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.

Design guidelines in Marloth Park

Building guidelines for Marloth Park

These guidelines were put in place and are enforced to ensure that Marloth Park remains a unique place with emphasis on the ecology of the area and the well being of the animals and plant life. Some of the guidelines might seem trivial to the prospective home builder, however they have far reaching implications on our animal population and diverse plant species.

Existing houses  

Existing houses with corrugated iron roofs must be painted within one rainy season. The colours permitted are: dark green, black or brown. The roof of a house is a very prominent feature, and one could understand why choosing the right colour can ensure that the man-made structure does not detract from its’ surroundings. Plastered walls are a great finish and lend themselves to the “Bush Theme”. Well thought out colour choices can result in your property becoming part of its’ environment. Recommended colours:

–     Old Cape (and darker)

–     Khalahari Sand (and darker)

–     Terra Cotta (and darker)

Steel doors, steel garage doors, door and window frames, facia boards, gutters, downpipes, visible sewerage, and water pipes as well as burglar bars must be painted with egg-shell (mat) paint.

Designing your new home is an exciting exercise and takes into account things like budget, style and finishes. Designing your new bush home has additional considerations to it.  Part and parcel of building is removing obstructions and clearing spaces. This is a challenge that you and your architect will need to address after looking at the site of the proposed building. Try to cause minimal disturbance to the natural environment. Avoid removing trees unless it is absolutely necessary. Many a home has been improved with a tree as part of the structure. Wooden decks are often built around trees which are aesthetically pleasing and provide added shade and finish off a well designed bush home. Marloth Park has a vast array of tree varieties. Some of these trees are real colossal monuments that have stood the test of time. We are very fortunate to have valuable trees such as the leadwood, marula and jackalberry and very rare trees such as the commiphora schimperi and red ivory. If you are lucky enough to have one of these trees on your property it is imperative that you indicate them on your building plans. When consulting architects who are not familiar with Marloth Parks’ unique situation and by-laws it is important that you bring the various aspects of this post to their attention.

Design guidelines

Thatched roofs have proven to be very effective in Marloth Park due to the climate. Standard building guidelines will apply to the construction of a thatch roof with a few additional points of consideration.  The pitch of a thatch roof must not be dropped by more than 45°. By dropping the pitch by more than 45° you find that the grass becomes mouldy due to the climate. The choice of grass used for thatching is an important decision. Consult your builder/thatcher with regards to the kind of grass that would be best suited to your building and ensure you know where the grass has been sourced. Grass must be allowed to stand through a winter season to dry and then die from frost before harvesting. This particular grass is more suited to our climate.

Having a thatched roof can give you the sense of increased space as there isn’t a ceiling. This will only enhance the theme of the house. Special care must be taken when wiring and fitting your house with electrical points and light fittings. It should be endeavoured to avoid putting electrical wiring and light fittings in the roof construction.

It is also recommended that a concrete ridge is used for the ridge on the top of the thatch roof as opposed to fibreglass.  Fibreglass ridges entice bats, snakes and rock monitors as inhabitants. It is always fantastic to see these creatures in the bush, but not so endearing when they are inside your thatch roof.  We are very fortunate to have baboons in the area. They are very entertaining to watch and command a fair amount of respect. Having said this, they can be very destructive to property and have been known to damage thatch roofs. To avoid this, it is recommended that wire netting is placed over the thatched roof.

A lot of emphasis is placed on the use of thatched roofs. This is because this particular medium works well in this environment with the result that flat roofs, corrugated iron and asbestos roofs are no longer permitted.

The use of solid wood columns (leadwood columns) and natural rock can add a nice touch to your home. If you are integrating these mediums into your structure you need to be able to provide proof that you obtained them from outside Marloth Park.

The fencing of properties is strictly prohibited. The countless game species have complete freedom of movement, which we do not want to encroach on with any kind of boundary wall or fence.

Gutters and downpipes are also not recommended as this attracts mosquitoes.

These are just a few considerations for the potential property owner or developer. Marloth Park is a very unique and special place that requires like-minded individuals with similar outlooks and an understanding of conservation to ensure that Marloth Park remains as amazing as it is.