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uMkhuze and Ndumo. Exploring two Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife reserves.


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uMkhuze.

 

Following on from the primitive trail in imfolozi, I had booked with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to stay overnight at both uMkhuze and Ndumo Game Reserves: they formed part of my intended circuit of Kwa Zulu Natal and were en route to Kosi Bay.

 

uMkhuze can easily be reached by the self driver coming from Durban. It’s a straight drive north up the N2, approximately 4 hours from airport to the one of the entry gates, (East and West - Ophansi and eMshophi respectively). We had previously been to Zimanga Private Game Reserve which was further north on the N2 and thus we doubled back past Mkhuze town itself, the last stretch over a potholed gravel and rock strewn road which demands slow driving: dipping into a deep river crossing, workmen filling a bowser with dirty brown water, you drive through farms, kids run up to our vehicle, waving, calling to us “sweets, sweets.”, hills tower above us on both sides of the road: the Lebombo Mountains and oKhombe Peak at 474 meters - it’s spectacular scenery indeed. (One can also get to the reserve by taking the R22 in the direction of Kosi Bay and enter via Ophansi Gate.)

 

We were greeted by attentive, smartly dressed and enthusiastic staff at the gate: the guy left a lasting impression on me, we saw him the next day as we drove away, he engaged us in conversation, keen to know how our visit had been and wanted to know when we’d be coming back to his park. One wonders whether the gate staff are as interested in their visitors elsewhere in South Africa... I came away with the sensation that he really loved his job and was proud of uMkhuze. (It was something evidenced elsewhere in both the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and iSimangaliso Parks.)

 

One should be aware that if camping, the camp site area is located right next to this gate and is the only option. It makes sense, with the accommodation offering such good value for money to stay in the chalets which are more central and have the amenities, reception, restaurant, shop, gas pumps, pool etc.

 

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From the gate one takes a game drive to Matuma Rest Camp, it’s not far but we are already seeing nyala, something which this park I came to find out, is famed for. It was Sunday when we arrived, reception was closed for the afternoon but it was not a problem as you check the board for which chalet you are staying in. There weren’t many names on that board… We had a small and cosy twin equipped with a small kitchen area: outside a braai stand and shaded table – the communal kitchen and toilets are but a moment’s walk away: take a torch, helpful at night if needing to go, but also we encountered load shedding and for a while there was no electricity.

 

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You can also choose to stay in a safari tent as well, or a bigger family unit which is closer to the restaurant area. It was so quiet at the rest camp: we had a glass of red wine under a hazy, milky sky – sun rays pierced through the clouds. Helmeted guinea fowl run up to the chair in which I sit, then run away again, nervous.

 

We discussed the idea of doing the guided fig forest walk in the morning, considered a must do, but we were pushed for time and wanted to see some of the park by car, and @@Bugs had previously done the walk. I myself, whilst interested in birds am not a birder and such a walk may have been wasted on me. (I later did a morning bird walk at Ndumo so didn’t feel to have missed out too much.)

 

Having unpacked, (we’d brought the vital braai supplies, meat and alcohol with us from Hluhluwe – which was lucky, the shop, like reception, not open on a Sunday afternoon.), we headed out straight away stopping to look at the many nyala and impala herds strolling round Matuma, which as it is unfenced means there is a plethora of game very close to the chalets. We drove south passing Lebombo View tower on our right and paying attention to time, then doubled back on ourselves on a parallel loop road which brought us to the kuMasinga hide, one which Roger de la Harpe had told me I had to visit.

 

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The hides at uMkhuze are being renovated to provide a safer and more comfortable viewing environment: I would think that this has now been completed, on Sunday there was no work being carried out but on Monday morning, a work team arrived and probably caused noise and disruption to anyone using the hide.

 

kuMasinga is incredible. One approaches down a long corridor, (which was being extended), and opens up into a covered platform above a large waterhole offering almost 360º views.

 

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One walks over metal grids in the floor. Look through them and it offers a different perspective of the game coming to drink.

