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Mkuze a place of beauty and great contrasts

Mkuze is a small Elephant Coast trade and transport centre. It is also the name of one of the Elephant Coast waterways that meanders across the southern expanse of Maputaland, eventually feeding into the St Lucia wetlands. The Mkuze game reserve has an astonishing diversity of natural habitats, from the eastern slopes of the Lebombo mountains along its eastern boundary, to broad stretches of acacia savannah, swamps and a variety of woodlands and riverine forest. A rare type of sand forest also occurs in the reserve.

From the village of Mkuze, it's possible to ponder the mystery and legend surrounding the jagged heights of Ghost Mountain. With its dramatic silloette its not diificult to understand why the mountain is said to be haunted.

Mkuze is a place of beauty and great contrasts. Mkuze Game Reserve is renowned as a mecca for bird lovers with more than 420 bird species on record. The Mkuze River curves along the Mkuze Game Reserve's northern and eastern borders with a fine stretch of fig forest along its banks. Fish eagles swoop over the pans, snatching prey spotted from their perches in the fever trees.

The small village of Mkuze is situated on the banks of the Mkuze River, close to the mythical Ghost Mountain, which served as the burial grounds for the Gaza people who once lived in the area. Guardians, whose offspring still watch over the mountain, were appointed to protect the graves against robbers. Ghost Mountain has a reputation for strange and unnatural occurrences ranging from ghostly lights and fires to weird noises.


How to get there - Durban 337 km, Empangeni 156 km, Pongola 70 km


Mkuzi Game Reserve

Mkuzi Game Reserve is one of those special destinations which captures the imagination and takes a strong hold of your affections. This 40 000 ha reserve on the Maputaland coastal plain is an ever changing wonder world to which nature lovers return year after year. A proclaimed protected area since 1912, Mkuzi Game Reserve constitutes the northwestern spur of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park. The reserve lies 335 km north of Durban, and access from the N2 is along 16 km of gravel road which passes through a gap in the Lebombo Mountains. A place of great beauty and high contrasts, Mkuzi is world renowned as a mecca for bird lovers (more than 600 species have been recorded here). Predominantly flat and dry, with sandy red ridges which are ancient dunes, it harbours an astronishing diversity of natural habitats. These range from the eastern slopes of the Lebombo mountain range which lies along it’s western boundary, to broad stretches of gently rolling acacia savannah, swamps and a variety of woodlands and riverine forest. The low lying hollows adjacent to the red sand dunes contain attractive groves of scented thorn which grow in clay soils. Of note to ecologists is a substantial (and now rare) sand forest which is found in the heart of the reserve, a habitat noted for it’s dark leafed, wide spreading sherbert tree, and the red heart tree, which create a lovely sight in autumn with their pink winged seeds. Also of note are the large Lebombo wattle which also occur in the habitat. Two beautiful pans, Nhlonhlela and Nsumo (the larger), lie in the north and to the east respectively. These shallow expanses of water lined with water lilies in summer and fringed by a haze of pale green fever trees, are home to substantial communities of hippo and crocodile and attract a magnificent spectacle of aquatic birdlife. Nsumo’s two elevated bird viewing platforms provide excellent vantage points to see and photograph Pinkbacked and White Pelicans, as well as a diversity of ducks and great numbers of Spurwing Geese which gather in spring. The Msunduze River transects the southern section of the reserve to join the Mkuze River before it enters the delta area of the Mkuze swamps, which in turn merge into the distant, northeastern tip of Lake St Lucia. The Mkuze River curves along the reserve’s northern and eastern borders, giving rise to a fine stretch of fig forest which occurs along it’s banks near Nsumo Pan – the pan is fed by the river. Fish Eagles can regularly be seen swooping down from the trees at the edge of the pan, snatching prey from the water.


Tented Safari Camp and Mantuma Main Camp

Nature lovers visiting Mkuzi have a range of accommodation facilities available to them. Not least among these is the self catering Tented Safari Camp. This has six two bed and two four bed tented units. Each has private ablution facilities (including hot and cold showers) and it’s own open plan kitchen. with refrigeration and electricity available, this camp is ingeniously designed to create the illusion of being in a natural setting. It offers close by amenities such as swimming pool (an essential comfort during the hottest months of summer) and a curio shop. The shop combines with the camp office, stocking basic food supplies and liquid refreshments. It is situated in a restful picnic garden adjacent to the reserve’s main rest camp, Mantuma. This has two seven bed self catering cottages, four three bed bungalows, five five bed bungalows and six three bed rest huts. Apart from the cottages, these are all served by a central staffed kitchen where cooks prepare visitors meals.

