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Game Warden posted a topic in South AfricaManguzi. The Safaritalk brief was this: following stays at iMfolozi, Mkhuze and Ndumo Game Reserves, (and squeezing in a brief stop at Zimanga Private Game Reserve), Bugs and I were to conclude our visit to northern Kwa-Zulu Natal by spending a couple of nights in Kosi Bay exploring the nature reserve, its world renowned lake system and discovering what this area has to offer the self-driving safari tourist: time permitting we also hoped to go on a day’s safari at Tembe Elephant Park. In the end, the experience turned out to surpass all expectations I had and one cannot truly say they’ve done KZN without having been to Kosi Bay… Kosi Bay is situated on South Africa’s east coast, at the north east point of Kwa-Zulu Natal, approximately five kms south of the Mozambique border and comprises a series of four lakes which are linked by natural channels, (passable by smaller water craft), which, as they flow out to the Indian Ocean at Kosi Mouth go from being fresh water to salt water. An area of varied ecosystems and biomes, this spectacular area forms part of the greater iSimangaliso Wetlands Park stretching from St Lucia up to Mozambique. For an overview of Kosi Bay Nature Reserve, visit the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife website here, or the iSimangaliso Wetland Park website here. Self driving, we relied heavily on a map I’d obtained from the Elephant Coast Tourism stand at Indaba, a road map of KZN from Mtubatuba north, an online virtual version of which can be accessed here. Of course we had a sat nav unit with its incessant chatter but being old school, I navigated from the map spread across my knees... Once on the main road from Ndumo to Kosi Bay it’s a long straight drive on a newly laid tarmac highway: it takes you past the entrance to Tembe Elephant Park. We stopped briefly at the gate, where it states that you can only access the park in a 4wd – therefore we’d have to alter our plans somewhat. Close to a town named Phelandaba you join the R22 at a roundabout, the direct road to Mozambique heading north, whilst south linking up with Hluhluwe and then the N2 to Durban, (approximately five hours drive away). Noticably the environment changes once past Tembe: the surrounds become more tropical, palm trees, flat stretching sand plains, one leaves the more typical safari veldt behind. Our destination is Manguzi: we arrive early, not expecting to make such good time, (in fact the last time Bugs drove this way 20 odd years ago it was a tyre shredding graded gravel track), and thus we are thinking to grab some bites and head up to the border with Mozambique before our scheduled pick up at 1600 hrs. Manguzi is a throbbing, exciting town, markets and shops line the main road, masses of people, bright and colourful, a procession of cars, of minibus taxis stopping to pick up passengers and blaring loud music, a ubiquitous Boxer Superstore. On the northern most edge of town, almost on the outskirts on the left of the road is the Total complex and we pull in, our little white hire car the colour of red African soil. It’s been a solid performer and at 200 +/- rand per day covering 200 kms, a bargain, especially with such good fuel consumption. It’s ground clearance is somewhat limiting though… Our instructions from Kosi Forest Lodge, (where we'd be staying for the first night), was to meet at Total where we'd be picked up for a 4wd transfer. A 2wd has its limitations. In the Kosi Bay area you are made aware of this. Whilst the main road through town is good, side roads are less so, and tracks into the reserve soon turn sandy... The Total Garage complex is like an oasis in the desert. Clean, well run, reassuringly welcome and safe, featuring an ever present Steers, (which, alas, I believe to have caused the only case of runny tummy on the trip and it wasn’t just me affected…), and an excellent fishing tackle and sports hardware shop and store which sells an amazing range of nibbles, wasabi peanuts, biltong, droewors, drinks and self catering supplies etc. We stocked up on biltong and droewors which would see us through until we left for St Lucia. Grab a bite to eat, (though avoid the burgers), something to drink and sit in the shade whilst awaiting the transfer to Kosi Forest Lodge. Stock up on biltong too, it was great! Whilst sorting the car, the owner of the whole concession came over to chat, Allistair McCann. Such an approachable and friendly chap, we talked about our trip so far, where we were staying in Kosi Bay etc., and in exchange I heard about Manguzi and Allistair's background in the town, how being part of the iSimangaliso World Heritage site has really been a boost for tourism. In fact, he said to include his contacts in case you are passing through and needed help as he knows just about everyone, so if in Manguzi, give him a shout on 082 337 5668 and mention Safaritalk. He’s someone who knows the town, has done a lot for it and helped encourage tourism thus is well respected. If you need anything, he's your man, and if he can't personally assist, he knows the right person who can. Whilst we chowed on those fated burgers, he called Kosi Forest Lodge and arranged for an earlier pick up which was much appreciated...
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