Love adventures? Or do you just want to escape somewhere for a couple of days to chill out? At Ndumu River Lodge on the north-west Elephant Coast, KZN, you can knock yourself out with day trips to two game reserves, as well as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park or Jozini lake, or just relax and enjoy the serene gardens, birds and pool.
Sometimes when you’re on an extended road trip you get tired, so it’s good to find yourself staying somewhere where you have a choice to kick back and unwind in attractive surroundings. This is exactly what we found at Ndumo River Lodge. Forming part of the north-western route of South Africa’s Elephant Coast, this lodge is 450km from Durban and 500km from Johannesburg.
But the highlight for me was a stoep on both levels, a place to sit with my glass of wine in the late afternoon, or with my binos while waiting for some birds to visit the bird bath in front.
Our energy restored, we were keen to explore the area.
Things to do from Ndumu River Lodge
Ndumu River Lodge is well placed between two game reserves and about an hour’s drive from the beaches of Kosi Bay. Here are some of the best day trips you can take.
- Tembe Elephant Park is less than a 20km drive east of the lodge. This is a Big Five reserve, with frequent sightings of elephant and buffalo. Lions, rhinos and leopards are also present, as well as wild dogs, spotted hyena, giraffe, Burchell’s zebra, warthog, and various antelope species. If you have a proper 4x4 (none of those soft/crossover SUVs) you can visit for the day and self-drive around the park, including to the Mahlasela hide, which you may recognise from the Tembe Elephant Park webcam. If you don’t have a 4x4 you can join a three-hour guided drive at 10:00 each day; you just need to book this ahead of time.
- Go canoeing on the Phongolo River about 500m from Ndumu River Lodge. Book with the lodge ahead of time so they can arrange to get canoes down to the river for you.
- Ndumo Game Reserve is less than 20km north-west of the lodge and well worth a visit. On your game drives around the park you may spot hippo, crocodile, nyala, bushbuck, impala, grey and red duiker, black and white rhino, giraffe and the tiny suni. But it’s the birding that’s really special. The bird list includes a hefty 430 bird species and we were thrilled to pick up a few ‘lifers’ like Rudd’s apalis and pink-throated twinspot. Pel’s fishing-owl and African fish-eagle also live in the park. Don’t miss spending some time in the hide at Nyamithi Pan for fever trees, hippos, crocs and lots of breeding birds like herons, egrets and pelicans. But if you love nature in all its forms, the best thing to do here is to sign on for a bush/bird walk or drive with one of the really knowledgeable guides.
- Are you a keen fisherman? Book a fishing guide and take to the Phongolo or Usutu rivers for a few hours of doing what you love best. Or arrange a fishing trip at Kosi Mouth about 75km away.
- Just over an hour’s drive away are iSimangaliso Wetland Park’s Kosi Bay and Kosi Mouth where you can see sustainable Tsonga fishing traps of a type that has been used for over 700 years. They’re still used by locals today.
- Arrange a day trip for snorkeling at Kosi Mouth in the Kosi Bay Nature Reserve, where you might also spot whales or dolphins. Marine species to look for below the surface include starfish, sea urchins, anemones, hermit crabs, wrasse, angelfish and more.
- Take a day trip to picturesque Lake Jozini 52km south-west of the lodge along the P522. Enjoy a boat trip and admire the dam wall, the scenery of steep hills rising directly out of the water. If you’re a keen birder, don’t forget to take your binos to spot species like cormorants, kingfishers, osprey and African fish-eagle. You can also go tiger fishing on the lake, good at any time of year except the winter months of May to August. All boats operate from the jetty at Jozini Tiger Lodge.
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