6 OF THE BEST WA­TER­HOLES

Some­times you don’t feel like driv­ing in search of ele­phants, rhi­nos and lions; you want to sit qui­etly and wait for the an­i­mals to come and quench their thirst. On days like th­ese you should make your­self at home at one of th­ese wa­ter­holes.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents -

1 Maloutswa, Ma­pun­gubwe Na­tional Park, Lim­popo The an­i­mal life at the Maloutswa water­hole is al­most too good to be true. It’s as if Ma­pun­gubwe’s own re­al­ity show is play­ing out in front of your very eyes once you’ve po­si­tioned your­self in the hide and taken off the binoc­u­lars’ lens cov­ers. The ele­phants are the stars of the show, with hun­dreds coming to drink here. At times they are so close to the shel­ter it al­most feels as if you can touch them. The sup­port­ing cast are var­i­ous species of im­pala, warthogs, ze­bras, blue wilde­beest, vervet mon­keys, Egyp­tian geese, brown snake ea­gles… you name it. You can sit here for hours tak­ing pho­tos or sim­ply just watch­ing. The an­i­mals come and go, and there is usu­ally a bit of ac­tion. Es­pe­cially the ele­phants that come to cool off are a sight – the shiny mud on their am­ple bod­ies looks like sil­ver spray paint! If you’re tow­ing, the Mazhou camp­site is your only op­tion to park your car­a­van. But that’s not a bad thing; in fact it’s some­thing to put on your camp list if you haven’t been here. Mazhou is a few min­utes’ drive from the Maloutswa water­hole, and the 10 stands here are laid out in a cir­cle around the ablu­tion build­ing. You stand on a clean spot in the bush and you get your own tap, elec­tri­cal point (stan­dard do­mes­tic socket), light and rub­bish bin. You also get a por­ta­ble steel braai that you can move around to where you want it on your stand. Con­tact 015 534 2014 or 012 428 9111 (SANParks cen­tral reser­va­tions); reser­va­tions@sanparks.org GPS S22.243305 E29.400607 >

2 Nya­mandhlovu Plat­form, Hwange Na­tional Park, Zim­babwe If it’s your dream to set up your tri­pod and take pho­tos of one of the big­gest ele­phant pop­u­la­tions in the world, you have to put Hwange Na­tional Park in Zim­babwe on your bucket list. Once here, head for the Nya­mandhlovu Plat­form, which looks out over the Nya­mandhlovu Pan. Yes, Zim­babwe has its fair share of prob­lems and con­tro­ver­sies, and Hwange is some­times in the news for all the wrong rea­sons (poach­ers poi­soned more than 100 ele­phants here a few years ago, and it was here where an Amer­i­can den­tist shot Ce­cil the lion). Even though more ele­phants were poi­soned in June, on our visit last year it was clear that things were start­ing to change. The na­tional parks board and the re­serve’s per­son­nel are busy and there are signs of life. There are more an­i­mals, the road net­work is get­ting at­ten­tion, and sev­eral camp­sites are be­ing re­vamped. The Nya­mandhlovu Pan is a peren­nial water­hole due to wa­ter be­ing pumped there. And on the plat­form you have the best view over the wa­ter. Keep your eyes peeled for more than 100 wildlife species – amongst which are packs of the rare wild dog, sable, chee­tahs, and leop­ards – and 400 bird species. There are more than enough ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions, with sev­eral camp­sites, self-cater­ing chalets, as well as cot­tages. There is also a bar, restau­rant, fill­ing sta­tion, and a small su­per­mar­ket. Con­tact 00 263 4706 077; zim­parks.org GPS S18.775500 E26.888987

3 Mankwe Dam, Pi­lanes­berg Na­tional Park, North West The Pi­lanes­berg Na­tional Park is close enough that Gaut­engers can grab a food bas­ket, cof­fee flask and binoc­u­lars and shoot through for the day. The of­fi­cials at the en­trance gates sell book­lets with in­for­ma­tion about the re­serve, routes you can drive, and a list of the an­i­mals you can ex­pect to see. Get one and keep it close be­cause it won’t be long be­fore you’ll start tick­ing off the an­i­mal names. If you’re hun­gry for wildlife, im­me­di­ately start look­ing for the Mankwe Dam on your map. It’s the largest body of wa­ter in the re­serve, al­most in the mid­dle of the park, and a mag­net for hu­man and an­i­mal. Turn off near the dam on the Hippo Loop road, which will bring you to the wa­ter. In con­trast to the well-kept road that leads you here, this path is lit­tered with pot­holes – so check where you’re driv­ing. On the op­po­site side of the dam a neat, en­closed wooden deck path takes you from the shores of the dam to some trees in the wa­ter. It’s a favourite spot for bird watch­ers who gather here with cam­eras and long lenses. To com­pare the re­serve to a zoo is not that far-fetched. The crested fran­col­ins (bospa­trys) in the park­ing lot are so tame they come up real close, al­most as if to get bet­ter ac­quainted with you. If you want to stay for longer than a day you can book into one of the self-cater­ing units in the nearby Manyane or Bak­gatla resorts, or you can camp. Con­tact 014 555 1000/1; reser­va­tions@gold­en­leop­ardresorts.co.za; gold­en­leop­ardresorts.co.za GPS S25.254479 E27.219679 >

