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Ithala Game Reserve a Hidden Gem

After having visited Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park on numerous occasions, we were delighted to finally have the opportunity to visit Ithala Game Reserve, situated in Northern KZN. We had heard so much about the park, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

Situated approximately 470km from Johannesburg and 380km from Durban, close to the small town of Louwsburg in northern KZN, Ithala was proclaimed a game reserve in 1973. Originally only 8000 hectares the reserve has since grown in size to incorporate approximately 33 000 hectares. It is considered an important conservation area due to the variety of different habitats found there.

The dramatic changes in the topography of the land have created rugged and breathtaking scenery. Altitudes range from 400m above sea level to 1450m above sea level and around every corner a new, even more dramatic scene awaits. As you enter the reserve’s gate, your eyes feast on miles of open, yellow grassland which would provide the perfect camouflage for lions, if the reserve had any, which it doesn’t. The very fact that the lions are absent allows the rest of the animals in the reserve to live a more relaxed lifestyle.

That being said though, we felt that the animals we did encounter during our stay there seemed unusually skittish and not as relaxed as those in the other game parks we visit on a regular basis.

As we began to wind our way up to Ntshondwe Camp, the landscape became dramatically more rugged with exposed rock formations dating back millions of years being creating their own beauty. Towering sandstone cliffs, magnificent gorges, densely vegetated valleys, perennial rivers with cascading waterfalls and deep rock pools flanked by dense thicket and riverine forests provide the perfect habitat for a variety of animal species found in the reserve.

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SA's Most Romantic Lodges

South Africa’s natural beauty forms a spectacular backdrop to the many amazing lodges scattered throughout the country. There are a few however that stand out from the rest in terms of offering the perfect setting for a romantic getaway. Whether they offer breath-taking views, have romantic outdoor baths and showers or offer guests the opportunity to sleep under the stars our list of four exclusive lodges are guaranteed to provide honeymooners or those just looking to rekindle the love in their relationships with the most idyllic, romantic setting they could ask for.

Kosi Forest Lodge

Kosi Forest Lodge is a comfortable five-hour drive north of Durban, just south of the Mozambique border. Thick sandy roads on the last 9km make it a necessity to have a 4x4 vehicle however if you don’t have a 4x4, don’t let that stop you from visiting this little piece of paradise as the lodge offers transfers from the nearby town of Manguzi where secure parking for your vehicle is provided...

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Ford Conservation

Ford shows support for conservation projects

Ford Wildlife Foundation provides mobility and support for conservation projects with new Ford Ranger

Ford Wildlife Foundation hands over new Ford Rangers to two renowned conservation projects in South Africa as part of Ford’s ongoing commitment to environmental preservation. The Cape Leopard Trust and the Sea Search Research group to use Ford Rangers as support vehicles for their conservation teams for dedicated projects in Western Cape and Namibia.

The Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa established the Ford Wildlife Foundation to support education, research, and conservation projects around Sub-Saharan Africa.

On the 30th of March 2017, the Ford Wildlife Foundation has handed over new Ford Rangers to two renowned conservation projects in South Africa. The Cape Leopard Trust and the Sea Search Research and Conservation group each received a new Ford Ranger to use as a support vehicle for their conservation teams in the Western Cape, and, for Sea Search, in Namibia as well. The handover forms part of Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa’s (FMCSA) commitment to the conservation and preservation of the environment in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The locally-built Ford Ranger, which is one of South Africa’s top-selling vehicles overall and in the light commercial vehicle segment, will be used to enable the projects to go further and make a real impact - particularly in the remote locations often associated with conservation and environmental projects - thanks to the 4x4 capability.

Leopard Research in the Cedarberg Region.

Established in 2004, the Cape Leopard Trust is an active predator conservation group using scientific research as a tool to facilitate conservation, particularly in find-ing solutions to human-wildlife conflict and inspiring a greater interest in the environment through an interactive environmental education legacy programme.

“We are thrilled that the Ford Ranger bakkie will be joining our Cedarberg project, where it will be a wonderful asset for the research team at the coal face of leopard conservation,” says Helen Turnbull, Cape Leopard Trust CEO.

