uMkhuze Game Reserve(iSimangaliso WP) Safari Guide

safarigo   South Africa  

uMkhuze is one of South Africa’s little gems. It is seldom visited by overseas visitors, but popular with local birders and photographers. Several photographic shelters give close-up viewing opportunities of a wide variety of animals coming to drink in the dry winter months. Although not a typical Big Five reserve, all of these sought-after animals are present.

Pros & Cons

Good wildlife viewing
Three excellent wildlife shelters
Renowned birding destination
Good facilities and roads catering to self-drive visitors
Reasonably priced rest camp
The wildlife shelters get very busy during school holidays
Big cat sightings are rare

Wildlife & Animals

It is the wildlife shelters that make uMkhuze special. The waterholes facing these shelters attract many animals, and often a variety of species at the same time. In the dry winter months, there is a constant stream of white rhino, zebra, wildebeest and nyala, while your patience may be rewarded when a herd of elephant, a pack of wild dogs or a secretive leopard come to quench their thirst..

Wildlife Highlights

The reserve is particularly rewarding to observe animal behavior as different species congregate around the waterhole. The slow but deliberate display of dominance by male nyala opponents is fascinating to watch and there’s never a dull moment when a troop of squabbling baboons enters the scene. Rhino can sometimes be seen scratching against a tree stump to rid themselves of parasites.


uMkhuze is the richest birding area for its size in the whole of South Africa. It has more than 420 species recorded, including several tropical species at the southern limit of their distribution. Guided bird walks are offered twice daily and can be booked at the main camp. Some of the sought-after specials include Pink-throated twinspot, Pel’s fishing-owl and Neergaard’s sunbird. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Best Time to Visit

The drier months of May to September makes for better wildlife viewing in uMkhuze. At this time, the wildlife shelters overlooking the waterholes are a great place from which to observe the constant stream of animals coming to drink. Game drives also tend to be more productive, since the bush has thinned and animals are easier to spot.

May to September – Dry Season

The vegetation recedes and animals gather at the waterholes
Almost no chance of rain and skies are clear and blue
Warm clothing is essential for early morning and evening games drives
The bush is dry

October to April – Wet Season

Lovely scenery and bountiful landscapes
You may spot newborn animals
Migratory birds have arrived
Wildlife viewing is not as good as during the Dry season
It is hot and humidity is high

Weather & Climate

Summer and winter are experienced at opposite times to those seasons in Europe and North America. Since the area experiences rainfall during the summer (October to April), this is considered the Wet season. Winter (the Dry season) is pleasantly warm and occurs from May to September. uMkhuze has a sub-tropical climate, making the summers hot and humid.

Dry Season – May to September – Winter

Wintertime sees almost no rain, although an occasional shower could occur due to the coastal proximity of the park. The temperatures are less oppressive than in the summer and skies are generally clear and bright.

May – The rain and humidity lessens while average temperatures drop to 14°C/57°F in the morning and 26°C/79°F in the afternoon.
June, July & August – Cold mornings follow nighttime temperatures of around 11°C/52°F. This makes warm clothing a necessity. Afternoons are pleasant, with temperatures of around 25°C/77°F.
September – The rain comes with the beginning of spring and frequently in the form of thundershowers. Temperatures rise gradually to an average of 27°C/81°F. Mornings are warmer, with temperatures hovering around 15°C/59°F.

Wet Season – October to April – Summer

The heat is intense during the summer and humidity is substantial. Rain is frequent, but mostly in the afternoons. Heavy thunderstorms occur with regularity.

October & November – It rains during most afternoons and sometimes it rains all day. Temperatures are between 18°C/64°F in the morning and 28°C/82°F in the afternoon.
December, January & February – The heat and humidity is intense. Afternoon storms happen almost daily. Although it can get much hotter, average daily temperatures are around 31°C/88°F. The most temperate time of the day is early morning, with averages of around 20°C/68°F.
March & April – Average daily temperatures become more tolerable at 29°C/84°F. It rains less frequently, and the humidity decreases. Mornings are fair at 18°C/64°F.

Getting There

uMkhuze is a self-drive destination located about 320km/200mi north of Durban. The roads to the reserve are tarred except for the last 25km/15mi.

O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg or Cape Town International Airport (CPT) in Cape Town are the entry points to South Africa for most travelers. Flying into King Shaka International Airport (DUR) in Durban and renting a car there is another option.