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Marakele National Park near Thabazimbi

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The Marakele National Park in the heart of the Waterberg Mountains, as its Tswana name suggests, has become a ‘place of sanctuary’ for an impressive variety of wildlife due to its location in the transitional zone between the dry western and moister eastern regions of South Africa.

Contrasting majestic mountain landscapes, grass-clad hills and deep valleys characterize the park. Rare finds of yellowwood and cedar trees, five metre high cycads and tree ferns, are some of the plant species found here. All the large game species from elephant and rhino to the big cats as well as an amazing variety of birds including what’s probably the largest colony of endangered Cape vultures (more than 800 breeding pairs) in the world, have settled here.

Areas of Special Interest

A narrow tar road takes visitors up to the top of the Waterberg massif. Views and scenery are spectacular. One is also in the proximity of the vulture colony and these large birds will soar past at close quarters.

5 Things to Seek

  • Cape Vulture – the park hosts one of the world’s largest breeding colonies of this endangered species. While birds may be seen in the air catching thermals anywhere in the park, the drive up to the Sentech Towers is nearest to the colony and close encounters with these enormous birds will leave visitors breathless.
  • African Elephant – while some elephant had been previously reintroduced into the park, it was the release of the Tuli elephants in 1999 that captured the public’s and media’s imagination.
  • Leopard – Large predators such as brown hyena, leopard and now also lion, occur in the park.
  • Kudu – as browsers these antelope are in their element at Marakele. Look out for the bulls with their magnificent spiral horns.
  • The not-so-often-seen-elsewhere antelope species such as reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, eland and tsessebe can be found here.

Source, more info & bookings: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/marakele/

This is one of the most amazing places in the Waterberg, here is a collection of my favorite photos from this visit:

All photos copyright: R.O.Schlieben rudi@equadoor.com

04/12/2014 |

Lalele Crocodile Farm near Mookgophong / Naboomspruit worth a Visit

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Lalele Crocodile Farm near Mookgophong / Naboomspruit worth a Visit

Lalele Crocodile Farm is a beautiful oasis style Croc-Farm located near the town Mookgophong formerly known as Naboomspruit.

The farm houses 14,000 Crocs.

Experience a Live feeding show on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 14:30.

Relax at the Lovely Crocktail Bar and enjoy a delicious Croc Meat Meal in their Restaurant.

Also a Curio shop for young and old with Crocodile leather products produced on the farm.

Website: http://www.lalele.co.za

> Tel: +27 14 743-0215

> Fax: +27 14 743-0215

> E-mail: info@lalele.co.za

> Location Map

13/11/2014 |

Makapansgat Caves and archaeological and fossil sites near Mokopane

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MAKAPANSGAT:  CAVES THROUGH AGES

LOCALITY

The Makapansgat Caves and neighbouring archaeological and fossil sites are situated on the farm Makapansgat 19km north of Potgietersrus in the Northern Province.  The caves are of great importance as they provide a record of hominid occupation from australopithecine (ape-man) times through the Stone and Iron Ages, right up to the present day.  As such, the Makapansgat Valley is unique in that nowhere else in the world, such an extended and complete record of hominid occupation has been observed.

HISTORY

In February 1925 Prof Raymond Dart announced the discovery of the first ape-man at Taung (Northwest Province) with these profound words:”The specimen is of importance because it exhibits an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids (apes such as chimpanzees) and man…..”.  A teacher from Pietersburg, Mr Wilfred Eitzman, inspired by this discovery, sent Dart some rocks containing fossils which he found near the lime kilns on the farm Makapansgat.  This is how one of the most revealing chapters of the origin and evolution on Humankind was opened.

MAKAPANSGAT VALLEY SITES

MAKAPANSGAT LIMEWORKS

This is the oldest of the sites, spanning an age of between 3,32 million years to 1,6 million years ago.  This site has yielded many thousands of fossil bones, amongst which were found remains of the gracile ape-man Australopithecus africanus.

CAVE OF HEARTHS & HYAENA CAVE

The Cave of Hearths preserves a remarkably complete record of human occupation from Early Stone Age “Acheulian” times in the oldest sediments through the Middle Stone Age, the Later Stone Age and up to the Iron Age.  Nineteenth Century European relics such as brass ware and musket balls were found at the surface when excavations started.

BUFFALO CAVE

A small number of fossils were collected by Dr Robert Broom from this site in 1937, including the remains of the extinct buffalo Bos makapania.  More recent excavations have revealed an extensive fauna including antelope, horses, pigs, monkeys and carnivores which suggest a Pleistocene age for the deposits.

