Mapungubwe National Park
Limpopo, South Africa, 2009-09-30 12:00 by Laerke
Mapungubwe National Park runs along the banks of the Limpopo River and the park extends into Botswana and Zimbabwe across the river as well. We spent 2 nights in the park that covers 28.000 hectares, but combined with the area in Botswana and Zimbabwe is more than 10 times that size. Animals can roam freely across the river, which in this season is very possible. The Limpopo River was reduced to a small and quite shallow stream that antelopes, elephants and monkeys could easily cross.
The park offered fantastic vistas across to Botswana and Zimbabwe and of the dry river bed, we spotted a herd of elephants making their way to the dwindling waters and witnessed how they played, drank and simply hung out at and in the cool stream. One of the elephants decided to leave his buddies and walked the long way across the dry riverbed to Botswana – maybe there were some pretty female elephants on the Botswana side?
It wasn’t our first encounter with elephants, a majestic animal that the park has in abundance! The first day we arrived and were driving through the park to the campsite, we had to stop in the middle of the road, because a big elephant started crossing. Clearly it thought that it had right of way! When the elephant had cleared the road, we were about to start the car again and go forward – but another elephant came out of the bush, this time with a youngster at its tail. Before they had crossed another couple of elephants wandered out into the road, and so they kept coming and coming. At one point elephant were all around us! We stopped counting at 30 something, but a guestimate would be a little more than fifty individuals, maybe around twenty were young or even babies.

The parks landscape was really beautiful; it was quite dry, but the rocky mountains and dusty plains were nicely intertwined, creating dynamic and ever changing views. Especially at sunset it was magnificent! We were driving one clear day when the sun was setting, and everywhere you looked the landscape had this flaming red, magical light that simply was breathtaking – safari is not all about the animals.

One afternoon and early evening we spent in a hide overlooking an almost dried out waterhole. But as this was one of few waterholes, which actually still contained water, quite a few animals came by. Mostly it was plant eaters; antelopes, zebras and a family of warthogs, with 3 very cute youngsters running in a neat line, but pushing and shoving once they reached the drinking hole.
In the background we spotted 2 jackals trying to eat something, dragging the dead animal around. It was our first predators, albeit of the not so dangerous kind – still it was fun to see them feed and fight of some birds and other smaller animals that wanted a bite too.
All in all Mapungubwe National Park was pretty nice; we didn’t get to see any big cats, but the scenery was amazing and the park was blessedly under visited, meaning we had it almost to our selves. The campsite consisted of only 10 lots and then there was a few more luxury options – but compared to what we experienced later in Kruger, Mapungubwe was really nice and sedate.