Rhinos, Reefs and Turtles: Umfolozi & Maputuland Weg/Go readers Tour
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 will follow in his footsteps to explore the tropical reefs, 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 leader, Frank, is a highly skilled tour guide with extensive experience in tour guiding, 4x4 driver training and interpretation of the local environment. He also has extensive training as a game ranger with expert knowledge in wildlife conservation, guided walks and tours. Mpafa's trusty bush chef and crew will be close on hand at all times to ensure that your comfort and culinary needs are met.
We meet at Ulundi at 10h00, where each vehicle will be issued with a 2-way hand-held radio, which allows constant inter-vehicle communication. From here 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, Imfolozi’s main camp, 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. Due to a pilot project we are involved in with Conservation Authorities we are permitted controlled access to a 4x4 route not available to the general public. This experience gives you the opportunity to spend the day tracking into the heart of both
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, familiarize you with Operation Rhino, game capture 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, 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 heading east toward the coast.
Later that afternoon we check into our cosy guesthouse in St Lucia town and recharge batteries before being 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 dinner is served in the park, after enjoying the snack platter we head out with spotlights to view the various nocturnal creatures of the area.
After an exhilarating night we start this day on a leisurely foot. 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 very unique crocodile centre. 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 birdlife.
Dinner is a seafood affair served at our Guesthouse.
We take a scenic game drive up the western shores of Lake St Lucia - our destination a private Game Lodge on the boundary of Thembe Elephant Park. We get there in time for lunch and to settle in. We then head out in the late afternoon for quite a long drive along narrow sand tracks to the coast. We have an early dinner on the beach while the sun sets. We then head out along the beach on foot with our specialist turtle guide on the look-out for nesting sea turtles.
After the experience we head back to our lodge, tired but feeling so humbled after experiencing one of nature’s true miracles.
Everybody has a lie-in after a late night and, following a big breakfast, we head to Kosi Mouth, South Africa’s most protected estuary. We witness one of the oldest fishing techniques in practice. We swim and snorkel in the estuary and enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach. There is still enough time to return to our lodge at Thembe and go on a late afternoon drive into the park - home to Africa’s biggest tuskers. We have dinner in the lodge boma.
An early rise takes us back into Thembe Elephant Park for an early morning drive. We return to the lodge for a big brunch and then head out for Ithala Game Reserve, our home for the next two nights. Supper is in the Ithala restaurant.
Ithala is one of Southern Africa’s best kept secrets, as the game viewing is spectacular and the reserve is not very busy. For those of you who want to, there is the opportunity (at your own expense) to do an early morning game walk. The road network in Ithala is very user friendly, with amazing scenery over the Pongola River valley. We meet for lunch at a picnic site and have the afternoon to relax, do some game viewing or take in the scenery.
We spend our last dinner together in the lodge, reminiscing about the magnificence of Zululand and our adventures.
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.