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October 17, 2012

Newsletter From Mopane Bush Lodge – October 2012

It is with a profound feeling of expectation that I sit before the portal and write this. The horizon around us is dark and brooding and the distant rumbling of thunder may very well signal the start of our next rains. It has been a while since we have spoken, you and me. In that time the drought, like some brazen torturer, has had its way with the landscape and its denizens. The bushveld is brittle and desiccated and the animals thin, wasted and forlorn. We look now to the northern skies and remain ever hopeful that the storm fronts are building and that sweet succour will soon be ours. The first day of rain will be a day to remember. It will be a day I will long treasure. Surely it must come. Surely.

The farm has weathered the drought rather well. We have had to remove significant numbers of game from the property to ensure the survival of the plant sward and the remaining animals. Almost 150 head were sold or harvested through the winter season. We have stepped up supplements to the animals in the form of lick and feed blocks and tannin inhibitor (Browse Plus) in the water troughs.

Maloutswa hide in the western portion of Mapungubwe National Park has been fantastic value through this very dry period. SANParks have continued to pump this waterhole and this has drawn wildlife from miles around. Game viewing here now is nothing short of a spectacle. Vast dusty herds of elephant, eland and wildebeest together with bushpig, tssessebe and various carnivore sightings continue to delight our guests at this magnificent hide. See the pictures

We have also enjoyed good winter birding. Our impressive list of raptors was well represented and our nesting Verreaux’s Eagles were a common sight. They have again raised one healthy chick to sub adulthood. Our resident pair of Collared Palm Thrush have also not disappointed and several birders have not only added this species to their life lists thanks to our efforts but have also managed to photograph these fascinating birds. This pair remains the only known representatives of their species within the borders of SA! Migrants like Wahlberg’s Eagle, Lesser Striped Swallow and Klaas’ Cuckoo have already made tenuous arrivals. Check out our website for a fabulous birding package, and comments from previous guests.

We enjoyed the company and service of John Eriksson, a young Swedish intern who volunteered at Mopane Bush Lodge for the month of July. Clas, his father and a past guest of ours had asked if John could do some school vacation work here with us. We readily agreed. John proved to be a fantastic asset to us and a hard worker. Thanks in part to his efforts we now have a fully fledged marked and mapped MTB (Mountain Bike) trail on Mapesu Farm. Thanks John. We all miss you here lad.

The month of June saw the inaugural BIKE4BEASTS safari taking place at Mopane Bush Lodge and Mapungubwe National Park. Formerly a fund raising MTB racing event, B4B has now evolved into an exclusive MTB safari with riders enjoying unparalleled landscapes and game viewing from the saddle of a mountain bike. Two of the out rides are done inside Mapungubwe National Park replete with support vehicle keeping the rider pelaton safe. This first three night cycling safari was an enormous success. Some pictures of the first participants are shown on our website. Four BIKE4BEASTS date sets are planned for 2013 read more

Since May, Mopane Bush Lodge has enjoyed exhibition exposure at four major tourism and travel events. Paul and Rosemary tirelessly punted our glorious part of the world at the Indaba in Durban followed almost directly by the Sasol Birds and Birding Fair at the Johannesburg Zoo and the Gauteng Outdoor Expo. Andrew and Prince exhibited Mopane Bush Lodge at the Getaway Show at the Northgate Dome in September. All of the expos were a great success and generated new interest in Mapungubwe. Thanks to all our loyal guests and friends for popping in to say “hi”. It was great to see you all.

The Greater Mapungubwe Network was launched with resounding success in March at Mopane Bush Lodge. Resident EWT researcher Wendy Collinson has been the driving force behind this initiative. The network is a forum providing networking interface and engagement between business, tourism, conservation and any individual with an interest in the Mapungubwe area. A quarterly meeting is held in the region and is followed by the production of a very informative newsletter. Anyone wanting to join the Network and/or the mailing list can contact Wendy

Many of our readers have been following the saga of the Vele coal mine at Mapungubwe. The latest situation is that despite there being an application before the Water Tribunal on the serious water issues, the Minister decided to overrule the suspension of the mining right, and gave the mine permission to proceed. Mining has commenced and many coal trucks are travelling everyday on the road from the mine to Musina.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs instituted an Environmental Management Committee (EMC) to oversee the implementation of the environmental plans at the mine. This is because the Department of Mineral Resources, who still hold responsibility for Environmental Management Plans (EMP) on all mines, does not have the competence or capability in its Limpopo offices to do such overseeing. This EMC is a first in South Africa. The Coalition, of which the Mapungubwe Action Group is a member, has decided in light of the seriousness of the water issues, not to enter into an agreement with the coal mining company.

