Marataba combines some of the most dramatic scenery in South Africa with a suburb wildlife viewing experience, which includes all of the iconic African species, as well as many rare animals. The plains hold an immense variety of life that is readily seen. The mountains are a safe haven to a number of interesting and unique plant, mammal, and bird species.
At Marataba, the lion is king. We have a large population, including prides with cubs. The males found here are known for their size and impressive black manes – the dark colour a result of extra testosterone. From the lodges, it’s often during the night and early morning that we hear the roaring of lions reverberating around the nearby mountainside. This is also helps us find them when out on safari.
As a solitary and shy species, the leopard is the most elusive of big cats. In our Marataba concession of the Marakele National Park, we have at least 30 known leopards – with many more to be discovered. These cats thrive in this environment, particularly along Marataba’s river system. They are often found hanging out in large camel thorn acacia trees or walking along the water’s edge.
There are hundreds of elephants within the Marakele National Park. They can be found in large groups and particularly love to forage along the river. The elephants at Marataba are very relaxed around vehicles and we are able to few them safely, even at close proximity.
Cape buffalo are herd animals and are known to travel in very large groups, making them an impressive sight. They are often found close to the river system and can be seen wading in the water or wallowing in mud pans. At Marataba, smaller groups of older ‘dagga boys’ (dagga referring to mud they cover themselves in) hang out in the lush areas around the reserve.
White and Black Rhinoceros
Due to the sensitive nature of their conservation and our full support of intensive anti-poaching efforts, no information on these amazing and very vulnerable creatures will be published on this website.
Marataba is home to several cheetah, who do well here with such abundant prey. Because cheetah are diurnal, on safari we often get to view them more active than the other nocturnal cats. The cheetah is the fastest land mammal and here specialises in hunting Marataba’s impala and other antelope.
Hippos love the water systems at Marataba, and are often found floating together in pods near the reeds. Hippos are commonly seen from our Miss Mara boat safari, or during game drives along the river. Their unmistakable honking calls can often be heard all around the reserve.
Aardwolves can be seen on Marataba’s open plains, and are a highly sought after species on safari due to their naturally low density and nocturnal habits. When a den site is found, this can lead to regular sightings of the adults and even pups. Although the aardwolf is a member of the hyena family, it has a distinctly different appearance to its much larger brown and spotted hyena relatives. It also does not eat meat or carrion, but rather insects, especially termites.
The bat-eared fox is a nocturnal species and one of the animals we can find on Marataba’s open plains by using a spotlight during the evening part of the game drives. Bat-eared foxes are considered specialist insectivores, and they are distinguished from other canids by their diet. But their most prominent feature is their ears, used to help them find prey through echolocation (a sonar-like sense). They are able to detect insects and larvae centimetres into the earth, which are then easily dug up.
The pangolin is another rarely-seen species that can be viewed more often at Marataba than in most other reserves. We usually have several sightings a year. Also referred to as the ‘scaly anteater’, the pangolin has keratin scales covering its skin – the only known mammal with this peculiar trait. Their conservation is critical, as they are hunted as bush meat and for their scales, which in Asia are believed to have medicinal qualities. This, coupled with deforestation, adds to their critically-endangered status.
The brown hyena is only found in Southern Africa, and most commonly in desert or arid areas. They are predominantly scavengers, mostly unlike their near-relative, the spotted hyena. Brown hyenas live in small kinship clans, yet are rarely seen together. The forage alone and wander great distances for food when the need arises. They are nocturnal and coupled with their shy demeanour, are a special animal to see on safari.
From spots to stripes, Marataba has everything by way of general game viewing. Here some fun facts about some of our local species:
- A giraffe has the largest heart of any land mammal, necessary to pump blood all the way up its very long neck
- Every plains (Burchell’s) zebra has a unique strip pattern, which is thought to confuse predators when a group runs together
- Blue wildebeest are also called ‘brindled gnu’, referring to the darker striped coloration on their flanks
- Waterbuck are known to run into water to escape from predators
- Unlike most antelope, bushbuck are not social animals and are often found alone or in a pair
- Male Kudus have beautiful spiral horns, which they use as a defence
- Bush pig are a nocturnal and social species, distinguishable from warthogs by their much smaller tusks
- Eland are Africa’s largest antelope, with males weighing up to 1 000kg (2 205lbs)
- The Ostrich is the world’s largest bird and while it can’t fly, its can clock an impressive 70km/h run
- Cape clawless otters eat prey from both land and water, including crabs, fish, rodents, amphibians and even birds
- Spotted hyenas have the largest bite force of any African predator, which they use to crack through and eat bones
- The warthog’s tail comes upright like an antenna if the animal moves any faster than a walk, and is used to locate each other in tall grasses
- A chacma baboon’s canines are longer than a male lion’s
During the evening portion of the game drives, with your field guide using a spotlight, you may be lucky enough to come across any of these nocturnal species:
- Most likened in appearance to a raccoon, the civet is actually more closely related to the mongoose
- Large- and small-spotted genet are part of the viverrids family, and are carnivorous and well adapted to climbing trees
- Honey badgers are known for a ferocious attitude, defending themselves against Africa’s fiercest predators using their sharp claws and teeth, as well as by releasing a foul odour
- Porcupines are the largest rodent in Southern Africa and erect their quills when under threat
- African wild cats are the smallest feline on the reserve and can catch birds in mid-air
Birds of Marataba
Birdlife here is prolific, with a species list of just over 400 – including the world’s largest breeding colony of endangered Cape vulture. The mountainous terrain is also home to a healthy population of Verraux’s eagle. These are the largest eagles in Africa and are experts at hunting rock hyraxes. The plains, waterways, and variety of savannah types hold the greater abundance of species.
Regularly seen birds:
- Malachite kingfisher
- Lilac-breasted roller
- Verreaux’s eagle-owl
- African darter
- African jacana
- Little bee-eater
- Crested barbet
- African fish eagle
- Reed cormorant
- Black crake
- African spoonbill
- Crimson-breasted shrike