Passport-free Lubombo adventures

Posted by Jacques Marais on 8 March 2019

If your budget doesn’t stretch to Mozambique (or your passport has expired), head to the remote northeastern corner of KwaZulu-Natal for the South African section of Lubombo instead.

Kosi Bay

The sand roads accessing Kosi Bay estuary are for 4x4s only.

This is the home of the royal Tembe clan, who have lived here for centuries, so their traditions and culture hold sway even today. There’s no better place to chill than community-owned Utshwayelo, a lodge named for the many ancient fish kraals dotting the nearby Kosi Bay estuary. Enock Tembe and Ken Whitfield run the place and you’ll soon settle into their lekker, laid-back rhythm. The KZN Wildlife-protected area starts at the lodge gate, with a sand track connecting to Kosi Bay Mouth Reserve and estuary. Activities include fat biking, boat trips, traditional fishing excursions and incredible snorkelling with dozens of moray eels.

Stay here Utshwayelo has rustic en-suite chalets, en-suite tents, a tented camp and private camp sites. Camping from R220 per person; tents or chalets from R1,150 a unit. There’s a communal kitchen, or enjoy drinks and meals at the pool or Fish Trap Bar. kosibay.info

 

False Bay

Hluhluwe River Lodge has 12 luxury thatched chalets.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site, extends along eight per cent of South Africa’s coastline, has six ecosystems and links to the Lubombo TFCA via the Ponta do Ouro–Kosi Bay Corridor. The False Bay section is at the widest part of St Lucia estuary, and you can expect superb wildlife encounters and outdoor action here. False Bay brims with biodiversity, from woodland and thornveld to open savanna, wetland and old-growth sand forest. Wild MTB routes follow hippo trails along the lakeshore, and horse rides (from Hluhluwe Lodge) or trail runs amid flocks of pelicans and flamingos are also on the menu.

Stay here On the western boundary of iSimangaliso, Hluhluwe River Lodge is an ideal base for people keen to explore False Bay and the many game reserves in the area. Thatched chalets are spread within an indigenous forest teeming with red duiker and nyala; my daughter Grace fell in love with one of the resident genets. From R2,235 per person DBB, or a self-catering house costs R3,850 (sleeps four). hluhluwe.co.za 

Pongola  

Shayamoyo Lodge offers numerous activities, including guided rhino tracking and safari cruises to spot elephants, hippos and crocs.

You’ll battle to get a grander view than from the deck at Shayamoya, with the shimmering Lake Jozini in the distance. Add the friendly vibe of a family-run lodge and you can be certain of a great outdoor escape. This section of the Lubombo TFCA links to Swaziland. I enjoyed a successful dawn tiger-fishing mission (R530 per person) with my son Robert, and the same day went on a rhino-tracking excursion (R480 per person) with my eldest daughter Beth.

Stay here Shayamoya Lodge’s family bungalows are hidden amid indigenous trees, so we found that the rhythm of nature became a regular part of our day, with birds, reptiles and small mammals all round. From R2,600 per person. shayamoya.co.za

Also read: Exploring Lake Jozini by houseboat

Tembe Elephant Park

A traditional Tembe welcome after a game drive in the park.

Welcome to the ‘Home of the Bulls’ – nope, not the Blue Bulls but the biggest remaining elephant bulls in Southern Africa. The rare sand forest habitat of Tembe Elephant Park – sprawling on what was once an ancient seabed – hosts huge tuskers within relic herds of some 200 gentle giants. It’s also home to the rest of the Big Five and the world’s smallest antelope, the suni. Twitchers will get all ruffled by more than 340 bird species, some of them rated as ‘lifers’. Just 10 vehicles a day (4x4s only) are allowed into the reserve.

Stay here Luxury en-suite tents and three meals a day are the package at Tembe, where you slumber to the sounds of the bush and shower under the stars. Game drives, guided hikes, sundowners overlooking a waterhole or supper around the fire are all part of the experience. From R1,550 per person. tembe.net.za

 

Text and images: Jaques Marais

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