You are never short of something to do in Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife territory. Here’s a few easy-to-access ideas
Drive to see the Big Five
hether you drive yourself or join a guided game drive, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park ranks as one of the top places in Africa to see the so-called Big Five – lion leopard, black rhino, elephant and buffalo – and several other reserves including Ithala, Tembe, Phongolo and uMkhuze include most or all of the members of this iconic quintet.
Take a nocturnal turtle tour
Run in season (November-March) by licensed operators, torch-lit tours leave nightly to scour the protected beaches of iSimangaliso Wetland Park in search of nesting logger-head and leatherback turtles, a pair of endangered marine giants that typically stay ashore for an hour to lay their eggs then bury them in the sand.
Hike the Gorge Trail
A contender for the Maloti-Drakensberg Park’s loveliest day hike, this flattish 5-6-hour return walk in Royal Natal Park runs through a riverine gorge studded with natural swimming pools to the base of the Thukela Falls as they tumble down the imposing kilometre-high Amphitheatre.
Snorkel the world’s southernmost coral reefs
Set offshore of iSimangaliso Wetland Park’s Sodwana Bay, these beautiful submarine formations are home to a colourful swirl of reef fish comprising up to 400 species, including the magnificent firefish, which looks like a psychedelic marine porcupine.
Marvel at the prehistoric alfresco art
More than 500 rock shelters in the Maloti-Drakensberg Park are adorned with ancient paintings of humans, wildlife and surreal semi-human therianthropes. Picking favourites might be a fool’s game, but don’t miss the Kamberg’s superb Game Pass Shelter – nicknamed the ‘Rosetta Stone’ due to its significance in helping scholars crack the code of the art’s underlying shamanistic symbolism.
Join a guided game walk
Pull on your walking boots and brave the early morning cool in search of the relatively placid white rhino and altogether more pugnacious black rhino – a thrilling experience on foot, but not for the faint of heart! Available in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and Ithala game reserve.
Cruise St Lucia Estuary
Affordable launch trips on Africa’s largest estuarine ecosystem are not be missed: yawning hippo grumble in the shallows, crocodile rest up on the shores and many water-associated birds are on show, from the spectacular African fish eagle and goliath heron to eagerly sought rarities such as half-collared and mangrove kingfisher.
Motor up the Sani Pass
The only motorable track to breach the 200km Maloti-Drakensberg Park escarpment is the 4WD-only Sani Pass, which leads through a chilly afro-alpine landscape of tussocked grass, mossy boulders and clumped heather inhabited by high-altitude endemics such as Drakensberg rockjumper and mountain pipit. Snow is a distinct possibility in the midwinter months of June and July.
Watch whales breach and dolphins play
Between June to October, boat trips with registered permit holders offer near guaranteed sightings of humpback whales offshore of iSimangaliso Wetland Park as they migrate along the continental shelf between Antarctica and their more northerly calving grounds. Also often encountered are southern right, dwarf minke and sperm whale, and bottlenose and spinner dolphin.
2 more to try…
● Ride a mountain bike around Maloti-Drakensberg Park or iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
● See some large Nile crocs up close at St Lucia Crocodile Centre.
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For more information, please visit www.kznwildlife.com