Bonamanzi Game Reserve, which can best be described as a birders paradise, is set in the heart of the Zululand District just outside the small town of Hluhluwe. It is a private game reserve spanning just over 4000 hectares and sits within a 30 minute drive to Hluhluwe Imfolozi Big 5 Game Reserve as well as iSimangaliso Wetland Park St Lucia.
The Hluhluwe River forms the border to the east of the reserve where hippo can be viewed wallowing and doing what hippo do best, and some magnificent bird viewing is to be found all along this stretch of the reserve.
The reserve was proclaimed a Natural Heritage site in 1995 due to the biodiversity of the reserve which boasts Sand Forests, Savanna as well as Wetlands. The abundant birdlife to be found is understandable considering the biodiversity offered and walking around the reserve will find you bumping into twitchers on high alert…waiting to get that perfect shot.
African Travel Bird…on their way to Bonamanzi!
We’ve been meaning to visit Bonamanzi for some time and we were looking for a place that offered camping in Hluhluwe. Yes, it’s not all luxury and opulence all the time. We’ve been building our camping gear stash for some time and hardly ever have the chance to use it so, camping in a Game Reserve sounded like a win-win. There was no fishing offered but, it was my turn to choose the destination and being a huge fan of bush escapes, Bonamanzi came out tops for what we were looking for.
We found all the necessary contact details on their website and made inquiries via phone. We were sent the booking information via e-mail, made payment and just like that… set for a camping safari! The team at Bonamanzi were really efficient in dealing with our booking, and that efficiency and willingness to help was evident at all times during our stay there…even when we found ourselves in a…uhm…tricky situation. More on that later.
The road there
We opted to take Kei (my Mitsubishi Mirage) as it had a tow hitch for our trailer and being exceptionally hot seemed like a better choice as the Landy was only booked in to have its air-conditioning unit serviced the week after. Now, I wish I had read the information on Bonamanzi’s website in more detail as it would have swayed our decision. Get the scoop further down…
It is a fairly easy drive from Durban, taking the N2 heading towards and past Richardsbay, making your way to the town of Hluhluwe. It is approximately a 3hr drive. Following our GPS directions we were initially told to turn off into a no entry road thus we pushed through to Hluhluwe town as it was evident our GPS was confused (not often you get to trump a GPS).
We entered the town of Hluhluwe, filled up in anticipation of game drives in the reserve and made our way through the town where we turned off onto a well maintained dirt road. The GPS had decided to behave from this point and took us directly to the front gates of the reserve. You do cross over some train tracks and it is best to stop and look both ways as this train route is well used. The little dude couldn’t have been more excited if he tried when we stopped just in front of the tracks and had the train pass us just ahead. The train driver even gave us a few choo choo’s which really caused some delight for little man. Thanks train driver man!
We were signed in at the main gate and made our way to reception. Just the drive to reception had us excited. There is ample game to be viewed. We were booked in and, to our surprise; the team had booked us into an assisted camp site where you have your own shower and kitchen area. WIN! I really should have read the details on their website. Who knew this type of camping even existed?!
Now we’re here…
Right, it’s time to set up camp. The team at Bonamanzi popped in to ask if they could assist us in any way with setup and offered us a bonfire frame. The man was happy! There was already a braai stand provided and now he had a place to make a braai and a bonfire.
We had lugged our camping freezer along with us and were happy to realise we did not have to run it off Kei as the unit inside had electricity. There were also two single beds as well as air-conditioning unit. Now…I’m not going to lie, the thought of sleeping inside with aircon did seem very appealing, especially considering the heat outside. But, I was advised that it would be cheating and that we were there to experience all that camping had to offer. Fiiiiiiiiinnnnne. So, beds were setup and, and, and. We’re camping. It was about 6pm when we had finished setting up and time to crack a cold beer. Man was happy. He had his beer, braai and bonfire. The Bean played some game that involved his toy dinosaurs catching the various bugs to be found hiding in the shadows and I…had a glass of wine. The smell of the bush mingling with the smell of boerewors on the coals… this our perfect South Africa.
We woke up fairly early as did not realise that when setting up the night before that there would be no shady cover. It was hot, bright and the cool, air-conditioned room was really, really starting to appeal at this stage.
Breakfast was prepped on our gas skottel and we headed to reception at about 8:30am. We were advised by the front desk that there was no map per se but, they did send us a pin location in case we got lost. We found a route leading between the tree-houses which eventually took us to the eastern parts of the reserve where we were able to follow a well maintained road that took us all along the Hluhluwe River where the birdlife was out of this WORLD! We were fortunate enough to spot Rhino, Elephant as well as Hippo on our first drive out as well as a myriad of other game but these were definitely our highlights.
The reserve is a Big 4 Reserve, having all of the Big 5 barring the Lion.
We made our way back to camp later in the afternoon where the little man cooled off in the pool on site and we lazed about with a cold beer in hand. The restaurant was unfortunately closed and at the time of writing this blog, still closed due to Coronavirus. We ambled around camp and spotted two very different types of lizards, one a skink and another…a crocodile. Thankfully the crocodile are sealed off from getting into camp as we may have foregone the dip in the pool otherwise. We headed back to camp, fires were stoked and tales of game spotted was shared around the bonfire. Another perfect day in Africa.
Day 3 and 4
On day 3 we made our way to Hluhluwe Imfolozi Big 5 Game Reserve which is about a 30 minute drive from Bonamanzi. The day was spent in the reserve, stopping for lunch at the Centenary Centre where little man also persuaded us to purchase some African crafts. We headed back to camp fairly late in the afternoon and promised ourselves that we would explore more of the Bonamanzi reserve the next day…which we did…in spectacular style!
So, if we had read the INFORMATION ON THE WEBSITE, we would have read that some roads are best left to 4×4 vehicles. But, ever adventurous and at times overestimating the capabilities of Kei, we ventured onto a road that looked, yes, a bit sandy but well-traveled. We soon found ourselves stuck and I mean, properly stuck. The old classics were tried. Deflating the tyres, placing objects underneath the tyres to create a bit of grip but alas, we weren’t going anywhere in a rush. Luckily I had saved the number for reception on my phone and the cellphone signal was quite good. We were reassured by reception that someone would be out to help us in no time. The SHAME! Here we are, three worldly travellers, stuck due to not reading the information and advice given. Now, imagine our even deeper shame when a Toyota Cruiser is sent to get us out of this sandy situation. As Landrover drivers…this was almost too much for us. Wish we had come in the Landy! We were pulled out in no time and continued our drive, sticking to firmer roads and…having a bit more wine that night to forget our humiliation. Rule number one folks, read the information given.
All in all, this was an unforgettable stay and we even made some new friends, twitchers who had set up camp next to us. And, we will definitely be heading back…in the LANDY!
RATING: 9 out of 10
Well stocked reception area providing basics such as wood, ice, drinks, snacks and a few curios
Multiple accommodation options to choose from
Swimming Pool on site
Close to Hluhluwe Imfolozi Big 5 Game Reserve
Close to iSimangaliso Wetland Park – St Lucia
Well maintained communal facilities
Uuuhmm…a very informative website
Nothing. Absolutely nothing but…they sent a Toyota Cruiser to come and pull us out! The Shame!
Telephone:083 634 0895 | 072 027 3452
Very informative Website: www.bonamanzi.co.za
Crocodile Feeding show
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