The best parks and reserves for an affordable safari in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal
KwaZulu Natal is found on the eastern coastline of South Africa. The region’s diverse range of landscapes and habitat types allows for a varied, unique set of safari options. Guests can enjoy the spectacular birdlife of Ndumo, tiger-fish in Lake Jozini, see the Big 5 in Hluluwe-Imfolozi, hike the majestic Drakensberg peaks, get some cultural interaction with local Zulu communities or enjoy snorkelling and scuba-diving in the tropical Indian Ocean, to name but a few of the variety of interesting experiences. A safari in the region will suit those on a budget, with a number of lodges and camps offering great value for money.
Ndumo is made up of a combination of wetlands, rivers, sand forest, marshland, and savannah woodland. The reserve’s birding is exceptional, with the highest bird count in South Africa- approximately 430 recorded species. Black and white rhino, hippos, crocodiles, buffalo and giraffes can also be found on the reserve, among other species.
Hluhluwe is made up of rolling hills and vegetated riverine valleys, which combine to provide breathtaking natural scenery and an abundance of wildlife and plant species. Many large mammal species are abundant in the region, with species commonly seen including elephant, black and white rhino, leopard, lion and cheetah. Visitors can enjoy an array of activities, from self-guide safaris to guided walks.
Pongola Nature Reserve was the first proclaimed reserve in Africa, and its 31 000 hectares are home to an abundance of plant and animal species. Rhino, buffalo, elephant and hyena are found in the reserve. Lake Jozini is a superb feature, attracting a plethora of birdlife, as well as being home to hippos, crocodiles and the famous tiger-fish. Guests can enjoy a unique houseboat safari or fishing safari on the lake, in addition to a traditional game drive safari.
Mkuze Falls is a 1200 hectare reserve, made up of a number of various ecosystem and habitat types, including wetland, grasslands, bushveld, and riverine bush. These habitats support a range of wildlife species, including the Big 5. There are also many dams on the reserve, which are home to hippos and water birds, and which allow guests the unique options of fishing and boating safari experiences.
The Tembe Elephant Reserve is a spectacularly beautiful 3000 hectare reserve that is made up of wetlands, savannah, open plains and its wow factor – its unique sand forests. The reserve is home to the Big 5 but its the elephants of Tembe that draw people to visit it as these are said to be the largest elephants in Southern Africa. Bird lovers can also expect fantastic birdlife on the reserve.
The Kosi Bay Reserve is made up of a water system of four lakes, which provides habitats for a diversity of wildlife species. Fishing in the reserve is excellent and it is a paradise for bird-watchers, with several rare species found in the reserve. Hippos, crocodiles, and the Cape Clawless Otter also call the reserve home. Kosi Bay is perfect for a laid-back, rustic nature experience with a cultural edge.
iSimangaliso is a World Heritage, and is found around the largest estuary in South Africa, St Lucia. The park is made up of a combination of marine, bushveld and coastal dune forest habitats, and is therefore rich in biodiversity. Close to 400 species of birds are found in the park, and ‘turtle safaris’ are offered by many camps, a unique experience. Bigger land-based wildlife can also be seen in other parts of the reserve.
South Africa‘s Drakensberg is one of the most spectacular natural landscape in the country, and indeed the world. Majestic peaks, plunging green valleys, fast-flowing rivers, and an abundance of plant, animal and bird life make the Drakensberg a must-see. World-renowned attractions include the dramatic Amphitheatre, Giant’s Castle and Tugela Falls. There is also a collection of San rock art sites to visit in the region.