Leokwe Camp: Feeling the Spirits
Mapungubwe’s Leokwe Camp is a very special place, with an atmosphere unlike any other camp in all SANParks. It is almost like there is a higher presence there... an aura of great power. Perhaps it is the watchful gaze of the often-hidden surrounding wildlife... rock hyrax, klipspringer, baboon or the elusive leopard. Or maybe it is something less understood – the spirit of the ancestors of a once great civilisation that thrived nearby.
As I write to you from my cottage here in camp I am surrounded by sandstone rock formations and cliffs, mostly an ochre colour, but with many darker greyer parts where water has washed through the rock over thousands of years. The soft sandstone rock is riddled with crevices and fissures from endless weathering, but also from the roots of many fig trees that amazingly grow on the rock without apparent need for soil and their nutrients. Some of these trees defy gravity and grow out sideways, and even upside down.
But where there is soil there is a concoction of different trees. Some look relatively normal – some acacias, combretums and mopane – but there are also lots of baobabs, squadrons of them dotting the surrounding hillsides, plus these intriguing little trees known as “kanniedoods” in Afrikaans and zebra-bark corkwoods in English, which look like they are dead or dying, but are very much alive. They look like old fatigued people with hunched figures and gnarled fingers and pale fading skin.
Right: Mighty baobab close to Leokwe
And then of course for me there is always the birds – mocking cliff-chats, Meyer’s parrots and tropical boubous are just some of the ones I can see or hear as I write. Cinnamon-breasted buntings, long-billed crombecs, yellow-fronted canaries, blue waxbills and grey penduline-tits are found in most of the day time bird parties that pass through the camp, gleaning insects and seeds from the lower, mid and upper stratums of the trees and shrubs. At nightfall the yap of freckled nightjars, the piercing whistle of pearl-spotted owlets and the mournful hoot of spotted eagle-owls take over. Leokwe is a place with soul!
Kanniedood Tree (Zebra-bark corkwood Commiphera viminea)