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Sunset over the Crocodile River

Sunset over the Crocodile River

We seldom appreciate the simple things around us. We live in such a fast paced and frantic way that these sorts of things just pass us by. Lets start taking note of the beauty and splendor around us and stop racing towards the future.

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Exotic fruit prized by humans and pachyderms alike

If anyone was to ask me, what single smell conjures up memories of the African bush, it has to be the scent of Marula fruit on a hot summer’s day. The sweet aroma of these little fruits is unmistakable and very appealing.

People who are not from South Africa might not be familiar with the fruit in its’ natural form, however there is a creamy liqueur that is exported around the world and is quite popular, that uses the fruit as one of its’ chief ingredients and is called Amarula.

You will be hard pressed to find a tree more aesthetically pleasing and versatile than the Marula tree (Sclerocarya Birrea). This tree can grow up to 18 metres tall and has a grey flaky bark with a spreading crown.  According to the book “Making the most of indigenous trees” the tree bears its’ golden fruit from January to March when countless varieties of animals indulge in what this deciduous tree has to offer.

Aside from the flesh of the fruit, which can be used for making jam and juice the seeds contain nuts which can be eaten raw or roasted. An essence made from the leaves is said to have anti-inflammatory qualities according to the website: www.marula.org.za.

Something that the aspiring horticulturalist will find interesting is that these trees are relatively easy to propagate and are fast growing and drought resistant. According to “Making the most of indigenous trees”  which is a fantastic wealth of information on trees, by planting the seed in a nursery bag full of river sand you are able to sprout seedlings. If you are able to accrue a truncheon which is about 2 metres in length you can plant it in early spring.

So for all of the visitors to the Kruger National Park and Marloth Park, look out for the iconic Marula tree. There are female and male trees, with only the female producing the fruit. As a reminder of your trip to South Africa, you will be able to pick up a bottle of Amarula liqueur at the duty free section of the airport.

Cycling in the bush

For all you lycra clad, weekend warriors, the single tracks of Marloth Park are calling. It’s time to take that sizeable investment hanging on the garage wall, remove the cobwebs and squeeze into your favourite cycling teams jersey. It is time to put those six months worth of carbo-loading into good use on the bush trails and roads in Marloth Park.

You can’t beat seeing the southern border of the Kruger National Park from your bicycle. For all those roadies out there, I am afraid you will have to leave your road bikes at home and invest in something more robust to handle the dirt roads and single tracks. Cycling along in the bush is a great way to interact with the environment and as long as you are not huffing and puffing like a water buffalo, chances are you will get great sightings of game.

There is roughly 96km of road in Marloth Park with only two of the roads being tarred. Most of the fun is to be had on the river road where there are long sections of single track along the fence which overlooks the Crocodile River. There are a few technical sections which require a small amount of skill to complete, that is if you don’t plan on taking a few soil and rock samples with your face. I say a small amount of skill, as I still tend to get off my bike when I get to one of them due to a previous superman manoeuvre that I pulled off perfectly regardless of my grazes and bruises.

Aside from your bike, there are a few essentials that you will need to consider bringing along when cycling in Marloth Park.

–          Buff

–          Helmet

–          Any electrolyte based dinks

–          Sun block

–          Bug spray

–          Energy snacks

–          Pump

–          Puncture repair kit

Sun block is a must in this part of the world. We have some of the best weather in the country with lots of sunny hot days. Make sure you choose a sun block that will provide ample protection from the hot African sun. Remember to reapply regularly as per the manufacturer’s recommendation. Being burnt to a cinder is no way to spend your holiday and that’s not to mention the tan lines that will provide hours of comic relief for friends and family alike.

Another precaution that you will need to take is to ensure you are adequately hydrated and be careful not to over-hydrate. Make sure that you are consuming the right liquids in the right quantities. Over exertion in this climate can very quickly lead to heat stroke.

So, you have convinced yourself that a visit with your trusty steed to the bush is on the cards. Now is the time to prove to all those naysayers that taking out a second mortgage to finance your mountain bike was in fact a sensible thing to do after all.

I look forward to seeing you on the single tracks.

Bush walks along the southern border of the Kruger National Park with children

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.