Pongola Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal surrounds the Pongola River and is home to four of the Big Five. The biome is predominantly acacia-veld, a healthy environment for giraffe, zebra, and other species to thrive. The Pongola River meanders into Lake Jozini, which takes pride of place in the reserve, and is bordered by the looming Lebombo Mountains.
The 310 square kilometres of the reserve offers numerous activities for the adventure-bound guest. Safari cruises and sundowners, canoeing, tiger fishing, and birding are just a few things to do in the area. The mighty river provides the ideal habitat for large populations of hippos and crocodiles, and the reserve is a birding hotspot for a few noteworthy species.
Pongola is only 450 kilometres from Johannesburg and 350 kilometres from Durban. The closest airports are King Shaka International in Durban and OR Tambo in Johannesburg.
There are more than 350 different types of birds in the Pongola Game Reserve. Some of the notable species include Rufous-bellied herons, African jacanas and Caspian plovers.
There is a host of activities on offer at Pongola Game Reserve, including tiger fishing.
The reserve is a birding hotspot. Over 350 species have been recorded in the area. Lake Jozini and the Pongola River host dense populations of pelicans, Rufous-bellied herons, Caspian plovers, spoonbills, hammerkop, bitterns, and African jacanas. Raptors such as African fish eagles and osprey are also found in abundance.
25 species of indigenous fish, 100 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 60 mammal species occur in the area. There are healthy numbers of zebra, warthog, wildebeest, impala, hippo, crocs, and elephant. Black rhino and leopard are spotted, but they are rarely seen.
Other common mammals include buffalo, hyenas and wildebeest. The elephant foundation is involved in increasing elephant populations in the area and re-establishing old migration routes.
Winter is the best time for a safari experience, which is from May to August. The winters are moderate and generally quite warm and sunny. Summer has a unique subtropical climate, with afternoon showers and searing temperatures during the day. Summer is fantastic for birding and viewing spectacular emerald landscapes.
There is a multitude of safari experiences on offer, catering to the more placid safari-goer and avid adventure lover. Daily game drives are a must, and professional guides select the cooler times of day to explore the reserve, as this is when predators are most active. Guided walks offer an added dimension to safaris and are the activity of choice for fitness fanatics. One of the highlights of Pongola is its rhino tracking walks. Here, guests can track rhino spoor and spend quality time observing these prehistoric giants.
Other activities in the area include canoeing, biking, tiger fishing and relaxed sundowner cruises. Guests can also hire their boats.
There are five self-catering lodges in the reserve, each with astounding views of the landscape. Visitors can expect open balconies, boma areas, and small splash pools. Self-catering lodges come with all the amenities needed for a fantastic and exclusive safari experience.
There are two catered lodges, which include all meals. These lodges are upmarket and even have private boat launching and jetty facilities available.