On the Wild Side
The national parks of KwaZulu-Natal conserve a very diverse range of biomes, from the high montane grasslands of the Drakensberg to the dune forests of the Greater St Lucia National Park. They also include the mixed woodland of Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, the kind of environment many people consider to be "the real Africa." There may be an opportunity to do a short game walk or drive through the Tugela Conservancy while doing a river trip on the Buffalo or Tugela rivers.
Go to Outdoor South Africa: Kwazulu-Natal for more information on public lands and hiking in the area.
Umfolozi Wilderness Trail
Umfolozi is one of South Africa's oldest reserves, having been proclaimed, along with the nearby Hluhluwe, in 1897. (They have since been joined by the proclamation of a corridor between them.) It is most famous for its role in bringing the white rhino back from the brink of extinction and also for running the first wilderness trail in southern Africa in 1957. It proved so successful and popular that it is still running. It is a three-day walking safari deep into the wilderness area of the park. You are accompanied by an experienced, armed game ranger who will explain the complexities of your surroundings, as well as identify animals and birds. Accommodation is in tented bush camps. You carry only a daypack as the rest of your gear is taken to the camp on pack donkeys (which do not accompany you). Prices are inclusive of meals but special diets are not catered for. The trails operate from the beginning of March to the end of September, although weekend trails are run all year-round.
The trails are run by the Natal Parks Board and all booking is through their central booking office.
St. Lucia Wilderness Trail
This four-night, three-day trail starts at Bhangazi Base Camp on the banks of Lake Bhangazi in the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, from where you walk out into the wilderness area in the company of an armed and knowledgeable ranger. You are likely to see animals such as red duiker, black rhino, reedbuck, hippos and crocodiles. You may paddle for a stretch on the lake if you like, and if you take your own gear you may go for a snorkel in one of the many rockpools filled with myriad colourful tropical fish. Birdwatching is excellent here.
The trail is run from the beginning of April to the end of September. Booking is essential and is through the Natal Parks Board.
This very upmarket lodge encompasses a number of different biomes, ranging from seasonally inundated wetlands to bushveld. A stay at this lodge can be combined with scuba diving at Sodwana, turtle-watching trips, and big-game fishing. Game drives are standard; the accommodation is very luxurious and the service always attentive. Game likely to be seen includes elephant, white rhino, lion, cheetah an many species of antelope. Phinda is run by Conservation Corporation Africa who handle all bookings.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication