The Elephant Coast, with its rich diversity of wildlife, has many internationally renowned game reserves and parks.
The area contains a number of threatened animals such as the African Wild Dog and both the White Rhino and Black Rhino. Through the conservation intervention of the staff at the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, the White Rhino has been saved from extinction and the reserve, together with Kruger National Park, has the largest Black Rhino and White Rhino populations in the world.
Although the Big 5 are often the major attraction to visitors to our game reserves, the reserves are also home to many other fascinating animals such as the Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena, Giraffe, Plains Zebra and Blue Wildebeest.
The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, which is 25 minutes from Malala, is the oldest game reserve in Africa having been proclaimed in 1895. Originally two separate reserves (Hluhluwe, a name referring to the thorny Monkey Rope and Imfolozi, meaning river of reeds), it is now joined by an 8km wide corridor.
The reserve, which covers some 96 000 hectares (around 237 000 acres) and has an immense diversity of flora and fauna within it, was originally the exclusive hunting preserve of the Zulu kings who protected the area by proclaiming conservation laws long before any official protection.
The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve boasts one of the best conservation teams in the world and has gained world-wide acclaim for its conservation efforts. As the home of "Operation Rhino" in the 1950s and 1960s, the park became world-renowned for its White Rhino conservation programme. It is worth noting that by 1900 less than 50 White Rhino were left in the province and there are now in excess of 18 000 worldwide. The park has also focussed on the Black Rhino whose numbers had dwindled from 14 000 to 1 500.
Other areas of focus for the park are its wilderness trails and its renowned Game Capture Unit, upgraded into the Centenary Capture Centre which is a benchmark for animal capture and sustainable utilisation in Africa.
Besides the Black and White Rhino, the reserve contains Lion, Leopard, African Buffalo and Elephant - the big 5. In addition to the Big 5, there are a number of other large mammals including Giraffe, Blue Wildebeest, large numbers of Impala, Plains Zebra, Nyala, African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena, Hippo and Blackbacked Jackal. There are more than 80 species of mammal within the reserve.
Guided game drives, in open game-viewing vehicles, into the reserve are available and highly recommended. Alternatively, you are able to self-drive (a 4x4 vehicle is not necessary) as all the routes are well marked and maintained and the main route is tarred. Malala is 25 minutes drive from the main gate (Memorial Gate). The gates open at 5am and close at 7pm in summer (November-March) and are open 6am-6pm in winter. There is an entrance fee payable at the gate.
In excess of 350 species of bird have been recorded in the park, and it is particularly renowned for its abundance of raptors. Other birds of particular note in the park include a breeding colony of the endemic Southern Bald Ibis in the cliffs close to Hilltops, and African Finfoot on the Hluhluwe River. Further information is available on the birding page.
Mkhuze Game Reserve, which is 45 minutes north of Malala, is a 40 000 hectare (100 000 acres) reserve which was proclaimed a protected area in 1912.
The reserve has an astonishing diversity of natural habitats, from the eastern slopes of the Lebombo mountains to broad stretches of acacia savannah, swamps, woodlands and riverine forest. Sand forest, a rare forest type confined to fossil sand dunes, also occurs within the reserve.
Mammals found in the reserve include Lion, Wild Dog and Black and White Rhino, African Elephant, Leopard, Spotted Hyaena, Giraffe and a number of antelope species. The rare Suni antelope is found here, staying close to thick vegetation. There are several hides and lookout platforms that provide visitors with excellent mammal and bird viewing opportunities.
A place of great beauty, Mkhuze Game Reserve is renowned as a mecca for bird watchers with more than 420 species recorded - one of South Africa's highest checklists for a protected area - due largely to the diversity of habitats included in the reserve. Mkhuze has several birds of prey and an amazing 11 species of owls.
Further information is available on the birding page.