Olifants Wilderness Trail in Olifants Rugged Veld Area Kruger Game Reserve
This part of the Kuger described as Gertenbach Landscape 21 is used in a large part by the guided Olifants Trail
Fauna in Combretum spp. and Acacia spp. Rugged Veld Gertenbach Landscape 21
The sparse veld along the Olifants River is mainly utilized by impala, kudu, waterbuck and giraffe. The numbers of wildebeest and zebra are relatively low probably as a result of the denser woody component. Elephant bulls are regularly present along the river, but breeding herds are scarce. At least one herd of buffalo can regularly be seen at the Nyamari spring. Buffalo bulls are often found in the reeds along the river beds. Warthog are scarce, but troops of baboons occur regularly in the river. Carnivores are restricted to lion, leopard and hyaena. A large portion of this landscape is utilized for the Olifants Wilderness Trail.
Location and Geomorphology
The eastern slopes to the lower Timbavati River and the slopes to the Olifants River where it cuts through the basalt is an undulating landscape with shallow stony soils. It is an arid veld and is known as the Combretum spp./Acacia spp. Rugged Veld. It occupies only 270 km/2 or 1.4 percent of the area of the KNP. The area is drained by a great number of small spruits that empty into the Timbavati and Olifants Rivers and the altitude varies between 180 and 300 metres. The above-mentioned two rivers comprise a large component of the landscape. One of the most permanent springs in the south of the KNP also occurs in this landscape viz. Nyamari spring.
According to Gertenbach (1980) the 500mm isohyet passes just south of the landscape. The area thus receives between 450 and 500 mm of rain annually. The average rainfall for Letaba is 462 mm per year and is comparable to that of this landscape. Table 5 presents the temperature data for Letaba and is applicable to this landscape.
The soils of this landscape is shallow and low outcrops and rocky ridges are commonly found. The soils can hardly be classified into soil Forms, but when possible Mispah and Milkwood are the dominant Forms. Alluvial soils which occur on the banks of the Olifants and Timbavati Rivers mainly belong to Oakleaf and Inhoek Forms.
Coetzee (1983) describes the vegetation of this landscape under the name “Tropical, Basaltic Lowveld of the Olifants River Valley”. This landscape basically consists of three components viz. the koppies, the undulating middleslopes and the riverine vegetation.
Dominant woody species on the koppies are Combretum apiculatum, C. mossambicense, Sterculia rogersii, Ptaeroxylon obliquum, Hippocratea longipetiolata, Manilkara mochisia, Boscia albitrunca, Pappea capensis, Commiphora glandulosa, Spirostachys africana, Kirkia acuminata and Terminalia prunioides, Lianes such as Cissus quadrangularis, C. rotundifolius and Sarcostemma viminale are plentiful while Sansevieria hyacinthoides is common in the field layer. Sesamothamnus lugardii which is typical of arid areas also occur in this landscape. The undulating middleslopes of this landscape is Terminalia prunioides/Combretum apiculatum/Acacia nigrescens-shrub bushveld with only small trees (Fig.49). Other woody species in this community are Acacia exuvialis, Grewia bicolor, Commiphora glandulosa, Maerua parvifolia, Combretum mossambicense, Securinega virosa, Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. africana and Acacia Senegal var. leiorhachis. Except for the mountains at Malelane and Punda Maria the distribution of the latter species in the KNP is limited to this landscape.
The field layer of the undulating middleslopes is sparse to absent and is dominated by Aristida congesta subsp. barbicollis, Enneapogoncenchroides, Urochloa mosambicensis, Schmidtia pappophoroides, Sporobolus nitens, Bothriochloa radicans, Fingerhutia africana with Panicum coloratum, Themeda triandra, Panicum maximum, Heteropogon contortus and Digitaria eriantha var. pentzii less common. Forbs are relatively plentiful with the following species as the most common: Hibiscus micranthus, Seddera capense, Melhania rehmannii, Neurachanthus africanus, Pavonia patens, Lantana rugosa, Heliotropium steudneri, Tephrosia polystachya and Rhynchosia totta.
Fig. 49. Landscape 21. Combretum spp./Acacia spp. Rugged Veld. – page 78
The river banks are characterized by the relatively open tree veld with the following as the species most commonly present: Ficus sycomorus, Breonadia microcephala, Trichilia emetica, Combretum imberbe, Lonchocarpus capassa, Diospyros mesipiliformis, Acacia nigrescens, A. robusta, A. Senegal var. leiorhachis, A. xanthoploea, Schotia brachypetala, Xanthoceris zambesiaca, Croton megalobotrys, Berchemia discolor and Galpinia transvaalica.
Shrubs such as Maytenus senegalensis, Acacia tortilis, Combretum paniculatum subsp. microphyllum, Cordia ovalis, Acokanthera oppositifolia, Maerua machonica, Gardenia spatulifolia, Combretum mossambicense, Securinega virosa, Combretum hereroense and Capparis tomentosa occur regularly. The grass layer is dominated by Panicum maximum with grasses such as Cynodon dactylon, Scmidtia pappophoroides and Sporobolus smutsii present. Phragmites australis is present on the sand in the riverbeds. The seed of the alien species Xanthium strumarium washes down with the water of the Olifants River continuously. This species also occurs in dense stands on the banks of the river. River sand is spread over the tarred roads mechanically after resealing and consequently dense stands of Xanthium strumarium are established on the shoulders of the roads.