Northern Kwazulu Natal is a superb safari destination with lots of variety. In addition to excellent safari reserves, the region offers miles of unspoilt beaches, a tropical climate and Zulu culture
Kwazulu North Coast
The main safari destinations are Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park, Phinda Private Game Reserve and the Zululand Rhino Reserve. These reserves are complemented perfectly by the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park and Sodwana Bay where visitors can take a break from their safari to enjoy the beaches, fishing and diving.
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park
The Hluhluwe and Umfolozi reserves were founded in 1895 and are the oldest sanctuaries in Africa. The two reserves were joined in 1989 to form the tongue twisting Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park. The park covers a vast and interestingly diverse landscape, consisting mainly of steep wooded hills, grass covered slopes and riverine woodland along the many rivers and streams.
It is also known as one of the sanctuaries of the black rhino and has the world's largest population of white rhino. It was here that the world acclaimed Operation Rhino was introduced during the 1960s and is credited with bringing the white rhino from the brink of extinction. It is also home to the other Big Five.
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi is located 280km north of Durban, this 960kmē wilderness has a warm and humid climate.
In addition to the game-viewing drives, there are two self-guided auto trails, for those wishing to self drive themselves around the park. There are a number of picnic sites and several self-guided walks providing magnificent views. Two daily walks in the company of a field ranger can be booked through the camp office and extended several day hikes are undertaken in the southern Umfolozi part of the park.
Hluhluwe Umfolozi is home to 1,600 white rhino and 370 black rhino - an impressive number which means you are very likely to see one or both species. It also contains the rest of the Big Five; buffalo, elephant, lion and leopard, as well as many other species including blue wildebeest, zebra, giraffe waterbuck, nyala, kudu, bushbuck, warthog, cheetah, hyena and jackal plus about 24,000 impala. You may have some close encounters with elephants as they often cross or block the road right in front of your vehicle.
Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in the Park. The variety of bushveld and woodland birding found in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, combined with the natural wonders of the Lake St Lucia system and it's central position to the rest of the Zululand Birding Route make this an excellent area for birdwatchers.
Other activities in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park
There is a 40-seater boat on the Hluhluwe dam which takes visitors on daily guided trips. An experienced community guide conducts the trips and visitors can see an excellent range of birds and animals. Wilderness trails also offer the ultimate wildlife experience and Zulu culture can be observed in the community areas outside the Park
Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park
Declared a World Heritage Site in late 1999, it is an aggregation of numerous, singularly natural wonders. It has endless unsploit sandy beaches
The Greater St. Lucia Wetland area, Africas oldest nature reserve and a World Heritage Site is the largest estuarine system in Africa. The area embraces five ecosystems: Marine, Eastern Shores, St. Lucia Lake, Mkuze Swamps and Western Shores. This diversity offers the nature lover a rich variety of outdoor and wildlife experiences.
The wildlife includes 800 hippos, 1200 Nile crocodiles, 400 species of birds including 40 000 flamingos, the Big Five, 109 species of reptiles, 5 species of turtles and the worlds highest density of black rhinos!
Besides the game-viewing, there are a staggering 100 miles of unspoilt coastline that is encompassed in the wetlands and adjoining areas.
Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park is 65km long and 21km wide, with its lakes, lagoons, freshwater swamps, and grasslands. It supports more species of animal than the better-known Kruger National Park and the Okavango Delta, although these areas are much larger.
Although rich in bird and wildlife, for centuries, people have also come to the St. Lucia Estuary for the food and materials that it and the surrounding wetlands offer. To this day, thousands of Zulus harvest ncema grass each spring, which they use to make sleeping and sitting mats.
Phinda Private Game Reserve
Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa comprises 21000 hectares (46 000 acres) of prime wilderness land. It has some of the continents finest game viewing of Africas Big Five, and over 407 bird species. It is located next to the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park with marine diversity said to rival that of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Phinda highlights include 7 diverse habitats, 7 intimate private safari lodges. Phinda Reserve has been the winner of many prestigious ecotourism awards.
Phinda Walking Safaris offer an exhilarating walking adventure in Phindas pristine wilderness, guaranteeing an exceptional and interpretive South African wildlife safari experience
Phinda Safari Lodge maps
Phinda Forest Lodge map
: Lobengula Lodge is a truly traditional African experience in a malaria free safari region
Phinda Getty House map
: Getty House is a sophisticated sole-use villa on Phinda Private Game Reserve situated in the west of the Reserve on 3500 hectares.
Phinda Mountain Lodge map
: Phinda Mountain Lodge lies within the 15 000 hectares of Phinda Private Game Reserve. Phinda Mountain Lodge has 20 air-conditioned suites.
