A Mabalingwe tale about elephants: a game ranger’s story.

The great and majestic giants of the bushveld with their mighty size, columnar legs and great strength have long been the topic of mythical folklore on the African continent. The myths and tales, passed down by generations, about these gentle giants stretch far and wide; weaved into African traditions, beliefs and modern-day symbolism. The origin of some of these myths has become ambiguous over the years and cannot be credited to a single tribe. Nonetheless, these stories add to this magic aura around the largest living mammals walking the earth today – the great African elephant.

As legend has it, these powerful beasts with their ‘wisdom sticks’ or tusks can tell the exact time and place of their death. It’s exactly for this reason certain African tribes believe old tuskers are often seen without their herd, preferring to find a hiding place to die, thus maintaining their dignity, as they wish to die alone and in peace. It reminds one of the novel by Dalene Matthee, ‘Kringe in die bos’, a story about Oupoot – the legendary elephant bull that breaks away from its herd and forms a powerful bond with Saul Barnard, the woodcutter. Saul aims to protect the elephant and the surrounding woods of Knysna, and by doing this he finds his truth.

This brings us to the next myth, with its origin in Kenya and the Kamba tribe. The Kamba people believe elephants were once humans who changed into elephants as a result of magical ointment that was rubbed on their teeth. They believe that it’s for this reason elephants are so intelligent, but also why humans have such an unusual connection with them.

Mabalingwe, too, has a legendary tale about elephants. Here is that story, told is as seen through the eyes of Game Ranger, Carl Swartz:

I have had my fair share of sightings of elephants on Mabalingwe Nature Reserve, and each time the experience is dreamlike. It’s so unreal how you can recall the specific mood, bushveld-smell in the air, that hair-raising moment where one becomes one with nature – it just leaves you in awe.

With each new elephant sighting on the Game Rangers’ radar, there is always that ‘eureka’ moment, the adrenaline rush and funnily enough, an exact course in how the events unfold. This time it played out exactly like before…

It always starts with a call from another Ranger:

Carl Swartz: “Yes, tjomma, howzit going?”

Game Ranger 2: “Lekker, lekker friend. Listen here, I have the elephants in front of me.”

Carl Swartz: “Okay, cool man, can you tell me where they are?”

Game Ranger 2: “Ja, dude! Do you remember that place I almost poked my eye out with the two-way radio’s atenna, well it’s about 500 metres past that, close to a rock that looks like elephant excrement?”

Carl Swartz: “Yeah, yeah.” I would usually reply, realising that no one else would be able to find this mentioned location based on those directions.

And off I go “racing” at 25 km/h to get to this precise location. At this moment the excitement in the vehicle is buzzing, whilst I am sweating bullets – thinking of the possibility of being too late and the elephants disappearing into the bush again. 


I finally arrived at the location, but no elephants in sight. This is where the doubts creep in – am I too late; did we scare them off; am I at the right location?

I call one of the other rangers: ring…ring…ring…

Guest: “Is it true that elephants are scared of mice? And do they really get drunk on Maroelas?” I hear from the back of the vehicle.

Carl Swartz: “Huh?” startled I react, before answering the guest (If you would like to know the answers to these questions, please book a Game Drive with Carl Swartz.)

Game Ranger 2: “Hello, Carl, you there?” meanwhile, on the line.

Carl Swartz: “Hello. Yes, can you hear me?”

Game Ranger 2: “Yes, ‘yster’ – do not move. Where are you now?”

Carl Swartz: “Next to that rock you mentioned.”

Game Ranger 2: “Okay, cool! Drive towards the dam where you fell in that one evening, turn right, then left and you will see them!”

+/- 10 minutes later

Carl Swartz: “Ladies and gentlemen, please remember to keep noise levels down; in front of you, you will see a herd of elephants.”


A few minutes later…

The elephants started taking an interest in us. The herd heading closer to the vehicle. Not aggressive, just curious. Several of the elephants greet us by shaking their heads and lifting their trunks. The lady behind me suddenly grabs my shoulder tightly, squeezes it and in a panicked state whispers:

“Let’s go, let’s go.”

Carl Swartz: “Ladies and gents, please do not be afraid. These elephants smell fear and that will make them nervous.” I calmly explained.

