A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend two weeks at Duma Manzi Private Game Reserve, where not only did I get to enjoy the luxurious accommodation, but also did a little safari guiding. Below is my report on this stunning game reserve and lodge in Natal, South Africa:
Duma Manzi Wildlife
Includes: Buffalo, White Rhino, Giraffe, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Eland, Kudu, Nyala, Water Buck, Bushbuck, Blesbok, Impala, Reedbuck, Warthog, Grey Duiker, Leopard, Aardwolf, African wildcat, Honey Badger, Black-backed Jackal, Clawless Otter, Caracal, Large spotted Genet, Striped Polecat, Banded Mongoose, Water Mongoose, White-Tailed Mongoose, African Weasel, Vervet Monkey, Thick-tailed Bushbaby, Scrub Hare, Natal red Hare, Dassies, Porcupine and Ant bear.
The animals that we spotted during our stay are in italics and I must say that the sightings of the Nyala and especially the usually secretive bushbuck were excellent.
Bird Species (Birds we identified during our stay in Bold) Because of the big difference in altitude from the top plateau to the valley below and the change in habitat from open grassland to wooded slopes and the river system in the valley, there is a large diversity of birdlife on view at Duma Manzi and I would recommend the reserve to any keen birder. Some highlights include The African Fish Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Crowned Eagle, Martial Eagle, Narina Trogon, Knysna Loerie (Tauraco) Purple Crested Loerie, now known as the Purple Crested Tauraco, Hadeda Ibis, Brownhooded Kingfisher, Yellowthroated Longclaw, Blackheaded Oriole, Rameron Pigeon, Crowned Plover, Fiscal Shrike, Glossy Starling, Redwing Starling, African Hoopoe, Crowned Hornbill, Forktailed Drongo, Blackcollard Barbet, Crested Barbet, Southern Boubou, Blackeyed Bulbul, Familiar Chat, Burchell’s Coucal.
Even though our two week visit was right in the heart of winter (July) we spotted a huge variety of butterflies, some we managed to identify include the Orange Tip, Orange and lie butterfly, Guineefowl Butterfly and the Pansy Butterfly and I am sure that during spring and summer this whole area would be an ideal location for anyone keen on butterflies and birds.
Duma manzi has at the time of our visit 9 thatched chalets, although they were in the process of expanding with the plan of building a few more. We were lucky enough to have been able to spend a few nights in a selection of the rooms and inspect all the others that we could not stay in. Four of the rooms are connected via a raised wooden walkway to a small lodge known as Fish Eagle Lodge which contains a kitchen, bar area lounge, boma and small pool and so is perfect for small groups of people traveling together. All the rooms are spacious, with separate showers and baths, beautifully decorated and full of character. They each have a verandah area that looks out over the Umkomaas river an ideal location for a sundowner after a hard day on Safari!
The remaining 5 chalets are connected via wooden walkways to the main Sandstone lodge. The rooms are decorated more contemporary with beautiful showers and baths. Once again they all have have their own private verandah overlooking the Umkomaas river, but have the added bonus of each having their own private pool, pure luxury in the bush!
Cecil John Rhodes & Duma Manzi
This area was the first African home of the late Hon. Cecil John Rhodes, as he farmed cotton here with his brother on the alluvial flats of the Umkomass valley below Spitskop on Lions Kloof in the 1870’s and there is a memorial which is situated in the heart of the Duma Manzi Game Reserve.
A quote from Cecil John Rhodes on this area says: “I never saw such an extra-ordinarily beautiful place in life. There, hundreds of feet below us, stretched out the whole valley with out huts looking like specs, and in the distance there were hills rising one above another, with a splendid blue tint on them”
It must be said that his cotton farm was not very successful and it was only when cecil Rhodes when to the Kimberly diamond fields that he began to amass his fortune.
Duma Manzi Walking Safari Trails
Currently there are three walking trails which you can either take by yourself or if you prefer, with a guide. The dangerous game like buffalo and rhino do not have access to this stunningly beautiful area of the game reserve and so makes it an ideal location for walking. The trails are extremely well maintained and well signed and you should not have any difficulty in finding your way. Along the way there are many trees that have been marked so that along with your directions, you can look up the names of the trees as well including many interesting facts about them. From the common sweet thorn (Acacia karoo) where the seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute and the gum can be used to treat mouth ulcers, so the exotic looking Tree aloe (Aloe barberiae) which is the largest of the South African aloes, reaching a height of 18 meters and that flowers in late summer and right throughout winter making it especially popular with nectar eating birds, like the collared sunbird (Hedydipna collaris).
Apart from the trees on our walks along the trails, we managed to see Vervet Monkeys, Bushbuck, Nyala as well as many species of birds and butterflies. The trails range in difficulty and length from an undulating easy hours walk that first takes you along the Umkomaas river and then up over a few of the many hills in the area where the vegetation get pretty thick. The longer walks should not take more than a couple of hours. If you would like to take longer walks, the safari guides are more than happy to guide you.
So for me to summerise, if you are looking for a nature retreat, with plenty of history and wildlife, not to far away from the Natal Coast and the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg where the accommodation, service and level of guiding is excellent, Duma Manzi might just be the place you are looking for.
Where to find Duma Manzi
Only one hour from Durban and forty minutes from Pietermaritzburg, Just south of the town of Richmond in South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal on the Umkomaas river is the 5000 thousand hectare private game reserve of Duma Manzi. The location could not be more idyllic, with the main lodge and 9 chalets located in the valley bottom overlooking the Umkomaas river and spectacular sandstone and dolerite cliff faces bearing down on you on the far bank.
You arrive at Duma Manzi on top of the world where you will be greeted by you safari guide and will take the forty minute drive down the steep slope below through the bush where you can spot many of the wildlife species on the reserve.
Below is a map showing the location of the Duma Manzi Game reserve
Other Places of interest in the Area
Only about 40 minutes from Duma Manzi is Pietermaritzburg, which is listed as one of the “most important high character” cities in the whole of Africa, where it is still possible to experience a little piece of the “Old Country” with many excellent examples of Victorian and Edwardian architecture. To the Zulu people this was known as their “Place of the Elephant” this strategic location was then claimed by the Boers and later the British. It is also the location where Mahatma Gandhi first began his journey into spiritualism and there are more than 50 National Monuments all within easy walking distance of each other as well a 5 museums and several excellent golf courses for anyone looking to combine a safari and golf holiday in South Africa.
Underberg – roughly an hours drive away are the southern ranges of the stunning Drakensburg mountains with it’s hidden caves, stunning scenery, diverse plant and wildlife, is a holiday destination in it’s own right.
The town of Richmond is less than half an hour away and is the location of the Richmond Country club where you can easily go on safari in the morning and by the afternoon be sitting the greens alight on the nearest golf course!
Duma Manzi Contact Details:
- Duma Manzi Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu Natal, Republic of South Africa
- Cell: 082 653 3475
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org