The Lowveld

“South Africa is like a patch-work quilt. It is divided up into segments, each colourful, individual, seld-contained, and yet linked to its fellows to make a whole, surprising in its variety, inexhaustible in its fund of human stories.
The Lowveld is one of such of these segments…
It is an area essentially of bush and mountain. The drab olive Bushveld lies like a vast and mysterious sea full of marvels and adventures. From it, isolated koppies rise as islands while the blue wall of the escarpment contains it in the west and, like the beach and the ocean, belongs to the Bushveld and is part of its story.
In the beginning the Lowveld was the wild garden of the great god Pan. In its tangle of trees only the animals lived, with the birds, the black death of the mambas, the mosquitoes, and the lurking tsetse. For man, death also dwelt in its secret glades. For centuries he was loath to live there, for even if human hardihood could survive the malaria, livestock wilted before the tsetse and inevitably left ruination as the sole reward for pioneering intrepidity.
So for years the Lowveld remained a kingdom of nature where man roamed at his own peril. It was a place where law and order and social inhibitions were unknown. It was a place where the bush seemed boundless, drawing the explorer on with tempting vistas, disclosing some mirage, or some landmark through the jumble of the trees.
It was the hunters who blazed the first paths, they were the first to know the lure of the bush, where there is always something ahead – a distant koppie , breaking the interminable flatness, a hint of something in the next glade, a rustle of some hunted animals retreating further into the wilderness drawing you onwards, miles without end.
Each winter when the sun was cooler and the mosquitoes less, the first hunters, the Bushmen, climbed down from the overlooking escarpment and raided deep into the heart of the bush. They hunted by day, tracking down the fat antelopes and the mighty elephants. And in the night they feasted and staged their dances and mimes, in honour of the triumphs of the chase.
Such natural rock shelters as these early hunters discovered became renowned and regularly used. They whiled away their evenings by decorating the walls with pictures of themselves and the animals they hunted. And in the course of the ages these shelters, like the giant boulder in the Skukuza Koppies, echoed on many a night to the laughter and the merry feasting of these earliest of human visitors.
Then the Bantu came down from the North. To them as well, the Low Country became a hunting ground. A few tribes found permanent settlement possible on the top of the isolated mountain ranges but as a whole the land remained un-peopled, with the sinister tsetse fly, its guardian from human interlopers who know it only as MANANGA – The Wilderness”

The Prelude taken from TV Bulpin’s “Lost Trails on the Lowveld”
First Published in 1950 by Howard Ti8mmins, Cape Town

Although the demise of the tsetse fly has in allowed for extensive changes to the Lowveld, due to the subsequent and inevitable settling of man – both pioneers and tribal communities, the region still sings of the images of old as described above in the famed book “Lost trails of the Lowveld” by renowned historian and publisher, TV Bulpin.

It is still in many ways and relative to the modern developments of South Africa, an area of extensive wilderness and home to a myriad of the animals, birds, plants and reptiles that have filled the imaginations of hunters, traders and authors alike for many a century in Africa.

Not only is the Lowveld home to the world renown Kruger National Park – but it is also home to the largest privately owned conservation area in the world. This entails private nature reserves and conglomerations such as Sabi Sands, The Timbavati, Klaserie and Umbabat Reserves, Olifants Nature Reserve, Balule, Selati, Harmony, Makalali, Thornybush, Kapama, Blue Canyon Conservancy and much much more.

The modern day Lowveld is of its own, a patchwork quilt with a enigmatic pattern of landuses, vegetation types and settlements. From the national and provincial parks, to the private reserves, conservation and tourism play a dominant role in the area, this is followed by agriculture (mainly mango and citrus in the central region, avo’s and nuts further south and sugar cane in the deep southern region). The escarpment edges are lined with commercial forestry plantations, blending into small reserved patches of indigenous forests, mountain edges, waterfalls, river gorges and plundering pools. Mining too has established a strong hold in this colourful area of active development and intermingled amongst all of this is a range of settlements although the majority are areas of extreme and high poverty with typical African rural households, they extend to smaller regions of more affluent and established homes and settlements.

This mix of wilderness and settlements of mountain escarpments and savannah grasslands, of waterfalls, river gorges and dry open plains, greats an entire universe in one region. You will find no shortage of activities to be done, vistas to be marveled at, people to meet and scenes to be remembered when you visit the Lowveld.

Just as it created wonder, awe and inspiration to those initial visitors centuries ago, so it will not fail to do the same to you and will leave you far wiser for the experience and having felt the ability to reconnect to a history, to remove yourself from the boardroom, your planning schedule and the daily school runs and to take yourself back to a time of instinct and survival where nature ruled your days activities and your ability to live another day.