We left Pretoria in the dark of night on the 20th of December to arrive as early as we could at Ithala – it’s the kind of place where you want to be as long as you possibly can.
Ithala Game Reserve must be one of the most scenic wild places in South Africa, and we have never seen the reserve as green and wet as we did on this visit – it is clear that good rains must have fallen in the weeks prior to our arrival.
It’s easy to understand why Ntshondwe Camp, our base for the four nights we had available to visit this beautiful reserve in the north of Kwazulu-Natal Province, has won so many awards: a beautiful setting beneath towering cliffs, comfortable accommodation tucked away into indigenous vegetation providing great privacy, a variety of well-maintained facilities (pool, information centre, shop, restaurant, ladies bar, coffee shop, conference centre, children’s play area and walking trails) and a staff-compliment intent on making every guest’s stay a memorable experience.
Small wildlife abounds in the camp and, being used to the human presence, make for easy photographic subjects.
Joubert could also participate in a guided sunset drive here at Ithala for the first time – in most other reserves children under the age of 6 or 7 aren’t allowed on guided activities. We’ve been on guided drives in many reserves where the adults were much more poorly behaved than any three year old could be, and so we really applaud and appreciate the fact that here at Ithala they also allow younger children to enjoy the thrill of using a spotlight to search for nocturnal wildlife. Our drive delivered a variety of antelope and zebra, a vine snake and chameleon, nocturnal birds including a spotted eagle owl, hares, elephant, white rhino and a fleeting glimpse of a leopard and it was a real highlight for Joubert.
Three picnic sites are spread across the reserve, each exposing the visitor to a different facet of the reserve. It’s become a tradition of ours to enjoy a breakfast of muesli, fruit and yoghurt at a different one of Ithala’s picnic sites every morning.
The dense vegetation made viewing more difficult on this visit than on previous occasions, but we nevertheless enjoyed fine sightings of a variety of birds and animals.
The stately giraffe is Ithala’s mascot.
This young elephant bull wasn’t as glad to see us as we were to see him!
We awoke one morning to find the reserve cloaked in a thick blanket of fog, which made for some interesting photographs.
While at Ithala we posted some pictures on a daily basis – have a look if you’d like to see more:
Our four night stay was over in the wink of an eye and we had to head back to Pretoria to celebrate Christmas with our extended family. Will we be back? God willing we definitely will!