Umkumbi Tented Bush Lodge

Umkumbi is situated south of Msunduze River, and is available from November to March. Here accommodation comprises four large furnished and fully equipped safari tents, each containing two beds. En suite showers, toilets and basins ensure visitors privacy. A thatched wood and reed lounge / dining / bar / kitchen facility opposite a natural pan makes the most of the typically African bush setting. A cook and field ranger are in attendance for the benefit of visitors.

Nhlonghlela Bush Lodge

Nhlonghlela Bush Lodge is an eight bedded camp overlooking Nhlonhlela Pan. The distinctive en suite units are of a wood and reed structure, connected by board walks which lead to a central lounge and kitchen. A field ranger is on hand to take guests on walks and the services of a cook are provided. This camp is only available for booking by a single party of guests at a time. The services of a cook / camp attendant and a field ranger are included in the tariff.



Caravan Park

Mkuzi’s caravan park is situated adjacent to the Emshopi entrance gate and takes up to sixty caravanners or campers. Two ablution blocks equipped with hot and cold running water serve the camp sites.


Tourist Roads and Hides

The reserve has 100 km of tourist roads for game drives, as well as several picnic sites and six superbly placed hides. Besides hippo and crocodile, the wealth of wildlife occurring here includes both black and white rhino, elephant, giraffe, leopard, cheetah and a multitude of plains game. Among these are prolific herds of nyala, impala, blue wildebeest and zebram as well as kudu, eland and suni. The latter rare species can be seen on the red dune terrain. A host of other species of the smaller variety includes mongoose and ever entertaining families of warthog.

Curion Shop and Swimming Pool

These are situated in Mkuzi’s Main Camp, Mantauma

Walks and Game Drives

Conducted game and bird walks can be booked at the camp office, as well as the popular game drives. These include night drives which afford interesting glimpses of the nocturnal species seldom if ever seen during the day, such as the thick tailed bushbaby, leopard, whitetailed mongoose, small spotted genet, hyena and porcupine. Noctural birds to be seen include nightjars, owls and dikkops.

Fig Forest Walk

A self guided trail through the cool, echoing glades of Mkuzi’s fig forest. Beneath a dense green canopy, supported by the giant, entwined trunks of ancient Sycamore figs, the air is alive with colourful and raucous birdlife. Trumpeter Hornbills wail like forgotten babies. Glamorous Narina Trogans and Purple crested Louries tantalize the eye with brilliant flashes of green and red. Roosting Whitebacked vultures take off in startled flight, surprised by early morning explorers. Other exciting species include the African Broadbill, Little Sparrow Hawk, Gabar Goshawk, Forest Weaver, the elusive Pel’s Fishing Owl, Brownheaded Parrots and plump Green Pigeons. As always, stealth and an alert resposiveness enhance the experience of being in the wild. Fresh signs of black rhino and hippo are frequently seen (and occasionally those of elephant), together with the spoor of red duiker, bushbuck and leopard.


For those who seek a more rugged bushveld experience, Mkuzi’s popular trails focus on encounters with the reserve’s many special attractions. Three nights are spent at the tented trails camp. Here amenities include a well equipped kitchen, a communal shower with hot and cold water on tap and a flush toilet. Full catering and equipment are provided and game walks are conducted from the camp. The hotter part of the day can be spent relaxing and watching wildlife from one of the reserve’s hides. Entertainment is often found watching the pond life, not least the behavious of terrapins as they slither in and out of the water, and clamber atop each other in their attempts to bask in the sun. also fascinating are the three frogs whose foam nests hang over the water’s edge, ready to dispense their offspring when the time is right.

Cultural Village

Situated in Mkuzi Game Reserve is a sacred burial site of chiefs of the Kwajobe clan who have lived in the region for hundreds of years. The site is only accessible to members of the clan who visit it to commune with the spirits of their ancestors. Close by, a cultural village has been established where members of the community make and sell traditional crafts. This is open to touritsts and provides an interesting insight into the traditional lifestyle of a northern Zulu clan. The reserve’s management policy promotes self development among neighbouring communities. An important part of this programme is devoted to community conservation, and a growing number of communities have begun to develop their own conservation areas adjacent to the park. This ever growing area of privately owned land promotes the conservation of wildlife in the area and enhances eco tourism.

Warning - Mkuzi is in the endemic malaria belt and precautions are advised.


Looking east from Mkuze, the two very pronounced peaks of ‘Ghost Mountain’ – part of the Ubombo range – can be seen. Over the years, there have been many claimed sightings of strange lights and flickering fires among the fissures and cliffs at the summit. Weird unexplained noises have also been heard. Considering the history associated with this mountain, it is not surprising that it is believed by many to be haunted. The Ghost Mountain was the burial place of Soshangane, the chief of a section of the Nwandwe tribe, who fled from here to Mozambique in 1819 to escape the predations of the Zulu king, Shaka. Across the border, he founded the Shangaan nation, but his body was brought back, years later, to be laid to rest in a secret cave on the slopes of the mountain. Decades later, a battle between the armies of two Zulu rivals, Prince Dinizulu, the son of the deposed King, Cetshwayo, and his Ushuthu warriors, and Zibhebhu, head of the Mandlakazi, a powerful tribe within the Zulu nation, left thousands dead on a battlefield below the mountain.


