When in flood, the Pongola River creates a whole new wild world of quiet backwaters, hidden animals and ancient rituals. The river is born in the Drakensburg, and flows through one of the most remote parts of South Africa – Maputaland.
With the summer rains, the Pongola floods, filling its pans, which are home to hippos, great white egrets and goliath herons. Cane rats live in the lush vegetation along the banks, unseen by the warthogs and other creatures that also inhabit the area. Terrapins come to the muddy banks to lay their eggs. Migrating white pelicans visit when the pans are at their lowest and the fish are concentrated into schools. Crocodiles winter in the pans, but return to the river itself year after year to breed. Openbilled storks hunt in the quiet shallows of the river.
In order to reach their spawning grounds, redbreasted tilapia battle across a man-made causeway in the feeder channel, making their way between crocodiles, herons and other predators.
The Pongola River and its pans are a valuable habitat to many species dependent on this generous river.