page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4
page 5
page 6
page 7
page 8
page 9
page 10
page 11
page 12
page 13
page 14
page 15
page 16
page 17
page 18
page 19
page 20
page 21
page 22
page 23
page 24
page 25
page 26
page 27
page 28
page 29
page 30
page 31
page 32
page 33
page 34
page 35
page 36
page 37
page 38
page 39
page 40
page 41
page 42
page 43
page 44
page 45
page 46
page 47
page 48
page 49
page 50
page 51
page 52
page 53
page 54
page 55
page 56
page 57

Sentinel 28 Travel Zimbabwe December 2009 inosaur bones, prehistoric arrowheads and beads, and shards of beautifully decorated Mapungubwe pottery. History is everywhere, making visitors believe every unturned stone on Sentinel might just reveal some ancient secret. Despite its lurking paleontological and anthropological treasures, this 32,000ha estate, which borders South Africa, was once a ranch run by the Bristow family. And in the early 1980s they converted it into a venue for wildlife tourism. " We've got piles of elephants and leopards," said Colin Bristow of Ecological Africa, " but what makes Sentinel unique is its cultural past and archaeology." Oozing antiquity, weather- beaten sandstone escarpments form part of the geological Karoo System that was deposited some 200 million years ago. And after checking into one of the four comfortable stone cottages at the lodge run by Colin and his brother, I hopped into Colin's ' time machine' ( a 1950s series 1 Land Rover) and headed back to the Stone Age. In a rock- shattered valley where baobabs take perverse pleasure thriving in waterless aridity, I revisited childhood aspirations to be a palaeontologist. In a pit lies an impressively intact skeleton of a massospondylus, which dates back to the late Triassic ( 200- 228 million years ago). Its head isn't visible, but the dinosaur's long vertebrae, leg bones and five- digit forefeet, which possess a large, vicious- looking thumb- claw, are superbly preserved and exposed. Amazingly, there is still more to be uncovered from inside its prehistoric stony tomb. " It stood around six metres tall, had a long neck and tail, and was bipedal. A bit like a giant kangaroo," explained Colin, as I pictured a hellish version of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. " But with that claw," he added, " I can't believe it was a herbivore." Although, judging by the way he enjoyed the dinosaur- sized slab of beef his chef served up to us for dinner that evening, I don't think Colin could believe anything was a vegetarian! He went on to explain how his mum found this specimen as well as the scattered remains of at least 28 other massospondylus in this valley alone. All of them have yet to be excavated. Elsewhere, we rattled our way through the millennia while crossing the strata on Sentinel's rock- strewn plateaus. At times, the area resembled a moonscape. We entered several prehistoric cave shelters, with the one at Penemwa hosting exquisite elephant paintings. I could almost sense ancient cavemen huddled around fires admiring Sentinel's big starry skies. Next, we stopped on a plateau strewn with shattered fragments of ornate pottery. Dating back to 1000AD, the remains were likely part of a satellite village of the celebrated Mapungubwe civilisation, which was located just 6km away in today's South Africa. Lastly, we checked out the remarkable caves around Tswaine, which house still- intact 18th- century sorghum storage jars hidden from invading Zulus by the local Venda people. The contents, preserved in the dry air, look as if they were placed there yesterday. The next invasion, the Bristows' hope, will be tourists. They're pinning hopes for Sentinel's success on a collaboration between Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana, which will form the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area. The project is in its advance stages and will link Sentinel to the Mapungubwe UNESCO World Heritage site. Mapungubwe's famous golden burial treasures could yet be Sentinel's golden chalice. F Mark Stratton travelled to Sentinel with thanks to Ecological Africa ( www. ecologicalafrica. com). Its head isn't visible, but the dinosaur's long vertebrae, leg bones and five- digit forefeet, which possess a large, vicious-looking thumb-claw, are superbly preserved. Amazingly, there is still more to be uncovered from deep inside its prehistoric stony tomb treasure In a distant corner of southern Zimbabwe lies one of the region's richest archaeological grounds. It's an extraordinary place to visit. hidden

December 2009 Travel Zimbabwe 29 Left: Mark Stratton with one of the many massospondylus fossils Below: Sentinel's moonscape scenery hides a wealth of prehistoric treasures Above: Ancient pottery and sorghum silos abound, revealing the secrets of past civilisations Left: Tourist accommodation nestles in the shadow of Sentinel's towering rocks and baobabs TRAVEL ZIMBABWE Step ?? backbackbackbackbackback back ininininin in timetime MARK STRATTON ( 3) COLIN BRISTOW / ECOLOGICAL AFRICA JAN TEEDE