Tembe Elephant Park

One of the wilder reserves in South Africa, Tembe is only accessible with a 4×4, and only ten cars per day are allowed entrance. The elephants are considered by some to be the biggest in Africa, and lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino are also common, while the world’s smallest antelope – the 15cm tall Suni – is also found here. A group of endangered African wild dog has recently been reintroduced successfully. The reserve falls between the sub-tropical and tropical zones, and comprises thick sand forests and several wetlands. It’s co-owned by the local Tembe tribe, whose people have lived in this area for thousands of years. Size: 30 000 hectares. Situated to the east of Ndumo on the southern Mozambican border of South Africa.


Blog posts

Death of the kings – Tembe’s elephants in danger

Within a few months, Africa has lost two of her finest sons.

In April this year, iSilo, the biggest tusker in Southern Africa, born in the mid 1950s, was found dead in Tembe Elephant Park in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Although he died reportedly of old age, his immense tusks – each weighing around 65 kgs and over 2 metres in length - had been hacked off by poachers, and still remain missing.

Then more recently in Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, Satao, the biggest tusker in East Africa– with ivory as big as iSilo’s - was murdered by poachers with poisoned spears.

In both cases, when rangers found the carcasses the elephants’ faces had been so badly mutilated that it took several days to confirm the identity of these two magnificent animals. No arrests have been made yet in Read more »

Tembe, land of giants

Tembe Elephant Park in north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal is one of my favourite protected areas. In 300 square kilometres of sandforest, woodland and swamps, you'll find some of the biggest tuskers in Africa, one of the most successful lion populations, some of the biggest Cape buffalo, thousands of nyala antelope, as well as one of the smallest antelope in Africa - the suni. Plus, there are some unique bird species to be found.

As usual, I stayed at Tembe Elephant Park Lodge, located just inside the southern boundary. It's the only place for visitors to stay, and it's probably one of the best value-for-money wildlife lodges in Africa. What I enjoy is the laid-back atmosphere...there's a "luxurious camping" zeitgeist that prevails, and Read more »

Not just elephants at Tembe Elephant Reserve

Tembe isn't only about elephants. In fact, you can see the entire spectrum of African wildlife here...including lion, wild dogs, buffalo, hippo, crocs and leopards. The lions were reintroduced a few years ago, and the original four have clearly enjoyed their time here, because today there are close to forty of them.

But spotting wildlife can be a bit challenging in the sandforest. There was a reason why the elephants came to these forests to hide from harassment...it would be ludicrous to attempt to track an animal through the thick vegetation. So if you come to Tembe, make sure you have a few days to absorb the spirit of the place. After a while, it's magic works on you, and you start to notice the trees, the grasses, the smells, the birds...and without realising it, you've forgotten Read more »

Tembe Elephant Reserve – home of the giants

My next stop was Tembe Elephant Reserve in the far north of Zululand, on the Mozambican border. To the left of Tembe is Ndumo Game Reserve, and to the right is Kosi Bay, which is the northern-most part of South Africa’s east coastline.

Tembe is very different to anything I have experienced so far on my Year in the Wild journey. The soil is ancient ocean sand, left by a retreating sea more than 130 000 years ago. In this thick beach sand grows some of the most beautiful and biggest tracts of sandforest, populated with huge mahogany, tamboti, saddlepod and Lebombo wattle trees and hundreds of other species (this part of the world has the most number of trees in South Africa). The trees' roots tap the ground water, which is Read more »