Instead of rushing through Limpopo on your jouney to the bushveld, slow down, have a good look around the Blyde River Canyon area, and prepare to be amazed. Here are the first three gems Sue Adams shares in our Feb edition
Words and Pictures Sue Adams
1. The Centre of the Hoed
Hoedspruit used to be a tiny little backwater but has grown in the last few years to become a town that people are choosing to live in, and the centre of supplies for the bush lodges. This means you get the best biltong and great coffee and everything in between such as nasturtiums for your salads and the best French Champagne.
2 Animal Mad
On either side of the wide R40 towards Klaserie are game reserves, and animal watching is a two-way sport. The warthogs and baboons love the grass verges and often climb or burrow out of the fences to sit and watch the traffic. After passing Kapama Game Reserve on the left is the entrance to Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC).
At the age of six, Lente Roode, whose family own Kapama, was given an orphan cheetah and her passion for these endangered animals has led to the creation of this centre, which in turn is focused on conserving rare, vulnerable and endangered animals. The centre has a successful cheetah-breeding programme, and has also been involved in breeding other endangered species such as the Southern Ground Hornbill and black-footed cats.
The centre is large with big camps for cheetah and other animals and tours are in a game-viewing vehicle. There is a great deal to see – the vulture restaurant, the king cheetah with its special markings, Lovers Lane where the male cheetah parade in front of the females, lions rescued from a circus, wild dogs, the Ground Hornbills and, if you’re lucky, little Gertjie, the orphan baby rhino. There is a no-touch policy but you do get close to them and it’s an excellent tour.
3 Love Bites and More at Moholoholo
Turn left out of the HESC gate, continue to the T-junction and turn right towards Klaserie on the R531. About a kilometre down the road is Klaserie 1 Stop (not quite what you expect) and Love Bitez, a little café with good coffee, cake and excellent pies and quiche.
Next stop is Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre where you can get close to many of the animals that have been rescued but cannot be rehabilitated. Brian Jones, who founded the centre in 1991, is a passionate conservationist and his main aim is to rescue animals and rehabilitate them or move them to a safer environment. The animals you see are mostly those that cannot be reintroduced to the wild and instead become education ambassadors for the plight of wildlife.
The tour guides make this a fascinating tour with wonderful stories such as Stoffel the honey badger, now famously known as Houdini the great escape artist. His exploits have gone viral on YouTube. Gerald the orphan giraffe has made friends with Petal the baby sable, and Olive the baby rhino, and the threesome wander the centre together. Vultures sit on your arm to feed and the Bateleur asks for his head to be scratched. Luma and Shade, the spotted hyenas, are very curious if a bit smelly, and you can even stroke a cheetah.
But Moholoholo does not sugar-coat the news. They show you the terrible snares that have caused so much injury, and tell you just what is happening to Southern African wildlife. It’s a 90-minute tour that’s a must for all ages and apart from getting some great photos you will leave with a realistic picture of what is going on out there.