It’s been a while since we bid the city farewell to venture into our gorgeous South African bush. Thankfully, we got back to nature this weekend and as usual, we were treated to spring inspired, sun-drenched days, filled with picture perfect plains and views.
Coincidentally, I wasn’t the only disabled visitor at uMkhuze this weekend. We arrived at the exact same time as our elderly neighbours, with hubby assisted in a wheelchair and another member of their traveling party walking with a cane. It therefore seemed rather fitting to be considering Mkuzi from an accessibility perspective, instead of merely taking in the scenery and relaxing with the family.
uMkhuze Game Reserve
uMkhuze Game Reserve is situated in Northern Zululand, roughly 335 km from Durban.
The reserve was established on 15 February 1912 and is 40 000 ha in extent. Today it forms part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Accommodation – Mantuma Camp
We booked a 4-bed chalet in Mantuma Camp, close to the swimming pool, shop and park entrance, offering:
- 2 x bedroom, with four single beds.
- A single bathroom ( bathtub),
- lounge with DSTV, dining room and
- kitchen with a stove and family fridge, as well as
- outdoor entertainment and braai area.
Accessibility of Mantuma Camp 4-bed chalet
Booking online revealed that there currently are no designated wheelchair friendly chalets in Mantuma Camp. Although I was informed that chalet nr 7 is the most accessible, it is unfortunately not accessible in terms of wheelchair independence, including entrance and bathroom facilities.
Entrance, Floors, Pathways – Our chalet could only be accessed by either of two flights of stairs, respectively 2 or 5 stairs going down from the parking area level. I was grateful to have my husband with me since I would have struggled if he wasn’t there to lend his strong physique to get me down. Although it seemed like an easier choice to go down 2 instead of 5 stairs, we eventually opted for the latter since the drought has completely depleted all grass leaving the embankment joining the stairs and our chalet with only sandy soil, rocky terrain or the odd nyala family to content with.
Both front and back entrances into the chalet had a fairly high step to contend with, which made it completely impossible for me to manage on my own – and of course I forgot my mobile ramps at home! Once inside the chalet, it was much easier to manoeuvre around since it was completely flat with smooth wooden parquet floors.
Bathroom Facilities – Unfortunately the bathroom and toilet are completely inaccessible as far as wheelchair access goes. My wheelchair could not fit into the toilet, resulting in either leaving the door ajar or relying on assistance to get in and out with a little privacy to spare. The bathroom did not allow for wheelchair access either. The space inside the bathroom was limited with only a bath and a basin. The bath did not have any grab rails or other aids to get in or out, besides those attached to the bath. An adjustable shower head was attached to the bath, meaning that it could only be used by either standing or sitting inside the bath.
Kitchen Facilities – I had no difficulties getting around in the kitchen and could even make a 360° turn. I could reach the kitchen basin, the counter tops as well as the stove top and oven without any meaningful challenges. One workspace countertop had access to wheel in underneath.
Outdoor Braai/Entertainment Area – A fairly high step enters onto the braai area but once there it is flat and accessible with decent paving throughout. It has a sturdy, built-in table that allowed me to wheel in underneath for comfortable seating. The pathway leading around the house is on the same level, which allowed me to get around fairly independently – even interacting with the local, visiting wildlife!
If I chose to I would even have been able to “braai”, but luckily hubby was on duty for the weekend.
Bedroom Facilities – There were two bedrooms in the chalet, with one substantially larger than the other. We obviously chose the larger of the two. The room had two single beds that had been joined to offer a really comfortable king size bed with ample space for me to wheel around the bed in my chair. The cupboard had more than enough space for folded and hanging clothes with easy access to both. Both sides of the bed had bedside tables. Two large and one smaller window provided generous amounts of natural light throughout the day and a really decent view of visiting game.
Swimming Pool – Mantuma Camp is situated close to the reserve’s swimming pool. We took a leisurely stroll which took us only a couple of minutes along a short road and thereafter a paved pathway that I had no difficulty managing on my own. I could get to the pool and the adjacent bar area with little to no assistance. The pool unfortunately did not have any grab rails to assist with entering or exiting, but since I am fortunate to be quite mobile I could get in and out on my own. It was exactly what we needed after a long and very hot and humid game drive.
Accessibility in the Reserve
The first time we visited uMkhuze Game Reserve I was pleasantly surprised to find accessible toilet facilities in the middle of the reserve near Nsumo Pan. We always enjoy spending time at the pan to soak in the tranquility of the picnic spot, while viewing the game in and around the pan – this time was no exception.
I could manage independently to and from the toilets and Nsumo Pan and on both of our visits to the pan this time around we had incredible views of many hippos, crocodile, nyala, impala and more. The view over the pan makes for picturesque photo opportunities and each of us took turns to try our hand at getting that perfect pic!
Hides – All of the hides we visited throughout uMkhuze Reserve were easily accessible, with well maintained pathways and smooth cement or wooden floor surfaces. Space between built-in benches inside the hides allowed me to wheel myself close to the viewing area so I could watch the animals replenish their thirst, interact and go about their business undisturbed.
We were treated to an incredible leopard sighting at KwaMasinga Hide, which will be something I will remember for a very, very long time!
uMkhuze in General
Driving around the reserve – Most of the viewing roads that takes one through the majority of the reserve open to the public, are tarred or at the very least, well maintained. In those areas there is no necessity for a 4×4 vehicle and driving is a pleasure. Roads are wide enough to allow two cars to pass each other comfortably. There are sign posts that clearly indicate directions so getting lost is near impossible. At a leisurely pace a game drive from Mantuma Camp to the Nsumo Pan, spending a bit of time at the Pan and looping back to camp, can take a good 3 hours – luckily we made sure that we had enough to drink and even eat along the way.
Game Viewing – Like any excursion into the bush, visiting uMkhuze Game Reserve with the sole purpose of seeing the Big 5, is a gamble and it was exactly that for us this time around again. We have been there before and on one of our visits saw 4 out of the 5, with the exception of my personal favourites, elephant. This time we were not so lucky and only saw a leopard out of the 5. However, there is so much more to see in terms of game, birds, small creatures scurrying across the road, trees, and other interesting sights.
Each Visit An Adventure
I love every visit to uMkhuze Game Reserve and every game drive, no matter how many I go on per day, feels like an adventure to me. The thought – no, perhaps the hope! – of seeing some majestic, wild animal in its natural habitat or experiencing something I have never seen before provides an adrenalin rush that keeps me going until the next time. I know, I know! It sounds so dramatic, but that’s what it does for me – I don’t have to be hunting or stalking something and I don’t even have to interact with the animals, I simply have to be there in the bush to feel alive again.
It’s how I roll and I love it!
uMkhuze I will be back and I will keep an eye on the accessibility improvements that are to come in Mantuma Camp.