Whether it’s your first time in South Africa and you are planning an authentic wildlife safari, or you are a Durbanite looking for a weekend escape, Zululand in South Africa’s Zulu Kingdom deserves a spot on your 2020 travel bucket list. The area has so much to offer with its rich history and varying landscapes, and, naturally, the all-year-round sunshine is a bonus.
Here are 5 reasons why Zululand is the perfect escape for you:
1. You’re planning your South African tour from Kruger to KZN
Many travellers have discovered the charm and raw beauty of KwaZulu-Natal’s Zululand and Elephant Coast. It’s the road less travelled but is home to some of the most astonishing wildlife that the beautiful South Africa has to offer. It’s about time more local and international visitors made their way to the Zulu Kingdom’s shorelines, vast plains, and rich cultural experiences. Expect various traditional Zulu experiences like visiting a rural Zulu village, drinking Zulu beer, tasting Zulu cuisine, witnessing their rituals, or even visiting a Sangoma. Apart from the unique culture, the area boasts abundant wildlife at a number of private game reserves.
Located just south of Eswatini (previously Swaziland), between Zululand in the west and the Elephant Coast in the east, AfriCamps at White Elephant Safaris in Pongola Game Reserve is now the perfect link in your South African safari. It is the oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa and a wildlife experience that deserves at least 4 days in your itinerary.
We suggest planning your South African safari as follows:
Start your tour in Hoedspruit in the Limpopo Province to experience some of South Africa’s top private big 5 game reserves (the area is often referred to as South Africa’s safari capital). Make your way south to Hazyview, meander through the Panorama Route and view Mpumalanga’s spectacular landscapes. Do not miss a game drive in Kruger National Park before making your way to eSwatini (on Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 countries to visit in 2020). Here Hlane National Park, eSwatini’s largest protected area, and Malkerns with its impressive arts and crafts should be on your to-do list. Travel south towards KwaZulu-Natal and check-in at AfriCamps at White Elephant Safaris in Pongola Game Reserve, just south of eSwatini’s Lavumisa border. A visit to St. Lucia, isiMangaliso Wetland Park or Hluhluwe on the Elephant Coast is next on your itinerary before finishing your tour in the buzzing port city of Durban to experience South Africa’s beach life.
2. You’re seeking an immersive and educational wildlife experience (without the traffic)
AfriCamps at White Elephant Safaris is our first glamping location inside a private game reserve where a range of exciting guided tours await! You can expect to spot giraffe, buffalo, elephant, rhino, hippo, Nile crocodile, hyena, wildebeest, zebra, warthog, 12 different antelope species, over 350 bird species of which some occur only here, and leopard if you’re lucky.
The game viewing experience in Pongola Game Reserve is unique in the sense that no private vehicles are permitted for game viewing. All tours are conducted by experienced guides, limiting the amount of traffic and maximising the experience. This not only provides a more authentic game viewing experience for our guests, but it’s less invasive for our animals, who are our first priority.
AfriCamps at White Elephant Safaris in Pongola Game Reserve offers both land and water-based safaris. With the 15000-hectare Lake Jozini and the Pongola River at our doorstep, we highly recommend the River Boat Cruise and Elephant Research Project Experience. On land, you can take a guided game drive, a guided bush walk, or go rhino tracking with an experienced guide and get an insight into the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project that we take part in. Each tour will take you close to the action where you will learn all the secrets of the bush and see how every creature plays a role in the circle of life.
Rhino spotted during the Pongola River Cruise
OUR TOP ACTIVITY PICK – Elephant Research Project Experience:
White Elephant Safaris offers a full-day tour that is educational, interactive and visual and gives guests an insightful look into the lives of the reserve’s elephant families. It includes spending time with their research and conservation staff.
Board the boat on the Pongola River early in the morning. Spot Nile crocodile and hippo as you make your way across Lake Jozini to hopefully view the elephants! The elephant researcher uses a telemetry device to monitor the distance of the elephants, allowing you to get to the right spot and await their arrival. This is where the magic happens. One by one you will see the elephants approaching for their daily drink. The little ones are in their element when they get to roll around and play in the mud, while the matriarch keeps a watchful eye on her spectators – but don’t worry, the boat keeps a safe distance at all times.
The program continues in the afternoon when you’ll visit the Elephant Research Centre. You’ve already met the elephants face to face, now you’ll get to learn even more about them. Examine elephant sculls, take part in some insightful discussions and debates, and watch the BBC documentary, which explains exactly where our elephants came from and how they got to the shores of Lake Jozini. The story of these giants is inspirational, and the experience is unforgettable.
3. You’re passionate about conservation in South Africa
Pongola Game Reserve and White Elephant Safaris have played a significant role in the conservation of our beloved elephant species (among others) for more than 20 years. One of the beautiful stories to come out of these 20 years is the Space for Elephants Foundation.
The reserve’s elephants were transported from Kruger National Park to Pongola Game Reserve because of elephant overpopulation in Kruger. Kruger National Park needed to find new homes for some of its elephant families, and fast. It would be the first time that a whole herd of Elephant was relocated to another reserve. Dr. Heinz Kohrs, camp owner at AfriCamps at White Elephant Safaris, had dreamt of re-introducing elephant into the area after an absence of nearly 100 years. He immediately took action to make his dream a reality. The surrounding neighbours had to give written permission and agreements were made to create a biosphere. Fences were dropped between farms in order to have enough space for the Elephant family.
Since their arrival, the elephants’ behaviour has been closely monitored. Conservationists noticed that the elephant were trying to migrate like they used to centuries ago, when they weren’t confined by fences, and so The Space for Elephants Foundation was born. During the Elephant Research Project experience, you will find out all about the reserve’s conservation efforts and why it is so important in South Africa today. As soon as you enter the Reserve gates, you are already contributing to the conservation of its wildlife. Guests who embark on various guided activities contribute simply by paying the activity fee which includes a conservation levy.
4. You’re seeking that unique glamping experience
The Zululand area is dotted with fully catered luxury accommodation, but in December 2019 AfriCamps introduced a slightly different accommodation style to the area. Now you can bring the whole family for a self-catering glamping stay in the Reserve that won’t break the bank. Book a tent in the range of R1290 – R2390 per night sharing, depending on the season of your stay. A stay in the reserve has become affordable, but still includes all the luxuries you need for a comfortable stay.
Each AfriCamps tent has 2 bedrooms, a spacious private bathroom, an open-plan kitchen, living and dining area, a large deck with excellent braai facilities and an outdoor wood-fired hot tub next to each tent. The camp is secured with electric fences, but do not be surprised to see nyala and warthog passing your tent. Each tent can sleep up to 5 guests.
5. You’re a KZN weekender looking for new places to unwind
So, you’ve explored all the weekend destinations in the area and you’re looking for something new and different… look no further. An easy 3.5-hour drive from Durban takes you to the camp where you can enjoy all your favourite weekend pastimes like boating, fishing, birdwatching, wildlife, or just getting away from the city. Lake Jozini is a popular fishing spot and we have a launch site and jetty available. Guests are welcome to bring their own boats. Order a braai basket and light the fire, soak in the outdoor wood-fired hot tub, go for a dip in the camp pool, and breathe in the fresh Pongola air.