The Ford Ranger will initially assist the project with implementing a large-scale camera survey that extends over 320,000 hectares as part of a five-year leopard monitoring plan. The survey will see 150 field cameras deployed and monitored by a team of researchers and research volunteers to produce a robust scientific study of leopard populations across the area, as well as taking into consideration monitoring of leopard prey species density and potential threats to leopard survival, with the aim to inform leopard management policy and contribute to national leopard monitoring protocol.

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VIP Guest returns to Thanda Island

Conservation Triumph as Green Turtle returns to Nest

Thanda Island, the truly exclusive Indian Ocean hideaway located off the Southern coast of Tanzania, was thrilled to welcome the most important of repeat visitors on 2nd April – a female Green Turtle who came ashore to lay her eggs on the beach between the boathouse and the helipad between the hours of 8-12pm.

Thanda Island is one of the few places in the world that offers guests the chance to stay on a truly private island with access to their own private coral reef, also enjoyed in exclusivity with a snorkel and mask straight from the beach. It features just one beautifully decorated villa with five suites and two stylish bandas (Tanzanian style beach huts) accommodating a further eight guests, along with a boat house full of every water sport imaginable, a tennis court, a selection of guitars and an outdoor cocktail bar.

Off-grid, solar-powered, environ-mentally sensitive, thoroughly relax-ing, and lots of fun, Thanda’s guests also have the chance to swim with whale sharks, watch turtles hatch and visit nearby islands to explore their ruins, coconut plantations, lagoons and underwater sights. Furthermore, Thanda Island is in the process of developing a programme that will allow guests to become more involved in their conservation partnership activities. This will include participation in turtle nest monitoring, dugong monitoring and research, whale shark monitoring, patrol-ling of the marine reserve and snorkel surveys of the coral reefs.

Due to the endemic illegal fish-ing practices that had been taking place in the waters around Thanda Island, turtles had not been seen nesting on the island for seven years. However, over the last year, the Thanda Island team had started to regularly see them swimming in the surround-ing waters. They are thrilled that their persistent pleas for increased policing from the Marine Parks Authorities, together with their own presence in the area, has been rewarded.

Furthering their commitment to the conservation of the region’s sea turtles, Thanda Island works closely with the Tanzanian marine conservation NGO Sea Sense to address a shared con-cern for the marine biodiversity of these waters. Assisting with research, education and the broader engagement of the local communities in sea turtle conservation, they are able to encourage dialogue and communication around the importance of sea turtle conservation and threats to sea turtle survival to the local Swahili seafaring communities.

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Picture Perfect

Isibindi’s Rhino Ridge Safari is a 4-star private lodge, situated within a private concession within Africa’s oldest game reserve, Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park in northern KwaZulu-Natal. It first opened its doors in 2015 and since then the amazing staff, all members of the local community, have done an excellent job of ensuring that all guests who pass through their doors have an unforgettable and memorable stay.

As we completed check-in formalities, our kids whizzed around the reception areas, mobile phones in hand, in video mode, intent on capturing every aspect of their stay so that they could share it with their friends once back home. Cell phone signal is intermittent at the lodge, which as parents we were incredibly grateful for because it meant a certain degree of disconnect from modern day technology could be attained, making way instead for the quality family time that can so easily get lost in the fast-paced lives we all lead today.

Luxurious Family Suites

On the previous occasions we had visited Rhino Ridge we had stayed in one of the luxurious Bush Villas. Each of the Bush Villas boasts cinematic picture windows and glass sliding doors providing guests with breathtaking views of the park. Deck chairs, on your own private deck, entice you to sit back and take a moment just to enjoy the sheer beauty of your surrounds.

King-sized beds are draped in fresh, crisp white linen and encapsulated by a flowing mosquito net. The luxurious double sided fireplace offers a promise of warmth on a cold winter’s night giving you the option of enjoying its warmth from a comfy couch in the small lounge area or being mesmerised by its flicker while you relax in an indulgent bubble bath, sipping a glass of wine before dinner.

The Family Suites, where we were stay-ing this time, are located on the opposite side of the central reception area, thereby ensuring that guests, staying in the Bush Villas, aren’t unduly disturbed by the noisiness of kids.

The Family Suites are designed to in such a way that each family unit consist of two separate rooms joined by an interleading passage. This design allows parents with small children to keep both bedroom doors open, creating one big living space or as in our case, with us having teenage children who were older, we were still able to enjoy some level of privacy, as were the kids, by being able to close the bedroom doors, in essence creating two separate living spaces if required.

