What Is Ithala Game Reserve?

P.M. Willers

Ithala Game Reserve is located in eastern South Africa, about 248 miles (400 kilometers) north of Durban. The reserve is located in an area of mountainous thornveld, which is a rugged grassland featuring acacia and other thorny plants. Altitude in the Ithala Game Reserve varies from 1312 feet (400 meters) along the Phongolo River, a tributary of the Maputo River that flows towards Mozambique, to 4757 feet (1450 meters) in the Ngotshe Mountains.

Ithala Game Reserve is located in South Africa.
Ithala Game Reserve is located in South Africa.

In 1973, the Natal Parks Board of South Africa began the process of acquiring land, with the ultimate goal of creating the Ithala Game Reserve. Since the creation of the park, all of the populations of big game have been re-established in the reserve, with the exception of the lion. Examples of the big game that may be found in the park are rhinoceros, giraffe, buffalo, and elephant. It is said that the absence of the lion aides in giving the reserve a relaxed atmosphere. In place of the lion, some predators that are present include the leopard and hyena.

Giraffes can be found in the Ithala Game Reserve.
Giraffes can be found in the Ithala Game Reserve.

Rivers such as the Phongolo, as well the presence of large cliffs, make conditions within the Ithala Game Reserve ideal for numerous species of birds. Birds that have been spotted include black eagles, ostriches, and secretary birds. The geological features of Ithala Game Reserve also set it apart from other locations. Rock formations found within the reserve date back more than three million years, meaning they are some of the oldest known rock formations in the world.

Leopards, a "big cat" species that sleeps and eats in trees, are among the game animals that live in the Ithala Game Reserve.
Leopards, a "big cat" species that sleeps and eats in trees, are among the game animals that live in the Ithala Game Reserve.

Accommodation within the park is found at Ntshondwe Camp, which offers self catering chalets. The structure is built to fit naturally into a plateau at the foot of a cliff of the same name. Also, more luxurious game lodges are situated in the Louwsburg area near the reserve. The Ithala Game Reserve is a malaria free area open year round.

The Ithala Game Reserve is accessible by private automobile from all directions. Once at the reserve, visitors may participate in a wide variety of activities. Day and night drives in open vehicles are also a popular way for visitors to see the reserve and the large game it holds. The option of day or night drives allows for different types of game to be seen.

There are ample trails available for hiking at the Ithala Game Reserve, many of which offer markers noting points of interest along the way. Additionally, several picnic sites with barbecue facilities are located throughout the park. These areas are well-suited for game and bird watching.

Hyenas are among the predatory animals in the Ithala Game Reserve.
Hyenas are among the predatory animals in the Ithala Game Reserve.

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Discussion Comments


@KoiwiGal - The thing is, one of the reasons the animals in Europe changed is because of the arrival of people. I think since people lived in Africa without changing the current fauna for a long time (before guns were introduced) that it's possible that the animals you see in Africa today are the same kind that were there twenty thousand years ago.

Evolution doesn't often work so fast as to bring up thousands of diverse species in such a short time. And the range of species available to see at this park probably wouldn't have just appeared in such a short time.

Granted, there might have been more animals back then, perhaps some which are extinct now. The lion is a good example, as it was probably living there once, but no longer is.


@bythewell - Some of the animals in the Ithala game reserve might have been around when stone age man was (tens of thousands of years ago) but many of them may not have been.

I know in Europe the animals have changed hugely over the last tens of thousands of years. There used to be wooly rhinos in France for example, and cave bears and hyenas.

I'm not an expert on the fauna changes of the African continent though and I imagine the savanna may not have changed as much as some parts of Europe which once had glaciers on them.

I do agree though, that it would be amazing to see human artifacts that are so very old.


One of the interesting things about the Ithala game reserve is that there were stone age people living in the area thousands of years ago, and there are still some artifacts around.

I was looking up different nature reserves in South Africa to see which ones were the best for my trip and I have to say I'm really intrigued by the idea of seeing stone age sites, alongside the wild animals and area that those people might have experienced.

They've apparently got example from ten thousand years ago, right up to a few hundred years ago, things like stone axe heads and iron smelting areas.

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