User Reviews – Tembe Elephant Park

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Overall rating

Love Tembe. The elephant sightings are fantastic. Mahlasela Hide is a real highlight. The lodge si tented and community owned and run by a great team under Ernest. Love it!

Overall rating

Home of the big tuskers

Intimate experience
Overall rating

Tembe is a small park in Kwa-zulu Natal not many people have heard about. The park is managed and run by members of the local community. The nice thing about the park is that one can choose to be driven by a local guide or self-drive it with your own 4x4. Having done both we recommend starting with a drive from one of the local guides to get an idea of the park and then if you're up for some adventure to do it yourself. A 4x4 is a must though.

We have had some of the most amazing sightings there, male lions fighting over territory, lion and elephant confrontations, amazing birdlife. One can also sit at a number of waterholes and just wait for the animals to come to you. The scenery is the quintessential South African bush experience, it is thick in the summer months and more traversable during the winter months which increase the chances of spotting wildlife.

The tents are very comfortable and give you the feeling of camping in the wild while enjoying luxury. The staff are very friendly, something that I particularly enjoy is at dinner time the flags of the guests nationalities are placed on the tables to show who is staying and the menu is read by the "menu-teller". Something a very experienced person does this and other times something who is a first timer.

It's one of those special places where you feel alone with the African wildlife.
Overall rating

I didn't just go on safari at Tembe, I actually worked there for over a year, and it became a home away from home. Of all the parks I've visited, no other makes you feel this intimate with the African bush. Although wildlife is a bit harder to find here thant other places, the sightings you will get are often very up close and personal. Elephants are a given, and there is no better place to go see them. They are amongst the largest on the continent and the bulls grow amazing tusks. The buffaloes are also very impressive compared to other parks, and even the lions seems larger here. During a stay at the lodge you'll get excellent guides, and most of the time you'll get 4 of the big 5 over a couple of days, although rhinos are a bit shy here. Leopards are very rare, but if anyone can find them, it is the lodge.

Scenery is dense but beautiful throughout most of the park, and the sand forest makes this park unique in terms of scenery, feel and look. The huge swamp spanning the east side of the park is the park's most open area, and the best place to find herds of elephants and buffaloes. In the dry season, May-September, the sawmp is also a good spot to find lions hunting. The prey base is massive here, and the numbers of the beautiful nyala antelope are staggering, so the carnivores are not lacking in any way.

My favorite time of year here is October, which is very early in the rainy season. Climate is warm, but not extremely hot, as it can be in summer, November-March. The scenery is becoming greener, but the vegetation is still low after the dry season so the animals are still easy to see. The dry season will, of course, give you a bit more action as wildlife stick around the few water sources, but the scenery is not as nice.

I never stayed at the lodge overnight myself, as I stayed at the research camp, but the people working there are very serviceminded and the lodge is very accomodating.

If you go here, be sure to spend a day at the nearby Ndumo Game Reserve for some fantastic scenery and birding! And a massive population of crocodiles!

Very affordable good standard, tented bush lodge with some of the best elephants in Africa
Overall rating

Very pleasant Park and tented lodges.
Varied scenery and terrain.
Good range of animals including Lions, Wild Dog, Leopard, Nyala and some of the best Tusker Elephants in Africa.
Plenty of food of good standards.

Another great stay with the Tembe Tribe.
Overall rating

Tembe is a favorite destination on our Birding and Wildlife safaris to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It's a community partnership park, where the local people derive great benefits from the lodge and park, and it's great to support these types of operations. Tembe is a great birding destination, the only place in South Africa where one can see Plain-backed Sunbird. The Sand Forest habitat holds many other special birds, including a host of species endemic to South-eastern Africa. Thus, considering that Tembe is a full-board lodge with guided activities, it provides an 'easier' alternative for birders than does Ndumo or Mkuze Game Reserves, two of the top birding destinations in the province. Plus there's the thrill of big game encounters, and Elephants in particular of course. In terms of game viewing, I think it pays to look at reserves with a 'comparative advantage' mentality, in other words seeing what a particular reserve is good for and vising it for that reason. On a 'big five' comparison Tembe doesn't compare with reserves in the Greater Kruger region such as the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Yes, they do have Lion and Leopard (the guides seemed to suggest to us on this visit that the Wild Dog pack had broken out of the reserve recently), but if your aim is to see and photograph big cats, then the Sabi Sand / Timbavati is the way to go. If you want to have great Elephant encounters and experience the Maputaland (as the northern tip of the province is called) ecosystems and associated fauna and flora, enjoy the hospitality of the Tembe people and experience something a bit different, then Tembe Elephant Park is a great place to stay. I've always enjoyed my time there...

