You’ll arrive at Marakele National Park in the Waterberg expecting a normal bushveld experience – looking out for elephant, rhino and lion. It’s malaria-free too, but the scenery is an unexpected extra. A rosy mountain dominates the sweetveld below and extraordinary camelthorn trees rise up to meet it.

Did you know?

The Kransberg mountain is home to the world's largest colony of Cape vultures.

You may know Marakele National Park in the Waterberg in Limpopo province is set in malaria-free dense savannah bushveld, and that you stand a reasonable chance of seeing the most of the Big Five there. But when you arrive, you won't be able to think of that.

Dominating everything is an enormous rose-tinted mountain range called the Kransberg (Afrikaans for 'cliff mountain'). How will it look at dawn, you wonder, camera-finger twitching. Will it still be so beautiful at dusk?

Then you start noticing the tall camelthorn trees. They are like sculptures here, the great grey-green nobility of the bushveld.

In the camps, warthogs kneel reverently, eating the green lawn. The vervet monkeys swing in trees a discreet distance away.

But you will remember this is serious wildlife country when you find a broad lion pugmark on the road and glimpse a golden pride in the bush. Or when you encounter elephants. They love to drink from the pools at the private lodges - and sometimes rip up the odd tree on their way out.

You'll see waterbuck, impala, zebra, kudu and baboons, sometimes all together in one glorious tableau under the tall camelthorns.

At a sprawling dam you may find pied kingfishers on the hunt and white-faced whistling ducks, tipturning themselves to peer under water.

Most special of all is the easy drive up to the Cape vulture colony atop that gorgeous Kransberg, part of the great Waterberg plateau. All around you are their enormous powder pale wings as they patrol the skies. Down below, the bushveld stretches to the horizon and beyond.

Just as unforgettable is the sight that greets you early next morning - the buttresses of the Kransberg transformed by the pink dawn light. And in the afternoon, you'll find yourself mesmerised by those cliffs again, watching as they turn a deep peach rose and then vanish with the night.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

SANParks Reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
Email: reservations@sanparks.org

Marakele National Park
Tel: +27 (0)14 777 6929

How to get here

From Pretoria or Johannesburg, drive up the N1 north, then take the turn-off to Bela-Bela and follow the R516 to Leeupoort and then to Thabazimbi. The entrance is on the Alma road, 12km out of Thabazimbi.

Best time to visit

Autumn through to early summer (April through to September) is delightful.

Around the area

Marakele National Park is part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. Here you can find crafts, horse-riding, places to stay in rural communities, more game viewing, museums and more.

Length of stay

Stay for at least two nights to maximise your game-viewing opportunities.

Where to stay

In the national park, there is a fully equipped tented camp as well as a camp site. Within the national park is Marataba, a 23 000 hectares private concession with a stylish luxury lodge.