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Forget Kruger, we’re going to KwaZulu-Natal

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VIEWS

Reader Graham Strachan and his family usually spend the school holidays in Kruger National Park. This time, however, they were tempted away by the birdlife of KwaZulu-Natal.

For the last 5 years our family has been going to the Kruger National Park every August to coincide with the school holidays. As we leave the park every year we already start planning for the following year in anticipation of the holiday.

However, our trip in 2016 was not a happy experience due to the severe drought in Kruger, so we decided not to make a booking for 2017. We all felt we needed a break from Kruger anyway.

My wife Merrilee and I have visited KZN on two previous occasions, so we decided to give KZN a try. I tried to find out as much as possible about the parks in KwaZulu-Natal, but was not very successful in my endeavours. I could not get feedback from anyone and I had heard many negative reports about everything falling apart in many of the parks.

I am normally reluctant to say too much about a destination as it is so subjective, yet knowing that these parks are very different to Kruger – as is the Kgalagadi – each has its own beauty and attraction.

We had no problems making our plans a reality. Sandy and Allan, our daughter and son-in-law, together with Kirsty their daughter were very keen to join us for the trip and they invited Sid and Penny Fitzhenry, relatively new caravanners to come along. Their daughter and son-in-law, Jillie and Brandon Handley, also spent some time with us. The ages of the group varied from 18 to 80, making it one big happy family.

UMLALAZI RESERVE

Three caravans left Grahamstown and Port Alfred on different days and travelled through the Transkei without any problems. I might mention that this was to be primarily a birding holiday as opposed to the Big Five common to the Kruger. Allan and Sid soon got into the twitching mode (accumulating bird species on one’s list) which was great, without any stress about finding lions, leopards and other big game.

Umlalazi Inkwazi

We all met at Mtunzini, stayed in the Inkwazi Campsite within the Umlalazi Reserve run by KZN parks, where we were very well received at reception by friendly and efficient staff. The stands were well grassed with plenty of shade. The ablutions were old but clean, with plenty of hot water.

There is plentiful bird life in the area and we spotted the Palm Nut Vulture, which was on the bucket list, as well as plenty of others. The Raffia Palm Forest was interesting, as was the mangrove forest walk.

Our birding guide was Junior Gabela who is a fantastic and knowledgeable young man who operates the area, including the Eshowe Boardwalk and Dlinza Forest.

NDUMO GAME RESERVE

After spending two nights at Inkwazi, we moved on to Ndumo campsite in the nature reserve, our first with our Penta caravan. We previously stayed in the chalets as the last 15 kilometres to the gate was originally untarred, sandy and rough. It is now tarred all the way to the gate, with a short 4km drive on an easy dust road to the campsite.

At Ndumo we also received a friendly and professional welcome. The campsite is not 5 star, with open veld, electricity points and water at various spots. The stands, which were not clearly demarcated, and were dry and sandy underfoot. Some sites were not level and others are big enough to find your own space.

People using the chalets, the campers and the caravanners share the ablutions which were very clean and neat with good hot water.

Depending where you park, ablutions can be a little far, especially for the oldies. Take a long extension cord and levelling blocks with you.

WHERE WE STAYED


For enqueries regarding any of the campsite, please fill in the form at the bottom of the article.

UMLALAZI “INKWAZI” CAMPSITE
No. of stands: 36
Electricity: Yes
Water: Yes
Ablutions: Yes (shared)
Pets: No

ACTIVITIES:
Beach/Lagoon
Playground
Swimming pool
Fishing
Mangrove swamps
Hiking
Birdwatching
Water sports
Golf, tennis, squash (at village, 1 km)

NDUMO GAME RESERVE
No. of stands: 14
Electricity: Yes:
Water: Yes (shared)
Ablutions: Yes (shared)
Pets: No

ACTIVITIES
Birdwatching
Game viewing
Guided walks
Game drives

MKUZE GAME RESERVE
No. of stands: 45
Electricity: Yes
Water: Yes (shared)
Ablutions: Yes (shared)
Pets: No
T: 035 573 9004 / 035 573 0031

ACTIVITIES
Birdwatching
Game viewing
Guided and self-guided walks

UMTENTWENI CARAVAN RESORT
No. of stands: 36
Electricity: Yes
Ablutions: Yes (shared)
Pets: By prior arrangement

View listing

Keep your camera at the ready as you could well get a visit from majestic giraffes in the camping area!

We really enjoyed our four days away from the crowds, and unlike Kruger, it is a small park with a limited number of roads to self-drive. Guided drives and walks are available from local guides who are very good with an excellent knowledge of the local flora and fauna.

There is a great bird hide overlooking the Nyamthi pans and a good picnic spot at Red Cliffs. Unfortunately I did not see the Pels Fishing Owl which is still on my bucket list.

We also did a day trip to Tembe Elephant Park where a 4×4 is essential for the very sandy narrow tracks. Tembe is a lovely picturesque park with a variety of animals including many elephants and very good birding possibilities.

UMKHUZE GAME RESERVE

From Ndumo it was on to uMkhuze Game Reserve for three nights. We forgot that the Thursday was a public holiday and many folk were taking Friday off to enjoy a long weekend, so it was relatively busy.

From uMkhuze Village to the park is about 15kms on a gravel road, which was in good condition and easy to negotiate. On our arrival at the park, we were surprised to find that the main internal roads had been reconstructed and were very good, as were the facilities.

The viewing areas at the Kumassinga hide had recently been done up, the picnic areas were well appointed with braais, tables and seating, overlooking the Nsumo Pan. Even the flush loos were great. So much for my initial negativity!

The suspension bridges over the uMkhuze River on the Fig Tree Forest Walk are also new.

The campsite was very dry and grass sparse, though we had good shade. Taps are found at various spots around the camping area, with level stands that are electrified. The electricity is supplied by generator, operates from 4pm to 10pm and from 5am to 10am.

The ablutions are rather tired-looking but clean and adequate, with gas-operated hot water.

The park offers self-drive options and we enjoyed a guided walk to the Fig Tree Forest.

ST LUCIA & RICHARDS BAY

Then it was on to St Lucia where we did the trip to Cape Vidal, a boat cruise and visited Hluhluwe.

Next we stayed at Richards Bay in an excellent resort where a good time was had by young and old. We spent the last night of our fantastic holiday at Umtentweni Caravan Resort and there said our goodbyes.

Umtentweni is a relatively small and quiet park with exceptionally high standards. The stands are grassed and there is loads of shade. Stands have very neat brick braai areas, and the ablutions are well-kept.

This is a fantastic spot to stay for children, as the resort offers a load of recreational facilities that include trampoline, swimming pool, children’s play park, organised events in season, pool table, table tennis, volleyball, darts, games room, and a TV room. Canoes are available and there is fishing in both river and sea.
There certainly are a lot of scenic and wonderful getaways all over South Africa. You’ve just got to pack and head on out to find them.

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