Tag Archives: game viewing

Against Interference In Kruger And Our other Nature Assets


AIKONAI am the convenor of the AIKONA GROUP (acronym for Against Interference In Kruger And Our other Nature Assets), we a group of nature lovers we are not SANParks bashers to the contrary we are great supporters of our National Parks but who are opposing the commercialization and exploitation of our National Parks.

Unfortunately certain people were excluded from our Parks before and that was wrong.

The devastating Rinderpest and the onslaught of hunters together with the Anglo Boer War contributed much to the destruction of the game animals of the Lowveld west of the LebomboMountains.

The Sabie Game reserve was proclaimed in 1898, the Shingwedzi Game Reserve followed soon afterwards.

The Kruger National Park, an area of 19487 sq km was proclaimed in 1926. This flagship National Park has a diversity equaled by few; it is home to 336 tree species, 49 fish species, 34 amphibians, 144 reptile, 507 bird and 147 mammal species. 

This wonderful place has been home to man for many centuries, Bushman rock paintings mainly in the south, reveal this, together with the archeological sites of Thulamela in the far north near Punda Maria, and Masorini in the northern area between Phalaborwa and the Letaba rest camp.

Much interesting time can be spent studying and enjoying the geology and history of the area.

All these treasures represent cultures and persons and events that played their part in the history of the area what we now know as the KNP.

Col Stevenson Hamilton was appointed Warden of the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game reserves in 1902, a position he held until his retirement in 1946, upon his retirement he pleaded that the area be kept simple and wild.

The tourist numbers have grown from 680 visitors in 1928 to 1 386 000 during the year 2010-2011, for 2009 -2010: 1428000.

The KNP has 2499 km of roads of which 35% is tarred. 906 km of the roads are in the south.

The KNP offers accommodation from budget to economy to family to guest houses and camping sites totaling 6073 beds per day or 2216645 per annum, camping occupancy included in what I have already mentioned totaled 414148 (419433) in 23 rest camps.

Additional to that already mentioned, 7 luxury concessions have been available since 2002 offering a further 300 beds per night.

Occupancy rates are 62% in the rest camps and with an average occupancy rate of 2.83 persons per site, concession occupancy rates were 40%, one of the concessions had earlier this year indicated that they need to renegotiate their contract prematurely as they were no longer viable.

SANParks are the appointed custodians of our National Parks which belong to the citizens of our country.

Much talk is done about saving or protecting our environment which is daily becoming more threatened, there seems to be no end or reversal to this. The poaching of our Rhinos  is escalating, te year to date figure amounts to 388 of these magnificent animal being slaughtered in our country – 60% of these animals were slaughtered in the KNP.

Management and tourism plans for the KNP are drawn up and revised every five years.

It was announced in 2009 that SANParks are planning to build a hotel in the southern area which is already overutilized as per the findings in the UNISA report dated 2003.

I may mention to you that 36% of the accommodation on offer in the KNP is already in the Marula (southern) area with a density of .71 per sq km compared to the .31 for the whole of the Park.

The MSR is planned to be built in the KNP on the northern banks of the perennial Crocodile River, the hotel is planned to have 220 beds and all the amenities associated with a four and five star hotel. It will also have 24/7 access, guests will park their cars opposite the Pestano Lodge in the KNP and then be shuttled to and from the hotel as required.

Can you imagine the changes awaiting the guests to the Pestano Lodge?

What is even worse is the impact on the animals which have roamed and frequented the area for many years, longer than we can remember, antelope, predators, nightjars and owls and dikkops and other birds will have to get used to more travelling vehicles and try and evade being trampled by them, especially at night.

The critically endangered Swazi Impala lily is well represented on the sodic pans of the planned terrain. The only known nesting site of the endangered Pels Fishing Owl along the Crocodile River is on the island overlooked by the guests of the MSR.

Imagine the noise and the lights coming from this amenity.

The sound of a moving vehicle can be heard over a distance of five km during the still of the African night, lights are visible over a distance of seventeen km.

At a meeting held 3 May 2011 we were told that construction would commence during October of the same year, at the moment the scoping report has not yet been finalized. Thereafter the EIA has to be carried out and further public participation has to take place. The PR manager of the KNP recently informed the concession holders that construction would commence during October this year, his facts are obviously not correct.

The MSR will be the seventh largest accommodation facility in the KNP, while SANParks also have plans to build a hotel offering between 400 and 500 beds in the Skukuza rest camp for the conference goers.

