Perceptions and so called facts about the alien forests around Sabie are not always correct, and can be somewhat misleading.
Apart from the gulleys, kloofs and vales that contain numbers of indigenous tree species, the remaining landscape originally consisted largely of grasslands.
According to one of the avid dedicated forester-birders of Sabie there was’nt much of anything left except grass by the time the gold miners began to destroy the landscape during the eighteen eighties and nineties with their picks and shovels. Wildlife had been hunted to near extinction by the middle part of the nineteenth century, for meat by biltong hunters and trophy hunters alike, apart from what the indigenous population trapped for their needs.
Apparently fires were the great destroyers of anything in their path, being driven by August winds at the beginning of spring. The indigenous forests in the gulleys and kloofs escaped these ravages, as fires could not be sustained in the kloofs without sufficient oxygen. Because of the fire hazard indigenous trees could not grow on the plains or mountain-sides. “Trek Boere” used to graze their sheep on these grass-plains during the winter months before the fires burnt off the rank excess growth of the previous summer.
Fires were started by lightning strikes during the early spring storms, or by farmers and indigenous people trying to stimulate fresh grazing. Indigenous people who smoked out bees while searching for honey were also responsible.
Gold miners who had been forced into deep level mining as the alluvial gold petered out, needed timber to support the addit rooves from collapsing. It was they who depleted the kloofs and gulleys of available indigenous timber. When this source eventually dried up, they started experimenting with alien hardwood species from Australia. Eventually various species of Eucalyptus Blue-Gum and Wattle grew prolifically with the high rainfall, and were found to be most suitable for “mine-props”, while Conifers from Mexico and other Central American sources were planted for other timber needs. It is said that about 60% of the grasslands and mountain-sides were planted to alien forests. Wetlands and river banks however have been largely cleared of alien species.
Adequate fire control measures were applied and the usual annual fire destruction was brought to a minimum through sustainable forestry practices. The indigenous tree species have since recovered substantially in the gulleys and kloofs.
There were a few bird species to speak of in the grasslands, but it was only after the alien forests were planted that wild life and many other forest bird species like Raptors, Nerina Trogon and Knysna Loerie, especially, started to proliferate. Today the wildlife around Sabie abounds in the forest areas, whereas birding has become a vital attraction with at least 270 species having been seen. It is speculated that there could be at least another 130 species to be found.
One of the most exciting drives to take is a forest drive after dark. A surprising variety of game can be encountered on these drives from Caracal, Spotted Gennet, Serval, Blue and Red Duiker, Bush Pigs, Pangolin, Badger, Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Bush-babies, to Bush Buck, and of course Leopard if one is fortunate enough. Only roads proclamated as Public Roads may be used.
These drives can be facilitated by our company TRIPS ZA. Email : firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 013 764 1177 for a quotation.
Call us for exciting History, Wildlife, Scenic, or General Interest tours in the Panorama, Kruger or regions beyond, call our Dream Merchants at TRIPS ZA on
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