WHERE THREE COUNTRIES MEET AND THE ELEPHANTS OF TEMBE
Prince Dlamini's next surprise is the Usuthu Gorge, located at the confluence of the Swaziland, Mozambique and South African borders. The Portuguese and British colonised this area in the late 1800s, calling it Maputaland after the Mabudu (or Tembe-Thonga) inhabitants, and then divided the Mabudu kingdom between themselves in 1875, drawing an artificial border that separated a once-unified people.
This colonial border later became the border between Mozambique and South Africa, and cuts straight across an ecological system running from Maputo in the north to Lake St. Lucia in the south.Still referred to as Maputaland, the region is bordered in the west by the Lubombo Mountains and in the east by the Indian Ocean.
We can't believe the pristine beauty of the Usuthu Gorge, its hills and valleys, beautiful trees and open grassland. We add a little water to the calabash from the Usuthu River where the three countries meet.It is here young men recruited from Maputaland were pulled across the river on a pontoon to go and work on the South African mines.The pontoon no longer exists, but the place remains unimaginably beautiful.
Our Boundless Southern Africa journey to link nature, culture and community brings us back into Zululand to a circle of canvas chairs around a blazing fire at Ernest Roberts' Tembe Lodge.
There is elephant dung on the sandy tracks leading to safari tents discreetly placed between giant trees.Elephant trumpet, the nightjars keep a steady tune, and there's the cry of a bush baby as it shyly watches the ring of humans, their faces lit by the firelight.
Tembe Elephant Park is situated on the South African boundary with Mozambique.It is 300-square-kilometres in size and comprises a mosaic of unique sand forest, woodland, grass plains and swampland.
By request from the local Tembe community, the park was proclaimed to protect the last remaining herds of free ranging elephants in South Africa - elephants that once moved seasonally between Mozambique and Maputaland, but in recent years have sought refuge in Tembe's dense sand forest.Said to be the largest elephants in Africa - many of them 'big tuskers' - some of them still bear old bullet wounds and scars from attempts by poachers to trap or shoot them.
We say goodbye to our hosts at Tembe and head north to the old Muzi gate where, at the fence line with Mozambique, Peace Parks coordinator Gilbert Vincente and officials welcome us to Mozambique and the Maputo Special Reserve.
Our Boundless Southern Africa journey to link nature, culture and community brings us back into Zululand.
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