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Waterberg Reserve

The Waterberg Reserve, also known and the Waterberg Biosphere is an area of around 15,000 square kilometers, located in the North Limpopo Province of South Africa. It has a long and diverse history, going all the way back to the stone age.

Lodges in the Waterberg

Lodges in the Waterberg

 

This area is the first to be named a Biosphere by UNESCO. Hundreds of millions of years of river erosion have shaped these extensive rock formations and butte as well as bluff land forms. Most of the restored ecosystem, which was used heavily in the 1900’s by cattle ranchers is made up of bushveld, or deciduous forests, with some rivers as well.

 

There are still sandstone formations, which millions of years ago retained enough water to support primitive man. There are many over hanging cliffs, which would have supplied natural barriers and shelters from the elements. From the skeletons of Australopithecus Africanas found just 40 kilometers away, in Makapansgat, it is determined that our first ancient ancestors occupied this region more the three million years ago. Some would even suggest that Homo Erectus skeletons also found here moved to the higher areas to hunt for summer game.

There are rock painting from bushman who started coming here as little as two thousand years back. They can even be seen at Lapalala, and depicts many antelope as well as rhinoceros.
Unfortunately, the Iron Age Settlers of Bantu also brought cattle to the area. This reduced available grassland dramatically at the time, and also brought in an invasion on the brush species tse-tse fly and brought on an epidemic of sleeping sickness.
While these did lower the overall plains population, those that remained in the higher elevations survived. The fly cannot live about 600 meters, so this is what kept the early inhabitants from dying as well. Around 1300 AD, Nguni people began arriving, bringing with them better techniques, like the building of stone walls, and these were used to build defensive forts.

Some of these walls survive even today. Excavations are still being done by Archaeologists to determine more about the Nguni, their cultures, and the association between it and the architecture they created.
After the ecological havoc by over grazing of cattle during the middle of the 1900s, cattle ranches started to understand the benefits of returning the land to its original state, both for the wildlife, as well as for the economical boost that tourism brought in.
Because of this, many species of white rhinos, hippopotamus, giraffes, etc, whose numbers were depleted greatly, have come back in force. These are all protected now, and natural predators are also thriving, hyenas, lions and leopards are just some of them.
The Waterberg reserve is divided into many sub habitats: marches, cliff vegetation systems, the Riparian Zone, and of course the high plateau savannahs.

African buffallo at waterhole

African buffallo at waterhole

These savannahs with their rolling grasslands and partly deciduous forests are home to a number of different mammals. You can find and abundance of blue wildebeest, impala, Kudu and others. In addition, this is also the perfect area for warthogs, rhinos and giraffe. The black mamba, as well as the spitting cobra are just some of the snake species that call this area home. Some of the birds that can be observed here are the white-backed vulture, and the black-headed oriole.

The cliff habitats have been formed from prehistoric river erosion, and is a mixture of cliffs, caves, and winding streams. Some of the trees that grow here are the paper tree, which cling to the cliffs, as well as the fever tree.
This tree is believed to have to power to allow you to speak with the dead by local bushman. Found one the cliffs above the Palala River, there is also one site that was used for ancient ceremonies, and here is also where you can find some of the prehistoric rock paintings that are still intact.

The many rivers that cut through the Riparian zones allow for many varieties of wildlife, reptiles, and birds that need to be around more water than those found on the higher plateaus. These rivers drain into the grand Limpopo river, which finally discharges into the Indian Ocean to the East.

The riparian tree, as well as the red bush willow are some of the native trees to this habitat. It is also here that you will find the most concentration of hippopotamus, as well as the apex predators, the Nile crocodile. While these are wetlands habitats, there is a absence of water related insects, and the Waterberg Biosphere is considered a malaria free zone.

Stunning Waterberg views

Stunning Waterberg views

There are many different accommodations in and around the Waterberg reserve, and it really depends on what kinds of luxuries you are looking for. You can choose from primitive camps, self catering lodges, as well as full four star accommodations.

One of these is the Entabeni Game reserve, right in the heart of the Waterberg. This reserve offers space for 180 guests over six expertly situated lodges, with a variety of different settings. There is a swimming pool, it has 24 hour electricity, and the game drives provide a genuine African Safari experience. While every lodge offers a restaurant as well as other facilities, for the grand experience, there is the four bedroom Eagle’s Nest and the 8 suite Kingfisher Lodge. Both of these offer a wait staff, chef, and even a game ranger with a private vehicle to take you on exclusive safaris.

 

The Waterberg is an amazing, and somewhat uknown regions of South Africa, and there are a variety of lodges available that accommodate any requirements and budgets.

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