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Big Five Tour Packages – South African Guided Safaris Tours
Far and Wild Safaris offers exclusive guided wildlife photographic Safaris and tours to our favoured venues in KwaZulu-Natal Province and beyond.
Please note that as our tours are exclusive to only your party, we can tailor-make any of these tours offered below, to suit yourselves. You may, for example, want to stay at the Ghost Mountain Inn for a longer period and experience more activities at Zimanga, or maybe stay an additional day or two longer in the Hluhluwe uMfolozi Park, or an additional night at St. Lucia. In these itineraries, where for example, a game drive is offered at Zimanga, you may opt rather for a hide session, or maybe you might want to stay longer at Ghost Mountain Inn and Zimanga, and leave the Ithala Game Reserve off the itinerary, and then prefer to do another activity at Zimanga, instead of the Mkuze Game Reserve – the choices are yours. We would be happy to advise you on these various alternatives. This could assist in making the itinerary best suit your interests.
These safaris can also be tailor-made to include alternative venues, such as a visit to the Anglo Zulu War Battlefields, particularly the battlefields of Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana.
The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, was fought between the British and the Zulus. Following Lord Carnarvon's successful introduction of federation in Canada, it was thought that similar political effort, coupled with military campaigns, might succeed with the African Kingdom’s tribal areas and Boer republics in South Africa. In 1874, Sir Henry Bartle Frere was sent to South Africa as the British High Commissioner, to bring this initiative into being. Amongst the obstacles he faced, were the presence of the independent states of the South African Republic as well as the Kingdom of the Zulu, with its army. Sir Bartle Frere, on his own initiative, without the approval of the British authorities, and with intent of instigating a war with the Zulu, had presented an ultimatum on 11 December 1878, to the Zulu King Cetshwayo, these terms were impossible for the Zulu King to comply with. Bartle Frere, then commissioned Lord Chelmsford and the forces under his command, to cross the Tugela River and invade Zululand. That war is noted for several particularly bloody battles, including a significant victory by the Zulu, at the Battle of Isandlwana, the defence of Rorke’s Drift, milestones in the sequence of events with respect to Imperialism in South Africa. The Anglo-Zulu War eventually resulted in a British victory and the end of the Zulu nation's independence and social order. This history will be elucidated on these guided tours, by expert guides – bringing the past to the fore.
Far and Wild Safaris have preferred accommodation venues at which the following tours are accommodated.
Chosen for their appropriateness to location, affordability and quality.
Ghost Mountain Inn – Mkuze, KwaZulu-Natal
Located with a prime view of the ethereal Ghost Mountain in Mkuze, Northern KwaZulu-Natal, lies the delightful Ghost Mountain Inn. This 4 star (South African grading!) hotel is a favoured venue in the area, comfortable rooms and public areas, efficient friendly staff, good food, all set in beautiful grounds, with a lovely outlook over the Lebombo mountains. Ghost Mountain Inn is in an ideal location from which to explore the variety of coastal reserves in Maputaland, as well as those along the Elephant Coast. These game reserves host a wide diversity of species, the Big Five, a variety of antelope, rich marine life and beautiful unspoiled Parks, beaches and cultural habitats.
The Ghost Mountain Inn offers a variety of excursions, it has a Spa which provides various skin and body treatments. Lazy lunches in a tranquil environment is what this hotel is about. Those who prefer relaxing to the sound of the rich plethora of local bird species in the warmth of our African sun, will find themselves at the swimming pool, or in the gardens of Ghost Mountain Inn.
Seasonal menus, with local ingredients, are combined with the hotel’s traditional favourites and served either in the dining room, outdoors on the terrace, or under the stars in the Boma (Guests seated around a fire, alfresco.) Roy's Bar, is a comfortable place where one is able to meet other travellers over a cocktail or preferred drink, or to merely relax and enjoy the comfortable environment and African decor. Enjoy a glass of wine from the hotel’s award winning wine list whist taking in the view of the swimming pool, the gardens and the dominant Ghost Mountain beyond.
Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park – KwaZulu-Natal
The Hluhluwe uMfolozi Park lies in the heart of the Zulu Kingdom, where ancient trails lead through the thornveld and along the rivers of Africa’s oldest established protected wilderness area. Once the exclusive royal hunting ground of King Shaka, (where he introduced the first conservation laws). Hluhluwe and uMfolozi Game Reserves were formally established as game reserves in 1895 and subsequently joined and enlarged with the inclusion and proclamation of the Corridor Reserve, in 1989, this game reserve is now known as the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, some 96 000 ha in size, having an incredible diversity of fauna and flora.
The Hluhluwe sector in the north, is characterised by grassland covered rolling hills with rather varied terrain and vegetation, making it rich in its diversity of bird and animal species.
The iMfolozi section in the south, has wide open spaces separated by the Black and White uMfolozi Rivers, a natural treasure house of fauna and flora.