Meanwhile, Mopane Bush Lodge has submitted its concerns to the Public Protector, as we are certain the public is not being protected by the incompetence of the DMR Limpopo office, who are still issuing prospecting licences in the area which the Department of Environmental Affairs is claiming to UNESCO is a Buffer Zone around the Mapungubwe National Park & World Heritage Site While this all goes on, no one has seriously considered the possible effect that coal dust could have on the Heritage Landscape, particularly the San Rock art.

In October we are offering all off-site activities, such as the Heritage Tour to Mapungubwe Hill included in the rate, in November & December we are offering a further 20% discount off the already discounted 4 night Mapungubwe Safari, in January we are offering a 4 night stay for the price of 2 nights, and in February we are offering are usual popular Valentine Special, three nights paid by you and bring your Valentine for free.


Occasionally, when we need more guests to pamper and have fun with, we offer special rates for accommodation or packages. Here listed are some for the next few months. Space is generally limited, so make your decisions quickly to get the awesome “Mapungubwe Experience” at Mopane Bush Lodge at more affordable rates. As these special offers are spread over a number of months, there must be one suitable for you.


Mopane Bush Lodge will include any & all tours & visits to Mapungubwe National Park and Mapungubwe World Heritage Site in the public accommodation rate of R1350 per person per night sharing.

Attractions available:


NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2012: – A 4 NIGHT MAPUNGUBWE SAFARI for only R4180 per person sharing

During November & December 2012 Mopane Bush lodge is offering a further 20% discount off the already reduced rate of R5225 for a 4 night Safari including the following exciting and interesting activities:

• a morning tour to Mapungubwe Hill in the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site, where Southern Africa’s first Kingdom was established in the 13th Century
• an afternoon visit to Mapungubwe National Park to walk the boardwalk to the Limpopo River and to view the awe inspiring confluence of the Limpopo & Shashe Rivers where Botswana, Zimbabwe & South Africa meet
• a sunset drive in the Mapungubwe National Park
• a tour to special Limpopo San rock art with interpretation of the art
• a bush walk on Mapesu Nature Reserve

R5225 less 20% = R4180 per person sharing for 4 nights luxury accommodation, all meals, teas, refreshments on activities, tours and entrance fees. (Children under 12: R3262).


5 days, 4 nights’ accommodation (including all meals) for the price of 2 nights.

That is R3000 per person for accommodation, all meals, teas & refreshments on activities, for 4 luxurious & restful nights & a special experience at Mopane Bush Lodge at MAPUNGUBWE.
Children under 12 years old who share their parent’s room will be accommodated at half this rate. This offer is valid for the month of JANUARY 2013*.

Attractions available:


FEBRUARY 2013: Valentine’s Special Offer

Stay at our very romantic bush lodge for three nights at just R4500 and bring your special Valentine for free*.

Offer includes:

• Accommodation in luxury secluded en-suite chalets
• All meals including a romantic 4 course dinner in the boma around a fire under the stars
• Morning/afternoon teas
• Refreshments on all activities
• Game drives, cycling and bush walks on our private game reserve

Additional activities available at additional cost:

• Game drives in Mapungubwe National Park
• Tour to Mapungubwe World Heritage Site
• Birding at a special wetlands and increase your life list.
• Viewing unique Limpopo San rock art


For any of these special offers contac Dave at or Tele: + 44 1476 530927 / Cell: + 44 7780 579306

Cheers for now from the Team @ African Travel Solution Ltd

PS: Andrew will long treasure the 13th October 2012, as we had our first rain this season, a fall of 28mm!


