Hoedspruit – A South African Gem
In the South African Gem series of my blog, I will discuss an area of our beautiful country that I’ve visited before. Our country has so much to offer and many people do not even know of half the places you could go to, or things you could do. I truly believe in South Africa we are greatly blessed with one of a kind scenery and abundant wildlife and untouched raw beauty.
First on my radar is the majestic farming town at the foot of the Klein Drakensberg in the Limpopo province, Hoedspruit. So, obviously the scenery is unbelievably beautiful, and can be admired by the many viewing points along the winding road, AKA the Panorama route. The town focuses a lot on eco-tourism, and has numerous wildlife sanctuaries, breeding, and rehabilitation centres, which totally scores them a ton of brownie points.
In the immediate vicinity of Hoedspruit there is a long list of places to see, and things to do. Amongst these is the Blyde River Canyon, which can be viewed from any of the stops on the Panorama route, they include, the Three Rondawels God’s window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, and the Pinnacle.
There is also the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, which was originally started to care for cheetahs, which is being threatened in their natural habitats not only by bigger cats like lions and leopards, but also by humans; Mostly farmers trying to protect their own live stock, which is helpless against wild predators like the cheetah, lion, and leopard.
The centre focuses mainly on the conservation of rare, vulnerable or endangered animals. Cheetah Conservation is one of their core disciplines. The centre has grown since First opening their doors in early 90’s and is now looking after a number of other endangered wildlife species, like Vultures, wild dogs, Ground Hornbill, and Rhino, to name a few.
Here you can see the Vultures landing at the “Vulture Restaurant”. Some of these Vultures fly from as far as Pilansberg. The main threat to vultures are poison, the alarming thing is that in most of the cases the poison was used for other animals, indirectly also poisoning the vultures when they feast on these carcasses.
The five common vulture species found in the Limpopo area are:
~ White-backed vulture
~ Cape vulture
~ Lappet-faced vulture
~ White-headed vulture
~ Hooded vulture
Out of the eleven vulture species found in Africa, ten of them are on the threatened or near-threatened list, of which four are classified as critically endangered. They are; the Hooded Vulture, the White-backed Vulture, the White-headed Vulture, and the Rüppell’s Vulture. You can see that two of these are found in the Limpopo area.
The centre also has a pair of Southern Ground Hornbill. They are currently considered ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN, but sadly they are classified as ‘Endangered’ in South Africa. In many ways these massive carnivores are making it very difficult for conservationists to protect, and maybe even try to increase their numbers. The problem is three-fold; Hornbills mate for life, and in many cases even after one of the partners have died off the other will not accept another partner for the rest of their lives, on the other hand, the female gives birth to two eggs, one hatching a few days before the other, the mother, or feeder will only bring enough food for one of them, in the end the older and naturally bigger bird will always win the fight for food, leaving his or her sibling to starve to death. And lastly, the fledgling period can sometimes take up to two years, and if the timing is wrong (ie, at the end of mating season) the period from one hatchling to the next can sometimes be as much as three years.
The centre also looks after two ex-circus lions rescued from an abandoned zoo in South America. The male was neutered at an unnaturally young age, confusing his growth hormones, leaving him without a main and almost twice the size of a normal male lion. They also pulled both of the lion’s claws. When the circus went bankrupt the owners literally just left all the animals for dead. People who came to know of this, contacted the centre and not only helped them get the lions here, but also built the enclosure they are kept at the centre.
The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre is a non-profit organisation and generates most of its income from donations and sponsorships. It is one of the leading conservation centres, and is also contributing valuable research to the field of conservation and breeding of endangered species. You can visit their website: http://www.hesc.co.za, or phone for an appointment on 015 793 1633. There are many more heart-warming and inspiring stories at the centre.
Other activities in the Hoedspruit area that you might enjoy;
Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre; moholoholo.co.za; 015 795 5236
Blyde dam Boat Cruise; 072 260 4212
Khamai Reptile Park
Baloon Safaris Hoedspruit; goddingandgodding.com; 072 467 3310
African Summer Spa; africasummerspa.co.za; 015 793 1895
Elephant Back Safaris
Mac Mac falls
Birdlife international. 2016. African vulture pilot study aims to reduce poisoning deaths. http://www.birdlife.org/africa/news/african-vulture-pilot-study-aims-reduce-poisoning-deaths. Accessed 01April 2016.