As the home of Operation Rhino (which brought the endangered White Rhino back from the brink of extinction) in the 1950s and 1960s, the Park became World renowned for its White Rhino conservation. The Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park is a true Big 5 Game Reserve and even sports the Magnificent Seven. This would be the Big 5 – lion, leopard, elephant, Cape buffalo and Black rhino (White rhino too) with in addition, cheetah and the Cape wild dog. Sightings of giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, warthog, baboon, Vervet monkey, and antelope such as impala, nyala and kudu are seen frequently, with the possibility of seeing lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, Black rhino, hippo, hyena and antelope such as red duiker, steenbuck, waterbuck, bushbuck and then the rare Samango monkey, Cape wild dog and Nile crocodile, much less frequently.
Hilltop Camp, Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park – KwaZulu-Natal
Hilltop Camp, in the Hluhluwe sector of the Hluhluwe uMfolozi Park was established on the summit of a forested hill that offers views of the surrounding rolling topography of Zululand. Hilltop camp is the largest accommodation facility in the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, the existing infrastructure of Hilltop Camp was extensively rebuilt and enlarged during the early nineties.
Facilities at Hilltop Camp include a large a la carte restaurant, which is open for breakfast, teas, snacks, lunch and dinner. Hilltop Camp has a bar / lounge, decorated with photographs and memorabilia depicting the history of Hilltop Camp and the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. A gift shop and store, selling curios, basic (emergency) foodstuffs and a variety of drinks, soft drinks, bottled water, beers and spirits, this is open from 08:00 to 19:00 daily.
A large swimming pool for the use of camp residents, is situated within the confines of the camp. A self-guided trail, through some indigenous canopy forest is an interesting excursion for guests at Hilltop Camp, the trail commences adjacent to the entrance to the swimming pool. One may be fortunate to see some small antelope, monkeys and it is rich in birdlife, whilst those interested in the bushveld flora will find an amazing diversity here.
Hilltop Camp perimeter is fenced, so it is relatively safe to move about within the confines of the camp, it is advised to have a torch with you if walking about in the camp after dark. It is generally quite safe to stroll from your chalet to the restaurant for meals. There is 24 hour main-line electricity with a back-up generator.
The Mpunyane Restaurant at Hilltop Camp offers a full English buffet breakfast. Lunches from Monday to Saturday are a la carte, whilst on Sundays, a hot and cold buffet is on offer at luncheon. Dinners are hot and cold buffet, with a traditional braai (barbeque) on Friday evenings (weather permitting).
Ithala Game Reserve – KwaZulu-Natal
This game reserve has a wide diversity of biomes, from the heights of the Ngotshe Plateaux, dropping nearly a thousand meters to the Pongola River valley. The erosion having cut into some of the world's oldest rock formations. Its scenic beauty aside, Ithala's most characteristic feature is perhaps its geological diversity. Some of the oldest rock formations in the World are found here, dating back some 3 000 million years. With a topographic profile varying from 400m above sea level in the north to 1 450m near Louwsberg in the south, Ithala's terrain extends over lowveld, densely vegetated riparian valleys, to the high-lying grassland plateaus with its ridges and sheer cliff faces. Ithala is a game viewers paradise - situated in the rugged, mountainous thornveld of northern KwaZulu-Natal, the reserve's diversity of habitats host a rich array of wildlife species. Ithala has excellent auto trails to facilitate visitor's self-drive game viewing, and wildlife here includes both Black and White rhino, elephant, leopard, caracal, giraffe, zebra and a fairly large variety of antelope species not found in the other Provincila Parks in KwaZulu-Natal such as eland, Mountain reedbuck, Common reedbuck and then the termite eating aardwolf too.
Lidiko Lodge – St Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal
In the village of St Lucia, in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park which incorporates Lake St Lucia, Lidiko Lodge has accommodation in 16 garden rooms on a bed & breakfast basis. The charming thatched roof colonial building, which today houses the reception area, guest lounge, library and art gallery, was one of the first residences to be built in St. Lucia, in the late 1930’s. Two family / triple rooms are part of the original building. The dining deck has views of the bird and often monkey and mongoose filled gardens. Free Wi-Fi is available in the communal areas. The main building leads to the tropical pool area and the rooms. The park like gardens and outdoor lounge of the lodge is ideal for bird watching, conversation or just to enjoy quite time. The pool is ideal to cool off, or to do some sunbathing on the loungers.
Lidiko Lodge is centrally situated in St Lucia and within 5 minutes walking distance from all the restaurants and the craft market, walking trails and main attractions. Lidiko Lodge is the ideal venue to visit the surrounding wetlands, the Eastern and Western shores of Lake St Lucia, big 5 game parks as well as pristine beaches such as Cape Vidal. It is a safe haven for joggers, cyclists and walkers. It is also the only village in the area, with hippos roaming the streets at night. Take care!
Mkuze Game Reserve – KwaZulu-Natal
Mkhuze is a mecca for bird lovers, with more than 420 bird species on record. uMkhuze Game Reserve has an rich diversity of natural habitats, from the eastern slopes of the Lebombo Mountains along its western boundary, to broad stretches of acacia savannah, swamps and a variety of woodlands and riparian forest. This all part of an ancient volcanic caldera.
