If you’re deciding on an African safari tour in 2019 or beyond, you should seriously consider making Durban your destination of choice. Of course you’ve all heard of Kruger National Park, but what you possibly haven’t heard (I’m going to tell you all about it now), is that both north and west of Durban lie some of South Africa’s best game reserves and nature sites, from the oldest game reserve in Africa to the most diverse in South Africa. In fact, considering all the convenience offered, you would be hard pressed to find a better way to enjoy Big 5 safari tours from Durban in 2019.
Below are just some of our reasons as to why you should consider Durban as a Big 5 game reserve destination, and if you stick around, you’ll get to read up on our favorite big 5 game reserve that are easily reached from Durban.
Why Choose Durban as Your Starting Point?
We’ve always said that Durban is best placed to scratch to your safari itch but it goes without saying that we’re just a little biased in this regard. So in order to try and convince you, here’s our reasoning as to why big 5 safari tours are best from Durban.
King Shaka International Airport
The KSIA has made it so easy for visitors to get to Durban. Just a 60 min flight from Jo’berg, or a 2 hour flight from Cape Town means it’s really just a quick on and off flight. Durban is just 20 min south of KSIA. So after landing it’s easy to get to your accommodation, just jump into a taxi, or an Uber or even catch the airport shuttle that departs a number of times during the day. Depending on the where you’re staying, some hotels will collect you. These days British Airways (and a number of other airlines) fly direct in to Durban, making it easier than ever before.
For backpackers, the Baz Bus stops in Durban outside backpackers in the city, makes it really easy to get around South Africa.
The City of Durban
Durban is great to spend a night or two, no where in South Africa offers the range of activities that Durban does, from the beaches to the aptly name “Valley of 1000 Hills”. There’s a number of tours to introduce you to Durban, city tours, culture tours, township tours, historical tours etc that will give you a great deal of insight into South Africa and her people. There’s also the beach which is just perfect to laze about you while recover from jetlag; or go for a swim, the Indian Ocean is actually quite warm!
Safety in any city is always a concern, Durban is no different. Since 2012, the city of Durban has put a lot of energy and effort (and money) in improving the image of Durban, and that includes making sure it’s safe for tourists. As a result there are visible police and security on every corner looking out for visitors.
All the game reserves that we visit are within an hour or two of medical facilities. Although we have never had to rush anyone to a doctor or hospital, it’s nice to know that they are there for emergencies. Same goes for banking. You may decide you need a little extra cash or need to go into a bank, these are conveniences that even in remote Zululand sites are just 60 minutes away at most. Small malls that you can buy the basics from are dotted about, so even though it feels like you in the middle of Africa, the amenities are conveniently nearby; especially important in this day and age of cellphones and chargers and all that.
It may not seem it if you look on a map, but Durban is centrally placed in terms of it’s position to the big cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town, they’re only a short flight away. Durban is also great if you want to visit the mighty Drakensberg mountains, or the battlefields of the Anglo Zulu War or the Anglo Boer War.
The Big 5 Game Reserves
The oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve. It’s an amazing place to visit, not the largest, not the smallest but certainly one the best loved. But it’s not only the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve that is a draw card, there are more, a lot more. So whether you’re planning on a booking a safari tour with us, or even looking to self drive, have a look at these safari options before you book.
Hluhlwue Imfolozi Game Reserve
Established way back in 1895, the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve is just 2,5 hours north of Durban. The park is some 960km2 in size and is home to the Big 5 (of course) and many other species. Over the years the park has become really popular but in spite of this, it still feels really quiet when driving through the park, you can definitely go an hour or two with seeing another vehicle on the road!
The park is really two separate parks together, with the northern section the Hluhluwe and the southern section the Imfolozi; the north and south differ quite a bit, with the north having more hills and thicker brush and the south having less hills and more wide open spaces – although it’s not a strict rule, some animals prefer one section of the park to the other.
The Hluhluwe Imfolozi also offers a number of camps to stay at, the two most popular being Mpila camp and Hilltop Camp. The major difference is that Mpila has no restaurant so you’ll have to self-cater – Hilltop has a restaurant. We often spend a night at Mpila just to give our guests a bit of variety; we’ll treat them to a braai (barbecue) in the evenings and for breakfast, coffee and rusks.
