Close encounters of the natural kind

Following a strategic agreement in 2018 between the Accor and Mantis groups, an exclusive new game reserve has been opened just north of Durban, South Africa, in a total wilderness area belonging to the local Zulu community.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is renowned as being the oldest nature reserve area in Africa, and one in which, thanks to its beautifully maintained private concessions, makes “close encounters” with the extraordinary wildlife relatively easy.  The new reserve adds to the already exceptional offering of “big five”* resorts within easy reach of Durban, further increasing the attractiveness of the region for international tourists.

Zulu chiefs enabled the opening of the land to a very select number of visitors, by granting Mantis a 6,000-hectare land concession on pristine wilderness for the creation of the uMfolozi Big Five Reserve, thus creating employment for the local communities – in this case, around 100 local people. The concession is part of the broader (around 100,000 hectares) Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve. Two 5-star lodges have been constructed – the Biyela Lodge and Mthembu Lodge – offering distinct experiences overlooking the White iMfolozi River. All electric power is solar, and Mantis has introduced an overall strict conservation policy.

Biyela Lodge property manager Melissa Marx explains that a key selling point of is that this is a veritable wilderness area: “It was the original hunting ground of King Shaka, but no tourists have ever set foot here before.”

Zulu culture is omnipresent. “For our guests, the discovery and understanding of Zulu rites and traditions makes this place much more than just another game reserve. It’s very special,” adds Marx.

* Big five: elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhino

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