The man-eating Nyalas of Ndumo Game Reserve
What was supposed to be a stop over for two nights at the Ndumo Game Reserve stretched to five and a bush experience i think scarred me for its beauty, its endless diversity in such a small reserve and that it was so unexpected that carved in my memories is a place that i want to see in more than just the photographs i left with.
Arrival was settled with a camp chair and a cold beer as we took in the unfenced camp site after a documentary like introduction to the park from Chris our host, who filled us in on the history, wildlife and the different areas of landscapes and bush that was to be our play ground for the next few days.
When the sun delivered an epic end to the day and some soft light to feather the view the campsite started getting interesting, first some Gautengers arrived and proceeded to recreate a security village by camping on top of us, in an empty campsite. To be fair its all about the flat sites in the Ndumo campsite which can be a little rolling at times, but still who wants neighbours in the bush?
Shortly after that a rather large snake did a little crawl through our campsite which had us pondering setting up our tents, it was a good reminder that the bush is its own animal and we are visitors. As we settled down for the night a herd of Nyala’s started moving silently through the campsite and grazing on the sparse lawns. As far as first nights go it was pretty swell.
Setting out early we decided to visit the bird hides around Nyanithi Pan, a sprawling eco-system that gave us our first clue that there was a lot more to Ndumo than we thought. The small hide hidden from the main pan by a forest of fever tree’s. Crocodile, Pelicans and Storks, a malachite kingfisher getting some breakfast and a rising heat that is a signature of the area.
The main hide revealed a wonderland that will always be ingrained into my memories, aside for the incredible beauty of the pan, it was the abundance of life that jarred me so much. Lazing hippos, more croc’s than i have digits cubed. Flocks of birds and the cacophony of sounds that invariably go with them. Limited to a paltry 135mm lens i gave up trying to capture the scene and settled in with my binoculars and just enjoyed what was in front of me.
After extending our stay from two to four nights, we earnestly set about discovering all the park had to offer. The Sycamore Fig Tree forest, the look out point on the Usthu River, the variations in the landscape and bush as we meander east to west. It always boggles my mind how these ‘lessor’ parks are not more well traded.
We didn’t see much game, despite the presence of rhino, leopard and plenty of plains game, the landscape and the pans with its unbelievable species count had me entrapped and for the first time in a long time i was happy to be a visitor browsing the wonderland … and not through a viewfinder.
On our second to last morning, we headed out with our guide to walk the border of the pan, an encyclopedic knowledge of the bird life and skirting round lazing croc’s made it well worthwhile. Being in and getting this close to a view the binoculars struggled to do justice to really allows one to be in and not view the pan. Check at reception regarding details and options on these guided walks – they should be compulsory.
All in all, Ndumo exceeded any expectations i had, and then it made it self a corner in my heart, it’s a little rough around the edges, its beautiful, its inspiring and it’s not the most popular destination in South Africa. Its perfect.