FICUS CAVE & IRON AGE SITE

The cave gets its name from the fig tree Ficus ingens roots which curtain its entrance.  This cave contains Iron Age and 19th Century relics, a large bat colony and an underground lake.  An Iron Age site close by yields occupational debris from approximately Early Iron Age (550 AD), 870 AD and the Late Iron Age (1560 AD).  The slopes adjacent to the cave are artificially terraced and archaelogical finds from these include patsherds, grindstones, hammer stones and relics of iron smelting operations, including ore, slag and fragments of tuyeres.

PEPPERCORNE’S CAVE

This cave contains Iron Age and ancient relics and an underground lake.  It is also home to a large colony of migratory long-fingered bats, Miniopteris schreibersii.

RAINBOW CAVE

This cave is situated immediately below the Historic Cave and contains the remains of several hearths, indicating both human occupation and the controlled us of fire.  The exposed sediments have yielded Middle Stone Age artifacts of the Piertersburg Culture of between 100 000 and 50 000 years ago.

HISTORIC CAVE OR MAKAPANSGAT

This site lies immediately adjacent to the Cave of Hearths and preserves Iron Age and Mfecane relics.  It is most famous as the clash between a Boer Commando and local Langa and Kekana people after the murders of Voortrekkers at Moorddrift, Mapela and Pruizen.  Chief Makapan (Mokopane), together with a large number of his tribespeople and their cattle were besieged in the cave for nearly a month between 25 October and 21 November 1854, during which time many hundreds died of hunger and thirst.  Piet Potgieter was shot during the siege and the name of the nearby town was changed from Vredenburg to Pieter Potgietersrust, which in time changed to Potgietersrus.  The cave was proclaimed a National Monument in 1936.

DISCOVERIES IN MAKAPANSGAT VALLEY

The rocks Prof Dart received from Mr Eitzman turned out to contain, amongst others, blackened fossil bones which led him to believe that they were burnt.  Although no hominid remains or stone tools were found at first, he concluded that these were the remains of bones burnt in fireplaces and therefore that Mokapansgat was a site of early hominid occupation.  Dart named the first hominids discovered at the site Australopithecus Prometheus after the mythological Greek hero who stole fire from the Gods.  Afterwards the black markings turned out to be manganese stains and Australopithecus Prometheus turned out to be specimens of Australopithecus africanus.  On the basis of an analysis of 7159 fossil bones, Dart concluded that these creatures, in an era before stone tools were discovered, used tools made from bone, teeth and horn, naming it the Osteodontokeratic Culture.

In 1936, the Historical Monuments Commission was asked to declare Makapan’s Cave a National Monument and Prof C van Riet Lowe, secretary of the Commission and Director of the Archaeological Survey of the Union of South Africa, visited the site in 1937.  He inspected the Historic Cave and discovered close by an abandoned limeworker’s adit which cut through a calcified cave infill.  In this infill he saw fossil bones, stone tools and what he took to be ash horizons, representing ancient hearths.  After initially referring to it as part of Makapan’s Cave, he later renamed it “The Cave of Hearths”.

Further research during June and October 1937 revealed the Rainbow Cave.  The site was visited by Van Riet Lowe, Dart and Robert Broom.  HBS Cooke of the Geology Department of the University of the Witwatersrand conducted a geological survey of the area (1941) followed by LC King in 1951.

Philip Tobias led a group of students in July 1945 to the valley where they discovered the Hyaena Cave adjacent to Van Riet Lowe’s site.  Further down the valley, from a cave adjacent to the limeworks, they collected a large fossil horse’s lower jaw, from which the Cave of the Horse’s Mandible derived its name.

After these discoveries, Dr Bernard Price made a research grant available for systematic excavations which commenced at the Cave of Hearths in 1947, field work being carried out by Guy Gardiner, James Kitching and his brothers Ben and Scheepers.  One of he most significant discoveries was a Homo lower jaw from Bed 3 by Ben.  In 1953 Dr RJ Mason was placed in charge of the excavations and the stratigraphic sequence was determined during 1953-1954.

After the Kitching brothers discovered an ape-man braincase amongst the Limeworks dumps in 1947, Dart organized for the lime miner’s dumps to be hand-sorted in order to recover as much fossil-bearing material as possible.  After 45 years of research, many thousands of fossils from this site have been identified and catalogued.

B Maguire studied rocks which were brought from outside into the caves during prehistoric times (1965, 1968, 1980).  This he interpreted to represent rudimentary stone tool making activities dated at around 2,3 – 1,6 million years ago.

Source: http://www.mogalakwena.gov.za/index.php?page=tourism

All photos copyright: RO Schlieben, rudi@equadoor.com
12/11/2014 |
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