After a long but interesting drive to the Limpopo area, we arrived at Mopane Lodge, in Mapungubwe NP. This would be our home for the next three nights. Mapungubwe National Park borders South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. It is open savannah on the confluence of the Shashe and the famous Limpopo river. The terrain of sandstone koppie formations, riverine vegetation and open flood plains was very different from Entabeni. There were numerous Mopane, Baobab and Shepherd trees dotting the landscape.
Mopane bush lodge is situated in the heart of Mopane bushveld on the Mapesu Reserve. After an excellent lunch and rest we set out on our first game drive. The reserve looked to be in development and after Entabeni the animal sightings seemed to be a lot fewer. We did see Red Duiker, lots of Shrub Hare, male Kudu, Waterbuck and Giraffe. As well as the presence of numerous Guinea Fowl, Crowned Plovers, Southern White Crowned Shrike, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and Grey Lourie (Go Away birds).
We stopped for sundowners on the dam and watched a Grey Heron and Night Jars flying low in the dusk. As we stood and watched the night sky began to appear. It was an amazing sight with the expanse of the Milky Way, Venus, Orion’s Belt and the Southern Cross clearly visible.
Day four – Rock paintings
At this lodge we were not just looking for wildlife, we were also going to experience the historical culture of the ancient bush men. After a good nights sleep an early morning bush walk over rocky boulders took us to some ancient rock shelters of the San bushmen. The rocky walls of the shelter were adorned with over two hundred images of animals and people.
Using only their hands and porcupine quills all the images were drawn by men. It was thought that the woman didn’t have the skills required. They were all red or white in colour, the paint being made from blood, earth, egg yolk and water. Many of the drawings were easily identifiable as animals that are still present today.
Nearby shallow hollows patterns had been carved out on the surface of a flat sandstone rock. It was thought that this was a game, which it seems was only played by men.
As we were looking at the rock paintings a Little Swift was desperately trying to get to its’ nest under the overhang of the rock shelter. Two chicks were visible in the nest, waiting for food. A family of Rock Hyrax hurriedly hid amongst the rocks and a Giraffe stood majestically against the skyline. Red Duiker and Klipspringer climbed leaping from rock to rock as we walked past.
Afternoon Game Drive
After lunch back at the lodge we had time for a rest before the afternoon game drive in Mapungubwe Reserve. As we entered the reserve Klipspringer leapt along a rock face, groups of Impala and Zebra gazed at us as we drove past. In a tree two African Snake Eagles sat preening as Helmeted Guinea Fowl and Francolins scurried across the track in front of us. Further along the track a Crocodile lay in wait in a waterhole and a troop of Baboons noisily ran around a grassy area. By the side of the track the iridescent blue of the Blue Eared Starling flashed amongst the trees. Buffalo Weavers nested in the branches of a Baobab tree, flying to and fro with food.
Elephant Stand Off
We had to leave the park before sunset and were headed towards our sundowner stop when we encountered a herd of Elephants. Unfortunately, we were on a narrow track in a gorge, bordered by scrub on either side. Elephants were either side of us, in front and behind us. Effectively we were stationary in the middle of the elephants when two young males started to fight. It was quite frightening to be so close to such huge animals. The noise was tremendous as with ears flapping, trunks and tusks clashing and branches breaking they pushed each other, getting nearer to the vehicle. Very slowly, almost holding our breath, we inched forward as a gap appeared in front of us.
Leaving the Elephants behind we sped towards the gate. Unfortunately a group of Giraffe were leisurely taking a stroll along the track. Our progress was held up once more . Eventually as the light started to disappear we made it to the gate with only two minutes to spare. No time for sundowners in the bush, we had to have them back at the lodge.
Dinner was around the pool, under the stars as Fireflies, Nightjars and Bats flew over head. We put the trail camera outside our lodge. It captured a Porcupine and a Impala moving along a track.