Phinda Rock Lodge map
: Phinda Rock Lodge consists of six exceptional suites suspended from the side of a rocky cliff.
Phinda Vlei Lodge map
: Phinda Vlei Lodge consists of six stilted glass and thatch suites situated in the rare Dry Sand Forest. All suites have a personal bar on the deck and private plunge pools.
Phinda Walking Safaris map
: Phinda Walking Safaris offer an exhilarating walking adventure in Phindas pristine wilderness, guaranteeing an exceptional and interpretive South African wildlife safari experience.
Phinda Zuka Lodge
: Phinda Zuka Lodge lies within the Phinda Private Game Reserve, in the Maputaland region of KwaZulu-Natal. It only has four thatched Zululand bush cottages ensuring exclusivity to guests.
Zululand Rhino Reserve
The Zululand Rhino Reserve was established in July 2004. The Reserve consists of 15 landowners who have removed their internal fences in order to create a 20 000 hectare endangered species reserve and in particular to actively promote the conservation of Black Rhino. The reserve lies within the Msunduze valley in north-western Zululand in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. The Reserve was chosen as the 2nd release site for Black Rhino and on the 13th of October 2005 21 Black Rhino were released into their new home.
Black rhino, which used to be the most numerous rhino species in the world, became critically endangered following a catastrophic poaching wave in the 1970s which wiped out 96% of Africa?s wild black rhino population in just 20 years. At the lowest point, there were just 2500 black rhino left.
In addition to rhino, the reserve has over 70 mammal species including white and black rhino, elephant, buffalo and giraffe. Other plains game such zebra, blue wildebeest, impala, nyala, kudu, waterbuck, common and mountain reedbuck, bushbuck, steenbok, common and red duiker are also present. Leopard, caracal, serval, spotted hyena, wild dog and white tailed mongoose and African wildcat, Black backed jackal and Side-striped jackal are seldom encountered. The first male black rhino calf was born in April 2006 and another during May 2006.
A noble culture, magnificent wildlife and beautiful scenery is indicative of this fascinating region. Zululand is situated northwest of KwaZulu-Natal, one of the nine provinces of South Africa.
The main attractions of the area are the fascinating Zulu culture, Shakaland (traditional Zulu Village) and ancient battlefields.
Rich in symbolism and tradition, Zululand is the heartbeat of Africa. It was here that the King of the Zulus, Shaka forged his Zulu Kingdom, and the last battle of the Anglo-Zulu war was fought near Ulundi in 1879. Zulu kraals or villages in the region display the traditional Zulu way of life to visitors. There are several exciting traditional Zulu villages open to the public, Shakaland and Duma Zulu amongst them. Shakaland, for example, is built on the site of Shaka?s original kraal and was the location for the filming of the movie 'Shaka Zulu'. The village introduces the visitor to Zulu history, culture, medicine and beer, and the traditional dancing is a show for all ages.
Zululand is also home to an astonishing variety of wild game. The many game reserves, parks and farms in the region are dedicated to the conservation and heritage if wildlife preservation.
Sodwana Bay is renowned for its scuba diving, snorkelling and sport fishing, and rivals the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
Scuba Diving at Sodwana Bay
Sodwana Bay has gained international recognition as being a top dive and snorkelling site due to the variety of coral reefs, excellent visibility and phenomenal sea life. More than 1200 species of fish are found at Sodwana Bay and is abundant on and around the various reefs of hard corals, pinnacles, buttresses, caves and blowholes. The average visibility is 12m, but can get as good as 40m as there are no rivers running into the sea in this area, which usually bring all sorts of pollutants. The diving is good all year round. In summer the water temperature can reach 29° C, and the lowest is a mild 20° C. Many reefs are found at 18 meters or less, allowing for excellent snorkelling.
Sodwana also has five species of resident Turtles that regularly frequent the shores. Two of which, the Loggerhead and the Leatherback visit every year during the months of November through to March, to lay their eggs. It is a privilege to witness these creatures coming ashore in their droves to nest, and an even more incredible sight to then to watch the eggs hatch and their off-spring struggling to survive in a world full of hungry predators. There are only a few of these sites in the world and Maputaland boasts the longest running protection programs for turtles in the world.
Ski-boaters and shore anglers have the opportunity to catch a number of different game fish; barracuda, yellowfin tuna and kingfish to name a few. Fishing competitions are held regularly. Sodwana has produced record billfish and sailfish. Please note that Phinda supports catch and release procedures for deep-sea fishing.
This is a hot and humid sub-tropical area and most rain falls during the months of September to April. Annual rainfall is 29-39 inches (750-1,000mm).
The dry season lasts over winter from May to August and the temperatures are very pleasant with warm days and cool nights.