Ithala Game Reserve : Destinations of South Africa Blog Series

Ithala Game Reserve

Ithala Game Reserve has been a long time favorite destination of our clients whom prefer concentrating on the “smaller things” that nature has to offer. Although the game reserve offers four of the “big five” (Elephant, Cape Buffalo, White and Black Rhino, and Leopard – there are no Lion), it is the wide diversity of habitats, broken terrain, and variable altitude with the resultant animal, bird, and plant diversity that attracts connoisseurs to Ithala. This is why Ithala Game Reserve is a highlight of our Destinations of South Africa series.

Ithala Game Reserve is situated in the heart of Zululand, approximately 4 h 30 min drive from Durban, which makes it a little less accessible than the other major game reserves in South Africa. However, the intrepid traveler will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery, the oldest rock formations in the world (dating back to over 300 million years), and excellent game viewing. As a result, your experience unfolds in a very relaxed setting without the throngs of other tourists to spoil your view, and in very comfortable accommodation. Ithala Game Reserve is also renowned for its spectacular giraffe sightings, and some incredible photos of giraffe have been taken by our clients over the years.

The road network in Ithala is excellent, and some of our favorite routes are as follows:

Nghubu Loop

This loop runs along the base of the cliffs before turning north into the central Ithala basin. This route is great for leopard in the early morning, and one of the best in the park for those “African sunset” pictures in the late afternoon.  

Dakaneni Loop

This game viewing route will expose you to the amazing diversity of Ithala as you drop down from 3000ft to around 1200ft into the Pongola river valley. Scenery aside, this is also the very best spot to find Ithala’s elusive elephant.


Ntshondwe Lodge offers a range of accommodation units, ranging in size and style. There is also a very good restaurant at Ntshondwe, and a range of self-guided walking trails and a beautiful pool to explore.

Apart from Ntshondwe, there are also three “bushcamps” which offer a rustic, but comfortable bush safari experience.


Ithala is a “highly recommended” birding destination, with a list of well over 300 species. Specials include: Goliath Heron, White-Backed Night Heron, Southern Bald Ibis, Barrow’s Korhaan, Freckled Nightjar, Ground Woodpecker, Half-collared Kingfisher, Buff-streaked Chat, Bat Hawk, Eastern Nicator, and many more. The reserve is exceptionally rich in raptors!

How to see it!

Want to plan a visit? We would recommend at least a two-three nights stay in Ithala Game Reserve. Let us help you Plan Your Stay!

Want to learn about other Destinations in South Africa?

Destinations of South Africa – See more of the best places to visit in South Africa

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5 Star Trip Advisor Reviews

We enjoyed laughter, sunsets, elephants tussling and drinking water, hippos in St. Lucia estuary, dipping our toes in the Indian Ocean and so much more. It truly was a wonderful, memorable visit that will linger inside us forever. Thank you Outdoor Africa!


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5 Star Trip Advisor Reviews

THANK YOU OUTDOOR AFRICA for providing me with the experience of a lifetime. Toby customized the trip based on our specific preferences and abilities. Hayden was truly a wealth of knowledge about all things South African and I learned to really appreciate nature in a way that I never had before.


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5 Star Trip Advisor Reviews

We could not have had a better trip! My husband worked with Toby Brown in the U.S. who then coordinated with Hayden Elliott over in SA. We had three weeks with Hayden driving us the entire time. His knowledge of the area, animals, birds, etc. was amazing.


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