Tag Archives: Nsumo Pan

iSimangaliso Wetland Park: uMKhuze Game Reserve

On the 15th of February 1912 the Mkuzi Game Reserve was proclaimed in the north of the Natal Province. At that stage the reserve covered 251km², with its northern and eastern border being the river of the same name. In the west the reserve straddles the Lebombo Mountain and in the south it reached to the Umsunduzi River and Nsumo Pan. Before its proclamation the area was popular among hunters, especially in winter when the dangers of malaria and tsetse flies were diminished, and as a result several animal species, including white rhino, buffalo and eland, were wiped from the area. With a large and impoverished human population living around it, after the reserve was established it faced, and still does, a never ending war with both commercial and subsistence poaching.

In the early years there was lots of hostility to the reserve’s existence, with neighbouring farmers seeing it as a breeding ground for the cattle disease nagana (of which the tsetse fly is a vector from game, which is immune against it). As a result, the reserve was deproclaimed in 1939 and control of the land transferred to the government veterinary department. Subsequently more than 38,000 wild animals were killed, with only black rhinos spared, after which an extensive aerial spraying campaign with poisonous insecticides followed. The war to control the tsetse fly was won at great financial and environmental cost. The reserve was re-proclaimed, under the auspices of the Natal Parks Board (now Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife), in 1954.

Shortly after, the reserve faced a new existential threat when the Mkuze River and the pans it feeds at Nhlonhlela and Nsumo dried up due to dams and extraction for irrigation upstream. With no surface water available for the animals the reserve staff had to sink deep boreholes in the bed of the river to pump water to two waterholes deeper in the reserve to prevent animals moving out. One of these waterholes, Kumasinga, is still a major attraction for both game and human visitors.

In 1972 the Nxwala State Lands, on Mkuzi’s then south-eastern boundary, was incorporated into the reserve, increasing its size by a further 58km². The reserve boundary was later moved further south to beyond the Umsunduzi River to bring it to its current size. Today the reserve covers 400km² and uses the more correct traditional spelling of uMkhuze for its name. It forms an integral part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Have a read here for more about the history of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Map of uMkhuze Game Reserve (https://isimangaliso.com/)

uMkhuze is rich in scenery and biodiversity. Records indicate that the reserve is home to more than 700 indigenous plant species, 90 mammal species, 450 bird species, 64 kinds of reptile (perhaps as many as 85), 43 kinds of frogs and 32 fish species. The extensive Nsumo Pan, its shores lined by magnificent fever trees, is a watery haven for a myriad water-dependent birds and a magnet for other kinds of wildlife. Majestic riverine forest trees like the sycomore fig trace the course of the Mkuze River. Sand forest is a unique and endangered plant community in South Africa of which a tiny portion is protected in uMkhuze and the open plains of the reserve are covered by savannas and grasslands with a fascinating mix of plant species. Above this all tower the 600m high peaks of the Lebombos.

Elephants were reintroduced to the uMkhuze Game Reserve in 1994, and today number more than a hundred animals. They are however not seen very often.

While the founding population of uMkhuze’s white rhinos were translocated from Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in the 1960’s, the black rhinos have occurred here throug the ages. What a pity that these enigmatic creatures are now again threatened by poaching

In August 2005, buffalo was reintroduced to Umkhuze Game Reserve (from Marakele National Park). Although numbering several hundred, they’re still not often seen and tend to remain in the wilderness areas far from human eyes.

After an absence of 44 years, lions were reintroduced to the uMkhuze Game Reserve in December 2013.

Lions at uMkhuze (18 December 2014)

uMkhuze is home to leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs, but we haven’t seen them yet. We did however have a few encounters with uMkhuze’s spotted hyenas over the years though.

uMkhuze harbours around 300 of the rare suni antelope which finds refuge in the sand forest.

uMkhuze is well know for its sizable population of the beautiful nyala.

Other herbivores that occur in uMkhuze are hippo, giraffe, plains zebra, warthog, bushpig, kudu, blue wildebeest, bushbuck, impala, steenbok, common and red duiker, baboon, vervet monkey, thick-tailed bushbaby and scrub hare.

uMkhuze is considered one of the top bird-watching destinations in South Africa

Cold-blooded creatures abound in uMhuze too, and visitors can expect to see anything from fish to nile crocodiles while exploring the reserve.

