Mkuze Game Reserve (not a private reserve of which there are many in South Africa) is located north of St. Lucia. We got to the reserve around 3:00 pm, checked into our charming chalet, and were eager to walk around the “camp”. We had a self-catering (kitchenette) chalet so cooked our meals. The grocery store in St. Lucia wasn’t very big so there wasn’t much of a selection but good ole yogurt – no Walmarts or Fred Meyer stores here.
Getting here was an experience. The reserve is off the main highway and any road that doesn’t start with an “N” or and “R” is gravel, or what they call gravel. Maybe hardpan with exposed fist size and larger rocks to dodge or bounce over would be a better term. I always think of gravel as being small rock. So we hadto dodge them regularly or I become the designated rock remover, frequently exiting the car and removing the rock from the road. The road to Mkuze was the worst to date. But we made it, thankfully.
The next morning we got up early and headed out to check out the birds and the animals in the reserve. We were not disappointed. We drove paved roads to the ensumo hides along a large waterbody. I could have stayed there all day. We did spend several hours at the two different hides along the lake and at a picnic site. There always seemed to be something new – bird wise – that came flying in for us to see.
In the “Where to Find Birds” book a loop road was mentioned for raptors. So off we went to check out this road. Jack had to stop the car about every 50 feet so I could remove rocks so our low clearance vehicle did not hit the rocks. The road was narrow and very rocky. After less than a 1/4 mile I said enough and we turned around. NOTE: If you decide that a trip to South Africa is in your future and you want to rent a car then get a high clearance vehicle, e.g., an SUV. Even though they say a road is passable by a low clearance passenger car having an SUV will give you peace of mind.
So we continued along the paved road stopping occasionally to check out birds and mammals. Our last stop of the day was a hide where we spent 1.5 hours waiting for birds and mammals alike to appear. We weren’t disappointed with the mammals (or the birds). We had a water buffalo come in to drink. The poor thing had a bloody neck. There were several people in the hide and if someone made a noise he would turn towards us and glare – yes glare. Two couples subsequently came while the water buffalo was drinking and I think the buffalo must have smelled the woman’s perfume because it turned around and stormed out of the water hole, snorting the whole way. This was one mad animal. Of course we didn’t appreciate the perfume either.
We spent a second night at the reserve, and in the morning returned to the hide. We were there for about an hour when I suggested we leave as we had to get to our next destination – Wakkerstroom. Jack wanted to wait another 15 minutes, so we did. About 5 minutes later a male elephant comes to the water hole to drink. The poor animal had a bum leg, where it had been caught in a snare. The wound did not look fresh, but you can tell that it bothered the elephant. He kept spraying that leg with water. We enjoyed our time watching this big guy drink and bath.
Now off to Wakkerstroom and Memel in search of cranes – ITS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD IN SOUTH AFRICA.