The decision of SANParks to approve an up market hotel is a major deviation from the ethos established for the KNP over more than a century. The KNP has acquired not only national but also international acclaim for its rich biodiversity and its sound ecological management programmes and the maintenance of its pristine wilderness ambience, which is mandated and delegated to SANParks by the protected areas act of 2003.

In the spirit of the act it is fair to conclude that the only purpose of the provision of facilities should be to provide access to visitors.

The facilities on offer in a National Park or Nature Reserve should never be the main attraction to the area or be seen as a method of income generation at the cost of the primary attraction – being the natural environment and wilderness area.

I have had many discussions with visitors of our National Parks and the vast majority have expressed their intangible source of energy, fulfillment, spiritual enrichment and perfect harmony derived from the KNP.

Genl. Smuts the then leader of the opposition the man WHO seconded the proposal for the proclamation of the KNP and a great carer for Nature, made mention of the Guardian Spirit which broods over this vast solitude where no human pressure is felt, where the human element indeed shrinks into utter insignificance, and where the subtle spirit, older than human spirit, grips you and subdues you and makes you one with itself . . 

SANParks are using a formula of 10% of the total area of a National Park being acceptable for development; decide for yourselves if this should be applicable to the KrugerNational Park. The current area developed in the KNP is less than .4%.

The current CEO of SANParks is on record stating that the mentioned guardian spirit means nothing today. The old colonial conservation methods are said to be outdated, we are called purists and old fashioned and anti transformation. This is his opinion; I can tell you today that we are only doing this because we care.

No one can deny that what is scoffed at now was good for Conservation.

Much talk is made about job creation and distribution of wealth. It is a well known fact that SANParks already employ more than 12000 persons and that the KNP contributes more than R2 billion to the economy of the country. It is also said that Government subsidies to our National Parks are being reduced and that our parks should be self sufficient.

Our National parks are already generating 85% of their operating budget. The expected income from the MSR is expected to be R800 000 per annum during its first three years of existence. Is the sacrifice for this pittance not too big?

There is no survey available that indicates that there is a need for hotels in the KNP, if people want to build hotels and create jobs and distribute wealth this can be done much better by having the hotels outside the perimeter of the KNP, accessible to the general public and not restricted to persons in the KNP.

Surveys done by the T&L faculty of the North-West University on request of SANParks have indicated that >85% of the respondents require the KNP to remain as is. >85% of the respondents also indicated that conferences and events are less important or not important at all.

>80% of the respondents indicated that the KNP was preferred as a holiday destination, their reason for visiting the KNP were given as to relax, to get away from routine as well as:

The Big 5 and a variety of wildlife.

Its Proximity.

The Nature experience and appreciation.

The Unique atmosphere in the Park.

To Experience the peacefulness and tranquility.

The Park’s uniqueness to South Africa.

SANParks have also stated that they would like to increase the number of Black Diamonds visiting the National Parks, this is wonderful but a third of them have already indicated that National parks are too expensive to warrant visiting or staying in them. Special deals on accommodation were rated as being likely to draw Black Diamonds to National Parks.

Family deals would be the key – specifically for the established Black Diamonds.

Black Diamonds who have visited our National Parks have very favourable perceptions of the parks overall.

Much is said about EIA’s not being required during the earlier period for the development of the KNP, that may be so but I may remind those saying this, these studies were thoroughly done in-house by highly qualified scientists of whom many of them having doctorates in Botany and Zoology, many heated arguments resulted in plans being amended or cancelled.

Factors like:

The preservation of pristine qualities of the ecosystems should receive precedence over conflicting tourist facilities,

The provision of tourist facilities should be subject to a zoning system, based on ecological sensitivities.

Developments could only take place within the framework of accepted nature conservation principles and philosophies.

Care had to be taken against over-exploitation.

Insidious influences had to be controlled and monitored, including those that may arise in the future.

This all weighed heavily in the decision making process.

Today SANParks do not have a qualified botanist in the KNP.

During interviews, the absolute majority of the visitors have indicated to me that they would not support hotels in the KNP, it was mentioned that if entertainment was required it was available at institutions like Sun City and the close by Pilanesberg.

Numerous Private Game Reserves are available for visitors who may have the need for a manicured visit to a Game area.

Overseas visitors indicated that their visit to Africa is for an African experience – if they required pampering in hotels they could experience that much closer to home and also much cheaper.

The BANFFNational Park in Alaska is often referred to as an example of an area that was overutilized, Harvey Lock a conservator of the area has warned that Africa should not fall into the same trap.

I have a great concern about who will rehabilitate the area back into its natural state if the venture is not a success, why I am saying this is because the developer replied to a question on this matter, that the area reverts back to SANParks if not viable and it would become their responsibility.