4 Hapoor Dam, Addo Ele­phant Na­tional Park, Eastern Cape The main rea­son to come here is to see the big­gest land mam­mal in all its glory. Mark the Hapoor Dam on your map, be­cause it’s where the big feet gather. You drive a kilo­me­tre past the camp­site’s re­cep­tion of­fice through the wildlife area’s gate, and the dam is about 11 km fur­ther. For more than 20 years, Hapoor was the “chief” of Addo’s ele­phants, but the younger bulls even­tu­ally kicked him out and he fled the camp. (He got the nick in his ear in a shoot­ing in his younger days, and af­ter he left the camp he had to be put to sleep.) It of­ten looks like an ele­phant re­union or re­gional get-to­gether – you can eas­ily see 20 at a time. No photo can cap­ture the feel­ing when you see one in the flesh, but here at the dam you ex­pe­ri­ence it when a five-ton ele­phant bull walks right past your open car win­dow. Hitch your car­a­van and come and ex­pe­ri­ence it. At Addo’s camp­site you can choose from one of 12 small tent stands with lit­tle shade or 21 spa­cious car­a­van spots with am­ple shade. And if you don’t feel like driv­ing all the way to Hapoor, you can drive to the Ny­ati water­hole next to the camp­site. Here you’ll see more than enough ele­phants. Con­tact 042 233 8600; ad­doen­quiries@sanparks.org; ad­doele­phant.com GPS S33.443921 E25.74569

5 Sable bird hide, Kruger Na­tional Park, Lim­popo The Sable bird hide is about 10 km from the Kruger’s Pha­l­aborwa gate, and this is where you come in search of un­equalled wildlife and overnight ex­pe­ri­ences. By day this large hide isn’t much dif­fer­ent from any other in the game re­serve – apart from all the bird watch­ers with their binoc­u­lars who come here look­ing for species like the African open­bill, black-headed heron, African ja­cana, spoon­bill, reed cor­morant, and the African darter. In the evening you can trans­form the hide into your own overnight spot. Hang out and sleep here while the hip­pos grunt in the Sable Dam and the lions and ele­phants come to drink. Keep your eyes peeled for hyenas and wild dogs. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to sleep closer to na­ture in the Kruger. Your bed – one of nine – stands up­right against the back wall of the hide dur­ing the day, but tonight, half an hour be­fore the gate closes, you can fold out your bed and get it ready. Just re­mem­ber, to­mor­row morn­ing you have to start fold­ing up the beds 30 min­utes af­ter the gate opens. You don’t want strangers in search of a moorhen barg­ing in on you. Be­hind the hide is a spot to braai your meat, but you have to bring your own fire­wood. With re­gards to the ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties, there’s a toi­let but not a shower. But you can wash you face in the basin. You or­gan­ise your ac­com­mo­da­tion at the Pha­l­aborwa gate, and you get bed­ding, mos­quito nets, plates, mugs, cut­lery, etc. when you book in. It costs R670 p.n for two peo­ple and R30 p.p.p.n there­after. Con­tact 013 735 3547/8; sanparks.org GPS S23.939401 E31.239382 >

Those in the know say this water­hole is one of the best places in Africa to see this en­dan­gered species up close.

6 Okaukuejo, Etosha Na­tional Park, Namibia The Okaukuejo Rest Camp lies 17 km from the An­der­son gate. Here you can sit next to one of the most pop­u­lar wa­ter­holes on our part of the con­ti­nent – in the win­ter or au­tumn months it’s safe to say it’s teem­ing with wildlife. Lions, ele­phants, rhi­nos, gi­raffes, ze­bras, spring­bok, eland, jack­als, and even a brave honey badger come here to drink right in front of you. At night the water­hole is lit with flood­lights, and then it’s a good time to bring your lens to see if you can’t snag a pic of a black rhino. Those in the know say this water­hole is one of the best places in Africa to see this en­dan­gered species up close. Next to the water­hole is a big no­tice board with the words “When there’s ‘noth­ing’ to see”, with a list of birds and in­sects found in the area. You’re slightly stunned that there are times when big­ger an­i­mals don’t make an ap­pear­ance at the wa­ter… un­til you start chat­ting to some­one who was here in the rainy sea­son. Then there’s enough wa­ter in the veld and the an­i­mals avoid the water­hole. So en­sure your tim­ing is right. There are chalets and rooms around the water­hole and right be­hind it is a Namibia Wildlife Resorts camp­site. Con­tact 00 264 67 229 800; nwr.com.na; reser­va­tions@ nwr.com.na GPS S22.243305 E29.400607

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