The southern border of the Kruger National Park is a magical place to experience the bush. Nestled along the banks of the mighty Crocodile River you see some amazing things if you invest the time and patience necessary to make great sightings.
My wife and I have been taking our two daughters for bush walks in Marloth Park along the Crocodile River for about a month now. We usually go in the mornings, or in the late afternoon when heat of the day has simmered down and the light is still good enough to see across the river.
We take a back pack with the essentials, (bug spray, sun block, hats, water, binoculars, camera and bird book) and make our way down to Seekoei road where all the action transpires in the way of giant pachyderms cooling off in the river and their bovine neighbours precariously making their way across the river in search of the juicy grazing just beyond the crocodile infested ponds.
It is usually quite a hike, especially considering my daughter is only three and normally makes the walk unaided. This is a great time for us to spend time together and really enjoy what is on offer in the bush. Seeing one of the big five can be quite a humbling experience and really drives home the beauty and splendour on our doorstep. We have also taken to birding and can’t wait to mark the sighting of a new bird variety in our bird book.
Aside from quality time we spend together, the health benefits of the fresh air and exercise and the tranquil surroundings, these special walks have had a profound impact on our appreciation of nature, as well as created budding zoologists and biologists in the form of my two daughters. Following our time in the bush they have learnt to identify several bird, mammal, reptile and insect varieties and are always eager to learn more in these respective fields. Yesterday we were lucky enough to see two beautiful white rhinos making their way down to the water’s edge to quench their thirst. For about ten minutes we just stood in sheer awe of these two rhinos. For those of you who are parents, you will understand how seldom a three year old and a six year old will stand dead still and just concentrate on one focal point. Rhino sightings are always the highlight of our day. Due to poaching, these magnificent creatures are sadly being driven to extinction, so seeing them with my children is especially important and is a memory that we will cherish for a long time. There has been a lot of media attention on the plight of the rhino in South Africa so my six year old, understands to a certain extent why seeing a rhino is so special.
For those of you who enjoy birding, there are guided walks focused on finding and identifying bird species and these are overseen by our very own honorary rangers. I plan on going on the next one, family in toe in the hope of some avian edification.
A decent camera and lens make recording your bird sightings much easier and can serve as proof of your rare sightings.
We also make use of three relatively cheap binoculars which really help with some sightings. Having said this, the serious enthusiast will find some really nice ones at places like Cape Union Mart and online.
The ‘Sasol Birds of Southern Africa’ makes a great field guide with illustrations that make identifying birds easy and very informative.
Although it is still relatively early, I am eagerly anticipating my afternoon rendezvous on the river. I hope that this post has inspired, or at least brought this great activity to likeminded people’s attention.