Leaving Ithala I turned east and slightly north. My next stop was a relatively small game reserve in the very far north of KwaZulu-Natal. Ndumo Game Reserve is only 10 117Ha in extent but for birding enthusiasts this reserve is undoubtedly the most rewarding of all South Africa’s reserves.
A paradise for birders
Ndumo’s bird-count numbers an impressive 430 species! To give this number some perspective, the entire South Africa (including the offshore islands) lists around 856 species. Half of all our bird species can be ticked off by keen birders right here in Ndumo!
I have to confess to not being a terribly enthusiastic twitcher and my knowledge of birds is distinctly impaired so the abundance of Ndumo’s birdlife was regrettably a bit lost on me. Unfortunately my visit to the reserve also coincided with the annual Big-Birding Day. Ndumo, being the paradise that it is, was packed to the brim with the country’s top birders. All accommodation, game-drive vehicles, guides and other resources were fully booked. There was little chance for me to join one of the excellent guided activities which would certainly have been an education for me.
And if you’re not a birder?
The northern boundary of Ndumo is the uSuthu River and to the east the Phongolo River forms a large flood-plain before it flows into the uSuthu. Together, they now become the Maputo River flowing northwards into the Indian Ocean at Mozambique’s capital city.
The flat, grassy flood-plains surrounded by beautiful fever trees to the east aren’t really accessible by road and guided walks are the best way of getting there. Vegetation in the west is extremely dense and game viewing along the many gravel roads is virtually impossible. Even the stately giraffe vanished out of sight as soon as they left the road.
Nevertheless the scenery is pretty and a drive to Red Cliffs for breakfast is a pleasant way to fill a morning. There’s a picnic site on the banks of the uSuthu River and underneath the large shady trees is a lovely place to spend some time, relax, have a picnic and soak in the view.
The picnic site at Red Cliffs is a good place spot the many crocodiles lurking in the uSuthu below.
There are also several other picnic sites dotted around the reserve, each offering a slightly different experience in this diverse little reserve. Take a drive along the southern boundary and climb to the top of one of the lookout posts for a great view across the surrounding landscape.
Camping at Ndumo
The campsite is large with ample space and enough trees to set up a comfortable camp. The ablution facilities were brand new when I was there. So new that finishing touches were still being completed. For those not camping, there is also comfortable-looking fully catered accommodation available.
Leaving Ndumo, I now turned south again. A logical next stop would have been Ndumo’s neighbouring reserve, Tembe Elephant Park but Tembe doesn’t have a campsite and, after my encounter with the elephants at Ithala, my appetite for elephant-watching had been satisfied for now. Instead, I drove past, hoping to spend the next few days at Kosi Bay to explore the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.