Last weekend saw me joining friends of mine to go and explore Ithala Game Reserve, one of the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife reserves. Although I have lived in KZN all my life, I have never been to this reserve. My parents preferred Big 5 game parks and Ithala is also 3 and a half hours from my home.
I was very pleasantly surprised with the beauty of the reserve and it is unlike any other game reserve I have been to. It is set in what is described as ‘rugged, mountainous thornveld’ and has some breathtaking views..
Being more than slightly obsessed with finding leopards, I was pleased to hear that sightings of leopard are quite common in this reserve. We, unfortunately, weren’t lucky enough to find one this time, but I’m sure I’ll be back soon to try again! Apparently sightings of serval and aardvark are also relatively common and I’m keen to see both of those too.
I was very impressed with the standard of accommodation. We stayed in a 2-bedroomed chalet, with one bathroom, a kitchen, dining area and lounge as well as outside veranda and braai area and it was very comfortable. The camp is nestled into the mountain and so has towering cliffs above and at some points a view over the valley below. In terms of accommodation, only the Lodge gives you the views over the valley but most of the chalets have views of the cliffs
We treated ourselves to a night drive on our first evening, which with KZN Wildlife’s Gold Rhino card is only R100 so really worth it (normal price R190). And as the camp was not too full that night, we were the only guests on the vehicle which was such a treat! I felt like we were at one of the private game reserves! We didn’t see an aardvark which I was really hoping for, but I loved seeing so many Spotted Eagle Owls so close. Our guide, Xolani, was very knowledgeable and shared some really interesting information with us. I have been on a lot of night drives so hearing new facts about wildlife is much appreciated!
The reserve has some interesting antelope species, including Eland, Tsessebe and Red Hartebeest which are seen often. I am used to going to Kruger and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi where these species are not as readily seen.
The camp is full of dassies, which I loved seeing as these little creatures are not something I see very often.
Rock Hyrax (Dassie)
All in all, Ithala is definitely a place worth visiting for it’s breathtaking views, serene environment and variety of different species. It is definitely not your run-of-the-mill game reserve. Let me know what you spot if you go!
Zebra at sunset
Secretary birds hunting
So where is it?
Ithala is situated near Louwsburg in northern KZN (about halfway between Vryheid and Pongola).
From Durban it is best reached via Eshowe and Melmoth to Vryheid. Then take the tarred road to Louwsburg – ± 4½ hours. From Gauteng, the best approach is via Standerton,
Volksrust and Utrecht to Vryheid – ± 5 hours. From the North coast, take the main road to Pongola. Turn left to Ulundi/Nongoma (R66) and then right onto the (R69) Louwsburg/Vryheid road- ±3½ hours. From Pietermaritzburg, travel via Ladysmith, Dundee and Vryheid – ± 4 hours.
Please not that these times do not include stops that you may need to make.
Summer (1 November to 28/29 February ) – 05h00 to 19h00
Winter (1 March to 31 October ) – 06h00 to 18h00
The office is open from 07h00 to 19h30