Expert Reviews – uMkhuze GR

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Photographers’ and birders’ paradise
Overall rating
4/5

What most distinguishes this small Zululand reserve is its network of three photographic hides overlooking waterholes that seasonally attract incredible numbers of wildlife. The best of these is Masinga Hide, a stilted wooden construction that stands above the water offering exceptional photographic opportunities on three sides. On one visit we counted about a dozen white rhino in one day. We have always been treated to an ongoing parade of impala, warthog, zebra and chacma baboon. The striking nyala antelope is common. The male is likely to be seen performing its spectacular dominance display, erecting its long white spinal crest in a bristle of assertiveness. More occasional drinkers include elephant, black rhino, giraffe and even lion and leopard. On a moderately busy day, you might easily shoot 500–1,000 frames at the hide.

uMkhuze is also an exceptional birding destination. Masinga Hide is a great place to see the likes of crested guineafowl, purple-crested turaco, crested barbet, red-bellied mannikin and grey waxbill coming to drink, often within easy photographic range. It is also worth heading south to Nsumo Pan, where hippos grunt in shallows, enclosed by a margin of tall yellow fever trees. Birdlife here includes African fish eagle, osprey, great white egret, goliath heron, African jacana, both types of pelican and several species of kingfisher. Further south still, I recently did the legendary guided Fig Forest Walk, which runs through a lush patch of groundwater forest dominated by gorgeous old sycamore figs. Forest birds likely to be seen here include Pel’s fishing owl, trumpeter hornbill, gorgeous bush-shrike, African broadbill, African paradise flycatcher and dark-backed weaver. We didn’t see any mammal larger than a baboon on the walk. However, our guide said he has previously encountered elephant, buffalo and even lion on the trail – a prospect that helps spice things up!

Hiding in uMkhuze Game Reserve
Overall rating
4/5

uMkhuze Game Reserve is well known for its fantastic hides. Kumasinga is particularly well designed for photography and therefore my favorite. The water surrounds the stilted structure and in the dry winter months you can expect a constant stream of animals coming to drink (afternoons are best). I tend to settle in for the day, but there is usually enough action to keep most people entertained for at least a couple of hours to break up a game drive. Nyalas, impalas and warthogs are almost a constant presence. Rhinos often come alone or in small groups and a herd of elephants can take over the whole waterhole. Often there is a variety of animals at the waterhole at the same time. Some animals, like zebras and wildebeests, wade into the water and come really close to the hide so you could almost touch them. If you’re really lucky and you keep quiet, you might also see wild dogs or even a leopards. The thick vegetation makes game drives a bit of a challenge. But the reserve is home to all of the Big Five and lots more, so you never know what you’ll find around the corner. I also really enjoyed the guided walk in the fig tree forest. This is the place to look for some good Zululand birding specials and I ticked off a few. Most of all I was just overwhelmed by the magnificent ancient fig trees easily appreciated from the raised wooden platforms in the canopy.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.4/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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