Ghost Mountain Inn

Zululand’s Finest Country Inn

What Maun is to the famous Okavango Delta in Botswana, the village of Mkuze is to Maputaland. Mkuze’s premier accommodation establishment, the Ghost Mountain Inn, is where the Maputaland journey usually begins. Situated near the legendary Ghost Mountain, this privately owned three star Country Inn prides itself on personal service and being a home away from home.


How to get there

Located 450 km east of Johannesburg and 320 km north of Durban, the Inn is ideally positioned as a stopover off the N2 en route between Kruger Park, Swaziland and Durban. From Johannesburg, take the N12 in the direction of Witbank. Take the Ogies R545 to Ogies and Bethal. At Bethal join the N17 to Ermelo. From Ermelo the N2 will take you through Piet Retief and Pongola and on to Mkuze. From Durban, take the N2 northwards, bypassing Stanger, Empangeni, Mtubatuba and Hluhluwe.

The experience in a nutshell

A well run Inn, providing comfort and modern facilities in a tranquil setting. An ideal stopover or base to explore the area. Open safari vehicle day and night game drives available to Mkuzi Game Reserve and other private reserves.


33 en suite bedrooms with air conditioning and TV; fully equipped conference centre for up to 60 people, fully licensed; spacious garden with terrace and swimming pool; bird hide; excursions


The restaurant at the Inn offers a traditional table d’hote menu, as well as an a la carte menu. The emphasis is on good home cooked meals, with venison obtained from local suppliers, offered regularly. Traditional spit braais (barbeque) or potjiekos (open fire casserole) are prepared for speciality evenings, or on request. The Sunday carvery is presented buffet style on the terrace.


Guided day and night game drives; Guided bird watching; Ghost Mountain Hike; Fig Forest walk (highly recommended); Umbombo sunset drive and Zulu dancing at Nkangala; Boat cruises and canoeing on the Pongola River and Dam.

Accommodation in and around Mkuze

Bayete Zulu Game Lodge    accommodation in Mkuze
“Bayete” There is a place where special things happen. Being one of the most densely stocked reserves in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, a drive with one of our knowledgeable field drivers is guaranteed to be a... More

Abu Madi Game Ranch    accommodation in Mkuze
The privately owned reserve is a part of a great Zululand Rhino Reserve. This large, newly created area of 20 thousand hectares of pristine bush is a sanctuary for black rhino and home to most of the Big 5 in addit... More

Bayala Game Lodge    accommodation in Mkuze
Your home away from home in Northern Zululand Comfortable holiday accommodation in a private game lodge Nestled at the foot of the picturesque Ubombo Mountains lies Bayala Game Lodge. Set in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park,... More

Mkuze Nyala Lodge    accommodation in Mkuze
Mkuze Nyala Lodge stands proud at the base of the Lebombo Mountains only 290kms from Durban and 550kms from Gauteng. This is the land of the Ancients. A place founded on myths and legends. A place where ancient tribal customs and modern beliefs conv... More

Jozini Tiger Lodge and Spa    accommodation in Mkuze
 Jozini Tiger lodge is situated along the banks of the picturesque Jozini dam of KwaZulu Natal. Situated in the heart of the Kingdom of the Zulu with its rich heritage and untamed natural beauty, Tiger Lodge is an exciting holiday destination... More

Ghost Mountain Inn    accommodation in Mkuze
At the foot of the legendary Ghost Mountain lies the privately owned 4 Star Ghost Mountain Inn, a perfect setting for taking time out to relax and experience the charms of Africa in comfort and style. Unwind by the pool or indulge your senses with a ... More

Mantuma Bush Lodge    accommodation in Mkuze
Nature lovers visiting Mkhuze have a range of accommodation facilities available to them. Not least among these is the self-catering Tented Safari Camp. This has ten 2 bed and three 4 bed tented units. Each has en-suite ablution facilities (including... More

Baobab Inn    accommodation in Mkuze
... More

Nhlonhlela Bush Lodge    accommodation in Mkuze
Echoing to the call of the african fish eagle, hippos and crocodiles float in the green shallows and a diverse range of animals move around the shore to graze, brows and drink. Four two bed sleeping units with en-suite shower and toilet are connecte... More

uMkhumbi Tented Bush Lodge    accommodation in Mkuze
Umkhumbi is situated south of the Umsunduze river in the controlled hunting area of Mkhuze game reserve.Spread along the shore of a large pan in Terminalia sandvelt under stretching Acacia berkii trees, the camp consists of four large,... More

Directory of accommodation in Mkuze