A small reserve that punches way above it’s weight class!
Chelmsford is a small reserve, covering only 6,800 hectares, roughly half of which is inundated by the Ntshingwayo Dam. But don’t let its relatively diminutive size fool you: in the larger South African conservation picture, Chelmsford Nature Reserve is a very important piece of land.
Chelmsford’s flat grasslands protects the country’s largest population of the highly endangered oribi, a small antelope, and it also harbours breeding populations of other rare or endangered wildlife such as the blue crane (our national bird), crowned crane, bald ibis, Cape fox and black wildebeest, not to mention many of the more common species.
The reserve has been in existence since 1975 and is located in northern Kwazulu-Natal, about thirty kilometres south of the large industrial town of Newcastle. Managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, it boasts eight fully self-contained cottages (very reasonably priced!), sleeping up to 5 people each, as well as two beautiful electrified camping areas (Leokop and Sandford) with well-maintained ablution facilities. Neat picnic facilities, conveniently situated throughout the reserve, are also available at the water’s edge.
Though the reserve is never crowded, it is especially popular over weekends with local folk enjoying the outdoor recreational opportunities the dam and surrounds offers, such as boating, sailing, skiing, fishing, cycling, hiking, bird-watching and game viewing. The reserve and the dam that forms it’s focal point is named after a British Lord and Zulu General respectively who were on opposing sides at the Battle of Isandlwana, and is a convenient base from which to visit many of the Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu War battlefield memorials in the vicinity.
We were quickly taken in by this dynamic little gem when we first visited three years ago, and it’s become one of our firm favourites.