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Marakele National Park

Marakele National Park, Limpopo, South Africa  © Marco Schmidt, License

Marakele National Park

Marakele National Park

Marakele National Park is situated in the Waterberg mountain range in the Limpopo Province near Thabazimbi, approximately 250km north of Johannesburg. Although the distance is 250km, the drive from Gauteng is 4 hours and 3 hours from Tshwane. But the drive is more than worth it when you eventually arrive at Marakele. Words cant even begin to explain the beauty of the rose coloured Kransberg rising up from the grass-clad hills, and the camelthorn trees rising up like great sculptures into the sky. The reserve which was originally known Kransberg National Park after it was founded in 1994 forms part of the Waterberg Biosphere.

Set in malaria-free dense savannah bushveld, Marakele offers visitors a reasonable chance of seeing most of the Big Five. All the large game species from elephant and rhino to the big cats as well as an amazing variety of birds including whats probably the largest colony of endangered Cape vultures (more than 800 breeding pairs) in the world, have settled here. As its Tswana name (Marakele) suggests, the reserve has become a place of sanctuary for an impressive variety of wildlife due to its location in the transitional zone between the dry western and moister eastern regions of South Africa. When in the reserve visitors are encouraged to keep their eyes open for the Cape Vultures catching thermals in the park, but a drive up to the Sentech Towers which is the nearest point to the colony will allow visitors a closer encounters with these enormous birds, often leaving them breathless. Some of the 30 young elephants which had originally been captured in Botswanas Tuli game reserve and removed from their herds by illegal animal traders were released into the park in 1999 which captured the public's and media's attention. There are also large predators such as brown hyena, leopard and lion in the park. As for antelope species, reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, eland and tsessebe can also be found here.

Some of the plant species found in Marakele include yellowwood and cedar trees, five metre high cycads and tree ferns. From its Waterberg Cycads to Yellow-woods and Camel Thorns, Marakele National Parks supports about 765 plant species. The naturalist, author and poet Eugene Marais lived in the Waterberg for 16 years and the Waterberg Cycad (Encephalartos eugene-maraisii) which is endemic to the Waterberg was named in his honour.

The park is also appealing to birders as it falls within the transition zone between the dry western regions of South Africa and the moister eastern regions. Because of this it is possible to see certain closely related species alongside one another. The Marakele National Park bird list consists of over 870 different birds. Visitors should keep a special watch for raptors, with many species using the uplift generated off the cliff faces of the Waterberg, these include the African Harrier Hawk, the Jackal Buzzard and several eagle species, including the Verreaux, the African Hawk, and the Black-chested Snake and Brown Snake Eagle.

People in sedan vehicles might find the road conditions in certain areas of the park (main road) a bit challenging but the park is working on the major road revamp and the information will be updated as soon as the new development has been completed.

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