He could also not give me the expected break-even occupancy rate for the MSR. 

There are rumours that SANParks are planning a total of six hotels for the KNP, this is currently being denied but only time will tell.

The KNP is a conservation area and cannot be transformed into just another holiday resort.

In conclusion I am appealing to you to assist AIKONA in our effort to keep the Kruger National Park Simple and Wild.

Thanks for listening to me.

Gerhard contact details

Meet the Inyati team

At Inyati we pride ourselves on our experienced and skilled team of guides and trackers. Currently, we have four field guides with their trackers, that love sharing their extensive knowledge of the African bush and wildlife and the joy they derive from it.

All our field guides have different passions and interests in the bush, which include birding, tracking, as well as the flora and fauna of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve

George HlongwaneGeorge Hlongwane

Georgie is a living legend in the reserve. He was also born on the Inyati property and has been working at Inyati for more than 20 years, this kind of experience means he know the behavior of the individual animals in the reserve as well as they do.

George has an uncanny ability to find game and interpret movement of animals in a sighting thus generally placing his guest in a perfect position to view the action.

Khimbini Hlongwane

FGASA Level 2 trails guide & Tracker level 3

Khimbini HlongwaneKhimbini has more than 10 years’ experience guiding and tracking in the Sabi Sand game reserve. Khimbini was born on Inyati and has extensive local knowledge of the area.

He has a very ethical approach to guiding and prides himself in being sensitive to animals and being able to interpret their behavior. Khim is as budding Photographer and his patience and interpretive skills have made for some remarkable images. Khim is able to interpret guest as well as he can interpret the animals he works with, as a result he is very effective at handling guest special needs and creating tailor made guided experience.

Piet Marimane – FGASA Level 2 trails guide & Tracker 3Piet Marimane

Piet is a passionate guide with extensive experience from various Lodges in the Greater Kruger National Park where he has guided and managed guiding teams for the past 20 years. Piet enjoys bird watching and photography.

Piet enjoys viewing animals on foot and is highly skilled in doing this without disturbing the animals he views and keeping his guests safe at the same time.

Keith Jenkinson

FGASA level 3 trails guide & Tracker 2

Keith JenkinsonKeith has a like for the smaller critters in the bush and the inter relationships between species. Keith is also a keen birder and has an interest in wild flowers. He has a background in conservation management where he started his career. Being on foot in the bush is Keith’s greatest passion.

Norman Hlongwane – Tracker level 1 Norman Hlongwane

Norman joined the Inyati tracking team 2 years ago. He is a soft spoken very quiet individual but a very efficient tracker. Norman is has made tracking Lions his forte.

Nelson Valoi

Tracker level 3 – Nelson is one of the “old salts” of the bush, he has been at Inyati for over 20 years and has a wealth of local knowledge. Nelson has a happy demeanor and his sense of humor is always a hit with guests.

Solly SibiyaSolly Sibiya

Tracker level 3 – Solly is a tracker extraordinaire. He is one of the few trackers in the industry that Scored a perfect 100% percent on his first ever trailing assessment.

Richard Hlongwane

Tracker Level 3 – Richard is the oldest of the Hlongwane brothers and has in excess of 20 years tracking experience at Inyati. He was also born on the property and as a result knows every nook and cranny of the reserve, he is well spoken and enjoys interaction with guest.

Richard Hlongwane

Wildlife Journal November 2011 by Khimbini Hlongwane

Shangwa In a bountiful explosion, the region has burst back to life! One of the greatest pleasures of living in South Africa’s remarkable Sabi Sand Game Reserve is being able to follow the changing seasons and smell the rain in the air in summer. Scattered clouds dot the sky and light up the sunrise and sunsets with the most unbelievable shades of soft pinks and gold. If you haven’t been to the Sabi sand in October/November then this is definitely something to put on your to do list. The abundance of wildlife is incredible; Game drives are intense and full of action as lots of antelope grazing in the plains with their new babies unperturbed by thousands of birds making their daily breeding activities and songs. With all these new helpless creatures around the predators are taking advantage and herds of elephants meander in, around and along the sand river.

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

Leopard (Panthera pardus)Tlangisa female has been covering a large area again. She is been intruding into Metsi and Hlabankunzi’s territory. On few occasions we have seen her in the lodge area which is Xikhavi female’s territory.

(Note the picture of her on the roof of one of our rooms)Tlangisa

Hlabankunzi doesn’t seem to mind Tlangisa presence in her territory but this may change when one of them gives birth as they will become more protective and will be looking for more hunting grounds to feed their young.