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Madikwe

Madikwe Game Reserve is one of the few reserves in southern Africa, which is malaria free. Located in South Africa along the Botswana border and 20 km from Gaberone, the reserve lies within a transition region between lowveld bushveld and the Kalahari thornveld. As a result the region is host to an incredible diversity of species from both ecosystems. Geographically the region has enormous volcanic intrusions known as Inselbergs, which are prominent throughout the reserve and are a spectacular backdrop to the reserve.

Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge is the first wholly owned Community based Safari Lodge to be developed in South Africa. The lodge is a pure ecotourism partnership between North-West Parks, the Balete Ba Lekgophung Community and the operator, The Nature Workshop. The community has a 45-year lease to operate a commercial lodge with traversing rights across the reserve. The concept is unique in South Africa in that the community owns the development, with substantial benefits accruing back to the community itself.

Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge is situated on the Tweedepoort Ridge overlooking the plains and inselbergs of the western section of Madikwe Game Reserve. The lodge has 8 suites, each with their own viewing deck, decorated in natural hews of colour and texture, offering a very private and luxurious experience. The thatched suites, with sliding doors from each room and shower allow the guest to experience a oneness with the bushveld.

The main lodge is spectacularly located on two tiers of the ridge, accessed via a wooden bridge that crosses a ravine surrounded by rock figs. Each of the living areas has its own character, mood and style providing guests with a choice of breathtaking views and tranquil spaces.

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Journey to the heart of Africa - Part 3 (Final)

We’ve been told about a track that could lead us towards the Heart of Africa – the geographical centre of the continent. It’s called the Corridor des Elephants - an old forest elephant path. Wet with sweat, we cut, winch, dig, saw and slash. The sweat bees attack us in bloody droves. Big Deon Schurman who’s built like a baobab, slashes at the bush with his machete. He played Club Rugby in France and is as tough as nails. He jumps back as a snake slithers into the undergrowth. A giant silverback lowland gorilla races across the track in front of Ndhlovukazi, the big Landy Defender that’s carrying all the supplies.

The humidity rises and the hard work continues. ‘Can’t do it,’ says Brad Hansen, the expedition naturalist. ‘Can’t carry on like this.’ Ross Holgate nods his head. ‘Brad’s right – it’s impossible.’ A bit despond-ent, we turn the three Landies around and attempt another route. Sunset comes. We camp on a forest track: the fallen trees like poached elephant carcasses, dead behemoths that have fallen to the chainsaw, as the logging tracks push deeper and deeper into the unending forest.

Our wet, muddy clobber hangs over the Landies like a Chinese laundry. Ross sends up a drone. ‘Forest as far as the eye can see,’ he reports. ‘The GPS can’t pick up a signal - tree canopy too thick.’ He hoists it high into a tree to learn that we are 27Kms - as the crow flies - from the GPS coordinates that mark the Heart of Africa.

Looking at the impenetrable forest, my spirits fall. It could take forever. How would we cut a way through the thick undergrowth? Ross comes back into camp. ‘Massive storm coming,’ he says. ‘Looks really nasty – from the east, and you won’t believe I saw chimps hunting. Incredible!’ ‘Shovashova Mike’ Nixon tells us he saw gorilla as he was cycling in. He’s mountain biked alongside the expedition Landies all the way from South Africa and will go as far as he can before the jungle defeats him and we’re all on foot.

Right now our mission seems impossible. The humidity grows. The bugs swarm around our head-torches. We’re getting rain-forested out. It’s incredibly beautiful, but we’re southern Africa savannah boys and not used to this. That’s when Naz - our Congolese expedition member and interpreter - comes up with the idea of hiring Ba’aka Pygmies: ‘They are the true forest people, the only ones who really know this world of swamps, rivers and following forest elephant tracks; they are one with the spirits of the forest. There’s a group that lives in the village of Landoungo,’ he tells us.

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Incredible reasons to go glamping

Gondwana Game Reserve’s Eco Camp

Gondwana Game Reserve’s Eco Camp offers close encounters of the wildlife kind, just a few hours out of Cape Town. Gondwana is an 11 000 hectare private game reserve on the Garden Route, and it is the only fynbos reserve in the world where the Big Five roam freely.

