Thursday, October 20, 2011

Leopard Mountain Game Lodge

The Zululand Rhino Reserve is transforming rapidly into a super Big Five wildlife destination. It is almost five years since I last visited Leopard Mountain Game Lodge and since then black rhino, elephant and lion have been reintroduced with regular sightings of most of these sought after species being enjoyed by guests.

Leopard Mountain Game Lodge has a commanding position with magnificent views overlooking the reserve and the Umsunduzi River below. Lana and I arrived, to be ushered to our very comfortable, large stone under thatch Chalet. Relaxing on the deck, Lana lazing in the hammock, we gazed out into the bushveld. The immediate vegetation was alive with birdlife and even Nelson a resident Nyala came past, briefly acknowledging our presence as he foraged close to our chalet whilst a large elephant bull wandered along the dry river-bed below – this is the life!

We had some really excellent sightings on the guided game drives. Close encounter with a herd of some 80+ buffalo, then a magnificent bull elephant, a black and a number of white rhino, hippo, giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope. The guided game drives are offered early mornings and again late afternoons into the evening and such is the density of wildlife here that a large variety of game is seen on each drive. We had such a lovely view of a gathering of some seven or eight Thick-tailed Galago (Greater Bush Babies) in the riparian forest on one of the evening drives. After breakfast one may opt to be taken to the hide for an hour or so. Highly recommended!

We had a ‘stream’ of animals coming to the waters to drink. At one time I counted 27 warthog of various sizes in the proximity.

Lana and I chose to take the optional early morning walk that Leopard Mountain Lodge offers guests. Rifle in hand, our Ranger showed us so much in the three hours - we followed tracks, calls and his intuition. Good to really be back in the bush and to enjoy some of the different aspects one can only engage when on foot..

Leopard Mountain has a really lovely luncheon offering. From a basic menu one chooses what is to be in the basket and where you would like to enjoy your pic-nic. This pic-nic basket is brought to you – we chose our deck, others opted for the pool, what a novel idea!

The lion have only recently been released into the reserve, the leopard are becoming more relaxed near vehicles, as too the elephant herds and the black rhino, although still pretty skittish have also settled into their new haven. What a transformation in my opinion since my last visit, to what is now a really good wildlife viewing experience and it can only get better. As the fences come down, and as the farmers see the viability of ecotourism vs cattle ranching / hunting, and neighboring independent game parks unite into one, so this area will transform into one of the finest game-viewing areas in our country. Already two Lodges in the vicinity, Phinda and Thanda Private Game Reserves are World renowned. Exciting! Only 3 hours from Durban to one of the best big game experiences out and well priced too.