Expert Reviews – Tembe Elephant Park

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Southern Africa’s largest tuskers
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Zululand’s counterpart to Addo Elephant National Park, the little -known Tembe Elephant Park protects an elephant population that once ranged freely into neighbouring Mozambique and is famed for producing massive tuskers – indeed, the three largest tuskers in southern Africa, Isilo, Induna and Makobona, all reside in this park. Excellent viewing is to be had at Mahlasela Hide – on the day we spent there, close on 100 individual elephants came past – but even though the Big Five are all present, other wildlife is difficult to spot, the exception being the park’s dense population of the handsome nyala antelope. Despite this, the park stands out in several respects – the first being its remote location and genuine wilderness feel (access is by 4x4 only), the second the wonderful and very sensible priced tented camp operated by the local Tembe community, and the third being the opportunity to see several localised bird species associated with sand forest in northern Zululand. All in all, this is a low-key delight, and for those not in a rush to tick off the so-called Big Five, the elephant watching can be superb.

Excellent elephant action at waterholes and quiet bush atmosphere
Overall rating

This is a fairly remote, small park in Maputaland, on the border between KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique. While not teeming with plains game like some of the larger savannah parks in South Africa, it is home to the Big 5 in an area of sand forests, pans and wetlands. Elephants of course are the stars of the show, and there are some especially large individuals at that. The organized game drives from the one lodge gets visitors to them quickly, to watch the magical displays of families frolicking at the waterholes. The attractive nyala antelope is also a common resident, and I enjoyed the lovely sight of them skipping through the sandy bush. Sightings of other large mammals are fairly rare though – on my visit I count myself very privileged to see a solitary rhino in the reed beds and a leopard eying up branches from her position in the grass. Tembe is a good place for an introduction to the bush (especially for children) with guaranteed eli-watching. The community-owned lodge is also a highlight – not luxurious but friendly and laid-back where the staff and guides, all employed from the vicinity, have a great personal knowledge and affection for the park.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.3/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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