uMkhuze Game Reserve : Destinations of South Africa Blog Series

uMkhuze Game Reserve

uMkhuze Game Reserve (also known as Mkuze) is one of the largest and oldest (proclaimed in 1912) game reserves in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. It is situated on the plains of the Elephant Coast, approximately 4 hours’ drive north of Durban. At close to 100,000 acres in area size, uMkhuze now forms part of the greater iSimangaliso Wetland Park (a UNESCO world heritage site)! While being a wonderful “Big 5” game reserve, uMkhuze is also renowned for its magnificent birding, with over 450 species listed.

uMkhuze Game Reserve - giraffes
Giraffes in uMkhuze Game Reserve

The rich diversity of habitats in uMkhuze contribute to a mosaic of fauna and flora. This makes it a very rewarding destination for visitors whom appreciate spending time observing the “smaller things” that nature has to offer. uMkhuze is also a little lesser known than some of South Africa’s more advertised game parks. As a result, one can truly enjoy the quietness and serenity this reserve offers.

How do you get to uMkhuze Game Reserve?

The two main entrance gates to uMkhuze are situated on the northern and eastern extremities of the reserve. The eMshopi gate is accessible from the west, approximately 10 miles from the town of Mkuze. The Ophansi gate is accessible from the east, approximately 45 miles from Hluhluwe town. The roads leading to the reserve can be a challenge in summer after heavy rains, requiring a 4×4 vehicle. However, during the dry winter months the roads are easily traversed with a normal sedan vehicle.

uMkhuze Game Reserve - Male nyala
Beautiful male nyala in uMkhuze Game Reserve

Game Viewing in uMkhuze

uMkhuze Game Reserve - Elephant resting trunk

Although uMkhuze Game Reserve is a “big five” reserve, lions were only recently relocated into the reserve from Tembe Elephant Park back in December 2013. Cheetah and African wild dog have also been re-introduced and are sighted fairly frequently. The road network within uMkhuze is excellent, and our favorite game viewing routes and areas are as follows:

KuMalibaba Hide (blind)

This hide has recently been renovated and is a superb spot to spend an early morning and/or late afternoon watching out for animals that come to drink water or wallow. Lion have been observed here on numerous occasions.

KuMasinga Hide

Probably one of the finest photographic hides in KwaZulu Natal – many famous photos of birds and animals have been taken from this hide. A patient vigil will certainly be very productive, especially so during the drier winter months. Lion often slake their thirst here early in the mornings and, with luck, wild dog and cheetah can be observed visiting the waterhole.

KuMahlala Hide

Although the waterhole in front of this blind can dry out at times, it is certainly still worth a visit. One of the better spots to see Cape buffalo, which can be elusive in uMkhuze.

Lebombo View / Loop Roads

One of the better “predator” roads in the reserve – keep a look out for cheetah around the “Lebombo view” tower. The “loop” road towards the west is good for lion early in the morning.

iNsumo Pan Observation Platforms

Nsumo Pan

This loop from Mantuma Camp to the iNsumo pan observation platforms is great for giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, and a host of other plains game. The observation platforms are excellent for viewing hippos, birds, and some very large crocodiles. On return to the camp, when passing by the grass airstrip, it is worthwhile keeping a lookout for cheetah.

Birding in uMkhuze

uMkhuze Game Reserve is, without a doubt, one of the premier birding spots in South Africa. A wide range of habitats, and relatively easy access to the most important birding areas within the reserve, makes birding in uMkhuze very rewarding. The “fig forest” walk, guided by a park ranger, offers clients one of the best chances of seeing the elusive and shy Pel’s fishing owl in South Africa. Eleven of southern Africa’s twelve owl species occur in uMkhuze Game Reserve (only Cape Eagle-Owl is not found here).

Blue Waxbill
Blue Waxbill in uMkhuze Game Reserve
Collared Sunbird
Collared Sunbird in uMkhuze Game Reserve
uMkhuze Game Reserve

As a result, uMkhuze is renowned for producing national rarities. Some of the specials of the reserve include: Pel’s Fishing Owl, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Broad-billed Roller, Olive-tree Warbler, Rudds Apalis, African Pygmy-Goose, African Braodbill, Neergaard’s Sunbird, Pink-throated Twinspot, Sooty Falcon, Buff-spotted Flufftail, and many more.

Accommodation – Where to stay in uMkhuze Game Reserve

Accommodation in uMkhuze is comprised of one rustic camping site, two “bush camps,” and the main camp, Mantuma camp. Mantuma camp offers visitors the choice of either safari tents with en suite bathrooms, rest huts with communal bathrooms, or standard “chalet” style accommodation with en suite bathrooms. Although the accommodation is in need of some upgrading, the safari tents are our personal favorites. They offer a true canvas safari experience in a private setting. Mantuma camp is unfenced and it is not unusual to have antelope wandering around the tents, as well as bush babies visiting the kitchens at night. In fact, some of our clients have had elephant, hyena, and lion passing by their tents!

uMkhuze Game Reserve

How to see it!

Want to plan a visit? We would recommend at least a two-three nights stay in uMkhuze 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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