A group on safari watch a small a small herd of Burchell's Zebra as they drink at the water’s edge in the Marakele National Park in South Africa.

© Kev Gregory/Shutterstock

Marakele National Park


This mountainous national park is at the southwest end of the Waterberg biosphere. The animals grazing beneath the red cliffs include the Big Five, as well as giraffes, zebras and cheetahs, but the landscape itself demands attention. A great place to eyeball it is the vulture-viewing point (be warned: the road up is precipitous), where you can also see one of the world’s largest colonies of the endangered Cape vulture (800-plus breeding pairs).

The park is divided into two sections, with the second, eastern section (you press a buzzer to open the gate) wilder and richer in wildlife. In the first, western section of the park, rhinos are present, but not the other members of the Big Five. The tracks here are accessible in a 2WD and lead through pretty light woodland that is good for birdwatching – take Kudu Drive and then Kgokong Drive to the Bollonoto Bird Hide. The hide overlooks the Bollonoto Dam, which can be good for kingfishers and waders.

In the eastern section, after passing through the gates, the views are more expansive and the Big Five are all present – lions, elephants and rhinos in particular are commonly seen. Many of the tracks in this section of park are fine in a 2WD (except after heavy rain) and some of the best views are along the loop that takes in Lekganyane Drive and Mbidi Road.

The eastern sector is also home to the Lenong Viewing Point. A narrow, serpentine but paved road climbs to this splendid vantage point with sweeping views; arguably the best views are on the way up. Once at the summit (take the right branch of the roads at the top), ignore the rather ugly communication towers, park your car and then walk for a couple of hundred metres. It may take some looking and false starts, but the breeding colonies of the endangered Cape vulture (800-plus breeding pairs) are worth the effort. The road up here is steep and narrow and not for those with a fear of heights – keep an eye on the road up ahead for oncoming vehicles and places to pull over – but worth it for the views. Near the summit (22km from the main gate), watch for klipspringers.

There is two-bed tented accommodation in the wonderful Tlopi Tent Camp, 15km from reception. The furnished tents have a bathroom, separate kitchen with refrigerator and braai (barbecue), and an appealing terrace that overlooks the dam. Note: you’ll have to bring your own food, as there is no shop in the park. The park also offers tent sites and safari tents at Bontle Camp and a guest cottage at Motswere Guest Cottage.

Private reserves and lodges line the approaches to the park; for information and bookings, contact the tourist office in Thabazimbi (12km southwest), where there are banks and shops.

The easiest route to the park from Vaalwater is on Rte 510 to Thabazimbi. However, the hard-dirt Bakkerspas Rd runs alongside the mountains, with spectacular views. Turn left 6km west of town and, after 60km, right at the T-junction; the park entrance is 45km further on, a few kilometres after the tar begins.

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Nearby Limpopo attractions

1. Lenong Viewing Point

8.42 MILES

A narrow, serpentine but paved road climbs to this splendid vantage point with sweeping views; arguably the best views are on the way up. Once at the…