Ithala game reserve is a picturesque wildlife area situated in Northern Kwazulu Natal. The terrain is very rugged and diverse, crisscrossed by several rivers and streams with hilly areas occurring across the whole park, interspersed by open plains.
At 296km2 (115mi2), about 20 km (12 miles) as the crow flies from the furthest western to eastern border and approximately 15 km (9 miles) from the furthest southern to northern border, the Ithala Game Reserve is a small wildlife area.
If your aim is to see the big five animals (lion, rhino, elephant, leopard, buffalo) then this is probably not the best place to do it because lions don't occur here and elephants and leopards are not often seen.
But on the other hand, this is an excellent place to see that most elusive of all big game, the black rhino (I've been blessed to see a mother and baby black rhino here) and the rare tsessebe and red hartebeest.
The satellite map is interactive so use the controls in the left hand corner or double click to magnify. You can magnify to such an extent that the details of Ntshondwe camp become very clear. See if you can spot the camp's swimming pool. The icons are clickable with descriptions...
Ithala Distance Calculator
Finding your way between the camps and/or main gate normally doesn’t take very long because the reserve is not that big but it's also dependant on how much wildlife you are seeing.
Use the distance calculator here to find outexactly what the travel times and distances are inside the Ithala Game Reserve.
Most of the road network is concentrated in the southern and central areas of the park and the only portion that is tarred is between the Mvunyane entrance gate and Ntshondwe Camp.
The rest of the gravel roads can be driven confidently with a normal sedan vehicle because they are reasonably well maintained but some will be off limits during the rainy season.
You should be able to cover all the roads in the park within a period of two days if you go for morning and afternoon drives each day.
Wildlife viewing is good all year round. This is a summer rainfall area but showers are normally short lived, violent thunderstorms.
If you visit during the colder months between May and August you should bring some warm clothes along because temperatures can drop sharply at night. Frost only occurs a few days each year.
Ithala was incorporated as a game reserve in 1973 by the then Natal Parks Board (now Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) and at that time there was very little game left because of intensive hunting in the area.
Since 1973 about 20 species have been re-introduced into the game park like black and white rhino, eland, giraffe, elephant and brown hyena and the park has been enlarged from 8000 ha to 30 000 ha.
There is still evidence here of the people that inhabited the land before it became a nature reserve such as the old Zulu kraal where you can clamber through the low door into the single, thatched, round room that served as their whole living area. Old, underground grain pits are also apparent at the end of the kraal but most have collapsed with the passage of time.
A small distance from the kraal is the remains of an old iron workings mine where the ore was collected to make assegais and other metal implements. Bushmen (San hunter-gatherers) also made use of this area and left traces of their habitation in the form rock art which can be found in the eastern part of the Ithala Game Reserve.
This budget spreadsheet will help you work out the cost of a Ithala Game Reserve self drive safari...