At this point, a nervous energy has erupted, with guests asking question after question, and the elephants moving closer and closer. It is at this exact moment when the matriarch stops and out comes a little calf. The chaos all of the sudden turns to “ooh’s and “aah’s”. She has come forward to show off the newest addition to the herd. She cautiously guards him, as the calf steps forward, wild trumpet, lots of scuffling and pushing – as if he’s the alpha male. As suddenly as they appeared, they disappeared into the bush. Thereafter, it was a moment of complete silence – a simple act reminding us about the human characteristic these majestic creatures possess, but also a reminder of their gentle nature.


In closing, let us be reminded of the elephant tusks in South Africa’s coat of arms that represent wisdom, strength and eternity. Let us be wise and safeguard elephants and African folklore, surrounding these incredible beings, for years to come. Let us show the strength to protect elephants for future generations. And let us work together to ensure that elephants are alive and thriving for the rest of eternity. Let the legend live on…

What your Mabalingwe family has been up to this lockdown period

Can you believe it? What started as a 21-day national lockdown turned into more than 80 days, and we are still counting. This period has served us with many challenges, however, we have decided to look for the positive as we all work together for a safer and healthier world.

This period has allowed us to pause for a little while and appreciate our extraordinary Resort. We miss having families and their loved ones fill our space with lively laughter and joy. But that doesn’t mean we are waiting idle – our small onsite team has been hard at work with projects to spruce up the Resort with upgrades that will make for an even better return for our guests. The animals have also used this time to enjoy the natural surrounds to the fullest. All in all, we, your Mabalingwe family, the wildlife included, have taken this period in stride as we eagerly prepare for your return.

We would like to let you in and share with you how we have been holding up during the lockdown period.

The upgrades we have been busy with 

We have repainted the bathrooms at the recreational area with vibrant patterns and colours. The Plaaswinkel has also been given a facelift. It has been fully repainted and re-decorated, giving it a whole new look.


We haven’t forgotten about the general maintenance

We have been busy with the maintenance of all 105 of our units all in preparation for your return! All of the laundry items have been washed and steamed to avoid them getting dusty and germ-ridden. The team has been busy clearing the bushes and maintaining the fields as well as the gardens in between the units. We are keeping the pools crystal clean and ensuring that they remain in tip-top shape, ready for the perfect splash!


The stillness has brought a deeper appreciation of nature and wildlife

We have missed having guests with us, the vivacious energy they bring to the Resort is infectious. However, this time has given us an amazing opportunity to spend more time appreciating our surrounds and the majestic animals that also call Mabalingwe Nature Reserve their home. We have had the privilege to see and appreciate the incredible views of nature and animal sightings which have been the highlight of our days in this time. Here are some amazing sightings that we have been able to capture:

The views of the sun rising are still priceless

The views of the sun rising are still as captivating as ever.

SPOTTED! A tower of giraffe’s striking a pose

Spotted! A tower of giraffe’s sticking a pose.

The majestic Nyala bull, with his ethereal features

The majestic Nyala bull, with his ethereal features.

A herd of Zebra’s – their striking stripes are a wonder to look at

A herd of Zebra’s – their striking stripes are a wonder to look at.

Thank you for your continued support and patience during this time. We are preparing for the day we can welcome you and your loved ones back with open arms for a wonderful holiday in the Waterberg. Until then, stay safe and keep healthy.

For more information and the latest COVID-19 updates, please visit www.mabalingwe.co.za/index.php/covid/.

12 Best Sounds of the Bush

Journeying into the bush, across South Africa, isn’t only about seeing wild animals in their natural habitat – it is about the whole ecosystem and the plant life and biome which are the foundation of the habitat, it is about spending time with loved ones to create special memories and to get away from the bustle of the city, and it is also about experiencing the bush, undisturbed by man, and listening to the music of nature. Thinking back on wonderful times spent doing just that inspired this list of the 12 best sounds of the bush:


Crackling Fire

Fire cracking

How peaceful the sound of flames licking wood, while you get comfortable in a camping chair around the boma, is. At the start of the breakaway, it signals relaxation and at the end of one, the feeling of being grateful to have spent time in the veld. Crackling logs and shifting embers are the perfect background noise to families talking and laughing by the glow of the fire – this sound holds a special place in our hearts.

