Located in the Limpopo state in South Africa, the Marakele National Park is found within the Waterberg Mountains and the word Marakele literally translates to “the place of sanctuary”. The park was opened up in 1994 and it covers over 670 kilometers squared. The Park’s strategic location helps it accommodate the various wildlife species that is it is located within the eastern region which is almost wet all throughout the year and the western region which is dry.
History of the Marakele National Park
The Marakele National park which was officially established in 1994 was at first known as the Kransberg National Park. There are legends that are surrounding the Park and one of them is a story that is told to all tourists who visit the Park. It is said that there was a man who once fought a leopard that had attacked his farm and although he was hurt during the fifteen minutes it took for the fight to end, he saved his calf and went to the hospital for treatment. Besides the stories that surround the park, it is also believed the first inhabitants of the Park were people who used to make things using iron like clay furnaces.
The Park experienced a lot of poaching from the locals in the surrounding villages and this saw many of the animals being poached out of existence although at the moment, many of the animals have been re-introduced into the Park making it a household name for tourists who want to check out the big five while in South Africa.
The Marakele National park is a destination for all tourists irrelevant of the age and this is due to the fact that there are different activities that you can carry out while here and some of these include birding, game drives, bush walks and camping among others. It is also a home to the 14 Tuli elephants that were rescued from Botswana after being treated badly by the officials in the country.
There are many animals that can be found in the Marakele National Park including the big five. Some of the animals had just re-introduced to the Park after being poached out of existence like the buffalos. The best time to go for game drives in the Marakele is during the dry season which is experienced from June to September. During the dry season, the animals that you should look out for while in the Marakele National Park include:
- The sable antelope
- Bat eared fox
- White Rhinos
- Cheetahs although they are rare
- Tsessebe among other animals.
Birding in Marakele
The Marakele National Park has over 800 bird breeding places and it also has over 400 bird species that have been registered within the Park. The Marakele National Park is the perfect place for birding as it has the largest number of vultures in the whole world most of which are endemic. Below is a bird checklist showing you the different bird species that you are bound to find while in Marakele.
- The Buff-streaked chat
- White helmet shrike
- Southern carmine bee-eater
- Verreaux’s eagle
- Cape bunting
- The Lazy Cisticola
- The half collared kingfisher
- Cape vulture
- Peregrine falcon
- The fiery necked nightjar
- The Brubru
- The black cheeked waxbill
- The African finfoot
- The brown snake eagle
- The gurney’s sugarbird
- Black chested snake eagle
- Southern white crowned shrike
- Wahlberg’s eagle among other species.
Bush walks in Marakele Park
This is one of the best ways in which you can explore the National Park and also get close to the wilderness. Bush walks are organized by the Park management and you are provided with a tour guide who will take you around the marked routes while showing you the different animals that are found in the Park. Some bush walks are short whereas others are long but whichever you want to participate in, it will be a good thing for you to do because of the thrill of being in close proximity with the different animals.
Photo safaris to Marakele
A trip to the Marakele is incomplete without a photo safari. This does not matter whether you actually know how to take photos or not because you do not want to miss out on the beautiful scenery and what better way to see and capture all this other than being behind the lens. If you do not know how to take photos, you will be shown the few ropes on how to handle a camera by the experienced tour guide and then you will be ready to go. You will be able to take photos of the Waterberg Mountains, bird species, animals and the greenery in the Park.
A hike up the Waterberg Mountains
A home to the National park, the Waterberg Mountains found in the Limpopo province is a beauty that needs to be explored on its own. Hikes up the Mountain are organized and with the help of a tour guide, you will be able to traverse the clearly marked hike routes up the Massif and once you reach the peak, you will have a clear view of the whole park. Make sure you put on proper hike boots and its better if you hike up the Mountain during the dry season when the hike routes are not slippery.
Reasons as to why you should visit the Marakele National Park
One might ask why the Marakele National Park is a top destination in the country and besides the many activities that are carried out within the National Park, there are those distinct things that make it unique and these include:
- The Waterberg Mountains
The Waterberg Mountains are the home to the Marakele National Park and this is one of the top attractions that make the Marakele unique. A hike up the Mountains will give you a great view of the whole National Park and the surrounding landscape.