 

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Nyala are numerous, families of them take their turns coming down to drink. Bulls, face off, strut and prance and posture in a slow motion dance, mohican fur, their bodies and tails puffed up. Ivory tipped horns. They scrape the ground with them. It will take them an age to reach the water like this.

 

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There are a couple of other people in the hide. We are all aware of the lateness of hour, the rest camp is about 15 minutes drive away.

 

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And then, a rhino and her calf, gingerly, carefully, nervously, approach and it rounds off an incredible visit to this hide.

 

Dinner that night, was one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten, @@Bugs had made sure to bring powdered spices to coat the fillets with, a glass of wine and then a tall G@T on the rocks whilst an African night surrounded us hemming us in with its sounds. The braai crackled and spat, steaks sizzling and the smell gave me an Atkins appetite, embers glowed and overhead stars glimmered, out on the horizon, faint lights of the nearest villages. We were all in the dark. I could hear dogs barking far away but not the wild ones I’d love to see.

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twaffle

The nyala are beautiful

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christabir

Looking forward to more! We enjoyed uMkhuze, but just didn't give ourselves enough time! The lions had just been released and it was windy on the one day (very bad idea) that we were there. We had a terrible drive into the park - the road was almost impassable. Happy to hear they are renovating the hides. The walkways to the hides were in such disrepair last year that there were many missing sections - a little scary if you were used to the safety of game drives. That hide was very busy when we were there, too. Your rhinos are stunning. Just a beautiful park. Thrilled they are investing in the area. We have fallen for iSimangaliso and KZN.

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TonyQ

The Nyala are really beautiful - and the rhino and calf....

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Baby rhino was a special sighting for me.

 

An excuse for the blurry animals - it was very dark. almost too dark to focus.

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graceland

Love the rhino and baby...and the zebras sipping their water.... Of course the Nyala - but a baby rhino - make my heart sing.

 

And the fact Bugs thought to bring alcohol on this camp out. I know he missed his G&T''s on the Primitive Trail :D

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The next morning saw an early start, a mug of naked coffee and a rusk - we were determined to get back to kuMasinga and thus left on the hour: there are no gates, one drives out of camp. A hazy, grey morning didn't promise much, but the sun slowly broke through casting a nice glow upon the waterhole. More zebra, nyala, impala, wildebeest coming down to drink, taking turns. With the reintroduction of lions to uMkhuze, one wonders how this has affected the behaviour of game species - indeed, @@Bugs stated that before, they were a lot less hesitant, reticent, but one observed how they approached the water with care. How long does it take an antelope to learn that lions are now in the area I wonder?

 

We left the hide before eight: it was filling up, as was the waterhole but as we left, so did the work teams arrive: how quiet was it once we'd left?

 

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Next stop was iNsumo Pan and its observation platform. We were the only ones there and enjoyed uninterrupted birding for an hour with magnificent views across the water. The hide is very well set out with long bench seats offering wide panoramic vistas, even I would assume when busy there'll still be room to place your bum and camera gear.

 

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We noted a dead hippo on the opposite side - had this been due to lions? There were no predators upon it, from this distance there was no way I could tell how fresh it was. The pan is haven for waterbirds, and, it's probably best @@Bugs does a resume of some of the species we saw.

 

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But without doubt the most exciting sighting was seeing a martial eagle, (at least we think), sat observing in a tree top on the far bank. All of a sudden it takes flight and swoops down upon a small antelope, probably a red duiker, which scampered off through the branches of a fallen fever tree, (?), at the very last moment: talons clawed at air which seconds earlier had been full with a living, breathing creature and its lucky escape would see it live another day. Maybe. We thought ourselves most lucky to see this interaction, only unlucky that the eagle had not made the kill.

 

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We were pushed a bit with time: I think both of us would have liked to have remained here longer. Check out was 10 am, though with the rest camp almost empty it proved not to be a problem: the restaurant serves a good breakfast and the staff in reception said it was fine for us to go eat before sorting out the admin. Again, another example of laid back professionalism and friendliness which defined how uMkhuze was run. There was no urgency, everything with a smile and time for conversation.

