Have You Ever Been To Wonderland?

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I bet you just rolled your eyes at the caption, don’t worry, so did when I typed it. However, I cannot think of a better way to describe Makuleke Contractual Park.

While working for EcoTraining, I had the opportunity to visit this magical place. Until this point, I had just seen the name on a map of the Kruger National Park and did not think much of it. The furthest point I had ever reached was an area called Pafuri, which lies south of Makuleke. The Luvuvhu River separates Pafuri and Makuleke wilderness areas and joins the Limpopo River’s sandy banks. At this confluence, not one but three countries meet. South Africa to the South, Zimbabwe to the North-Eest, and Mozambique to the East.

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This wilderness area is picture perfect, while the scenery is what truly makes it a special place. Fever tree forests stretch as far as the eye can see, and waterlogged wetlands invite large herds of ungulates of various kinds. For those that aren’t familiar with fever trees (Vachellia xanthophloea), this species grows to massive heights, not quite that of a California redwood but tall enough. The bark is covered in a fine yellow powder creating a lemon-lime color. Lastly, the branches stretch out like an umbrella and transforms the area into a forest. Elephants, buffalo, and eland congregate here while the light and colors are vivid, something I had not seen before. The vegetation that lines the rivers is known as riparian woodland, consisting of many trees and shrubs entangled in. It almost feels claustrophobic; constant chatter from bird life entices you in, and you forget about how dense it is. I’ve become disorientated countless times; momentum is needed; while minding the devil’s horsewhip and needle bush. The chorus of sounds and thumping of your heart is deafening; as you step carefully and quietly, there are signs of elephants and buffalo everywhere. At this moment, you take your first breath, the dense thickets open up, the birds go quiet, and your eyes need to adjust to the glare. The vastness of the Limpopo River is extraordinary.

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I’ve been hinting to Ale for years that she needs to visit Makuleke, I finally convinced her! Next week we will be heading to The Outpost Lodge, which is one of two commercial camps situated in this wilderness area. Bare in mind that Makuleke is not open to the public; you will need to stay at either The Outpost or Pel’s Post, ReturnAfrica, or join an Ecotraining course to enjoy the wonders of this place. Ale and I will walk along the Luvuvhu River between its gorges. I believe this is the best walk in a wilderness area in South Africa. 

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Keep an eye out for our next blog; Ale will share her favorite moments of our trip and whether or not I was telling the truth about the wonders of Makuleke.

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