uMkhuze – The home of the Big 5

uMkhuze – The home of the Big 5

Visit one of SA’s oldest game parks and see the Big 5 and rare bird species at the magnificent uMkhuze park.

Tourism KZN
Tourism KZN

uMkhuze is a sought-out destination for those who want to get a glimpse of the Big 5. The park, which has been in existence since 1912, prides itself as being one of South Africa’s oldest game parks. 

The beautiful 40,000 hectares park is located in a spectacular section of iSimangaliso. It is home to at least 420 avian species, the Big 5. and rarer animal species such as cheetah and wild dog. These animals are all at home in an amazing landscape of acacia savannah, rivers, pans, and riverine forest.

What’s even more special about the park is that the only unspoilt, indigenous fig forest of its kind in Africa, Sycamore Fig Forest, is situated along the banks of the uMkhuze River, which curves along the reserve’s northern and eastern borders. The forest enchants with its rich bird life and massive trees – some of which have a circumference of 12m and are upwards of 400 years old.

The massive trees not only provide a beautiful view, but they bear fruit all year round, providing an ever-ready banquet hall for bird and animal species.

The game-viewing hides at kuMasinga and kuMahlala pans provide an all-day game spectacle as herds of animals gather to drink at these waterholes. The beautiful iNsumo Pan is host to hippo, Nile crocodiles, and many bird species.

iNsumo supports one of only two significant pink-backed pelican breeding colonies in Southern Africa. Visitors can relax in one of the two bird-viewing hides next to the iNsumo Pan.

The reintroduction of lion back into the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso was a scientifically designed project, with sensitivity to the environment and lion-pride dynamics all taken into account. The lions were released in stages; the first group comprised a lioness and her three sub-adult males, relocated in December 2013 from the Tembe Elephant Park. In April 2014, two young litters of cubs have swelled the numbers and in September 2016, three male lions were introduced from Tswalu Kalahari Reserve to add new genes and strengthen bloodlines. Key members of the prides have been fitted with satellite-tracking collars for ongoing monitoring.

Western Shores & Charters Creek

Bring your loved ones to the 25,000ha, Big 5 game area that will enthral the whole family. It is located on the edge of the bustling and world-famous seaside resort of St Lucia. The Dukuduku Gate, on the road, just before one enters St Lucia, is the gateway to Africa’s famous inhabitants, which occur here in abundance. Alternatively, the Park can be accessed from the major N2 highway via the Charters Creek off-ramp.

The park recently underwent renovations to ensure you get the best experience when visiting. With modern facilities, there is no reason to rough it in this Park. The managing authority of iSimangaliso Wetland Park has vastly improved the infrastructure over the past few years, with modern ablution blocks, several lookout points and hides, and a canopy walk. New game drives include the uMphathe Loop (with its Kweyezalukazi Lookout) and uMdoni Loop. The uMthoma Aerial Boardwalk overlooks Lake St Lucia’s narrows and has views as far as Cape Vidal in the north and Maphelane in the south.

Much of the Western Shores was formerly forestry plantation, severely degrading the eco-system. Over the past eight years, iSimangaliso has removed thousands of hectares of alien trees and rehabilitated the natural landscape. This has enabled the reintroduction of historically occurring game, including elephant, serval, tsessebe, giraffe, nyala, white and black rhino, buffalo, zebra, red and grey duiker, and wildebeest. The numerous pans and wetlands host not only hippos and crocodiles but also many species of buck and a plethora of bird life, particularly waterfowl.

This is the best place to take your family to create an unforgettable vacation. 

For more KZN Travels articles read below:

  1. Experience paradise at Kosi Bay
  2. Six activities you can enjoy while staying at Isibindi Kosi Forest Lodge
  3. IsiMangaliso Wetland Park - Cape Vidal: The destination for unlimited fun
  4. See the Big 5 in action at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park
  5. At Heritage House' – KZN’s top safari destination

Main image courtesy of iStock

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