LEO Africa is located in the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park, in the heart of the Waterberg Mountains. As its Tswana name suggests, it has become a 'place of sanctuary' for an impressive variety of wildlife due to its location in the transitional zone between the dry western and moister eastern regions of South Africa.
Contrasting majestic mountain landscapes, grass-clad hills and deep valleys characterize the Park. Rare finds of yellowwood and cedar trees, five metre high cycads and tree ferns, are some of the plant species found here. All the large game species from elephant and rhino to the big cats as well as an amazing variety of birds including what’s probably the largest colony of endangered Cape vultures (more than 800 breeding pairs) in the world, have settled here.
Marataba is a 23,000 hectare section within the Marakele National Park. Marataba is just 4 hours drive from Johannesburg O.R Tambo airport and rests at the foothills of the Waterberg Mountains, an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is situated in a Malaria FREE area.
The LEO Africa conservation volunteer program provides valuable monitoring and conservation services to this reserve. One of the aims of LEO Africa is to restore the territory to its natural and pristine state, to benefit the species. The Marataba reserve was established in 1994. Before this year, the land was reserved to cattle breeding and agriculture. Removing old fences and home structures is one of the activities conducted in the winter months. Thanks to our volunteer, many of these unnatural structures have already been removed,
LEO Africa collaborates in conjunction with the Marataba Park Manager and veterinary, who has many years of experience in the field. Each month, we set goals that need to be achieved according to the period of the year and priorities. The work that LEO Africa conducts together with our volunteers, allows the reserve maintenance team to focus on different tasks, having more time to dedicate to higher priorities.,
Reserve management in South Africa is a complex and evolving subject. It involves everything from ecology to road maintenance, from species reintroduction to alien plant removal. It also includes more difficult and emotionally-charged issues such as animal relocation. One of LEO's goals is to expose volunteers to the complicated subject of conservation in the 21st century.
Birding in the Park
Bird life in the park is prolific with a species list of just over 400. Don't forget your binoculars if you are a keen birder!
Among these species, it is interesting to highlight the presence of the largest breeding colony of Cape Vulture in the World, with around 800-1000 pairs, nesting on the Cliffs of the Waterberg Mountains. The Marakele National Park was established to guarantee protection to these endagered birds, whose function in the eco-system is vital. Vultures are in fact immune to diseases and clean the bush from carcasses who could spread dangerous illnesses.
The cliffs are also home to the largest eagle in South Africa: the Verreaux Eagle. These wonderful bids of prey have a wingspan of 2.0 to 2.8 meters and are specialized in hunting Rock Hyraxs.