Malelane Gate to Berg-en-Dal via the S110
The S110 between Malelane Gate and Berg-en-Dal takes one into the Malelane mountain bushveld of south-western Kruger. There is a high diversity of plant and animal species to be seen along this road because of the number of different habitats that co-exist within a confined geographical area that enjoys some of the highest rainfall in the Park.
The road goes along a ridge into the Matjulu River valley, which is surrounded by granite mountains. Among these are Kruger’s highest peak Khandzalive (839m), as well as Tlhalabye (630m), and Matjulu (627m).
Although game viewing in the south-west can be unpredictable, the S110 usually has some animal activity. This is one of the few parts of western Kruger where the grazers of the eastern lowveld are regularly seen. They generally stick to the lower contours where the grasses are more nutritious and there are often herds of buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and impala which appear to migrate towards this area seasonally.
Kudu and duiker are the browsers most likely to be seen in the Malelane Mountain Bushveld, which also has established populations of white rhino. Among the rarer Kruger animals to be seen in this area are the common reedbuck and sable antelope.
The main predators that operate here are hyaena and wild dogs, although lion are also frequently seen. The higher altitudes of this area support different species from the valley woodlands. Mountain reedbuck may be seen rarely in the upper pockets of grassland. They are not found anywhere else in Kruger. Klipspringer are obvious but hard to see as they stand dead still on prominent outcrops.
The dominant trees are the bushwillows and magic guarris, but the woodlands include a number of trees uncommon elsewhere in Kruger – the Zulu milkberry (Manilkara concolor), Cape chestnut (Calodendrum capense) and white pear (Apodytes dimidiata). Large-leaved rock figs (Ficus abutilifolia) are common among the boulders and mountain kirkia (Kirkia wilmsii) – which is associated more with the northern sandveld – is also common on the upper slopes.
Berg-en-Dal is a large camp built on the Matjulu River within the protective ring of the Malelane mountains. The harsh face-brick design of the buildings may not be to everyone’s liking, but the relatively undisturbed woodland environment within the camp is an adequate compensation. The camp has fine views over Matjulu Dam and thick bush towards the steep granite foothills that encircle the wooded valley floor.
Berg-en-Dal also caters for conferences and school holiday programmes. It has all the facilities of the major camps – restaurant, gift shop, petrol station, laundry, swimming pool and Internet café. Wildlife documentaries are screened regularly. Berg-en-Dal is a good stopover for day visitors to do a short walk and a swim. There is a very attractive walk around the perimeter of the camp from the causeway past the dam up the river, along a dry river bed and through the woodlands behind the camp accommodation.
The walk is wheelchair-friendly and incorporates a Braille trail. The Berg-en-Dal area is rich with remnants of the Late Stone Age and Iron Age. When construction work began on the camp in the early 1980s, potsherds and bones were found dating back several hundred years. The artifacts are housed in a display at the camp.
The south-western foothills of Kruger and the neighbouring Bongani Private Reserve have a high concentration of rock art. Well over 100 rock-art sites have been discovered in these hills and there are believed to be many others that are yet to be found. None of the sites is accessible without a guide. The best way to view rock art in Kruger is to do the three-day Bushman Trail, although one needs to book months in advance for the experience.