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Saddle-Billed Stork @ Ndumo Game Reserve. Photo: Håvard Rosenlund

Ndumo Game Reserve

Ndumo Game Reserve is situated right at the top of KwaZulu-Natal, just a few kilometer west of Tembe Elephant Park. Like Tembe, it too borders Mozambique, and the Usuthu River is all that separates the two countries here.

It is a beautiful but small reserve, established way back in 1924, and is famous for its abundant bird life. Some say it has the highest species count in South Africa, relative to the size of the park, with over 430 species on a 100 km2 reserve. For all you bird lovers out there, this is not a place you want to miss. Besides the birds, you have a large number of animals, such as nyala, zebra, giraffe, warthog and wildebeest. This is probably the best place in South Africa to spot the tiny suni antelope as well. Buffalo, spotted hyena, leopard, and both species of rhino are also found here, though you have to be lucky to see them.

In addition to the abundant bird life, it is also famous for its large water bodies and the rivers flowing past and through the park. Nyamithi Pan is particularly beautiful, and is definitely the highlight for many. To avoid too much traffic and illegal activities you need special permission to get around the pan, but as a guest at the campsite or lodge you can ask a guide to take you on a drive. There’s also a conveniently placed bird hide at the pan accessible to all. Also, if birds are what you’re after, they have some fantastic bird guides that will take you on guided bird walks. In and around the water you will also find a great number of hippos and crocodiles, so keep your distance.

Ndumo is a place I hold dear in my heart, because of its beauty and quietness. It feels a lot calmer and relaxing than many of the other parks. When I worked in Tembe, I also did some work here with leopards, but sadly there are very few leopards to speak of in Ndumo. I could spend hours around Nyamithi Pan just watching the scenery, the birds and the wildlife. If you ever find yourself in Maputaland you do not want to miss this place.

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Håvard Rosenlund

Wildlife lover, researcher and conservationist.

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