 

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The cooked full breakfast proved to be excellent, a mug of coffee, brought to our table - we met one of the KZN Wildlife guides who @@Bugs had previously accompanied on a Fig Forest birding walk. We chatted whilst he drank a soda - how not only had the lion reintroduction changed the games behaviour, but also that of the guides on the walks. Previously whilst there was caution, it was a muted caution, with dangerous game present, leopards, elephants: but now with lions, every walk had the possibility of coming into contact with them, and indeed, on a few occasions he had with his guests. It would certainly raise the blood pressure on an early morning bird walk. But it also meant that guides could not be complacent - it meant a fresh challenge for them and I think he was excited as we were about them. (@@Bugs, what was his name?) He told us that there had been 12 reintroduced, (coming from Tembe Elephant Park I believe and you can read more about the undertaking here), but one had died in a snare - now there were 11. Due to the size of uMkhuze, a decision was taken to sterilize the females, which means that one Fallopian tube is tied, (I believe this is the case but I hope one of our lion experts can comment, @@egilio ?) meaning reduced litter sizes as the maximum carrying capacity for the reserve is 24. We weren't to see them during our short stay but it is a positive step forward for tourism as the big cats will undoubtedly encourage more people to visit.

 

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The only ones having breakfast and it offered us a chance to observe the unconcerned antelope at close quarters.

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Just across the way from the restaurant are the family units which are reasonably priced, (I'll provide links to the tarriffs when I round up my visit to both reserves at the end of this report), and definitely where I would choose to stay with my family. The patio and braai areas offer stunning views down the valley through the trees.

 

As much as I could have stayed, we had to be leaving and settled up, bought a few supplies in the shop: we were driving to Ndumo now and Lwazi at Indaba had reckoned on a three hour drive. We had the option of leaving via the eastern Ophansi Gate which would take us to the R22 in the direction of Kosi Bay, but we chose to retrace our steps and exit via eMshophi Gate. @@Bugs wanted to drive via Jozini giving me the chance to see the spectacular Jozini Pass which looks down upon the Lake Jozini and Pongolapoort Dam. (Upon reflection, whilst it was nice to look down upon Lake Jozini, if doing it again, I'd leave by the eastern gate and take the much better condition R22.) And as we left, we met up with same chap who'd welcomed us in the day previous. His friendly attitude and interest in us was one more great example of the way I was treated, and when he wished us a good journey and said he hoped to see us again soon, I told him I hoped we'd be back soon as well...

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@@Thandi Shabalala, Tourism Information Officer for www.isimangaliso.com writes:

uMkhuze is a 38 000 hectare reserve that was proclaimed a protected area in 1912. One of the 16 parcels of land that were put together to form iSimangaliso in 1999 & so 1 of iSimangaliso's 10 jewels (destinations). It is predominantly flat and dry with sandy ridges that are ancient sand dunes. A birders paradise with 420 bird species - almost 50% of SA's numbers.

 

You can read more about uMkhuze here, (www.isimangaliso.com) and here, (www.kznwildlife.com).

 

A corridor exists between uMkhuze and iSimangaliso Wetland Park to the north of Phinda - Munyawana Conservancy, (as can be seen in one of the maps here), and over time wildlife has crossed between the two areas, though as confirmed by Kian Barker, should the lions come across they would have to be relocated back due to the human habitations in iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

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The road to Ndumo...

 

As the crow flies, it's should be a quickish drive from the eMshophi Gate to uMkhuze town where one rejoins the N2 but in reality the road leading from the gate is very rough and not very forgiving on a low slung car: you can't build up any great speed and anyway, do you want to? It's not a race, there's wonderful scenery to observe, typical Zulu homesteads and plenty of livestock wandering about in the road - local people seemed friendly, waving as we passed. Shortly before uMkhuze town you pass the remnants of what must have been until a few years ago a large game farm. Remnants of the game fence remain, the posts, gate house and buildings, all derelict, roofs caved in, the wire stripped from the fence line. At least the veldt looked to still be in reasonably good condition. I wondered about the land claim which resulted in this outcome, could it have continued to operate as it once had? And what had happened to all the animals? It didn't bear thinking about...

