Ithala Game Reserve
|Ithala Game Reserve - KwaZulu-Natal|
General - Ithala is the Zulu word for "a high place". Ithala Game Reserve is located in the north of Zululand, just below Swaziland. It has a stunningly beautiful scenery. The Phongolo river in the north has carved impressive gorges and valleys out of 3 million year old rocks, predominantly dolerite and granite rock, giving rise to a 1,000 m drop from the Ngothshe Mountains (1,450 m) in the south, near Louwsberg, to 400 m in the northern river valley.
Arising from this geological profile the terrain shows great variation and various habitats, comprising lowveld, high-lying grassland plateaus, riverine valleys with lush, sub-tropical vegetation, as well as ridges and cliff faces. It is known as one of the flagship reserves of the KZN Wildlife for its excellent game-viewing, its stunningly beautiful and varied landscape, and also for its spectacular geological diversity.
History - This area has been occupied by man since Middle Stone age, i.e. for about 5,000 years or more, as testified by stone age spear and axe heads. It provided iron ore and wild olive wood used in local Iron Age smelting operations. In 1884 the Zulu King Dinizulu granted more than 1.1 million hectares of land in northern Kwazulu-Natal to 800 Boers in recognition of the fighting services of 115 volunteers. The area was named "Nieuwe Republiek", and mainly used for farming and hunting. Gold was found in the early 1900's and mined with limited success in two locations (Wonder Mine until 1933, Eureka Mine until 1915 and reopened as the Ngotshe Mine from 1943-1967). When it was proclaimed as a 8,000 hectare Game Reserve in 1972, overgrazing had led to significant erosion (click on pictures below to see examples). Also the original game was extinct.
Wildlife - The area has since been expanded to 30,000 hectares. Records from the former nearby Pongola Reserve helped to determine which animals had occurred in the area. It has led to the re-introduction of 23 mammal species including white and black rhino, buffalo, kudu, tsessebe, red hartebeest, eland, giraffe, leopard, cheetah, brown hyena, and elephant.
As regards birds the reserve is home to Bald Ibis, Barrow's Korhaan, Long-tailed Widowbird and Secretarybird in the extensive grassland areas. Specials in the wooded valleys include Narina Trogon, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Mountain Wagtail and raptors including African Crowned, Martial, African Hawk and Verreaux's Eagle.
Accommodation is at Ntshondwe Camp, an award winning rest camp set against the backdrop of sheer mountain cliffs. There are also three self-catering bush camps (Mhlangine, Mbizo, Thalo) and a camping site, situated in remote wilderness areas of the reserve.