Remotely located in Maputaland, the north-eastern province of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, contiguous to the Mozambique border, Tembe Elephant Park is one of the largest and most popular national elephant reserves in South Africa. The park was established in 1983 to guard the last remaining herds of free-ranging elephants in South Africa which used to migrate between Maputaland and southern Mozambique. These elephants were traumatized by poaching during the civil war in Mozambique so the park was only opened to the public in 1991.

Tembe Safaris Elephants

Tembe Safaris Elephants

Spanning over an area of 300 sq km, Tembe Elephant Park is noted for its profusion of wildlife including the Big Five (250 elephants, 65 rhinos, buffalos, leopard, serval, hippo, and antelope species); diverse topography plus a rich flora. The Park is an ideal spot for wildlife expedition, nature safari, and adventure tourism. It attracts a large number of tourists and wildlife enthusiasts through out the entire world with its significant elephant population

Vegetation

Because of its differing terrains, Tembe Park supports a diverse mix of tropical and sub-tropical vegetation as it falls in a transitional area. Vegetation ranges from a dense sand forest, woodlands, grasslands, and swamplands, all of which combine to provide an ideal habitat that enables game-drive vehicles with perfect visibility to spot the elephants as well as the other animals, bird and insect species sheltered here.

Wildlife

Elephants, rhinos, buffalos are the main wildlife attraction of the Park. Hippos, wildebeests, elands, zebras, giraffes, jackals, hyenas, waterbucks, reedbucks, nyalas, servals, kudus, warthogs, red duikers and other small mammals also thrive in abundance. Safari visitors to the Park cannot miss a glimpse of the rare and elusive Suni antelope, one of the smallest and shyest species of buck in southern Africa. Other endemic groups include 14 mammals, 23 reptiles, 3 frog species and 8 water fishes.

Elephant Moving in The Park

Birdlife

Tembe Park is another highlight amongst birding enthusiasts in South Africa. Its assorted scrub, thornveld and sand forest offers perfect shelters a rich abundance of unique bird species. Over 340 bird varieties, many of which are endemic to South Africa or tropical zones have been recorded here including the rare Plain-backed Sunbird, Natal Nightjar, African Broadbill, also rare Rudd’s Apalis, Rufous-bellied Heron, and Woodward’s batis. Other common sightings are Woolly-necked Stork, Little Bittern, Sharp-billed Honeyguide, Hamerkop, Saddlebilled Stork, White Stork, Woodpecker, Bearded Woodpecker, African Broadbill, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Stork, etc.

Getting There

From Durban, take the N2 north towards Mkuze, about 350km away. Continue north on the N2, and join Jozini road after about 14km, and drive another 20km to Jozini. You will come across the dam wall but drive on for a further 72km – until you see the signpost of the Park entrance from where you’ll be picked up by a safari guide in a 4WD upon clearing the entrance fee.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit is from April to September. This is when the weather relatively very pleasant. Game safaris are best during the hot midday times as the elephants congregate around the waterholes.

Activities

There are two prominent ways exploring the Tembe Elephant Park. The most preferred way to enjoy the jungle beauty and wildlife attractions of Tembe is;

  • Guided Game Drives; Daytime and evening game drives are conducted by an experienced guide and are included at no extra cost. Elephant safaris are another option although not so popular.
  • Bird watching – Tembe offers excellent birding opportunities particularly at Ndumo Game Reserve
  • Snorkeling & Scuba diving for instance nearby Tongoland reefs.
  • Turtle watching along the coast from Kosi to Ponte de Oro.
  • Guided boat Excursions across the Kosi Lake system

Tembe Safari Accommodation

Tembe Safari Accommodation

Tembe Safari Accommodation

Tembe Safari Camp

Tembe safari camp is nestled in the tangled forests of the Park, on the border with Mozambique, and astride ancient elephant migration routes. It comprises six luxury en-suite and four semi-luxury safari tents that blend unobtrusively with their natural surrounds and are tucked away in secluded areas around the camp. The tents are furnished and built on wooden platforms; each has both a queen size and a single bed.

