Phinda Game Reserve - love and leopards

Traveling in the Zulu Kingdom promises to be one of the greatest holiday experiences of your lifetime; with its abundant wildlife safaris, unique and diverse cultural heritage, and over a hundred kilometers of coastline. The Zulu Kingdom stretches from the Tugela River in South Africa; to the Mozambique border; incorporating forests, lakes, and several game lodges.

Activities in the area include fishing, game viewing, birding, cultural villages, and even whale watching; when the Humpback Whales migrate from the south to Madagascar between May to September each year.

Zulu Kingdom dancing ladies
Zulu Kingdom dancing ladies

This area is a birding diversity hot spot with more than 600 species recorded!! 63 Southern African endemic or near-endemic species are present; making this region a must on any birders’ wish list.

Sodwana Bay

Sodwana Bay; with its many exciting coral reefs and outstanding climate; has distinguished itself as one of the premier sport diving destinations and seasonal Turtle nesting.

Each year, during the summer which is between November and January, enormous leatherback and loggerhead turtles emerge from the Indian Ocean at Sodwana Bay to lay their precious eggs in the sand. Set out on a thrilling night-time adventure along a stretch of 16 kilometers of beach with only the beam of your flashlight, the cold light of the moon, and the distant flash of the lighthouse to guide you; search for these gentle animals as they ride the waves to shore to dig their nests at one of Africa’s last key nesting sites.

Watch in wonder as two of the ocean’s largest turtles – the walnut-hued leatherback ringing in at 700 kilograms and the white-bellied loggerhead touching 160 kilograms – breach the quiet shore, leaving behind a deep trail in the soft sand. Marvel at the silent concentration of the mother; as she squats above a deep hole in the sand, laying scores of smooth, oval eggs, which she carefully covers with warm, loose sand before disappearing back into the inky waves.

Zulu Kingdom Safari Parks

Our favorite reserve in this area is Phinda Private Game Reserve so it has its own page.

Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park

The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park (was Hluhluwe Umfolozi) was once the exclusive hunting ground of King Shaka. Proclaimed in 1895 it is the second oldest game reserve in the world; and the most famous in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Initially managed as two reserves; Hluhluwe in the north; and Imfolozi in the south; it has now merged; to form the super safari reserve known as Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park.

Hluhluwe Imfolozi is a 96000-hectare wildlife reserve located 280km north of Durban. Home to the ‘Big Five’; it has been instrumental in the rehabilitation of the white rhino; which previously faced extinction. It is also home to the critically endangered black rhino.

Hluhluwe white rhino
Hluhluwe white rhino

Isimangaliso Wetland Park

Greater St Lucia Wetland Park (Isimangaliso Wetland Park) is South Africa’s third-largest conservation area. It consists of 13 protected areas; focused primarily on St Lucia, Sodwana Bay, Lake Sibaya, and the Kosi Bay Nature Reserve. The St Lucia Estuary; within the park; is a World Heritage Site; because it is home to five distinct and very sensitive ecosystems.

Tembe Elephant Park

The 300km2 reserve, located between Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mozambique, is the ancestral home of the Tembe tribe who own and co-manage both the Park and the Tembe Elephant Lodge. Tembe Elephant Park offers intimate encounters with some of the largest elephants in Africa. It was established in 1983 to protect elephants that used to migrate between Maputaland and southern Mozambique. These elephants were traumatized by poaching during the civil war in Mozambique so the park was only opened to the public in 1991. The park is now home to Africa’s largest elephants as well as a Big 5 game reserve. More than 340 bird species have been recorded in Tembe, including the rare Rudd’s Apalis, Rufous-bellied Heron, Plain-backed Sunbird, African Broadbill, the Natal Nightjar, and the Woodward’s Batis.

Lake Sibaya

Lake Sibaya is a freshwater lake, at an estimated 7 750ha, tucked against forested coastal dunes, parallel to iSimangaliso’s coastline. Marine canyons offshore of Lake Sibaya, and the presence of relict estuarine fauna suggest that the Lake was previously connected to the sea by a large river; however, no rivers flow in or out of Lake now. Its pristine, crystal clear waters fringed by pure white sand are fed entirely by run-off from the high vegetated dunes reaching 165m.

Lake Sibaya sundowners (Thonga Beach Lodge)
Lake Sibaya sundowners (Thonga Beach Lodge)

Home to KwaZulu-Natal’s second-largest population of hippo and crocodiles. It is additionally; important breeding, feeding, and roosting area for a host of bird species. Lake Sibaya is classified as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife SA and listed as a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance. The site has diverse avifauna, including locally rare species and range-restricted species. A total of 279 bird species have been recorded, 62 of which are closely associated with the Lake through their breeding, feeding, or roosting habits. Although few species occur in large numbers, the Lake occasionally supports more than 20 000 waterfowl, some of which are at the southern limit of their distribution.