The most direct way from Pretoriuskop to Malelane is via the Voortrekker Road (H2-2). The longer route is to take the Napi Road (H1-1) (See Map) to the main Skukuza Malelane road (H3) and head south. Both routes include Afsaal picnic site.
Photo: Mochael Poliza
About the South West
At Malelane Gate
Malelane Skukuza via Afsaal
Malelane Skukuza via Biyamiti
Malelane to Berg-en-Dal
Malelane to Crocodile Bridge
Numbi Gate to Skukuza
Pretoriuskop to Malelane
It is rumoured that a stash of 19th-century gold coins is buried somewhere at the foot of Ship Mountain. Chief Matafini - a former Swazi military commander who fell out with his king Mbandeni - took refuge in the Crocodile River valley in the 1880s.
He apparently buried his substantial wealth - a couple of saddlebags of gold coins - in the vicinity of Ship Mountain to avoid paying tax to the Transvaal Government. While on the run from tax collectors, he was murdered by bandits and apparently took the secret of his treasure's whereabouts to his grave.
It is geologically distinctive from the surrounding granite-supported countryside in that it consists of gabbro, a hardier the natural armoury of rocks to beat off attempts by the Swazi to get to the summit. About halfway between Ship Mountain and Afsaal is Josekhulu Drift where there are often birding parties among the tall trees near the water.
Josekhulu was named after Albasini's induna, or headman, a large Zulu man known as "Big Josef" who was in charge of the area. Close to Josekhulu is the site of a trading store set up by Thomas Hart during the 1870s to sell supplies to the porters who used to carry supplies from the coast to Pretoriuskop.
Being drunk in the bush is an invitation to danger. However, to every rule there is an exception. In Wild Life in South Africa, James Stevenson-Hamilton recounted the experience of a ranger called Sakubona in the early days of Kruger's history. Late one night an inebriated Sakubona returned home from a party at a nearby kraal when he literally walked into a lion along a narrow bush path.
"According to his own account, he felt indignant, and after inquiring of the lion what it meant by blocking his road in this manner, poked it on the nose with his stick, on which it growled, bit him in the leg, and then ran away". The next morning a ranger examined the footprints and tracks and confirmed there had been some sort of incident involving man and lion.
"Of course no-one, not even Sakubona himself," wrote Stevenson-Hamilton "knows what exactly did happen but he assuredly did have a single-handed and unarmed encounter with a lion in the dark, and came off best. Personally, I think had he been sober the result might have been unfortunate for him, but he was just in that condition when it is impossible to know fear.
He had arrived at just that stage of spiritual elevation when a man feels there is nothing in the world of which he is not capable. Also of course, there are lions and lions!"
When the Park opened to tourism, Sakubona supplemented his income as a gate guard by rolling up his trousers and showing his scars to tourists for a small fee.
The area between Pretoriuskop and Phabeni is one of the few places in the Park where one may glimpse the oribi, the largest of the pygmy antelope family, and one of Kruger's rarest antelope. A curious fact about the oribi is that they rarely drink fresh water, getting almost all their moisture requirements from browsing. There is some uncertainty as to the status of oribi in Kruger. There have been two attempts to reintroduce these high-altitude browsers into Kruger.
In 1962, 29 oribi from Badplaas were released near the Fayi Loop near Pretoriuskop, and 10 years later another 98 were brought in. However, these attempts do not appear to have resulted in any sustainable population and oribi sightings are rare. Stevenson-Hamilton recorded his surprise at coming across an oribi at the foot of the Lebombo in the vicinity of Muntshe, almost 100km from its more familiar habitat in the lightly wooded Pretoriuskop foothills.
This is a large camp set in the mixed terminalia and kiaat woodlands in Kruger's south-western foothills. It's the oldest camp in Kruger and was opened in 1928 shortly after tourists were first allowed in the Park. In 1947, the British royal family stayed at Pretoriuskop during their South African visit.
Pretoriuskop's attraction to the early travellers making their way to Delagoa Bay was its altitude. Situated high above the malaria- and tsetse fly-ridden lowveld, it was deemed a safe resting spot from which to prepare for the hellishly hot journey across the plains to Komatipoort and then on to the sea. The same principle still operates - the relative coolness of Pretoriuskop makes it a good place during the hot summer months, from October to March.
Pretoriuskop is the only camp in Kruger where non-indigenous trees have been allowed to grow. The colourful bougainvillaea and red flamboyants were planted by Harry Wolhuter, the first ranger in the Park, who used the camp as his base in the late 1920s. He used to hold staff meetings under an old Natal mahogany tree - the indaba tree - which still stands today and is popular with birds.
These exotics provide a colourful counterpoint to the indigenous knob-thorns, figs and marulas in the camp. The best birding spot in Pretoriuskop Camp is the mini forest around the swimming pool which is set in among flat granite boulders. This is a particularly busy area and usually a good variety of birds can be seen within a half-hour amble.