Summer at Chelmsford

We kicked off our recent “summer in the bush” holidays with a two night stay at Chelmsford Nature Reserve near the town of Newcastle, in the north-west of Kwazulu-Natal Province. Chelmsford may be a tiny reserve as far as African game parks go, but it is a very important piece of conservation estate, conserving South Africa’s largest population of locally endangered oribi antelope.

Oribi (10)

We stayed in one of the comfortable two-bedroom self-catering chalets at Leokop Camp, right on the banks of the Ntshingwayo Dam. The reserve was busy with holidaymakers coming to enjoy the great watersport opportunities and picnics at the water’s edge, while others, like the de Wets, enjoyed the reserve’s more natural attractions.

Chelmsford Nature Reserve, December 2014

Chelmsford Nature Reserve, December 2014

Zebra and black wildebeest graze while visitors picnic in the background

Zebra and black wildebeest at ease while visitors picnic in the background

After unpacking, we were off to explore the wonders of this special little reserve that’s crept so deep into our hearts. These plains zebra entertained us with the running of the Chelmsford Derby…

Being a grassland reserve, Chelmsford hosts large populations of plains game, including the already mentioned oribi and zebra, black wildebeest, blesbuck, and springbok, one of our national emblems. There’s no large predators at Chelmsford, but smaller carnivores like yellow mongoose and cape fox are well represented and frequently encountered.

The reserve is surrounded by farmland, and this fence-jumping cow was an unexpected find during one of our drives.

Chelmsford_Dec14 (5)

Because there’s no dangerous man-eating predators lurking in Chelmsford’s grasslands, visitors are free to explore the reserve on foot, making it easier to appreciate its smaller, less obvious, inhabitants.

Bird-watching is another pastime to revel in at Chelmsford, especially as the reserve is home to several special bird species, like the blue crane (our national bird).

For such a small piece of land, Chelmsford offers an amazing variety of scenery. Leokop-hill is an ever-present element, as is the dam, making for dramatic vistas at sunrise and sunset over the wide-open spaces.

Chelmsford may only be a small reserve without any of the charismatic Big-5 African animals, but to those that take the time to get to know it better there’s a chest of treasures waiting to be unearthed and savored. We’ll be back, that’s for sure.

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31 thoughts on “Summer at Chelmsford

  1. Pingback: Summer at Golden Gate | de Wets Wild

  2. Pingback: Summer at Ithala | de Wets Wild

  3. maamej

    Some wonderful pics, looks like a very special place. The blue crane shots, baby zebra with mum, mongoose & sunrises are my favorites.

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  4. iAMsafari.com

    Being able to explore the park at foot is great. We’re getting used to it now and love it – it just makes you look at the smaller things just a little bit closer than when the big game is around I guess?

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      We feel the same way Maurice; seeing the big and dangerous animals will always be marvelous, and being able to explore freely in other reserves just gives an extra dimension to enjoying the wonders of nature.

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      1. mjculverphotography

        Your posts are always wonderful. Both of us enjoy them thoroughly. Your love of the wilds of Africa truly shines through each and every image you share and every word you write. There’s no doubt we’ll like all of them.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thank you Jane. We also still delight in every sighting, and often wonder what this country of ours must have looked like before humans started wiping out the great herds!

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  5. perdebytjie

    Weereens besonders!Die wereld begin nie by die groot vyf nie,maar dis ‘n goeie inleiding tot die ontdekking van kleiner skatte,soos jy pragtig hier gedoen het.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Baie dankie Dina. As mens bietjie aandag gee aan die klein goedjies maak die geheelbeeld soveel meer sin, verstaan mens beter hoe alles in mekaar steek, en geniet jy dit ook soveel meer daarbuite in die bos.

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  6. Sonel

    It looks like you are on one long and heavenly vacation for sure De Wet! I am always in awe of your stunning captures. Thanks for sharing. 😀

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      When I tell you she jumped a 6-foot fence to get into the reserve, and again to get out, that would probably multiply your surprise even more Lois. We were certainly very surprised to find her grazing at that spot!

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