African Insight Academy On Pongola Game Reserve

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Our location on Pongola Game Reserve:

Zululand, situated in the KwaZulu-Natal province, is one of South Africa’s most wildlife-rich regions.

From Durban (King Shaka International Airport) it’s an approximate 3½ – 4-hour drive.
From Johannesburg (OR Tambo Int. Airport) it’s an approximate 6-hour drive.

African Insight Academy is based on the White Elephant section of the reserve.


Pongola Game Reserve, the first proclaimed game reserve in Africa, is host to four of the ‘Big 5’ species. Wildlife includes buffalo, elephant, rhino, leopard, hyena, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, warthog, 12 different antelope species, over 350 bird species and an interesting array of smaller mammal and insect life.

Although Pongola Game Reserve was the first proclaimed reserve in Africa, it was only in the late 1980’s that neighbouring private land owners, here at the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains, with KZN Wildlife and local communities initiated the idea of a larger co-operative conservation area that included Lake Jozini and surrounding land as one ecological unit. The shared vision was to conserve this large area; making it ecologically and economically viable and socially beneficial through the provision of high-quality tourism.  

In 1990 fences were dropped, cultivated lands were handed back to nature, livestock sold and programmes for the eradication of invader plant species and the removal of man-made structures, initiated. Today the reserve consists of a consolidation of privately-owned land which totals 30 000 hectares including Lake Jozini. Beautiful views, glorious sunsets, and therapeutic silence add to the rich and varied authentic African wildlife experience that includes: game drives, guided walks, boat cruises, rhino walks, research projects, behind-the-scenes conservation operations and authentic Zulu cultural experiences.

Re-stocking of the reserve by private landowners began with the re-introduction of larger mammal species such as giraffe, Blue wildebeest, White rhino, buffalo, Spotted hyena and elephant. 


Today there are close to 80 species of mammals in the Pongola Game Reserve. The following animals are most likely to be seen by visitors to the reserve:

White Rhino
Black Rhino 
Spotted Hyaena 
Blue Wildebeest 
Common Reedbuck 
Mountain Reedbuck 
Burchell’s Zebra 
Grey Duiker 
Red Duiker 
Black-backed Jackal 
Large-spotted Genet 
African Wild cat 
Chacma Baboon 
Vervet Monkey 
Honey Badger 
Bushy-tailed Mongoose 
Banded Mongoose 
Dwarf Mongoose 
Slender Mongoose 
Water Mongoose 
White-tailed Mongoose 
Striped polecat
Thick-tailed Bushbaby 
Greater Canerat 
Scrub Hare 

Conservation Projects

Prior to the reintroduction of the elephant families to the Pongola Game Reserve in 1997, elephant had not roamed free in Pongola since the last recorded sightings of three bulls along the Pongola River in 1897. Today, these highly intelligent ‘grey ghosts’ roam the reserve once again and are the daily focus of the reserve’s elephant monitoring and research study. Telemetric equipment receives a signal from radio transmitter collars fitted to each matriarch and bull, allowing our elephant monitors to track the elephant with greater accuracy.

Zululand is the stronghold of both the Rhinoceros species, and Pongola Game Reserve reintroduced Black Rhino in October 2006 as part of the WWF and KZN Wildlife Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.

Prior to the reintroduction of four spotted hyaena to the Pongola Game Reserve in April 2000, one small clan of hyaena was sporadically sighted roaming the reserve. With the lack of larger predators like Lion and Cheetah, the hyaena plays a key role in maintaining biological control in the reserve.


Rising abruptly, across the waters of Lake Jozini to the east, is the Lebombo mountain range, the start of the Great East African Rift valley which extends for 600km northwards until it loses itself in the Limpopo valley towards central Africa. To the eye, the Lebombo Mountains resemble a great wall rising some 600m above the plains with an almost level summit. This summit is about 5km wide and is relatively cool and humidity-free compared with the steamy plains below that forms part of one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.  The reserve’s eastern boundary runs along the top of the mountain range.


Pongola Game Reserve generally experiences very hot temperatures on summer days with temperatures cooling down in the late afternoons and evenings. Spectacular electrical storms, usually from the South West, are frequent in the summer months (October to January) and revive the otherwise arid bushveld vegetation. The winter months (June to August) are warm to cool and very dry with an annual rainfall that does not usually exceed 450mm. 

Due to the Reserve’s dry climate, it is Malaria free. The Reserve’s low rainfall also allows for beautiful blue skies, many sunshine days and spectacular sunsets while the warm evenings display moonlight skies and incredibly clear galaxies of the Southern Hemisphere.




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