If I want to choose a place where I can and have spent all day it is the tree-top boardwalk on the Limpopo River in Mapungubwe National Park. But to maximise its magic you must get there as close to sunrise as possible to experience the dawn chorus – a cacophony of bird sound, as a multitude of different species compete to serenade the new day.
On a sign-board at the entrance you are greeted by the words of the great English frontier writer Rudyard Kipling’s refrain from “The Elephant’s Child” in his Just So Stories … “Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out.” With such an invitation you are mesmerised from the start.
As you prize open the gate (spring-loaded to prevent passing animals from entering) to start the ascent up onto the boardwalk, you’ll find that the slope of the walkway is skilfully angled to not be too steep, but to make you rise swiftly up to about 8-10 metres above the ground. The walkway runs for about 400 metres suspended on poles, but linked by passing through the crotches of stately ana trees, fever trees and sycamore figs.
If you are early enough you will witness baboon and vervet monkeys tumbling to the ground from their nocturnal roosts. On the forest floor below bushbuck, duiker, waterbuck and impala step timidly through the carpet of leaf litter. Tree squirrels, with their curious pulsing cries, chase each other through the trees and along the boardwalk all day long. I have even been blessed to have had elephant pass underneath me, mere metres away, their dank odour dominating the scene, but strangely unaware of, or ambivalent to human presence up above the ground.
And the stream of birds is endless even before you get to the river. Vultures, eagles, owls, orioles, rollers, shrikes, starlings, robin-chats, woodpeckers, barbets, kingfishers, honey-guides, parrots, bee-eaters, coucals, hoopoes and more, so much more. They move through the vista in a conveyer belt of constant activity. This is a nature-lovers’ paradise.