live experiment
Overall rating

it was a live experiment to see this animals in the wild and so near bij.
het was een ervaring om deze dieren van zo dichtbij te zien, het is niet makkelijk om dit om te zetten in het engels, het maakt nog elke dag als ik er aan denk wat in mij los.

Absolute luxury, wonderful staff, great value
Overall rating

I will keep it brief,
Firstly, the staff were lovely, nothing was too much trouble and they were all very personable.
The food was incredible, the best we had during our 5 week stay in SA.
The safari trips were wonderful, the driver (patrick) was fun and insightful, clearly with a wealth of knowledge.
The price was the biggest shock however, the value for money was second to none, I am already planning another trip.
thanks so much tembe, experience of a lifetime!

Home to some of South Africa’s biggest tuskers
Overall rating

Tembe is known for its elephant population, and in this park you’re likely to see some of the biggest tuskers in South Africa. At the park’s reception area, be sure to pick up information on the well-known bulls of the area – there is a poster that shows their photographs and includes details of the length of their tusks, and their weight – as this will add interest and value to your game-viewing.
There are a few hides in the park, and you’re almost guaranteed of seeing elephants if you’re patient. Mahlasela hide is particularly good for game, and it’s not unusual to see elephants and lions here. It’s well worth packing a few snacks and drinks and arriving at the hide mid-afternoon, so that you can be sure not to miss anything during the water hole’s busiest time of day.
If you visit Tembe during the week, you’re likely to feel as though you have the entire park to yourself and you could spend an entire afternoon at a hide without seeing anyone else. Over long weekends, Tembe can be fairly busy as it’s a favourite destination for 4x4 clubs. You need to have a 4x4 vehicle to drive the roads of this park.

Comfort and Country all in one package
Overall rating

I arrived at Tembe and was warmly greeted by the staff, many of whom I knew from a previous trip. Luggage was taken to my very comfortable tent and I had plenty of hot water to shower after my long drive. Then it was time for the late afternoon bush trip.
There were so many animals seen - antelope including suni, ellies, giraffes, lions and a rhino. And so many kinds of birds that I couldn't keep track of them all.
Then back to the camp for supper, which was taken in the open. It was atmospheric, convivial and tasty, with the special treat of a bushbaby hanging in a tree near my table begging for fruit. The bushbabies also raid the coffee station near the front desk for packets of sugar, and one little novice ended up stealing a packet with a tea bag in it instead, so I imagine he was very disappointed.
After supper the staff lit a big bonfire in a pit and chairs were placed around it so we could sit with out coffee or after-dinner drinks. There are various entertainments there, singing, dancing groups sometimes, or just quietly chatting as we wound down, getting ready for sleep.
Night in the tents is just magical, with the scent of the earth and growing things all around and the sounds of the animals as they move through the bush or hunt. Elephants sometimes come into the camp at night after everyone is tucked away to snack on the trees around the tents, and at least one nyala makes a habit of browsing through the camp during the day.
The daytime activity I liked best was getting a lunch from the kitchen and going to one of the hides and just sitting there, listening to the breeze, the birds and insects and watching the passing parade of creatures that came to drink. Watching a mom ellie trying to teach a little one how to take a mudbath properly was a hoot, and very special.
There is a small library of nature books and a few novels in case you just want to kick back and do nothing active for a while, computer access for those who must keep in touch, and plunge pool for those hot days. A leisurely, delicious breakfast eaten on the deck in the fresh morning air set me up just right for another day of wonderful discoveries.

Average User Rating

  • 4.6/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star 5
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