies on baboons and termites.

The more time you spend in the bushveld of South Africa, the more you fall in love with it. It’s not as immediately scenic as other habitats perhaps, but it’s the heartland of the country, and in many ways defines South Africa. Let’s face it: there is no more quintessential South African scene than a group of people braaing boerewors in bushveld country as the crimson sun sets through the dusty sky.

The campsites at Bontle are shaded by acacia trees...and it is unfenced, so you're likely to have rhinos walking past sometimes. The lions, however, are not in this section of the park, so don't stress...

The view from Tlopi Tented Camp is one of my favourite in the parks network. When I see this photo, I just want to go back there, start a braai, crack a beer and spend the evening eating lamb chops with my friends or family.

The view coming down the beautiful Lenong Road, which leads from the bushveld plains below to the mountains above, at an altitude of about 2000 metres.

Proteas?!? What are they doing here, so far from the Cape? The Waterberg (and Drakenbserg) both have several species of proteas that grow happily here, a relic population from a time when perhaps fynbos was more prolific across the region.

More proteas...great to see them here. They made me homesick for Cape Town and Table Mountain National Park!

Some female kudus drinking from the dam at Tlopi Tented Camp

Crimson sunset...bushveld style at Marakele

An old male giraffe...look how dark and rich his colouring is...a good indicator of his age.

White rhino grazing near to the offices of the park...the park has some of the best security in the country, but despite this, poachers have killed a few rhinos over the recent years. Nevertheless, the rhinos in the park are habituated to vehicles, and it's possible for visitors to see them up close, without the rhinos worrying about you.

This white rhino was not fussed at all by all the comings and goings of the park staff near the entrance gate.

Chilling out...white rhinos are in fact docile creatures most of the time. It's only hunters that pretend they aren't. I have no idea why hunters think it's a challenge to shoot these animals...several times I have been able to walk up close to white rhinos, with a ranger, and they've hardly been perturbed by our presence.

Typical bushveld on the slopes of the Waterberg...

A grey rhebok on the high slopes of the Waterberg...

For more, go to and Check out my Flickr photos at and my Instagram photos at Twitter on

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.


  • Pingback: Heart of the bushveld at Marakele National Park - Africa Geographic Magazine Blog

  • I recently had the privilege of spending the weekend in the most amazing place, Marakele National Park. It was awe inspiring to say the least. The scenery was wonderful and the wild life was great. What I found strange though was that a lot of the game species were quite tame, they did not run off if approached.At the Bontle camp site some animales came right into the camping area which is not fenced off. Now don’t get me wrong, this was wonderful, yet it worried me a bit as Rhinos were part of the show and I could not help thinking about how easy it would be to poach these beautiful timid creatures. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to view these animals up close, we should all be doing our bit to protect our country and our wild life.
    There is another concern I have though and that is the invasion of an awful weed that seems to be spreading like wild fire. the plant is pale green with yellow flowers in clusters on hardy stems. I unfortunatley do not have a photo yet, but should have one soon. this weed is prevelant in the Bontle camp area,espcially in the field around the waterhole and is spreading fast. There were only a few areas in big Marakele that had some of the weed, so there is still time to stop the spread. I found a few sites to which I will be sending the info to, which I hope will help solve the problem. Please if you can advise further please do .
    Thank you for your beautiful photos !!!!!


Leave a comment to Linda van Zyl Cancel reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>