A rare type of ‘sand forest’ also occurs in the reserve. Two beautiful pans, Nhlonhlela and Nsumo Pan, lie to the north and east respectively, home to communities of hippo, crocodile, and an incredible variety of water birds. Situated in northern Zululand, this 40 000 hectare Mkuze game reserve was proclaimed a protected area in 1912.
The Mkhuze Game Reserve constitutes the north western spur of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park (previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park), South Africa’s first declared World Heritage Site. The Mkhuze River cuts along the reserve's northern and eastern boundaries, a riparian fig forest along its banks. African Fish eagles can be seen to swoop, snatching prey located from their lofty perches in the fever trees along-side these pans. Other animals to be found in the reserve include the Big 5, Black and White rhinoceros, lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, giraffe, wild dog, nyala, blue wildebeest, warthog, impala, kudu and other smaller antelope. Rare species occurring are cheetah, hyena and the diminutive suni.
Shakaland, The Greatest Zulu Experience in Africa – KwaZulu-Natal
Shakaland is a living museum of the life and times of the Zulu monarch, Shaka 1816 – 1827 guests can re-live the excitement and romance of the days of Shaka, King of the Zulus, in this authentic re-creation of the Great Kraal overlooking the Phobane Lake. Experience the sight of assegai-wielding warriors, share the intrigue and interpretations of the Sangomas. Witness traditional customs such as Zulu tribal dancing, spear making and of course the beer-drinking ceremonies.
This cultural village is a unique resort built amid thorn trees and aloes, comprising a traditional Zulu "Umuzi” or homestead, where the Zulu people reside. This village was built and developed as a film set, when the movies King Shaka and John Ross were produced.
Zimanga Private Game Reserve – KwaZulu-Natal
Zimanga has a new rather unique and special concept for photographic Safaris in South Africa. Structured specifically to satisfy the needs of wildlife photographic enthusiasts as well as safari clients, Zimanga offers a selection of hides and guided game drives, giving guests an unhurried, exclusive wildlife experience. Zimanga covers some 6,000 hectares of bushveld and fever tree forests amongst Zululand’s rolling hills. Zimanga is bisected by the Mkuze River, the game reserve is home to a diverse variety of animal and bird species, for the birder there are in excess of 400 species recorded and the wildlife includes, elephant, cheetah and the Cape wild dog.
Game drives at Zimanga are in open safari vehicles with three rows of seats behind the driver, allowing a maximum of 6 photographers on the vehicle with Zimanga’s guide, thus limiting the number of clients to two per row. This ensures more room for ones photography gear, as well as facilitating the possibility of being able to photograph to both sides of the vehicle without undue obstruction. This is ideal for photographers and non-photographers alike, who enjoy a bit more space and freedom of movement. As a game reserve Zimanga encourages clients to spend as much time as they choose at a particular sighting. Due to the very low number of vehicles on the reserve at any one time, you will not have to relinquish on a sighting, in order to allow another vehicle to access that situation. Zimanga wildlife guides are experienced as well as accomplished photographers in their own right, they will thus position the vehicle in the best light / aspect, as well as anticipating any action that could occur. Should a sighting not be photographically visible from the road network, then Zimanga vehicles are permitted to go off-road, in order to secure a preferred photographic view-point.
Whilst the game drives at Zimanga are generally excellent, offering some memorable experiences, at Zimanga, it is their hides that offer a rather unique photographic excellent experience. These hides have been designed and built by the owners of Zimanga and Bence Mate, the latter a former winner of the coveted BBC wildlife photographer of the year award in 2010 as well as a World authority on this particular underground hide design, construction and specialty build for photography. The photographers are invisible to the birds and animals being viewed, this through specially imported one-way glass, this prevents spooking them with any movement or sounds.
Photographers are seated on comfortable executive-style chairs, which glide effortlessly and quietly across the wooden laminated flooring. A solar-powered air-conditioning unit, controls the ambient temperature and humidity in the hide. These hides accommodate a maximum of four persons, are soundproofed with carpeting on the walls, in order to reduce any sound. The carpets are inlaid with a silver thread which eliminates mildew growth, necessary as the hides are in immediate proximity to the attracting water source. These speciality hides allow photographers a non-intrusive method of wildlife photography. Although the birds and animals are free to roam and fly at will, consequently no sighting is guaranteed, the hides do however provide photographers with a wonderful opportunity to secure some incredible photographs and sightings.
There are plans in place by the owners of Zimanga to construct more of these speciality hides, such as the following:
Zimanga has a diverse range of wildlife, including four of the “Big Five” also including cheetah and the Cape wild dog. The hides offer rather unique sightings, from the smallest shrew, and soon to the largest of all African mammals, the elephant from close quarters, and then there are over 400 bird species.
So, who should visit Zimanga?