The three or five day conservation experience allows guests to participate in wildlife and veld management, learn valuable bush skills and interpretation, as well as volunteer with the local community. The Eco Camp itinerary is based on creating a meaningful conservation experience for individuals of any age. From the tented camp itself through to participatory meals and activities, everyone has a chance to get their hands dirty while learning new skills, and hopefully, having a lot of fun as well”.

A typical day at the Gondwana Eco Camp would start with a 6 am wake-up, followed by breakfast, a morning activity like cheetah tracking and then a conservation project, like surveying vegetation. This would be followed by lunch, before heading out on another eco-excursion. At around 4 pm guests would set off on an evening game monitoring drive for about two hours, then return to camp to freshen up before a hearty fireside dinner. The day would conclude with an evening talk and some prep for the next day’s activities, then some well-deserved rest in the cosy tents.

The Eco Camp’s tents are modern, eco-friendly and very comfortable. The five tents provide single or double accommodation, each with their own en-suite bathroom facilities, set on elevated decks overlooking a grass-covered riverbed. A wooden walkway over the riverbed links the accommodation to a central tent, which houses the lounge, dining space and kitchen area.

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Four northern hemisphere holidays you’ll fly for

Kayak alongside Killer Whales

The northwest of America is home to great cities such as Seattle and Portland and the wild Olympic Peninsula, known for its vast rain forests, Native American influences and being the film location of the Twilight Series. It is in this unique region where you can go kayaking alongside pods of orcas - the world’s largest predators. You’ll launch onto the Puget Sound from one of the San Juan Islands and paddle until you see a sprout of spray, marking the arrival of these beautiful creatures. Watch as they play, dive and feed a few metres away from you.

Website: www.evergreenescapes.com

Trek Slovenia

Slovenia is a budget-friendly choice for South African travellers with unspoiled nature and rich European heritage. On Foot Holidays, one of Europe’s leading walking tour operators, offers a gentle 7-day walking trip that starts in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, and ends along the Italian coast. Walking 11 to 16 kms per day, you’ll traverse ancient woodlands, deep valleys and vineyards, pass hilltop villages and explore the legendary caves of the Karst. Along the way you’ll meet the locals and enjoy farm stays and homegrown goodness including ham, honey, fruit and plenty of wine. Your walk ends trium-phantly at the top of the coastal city of Trieste where you’ll enjoy a scenic tram ride down to your hotel. Throughout the easy-to-medium self-guided walk, your luggage is transferred between inns; accommodation and meals are arranged on your behalf, and you’re equipped with a detailed information pack (including maps and local con-tacts). All you have to do is select your depar-ture date, book your trip and hop on a plane. Rate: R10, 875pp (subject to exchange rate)

Website: www.onfootholidays.co.uk 
Phone: +44 (0) 1722 322 652
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Rhino Club

Join Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Exclusive Loyalty Club today

Why should I become a Rhino Card Holder you may ask? We ask – why wouldn’t you want to become one with so many amazing benefits to enjoy.

Membership benefits include:

  • Gold Rhino Club Members enjoy free day entry into any of the parks managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
  • Free gate entry into other major events, may be limited at the discretion of Park Management.
  • Free Gate entry into the iSimangaliso Wetland Park granted to each valid Rhino Gold Club member and expires each year on the 31 March, depending on the extension of the agreement.
  • Last-minute Leatherback discounts given to Gold Card members on specific periods of time.
  • Monthly E-Newsletter keeping you up to date with the latest happenings
  • Receive an electronic copy of Wildside Magazine direct to your in-box
  • Preferential service


Terms and Conditions

  • The Rhino Gold Card may be purchased for the period of one year
  • Proof of cardholders ( ID number, Passport or SA Residence Permit) is required for entry.
  • A senior citizen may purchase the card, but should be 60years of age or older, both ID numbers on the card must belong to Senior Citizens, membership costs R230.00pp.
  • The number of people qualifying for free gate entry individual membership costs R250.00pp 
  • International guests must have South African citizenship or South African residence permit or South African address and must supply either an ID number, passport or work permit number.
  • The use of the Rhino Gold Card is Strictly for NON-COMMERCIAL use.

Please contact our Loyalty Help Desk: Contact number: 033 8451008
Email Address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Website: www.kznwildlife.com

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