|Yesterday, as we drove along the Crocodile River in Marloth Park, we spotted this parade of nearly 30 elephants enjoying their time in the river. Notice the littlest one!
“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”
|Our resident francolin, aptly named Frank, stopped by the pond contemplating taking a drink.
We are visitors, renters, tourists, or whatever you’d like to call us to this magical place, Marloth Park, South Africa. We have no specific rights or privileges beyond what our rental agreement provided to us through the landlord, property manager, or owner.
We pay an agreed-upon rate, and with it comes specific amenities, often including the use of household goods, utilities, cable TV, Internet, appliances, and in many cases, housekeeping services in varying degrees.
|It’s always enjoyable watching the young calves playing in the water, discovering the wonders of their trunks.
Over these past few days, the summer holidays (it’s winter here now) for visitors from the northern hemisphere have begun, and we see an influx of visitors and cars in astounding numbers.
As we drove through the park yesterday afternoon on our usual almost daily drive to spot wildlife, we saw more walkers, bikers, and vehicles near the Crocodile River than we’ve ever seen in the total of over seven months we’ve spent in Marloth Park in the past four-plus years.
One can easily look online to read the “rules of Marloth Park” at several websites, some that apply to all occupants, whether owners or holidaymakers and many that specifically apply to ownership of property in Marloth Park.
|We felt so fortunate to see this, which only enhances our love of Marloth Park.
However, today, we won’t list those rules, and if you’d like, you can look for them here at this link. Instead, we’d like to post our perspective from a “renters point of view” as to the responsibility we all have in maintaining the integrity of what this outstanding conservancy is all about, a harmonious and thrilling environment where wild animals freely roam the gardens of houses, parklands, and roads throughout the area.
It’s truly a privilege to be here. As we’ve traveled the world over these almost past six years: homeless, no car, no storage, and with minimal possessions in our few pieces of luggage, we’ve never heard of nor seen anyplace in the world like Marloth Park, nor do we ever expect to do so.
Back to yesterday afternoon, as we drove on Seekoei Street that runs along the Crocodile River, we encountered dozens of tourists walking, jogging, and riding bicycles. In one instance, we were shocked to see a man riding a bike while his two young children were riding bikes at a distance behind him.
|We couldn’t take our eyes off of them as they basked in the river.
He seemed oblivious of cars coming up behind them or the fact that there’s a lioness loose in the park. Only months ago, we wrote the story of Jonas, who was attacked by a lion while riding a bike (see that story here) here in Marloth Park.
Often, people feel they are invincible. It simply won’t “happen to them.” But one only needs to spend a few minutes watching videos on YouTube to see lions in Kruger National Park attacking tourists “in their vehicle” while their windows were open to taking photos. These are wild animals, and unpredictably is a part of their demeanor.
All the animals in Marloth Park are wild and generally are safe “at a distance.” But, unintentionally (or otherwise), a male kudu with massive antlers can easily injure or permanently maim an unsuspecting tourist attempting to hand feed these gigantic animals. A mere nod of his head can poke out an eye or cause a fatal injury.
|Not all of the elephants nearby are shown in these photos. We counted almost 30.
Some of the animals in Marloth Park carry diseases such as Bovine Tuberculosis (not necessarily transmittable to humans) and rabies. Why hand feed when it’s so easy to drop the “approved” pellets onto the ground? These animals are used to “eating dirt” and also dead plant matter when they forage. They don’t mind eating off the ground.
Also, we don’t use any trough or large containers to feed the animals. Diseases such as TB are transmitted through their saliva dropping by the use of such containers. Would you want to eat from the same bowl others from which others had eaten (who possibly have a disease)?
Sure, it’s fun for kids to hand feed an animal. But, it’s common to see a wild animal in the park licking their own behinds or the behinds of their young to make one not so interested in hand feeding. Fecal matter can contain salmonella and an endless array of medical conditions, many of which may be life-threatening.
|With the electric fence between Kruger and Marloth Park, taking photos requires carefully getting the shots between the barbed wire strands in the fence.
Simply telling a child to “go wash your hands” after hand feeding is almost pointless. Have you ever watched your child wash their hands, especially when they’re anxious to get back outside and see the animals? Even adults can be lax in this area.
