Southern Kruger Park: 25 to 28 March 2001

Once again Marion and I were privileged to participate in a wilderness trail (FAQ), this time the Napi Trail midway between Pretoriuskop and Skukuza. Napi was the newest of Kruger’s seven wilderness trails and its location at the confluence of the Napi and Mbiyamiti rivers was surely one of the most spectacular of all trails camps (unfortunately the camp was recently destroyed by fire). Perched high up on the bank of the Napi under rich riverine forest, the camp commanded wonderful views of the rivers. Our hut clung precariously, it seemed, to the sand cliff that had been undermined by last year’s floods. Steady rain on our last night in camp made the Napi gurgle far below our veranda, but the hut anchors were secure.

The undulating woodlands were green and luxuriant after the summer rains, and the grass long, making game sightings difficult. But as any trail junky will tell you, game viewing is not the purpose of the wilderness trail – it’s only a bonus. Just prior to the trail we had a stayed at a game lodge in a neighbouring reserve where seeing the Big Five is what is promised, and is consequently, what the guests have come to expect. And although we had wonderful leopard and lion sightings at the game lodge, it was somehow less satisfying than walking in wild bushveld, seeing fresh lion tracks, hearing them in the distance, knowing that they were probably watching us from the cover of long grass. On foot one confronts your own insignificance, your own vulnerability.

Besides the many white rhino we saw, we did see one significant antelope: the Liechtenstein’s hartebeest. Locally extinct for decades, some were recently re-introduced from Malawi. This one was limping and separated from the herd, his days numbered.

Once again I had the opportunity to polish my knowledge of bushveld trees, add the buffalo thorn to the list as well as the Zulu story about it being “the tree of life”, learn about sodic sites and how they form, etc., thanks to the knowledge of our trails rangers.

Long may Kruger’s wilderness trails renew our bonds with Nature.

(Note: this camp has since burnt down and is located elsewhere now)