Paula Gilhooley…Marloth Park , South Africa

In August 2007 I took my first trip to South Africa, staying for two months.  I have been returning every two years since then.  After landing at the Johannesburg International airport you have to transfer to domestic flights where you board a small prop plane to fly to Mpumalanga Kruger International Airport in Nelspruit, South Africa. The plane flies relatively loIMG_0327w so it is easy to see the landscape below which is a series of browns dotted with a few green fields where the crops are irrigated. As we approach the Drakensberg Escarpment you will see fires burning across much of Mpumulanga.  Beyond the escarpment the Lowveld is increasingly thick with smoke.  Some of these fires are caused by the extreme dry conditions of winter but others are the result of burning of the sugar cane fields just prior to harvesting.  The fires burn away the the excess dry foliage and get rid of the cobras and other varmints that inhabit the can fields. After the fires die down the fields are safer for the workers to go in with their machetes to cut the cane.

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After picking up a rental car at the airport we begin our two hour drive to Marloth Park whic

h is located on the southern boarder of Kruger National Park in the eastern most section of the

country, an area designated the “Wild Frontier”  (literally “Wild Garden” translated from Africaans).  Marloth Park is a conservancy and gated community where wild animals roam freely;  it is not unusual to have Zebra, Kudu, Giraffe, Impala, and Warthog in your Duiker, Genet, Vervet Monkey, Banded Mongoose, Baboon and a very loud bullfrog that likes to inhabit the small pond in the yard.  Generally the big cats, Lion, Cheetah and Leopard do not stay in Marloth Park but, they do get in on occasion under or over the fence that separates Marloth from the Crocodile River and the southern boarder of Kruger National Park on the opposite bank.  Elephant, Water Buffalo, Hippo and Rhino stay on the Kruger side of the river.  The Crocodile River forms the northern boarder of Marloth Park and another conservation area called Lionspruit is on the southern boarder.

The house that I have rented is on Sonie Street, Impala Place, in Marloth park.  It is a ranch style brick house that has four bedrooms and four baths, a large kitchen, lounge area, verandas, braai, swimming pool and a 24/7 housekeeper/manager Constance who kIMG_3397eeps everything running smoothly.  The yard is a veritable oasis in a sea of sunburned dry grasses and leafless trees and shrubs.  Lining the drive are aloes, over seven feet in height which bloom in August.  Most of the houses in Marloth Park are built of brick and have either a tiled or thatched roof.  The ceilings are over 12 feet high and all the doors and window frames are metal.  Very little wood is used as the termites here are very common and it is not unusual to see a termite mound over six feet high.

In Marloth Park there is only one paved road which runs from the western gate to the eastern gate of the community about 15km away.  The rest of the roads are gravel and very narrow.  The entire community is in a bush like setting with park lands between the areas with structures.  The area is relatively remote surrounded by Sugar Cane fields, Orange groves and Banana fields.  There is a small shopping center with a few essential shops and a bar/restaurant, until last year there was no post office or postal code.  For any real shopping you have to go to Komatipoort about 25 minutes away or to Malalene about an hour away. The closest city is Nelspruit about two hours away.

All is quiet and peaceful in Marloth and there are posted rules at the gates as very efficient security that insures that it remains so.  This is a retirement and vacation community with the highest volume of visitors during the school holidays.  It is a great tourist destination because of its proximity to Kruger National Park which is only 20 minutes away.  For me it is the perfect spot to do a Safari, all the wonderful animals in Kruger and in Marloth with the comfort of a house in a ideal setting.

The variety of bird life is amazing and you can easily entertain yourself for hours sitting on the veranda watching the wonderful array of birds that fly into the yard.  Of special note is the Natal Francolin bird which is shaped like a football and has a raucous squawk which it uses to announce the beginning of the day.  Ther Hammerkop is another unusual bird that likes to visit the small pool in the yard to search for tadpoles and goldfish among the reeds.  Along the river the birds life is even more numerous and colorful.

Residents of Marloth often feed the animas with special wildlife pellets when food becomes scarce.  The Zebra and Kudu will make regular visits for food including pellets and fruit which they will sometimes take from your hand.  Warthogs will eat anything and always arrive first for any meal.

The favorite afternoon activity in Marloth is to take sundowners down to the river and watch the animals from Kruger come down to the river for a swim or drink at the end of the day.

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