Spotted Hyenas

Guest photo of a hyena

There are few sounds as distinctive as a hyena laughing, a sort of odd high-pitched giggling that makes us picture a certain animated version of this creature, depicted as rather silly in a favourite children’s film about lions. But hyenas are actually rather intelligent and communicate using a number of sounds – some of which you may encounter while in the bush. The loudest of these sounds is laughter, which normally signals distress of some kind, and a whooping noise used to gather the clan. Hyenas also grunt and growl at one another.

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and lightning storm

This just had to make the list. A thunderstorm swallows up the land, engulfs the sunshine, and pours down on the bushveld. A chorus of thunder and lightning, accompanied by the pitter-patter of large water drops smacking the ground starts and finishes within an instant. How incredibly powerful and dramatic these storms are, nourishing the bush and settling the dust before giving way to bright blue skies and crisp, fresh greenery to behold.


Guest photo of a hippo bellowing

Hippo’s are incredible creatures and can communicate above and below water simultaneously to determine territorial grounds and locate other members of the pod. Hippos send sound through their nostrils above the water, as well as vibrations through a fatty deposit on their necks below, while receiving messages above water using their ears, and absorbing the vibrations below water through their jaws. Most commonly heard are the bellows hippo’s make while splashing around in the water, another great sound of the bush.

Beetles and Crickets

Guest photo of crickets

Buzzing, chirping and stridulating of beetles and crickets – these sounds arrive with the setting of the sun, as the cool night air and twinkling stars envelope everything. It is lovely to sit in absolute stillness, if only for a few moments, to hear the insects of the bush rise from the grass and communicate with one another across vast distances. Many of these insects create these fascinating chirps by rubbing their legs together at different rates.


Guest photo of a hornbill

The sound of birdsong gently wakes you from sleep while on holiday, and unlike the harshness of an alarm, this sweet song is welcomed at the start of the day. When in the bush, a variety of bird sounds and chattering can be heard at different times of the day – a Fish Eagle soaring overhead, a hornbill startled from the road or an owl waking for the night.


Guest photo of a jackal

Jackals produce a loud call that breaks through the silence in the evenings as we sit about and chat, causing everyone to shush and listen carefully. Jackals bark and howl to communicate, piercing the cool night air. Their calls are used to communicate with mates, as well as other jackals in the area and can be used to signal territories.


Guest photo of an elephant

For the most part, the sounds we hear when in the presence of elephants are those of snapping branches and ears flapping to cool down in the heat, but elephants have a unique set of sounds you might be lucky to hear once in a while. Elephants trumpet to express emotions of distress, or joy if they are engaged in play. These creatures can also roar to intimidate unwelcome visitors. Mostly, however, elephants will communicate through vibrations in the ground and can sometimes rumble so loudly that the noise can be faintly heard.

Lion Prides

Lion roaring

A roaring lion or lioness in the dead of night can be frightening and awe-inspiring. Their call echoes far and wide and the sound can travel up to 8 kilometres. Lions roar to announce their presence to other large cats as well as to stake claim to their territory. Lions can also purr, like domestic cats, only this sound can make the ground feel as though it is trembling!


Ecotainer photo of a rooibok

A surprising sound of the bush would be that of an Impala alarm call. An Impala barks to alert others in the herd of danger and this sound can often seem like that a dog would make. Another sound created by these graceful antelope that needs mention is that of them running, or bounding across the plains. They push off from the ground to gain speed, and when a large herd take-off at the same time, their hooves contacting the ground can make quite the noise.

Frogs and Toads

Frog in grass

Taking a game drive in the evening can turn out to be a unique adventure, as many animals of the bush appear in the cool protection of the moonlight. Something you may not have noticed while on one of these drives is stopping by a watering hole or river, not for the sights of big cats, but rather to listen to the deafening croaking and chirping of the frogs. Frogs surface at night, when many birds have gone to roost and their music fills the night air to accompany the insects in the grass – a melody of the bush.


Guest photo of baboon in a tree

This one sure is a sound that could make you jump out of your skin if you weren’t expecting it! Baboon’s barks travel across the landscape and are a display of dominance and act as a location pin-pointer for others. Baboons make many other vocalisations such as: calling, grunting and howling, but barking, in particular, is the sound we mostly associate with this creature and the bush.

Naturally, every individual would have their favourite from this list of the 12 best sounds of the bush. Having the opportunity to experience any number of these incredible sounds is an absolute treat for many avid bushveld explorers, and we are so lucky to have many of these sounds, and others, to enjoy at Mabalingwe Nature Reserve.