Zulu Nyala Game Reserve is a secret corner amidst the wetlands of KZN. Surrounded by the wilderness areas of Mkhuze, Hluhluwe, St Lucia, and Sodwana Bay, Zulu Nyala Game Reserve acquired the characteristics of all. However, it differs from these parks by the luxurious holiday it offers. Guests can enjoy going to the gym, relaxing at a spa, and driving into the wildlife at the same place. The privately-owned park also benefits from its surrounding cultural heritage of Zulu villages, so you will get a grasp of the interaction between the village folks and the wildlife.
Zulu Nyala Game Reserve was founded in 1981 by Trevor Shaw who purchased 1500 acres of land. He immediately noticed the abundance of the endemic Nyala buck that is not frequently found in the other provinces of South Africa. Within the next ten years, thatched and stone houses were built, while the surrounding cattle farms passed their lands onto the park. Nevertheless, it remains a small park nestled between Hluhluwe and Isimangaliso.
The park has patches of indigenous vegetation, the most prominent ones being eucalyptus and fever tree forests.
Zulu Nyala’s enclosed environment has its pros and cons. There are currently no lions in the park; however, this makes the cheetah and cubs much more relaxed and easier to spot. Elusive leopards can also be spotted quite easily in the park.
While both rhino species are present in the park, it is much easier to spot white rhinos, while the black rhinos are shy and not eager to walk past the vehicles.
Other species that you are guaranteed to spot are elephants, nyala, Burchell’s zebra, hippos, mongoose, monkeys, grey and red duiker.
The park offers guided open vehicle safaris to track the 40 species of mammals plus thousands of birds. They are also quite experienced in photographic safaris, so they will be able to assist you in taking the best shots.
Besides the regular game drives during early mornings and sunsets, night drives can also be arranged. This is an excellent opportunity to view nocturnal animals at the peak of their activity.
Although the park is relatively small, its central location enables day trips and excursions to the surrounding parks in St. Lucia and Hluhluwe. Another highlight of Zulu Nyala park is the proximity to Zulu villages that will help you get a glimpse of the local life.
The game lodge itself has both entertaining and relaxing activities. You will find a tennis court, a bar, a reading lounge, a games room, and cozy and luxurious rooms for absolute comfort. The rooms have mosquito nets, sparing you the trouble of mosquito bites.
The park has a reputation for organizing unforgettable weddings and functions in the wild. The enchanting atmosphere of the park was so well-known that it was used as the filming location of the Kim Bassinger movie “I dreamed of Africa”.
The climate at Zulu Nyala is no different than any other park in KZN. There is sharp segregation between the dry and the wet seasons.
The dry season experiences almost no rainfall except for the rare showers near the coast. Between June and August, the temperatures in the early morning and at night can drop down to 10 degrees, but the rest of the day experiences clear and sunny days at 25 degrees. May and September are much milder in terms of minimum temperature and the slightly increased amount of rainfall.
The wet season sees intense heat and humidity. From October to March, the temperature ranges only between 20 and 30 degrees, but the temperature that you feel might be much higher due to the level of humidity. Thunderstorms are quite common. While they occur mostly in the afternoon, it is likely for them to last the entire day.
Considering the climate changes between the two seasons and the school holidays in December, it would be much wiser to visit the park in the dry season. Although the park is small enough to tick off the species you are looking for, it will be much harder to spot them when they are camouflaged behind the thick bushes.
Zulu Nyala is about 350 km to the north of Durban, which is the third-largest city of South Africa. King Shaka Airport can be accessed through domestic flights from Cape Town or Johannesburg. There are car rental companies at King Shaka Airport.
You can also fly to Richards Bay Airport near Durban since it’s even closer to the park; however, you must arrange car rental beforehand, as the options at Richards Bay are narrower.
If you don’t want to deal with the transportation yourself, all you need to do is book the special packages that include transfer from the King Shaka Airport to your specific lodge.
Tips And Things You Might Need to Know
Because you won’t see any lions at Zulu Nyala, we recommend that you book a day trip to the nearby game reserves such as Phinda or Hluhluwe.
Remember to bring cash with you, since you are expected to tip 10-20 USD per day for the rangers after the drives.
If you are keen on birdwatching, the guide named Aman is specialized in birding tours with a formal education in entomology. All you need to do is ask for him at the reception.
Remember to stay in the vehicles, especially during night drives.
Zulu Nyala Game Reserve is in a high-risk malaria zone, so you should consult with your doctor about taking malaria pills prior to your departure.