Pafuri Picnic Site is something of a mecca for South African birders. Among the rarer birds that may be seen at Pafuri and along the Luvuvhu River (right), are the thick-billed cuckoo, racket-tailed roller, Narina trogon and trumpeter hornbill. There is also an educational display about the nearby Thulamela archaeological site.
Crocodiles mainly subsist on fish, but their prey will include any animal that ventures too close to the water, including humans. Female crocodiles nest on sandy shorelines, dry stream beds, or riverbanks.
A female can lay 25 to 100 eggs, which she covers with sand, then guards until they hatch approximately three months later.
Crocodiles are surprisingly good parents and, when the young start hatching, either parent may assist them to escape from their eggs by rolling them between tongue and palate. When in danger, an adult female crocodile may hold young crocodiles in her throat pouch for protection.
Crooks’ Corner got its name from the outlaws who lived there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Because of the three sovereign territories that met at the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers – Portuguese East Africa, Southern Rhodesia and South Africa – it was relatively easy to avoid the law by hopping over into a neighboring territory.
It became a haven for ivory poachers, gunrunners and illegal tribal labour recruiters. Among the more infamous of these was Stephanus Barnard, an ivory poacher known as Bvekenya (“he who swaggers”), who built many of the roads in the area. There was a trading store in the area owned by Alec Thompson that was an important supply point and meeting place for the rogues who lived here.
Crooks’ Corner was a mine labour recruitment centre of dubious repute during the old Transvaal gold-mining boom of the late 19th century. TV Bulpin, in his Lost Trails of the Lowveld, noted that, among the hoodlums who found a means of livelihood in trading in humans were the two De Beer brothers.
They were “among the best known loungers around Crooks’ Corner. Proper wild men of the bush, they wandered around carrying little else save their rifles and a large bottle of Worcester sauce slung on a cord around their necks, they being uncommonly partial to that condiment with their venison”.
Thulamela – Iron-Age Kingdom
Thulamela, an ancient fortress overlooking the Luvuvhu River, was the political capital of an Iron-Age kingdom between 1200 AD and 1640 AD. The name is derived from the Shona phrase meaning “giving birth”.
Thulamela was “discovered” by a Park ranger in 1991 and much of the site has been restored. The rulers of Thulamela are believed to have controlled a far-reaching trading network between the Mozambican coast and the South African interior.
Excavations have yielded traces of gold artifacts from Zimbabwe, glass beads from India and porcelain from China. Two skeletons were unearthed during excavations – a “queen” with gold and copper bangles and beads, and a “king” adorned with gold ornaments.
Analysis of the “king’s” skeleton indicates that he was probably murdered – stabbed through the stomach in approximately 1640 – and that Thulamela was abandoned soon afterwards. The two baobabs that loomed over the Thulamela meeting place are each believed to be more than 4 000 years old. The views from the top of this hill embody the sense of ancient Africa. Below, one can see the old elephant migration route through the surrounding hills and a magnificent baobab forest.