Thakazulu Nature Reserve

Thakazulu Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal

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Thakazulu Game Reserve is a hidden gem located in the north-western parts of Zululand, South Africa. Nestled in the Thaka River Valley, the reserve is surrounded by rolling grasslands, bushveld,…

Thakazulu Nature Reserve

Thakazulu Game Reserve is a hidden gem located in the north-western parts of Zululand, South Africa. Nestled in the Thaka River Valley, the reserve is surrounded by rolling grasslands, bushveld, and undulating hills. The valley, created by the Thaka River and Black Umfolozi, is known for its lush vegetation, dense thornveld, and patches of forest. This “thick valley bushveld” is a bird-watcher’s paradise, with over 250 bird species calling the reserve home.

The reserve is a private game farm that offers a unique experience for nature enthusiasts. Visitors can explore the artificial forest that has evolved where the mineral baths flow, and spot red-capped robin-chats, African pygmy kingfishers, olive bush shrikes, and terrestrial brownbuls. The camp itself is also a great spot for birding, with regular sightings of African green pigeons, golden-tailed woodpeckers, scarlet-chested sunbirds, and purple-crested turacos.

Popular attractions and Tourist Destinations at Thakazulu Game Reserve

Thakazulu Game Reserve offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy

Game viewing

The reserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, and warthog. Visitors can go on game drives to see these animals in their natural habitat.


As mentioned earlier, the reserve is a bird-watcher’s paradise, with over 250 bird species found here. Visitors can go on guided birding walks to spot some of the rarest birds in the region.


The reserve also offers hiking trails that wind through the forest and along the river. Visitors can explore the diverse flora and fauna of the area while getting a workout.


The Thaka River is home to a variety of fish, including yellowfish and tilapia. Visitors can go fishing in the river and enjoy a leisurely day by the water.

Bivane Dam

Thakazulu Game Reserve offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, one of them being visiting Bivane Dam. Bivane Dam is a popular spot for families, friends, and couples to visit, located between Pongola and Vryheid in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. The dam is built on the Bivane River and covers 700 hectares, making it a great spot for water sports.

The dam is a great spot for canoeing, boating and angling. It has been host to a number of canoeing and angling events, including the well-known Ithala Challenge Canoe Marathon. The waters are known for their being somewhat turbulent, which makes canoeing really fun and challenging. Other popular activities in the area include going on 4 x 4 trails, quad biking, mountain biking, and hiking. The area is also well-loved by bird enthusiasts, who come to spot the many different species of birds.

Visitors can also enjoy a picnic, or simply relax and enjoy the beautiful views of the dam. The dam offers a great opportunity for visitors to take a break from the nature reserve and enjoy different activities and beautiful views of the surrounding area.

Bivane Dam is a great spot to visit while in Thakazulu Game Reserve, and offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, whether it’s water sports, hiking, bird watching or simply relaxing and enjoying the views. It’s a great destination for families, friends and couples looking for a fun and relaxing day out.

Cultural tours

The Zululand region is rich in cultural heritage and visitors can go on tours to learn about the local culture and customs.

Day trips

The reserve is conveniently located near several popular tourist destinations, such as Vryheid, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, and St Lucia Estuary. Visitors can take day trips to explore these areas and see the region’s diverse landscapes.

The Rainbow Route

Thakazulu Game Reserve offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, one of them being visiting the Rainbow Route. The Rainbow Route links the provinces of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal starting at Carolina. It passes through the towns of Kriel, Bethal, Ermelo, Chrissiesmeer, Amsterdam, Piet Retief before crossing the border to Paulpietersburg, Vryheid, Melmoth, Ulundi, Eshowe and Mtunzini.

Visitors can combine gorgeous scenery, the history of both the Voortrekker and the Zulu nation, and discover undiscovered towns all on the same route. The farming community of Bethal is in the heart of potato and coal country. Visitors can visit the Bethal Museum in the old magistrate’s office, memorial square, and Bethal Dam. Close to Ermelo, visitors can visit a settlement of stone huts near Tafelkop built by the Leghoya Tloka tribe and San paintings on Welgelegen farm.