The Camp is privately managed and offers guided safaris in luxury open safari vehicles. There is an open-air braai area that lends itself to a rustic setting where guests can enjoy campfire meals under bright stars. It also has a Matriarch Suite, elevated on a wooden platform for special safari holidays.

Madikwe Game Reserve is situated on what used to be farmland against the border with Botswana about 90 km north of Zeerust in the North West Province of South Africa. Commissioned in August 1991, Madikwe Game Reserve is the fourth largest game reserve in South Africa and comprises 750 sq km (including the now incorporated privately owned land) of bushland north of the small town Groot-Marico up to the Botswana border. Madikwe has of late gained fame as one of South Africa’s prime safari destinations with ease of 5 game viewing.

Wild Dogs at Madikwe Game Reserve

Wild Dogs at Madikwe Game Reserve

Madikwe Game Reserve is divided into two main areas. The climate of the area is generally mild to hot, but winter nights can be cold. The unique attribute of Madikwe lies in its distinctive location, a transition zone on the edges of the Kalahari, where a number of rare species occur naturally.

Vegetation

The terrain is predominantly of vast plains of open woodlands and grasslands, interspersed with rocky outcrops and single mountains. The area is dotted with huge rocky hills or inselbergs.

Wild Life

What initially used to be farmland is now restored to its former natural environment and over 8,000 animals and 27 wildlife species were moved to Madikwe Game Reserve as part of a huge translocation of the game known as Operation Phoenix. The Reserve is home for cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas, lion, elephant, black and white rhino, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, herbivores and a number of antelope species. This is also the only place in Africa where Springbok and Kalahari Gemsbok meet naturally.

Birdlife

Over 350 species of birds both resident and migrant have been recorded at Madikwe including raptors. It is a great destination for bird watchers. Some of the most common varieties spotted here include Ostrich, Secretarybird, Cape Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Martial Eagle, African Finfoot, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Carmine Bee-eater, Groundscraper Thrush, Marico Flycatcher and Violet-eared Waxbill.

Getting There

The reserve is conveniently situated 4-5 hrs drive away from Johannesburg. It is a straightforward self-drive route. In a situation that you are going towards the lodges about the western border, the street is beneficial tarred road all the way. It is the very same street that is utilized to drive to Gabarone, Botswana, so it is well maintained and utilized. In case you are visiting the camps around the eastern border of the reserve, the street is very good tarred street all the way, except for your final 20km. From right here, it is a superb grit road that is nicely utilized by the local communities.

Madikwe Game Drive

Madikwe Game Drive

It is probable to also commute across the reserve your self if you’re visiting the western and eastern camps. It is about a one hour drive from the western camps towards the eastern camps and it offers excellent game viewing en route.

Reserve Activities

  • Guided Game Drives: There are day and night game drives within the Reserve. A two and half hours guided game drive enables a closer look at the amazing wildlife of the area.
  • Self-drive Safaris: self-drive safaris in Madikwe are arguably the most impressive activity here. They allow for complete freedom to explore the area at your own leisurely pace. Several Madikwe safari lodges offer options of self-drive safaris for guests. There are several routes to take running from short-break to 5-day Long Routes.
  • Birding: Aside from just hearing the tweeting and chirping sounds of the reserve birds, birding trails create closer proximity to the several bird species in the area.
  • Bush Walks: Mosethla Bush Camp, Madikwe Safari Lodge, Thakadu River Camp and Mosethla Bush Camp are the best venues with interactive bush walks in the reserve. Guests are taken on conducted day and night bush walks.

Where To Stay

Remarkable accommodation is available at different private lodges in the reserve. There are 30 lodges on the property, and six lodges in the private farms outside the main reserve. Most of the available accommodation options are community managed and owned.