- The cape vultures
The Marakele National Park is a home to the largest number of cape vultures in the whole world. There are different types of vultures and their feeding grounds are found in the higher escarpments. This means that you will have to prepare for the hike which is not an easy one but the sight of the vultures will be a reward enough.
Getting to the Marakele National Park
You can get to the Marakele National Park either by driving or flying there depending on your previous arrangements. Once you land into the country at the airport in Johannesburg, a chartered flight is always available for those that want to fly to the National Park and this makes the distance a little bit shorter. And for those that prefer to drive while the enjoying the beautiful scenery around the country before getting to the National Park, there is also transportation availed to you. The Marakele National Park is just 250 kilometers away from Johannesburg and a drive will take you about three hours and a half hours.
Marakele National park safari costs
A safari cost involves a lot of expenditures all placed in one that is transportation fees all throughout your stay on your trip, park entrance fees, accommodation fees and food. A van will be provided to you with a driver tour guide to pick you up from the airport to your chosen accommodation facility, take you around the National Park and then you are driven back to the airport on the last day when your trip ends. There are different types of safaris that you can take while in the Marakele National and some of these are the budget safaris and the luxury safaris.
Accommodation facilities in the Marakele National Park
There are a lot of accommodation facilities that you can use while on a safari trip to the Marakele National Park and these are divided into three categories that is the budget friendly, mid-range and luxury accommodation facilities. These are booked in advance and while booking, you need to put into consideration your budget and your comfort.
The Tlopi Tented camp Marakele
The camp has 10 rooms which house a maximum of26 people. Located within the Waterberg ranges, the camp has some of the best views of the National Park. A room at the Tlopi camp Marakele goes for 82 dollars per night however you should note that the price also depends on the number of children and adults booking for the accommodation. The minimum days that one can stay here are one day although you can stay for as long as you want during your safari.
The Marataba safari lodge
The Marataba safari lodge is a privately owned lodge and houses a maximum of about 45 people. It has some of the best views of the Marakele like the Waterberg Mountains, the animals that roam around the Park and the thick vegetation surrounding the lodge. There are different rooms that you can book for example the luxury tented rooms and the luxury tented suites, single and double rooms and all these depend on your budget. There is a swimming pool, free Wi-Fi and each room goes for an average price of 664 US dollars per night.
The Griffons bush camp
This is located 11 kilometers away from the Marakele National Park and has a maximum of only 16 people. It is a self-catering accommodation facility surrounded by an Acacia forest and a beautiful scenery. The minimum days for one to spend the night here is one and you get to pay an average price of 58 US dollars per night.
The Mhondoro Game lodge
The Mhondoro Game lodge is located within the National Park and it is a luxury accommodation facility. It is a family friendly facility that has facilities for both the adults and the children and you will also have the chance to see some animals that live within the National Park. It has self-contained rooms that can accommodate about 24 people and two guests pay 639 US dollars per night.
The Bontle Rest camp
The Bontle Rest camp is a budget friendly accommodation facility with 44 rooms and can sleep about 200 people. There are 36 camps for tourists to use and a room goes for an average of 23 US dollars per night for every two guests.
When to visit the Marakele National Park
The best time for visiting the Marakele National Park normally depends on the activities that you are going to carry out and the seasons but note that it can be visited all year round. The best time for game drives is during the dry season which runs from May to September and it is the best time for tourists who are interested in bush walks and hikes. The best time for tourists who love birding is during the wet season which is experienced from October to April.
- October to April
This is the wet season and some of the highlights that cover this period include new born babies of the different animals as it is also known as the breeding season, migratory birds fly into the Park joining the rest of the endemic bird species, the vegetation is also a lot during this period although the heat during the day the heat can become unbearable.
- May to September
This is the best time for tourists who love game viewing. Between the months of April to May, there will be minimal rain during and the worst weather is experienced between May to August. Also known as the summer season, all you need to do is get ready for the weather changes.
The Marakele National Paris one of the most visited National Parks in South Africa and if you are not interested in the animals and the birds that are found in the Park, then you should at least visit it so that you can get to relax as it’s located in a secluded area away from the noise found in the urban area of South Africa.