Songimvelo Game Reserve, tucked away in a little-known corner of the Mpumalanga province, lies within the folds of the ancient Barberton Mountains. A pristine game park just waiting to be explored, it is known for its stunning landscapes, rich biodiversity and horseback safaris.

Did you know?

Songimvelo is the only place in the world where you can find the rare woolly cycad.

Songimvelo Game Reserve is a geologist’s treasure trove, a bird watcher’s paradise and a horse rider’s dream.

This game reserve in South Africa has been on the up-and-up since Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism unveiled it as the province's largest reserve. One of Songimvelo’s unique selling points is that it offers a fairly new experience to wildlife lovers – game viewing from the saddle.

Unlike watching animals from a distance, while sitting in your vehicle, a horseback safari is an up close and personal wildlife experience. From the vantage point of your mount, you are considered part of the landscape’s diversity, and can roam among giraffes, zebras, buffalo, antelope and other South African wildlife.

Songimvelo Game Reserve recently introduced a herd of elephant from the Kruger National Park, along with a number of white rhino. Although there are no lions, the brown hyena, black-backed jackal and leopard ably represent the predators.

Geologically, Songimvelo is amazing. In places it is possible to see some of the very first rocks to solidify on the earth’s crust 4000 million years ago. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years and archaeological sites comprised of circular walls and ruins of small houses and religious structures date back to about 400 BC.

The reserve’s landscape is characterised by mountains, valleys and flood plains. Much of this rough terrain can only be accessed on horseback. Only 5% of the reserve has 4x4 road access; even the field rangers here patrol on horseback. On more challenging rides up into the mountains, not only will you enjoy superb game viewing, you will be dumbstruck by the dramatic panoramic views.

More than 300 bird species have been recorded in the park, including Shelley’s francolin, the Knysna turaco, Olive bush-shrike and Grey sunbird. If you ride in the forest margins you may even see Green twinspots, a local rarity.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Mpumalanga Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)13 759 5300/1

How to get here

Songimvelo Game Reserve is found 100km south of the town of Barberton, on a well sign-posted road.

Tours to do

A horseback safari of course! You can choose a challenging ride that requires competence at walking, cantering and galloping, or a less challenging ride over easier terrain for the more inexperienced rider.

Get around

Guided game-drives in 4x4 vehicles and stimulating bush walks can be arranged. But on horseback is the best option.

Length of stay

A stay of at least three days is recommended.

What to pack

Sunscreen, hat, binoculars, camera and comfortable walking shoes. If you plan to do a horseback safari, long, hard-wearing pants will come in handy.

Where to stay

Rustic self-catered accommodation and a campsite are available at the large Kromdraai camp in the eastern sector of the park.

Related articles