The Hluhluwe Imfolozi is also conveniently placed, there’s a number of sites to visit around the park, From the Cheetah tour at Emdoneni, to the Elephant experience at Bayete Zulu, hiking at False Bay, estuary cruise at St Lucia and more, it makes perfect sense to spend a couple of days in the Hluhlwue Imfolozi Game Reserve.
One of the added bonuses of visiting the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve is that it is situated in a “low-risk malaria area”.
iSimangaliso Wetlands Park
The iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is one of those sites that you simply cannot give justice to in a short blog post like this – the park is so multi-faceted a book would be more appropriate! It’s just 2,5 hours north of Durban and within an hours drive of the Hluluwe Imfoloz Game Reserve.
iSimangaliso in it’s current state has been around since 1999 when it was proclaimed as South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, but it’s been around a lot longer, from 1895 though is was a great deal smaller than it is today.
Originally the home of the Tsongo people, the iSimangaliso Wetlands park is considered to be one the richest in terms of diversity; from the wetlands area, to the ocean sites and the parks themselves, all offering a wide ranging variety of flora and fauna species.
One of the parks real draw cards is the St Lucia estuary where some 800 or so hippo live happily just a stone throw away from the town of St Lucia itself – I’m not even going to mention the crocodile that live in the same spot! St Lucia is also known as a birders hot spot with some 600 species of bird noted in area alone.
The Eastern and Western Shores game reserves offer a number of animals species, from Rhino to Kudu, Waterbuck and Buffalo. It is a Big 5 park so predators are often sighted, especially leopard and wild dog.
There’s many places to stay while visiting iSimangaliso. From the Ezemvelo managed sites to private B&B’s, hotels and backpackers lodges – and from budget friendly accommodation sites to luxury sites as well. Getting around isn’t easy at all, you do need a car, there’s no real public transport to speak especially for foreign tourists.
Like the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is situated in a low-risk malaria area – however consult your physician as the further north you go, the higher the risk.
Nambiti Private Game Reserve
Nambiti private game reserve is new, in fact only in 1998 was the project to create a big 5 game reserve started with the purchase of some farms in the area. Today the game reserve is some 22,000 ha in size and is home to the Big 5.
Nambiti has become a game reserve destination synonymous with luxury and at just 2,5 hour west of Durban, it’s easy to get to too for visitors to Durban. There is 9 different lodges on the game reserve and all of them offer game drives, your meals are all catered for, and there are a number of nearby attractions that visitors to get to during the heat of the day when most animals are hiding in the shade.
Nambiti is more than just a game reserve though, it’s one of those success stories that are not always that easy to find in modern South Africa. Nambiti has ensured that the local people living around the reserve an included, after all it is their land if one goes back in time. Thanks to ensuring that local people are employed at the reserves in numerous positions, the people you will meet at Nambiti are some the friendliest you can imagine.
For visitors to South Africa, especially those newly weds, or those that are celebrating their relationship, Nambiti is an incredibly romantic destination to visit!
Oh, and it’s located once again in the low risk malaria area.
Other Big 5 Reserve to Consider Near Durban
There are many other reserves that are home to the Big 5 that we haven’t mentioned here, there would just be too many to get into. So here’s a list of other reserves you might want to look at though.
- Bayete Zulu – about 3 hours north of Durban, this private reserve is not only home to the big 5, but they also host an “elephant interaction” where you’ll be introduced to 3 of the reserves friendlier ellies.
- Mkuze Game Reserve – home to the big 5, this game reserve is managed by Ezemvelo and although it’s not quite as well maintained as some of the other parks, it offers great animal sightings especially of Wild Dog.
- Phinda Game Reserve – a private game reserve that is all about enjoying what the park has to offer in a luxurious setting. I’ve stayed at the Mountain Lodge a few times and it is beautiful! They also have an airstrip so if you not keen on driving their, you can always fly in.
Booking a tour with Country and Coastal Touring
Country and Coastal Touring have been offering wildlife safari tours for over 10 years, and we’re proud of the great reviews we get on our tours. If you wish to book a safari tour, simply use the convenient contact for below to get in touch and we’ll do the rest.