Reefs, Rhinos and Turtles: Imfolozi & Maputuland
Chalets & Guest House Accommodation
22– 30 November 2019
8 nights / 9 days
Cost: R 19 850.00 per person sharing
Single supplement charge of an additional 30%
More than a century ago, the great King Shaka of the Zulu nation set aside a piece of land to be used as his private hunting ground. Little did he know that his actions would save Africa's second largest land mammal from extinction.
Today, Mpafa Travel allows you the opportunity to visit this white and black rhino sanctuary and oldest game reserve in Africa. Join Frank Carlisle as he revisits his old stomping ground, Umfolozi Game Reserve, where he worked as a Trails Officer, Section Ranger, and ardent protector of the rhino for many years. He will lead you into this ancient land with years of experience behind him.
King Shaka's territory extended to the coastal lands, and we shall follow in his footsteps to explore the tropical reefs and forested dunes and search for the rhino's coastal cousin – the leatherback turtle – on the Kosi Bay coast. Frank and the Mpafa team will unlock some of the secrets of how these prehistoric beasts have survived and still prosper in the home of King Shaka.
This diverse tour is a perfect blend of leisure, culture, environmental education, safari, and beach – a perfect family experience.
Your tour leaders Frank and John are highly skilled tour guides with extensive experience in tour guiding, 4x4 driver training, and interpretation of the local environment. They also have extensive training as game rangers with expert knowledge in wildlife conservation, guided walks, and tours. Mpafa's trusty bush chef and crew will be close at hand at all times to ensure that your comfort and culinary needs are met.
We meet at Ulundi, where each vehicle will be issued with a 2-way, hand-held radio, which allows inter-vehicle communication. We spend time at the historic Ulundi Battle site where we are introduced to the Anglo-Zulu history at the very site where King Cetshwayo was defeated. After a picnic lunch we head into the heart of the great Zulu empire. Our route takes us from tar to gravel before we enter Umfolozi Game Reserve. Driving is not off-road, but ground clearance is necessary. We are constantly on the lookout for game and arrive at Mpila camp ( www.mpilacamp.co.za ), welcomed by the most beautiful time of day in the African bushveld – we call it “magic hour”.
Our chef will provide scrumptious stew for supper, which we enjoy in the lounge or on the veranda of the camp, with the sounds of nocturnal bush life in the background.
Today we walk a mile in a ranger’s shoes. Owing to a pilot project, we are involved with conservation authorities and are permitted controlled access to a 4x4 route not available to the public. This experience gives you the opportunity to spend the day tracking into the heart of black and white rhino conservation country.
Along the way, we will discuss the Zulu legacy, look at game tracks, and get up close and personal with untouched nature. Frank will share the unique history of rhino protection in the park, familiarise you with Operation Rhino, game capturing and lion darting. For the birders, the reserve’s 360 species will keep you hard at it.
We enjoy a picnic lunch en route, overlooking the majestic rolling hills of Zululand and keeping our binoculars at hand to scan the ridges for Ubhejane, the black rhino. We return to the camp mid-afternoon for a little siesta before we head out through the remote western section of the park, formerly managed by Frank during his term as a Section Ranger. Most of the proceeds of this unique pilot project to allow off-the-tourist-track access go directly to rhino protection in the reserve.
After breakfast and a game drive through Hluhluwe, this time at your own pace, we meet at the KZN Wildlife Game Capture and Centenary Centre, where Frank will share some more of his know-how and experience with rhino protection.
Lunch is picnic style enjoyed at the Centenary Centre before we head east towards the coast.
Later that afternoon, we check into Umlilo Guesthouse (www.umlilolodge.co.za) in St Lucia town. After an early dinner we are collected in open game-viewing vehicles for a night drive along the eastern shores of Lake St. Lucia. This excursion enters Isimangaliso, South Africa's first world heritage site. We head north along the eastern shores looking out for game and some seldom seen nocturnal animals.
We start this day leisurely. Breakfast is served from early to mid morning, at which time the guide will inform you of the different choices you have to spend the day in your own space, horse riding along the beaches or visiting the unique crocodile centre, game drive through the Eastern shores up to Cape Vidal to snorkel, visit Mission Rocks or you could just let the day take you on a journey of timelessness.
In the late afternoon, we regroup for a sundowner boat cruise on Lake St Lucia, watching hippos and spotting some interesting bird life.
After another scrumptious breakfast, we head north and enter Isimangaliso via the western shores of Lake St Lucia. This area has been rehabilitated brilliantly and abounds in wildlife where exotic tree plantations grew previously. We leave the park and head for Hluhluwe town to restock and refuel and then further north to Thembe Elephant Reserve and Royal Thonga Lodge (www.royalthonga.com) , our home for 2 nights.
After checking in we unpack and then in the early evening head to the coast to have dinner on the beach before walking along Banga Nek beach to find nesting turtles.
After breakfast, we drive toward the Mozambique border and down a sandy track and make our way to Kosi Mouth. Weather permitting, we can snorkel in the mouth of the lake, exploring the unique and incredibly beautiful coral reef and tropical marine life. This is also a favourite spot for local fishermen to tend their fish traps, a traditional and timeless method of fishing handed down from one generation to the next.
A picnic lunch is served at the mouth with more snorkelling and exploring.
Dinner is served at the beautiful Royal Thonga Lodge.
After an early breakfast, we make our way to Tembe Elephant Park, wind our way through thick bush, mill at waterholes, and hopefully find the elusive, gentle giants of Maputuland, for which this reserve is known. They are now officially some of the biggest tuskers in Africa. Birders will delight in the variety of species found here.
We have a picnic lunch in Thembe and then head to Ithala Game Reserve (www.ithala.info) , where we spend the next two nights. Ithala Game Reserve is located in the rugged, mountainous thornveld of northern KwaZulu-Natal.
The reserve's multitude of habitats hosts a spectacular array of wildlife species. Its panoramic beauty aside, most characteristic attribute of Ithala Game Reserve is perhaps its astonishing geological diversity revealing some of the world's oldest rock formations.
We enjoy the splendour of Ithala with its geological beauty, as well as the diverse and abundant wildlife. Bush walks can be organised with a qualified guide, or one can self-drive along the many routes, including 4x4 routes. A lunch is served back at the camp, allowing everyone to head out themselves for more game viewing opportunities in the afternoon.
If the night skies allow us, we spend our last evening in the boma, enjoying a traditional braai and reminiscing around the camp fire.
With a new understanding of Shaka’s land, intricate knowledge of rhino conservation, turtle hatching and a sense of exploration we all hit the road for our journeys back home.