Waterberg – Marakele National Park

About the Birding

Located roughly 30km to the north-east of Thabazimbi, Marakele National Park covers an extensive area of roughly 45,000 hectares in the southern Waterberg. While incredibly vast, this area is not all accessible to the public; though the reserve supports a huge diversity of habitats. Given the presence of dangerous game, birders are also advised that walking is not permitted within Marakele except when accompanied by an armed ranger. Some 250 bird species are known to occur.

The topography of Marakele National Park is dominated by the vast cliffs of the Waterberg. These cliffs support the largest Cape Vulture colony (roughly 800 pairs) in the country. The highest reaches of the Waterberg are accessible via a concrete road and, on top of the peak, it is possible to watch the vultures soaring from above. The high altitude grassland also supports the Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, and Buff-streaked Chat.

Most of the park is dominated by bushveld with isolated patches of broad-leaved woodland. These habitats often yield the Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Red-crested Korhaan, Kori Bustard, and Secretarybird. The larger terrestrial species are best searched for near Kwagga’s Vlakta, a separate area of the park. The banks of the Matlabas and Sterkstroom Rivers, as well as the many dams on the property, offer chances at a variety of waterfowl as well as the Half-collared Kingfisher and African Darter.

Marakele is well-known for raptors and, in addition to the large colony of Cape Vultures, birders should be mindful of Booted Eagles, Peregrine Falcon, and African Cuckoo-hawk.

About the Birding Site

The Marakele National Park in the heart of the Waterberg Mountains, as its Tswana name suggests, has become a ‘place of sanctuary’ for an impressive variety of wildlife due to its location in the transitional zone between the dry western and moister eastern regions of South Africa.

Other Related Information

Some 80km of roads traverse Marakele National Park, many of which do not require 4×4 and high clearance. The reserve is reached by following the N1 north from Pretoria. Take the Bela-Bela (Warmbaths) off-ramp and follow the R516 via Mabula and Leeupoort to Thabazimbi. The reserve is located 12km from Thabazimbi crossing on the road from Thabazimbi to Alma. The reserve is open from 07:00 to 18:00 daily and strictly no driving is permitted within the reserve after 18:00. Standard conservation fees apply and Wild Cards are accepted.

The reserve boasts a 4×4 Eco Trail spanning three-days (two nights) of outdoor exploration within the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. Guided game drives and interpretive bush walks can also be arranged through the reserve camps. The reserve also features a single bird hide, located along the Kgokong Drive and overlooking the Ballonoto Dam. For more information or for booking of all activities, please contact Marakele National Park using the details listed below.

Contact details:
For more information, please contact Marakele National Park using the details listed below:
Tel: +27(0)14 777 6928
Fax: +27(0)86 650 3051
Website: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/marakele/

Text prepared by:

Daniel Danckwerts (Rockjumper Birding Tours)

Key species:

Cape Vulture, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Southern Pied Babbler, African Cuckoo-hawk, Kori Bustard.

Contact details:

Marakele National Park

Tel: +27(0)14 777 6928
Fax: +27(0)86 650 3051
Website: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/marakele/

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