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SSongimvelo Game Reserve, tucked away in a little-known corner of South Africa’s 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.
Songimvelo Game Reserve is also a geologist’s treasure trove, a bird watcher’s paradise and an equestrian’s dream.
This game reserve 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 (without being able to approach too closely because engine noise disturbs the wildlife), 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, so you can roam among giraffes, zebras, buffalo, antelope and other South African wildlife without alarming them.
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 earliest rocks to solidify on the earth’s crust 4-billion years ago. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years, and archaeological sites comprising circular walls and ruins of small houses and religious structures date back to about 400BC.
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 (SUV) 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, but you will be dumbstruck by the dramatic panoramic views.
More than 300 bird species have been recorded in the park, including the Shelley’s francolin, Knysna turaco, olive bush-shrike and grey sunbird. If you ride in the forest margins, you may even see green twinspots, a local rarity.
TTravel 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
Guided game-drives in 4-wheel-drive vehicles and stimulating bush walks can be arranged. But 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.
- Endangered Wildlife Trust
- Mpumalanga Tourism Authority
- South African National Parks (SANParks)
- Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport