Big five close to home in KZN

2012-10-06 00:00

THE Nambiti Private Game Reserve is a hidden gem — a big five reserve within a couple of hours of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

Situated just 23 km from Ladysmith on the D45, the reserve was formed in 1999 when Rob le Sueur and Gordon Howard bought a number of cattle farms in the Elandslaagte district, took down the barbed wire internal fences, put up game fences and eradicated invasive alien species. The result is a reserve that covers 11 000 hectares (22 000 acres) of savannah, bushveld and riverine forest.

Elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion, as well as a wealth of other mammals and more than 280 bird species share the various habitats, while hippo wallow in the numerous dams and the Sundays River, which runs through the reserve.

Visitors can stay in one of 10 lodges, including Woodlands, a restored farmhouse built of blue stone, which sits alongside a 110-year-old fig tree and has five large en-suite double rooms and one family room, all decorated in either a battlefield or big five wildlife theme.

The lodge’s homely feel harks back to the colonial days of KwaZulu-Natal, a feeling enhanced by the fact that high tea is served on the lawn at 2.30 pm.

Dinner is served either in the dining room or outside under the stars. During our visit we heard elephants trumpeting and crashing through the thornveld scrub as we tucked into our supper.

Each of the lodges has its own ranger and game drive vehicle, which is used to take guests around the reserve in the early morning and late afternoon. During our game drive we saw white rhino, buffalo, kudu, eland, impala, wildebeest, duiker, steenbok, zebra, warthog, ostrich, the reserve’s three male lions and a lioness and her sub-adult cubs embarking on a hunt.

Other treats included seeing a tiny plover chick hiding in the grass while its parents tried to lure our vehicle away, seeing a nightjar and a spotted eagle owl and enjoying drinks at sundown next to a waterhole.

Internet access and cellphone reception is patchy at Nambiti, but if you come to a place like this and you want to surf the web or tweet, you need your head examined. Switch off your phone and escape the rat race instead.

For more information about Woodlands Lodge, phone Elizke Gouws at 083 377 9340 or send an e-mail to

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