News from The Northern Kruger
Where The Wild Things Are Pt.2
The Greater Honey Guide is a small bird living in sub-Saharan Africa that is said to guide people to wild honey. The tradition advises that when the bird guides you to the bees’ nest, you must share some honey and larva with your it, otherwise next time he will lead you to a black mamba. On our morning walk through the savanna, our brilliant guide Denis showered us with bush know-how and folklore on the vast number of species living on the Pafuri concession.
What fascinated me the most are the baobab trees. They can live for up to 5,000 years, reach up to 30 meters in height and up to an enormous 50 metres in circumference. They are made 80% out of water and actually shrink during drought. Baobab trees provide shelter, food and water for both animals and humans. Their bark can be turned into rope and clothing, the seeds can be used to make cosmetic oils, the leaves are edible and the fruit pulp is extraordinarily rich in nutrients. They say that when God created the world, he thought it wasn’t beautiful enough, so he made the baobab.
Fever Tree Forest
Another morning, we head to the Fever Tree Forest. On our way there, Denis manoeuvres around a fallen tree on the ground. “Although it would make sense to remove it and clear the road, we keep it there as it forms a microcosm for insects,” he explains. There is a great respect for the natural order of things at Pafuri safari camp. Restoring the balance of the land is a philosophy that permeates everything and everyone here.
At the forest, Denis tells us the story of how Fever Trees got their name. When the settlers arrived, they unknowingly contracted malaria, and blamed their high fever on the trees, whose bark is covered in a lime green pollen that burns lightly on the skin. He also pointed out the wild basil and explained that it can be used for cooking but also as a mosquito repellent. As the long sunbeams streamed through the Fever trees, we made our way to the nearest estuary where we had our coffee (spiked with Amarula) watching alligators going for their morning swim.
Against the Odds
The introduction of significant species and partnering with the Makuleke people in sustainable ecotourism marked the beginning of restoration of ecological integrity of the Pafuri area. Unfortunately, in spite of the efforts to protect the land and its species, there are still many casualties of poaching and loss of habitat. While we were lucky to see a lion and 4 cheetahs (out of the remaining population of 9,000), their sightings are becoming less and less frequent. Even vultures are now endangered because they are eating elephant meat poisoned by poachers. Understanding the precarious destinies of these animals, made me feel even luckier to have seen them in the wild. It seems despite the collective efforts, and all the hard work being done, greed and ignorance are yet to be beaten.
Although we did not get to see any rhinos, we did hear the persistent mating call of the legendary Pel’s Fishing Owl as we enjoyed our last dinner at the camp. As night fell, the plains buzzed with nocturnal life and we retreated into the comfort of our tent, with a new sense of awe and wonder at the wild.
Yes, that is the view from our tent. You should see it real life!
All images by Anastasia Pashkovetskaya