KwaZulu-Natal is one of the first provinces in South Africa to take initiatives for wildlife conservation. Hluhluwe – iMfolozi Park was the first proclaimed wildlife area in the country. Another old national park from KZN is Mkhuze Game Reserve founded in 1912.
The subtropical northern Zululand brings a lot of character to Mkhuze. It’s a combination of big game animals, wetland animals and extraordinary birds that all find a reason to visit and inhabit here. In Mkhuze, you will find some extraordinary ways of viewing them.
Mkhuze Game Reserve covers 40,000 ha of land on the tranquil Elephant Coast. It is 4 hours to the north of Durban.
The park has an overall lowland terrain consisting of plains and pans covered in the bushveld. However, there are other varieties of habitat towards its borders. The park borders the outskirts of the Lebombo Mountains in the east. The plains are covered in a savannah that grows acacia species, woodlands, and riverine forests.
Mkhuze is bound by the Mkuze River in the north. The riverbank is surrounded by a fig forest. The final type of natural habitat is the sand forest, which is indigenous to KZN.
Just like any other safari park with a diversity of habitats, Mkhuze guarantees an unforgettable wildlife experience with an unexpected animal sight on every corner. However, the park has a few final touches that make the experience even more unique.
Mkhuze is one of the few safari parks in South Africa with game viewing hides. There are three of those in the park next to Kubube, Kamasinga, and Kwamalibala pans. These are special spots where visitors can park their cars and enter on foot to get a closer look at the animals without getting noticed. The hides are ideal if you are interested in wildlife photography and uninterrupted clear shots of animals.
Mkhuze is an excellent choice for viewing four of the big 5: Black and White rhinoceros, elephant, lion, and leopard. Other mammals include giraffe, blue wildebeest, warthog, impala, eland, kudu, and nyala. Thanks to the sand forest, sightings of cheetah, hyena, and suni are also possible.
There is more! The two pans, Nhlonhlela and Nsumo, have a distinct habitat that boasts animals rarely seen in many South African parks. Besides the largest population of pink backed and white pelicans, you can also spot hippo and crocodile.
Have we mentioned that the park is nicknamed the mecca of birds? The 420 species of birds can be observed all year long.
The success of Mkhuze comes from the abundance of game driving roads, a great variety of guided walks like no other, as well as providing the guests with the relaxation they need in between the activities.
As we mentioned before, the park has three special sites called hides where you can (obviously) hide and quietly watch the animals in their natural habitat.
Game drives are the park’s all-time classic. Besides the regular drives in the early morning and during sunset, the park is specialized in evening drives. These are conducted in open viewing vehicles to observe nocturnal animals and birds on the hunt. The drives are approximately 2.5 hours long.
If you want your own pace, self-driving is another option with 100 km of the road network available to you.
Now, let’s talk about the hikes.
You can join the guided walk tours organized twice daily. Each group can have a maximum of 8 people, so decide quickly.
Every day, one hike is conducted at 6 am and one in the afternoon. The times can be adjusted depending on the season.
For bird enthusiasts, guided fig forest walks are also available. The limit to the number of people is eight.
These are all quite exhausting activities, so you need time to recharge your batteries. If you are staying at the chalets or campsites, you can benefit from the swimming pool. Besides, Nsumo and Mantuma pans have designated picnic spots where you can get a view of the wildlife. The most exciting news about here is the braai facilities at these spots. It gets better, the picnic sites are available to both overnight guests and day visitors.
Tips & Things You Might Need To Know
The hide spots offer the best views between 7 am – 10 am due to the angle of the sunlight as well as the maximum number of animals roaming around.
The park has an abundance of ticks that can disrupt your experience. Take precautions by wearing long pants, good hiking shoes and carrying an insect repellent. If you forgot to bring it, you can still buy one at the Curio Shop at the entrance.
Avoid wearing bright colors.
Remember to stay in the vehicles during the game drives. Leaving the vehicles unless instructed otherwise is very dangerous and illegal.
Some animals can get quite close to the picnic sites, so avoid laying food around. Never try to feed the animals.
Mkhuze Game Reserve is in a high-risk malaria zone, so you must consult with your doctor before your trip.
The water is filtered and chlorinated at Mantuma, so it’s good to drink. The resort also sells unleaded petrol and diesel.
The accommodation sites have very loosely fenced, allowing regular entry and exit of many animals. That’s why it is quite dangerous to walk around at night on our own.
Mkhuze Game Reserve is part of KZN’s subtropical climate zone. The rainy season is between October and March, while the temperature ranges between 20 and 30 degrees. From April to September is dryer and cooler between 20 and 12 degrees. This season offers an easier game viewing since water resources shrink down to only water holes, so you know where to find the animals.
Mkhuze Game Reserve is 4 hours from Durban, which can be accessed by air from Cape Town, Johannesburg and many other African cities.
From Durban, you must take N2 to the north and take the turnoff to Mkhuze Game Reserve. Be careful not to take the Hluhluwe turn, Mkhuze’s turnoff is separate.
Once you turn off, the road is gravel. Beware of potholes and don’t exceed 40 km/h.
If you are driving from the north, drive through Mkuze village along N2 and turn right onto the same turnoff.