 

uMkhuze has a well maintained airfield, though it didn't look much used and the town itself is well kept, though the place where @@Bugs hoped to buy biltong no longer existed...

 

Once on the N2, over the uMkhuze River and past the entrance to Zimanga Private Game reserve which we'd visited the day previous, it was but a short drive up the road to the turn off for Jozini but during this time we passed the most incredible road train hauling a massive piece of machinery, it took many lorries joined together to pull it, luckily the police were efficient in directing us past it.

 

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The Jozini Lake Pass is a stunning winding route up through the mountains offering expansive views down to the lake and Pongolapoort Dam: there are various viewpoints and we stopped at one to take photos and stretch legs. Across the river is Phongola Game Reserve and there are a number of lodges offering sport fishing as their main attraction. Despite the stunning scenery I was disappointed at the huge amounts of rubbish alongside the road: the verges are deep with plastic bags and bottles, all manner of plastic crap and it doesn't stop. It's a plastic pavement which obviously no authority accepts responsibility for nor clears. It really let down what otherwise was an impressive road through the mountains, although one which, as you arrive in Jozini town itself becomes potholed and rough. (In total contrast to the R22 from Kosi Bay down to Hluhluwe which I detail in my report here.) Whereas the villages and towns through which one drives on the R22 are pretty, well kept and inviting, (you can see people have obvious pride in their homes and where they live), Jozini is a mess of half finished shacks with bare zinc roofs, rubbish is strewn everywhere and the town does not invite the self driver to stop, even if passing a suitable place stocking biltong and droerwors. At least that was my impression. It felt claustrophobic, oppressive, we took a wrong turn and wished we hadn't. Unlike on the east of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Perhaps that is what happens when an area is absorbed into UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, I was glad to have seen Lake Jozini, but honestly I wouldn't take that route again, even with its impressive scenery...

 

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Stopping off for photographic opportunities on the Pongolapoort Dam. The goat seemed content with its plastic lunch...

 

From Jozini, once across the dam it's a fairly straight road north which then bears east in the direction of Kosi Bay and you turn off left towards Ndumo Game Reserve. The road starts off in good condition but gets worse as you get closer to the reserve. We look up to see a palm nut vulture flying overhead, at least, @@Bugs thinks it is... The road to the reserve is actually being renewed, what is now a tyre torturing rock strewn graded track will soon by an asphalt highway which leads right up to the gate. It was not yet ready for our visit but I would assume may now be complete making the journey to Ndumo much less arduous for driver, passenger and vehicle suspension...

 

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Ndumo.

 

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Arriving at the locked gate: soon to be opened for us.

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A well intentioned sign at the gate, but we were later to learn that despite initiatives such as the above, Ndumo has suffered losses to its rhino population.

 

We arrived at camp during lunch hour: the reception was closed but again, as in uMkhuze, there is a signboard detailing your accommodation. As can be seen, we were the only people staying in the rest camp that night, though there was a couple camping. (The campsite is alongside the chalet area and is likewise served by the communal kitchen and washrooms.) With such a limited number of spaces, it is vital that you confirm your booking, especially during South African public holidays when Ndumo fills up: KZN Wildlife advises on their website here;

 

Due to the distance, visitors wishing to stay in the reserve are strongly advised to obtain confirmed reservation for accommodations the nearest hotel is at Mkuze 110km away.

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A hand painted info sign at reception, done with some care but obviously an antique and perhaps harking back to the days of the Natal Parks Board? I wondered who had done it.

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Chris Ngubane has been working at Ndumo for 28 years and started his career here - he is a wealth of information about the reserve and has seen many changes and developments during this time, he runs reception and provides a warm welcome.

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Our 2-bedded squaredavel, clean, comfortable and functional though with a slightly run down air about it. This is not 5 star accommodation and is not catering for those seeking such luxury. It had everything we needed, a braai stand within easy reach and its decking area with table and chairs - there is a communal wash room area a minute's walk away and a well equipped kitchen although we didn't use it...