Chrissiesmeer is beautiful, lying at the heart of the Mpumalanga highlands, it is awash with lakes, pans, wetlands and grasslands with a rich Anglo-Boer War history. Amsterdam has numerous hiking trails and no fewer than three dams, this area was once known as New Scotland. Piet Retief is a quaint town high in the mistbelt on the escarpment and surrounded by forests, worth a weekend visit and often used by local road-trippers as an overnight stop.

Over the KwaZulu-Natal border, the route continues as it has from Amsterdam in a straight line, hugging the eastern edge of the famous Battlefields Route. The route, aside from its scenic beauty, introduces a series of little, largely undiscovered, towns each of which offers something of historical, scenic or cultural value to the visitor. Visitors can find a brochure and map at tourist information centers in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The route in its entirety takes over 8 hours, so it’s best to break up the journey.

4×4 Trails

Thakazulu Game Reserve offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, one of them being visiting the Thangami 4×4 Trail. The Thangami Game Reserve is idyllically set within the exquisite Umfolozi Valley, in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and is less than 75 kilometers from Vryheid. The reserve is home to four 4×4 trails, each of which offers visitors something unique, picturesque, and special.

These trails are all interlinked, as they criss-cross around the game reserve, and have varied terrains, including river crossings, unstable rock, logs, steep inclines and declines, loose sand, and challenging mud. This makes for challenging, fun rides that offer visitors a wide spectrum of experiences. The shortest trail is eight kilometers long and takes about two hours to complete, and the longest is 20 kilometers long and takes about four hours to complete.

On these trails, drivers are advised to keep their eyes open to appreciate the untouched splendor of the plant and animal life that is found so abundantly in the Thangami Game Reserve. The trails are self-drive, meaning that an experienced guide is not necessary and are open and suitable all year round. The trails can be paired with beautiful game drives and the excellent facilities in the reserve.

The Thangami 4×4 trails are a great way to experience the natural beauty of the reserve and the surrounding area. Visitors can enjoy the thrill of off-road driving while also taking in the sights and sounds of the wild.

Ntendeka Wilderness Area

Thakazulu Game Reserve offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, one of them being visiting the Ntendeka Wilderness Area. South Africa’s smallest and arguably most beautiful wilderness area is Ntendeka, consisting of 5,250 ha of undulating grasslands, verdant forests, and dramatic cliffs with breathtaking waterfalls. Rivers and streams have formed deep valleys, and the varied topography has resulted in great variations of temperature, rainfall, and vegetation in this relatively small area.

Lying within the Ngome State Forest, Ntendeka remains relatively isolated. Because it is small, it is one of Southern Africa’s more accessible wilderness areas and can easily be explored on foot from one end to another. Over 45 km of footpaths exist, most passing deep beneath the forest canopy on a carpet of leaves. East of the Ntendeka Cliff is an exquisite waterfall. There are numerous other beautiful cascades, streams, and fresh, clear pools, many of them bounded by smooth boulders, softened by moss, and framed with foliage.

Despite the ravages of 20 years of uncontrolled logging, the area has been protected since 1905 and remains a majestic, lush forest with a rare combination of both coastal and inland tropical forest that is not found in any other conservation area in KwaZulu-Natal. The vegetation is thick and richly textured, from delicate, lacy fern fronds to the giant-leafed Streptocarpus. More than 180 species of trees and shrubs have been recorded here, and rare species include the bastard stinkwood, the Natal hard pear, green witch hazel, and the terblanz beech which is also found in Tanzania and Madagascar.

Birdlife is prolific in the Ntendeka Wilderness Area with nearly 200 species having been recorded, including some endangered birds such as the white stork, martial eagle, house martin, and blue swallow. Visitors might also see the bald ibis, secretary bird, purple-crested Loerie, crowned eagle, and trumpeter hornbill. A variety of animals live unobtrusively in the wilderness area, including baboon, Samango monkey, Vervet monkey, grey, blue, and red duiker.

Thakazulu Game Reserve offers a variety of activities that cater to different interests, whether it’s wildlife viewing, bird watching, hiking, fishing or cultural tours. It’s a great destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

For those looking to slow down and appreciate the beauty of their surroundings, there is a pretty pathway that winds through the forest and onto the floodplain, where the air is filled with the sounds of different bird calls. Eagles can also be spotted if you take the time to wait and watch. With such a diverse range of birds and a serene environment, Thakazulu Game Reserve is the perfect destination for bird-watching and nature-lovers.


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