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Tembe Elephant Park is a relatively large 30000Ha reserve on the northern border of KZN, situated between Ndumo Game Reserve in the west and Kosi Bay in the east. Most of the east coast specials and endemics are easily found, and good sightings of exceptionally large elephants, white and black rhinos, and the rare Suni antelope are frequent. In addition, the limited number of visitors and minimal tourist development contribute a wilderness character not found elsewhere in KZN.



Special birds include Crested Guineafowl, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, Brown Scrub-Robin, Rudd's Apalis, Woodwards' Batis,Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Neergaard's Sunbird and Purple-banded Sunbird, Green Twinspot and Pink-throated Twinspot, and Lemon-breasted Canary. Rarities include Bat Hawk, Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Palm-nut Vulture, Black Coucal, Swamp Nightjar, Rosy-throated Longclaw and even Chestnut-fronted Helmet-Shrike. The rare Plain-backed Sunbird was recently found to be resident.



The primary habitat is sand forest, ranging from dense woodland to forest and thicket. Additional habitats include savanna grasslands, palm savanna, wetlands of reedbed, swamp and open water, and seasonal pans. More habitats, especially large pans with hippo and associated birds, will become available as the park is developed.



There is a network of sandy 4x4 tracks covering most of the 12000Ha ‘visitor’ area, with access restricted to five 4x4vehicles per day. Tembe Elephant Lodge has access to the full 30000Ha including a ‘wilderness’ area. Two hides and picnic sites are available for visitors, although the hides are designed for viewing large game rather than birds. Accommodation in the reserve is limited to Tembe Elephant Lodge, while Ndumo River Lodge is nearby. Slightly further afield, there is accommodation and camping at both Ndumo and Kosi Bay.



Birding in Tembe is difficult yet rewarding. The vegetation is generally dense and although the species list is similar to that of Ndumo, there are not large numbers of common birds. However, those that do occur are generally sought after by birders. The use of a call-up tape is essential for the more secretive species.

1. Tembe Elephant Lodge is the most watched area of the park. Situated in fairly dense sand forest, species such as Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Woodwards' Batis, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Square-tailed Drongo, and Retz's Helmet-Shrike all occur. The bird bath has Green Twinspot and Pink-throated Twinspot, and Crested Guineafowl visit daily. African Wood-Owl and Fiery-necked Nightjar call at night. The very rare Chestnut-fronted Helmet-Shrike was recorded recently.

2. A self-guided trail of 2.5 or 3.5 km is situated near the entrance gate, and will produce similar species to those found in the camp. African Broadbill and Woodwards' Batis are also easier to follow up.

3. Drives through the sand forest should produce Crested Guineafowl, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, Brown Scrub-Robin, Rudd's Apalis, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Neergaard's Sunbird, Purple-banded Sunbird, and Pink-throated Twinspot. This habitat is widely distributed and the densest areas occur on Gowanini loop, which takes you through some very attractive habitat. The Plain-backed Sunbird is also found here, in the area of tall forest which forms a canopy over the road.

4. The Muze Swamp fills a drainage linejust inside the eastern border of the reserve. Umjangazi road follows the eastern edge of the swamp, and species to look out for include Collared Pratincole and Senegal Lapwing on the short grass plains, and Lemon-breasted Canary in the Llala Palm savanna. Look overhead for African Marsh-Harrier and, where the road crosses the swamp, check for secretive rails, crakes, flufftails, Eurasian Bittern, and Black Coucal. A small pan approximately halfway along supports general waterbirds. Look here for Greater Painted-snipe, and check the waders for Green Sandpiper.

5. Seasonal pans, including Mfungeni Pan, attract species such as African Jacana, African Wattled Lapwing, Saddle-billed Stork and Woolly-necked Stork, and sometimes African Pygmy-Goose and Lesser Jacana.

6. The two hides are built primarily for viewing larger game, although they do provide an opportunity to look over the bush canopy. At Mahlasela Pan, Neergaard’s and Purple-banded Sunbird are particularly common when the Schotia brachypetala (weeping boer-bean) is in flower. Bat Hawk is sometimes seen from the hide in the evenings.

7. In the more open savanna areas, look for Flappet Lark, Croaking Cisticola, Black-bellied Bustard, and Corn Crake in late summer.

8. Afternoon drives from Tembe Elephant Lodge can be extended into early evening. Try the Muze wetland for Marsh Owl, African Grass-Owl and Swamp Nightjar, and look for African Barred Owlet, Square-tailed Nightjar and Fiery-necked Nightjar in the woodland areas.



The gates are open from 6am to 6/7pm, with access restricted to five 4x4 vehicles per day. Accommodation in the reserve is limited to Tembe Elephant Lodge, while Ndumo River Lodge is nearby. Slightly further afield, there is accommodation and camping at both Ndumo and Kosi Bay.

Access: Turn off the N2 just north of Mkuze, and head towards Jozini. As you leave Jozini, take the left fork and proceed over the Jozini Dam and head towards Ndumo and Kosi Bay. Turn right at the T-junction to Ndumo, Tembe and Kosi Bay. Tembe is about 20 km beyond the Ndumo turnoff, and 95km from the N2.

Tembe Elephant Park (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife):

Gate Opening and Closing Times:
Summer ( October to March ) 05h00 to 19h00
Winter (April to September ) 06h00 to 18h00

The office is open from 07h00 to 16h00

Camp Telephone Number: +27 35 592 0001 Camp Fax: +27 35 5920240

Accommodation is available in the area.

Thembe Elephont Park Website

Special Precautions: Tembe is in a malaria area and special precautions are necessary.

The nearest town which has a full range of services is Kwangwanase which is 30 kms away.

How to get there:
From Durban, travel North on the N2 past Richards Bay, Hluhluwe and Mkuze. Stop to refuel at Mkuze as it is a long way to the next refueling point. Turn off the N2 to Jozini, go through the town and cross the dam wall. The park is 72 kilometres from Jozini and is well signposted.

Guests staying at the lodge park their vehicles at the main gate and will be collected in a 4x4 game drive vehicle and transferred to the lodge.

A 4 x 4 vehicle is essential for entry into the park.

No sedan or 2 wheel drive vehicle will be allowed on any game viewing track in the park.

Guy Gibbon 2002

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