Kruger National Park
Madikwe Private Game Reserve
Marakele National Park
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park
Around Johannesburg
Nylsvlei Nature reserve

Marakele National Park

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. It is in my view a gem of a park and the photographic opportunities are endless.

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.

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.

  • 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.
  • Rhino – Marakele has a high density of both rhino species and most visitors should see these animals, particularly the more gregarious and diurnal white rhinoceros.
  • 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.

The writer and naturalist, Eugene Marais, once lived in this area and was inspired to author the "Soul of the white ant", and the "Soul of the ape". His writings were ahead of his time and they have captured the imagination of contemporary biologists. As a legacy to his works, a cycad tree was named after him, and that is Encephalartos Eugene-maraisii, which is endemic to the area. The name Marakele means "place of sanctuary" in Tswana, which it truly is, as it accommodates most African savanna animals, including the legendary "big five". While the variety of wildlife is high, the numbers of each is low. The landscape is mountainous with impressive cliffs that hold one of the world's largest breeding colonies of the endangered Cape griffon (vulture). Birds of prey thrive as the mighty cliffs facilitate up-draughts that allow them to get lift and soar like only they do.

Photographing these birds as they soar above the cliff tops is an enthralling experience! The mountaintops are very different to the lowlands, as it has very different plant species such as yellow woods, proteas, cedars and tree ferns. The lowlands are predominated by typical African savanna and woodlands. Game viewing by vehicles is the main visitor activity and visitors can stay in camping sites or a tented camp.

The area is malaria free.


PO Box 785569
South Africa


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marakeleThe Marakele National Park has become a 'place of sanctuary' for a variety of wildlife
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2011© Chris Martin Photography