The generally illusive Xikhavi also abandoned her usual riverine and reeded haunts and climbed a tree to enjoy the breeze. She was spotted resting in a sausage tree just across the sand river opposite the lodge

Our leopard queen, Hlabankunzi is heavily pregnant she was seen mating with our resident dominant male in the past months, the gestation period is 100 days so hopefully in the next couple weeks she will give birth, exciting times await and we are sure to keep you updated.Xikhavi

Shangwa and her one year old male have graced us with her presence again this month. This 13 years old leopardess is one of the oldest and most experienced mother leopards I’ve lived with, a great hunter and successful mother. They young male is growing fast and becoming more confident hunting on his own. We witnessed him stalking a hyena just for the fun of it. He managed to get within 10 meters and the hyena still didn’t see him but he wasn’t brave enough to touch the hyena.

Dam 3 female also added to the boom of offspring at Inyati, she has two cubs, we got to see them feeding on a shrub hare, unfortunately this female is not relaxed with vehicles so she asked us to leave in rather harsh manner before we could get a decent picture to share with you.Dam 3 female (Note: the anger on her face)

Lion (Panthera leo)

Lion (Panthera leo)

The Ximhungwe Pride continues to patrol and hunt in all the reserve’s corners. As life goes in the bush, every up has a down. On last couple of reports I mentioned how successful the pride have been with their hunts , with all the waterholes being full the animals have disperse, the pride have been battling to find good size meal to feed the whole pride. There are lots of young born and they get food it’s just not enough to keep young ones looking healthy. They have had to cover long distance in their hunts and this have been little hard on the youngsters but we are certain they will pull through, every litter do go through these dry run.

The lioness that had two youngest cubs that were recently lost is mating again; she was seen for four days mating with one of Mapogo boys, Bent spine. If all goes well we should see some little lion cubbieLion (Panthera leo)s in about three months.

We waited for long time for the two nomadic Ottawa males; they came in for a visit in our traversing area this month. The two were seen for the three days on a row following the large herd of buffalo in the south, the boys are looking good. Both males are healthy and have a lot of attitude; one can easily tell they have the Mapogo’s gene in them. In one of the sighting we saw them make three attempts on the buffalo, but unfortunately, failed.

Lion (Panthera leo)Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

Elephant (Loxodonta africana)We have an abundance of elephant around at the moment and it is not infrequent to see four different breeding herds on one game drive. It’s always fascinating to watch elephant as they always doing something, from mothers helping calf to cross the river to watching a group of youngsters playing. We spent time with the elephant bull feeding in the sun set (left picture) and on another sighting we watched a mother and calf having a dust bath(right picture)

Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)

BuffaloFresh green sward has covered many parts of the Mpumalanga, Sabi sand, providing fresh graze for buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. The large herd have been here in our traversing area and been entertaining for the most part of the month and small groups of old male are dotted around the reserve especially along the rivers.

More than the big five…..

PangolinWith the bursting skies comes new life, its “baby boom” now in our reserve, on every corner there is a new born elephants, giraffes, warthogs and many more.

The rare scaly anteater, Pangolin made an appearance on our reserve again this month. These are nocturnal and very secretive creatures and they are still somewhat mysterious, with scientists knowing relatively little about their behaviour in the wild. In China, pangolin meat is considered to be a delicacy. Most tribes in Africa believe that if a pangolin is killed there will be no rain until the area is cleansed by the Chief traditional healer.

Africa’s second most endangered carnivore – wild dog – made its appearance again. The pack ran into our traversing area few times this month, one of our morning teas was interrupted by a pack of wild dogs that came to drink at pan in front of the lodge. After a short while of following them they killed an impala ewe and devoured it couple of minutes.Wild dog

In and around camp

TlangisaFor few days this month we didn’t have to go out the lodge to see a leopard, Tlangisa female killed an impala on our airstrip, drag it into the lodge and climb up on the roof to rest and watch us all as we enjoying our early morning tea. She stayed in camp for few days enjoying her meal.

A group of Buffalo bulls have been resting in the cool waters of the Sand River during breakfast. And a herd of Elephant has also been around Inyati camp for about five days on a row this month, and have been entertaining our guests between drives.  A group of Buffalo bulls

A young Leopard of about 3 years old – stalks, catches and plays with a scrub hare.

Warning: Not for sensitive viewers. A young Leopard of about 3 years – stalks , catches and plays with a scrub hare.

A Young Leopard of about 3 years stalk , catch and play with a scrub hare.