Game Viewing Routes around Olifants and Letaba
The transition zone between north and south is a unique habitat known as Olifants rugged veld, a broken landscape of black rocks with pockets of dense thorn and a tangled mixture of woodland trees. The other major river is the Letaba which meets the Olifants at a cutting through the Lebombo.
- Olifants rugged veld south of Olifants camp
- Shrub mopane grasslands dominate the eastern half of the region north of Olifants
- Mixed mopane woodlands dominate the western half of the region north of Olifants
- Lebombo foothills along the eastern edge of the mopaneveld
- Pockets of riverine bush along the Olifants and Letaba rivers
There is far less game here than in the central grasslands and most of the animal activity takes place close to the rivers. Elephant are dominant but good lion and leopard sightings are often recorded along the Letaba River. Waterbuck are particularly prolific around Letaba.
The rivers are important water bird breeding sites and some of the best birding in South Africa may be experienced along the northern banks of the Engelhard dam close to Letaba Camp. There is a long tradition of human settlement in the broader Letaba River catchment and some of the artifacts from the Iron Age can be seen at Masorini Picnic Site near Phalaborwa Gate.
Best Drive in the Southern Mopaneveld
Engelhard Dam to Mingerhout Dam: This drive includes over 20km of Letaba River frontage which is the centre of animal activity in the southern mopaneveld;
The drive is particularly good in winter as animals tend to stick closer to water;
take in Matambeni Hide and the Engelhard Dam wall for birding and Mingerhout Dam for animal watching.
Allow five hours to and from Letaba Camp (return via the same route, as the S47 to the south of Mingerhout has large tracts of fairly featureless mopaneveld with few animals to be seen).
Impala - fast food for predators
Impala (mhala in Shangaan) is the one guaranteed sighting in Kruger. They are the most common antelope in the Park, with a relatively stable population of about 100 000 at any given time. They are the staple diet of many predators, and during calving in early summer even martial eagles and baboons may try and hunt new-born impalas.
By the end of summer one of the male impalas in the herd will have become the dominant male and the other male impalas will form bachelor herds during the winter. They often hang around on the fringes of the dominant male's harem and will occasionally try and challenge his authority. The dominant male can fertilise up to 50 ewes. During calving, bachelor herds become integrated back into the main herd for added protection.
Impala ewes are believed to be able to hold back on calving for up to a month in order to wait for new grazing or water for their young. New-born impala are hidden by their mothers in long grass or bush thickets for their first few days of life until they are strong enough to keep up with the herd.
Impalas have a good sense of hearing and smell. They are quite social animals, co-existing with other animals in grazing parties. They also have a natural association with baboons, often eating fruit and leaves dropped by the primates in the trees above them.