For South Africans wanting to explore new regions within their own country, Babanango Game Reserve is a brand-new game reserve in KwaZulu Natal’s that beckons discovery.
A bush lover’s paradise with 22,000 ha of rolling hills, plunging valleys just 50km from Vryheid. Some three years in the making, Babanango Game Reserve is the realisation of the local Emcakwini, KwaNgono and Esibongweni communities’ dream to create a wilderness area that will attract tourism and stimulate the local economy. With the intention to offer a range of accommodation options, Babanango Game Reserve is a malaria-free game reserve, which will soon be home to the Big Five.
The Reserve is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s newest conservation areas and is set on the White Umfolozi River – encompassing the beautiful Babanango Valley. Zululand is the traditional seat of the Zulu Kingdom and is just a three-hour drive or possible flight option, north of the port city of Durban, with Babanango Game Reserve situated inland in this diverse region.
Babanango Game Reserve is home to three lodges, namely Zulu Rock Lodge, Babanango Valley Lodge and Matatane Lodge. Each tucked into its own slice of the pristine bush with distinct offerings, activities and facilities to better cater to your wants and needs. The entire reserve is a conservation area encompassing mist belt grasslands, thornveld and river frontage. A further two lodges are planned to open in late 2022, with other accommodation options also being planned.
Babanango Valley Lodge
The first to officially open its doors is Babanango Valley Lodge, enjoying panoramic views of the Nsubeni River, which flows into the White Umfolozi. Surrounded by dramatic granite koppies, sandstone cliffs and impressive quartzite ridges, the lodge offers luxurious, 4-star accommodation and has a sophisticated, yet laid-back appeal that is perfect for both couples and families alike.
Guests are greeted with a refreshing glass of homemade iced tea or a warming cup of hot chocolate and wide, welcoming smiles before making themselves at home in this beautiful lodge. With its tastefully decorated and spacious rooms, Babanango Valley Lodge can accommodate up to eighteen people in nine rooms.
Each guest room has its own private entrance overlooking the reserve below. The generous honeymoon suite, slightly separate from the lodge, offers the perfect retreat for newly married couples or those looking to indulge in exploring this beautiful hidden gem in a largely unexplored part of the country.
Babanango Game Reserve is home to a rich diversity of wildlife and will soon be home to the Big Five, thanks to its ongoing commitment to restore the area to a pristine wilderness and a comprehensive game reintroduction programme. Guests can expect to see a variety of plains game such as giraffe, kudu, wildebeest, waterbuck, bushbuck, and impala. Leopard occurs naturally on the reserve and hippo and buffalo have been reintroduced.
Activities on offer at Babanango Valley Lodge are designed to immerse you in this wilderness, allowing guests to appreciate the best of the African bush. Morning and evening game drives are offered, as are guided birding trails, walking and mountain biking. Also available are tours of the nearby historic battlefield’s region including Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana, as well as a visit to the eMakhosini Valley (Valley of the Kings).
Food lovers are also in for a treat and can look forward to hearty breakfasts, light lunches and wonderful, four-course dinners whether indoors or in the outside boma. Local chef Khumbulani and his team are on hand to prepare the best of South African fare, complemented by a wide selection of quality South African wines.
Zulu Rock Lodge
Having launched initially Babanango Valley Lodge a few months back, this next one is number two of a choice of four totally different accommodation options on the reserve. The completely reimagined Zulu Rock Lodge situated in the north of the reserve enjoys incredible panoramic views over some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in South Africa and is set to become a feather in the region’s cap when it officially opens in November 2020.
The malaria-free reserve is a ground-breaking conservation project being undertaken by African Habitat Conservancy, a pioneering NGO established to support the conservation of African wildlife in the area through investment and community development. Babanango is working hand-in-hand with the local Emcakwini, Esibongweni and KwaNgono communities to realise a shared dream of a better tomorrow.
The project has seen private game farms and land owned by the communities brought together to form the reserve, with local people benefitting through employment, skills development and community outreach programmes. So a stay at Zulu Rock Lodge will have a tangible purpose and will be contributing to the protection of endangered species as well as the upliftment of the surrounding communities.
Zulu Rock Lodge has a rustic yet elegant charm that creates a wonderfully intimate, relaxed and homely atmosphere. The focus is on sitting back, unwinding and drinking in the incredible views of forever across the rolling hills of the reserve, which is home to a stretch of the legendary White Umfolozi River and a wealth of wildlife species, from plains game like kudu, zebra, steenbok and giraffe to hyena, hippo, rhino, leopard, and buffalo. There are plans to reintroduce the remainder of the Big Five over the next two years.
Mountain bike trails are also available for guests who would like to bring their bikes with them. Zulu Rock Lodge is perfect for couples and families alike, whether it’s a romantic getaway for two or a much-needed break for mum, dad and the kids. The lodge’s beautiful two-bedroom family suite is located to one side of the lodge and has its own private boma, viewing deck and swimming pool, creating a wonderful, exclusive and private setting.
Zulu Rock Lodge is a place to connect with wonderfully warm people, where guests can enjoy welcoming smiles and amazing hospitality with the lodge’s wonderful staff, the majority of whom come from the neighbouring communities Babanango Game Reserve works so closely with, and who are partners in the reserve.
With seven beautifully appointed rock-clad guest suites combining modern convenience and luxurious finishes, the lodge can sleep a total of 16 people. The style is a combination of African traditional and modern design, with impeccable finishes throughout and an effortless blend of organic and contemporary furnishings including rich leathers, woven textiles and wood.
Dining is set to be an event in its own right, with three sumptuous, home-cooked meals offered each day to guests, prepared by a team of talented chefs and made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Served in a variety of venues from the lodge’s wonderful restaurant to outside, in the beautiful boma under the stars.
Boredom is not an option either, thanks to a host of exciting activities available at the lodge, on Babanango Game Reserve and in the surrounding Zululand region. Enjoy morning and afternoon game drives in open safari vehicles, birding (more than 283 species have been recorded on the reserve), guided bush walks and cultural and history tours that take in local places of interest.
African Habitat Conservancy (AHC)
A conservation management company focusing on game reserve conservation as well as the rehabilitation of both fauna and flora endemic to the areas in which the company operates. AHC was founded by Hellmuth Weisser, a German investor with a great passion for African conservation, along with Jeffrey van Staden a South African owner of a German-based African tour operating company. African Habitat Conservancy was born of a vision to support the conservation of African wildlife by making a substantial investment in one of the most picturesque – but economically neglected – parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
The Essential Details
For further information about this new conservation project, visit www.babanango.co.za or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Naturally, all Covid-19 protocols are in place and Babanango Valley Lodge is 100% ready to host guests.