Landscape and vegetation

Typical tree species found across this ecozone include bushwillow species, mopane, silver cluster-leaf, mixed acacias, marula, false marula, apple-leaf and leadwood trees to name a few. The distinctive distribution of the reserve’s vegetation in terms of species composition and nutritional status is strongly influenced by the underlying geology.

From mid-slopes to hilltops the substrate is a pinkish coloured granite derived sandy soil supporting almost pure stands of red bushwillow along with marulas, mixed acacia species, appleleaf trees and some isolated leadwood trees. From mid-slopes to drainage lines and the lower lying parts of the terrain the substrate is characterized by putty coloured clayey soils that support almost pure stands of mopane trees and mopane shrub interspersed with patches of ever-green guarri bushes.

The creature best known for its association with mopaneveld is the mopane worm. The mopane worm is the larva of a species of emperor moth (Gonimbrasia belina) and it feeds primarily but not exclusively on mopane leaves. Mopane worms emerge at the beginning of summer (November and December) and are a highly valued source of protein among indigenous African people. Mopaneveld has historically been the least visited part of the Kruger National Park, yet many regard it as the Park’s best kept secret. More than half the elephants in the Kruger Park live in mopaneveld. Directly east from Phalaborwa gate is Letaba Camp which houses the Letaba Elephant Museum, a tribute to the Park’s tuskers. This impressive exhibition includes the tusks of the “Magnificent Seven”, a group of seven tuskers that roamed the area during the 70’s and 80’s. They are believed to be some of the largest bull elephants to have lived in Africa.


Mahlathini Private Game Reserve provides a truly exciting spectrum of wildlife experiences. The reserve is in the unique position of adjoining both the Kruger National Park and Letaba Ranch Game Reserve. In other words, it is surrounded along two of its boundaries (east and north) by Big 5 territory. Game recorded in Mahlathini Private Game Reserve includes Lion, Wild dog, Cheetah (rare), Leopard, Spotted Hyena, Jackal, Caracal, Honey badger, Buffalo, Elephant, Eland, Impala, Kudu, Waterbuck, Blue Wildebeest, Warthog, Zebra, Giraffe, Grey Duiker and Steenbok. A rarely seen nocturnal resident is the ant-bear. The reserve has a rich and fascinating diversity of small mammals as well.


Birdlife recorded in Mahlathini Private Game Reserve is diverse and prolific especially during the summer months.

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