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wilddog

How nice to see all those Nyala and the images suggest they are not too shy.

 

'squaredavel' ............................is that a @@Game Warden coined term or commonly used in SA? I have not heard it before, but really like it.

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For anyone with a keen interest in wildlife conservation at the sharp end, the lesser visited wildlife areas and those considered to be marginal, Ndumo is a grave concern and has been for a number of years: the reserve itself is 10,117 hectares in extent, bordered on the north by Mozambique, The Usuthu River forms its northern boundary and on the eastern edge, the Pongola River which is the scene of the conflict with a local community which has invaded and denuded an important RAMSAR wetland site, www.ramsar.org, for farming.

 

I personally wanted to visit the Pongola River site and thus we arranged to meet with Khetha Amos Tembe, Ndumo's Conservation Manager to learn more about the issues involved. Amos is part of the Tembe Royal Family and is personally involved in trying to broker an agreement with this community, which now numbers a large number of homesteads and is reported as being mostly from Mozambique. It is a situation which has been worsening over the years, as confirmed in various media sources such as this 2010 report from www.news24.com and as we have discussed on Safaritalk here and here and as South African TV's 5050 reports in this video:

 

 

One can actually make out the conflict area, looking down across the valley from the rest camp: an area lacking trees and I could see the odd plume of smoke curling up, roofs reflecting sunlight.

 

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The area was once a rich and important riverine biome: now it's been cleared of both flora and fauna, how long would it take to be restored, if it ever could be? And how long will said land now be fertile and productive? I had wanted to take photos and possibly speak with some representatives from the Mbangweni group but with negotiations at a sensitive stage it was decided not to push the point. (Hopefully there'll be a forthcoming interview with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife). There are hopes that the fence will be reinstated, previous efforts to do so have resulted in it being ripped down and it's estimated that up to 2000 hectares of important land has been lost to the invasion with a diminishing hope of reclaiming it back.

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@@wilddog I actually took the term from the KZN Wildlife page for Ndumo accommodation here. I'd not heard of it either.

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We'd already booked to do a birding walk the next morning, and, with our hire vehicle limiting where we could visit in the reserve, I was keen to book a game drive. Unfortunately Ndumo had no serviceable game drive vehicles, so Amos offered to personally drive us in an official vehicle to, what is in his opinion, the highlight of the reserve, Nyamithi Pan.

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We started out at the Ezulweni Hide which is situated on the eastern bank and the birdlife was absolutely astounding. So many species in view at any one time and as we sat photographing and observing, Amos talked of his background and how he'd become involved in conservation, joined Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. He struck me as being really dedicated to the cause and my hope is that through his family's connection, he may well have a part to play in the land invasion issue.

 

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The track which we followed is off limits to self drivers and can only be accessed on guided game drives - so with a lack of game drive vehicles, I don't know how many people are currenly able to experience this incredible part of Kwa-Zulu Natal. We were indeed lucky and appreciative that Amos had time to drive us.

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I've never seen so many crocodiles grouped together, and these examples were of an imense size. The lake at various points widens and narrows, the track threads its way through fever trees right on the shoreline and as the sun began to set and we entered that magical golden hour, everything took on an ethereal glow.

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It reminded me somewhat of the views one has in Mana Pools, like a parkland, I don't think there are too many places in Africa quite like the south and north banks of the Nyamithi Pan as the sun is setting. And whilst game on this drive wasn't prolific, the hippos, crocodiles, birdlife and stunning scenery more than compensated.

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We drove both the southern and northern shores, before doubling back on ourselves as the light began to fade and around every turn, past every tree, opened up a new magnificent viewpoint, and this, on its own, is reward enough for anyone who makes the effort to visit Ndumo...

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Thanks Matt for doing all the work, and putting the words together.

