21 October 2010 by Julienne du Toit

Fever tree moments

It was dawn in Pafuri, the northernmost section of Kruger National Park. Our guide, promisingly named Alweet (All-knowing) Hlungwani was driving us to the alluring fever tree forest set in the Makuleke concession.

Blocking the road were bossy-headed buffalo with their silly pigtail horns - bovines with that look, like you owe them money. As they walked slowly through the grass, a light silken dust rose behind them, joining the early morning mist.

A white-browed scrub robin sang merrily in a bush, pirit-pirit-tertwee-chee-chee-chu-it-chu-it. A bateleur eagle, resplendent in full adult plumage, posed like a Colonial British general at the top of a dead tree, then flapped splendidly away.

Nyala, delicate as bush-fairies, stood attentively under great nyalaberries as if the trees had whispered them closer.

And then Alweet drove us into the mysterious fever tree forest, where the pale trunks glowed acid yellow, pale avocado butter green, pistachio lemon and lime, the colours of African moonrise.

A joyous spirit came over us, and we all laughed and recounted jokes, falling silent only when the birders in the group heard Meve’s (long-tailed) starlings shout to one another in this enchanted woodland. In South Africa they are found only here, near the great Limpopo river.

Then we visited the biggest baobab in the area. On it was a beautifully disguised tree frog just above head height, not moving a muscle, nearly one with the baobab. It looked like the tree had grown it, like a tiny imperfection that had become an independent perfection.

We’d hardly seen any charismatic megafauna, but it was a game drive that still shines in my memory.

Category: Responsible Tourism

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