Wildlife Tour in KwaZulu-Natal Zululand and Maputaland, South Africa
This 5-day Zululand Game Reserve and Maputaland wildlife and birding tour explores several abundant and premier game reserves in the famed Zululand and Maputaland (Elephant Coast) region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Each reserve offers unique attributes, breath-taking beauty, and captivating experiences.
Habitat types vary greatly from savannah to woodlands, sand forests to coastal forests and riverine forests, lakes to flooded grasslands, estuaries to seashores. This variety ensures tremendous species richness and an experience of great intrigue and appeal.
The region is a birding mecca and mammal playground, with many specials and endemic species on offer − from Southern Banded Snake-Eagles and African Broadbills to Leopards and Black Rhinos − the possibilities are mouth-watering.
On the birding front, we set a sightings goal of 250+ species in the summer months and 200+ species in winter. On the mammal front, we hope to see upwards of 30 species, with an array of reptiles, amphibians and butterflies also to be found across the greatly varied habitats. iSimangaliso Wetland Park offers the ‘Big 5’ mammals, and we have a good chance of spotting these.
Our tour both commences and ends at Umhlanga or King Shaka International Airport. We visit a multitude of areas, beginning with a stop at the Mbozambo wetland before we press on to the renowned estuary town of St Lucia for our first night, where we explore the ‘Miracle and Wonder’ of South Africa’s first World Heritage Site − iSimangaliso Wetland Park. We then push on to Bonamanzi Game Reserve, and stop at Muzi Pan en-route, before entering the ‘Holy Grail’ of Southern African birding hotspots – uMkhuze Game Reserve, where we spend 2 nights. We depart the reserve, stopping en-route at Nibela Peninsula and/or Mpempe Pan, before proceeding to Umlalazi Nature Reserve, where we overnight in Mtunzini town. The next morning sees us connect with a local community bird guide and head up into the enchanting scarp forests of Ongoye Forest Reserve and Dlinza Forest Reserve. Our final stop is at Amatikulu Nature Reserve before we return for Umhlanga or the airport.
On the accommodation front we typically use the affordable and comfortable private guesthouses and park accommodation (public rest camps), but should you prefer, at an added cost, several superb private lodge options are also on offer in world-class private reserves.
The tempo of our tours is typically medium-paced, with optional mid-day breaks (advisable on hot days), and some walking, but nothing too serious. If you are keen on photography, well so are we, and we can offer many opportunities to capture the moments that will make you the envy of your wildlife-watching friends.
Expected weather conditions: Subtropical with occasional rain, hot most of the time. Rain is possible, usually in the form of summer convection thunderstorms, and cool wet weather is possible in the event of a cold front moving up from the south.
Add-ons: this tour can be combined with extensions to the Drakensberg and Midlands region of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as Wakkerstroom and the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga.
Top 5 highlights:
- Visit the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa's first World Heritage Site.
- Explore the ‘Holy Grail’ of Southern African birding hotspots, also home to the ‘Big 5’ mammals – uMkhuze Game Reserve.
- Undertake the Fig Forest walk near Nsumo Pan, uMkhuze Game Reserve.
- Explore the aerial boardwalk and canopy tower in Dlinza Forest, Eshowe.
- Undertake a morning of North Coast birding with expert community site guides, or alternatively a St Lucia estuary boat cruise to view hippos, crocodiles and enjoy birding.
- Minimum of 3 participants per vehicle required to undertake the trip. If fewer, the price will be slightly more.
- Tour starts and ends either from King Shaka International Airport or Umhlanga.
- This itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions at the time and other factors beyond our control.
- The species mentioned in the itinerary represent only some of those we may possibly view on the tour, however, none of these can be guaranteed even though every effort will be made where possible to locate them. A full list of possible species appears on your checklist, although vagrants and rarities may also surprise us.
Are you interested in check out our KwaZulu-Natal Midlands & Mountains Birding Tour? Click for more info.
Alternative Tour Name: KwaZulu-Natal Zululand and Maputaland 5-Day Tour