"Place of Sanctuary" as it translates from Tswana, the Marakele National Park, nestled in the Waterberg mountain range, is an exquisitely beautiful array of Darwinian randomness. A melange of flora and fauna, birds and buck, cats and ivory make up this wildlife safe zone in southern Limpopo.
We shacked up in the open campsite aptly named Rhino, for, what I would assume is because at certain times during the year the white rhinos come and lounge right inside the camp. Our honorary Ranger on site, Hux, recalled stories where 7 of these great white beast plopped down in front of his tent, as he sat on his wild patio, fixing his position for the foreseeable future whilst trying to fend off a rather boisterous tourist photographer, who happily snapped her strobe-light flash on them that dusk, without fear of consequence for the two; 2 weeks prior to our visit a male white rhino charged a walking guided tour due to a female patron breaking formation and snapping up a mother and calf in the thicket. The male responded with aggression, instinctually sprinting towards the lady, the front guide hurled himself in its way and bore the consequence. He lived to tell the tale, but the entire left side was critically damaged - a crushed face, arms, ribs and leg. A lesson people really should take heed of.
If you haven't picked it up yet, the campsite is open, without boundary fences. A mere 2 clicks from the gate, you get to unhook and unhinge from the daily battery of office duty and sink your soul into the wild as ostriches, kudus, impala, woodpeckers, violet-backed starlings, green wood hoopoes and blue headed lizards share the campsite in harmony with you.
The Marakele park itself is divided into two sections - the campsite sits on the rhino and other buck zone, whilst the other side serves as a Jurrasic Park-esque border between the total big 5 package and relative free-walking safety. But don't come here for the lions or elephant (albeit they are around), this region isn't about that.
The reserve protects the surrounding wetlands which keeps the greater ecosystem around the reserve functional. Without its protection, the farmlands and the surrounds would deteriorate into a state of non-existence. And while there are the Big 5, this park provides opportunity to feature the lesser spotted items; like the Waterberg cycad, mountain reedbuck, klipspringer, the largest colony of cape vultures in South Africa, rufous naped larks and many, many, many cinnamon breasted buntings. It also boasts an incredibly gutsy ascent of the previously named Kransberg mountain range, where a single road takes you up to over 2000 metres alongside a sheer cliff drop.
We wished we'd have met Hux earlier, as only on our final day did we meet ranger Hux who demonstrated in exquisite and exciting detail how rich and diverse this landscape is, professing his unrelenting love for the area which plays host to his favourite national park.
The location was dreamy, and over our new year's whiskeys we watched our bush fire burn, not a sound from the busy outside world could be heard. It was just us and the bush...plus around 40 impala, a few dung beetles, the lion-like grunts of a few ostriches and a scops owl who came to join the party. Marakele was magnificent, the only real negative was that we wished we had more time there