As for the wildlife feeding, we’ve heard stories of tourists (and some locals) feeding the wildlife potato chips, corn (which can be fatal), popcorn, leftover bread, sweets, and their leftovers from the restaurants or home-cooked meals. Most wildlife cannot digest these types of foods, and feeding them may result in illness or death.
Most of the animals in Marloth Park are either omnivores (plants and small animals) or herbivores (plants only), where they consume the leaves of plants, trees, and some roots (warthogs) and a variety of creatures such as insects and rodents. The few carnivores in the park may include mongooses, civets, genets, wild dogs, birds of prey, and more.
|They stood in this same area for quite some time.
These carnivores (meat eaters) don’t need to eat (and shouldn’t eat) our leftover cooked, sauce-covered, seasoned braai chicken, pork, or beef. It is not natural for wildlife to eat cooked or spiced foods.
The two types of monkeys most prevalent in Marloth Park are the Vervet monkeys and baboons. These monkeys are very destructive and will do anything for food. They even eat the birdseed from our birdfeeder. We have to make a special effort to ensure no food is left on the ground or elsewhere for them when feeding other wildlife.
A few weeks ago, I left the door to the house open while I was cutting apples and carrots. A Vervet monkey ran inside onto the kitchen counter and grabbed a whole apple, and ran. I learned my lesson…keep the door shut when monkeys are around and never leave the door open unattended.
Well, some may think this is cute, but a monkey (or baboon) or more can wreak havoc in a house tearing everything apart while defecating everywhere while inside or even outside on the veranda. We never leave food on any plates or bowls anywhere which the monkeys may be able to access.
|Often, when we experience such a sighting, a few people are observing along with us. Yesterday, there were dozens of holidaymakers taking photos as well.
A rule that has been disrespected by some has been bringing pets or other animals into the park. The animals in this special place can easily be contaminated by diseases carried by non-indigenous animals.
Speaking of non-indigenous, one of the most prevalent concerns in Marloth Park right now is alien invasive plants, some from natural occurring means and others brought in by homeowners or visitors “decorating” the house or gardens.
These plants are destroying the natural food sources for wildlife which ultimately could result in the loss of life for the precious animals we so love. Its imperative no visitors, owners, or renters bring any plants into the park. This is a “wild” habitat. Decorative plants defy the true meaning of the “bush.”
Also, a significant area of concern is the alien invasive plants presenting a substantial risk of fire. Invasive trees and plants can burn hotter, higher, and faster than any native vegetation.
Care must be exercised in making and putting out fires for the braai. We heard recently that a tragic fire could have destroyed Marloth Park when hot embers from a braai were dumped into a dry side garden. This place could incinerate in a matter of minutes, not hours, with all the dry brush and invasive plants and trees.
In the past week, it has been reported that several wild animals have been killed on the road by fast-moving vehicles. Yes, it’s possible a driver following the speed limit could accidentally hit an animal that darts out onto the road at night. Visibility is lacking on the tar and dirt roads throughout the park.
But, we all must take the responsibility of driving as if a child could dart out into the road at any moment, slowly and with the utmost of caution. Plus, driving slowly both during the day and at night is an excellent opportunity to spot more wildlife. Nothing is more exciting than stopping for a “traffic jam” of several giraffes (or other animals) crossing the road.
The wildlife is more likely to visit when noise is kept at a minimum. We make every effort to speak in normal tones and avoid loud bursts of sound to prevent frightening the wildlife. Of course, loud music or loud partying is prohibited in the park.
Please forgive us if we sound as if we’re “preaching.” That’s not our intent. Instead, we want to ensure Marloth Park is as excellent in the future as it is today. We plan to make regular visits in years to come as we continue in our world journey.
Marloth Park is the only place in the world we’ve returned to visit in all these years of world travel. In many ways visiting this magical place has shaped us, changed us, and made us grow in our desire and passion for protecting and preserving wildlife and our surroundings wherever we may go.
Please join us in this mission while you visit, along with us, cherishing the gift Mother Nature has bestowed upon us humans…the joy and beauty of wildlife and our surroundings.
Enjoy your holiday time, as we will, in this extraordinary place.
Photo from one year ago today, June 25, 2017:
|Margie, Tom’s sister, with one of her two birthday cakes. This photo was taken by nephew Joe’s wife Donna before our arrival around 4:30 pm. The party had started at 2:00 pm, and by the time we arrived the cake was cut. Thanks for the excellent photo, Donna! For more photos, please click here.