Ithala Game Reserve is a place of great beauty characterised by its diversity. About 30 000 ha in extent, it is situated on the south bank of the Pongola River, about 70 km east of Vryheid in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Ithala Game Reserve’s big game species include white and black rhino, elephant, buffalo and large numbers of giraffe. There are 80 species of mammals in the Reserve and in spring, the grasslands are alive with warthogs.
However, Ithala Game Reserve offers much more than game viewing:
* The Reserve has a rich history of human habitation as evidenced by archaeological sites which date from as far back as the middle stone age. Evidence of earlier occupation by middle Stone Age and Iron Age people can be seen. San hunter-gatherers also used the area, leaving their precious rock art in a shelter in the eastern part of the reserve.
* The terrain is extremely rugged, rising from 400 m above sea level in the north to 1400 m above sea level in the south, near Louwsburg – with 300-million year old rock formations.
* The geological diversity which is a feature of the reserve has resulted in the production of a variety of soils and a rich diversity of vegetation in 13 vegetation communities. In summer, masses of red ‘Pride of De Kaap flowers complement the wild dates on the reclining palms along the slopes and steam balks of this rugged reserve.
* The bird life is gratifying as no less than 300 species are well represented here. After years of near extinction from this area, Red billed Oxpeckers were reintroduced to Ithala in 1994 and many sighting of immature Red billed Oxpeckers have been recorded since.
* Several rivers rise in or just out of the reserve, winding to the Pongola River. These rivers are attractive with waterfalls, pools and gorges flanked by dense thickets and riverine forest.
* There are three picnic sites and the rivers running past the picnic sites are shallow but safe to swim in.
* Ithala has an auto trail consisting of a 30 km circular drive with a total of 22 points of interest (which are described) along the route.
Ntshondwe Camp is Ithala’ s main camp, and winner of three consecutive ‘AA Travel Guides & SAA Resort of the Year’ awards, for those seeking accommodation within Ithala Game Reserve.
Ithala Game Reserve is truly an interesting place and definitely worth visiting on your next trip to KwaZulu Natal.