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South Africa Safari

KwaZulu-Natal Reserves

Interactive Map of KwaZulu-Natal Reserves

You are here: South Africa >> KwaZulu-Natal Province >> KwaZulu-Natal Reserves
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Cheetah at Phinda Elephant Diving at Rocktail Bay Male Lion
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Photo Gallery: KwaZulu-Natal Photo Gallery

KwaZulu-Natal Reserves
Maputaland in Northern KwaZulu-Natal is the geographic name given to one of South Africa's wildest areas, where fantastic coral reefs, endemic plants, turtles, birds and other animals thrive. This ecologically diverse region is bordered by the Lebombo Mountains in the west, with the Maputaland Marine Reserve forming the eastern boundary. It has an extraordinary range of ecosystems and wildlife and hosts South Africa's largest natural inland lakes - Sibaya, St. Lucia and the Kosi system - as well as the world's highest vegetated dunes, just south of Rocktail Bay. Maputaland is also home to one of South Africa's few "World Heritage Sites" - the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park.

This area is one of the few in South Africa where one can still experience the atmosphere of old Africa. Driving east, one crosses the Lebombo Mountains and enters traditional tribal countryside, which is noticeably free of fences. The roads meander past small villages, where herds of cattle wander across the roads in search of good grazing. You travel past bustling roadside markets, see the local people making palm wine...It's a truly tranquil picture of old Africa.

Man and Maputaland are integrally linked - fossil evidence in the area suggests that it has been inhabited by man for at least 110,000 years. In the past, the proud Thonga inhabitants of the area traded with others from the north - Arab, Zanzibari, Ottoman, and later from the south - English and Boer. These cultures have all tried to conquer the Thonga, but with little success.

It was the hunting of game that necessitated the creation of wildlife reserves. In fact, the area boasts some of the oldest wildlife reserves in the country, some of which were proclaimed at the turn of the 19th century! Maputaland has been the platform for saving the White Rhino from extinction and the conservation authorities in KwaZulu-Natal are widely regarded as being at the forefront of mammal conservation.

The lakes of the Pongola floodplains are home to a bounty of large animals. Enormous Crocodiles can be seen sunning themselves lazily at the edge of the pans, which are filled with pods of wallowing Hippos. Both species of Rhinoceros occur in the Maputaland reserves, as well as numbers of Cape Buffalo, Giraffe, Kudu, Wildebeest and Nyala.

The Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park is the first in a series of amalgamations of Maputaland's scattered conservation areas and has been proclaimed a World Heritage Site. However, further progress in this field is not possible without the inclusion of the local people. The local African safari camp operators which we support operate in conjunction with these surrounding communities.

Zululand – A History of Maputaland
Stone and Iron Ages: Maputaland has a long and interesting history of human settlement, with much archaeological evidence of Middle Stone Age, Late Stone Age and Iron Age people residing in the Lebombo foothills.

Farming Through Fire: From 1400 to 1460, modern Bantu tribes moved in from the north, bringing their skills of metal working, pottery, crop growing and stock rearing to the area. However, their farming methods had a severe impact on the environment – they used fire to create farming plots and improve cattle grazing.

Zulu Conquests: Military conquests of the Zulu kings, Shaka and Dingaan, turned Maputaland into a “melting pot” for the Thinga and Nguni (Zulu) tribes. Though the Zulu mostly invaded more temperate regions suitable for crop growing, raids were often made to Maputaland. Today, the original amaThonga of Maputaland have been absorbed into the Zulu nation. Although they still practise some of their own cultural traditions, they have been greatly influenced by Zulu, Swazi and European cultures.

Portuguese Traders: The first Europeans to visit Maputaland were the Portuguese, who traversed the coast on their way to India in the early 16th century. They set up ports and bartered beads, ornaments and clothing in exchange for ivory and other goods, as did the Dutch and English in later years. This helped set up trade links to the interior in the 19th century.

Hunters, Explorers and Missionaries: Although Maputaland was regarded as a fever-ridden wilderness, hunters, explorers and missionaries increasingly visited the area, greatly influencing the local people. When the land-locked Boer republics attempted to gain links to the sea at St. Lucia, Sodwana and Kosi in 1889, Maputaland came into the political spotlight.

Creation of Phinda: Presently, Maputaland has huge potential through its natural resources, which need to be sustainably developed. Cattle ranches and farmland were purchased to create Phinda Private Game Reserve in 1991. Today, Phinda is one of Africa’s premier ecotourism destinations as well as a centre point for local community economic growth.

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