Can You Do A Safari From Durban?

It’s a question that has come up a few times over the years. So lets answer it!

I feel like I should have one of those Q&A’s that are so popular on YouTube (hmmm…perhaps this weekend while on a safari tour) since I have had so many questions about safaris, such as, what colours should be worn, what shoes, are bugs a problem, will a lion eat me, and so on.

One common question is, “we want you as a our guide, but can we do a safari from Durban though”? In a word, yes.

Safari Options From Durban

You’ve decided on Durban as your destination for your vacation and definitely want to include a safari to see the Big 5 and all the other game in South Africa. Well you’re going to be thrilled at choosing Durban as your destination since within 2 to 3 hours driving from the city, there are numerous game reserves to choose from, here are some of my favourites.

Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

This park is the oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa and at 960km2 of park, the biggest big 5 reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. This game reserve has a lot going for it apart from the great birding opportunities and plethora of wildlife;

  • it’s quiet so no big traffic jams when lions or other cats are spotted,
  • easy to get to, just 2-3 hours north of Durban on a major highway so day tours are possible (longer tours better),
  • a number of camps in the park to stay at,
  • a restuarant is available for those not wanting to cook,
  • affordable and usually has accommodation available even at short notice.

For me, a real bonus to enjoying a safari to this well known park is that there are loads of other activities nearby to enjoy, such as the elephant experience at Bayete Zulu, the Cheetah Rehabilitation centre at Emdoneni, the St Lucia estuary, False Bay for walks through natural forests, the list goes on a bit more as well.

Typically you can visit the Hluhluwe on a day tour or an overnight (2 day) tour, but honestly you would be better off booking the 3 day safari tour or even 4 day tour – I do offer a 5 day tour but that usually includes diving at Sodwana Bay.

Isimangaliso Wetlands Park

Isimangaliso Wetlands Park is the 3rd largest park in South Africa, and is was also the very first UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Africa.

Isimangiso stretches nearly 300km of coastline from roughly the town of St Lucia all the way up to the Mozambican border. Within it’s borders are a number of sites to visit, such as the Western Shores and Eastern Shores reserves, as well as Koso Bay, Cape Vidal and more.

Not only is Isimangaliso home to the Big 5, but since the park actually extends into the Indian Ocean by some 2km’s. This ensures protection for marine animals are well as land.

There are a number of very good reasons to visit Isimangaliso;

  • Some of the very best birding can be enjoyed in St Lucia and surrounds,
  • one of the best parks in the country to spot hippo, turtles and whale sharks.
  • the big 5 can be spotted further north,
  • the town of St Lucia has plenty accommodation available with modern amenities such as restaurants etc
  • hippo can be spotted walking down the main road!
  • lots of budget options for accommodation as well,
  • really easy to get to, just 2,5 hours north of Durban on main roads.

I offer a day tour to Isimangaliso that has always been very popular, especially for cruise ship passengers docking in Richards Bay – and I always include a 2 hour estuary cruise in St Lucia where hippo, crocodile and amazing bird life can be spotted on my overnight (2 day) tours or longer wildlife safari tours from Durban.

Tala Game Reserve

Tala Game Reserve is the easiest reserve to get to from Durban, it’s about 45 min west of Durban and accessible from a major highway.

Tala was once a sugar cane farm that was sold off as part of a community purchase and a game reserve was established. The local community hold shares in the reserve and receive an annual dividend – this ensures the park is protected from once again turning in to a sugar cane farm.

Tala Game Reserve does not have the big 5, the park is simply not big enough (only 3000 hectares) but is home to a bewildering array of antelope and other species.

There are no elephant or lion (or other cats) but there are rhino, hippo, giraffe and jackals. The birding life is amazing in summer and there are plenty of antelope species to view, from impala to nyala, bushbuck to eland and more.

Ad Break….

If you are looking to enjoy a safari tour to South Africa, why not get in touch with me? Not only do I offer safari tours from Durban, but I offer safari tours to Kruger National Park as well. All guides that I work with are registered not only as wildlife guides, but also to work in the respective game reserves mentioned. To get in touch, simply visit my contact page and let me know when you would like to travel and I’ll get started planning your safari vacation.

The whole park can be driven around in about 3 or so hours, though in certain areas you will need a 4×4 vehicle, but even if you avoid the 4×4 tracks, you will still see all the animals.

There is accommodation available but usually it gets booked out pretty quickly since Tala is a very popular destination for weddings and receptions. The accommodation varies from very basic camping type setups to the more luxurious lodge.

There is a restaurant at Tala which is always very, very good. One thing you should know is that they do not accept cash, everything must be paid for by credit or debit card.

Tala is easy to get to, safe to drive about in and is possibly one of the best introductions to game reserves that I can think of. It’s also affordable and has a fantastic picnic sites with a rock pool to cool down in when it’s hot over midday.

AndBeyond Phinda

Phinda Private Game Reserve is about as luxurious as you can get on a safari tour. Only around 180km2, this game reserve is home to the big 5 and easy to get to from Durban in a morning or so.

There are a number of lodges to stay in at Phinda Game Reserve and all have fantastic reviews and ratings. For the most part you are treated to two open vehicle game drives a day, amazing meals and loads of activities such as game walks and so on to choose from.

Unlike the other game reserves, no personal vehicles are allowed to be used at Phinda, all guides drives are conducted in the parks vehicles with their own wildlife guides which makes for a very personal and unique experience.

If you’re considering honeymoon options, then you will not go far wrong with one of the best game reserve experiences in South Africa.

Nambiti Private Game Reserve

Heading about 2,5 hours west of Durban you’ll find Nambiti Private Game Reserve. Much like Phinda, this game reserve offers a number of lodges within it’s 23 thousand acres, all of them considered to be luxurious.

One of the advantages of staying in Nambiti is it’s nearness to the popular battlefields route (the Anglo-Boer war and the Anglo Zulu war battlefields). Also not far away are the rugged and beautiful Drakensberg mountains.

Nambiti is home to the Big 5 and like Phinda, you’re not able to do game drives in your own vehicle and so would be accommodated in the game reserves vehicles. Unfortunately no day visits are allowed.

Usually 2 game drives a day are planned with the remainder of the day spent either around the pool, being pampered at the spa or even enjoying a guided tour to the battlefields.

A tall giraffe walks sedately along an asphalt road as two motor vehicles wait for the giraffe to pass.
A giraffe towers over two waiting motor vehicles

Getting to Nambiti does mean getting off the main highway and navigating a few back roads, but it’s absolutely worth it!

Ithala Game Reserve

Ithala Game Reserve is the most arduous to get to but as far as I’m concerned, one of the best parks in South Africa. It’s 290km2 of mountainous thornveld is home to all big game with the exception of lion.

The main camp is nestled against the Ngotshe Mountain, the views are amazing. And what’s more, the rock formations found here are the oldest rock formation on the planet!

King Dinizulu of the Zulu nation gifted the land to the Boers in the late 1800’s and in turn, the Natal Parks Board purchased the land from the farmers to create the game reserve.

As an interesting aside, there are two abandoned gold mines in Ithala.

The game viewing in Ithala is fantastic, and the birding just as good, well worth the effort to get to the park. I have visited many times and never been dissappointed.

The park is managed by Ezemvelo, the national organisation that succeeded the original Natal Parks Board. The amenities are very basic but perfectly acceptable (rated at around 3 star I guess). There is also a restaurant at the camp for those that choose not to self cater.

Safaris From Durban

So you can see that enjoying a safari from Durban is not only doable, but with the number of game reserve options available, you cannot go wrong when starting your safari vacation from Durban.

To find out more about the safari tours I offer, simply use any of the convenient methods below to get in touch.