It was a winter bushveld afternoon like so many others. The immense sky was a stark azure indictment overhead and the surrounding landscape, desiccated and forlorn and yet still intoxicating in its quiet enormity. I was behind the wheel of our Landy and in the process of introducing first time African American visitors to my patch, my magnificent backyard, my Eden. I have always found it difficult, and many of my colleagues will agree, to truly ascertain the kind of deep spiritual impact that an African experience has on a newcomer. Society in the western world really expects us to at all times wear our “game faces” and nobody displays their heart on their sleeve anymore…it is not the done thing today it seems. On that particular afternoon I found myself battling the same quandary…the same internal struggle…are my clients getting this? Was Africa saying something to them?
And then we saw him…an enormous dust shrouded pachyderm striding up from the Limpopo floodplain below. The impact of his enormous feet launching smoke-like dust tendrils onto the languid afternoon breeze. He was slowly and inexorably joined by other elephant, all bulls of varying size and age until the count was seventeen. Seventeen galleon like colossi drifting through the Kalahari sand and rock as they have done on this continent since a time before man drew his first pictures on a rock face deep within the bowels of the earth. It was something fantastic to witness, something truly primeval, almost Jurassic in its obvious age and magnificence. I turned to look at my guests and I saw quiet tears on the face of the lady behind me. Tears that spilt unashamedly as she discovered and recognized her African heritage in that moment, as she recognized her connection to this ancient place and her heart began beating as one with the rhythm of primordial Africa. I rejoiced that day…quietly and completely as I was reminded of the profound beauty of this great place and its unquestionable power over us.

The elephant is truly an enigma. There has been more debate and disagreement, more controversy and political intrigue regarding the African elephant than probably all of the continent’s other wild denizens combined. What do we do with them? Here there are too many, there too few. Is the ivory trade a deplorable and despicable human industry or the useful sustainable money spinner financing national park management budgets? Do we cull them in Chobe and Tuli and Luangwa and Kruger where the gallery forests lie in tatters, ground zero to an elephantine holocaust? Do we dither with their hormones and sexual cycles in the vain hope that we might control their reproduction? My animal rights “friends” in Europe have all the answers of course…all of them built on an emotion riddled foundation in countries where nature is confined to tiny almost insignificant belts of green. We can’t seek answers here friends…nature has been usurped here and these organizations are out of touch with reality. Where do we go for the wisdom to decide the fate of this great beast, this grey behemoth? The elephant is the quintessential thread in an African tapestry. Africa without the elephant would cease to be Africa.

I have been moved more often and more completely by this massive, gurgling, lumbering monstrosity than just about any other component of the African savannah. I have tracked them, eaten partially digested marulas out of their droppings, been truly afraid as they have chased and harangued me when I have stepped too close. I have had intimate moments of reflection in proximity to these mighty creatures and have come closest to finding God in those moments alongside the great herds. They are wondrous and they have touched me and my clients in spiritual ways that I can scarcely begin describing with mere phrases. I have however also born testament to the devastation they have wreaked on parks throughout Southern Africa and I have been party to and witnessed their slaughter at the hands of my species.

I remember that afternoon well. The dust hung thick in the air and coated the back of my throat My ears were ringing with the after effects of a great cacophony…a terrible and bloody death rattle. Warm arterial blood oozed thick and vital on to the talcum fine sand and soaked in. Everywhere large bodies were lying lifeless and obscene. The cloying smell of death and spent cartridges was all pervading. I shouldered the rifle, the barrel still hot to the touch, and moved away as large trucks rumbled in to load the carcasses. The staccato percussion of the chopper faded overhead and I was left with my own misery. I recalled a story that the late white hunter Mike McRay Milton had told me. He had guided the famous cowboy actor John Wayne on his first elephant hunt in what was then Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) in the 1950’s. Mike had said that John Wayne was as tough as his movies…tireless, resolute and uncomplaining…he took all the discomfort that Africa could dish out with a smile. After miles of tsetse fly infested bush they closed with an enormous tusker and John Wayne took its life. Mike recounted to me how Mr. Wayne had asked for privacy and for over an hour, sat alongside the fallen beast and wept as a great and aching sense of loss consumed him.

It is an enigma indeed. I don’t know the answer constant reader. I know that this majestic animal must be conserved along with the habitats that sustain it and the myriad other intricately woven and connected elements of Africa’s natural landscape. I know that to succeed we must involve rural African communities and their needs and desires and we must at all times hold ourselves accountable. Africa without the elephant does not bare thinking about…it would be an abomination.

Category: Blog

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