Masorini to Letaba (H-9)
For 20km after Masorini, the main road to Letaba Bush Camp takes one through fairly monotonous mopane flatland with not much game. There are, however, an extraordinary number of termite hills in this part of the Park. One will notice that the termite hills are at least 50m apart, because these insects are fiercely territorial.
A termite mound can be occupied by successive generations of termites for centuries. During summer, one may be lucky enough to witness gatherings of eagles above the mounds, preying on high-flying termites, which are rich in protein. Another animal that feeds on termites is the rarely seen aardwolf (“earth wolf” in Afrikaans), a member of the hyaena family, which has such sensitive hearing that it can detect termite activity deep under the ground.
The Aardvark uses its long tongue to lap up termites when they find them, and a single animal is capable of eating up to 300 000 insects during a night’s outing.
Termites are a crucial part of the savanna ecosystem in that they break down dead and decaying plant material and recycle it as nutrients. Scientists believe that termites consume over 50% of surface plant litter in the African savanna and that 20% of carbon produced in this habitat is due to termite activity.
In Kruger termites are believed to eat about 20kg of plant material per hectare per year.
In northern Kruger there are an estimated 1,1 million active termite mounds, or approximately a mound every hectare. The bigger termite mounds in Kruger have populations of over 200 000 termites. Besides their role in recycling energy, they are an important food source for many animals.
Each Kruger elephant pushes over up to four trees a day – sometimes to get at the leaves, sometimes for no apparent reason. Most trees resprout with only a fraction being killed. Naturalist Bob Scholes estimates there are about 300 mature trees per hectare in Kruger, and that elephants destroy one percent of Kruger’s trees per year.
The eastern grasslands have been worst affected with up to 60% of tree cover disappearing over the past 50 years.
Shimuwini Bush Camp
Shimuwini is Shangaan for “Place of the Baobabs” and there are some wonderful ancient specimens of these trees at the camp. The construction of the Shimuwini Dam changed the entire ecosystem of the area, introducing permanent water into the western mopaneveld, which has increased the amount of game in the area, particularly elephant.
Waterbuck are common, while eland are often seen in the surrounding grassland. Shimuwini is one of the best birding camps in Kruger. It has 15 chalets and a central lapa that overlooks the Letaba River and the dam. The camp offers bush drives and guided walks. Firewood and ice are on sale at the camp but there is no shop. There are no electrical plug-points in the rooms.
Boulders Bush Lodge
Boulders Bush Lodge is a private camp that takes its name from the surrounding granite koppies. It’s an excellent birding spot because the five thatched chalets are on stilts. Each has its own deck at tree canopy level with views over the surrounding bushwillow and mopane woodland.
The peaks of Ngodzi (472m) and Tsale (450m) can be seen from the camp, which is next to a stream and near a water hole. The lodge is available only as a block booking. It has no electricity – all lighting is solar-powered and cooking is on gas. It offers game drives and guided walks, but these have to be arranged when the initial booking takes place.