A wetland boardwalk is due to be launched soon in the Kruger National Park, starting in the Skukuza nursery car park. Over 260 metres long, the boardwalk will be more than two metres off the ground in some places, to allow hippo and buffalo to graze underneath, and will be wheelchair friendly.
The boardwalk was initially the idea of Ona Davies, in charge of the Skukuza nursery. After a long planning process, money to build the boardwalk was sourced from the department of environmental affairs' poverty relief fund.
The boardwalk showcases the importance of wetlands using the wetland created by Lake Panic as an example. Basically a long loop of decking, it will be two metres wide and have several lookout points, which command a great view of the wetland and the nearby golf course.
These points will be combined with information boards that explain the functions of a wetland, and their importance in maintaining the health of river systems. Wetland rehabilitation processes will also be outlined on the boards. Plants, animals and birds associated with wetlands will be explained at the interpretative points.
The main purpose of the wetland walk is to act as an educational tool, to raise awareness with the public of how they can help conserve these valuable areas. Progress on the walk was halted by heavy rains in January, and so the boardwalk will not be opening as intended on World Wetlands Day on February 2, but is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
The boardwalk is just one of several wetland projects. A team of workers from villages neighbouring Kruger have been hard at work with pick and shovel rehabilitating the Stangene dam in the far north of the park. This earthwalled dam was built several decades ago in a special kind of floodplain, known as a dambo, and has caused many changes in the wetland. By taking down the dam wall, the flow of water through the wetland can resume along its historic path, slowly returning the area to a more natural state.
More than 6,000 cubic metres of soil were removed from the dam wall without the benefit of heavy machinery. The material was then trucked to some old gravel pits, creating a win-win situation where the wetland was rehabilitated along with the gravel pits. The team is now busy with a second dam, Mpenza, also in the north of the park near Shingwedzi, where rehabilitation of the dam wall should be completed by June.
The workers will then move on to the Twisappel dam between Letaba and Mopani. An assessment is being made of all the dams in the park, in line with the waterhole closure policy and an ever-increasing awareness of the importance of wetlands. Dams in the park will then be rehabilitated according to this plan.