In 1958 Mkuzi Game Reserve opened to the public, when three rustic huts were erected for use by overnight visitors. The reserve’s Mantuma Rest Camp today provides a variety of comfortable accommodation options in huts, chalets, safari tents and cottages with a swimming pool available to accommodated guests. Unleaded petrol and diesel is available and the reception office doubles as a small shop selling mainly snacks and fizzy drinks. The Rhino Din-o is a small cafeteria in Mantuma that sells light meals and offers excellent value for money. There is also a well-shaded picnic site for day visitors in the grounds of the reception office. Guided night drives and guided walks through the Fig Tree Forest departs from the main camp. The exclusive Nhlonhlela Bush Lodge, overlooking the pan with the same name and able to accommodate 8 guests, is located a few kilometers away from Mantuma, while the rustic Umkhumbe Camp in the far south of the reserve also accommodates groups of up to 8 guests. There is a spacious camping ground at eMshopi at the western entrance to the reserve. All these overnight facilities are booked through Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. Malaria is still endemic in the area and precautions are strongly advised.

There are two access gates into the uMkhuze Game Reserve. In the west, 15km from Mkuze town, lies eMshopi Gate. In the east, providing easy access from Sodwana and the R22 road, is the newer Ophansi Gate which opened in 2006. Visitors have access to a road network spanning 100km within the reserve for game viewing, much of it tarred. There is a beautiful picnic site with braai facilities on the shores of Nsumo Pan. Photographic hides at kuMalibala, kuMasinga and kuMahlahla as well as two on Nsumo Pan are well maintained and very popular. The Lebombo Lookout Tower, just a few kilometers south of the main camp, is another spot not to be missed.






Autumn Adventure: Something Fishy

You can’t really say that you’ve been to Cape Vidal in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park if you haven’t spent at least a little time exploring the rock pools there and at Mission Rocks at low tide.

Seeing freshwater fish without casting a line is a little more tricky than peering into a rock pool, but the viewing platforms next to uMkhuze Game Reserve’s Nsumo Pan – and the pan’s clear water – makes it possible to see fish like these Red-breast Tilapia easily from above.

The magic of Nsumo Pan

uMkhuze Game Reserve, in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, has a lot to offer any nature lover, no matter where their interests lie. One of the reserve’s biggest drawcards is the Nsumo Pan, a large body of water fed by the Mkuzi River. Nsumo is home to breeding pink-backed and great white pelicans, hippos and crocodiles, among the huge variety of  birds and animals that live along its reed and fever-tree lined shores. The reserve authorities have made it really easy to enjoy Nsumo’s magic: a tar road skirts a part of its northern banks, there are two bird-viewing platforms at the water’s edge and a beautiful picnic site with clean ablutions and braai (barbeque) facilities.

We have lots more to share in upcoming posts about our December visit to uMkhuze Game Reserve 😀

uMkhuze Game Reserve

Heaven to bird watchers and a paradise for photographers!

The uMkhuze Game Reserve, which celebrated its centenary on the 12th of February 2012, is today an integral part of the greater Isimangaliso Wetland Park (a World Heritage Site) and is one of South Africa’s most ecologically diverse conservation areas. It is located in the north of Kwazulu-Natal province, roughly 500 kilometres south-east of Johannesburg or 350 kilometres north of Durban, very near the N2-national highway which makes it a very easy-to-reach destination.

The reserve is probably best known as a mecca for bird watchers, with over 400 bird species having been identified here.

This abundant birdlife is attracted to the reserve by the wide array of habitats, stretching from the slopes of the Lebombo Mountains through gently rolling bushveld and dense woodlands to thick riparian forests, swamps and the magnificent watery expanse of Nsumo Pan.

With the exception of lion, uMkhuze provides sanctuary to good numbers of almost all South Africa’s big game and large predators. (EDIT: Lions were reintroduced to uMkhuze in late 2013)

Photographers have been well catered for, with several hides and platforms available in which visitors can easily spend hours or even the entire day watching the continuous processions of animals and birds slaking their thirst at the water’s edge.

Mantuma is the main camp in uMkhuze. Here you will find a curio shop with basic items for sale, a swimming pool and the delightfully named “Rhino Dine-O” take-away kiosk catering to the needs of the reserve’s guests. The elegant nyala often make themselves at home amongst the huts in the unfenced Mantuma Camp. A spacious and very shady camping area at the Emshopi entrance gate accommodates up to 100 campers at a time.

uMkhuze Game Reserve offers so much to experience that there’s always something left to explore and that’s ample reason to return again and again!


These are the fever-tree lined shores of Nsumo Pan, a vast wetland which is a central feature of the uMkhuze Game Reserve (which has recently been incorporated into the Isimangaliso Wetland Park).

We’re participating in LetsBeWild.com‘s Wild Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s challenge is Water.