Mkuze Game Reserve, part of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, combines steep cliffs with riverine forests, wetlands and lakes with rare sand forests. It's no wonder there are 420 species of birds recorded here, along with rhino, elephant and giraffe. Take time out to relax with a glass of something cold at a hide or waterhole.

Did you know?

Mkuze is close enough for day drives into the St Lucia wetlands or to the coast.

It’s hard to believe, as one gazes inland from the reeds and mangroves of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in northern KwaZulu-Natal, that Mkuze Game Reserve is so close, with its gently rolling acacia savannah and woodlands, including groves of scented thorn trees.

It also features swamps, riverine forest, mountains and grasslands. In fact, Mkuze crams a bewildering array of habitats into its 40 000 hectares. There are spreading lake-like pans ringed by yellow-barked fever tree forests; rare sand forests with dark sherbert trees, and wetlands that thrum with birdlife.

In winter, there are huge concentrations of game at the pans and waterholes – black and white rhinoceros, elephant, zebra, giraffe, nyala, blue wildebeest, eland, and if you’re lucky, cheetah, leopard, hyena, red duiker and the tiny suni antelope.

The black rhino you see are descendants of animals that were here since the park was declared in 1912. The white rhino, though, are some of the first that were brought in from what is now the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve by Dr Ian Player and his team in their heroic rhino rescue efforts of the 1950s and 1960s.

There’s also a chance of seeing serval cats, which love hunting in a wetland habitat. Around the camps you’re almost certain to see large-spotted genets after dark.

Mkuze is also one of South Africa’s top birding spots, with 420 species recorded here. At pans like Kubube and Kamasinga you can leave your car for the cool shade of the hides and contemplate birds and animals for hours. Here you might be lucky enough to spot a red-billed helmet shrike, and almost certainly the gorgeous bush shrike and pink-throated twinspot.

At Nhlonhlela Pan, you can sit in quiet tranquillity on the shaded viewing platform, watching as jacana birds tread delicately across lily pads and fish eagles stand sentinel, on the lookout for unwary tilapia in the depths below.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Mkuze Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)35 573  004/9001
Fax: +27 (0)35 573 0031

Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife Reservations
Tel: +27 (0)33 845 1000
Fax: +27 (0)33 845 1001
Email: webmail@kznwildlife.com

How to get here

From Durban, drive north along the N2 to Hluhluwe - about 300km. About 35km north of Hluhluwe, you'll see a signpost to Mkuze Game Reserve. Follow the signs from there. You could also fly to Richards Bay and drive south on the N2 for about 110 km before finding the signposts 35km before Hluhluwe.

Best time to visit

This area can be oppressively hot and humid in summer. Rather visit between March and September if you can. Winters here (April to August) are particularly pleasant.

Get around

Visitors mostly use their own vehicles for game drives. But you can also book a guided night drive, which is highly recommended.

What to pack

Don't forget a swimming costume. There is a pool in the park, or you may head off to the beach for the day.

Where to stay

You can choose between Nhlonhlela Bush Lodge, which overlooks a bird-rich pan and sleeps eight, or the Tented Safari Camp. There is also a camping area.

What's happening

It's easy to explore parts of the extraordinary iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site, before or after visiting Mkuze.