The south-west region of the Kruger National Parkclaims the most mountains and best rainfall. It supports two habitats: The Malelane Mountain Veld and the Pretoriuskop Sourveld. Because of the higher altitude and wetter climate, you will find different and rare plants not found anywhere else in the Kruger National Park, such as the marula and knob-thorn.
When you enter the Kruger National Park through Malelane Gate, which is on the Crocodile River, it feels like taking a trip back in time. The environment remains untouched as it was before the economic development of the surrounding area. At the south of the gate is the ancient ochre mining site of Dumaneni.
Historians who specialise in the Kruger National Park history, JJ Kloppers and Hans Bornman, teach that during the Iron Age, Dumaneni served as the main mine of red ochre where more than 100,000 tons were mined.
The San, who seem to have been Dumaneni’s first miners, used ochre for medicine and art. Iron-Age smelters were found at Dumaneni which indicates that the mine was in operation during the Iron Age, which was approximately 2 000 years ago. Red ochre indicated power.
The first thing you see on entering the park is the ‘koppies’ (little hills like an upside-down teacup in appearance) with bush willows and rock figs, as well as the valleys adorned with tambotis, magic guarries and jackal berry. After entering you should explore the Matjulu Loop, a 1 ½ hour dirt road which has a reputation for good game spotting. Or you can take the Crocodile River Road to Crocodile Bridge where you are likely to spot numerous cheetah amongst riverine bush and thorn thickets.
An alternative route is the main road to Skukuza, a beautiful drive through rolling hills offering interesting wildlife viewing.
Another route is from Afsaal to Pretoriuskop, a historic drive past Ship Mountain, where you are more likely to spot hyena, eland and rhino. At Afsaal you can stop for refreshments where you usually see a lot of game, then drive slowly past Jock’s where you have excellent views over the woodlands.
At Malelane stay at a private camp on the banks of the Crocodile River. Here there are five small huts and a small camp site set among the trees, with a communal dining area and bathroom facilities. However, you cannot enter as a day visitor. This is really the bush as the nearest shop is 6 kilometres away at berg-en-Dal! From the camp there are guided walks and game drives twice a day; early in the morning and in the evening.
The game you are most likely to spot are herds of zebra or buffalo, with lions hunting them, or the hyena, usually getting the leftovers! Klipspringers are also seen from time to time.
Rhino can be spotted around Voortrekker Road. Rarer antelope to look out for include the hartebeest, mountain reedbuck, grey rhebok and the oribi.
You are likely to find spectacular scenic drives around Pretoriuskop which offers another camp to stay. This is the oldest camp in the Kruger Park, and home to a large population of white rhino.
The camp has a cafeteria and licensed restaurant, and offers accommodation units with modern furnishings and utensils, for those who don’t like “roughing” it! However, if you do like “roughing it” there are bungalows with the bare minimum you need to accommodate you.