 

I think the guide at Mkuze was Patrick. I have done a few bird walks with him. His wisdom and knowledge is extraordinary - he spoke how the introduction on the lions spiced up his life a bit as walks become more interesting and he had more visitors. He said he saw a Pels fishing owl on his morning walk - of course that would be the one I missed. I understand that they lions have cubs already, and they have taken a taste to giraffe - which are slow learners.

 

The elephant were introduced in iSimangaliso - and they made their own way across to Mkuze.

 

Anyone who is in the area, should consider two days for Mkuze. As troubled as Ndumo is - its well worth a visit for spectacular scenery and its still one of the top birding destinations. We clocked 50 birds during our morning walk alone. Rudds Apalis, Grey tit flycatcher, Trumpeter hornbill, bearded scrub robin, Neegards Sunbird, to name a few.

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Dinner that night taken on the veranda underneath the thatching from which something urinated every few minutes upon me. I kept my hand covering the G&T - the braai took an age to heat up, the wood hard and heavy: it must be noted that there is no shop at Ndumo and supplies must be brought in: also there are no restaurant facilities, so you self cater. Be prepared. Stock up on everything prior to arriving - it's quite a drive if you realise you've forgotten something vital. (Such as a lighter or matches, eh @@Bugs...) Steaks again, not that I'd ever get bored but the braai wood didn't help in cooking it nicely. Those powdered spices and herbs helped make them more palatable. The toilets and shower block are close by and are clean and well maintained. Both of us slept well that night and we can put that down to the amount of gin consumed...

 

We were up early just a little heavy headed: a strong coffee sorted that and we gathered kit together for the bird walk. Our destination, Shokwe Pan, one of the various sites for early morning walks. With our guide, we drove to a small parking area and from there, following a safety briefing, we walked down a game trail which opened up into the most amazing sycamore fig forest, pallid yellow barked fever trees, deep leaf matter crunching underfoot: the lifeblood of any forest. The fertile humus, the decomposing organic mulch from which these twisted, gnarled trees sucked up their nutrients. No trees, no leaves, no humus and after a while, no fertility: that's what slash and burning for agriculture creates, a space which after a few years becomes devoid of soil nutrients, forcing the farmer to cut down more...

 

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Bird calls echoed through the canopy. We'd stop once in a while, the guide pointing, we'd raise binoculars. For one with less of an interest in birds, the spectacle of a sunrise illuminating the tree trunks and the day warming round us, the gentle mist slowly dissipating made this walk worth every penny...

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All number of water birds flocked to the pan. I think we saw fish eagles in the trees opposite. It was cool by the water's edge. Another day in Africa was just beginning and here we were in the very heart of it.

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I'm probably not the first to photograph this skull...

 

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Our guide knew his birds, the recent nomenclature, the calls. He was interested in the birding app on Bugs' iPhone. He couldn't find us a Pel's nor a Narina trogon which are oft spotted here but did many other species and enthused me and @@Bugs was in his birdwatching element.

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One feels to be standing amongst giants in the ancient sycamore forest by the water's edge.

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Returning along the road to where we'd left the car, we were still spotting: @@Bugs, what is the id for this one? The walk had taken approximately 2 hours start to finish: despite all the trekking we'd done in iMfolozi, it felt great to be out in the bush again, in a completely different ecosystem to that previous.

 

From north of Usuthu River came the sound of chainsaws in Mozambique. It brought into focus for me just how important Ndumo is for preserving this specific environment, its rich flora and fauna; incredible bird life. South Africa, Kwa-Zulu Natal was a place where these beautiful, centuries old trees stood tall - here were they protected, thanks to tourism. And yet just over the border, so were they being cut down, whether illegally or not, for what protection were they offered there? Where are the parks and reserves and tourists in this southern part of Mozambique? It made us both reflect upon the fact that something so ancient was being felled and could never regrow in our life times. If at all. And it brought into discussion that poaching does not just refer to wildlife - just what was the final destination of this wood to be?

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wilddog

Love image 2 of your post 16 with sun peeping through the trees and the mist. Very artistic and atmospheric.

