2. Northern KZN. Umlalazi Nature Reserve, Cape Vidal and Bonamanzi Game Reserve. May 2021.
For a trip in May we decided to keep to the KZN coastal area as winter temperatures here are great for camping with daytime tempertures in the high 20s and warm night.
We spent a couple of days at one of our favourite places, Umlalazi Nature Reserve before heading north to Cape Vidal which is in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
From Cape VIdal we drove back to St Lucia and did some shopping. We then intended to drive through the Western section of the iSimangaliso Park but were not allowed to with our van so had to drive back to the N2 and then head north to Bonamanzi Game Ranch which is about 20km south og Hluhluwe.
We discovered that a SanParks Wild Card does not give you free entry to iSimangaliso so you have to pay a daily permit charge or buy a KZN Wildlife Rhino Card. THis seemed strnge to us as the Wild Card allows you free entry to all the other KZN Wildlife Parks!
There are 2 campsites at Umlalazi. In the past we've always stayed at the large nkwazi site but this time we stayed at the smaller Indaba site which has about a dozen sites set amongst the coastal forest.
We chose a site that got a bit of sunshine during the day.
A red duiker at the campsite.
We were pleased to find that the mangrove path has been repaired with a new boardwalk and bridge so you can walk through the mangrove forest to the picnic area. On our first evening the tide was in and the water was close to the boardwalk and after a few hundred metres became too muddy for us but the next day we did walk all the way to the picnic area and back.
The new boardwalk.
The bridge over an inlet has been repaired.
The view from the bridge.
We had a walk along the beach - nice and calm.
A malachite kingfisher in the reedbeds.
Considering it was midweek and during the school term we were surprised to find that the Cape Vidal campsite only had a few free sites - and the available sites that we were told to look at by reception were not the same as the ones given to us by the staff at the campsite entrance! However we eventually found one we could stay at for 3 nights.
We found a nice large sunny site.
Bushbuck were common around the site.
We spent a morning driving around the eastern part of the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park. After good rain earlier in the year there was plenty of water and Lake St Lucia was still full and, for the first time in many years, the St Lucia River estuary had reached the sea.
Lake St Lucia.
We met Graham and Kate, who we know from Richmond, at Cape Vidal - they also have a bush lapa caravan. They both love fishing and spent most days on the beach. They told us that they ususally walked along the beach to the lighthouse area to fish, about 3km, so one day we wandered down the beach and met them. We had hoped to be able to walk up to the liighthouse but couldn't find a path.
From the campsite it's a short walk over the dunes to the beach.
Still OK to paddle at this time of year.
A nearly empty beach with the lighthouse on the dunes.
At Bonamanzi we chose to stay at one of the sites with private ablutions - there are 4 sites around a central block. Each site has a private shower, toilet and kitchen area. We were told that we could drive around the Reserve but I was surprised to find that Tracks4Africa didn't show any of the tracks. As the map we were given wasn't very good we decided to do a game drive - I took our GPS so that it would record the tracks we used and was then able to navigate around the reserve.
A young male nyala at the campsite.
One evening we saw a gennet at our site. According to my mammal book the easiest way to distinguish between a large-spotted gennet and a small-spotted gennet is that the former has a black tip to its tail and the later has a white tip, so I identified this one as a large-spotted gennet as it definately had a black tip to its tail.
Bonamanzi is a large Reserve at 4000 hectares and has 4 of the big five (no lion) - we just saw buffalo. We enjoyed driving around the reserve.
Last updated: October 2021