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A visit to Tembe Elephant Park

Penny2's picture
A visit to Tembe Elephant Park

A visit to Tembe Elephant Park

We arrived back home just over a week ago, after another lovely trip to South Africa.  This time we also paid a visit to Tembe and were not disappointed.  The drive from Johannesburg was long and, due to major roadworks on the way, it eventually took us 8 hours before we finally reached our destination.  I couldn’t resist taking a pic through the windscreen of the vehicle in front of us when we were not too far from our final destination!


Once there, we were met just inside the gate by Tom, the camp manager.  We drove our hire vehicle a short distance inside the reserve before parking it and then climbed aboard the lodge’s 4 x 4 for the drive into camp.   As we arrived, we were met by camp staff, singing a lovely Zulu welcome song and were provided with scented towels to wipe away the grime of travel.  The staff were wonderful - friendly and very helpful.

We had time for a refreshing drink before unpacking and then set off on our first game drive.  Drives at Tembe go out earlier and come back again before it is dark.  We ended up at the waterhole we all know so well but were off to the left, so out of camera vision.   While there we saw three young sub-adult lions (one male and two females) which were attempting, unsuccessfully, to hunt nyala.  Nyala are the most common animal at Tembe and they are as common as impalas are in the Sabi Sand.


There was also a magnificent old tusker - he looked very old and very wise and I couldn't resist taking a picture of him.


Tembe covers an area that was once known as the Ivory Route which for many years linked the ivory traders of Mozambique and Zululand.  It is where the largest elephants in the world roamed.   There are, today, more than 220 of them in Tembe. 

Over 4.5 million years ago, Tembe was under the sea.  It is an area of sand forests, pans and wetlands and when I asked our guides to help me find a stone which a friend had asked me to bring her, I was told there were none to be found -  they were correct and, apart from some building rubble which had been brought in, I didn’t see a stone at all while there.    There are thick forest areas where you will find animals such as the elusive Suni which we were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of  (but unfortunately no photo).  We also saw red duikers and even had them in camp - again, unfortunately I didn’t get to take any pictures!

During dinner on our first night we were joined by  three or four greater bush babies.   They regularly appear and are fed on slices of pineapple which are prepared in advance for them.    They take the pineapple very gently and then move back up the tree to nibble on the fruit before moving down the tree for seconds!  I must add that the food which was served up at mealtimes was superb.

Next morning we took a drive to a holding boma where there were a number of wild dogs with pups.  The plan as we were told, is to introduce the dogs into Tembe as there is a shortage of predators in the reserve.   There are no hyenas and, although there are leopards, they are sighted very infrequently.  There are over thirty lions in the reserve.

After breakfast, we were taken to the hide where we spent over two hours watching all the animals coming down to drink at the waterhole.  We saw elephants, lions, kudu, nyala, waterbuck, reedbuck, bushbuck and warthogs. Here is a view of the waterhole from inside the hide.


There was also a snake which we believed was a Natal Green Snake (non venomous) which was slithering along the top of the wooden fencing along the walkway to the hide.


The lions, which were around the waterhole during the whole of our stay, were hunting and they had been joined by a fourth lion.   We were fortunate (or unfortunate?) to see one of them catch an nyala.


The zooming controls for the cam at Tembe are not, as I had thought, at the hide but were in fact in the bar back at the lodge so I wasn’t able to move the cam to show the lions to all the viewers on Africam.

This reedbuck stood right in front of the hide, giving alarm calls when it saw the lions.

We saw some wonderful big tuskers while sitting in the hide, including Induna and Makadebona, the second and third largest in Southern Africa.  The first pic is of Induna and the second Makadebona.



I had hoped to see Isilo at the waterhole while we were there but he didn’t show up until the afternoon and our first stop on the afternoon game drive was the waterhole where we were thrilled to see him.

That night we heard branches breaking once we were in our tent after dinner but we didn’t know if the elephant was in camp or just outside.  It turned out that it was Isilo and he was inside camp. Apparently he is a regular visitor - this time he just broke the fencing at the gate.  He also came in on our third and final night but we didn’t see or hear him then.

Our tent was over 250 yards from the boma area and, knowing Isilo ventures into camp we were a bit wary walking around at night!   The tents were very comfortable

and I felt I could do with another day or two to just experience sitting on our verandah watching the various birds which visited our little bird bath.

These are dark-capped Bulbuls


and here is an emerald-spotted wood dove.

On our last evening game drive we went to the wetland areas some distance away and while there saw a herd of buffalo.

Giraffe, rhinos, reedbuck, waterbuck, elephants, bushbuck, warthog and nyala were also among the sightings that evening.


I rather liked this picture of waterbuck which we saw at the waterhole - they looked as though they were posing!



I also couldn't resist snapping this young elephant. He found a bit of a hole and decided it was a place to have some fun.  I could have stayed and watched him for hours.



All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing trip and now when I look at the Tembe cam I am looking to see if I can identify any of the elephants we saw whilst there!

elektricat's picture

sitting here in Alabama

sitting here in Alabama enjoying your blogs Penny! (i can't believe i'm just now reading them)! looking forward to reading more of your adventures!

tomatotamata's picture

Penny superphotos, that

Penny superphotos, that snake i saw one like that on Wildearth safari but it when on its way no harm done, so there is a tusker called Induna also there is a leopard called Induna Karula's one of her offspring Induna and Mixo, i see you still use one of those big tents, i always lookout for Isillo at tembe you see to big tuskers in the Park there itsa great reserve to watch, i will check on the rest of your blog, thank you for sharing Penny.

krukab's picture

finnaly figured out i had to

finnaly figured out i had to log in

i enjoyed the photos and story

and now know where they zoom the cam from

the bar at the lodge- thanks for posting Smile

edit -  would like to see more info on the park

some great encounters from what i read

again for the 4 th time lol

                            A F R I C A M    B O O K



Garesiz's picture

I really loved these

I really loved these pics..... Thanks for providing those on website...

donnabac's picture

Lovely! Thank you for

Lovely! Thank you for showing us the view from the Hide. Very special pictures but especially enjoyed the old and new ellies and the waterbucks.


Fani's picture

Penny the first pic of old

Penny the first pic of old and wise elephant is really great ...!!! ...

Bulbuls and dove are aso great ...

The big tusker are aways ...fabulous !!!

Thank you for sharing once more time your experiences!!!!

I hope now with your experience we will manage to find who is who Smile

leelal's picture

Great, thank you, thank

Great, thank you, thank you.


Ingwe's picture

I loved this Penny!  Thank

I loved this Penny!  Thank you Smiling


The ellies are quite magnificent close up, and the youngster has big shoes to fill.  Great shot of the lion with the nyala!  Could you breathe?


It all looks just marvellous, thanks for sharing Smiling

Mavis's picture

Thank you Penny.  What a

Thank you Penny.  What a great blog entry.  Now I have to add Tembe to the list of places that I have to see when I go to Africa.

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