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Returning to camp, whilst @@Bugs and our guide talked birds, I sat silent in the back, looking at the bush as we bumped past. Antlelope bounced away at our approach. It didn't take long to sort out admin where we bade Chris farewell. How many more generations of passionate people like him will devote their whole career to working in a small provincial reserve such as Ndumo I wondered...

 

With everything packed in the car we were off, it isn't a long drive from the rest camp to the gate, but before leaving we climbed the viewing tower which offers expansive views over the whole reserve and north into Mozambique.

 

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North of the border and into Mozambique, plumes of smoke curled up from the forest at regular intervals, stretching from left to right across our view. They mingled to create a white haze, reinforcing the fact of the environmental destruction we knew was happening, having heard the chainsaws buzzing earlier. From here, where we sat on the benches, everything looked green and lush and on the South African side, barring the issue with the land invasion at the Pongola RIver site, Ndumo is green, lush. Because it still has protection and still is a tourist destination. But it is threatened: poaching is happening and when wildlife crosses the Usuthu River north, it doesn't come back. Despite the best efforts of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and NGOs, rhinos have been poached in the reserve - indeed, is it time for those remaining to be translocated elsewhere? Make a public announcement to this affect? One wonders how much money and resources have been devoted to protecting the dwindling rhino population to the detriment of other pressing conservation needs in the reserve. Should the northern boundary be fenced, as the river itself and resident crocodiles are not much of a deterrent... It probably wouldn't keep the poachers out, but would perhaps stop the wildlife from moving to Mozambique and becoming a free meal to communities on that side. And what of the future of the Pongola land grab issue? How should it be resolved and by whom? Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife? Provincial KZN authorities? The South African govt? For until now, any efforts appear to have failed. This is what @@Bugs and I discussed in the watch tower, with a sense of impotency at not being able to do anything, at not knowing any answers. Perhaps it is us, the tourist, who can ensure Ndumo survives. For the more of us who visit, write about it, promote it, the less chance it will be forgotten, left to decline. For Ndumo is achingly beautiful with views of a timeless and ancient Africa and for birders, it is their mecca and our brief overnight visit did not do it justice.

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twaffle

Beautiful forest landscapes and very interesting information on a reserve that I knew nothing about.

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christabir

Thanks for the info on Ndumo. When we visited Tembe Elephant Park, we planned a day trip but it was too dangerous at the time. Such a shame about the damage done. I feel terrible about the rhinos, it hurts my heart.

 

It's such a treat that you have access to the people who know so much! I'm a bit jealous.

 

Ndumo is famous for birds - happy to see you saw so many. We got lost near Jozini, too! Not a neighborhood we felt comfortable being lost in - never felt unsafe, just not comfortable. Maybe it was as you say - the general feeling of it being unkempt and neglected. My personal feeling is a lot of those communities were forced out of their farming communities on the river to the arid, non arable land they are now living on to make way for the dam. Dams displace a lot of self-sustaining agricultural communities, and those communities don't gain from the needed infrastructure.

 

Hopefully in the not too distant future I will have the time to spend many nights in the KZN parks. You make it all so inviting! KZN is special - I hope more of us visit.

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Bugs

One of my biggest fears was after visiting Ndumo, and in the interest of honest reporting - there would be some bad news attached. I have subsequently met a number of good people who promise to bring me some good news.

 

The problem is negative publicity can also result in a drop in visitor numbers - which is exactly what is not needed. I would like to encourage people to visit this gem. It sis still (as my colleague Dave Cook calls it - " a timeless vista of old Africa at its very best"

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Game Warden

The logistics of visiting uMkhuze and Ndumo are easy if you are self driving and indeed, must be included on your grand KZN tour which should also include, (as we did), Hluhluwe iMfolozi, preferably one of the wilderness trails, iSimangaliso, (basing oneself in St Lucia), Kosi Bay and Tembe Elephant Park and if wanting to see how photographic photo tourism is taking over from sport hunting, and for some incredible photographic opportunities in modern hi-tech hides, Zimanga Private Game Reserve, (article to follow).

Both uMkhuze and Ndumo are easy to reach from Durban, either via the N2 or R22, both good quality asphalt highways with plenty of service areas and pretty much a straight drive on each until the last sections.

