The Zululand Rhino Reserve has had a name change – it is now known as The Manyoni Private Game Reserve. Why you might ask? Well it means "the place of birds” in isiZulu and it certainly has a wide diversity of our avifauna in its range of habitats within the 23,000 ha of Big 5 Game Reserve.
A must visit destination for any avid birder and wildlife enthusiast. It joins other prestigious reserves in Zululand and is able to boast that it hosts the "Magnificent Seven". This being cheetah and African wild dog in addition to the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino of the Big 5. Then there is an interesting range of plains game with some rather special secretive species too, for example Brown Hyena, extremely rarely seen here have been caught on camera traps and a Pangolin and Aardvark have been seen as well. Incredibly rare sightings though.
In this wonderful bushveld, comprising acacia thornveld, open savannah and riparian forests, nestled on the bank of the Msunduze River is the Rhino River Lodge, hidden amongst the large riverine trees such as massive Sycamore Fig and Fever trees, along with a variety of other Acacia and large specimens of a variety of Zululand's flora including numerous Marula and Weeping Boer Bean trees,
and yes, these inundated with the incredible birdlife of the area, along with numerous resident antelope taking advantage of the lush vegetation and quasi protection afforded by the human activity.
Rhino River Lodge has a variety of well appointed air-conditioned units, from brick under thatch double chalets,
With private bathrooms en suite
to timber framed family units.
Then included in the options, the owners now offer their 'homestead'
and 'cottage' to be utilised by guests.
These units are slightly set away from the main Lodge accommodation, offering a degree of privacy and these two bedroomed units are ideal for families or friends.
The central main Lodge area has indoor and open deck dining with a bar
as well as a nearby boma area where a fire greets guests in the evening on return from their guided game drive. Dependent on the weather so this is where many an evening's meal is enjoyed around the flames.
Adjacent to this is a comfortable lounge where a fire warms the cold winter days and one is able to read books, update on social media with the Lodge WiFi or enjoy a drink, the view and the sounds of the bush, seated on the comfortable armchairs and couches.
Then for the warmer days a large central swimming pool with loungers for the chalet guests with the Cottage and Homestead each having their own private pool on their decks.
Each morning, as the sun is about to rise so guests gather for teas, coffee with something to nibble on and then away into the bush for an approximate 3 hour guided game drive with a ranger that will add value to the drive with information on the sightings. They seem to have 'bush eyes' and are adept at spotting the elusive animals. I always learn something on these drives from these dedicated guys and gals. Then its back for a hearty breakfast.
A visit to such a Lodge venue is a mix of early rising followed by a daytime period where one can really feel one is on holiday. Relaxing and being spoiled at the Lodge. One seems to spend an awful amount of time dining and enjoying refreshments at the Lodge. May I add that the excellent chef and kitchen staff were up to the task of offering guests with special dietary requirements, alternatives to the proposed menu.
Until, its out again in the afternoon for some more game viewing. Here at the Manyoni Game Reserve this can be rather exciting, what with possible 'special' sightings of exotic infrequently encountered wildlife. I have a special penchant for seeing cheetah and wild dog, I guess because these are so rarely seen in South African or for that matter, any game reserves. We saw both these on two occasions.Then sundowners with one's favourite drink,
As the darkness engulfs the topography our Ranger uses a spot light, flashing left and right to catch the return glow of eyes in the bush. The nocturnal animals are embracing the 'safety' of the darkness and leave their secret places of daytime repose to start foraging. The night hunters stretch and yawn and begin to prowl and so the cycle of life is manifest. From those diurnal, to the crepuscularly active to the nocturnal, and then there are those that adapt to any and all of these conditions to ensure their survival. Each with their special niche, making the choice of early morning and afternoon into the evening guided game drives the wisest option in order to maximise on the potential to view the best and widest diversity of species, and here at the Manyoni Game Reserve's Rhino River Lodge, we did.
This cheetah, one of 4 cubs on a kill was found in that darkening evening light. The female resting after the chase, letting her young feed.
The evenings are generally a difficult time to photograph animals when the light fades – so rather enjoy the sighting when the poor light poses challenges as we experienced with this cheetah mum on a kill of an impala ram with her 4, almost 2 month old, furry cubs. Special!
Access to Rhino River Lodge is off the N2 in Zululand and one is able to drive through to the camp in the Manyoni Game Reserve on the good dirt roads. Check in at reception and then one's vehicle is parked close to the accommodation unit making it so easy to unload the luggage.
Rhino River Lodge really is excellent value for what is amongst some of the best possible game viewing to be found in Zululand. Leopard are even occasionally seen! Now that is something.
I have included some wildlife images taken on a recent visit Lana and I enjoyed to Rhino River Lodge.
One of three old male lion brothers, I am sure his expression is of disappointment, his brother was close by consorting with a female in estrus, was that a taunting roar from him rumbling over the rolling hills of Zululand?
All photographs by Jeremy and Lana Williamson