On one of our afternoon drives, we stopped at this panoramic overlook situated 400 meters above a massive veld or grassland. Our guide, Neil, mentioned that just 6 months ago the area was all brown and void of vegetation.
The region suffered from a year-long drought. Among the causalities at Kruger were over 1,500 hippos that died of starvation. What a tragedy. We learned about the drought in other travels as well. In private game reserves, food and water was provided during the drought. In Kruger, the wilderness dictum is t0 let nature take its course without human intervention.
Today the landscape couldn’t be more different. A green carpet dotted with trees stretched on the level ground as far as the eye could see. At various times, different species migrate here to feast on the short sweet grass. A few weeks ago, herds of zebra roamed here. It was a phenomenal sight from the Nkumbe Overlook. Small groups of kudu and impala gazed below. They look like little brown ants scurrying about.
A blue ridge line on the far horizon marks the border with neighboring Mozambique. Sadly, that nation is the origin of many poachers who slaughter rhinos. On a brighter note, Mozambique along with neighboring Zimbabwe to the north, set aside land adjacent to Kruger to form the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. In addition to Kruger’s 19,385 square miles (more than twice the size of our home state of Maryland) the preserve protects another 16,000 square miles of habitat. For our Chilean friends, that’s almost as large as the Atacama Desert (41,000 square miles).
What most caught my attention was a herd of elephants moving in the foreground. There were about two dozen of these magnificent animals. Huge adults with massive white tusks and small calves ambling along side. They snatched clumps of grass with their trunks pulled leaves from the shrubbery. The cohesion and sense of community among them was striking.