The roads/tracks in uMkhuze are well suited for a 2WD and one can explore the park at leisure: it's worth staying in Mantuma Rest Camp as previously stated in this report, and 2014/15 rates and tariffs can be found here, (www.kznwildlife.com), and if returning, I would indeed book the Fig Forest Walk, the cost of which can also be found here. Both the kuMasinga and iNsumo hides were very productive and warrant spending more time. As @@Bugs says earlier, 1 night is not enough, especially if doing a guided walk and thus I'd recommend 2 nights minimum. I found the chalet to very comfortable, fully equipped, all bedding etc supplied - regarding water, we brought bottled water with us.

Do remember at uMkhuze, that although there is a shop, supplies are limited so pick up food stuffs, braai gear etc prior to arriving. Also be aware of gate opening and closing time and office hours, details of which can be found here.

During our visit it was very quiet and thus we had great sightings unhindered by other vehicles or crowded hides. However, at weekends and SA holiday periods it can get busy thus if planning to visit try to avoid said times. Note,

The hides are being renovated at uMkhuze and will not be available for game viewing until further notice. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.


Thus you are advised to contact Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in advance to see their availability, the contact page is here.

 

Only some roads/tracks in Ndumo are suited for a 2WD and thus if not in a 4x4 your options will be limited, especially as the game drive vehicles are out of commission. (Or at least were at the time of our visit.) However the guided morning bird walk is a must do.

 

One stays at Ndumo Rest Camp either in one of the small number of squaredavels or campsite which adjoins the chalets: the 2014/5 rates and tariffs can be found here, (www.kznwildlife.com). Bearing in mind that it's quite a drive to get to, though fairly easy, it is worth spending more than a night, especially if with a 4x4 giving you the option to explore the whole reserve. Again I found the chalet to very comfortable, (although a little run down), fully equipped, all bedding etc supplied - regarding water, we brought bottled water with us.


Do remember at Ndumo there is no shop, restaurant or staff to cook and thus you must bring in all food stuffs, braai gear etc and be prepared to self cater. Also be aware of gate opening and closing time and office hours, details of which can be found here.

As with uMkhuze it was very quiet and thus we had great sightings unhindered by other vehicles or crowded hides. However, at weekends and SA holiday periods it can get busy thus if planning to visit try to avoid said times. Ndumo really is a birders paradise and offers incredible scenery unlike you'll see elsewhere, but don't expect the concentration of game and predators that you may have seen in other South African reserves.

At the bottom of the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Camp Service Level Survey, (left for guests at uMkhuze), it states:

YOU MATTER. WE CARE.


In both respects, their logo is spot on. In both uMkhuze and Ndumo, it was obvious @@Bugs and I mattered, and that the staff, no matter who they were and what their position, cared. It's something that bears repeating - how impressed I was with the attitude and passion of people involved in conservation of the parks, (whether Ezemvelo or iSimangaliso), a pride in their work and what they are looking to achieve and protect. And despite all the odds, that gives me huge hope for the future of wildlife in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Matt.

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Game Warden

I have to state that doing another road trip with @@Bugs was a true pleasure, an education and an in car face to face forum for conservation discussion and debate. I hope that we will be able to continue this annual tradition to coincide with the Cape Town and Durban tourism shows, each time exploring new areas of South Africa, (for me), and meeting other great Safaritalk members along the way. I do believe that both @@Peter Connan and @@Soukous would have also greatly enjoyed our KZN itinerary.

 

There are many conservation challenges ahead, especially for Ndumo, but both parks need a greater influx of tourists - so we can do our part by visiting, and enjoying, these wonderful slices of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

 

Matt

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marindadrake

Fantastic experience. Definitely on my bucket list

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Soukous

I do believe that both @@Peter Connan and @@Soukous would have also greatly enjoyed our KZN itinerary.

 

 

Almost certainly true @@Game Warden

If I'd known in advance where you'd be going I would have made different flight arrangements. But even you didn't know that until after Indaba. B)

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