Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Zebra Hills Safari Lodge - Manyoni Private Game Reserve - Zululand


Manyoni Game Reserve – Zebra Hills Safari Lodge

There is really only one way that one may be assured of seeing a good selection of the high profile animals in the wild – now isn’t that what everyone really wants? This may only be achieved, when time is limited, by visiting a reasonably sized Private Game Reserve that has the Big 5, Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo and the elusive Leopard. Some have Cheetah and Wild Dog too. There are a few of these Game Reserves in the Zululand area, all offering slightly different accommodation and wildlife viewing experiences of the ‘Flagship species’.

There is a Private Game Reserve in Zululand that offers amongst the finest of general game viewing in Zululand, with reasonable rates for the accommodation and services. This is the Manyoni Private Game Reserve. This Game Park encompassing some 23,000 ha with only a few Private Lodges within its confines. All highly recommended. See www.zululandreservations.co.za

Just 3 hours from Durban just off the N2 and some 6,5 hours from Johannesburg.

Let me expound on the experiences of one of the Lodges that my wife Lana and I have recently visited. 

A rareity within these Private Game reserves is to have a Lodge where one may self-cater. Within the Manyoni Game Reserve there is a very excellent one available – presently in reduced form, as their Main Lodge was struck by lightning last year and was burnt to the ground. This is Zebra Hills Safari Lodge. Due to the on site construction of the new Lodge there is presently a 'special" running on the Homestead accommodation. Lana and I did not find the new lodge construction intrusive or disturbing at all.

Thankfully their nearby ‘Homestead’ Lodge was not affected by the lightening storm, and is fully operational, offering guests a most luxurious, well appointed, value for money, selfcatering facility. This Homestead Lodge has 3 spacious, air conditioned double rooms,

 each with bathroom en suite, 

There is a lot of attention to detail at this venue. One of the first where, without my glasses, I am able to determine which is shampoo and which body wash in the shower. Basin too.

with two of these having an adjacent room for 2 children, furnished with bunk beds.

These children’s rooms each share their main room’s bathroom. There is a fourth twin room, also with own en suite as well, so this Lodge is able to cater for a maximum of 8 adults and 4 children. 

Note however, that only a maximum of 10 people are allowed on the open game viewing vehicle.  There is a minimum charge for four adults per night at this venue, should your party consist of fewer persons.

The large air conditioned kitchen, dining and lounge area

 leads out onto a choice of seating options, with a swimming pool on the expansive deck.

The Lodge is set in a fenced area, making it relatively safe for children to play within these bounds. In this fenced area are some Nyala that prefer the safety of this area and have become particularly tame.

From here there are open views into the bush with a strategically placed water hole, where a parade of animals visit during the day. Appropriately placed swing chairs for guest's enjoyment of this spectacle.

This Lodge is well appointed, with all necessary cooking and dining appliances, utensils, cutlery and crockery, with barbecue / braai options to suite.  There is good WiFi too.

A very competent cook is available to assist with the meals. She turned our meagre offerings into a gourmet treat. There are staff to service the accommodation, cleaning and the providing of the Boma fire too in the evening.

Now where this Lodge differs from the normal self-catering venues, is that guided game drives are included, late afternoons into the evenings and early mornings. One may not drive oneself within the game reserve except for access to the lodge. I have been visiting game reserves and various Lodges for many years, but I find that I enjoy and learn so much from these enthusiastic Wildlife Specialist Guides employed by the private Lodges. The owners of Zebra Hills Safai Lodge have selected and work with truly excellent staff. Our guide was a most proficient birder and what with this game reserve being a birder's Mecca with some 434 species for an enthusiast to try and find, he was after anything new for me, as well as giving us time to just enjoy the birdlife.

On arrival, we were welcomed by the staff who quickly took our supplies and luggage to the kitchen and luxurious bedroom. What joy walking in through the sliding door from the stifling bushveld heat, to the air conditioned comfort of out suite. Such a necessary luxury in mid-summer in Zululand. The Lodge has adequate backup power generation.

Being a sole use venue, one is able to adjust meal and drive times (to a point) to suite one's selves. We opted to take our expert guide’s advice re early morning departures, to make the most of the best times of day for possible sightings and the light, for photographic advantage.

A major reason for the success one has with regards to the excellent sightings here, is that all the Game Reserve Lodges within the reserve, are in communication with one another, to advise on the whereabouts a particular sought after sighting that one guide has located, may be found. This is done very professionally, and in this game reserve, without a large queue of vehicles all rushing to see that special animal. This assistance and co-operation is vital, to maximise on the best viewing possibilities, particularly if one’s visit is of short duration. This, a major advantage, denied guests in the Provincial and National Parks. Limited off-road access to view high profile animals at close proximity, is also permitted in this game reserve. Guests are thus able to really view most of the Flagship wildlife in close proximity. This following three images taken on Lana's Mobile phone.

And this taken with a camera

Part of the Pride

One does not have to go off road and only when absolutely necessary.

General game so abundant and easily viewed.

Provided one remains within the profile of the game viewer, the animals are not fazed and seemingly ignore the presence of the vehicle. From experience, this is very different when one is on foot in the bushveld. The animals are seemingly comfortable and habituated to the close proximity of the vehicles, but quite the contrary with people walking.

The Rangers normally enquire of the guests whether there are any special request with regards possible sightings, be it the fauna, flora , avifauna or even the more unusual things. Most Rangers here are very competent, with a broad spectrum of knowledge. This adds so much value to the experience. Our guide at Zebra Hills Safari Lodge was most informative and enthusiastic, with ‘bush eyes’ second to none, finding photographic opportunities for Lana and I of our favourite animals and bird species.

A Tawny Eagle

Red-backed shrike

Black-crowned Tchagra

Our favourite LBR - aka Lilac-breasted Roller

A strikingly coloured Tawny Eagle

A Water Thick-knee

A White-backed Vulture

We are quite avid bird enthusiasts, with this reserve offering a plethora of species. When it comes to species diversity, it is difficult to beat Zululand and in particular this Manyoni Game Reserve. The density of the wildlife is to be admired - with the Park Management optimising on the environment and taking excellent management protocols.

This game reserve has really abundant general game which includes giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, warthog, impala, nyala and kudu. There are chacma baboons, Vervet monkeys and in the evening drives one may get to see genet and bushbabies along with a variety of owls and nightjars. The dams host hippo, crocodile, terrapin, frogs and fish. Then there are the reptiles too.

Of the Big 5, leopard are very elusive and rarely seen here, although fairly abundant. There are some slightly unusual seldom seen animals in the reserve too, Brown and Spotted Hyena, Aardvark and other even more rare and threatened species.

This is a special place in the bush, made to suite those that prefer to cater for themselves, but with a degree of luxury, a hightened chance of seeing a wide diversity of the more special animals, with the support of enthusiastic staff to help make the most of the experience.

All photographs taken on the Manyoni Game Reserve whilst visiting Zebra Hills Safari Lodge by Jeremy and Lana Williamson

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