Bordered by the uMkhuze River on its northern and eastern boundaries and forming part of one of South Africa's World Heritage Sites; the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, uMkhuze Game Reserve has a rich and diverse landscape which offers astounding bird-watching opportunities.
A look at uMkhuze Game Reserve, one of South Africa's top birding destinations
First opened to the public in 1958, the most prominent feature within the uMkhuze Game Reserve is the Lebombo Mountain range on the west of the nature reserve. Reaching up to 600 metres above sea-level the mountain range towers over the mostly flat landscape below it, as if keeping watch over all the wildlife below. The rest of the safari park is predominantly flat, with the freshwater wetlands of the large Nsumo Pan, Nsumo River and Umsunduze Rivers dominating the south east reaches.
Trumpeter Hornbills, Trogans and Pel's Fishing Owls
uMkhuze is considered to be one of South Africa's top bird watching destinations. Each of the diverse habitats within the nature reserve is said to have its own unique 'special' species. There are 450 species of bird recorded in the safari park.
Guests can go on a guided-walk through the fig forest near to the Nsumo Pan in search of Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, White-eared Barbets, African Green Pigeons and Narina Trogons. Gazing up into the trees one might also spot a Pel's Fishing Owl. The waters of the Nsumo Pan are home to South Africa's only breeding colony of Pink-Backed Pelicans and a visit to the hide located there is guaranteed to be very rewarding.
A Bloody History
Spanning across 40 000 hectares of land, Kwazulu Natal's uMkhuze Game Reserve was first proclaimed a protected reserve in early 1912 but was de-proclaimed in 1939 until its proclamation again 1954. The period between 1944 and 1949 saw massive blood-shed as over 38 000 heads of game including Buffalo, Kudu and other wildlife were slaughtered in an attempt to eradicate the nagana (a tsetse-borne cattle disease). The carnage only came to a haltwhen more successful methods such as aerial spraying of pesticides were introduced.
Spot the Elusive Suni
Today the wildlife park is home to some 90 species of mammals including 4 of the Big Five (there are no Lion in the reserve) and is noted as one of the best places to see Nyala. One of South Africa's rarest antelope, diminutive Suni, is found amongst the sand thicket area and patient game-viewers may be lucky enough to spot it. Visitors can also search for Black and White Rhinos as well as Plains Zebras and Giraffe while wandering slowly along the 100 kilometres (62 miles) of road network in the reserve.
Many of the animals can often be seen sauntering down to the watering holes, especially in the morning between 09h00 and 12h00 and visitors will do well to hide out in one of the 4 game-viewing hides where excellent game-viewing and bird-watching opportunities can be had. Visitors should not forget to look closely at the banks of the rivers and pans as this is where reptiles such as Nile Crocodiles can be seen basking in the sunshine.