Game Reserves Advice - Zulu-Natal


Oct 13th, 2000, 04:11 AM
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Game Reserves Advice - Zulu-Natal

Three of my favorite game reserves in Kwazulu-Natal are Itala, Mkuzi and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, all of which I have visited on several occasions.

Although I have not been to Itala recently, two previous visits were very enjoyable. From the friendly reception office staff to the moderately priced accommodation and excellent restaurant, Itala scored high marks. Itala's main camp, Ntshondwe, is one of the most pleasant game reserve camps in all of South Africa. Perfectly situated to blend into the natural surroundings, it has a waterhole with a first-class hide for bird-watching, a great restaurant, and in summer the natural rock pool offers relief from the midday heat.

Itala is also great for game-viewing as it has lots of open woodland and grassland. In very short order (on the most recent visit), we saw Impala, Common and Mountain Reedbuck, plenty of Kudu, the impressive Eland, Tsessebe, Giraffe, Burchell's Zebra, Warthog, Waterbuck, Steenbok, Nyala and
White Rhino. To be precise, we encountered White Rhinoceros seven times, and managed to capture some wonderful images. A night drive was no less exciting, with great views of Black Rhino, Porcupine, Brown Hyena, Large-spotted Genet, and Fierynecked Nightjar. Two words of advice about night drives: dress warmly! No matter how warm or hot the days might be, nights in South Africa's interior are generally cool, cold in winter. Add to this the wind-chill effect of an open vehicle moving at speeds of up to 40 mph and you'll find yourself freezing in early summer if all you have on are shorts and a t-shirt.

Birdlife at Itala is prolific and our two day-outings produced an impressive tally of birds, including a Secretary-bird (a must-see on a trip to Africa as far as I'm concerned) and a magnificent Crowned Eagle, which we studied at length as it was perched in an open spot high up in the dense riverine vegetation along the Pongola River.

Mkuzi Game Reserve is one of South Africa's lesser known reserves. Like Itala, it is not a ‘Big Five’ reserve, but it has good populations of white and black rhino and lots of nyala, as well as giraffe, kudu, zebra and the ubiquitous impala, so game-viewing can be quite interesting here. On an earlier visit to Mkuzi I spent quite a lot of time in the Kubube Hide, being lucky enough to observe the very rarely seen Bushpig come to drink. I highly recommend that you spend some time just sitting in a hide, especially between about 0900 to 1200, when many animals make a trip to water, at least in the dry season from about June to October. However, Mkuze is better known as a birding Mecca and some regulars
consider it to be the single most productive bird-watching area in Southern Africa, even better than Ndumo.

Hluhluwe/Umfolozi is South Africa's third largest game reserve (after Kruger and Kgalagadi ) and it offers very good game-viewing. Rhino - mostly white, with smaller numbers of black - takes pride of place here, but elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, kudu, nyala, impala, waterbuck, hyena and several other mammal species may be encountered. With luck, lion or leopard (on night drives) may also be observed. However lion is not frequently seen. As is the case in other
Kwazulu-Natal game reserves, most visitors explore the parks themselves during the day. At night, guided 2 to 3-hour long game drives are available. Be sure to book on arrival. Guided game drives are also available in the mornings and afternoons.

On my last two visits, I enjoyed the accommodation at Hluhluwe's Hilltop Camp. The food in the restaurant is quite good, especially if one has a taste for venison dishes such as 'Nyala strips in a creamy sauce' or 'Fillet of Kudu with peppercorn sauce'.
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Oct 27th, 2000, 05:50 AM
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If you can, stay at Phinda. It's a cut above the rest and quite a treat. Check out the numerous reports on this site from people who have stayed there before.
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