Somkhanda Game Reserve Activities
The reserve has over 100km of 4x4 jeep tracks which guests are welcome to drive in their own 4x4s. A GPS is an essential requirement as there are no road signs. Full board packages include one game activity per day whilst self-catering packages do not include activities. Additional activities can be booked and paid for on arrival.
Unlike the traditional concept of private game lodges where the visitor experience is game drive based entertainment, on Somkhanda visitors are encouraged to encounter wildlife and the environment from the point of view of being in an enormous wildlife laboratory, where there is limitless opportunity to learn about all aspects of wildlife and the environment.
The model on which the ecotourism operation on Somkhanda Game Reserve is based is summed up in the concept of “Science On Safari”. So if it's a bush walk or a game drive, guests will be involved in learning and gather valuable information needed to manage the reserve. Even if guests are self-driving, they can download our free wildlife app and log their sightings.
Non-traditional game reserve activities include accompanying our interns and volunteers into the surrounding community to dip cattle (weekends only). This is a 3-hour activity which offers a genuine insight into contemporary Zulu culture. By prior arrangement, traditional Zulu homestays can be arranged for up to 16 people.
This 10-day game ranger course offers a unique opportunity to learn a variety of skills from experienced rangers that will enhance your knowledge and appreciation of wildlife, conservation and the African bush. The course incorporates unique opportunities for participants to engage in practical hands-on activities whilst being immersed in the African bush.
Our base for this course is a traditional tented safari camp situated in a secluded location in the reserve away from the tourism hub. The camp is supplied with running water communal showers and eco-loos. Practical working clothes, a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a pair of binoculars are essential equipment for this experience.
Participants will take part in daily 3 hours Bush Walks during which an overall understanding of some of the basic skills sets which a Game Ranger is required to master will be learned, such as:
- Tracking, signs and spoor identification
- Mammal Biology and identification
- Bird Identification
- Tree and plant identification
The rest of the day will be spent learning the practical ranger and game reserve management skills through hands-on involvement and discussion. These includes:
- Game capture and other population control measures
- Eco-tourism vs. hunting in conservation Veld management
- Wilderness survival skills and first aid
- Poaching and counter poaching techniques
A conservation experience like no other at Somkhanda. You can capitalise on the comfort and serenity of the accommodation and surroundings of Kudu lodge, where you will be staying, whilst getting involved with real conservation activities like monitoring wildlife, camera trap survey management and elective community activities. A packed schedule built to maximise your visit to the reserve, experiencing a snapshot of what conservation management is all about.
Guests are welcome to take up their accommodation any time from 13h00 on the day of arrival. By prior arrangement (and additional cost) guests may arrive earlier and are welcome to relax at the main restaurant/lodge area and enjoy lunch
The afternoon programme starts at 15h00 with optional afternoon tea and snacks (cost included). At 15h30 we set off, unlike other safari lodges our experience is not the traditional game drive. Each afternoon our guests are involved in a specific wildlife monitoring or research activity/objective which adds to the ongoing management of the reserves wildlife populations. Each activity is a minimum of 3 hours long and is contextualised with a comprehensive briefing covering the “how, why and what”. During the activity, you will encounter many other animals, so there is plenty of time and opportunity for guides to share interesting information and conservation facts to maximise the learning experience. At sundown, we stop to appreciate the sunset, enjoy a refreshment and snacks (included) before making our way back to the lodge to freshen up before dinner.
Our morning programme starts at 06h30 with a monitoring activity. Due to the early start, we take flasks of hot water for tea and coffee as well as freshly baked muffins, yoghurt and fruit on the vehicle returning to the lodge for a full cooked breakfast. After breakfast guests can relax in camp, around the pool or do the short self-guided trail within the fenced lodge area. For the more active there are the following optional activities:
- Guided nature walk - daily
- Camera trap leopard monitoring project. (Mondays and Wednesdays). Accompany researchers into the field to retrieve images from camera traps strategically placed around the reserve for the purpose of capturing images of leopards (and loads other interesting nocturnal animals). Back at base the images are downloaded and catalogued. Leopard images are scrutinised using the “spot recognition method” to identify individual animals.
On Saturdays and Sundays, a team goes out into the community to assist with dipping cattle for ticks. Guests are welcome to forego the early morning activity to join this team. From time to time there are other interesting conservation management operations happening which guests are always welcome to join.
Participants must arrive by 15h00 on the first day. You will leave your vehicles at the lodge reception and be transported to base camp enjoying a game drive en-route and arriving in the late afternoon. After settling in you enjoy an evening around the campfire soaking up the night sounds and southern skies.
After a hearty breakfast, you shoulder your packs and head off for a full day's hike. There is no definite route to follow, which allows the guide freedom to explore the bush while following tracks and exploring game trails and rhino paths. Your guide will introduce you to the awesome world of ecology and bushcraft pointing out relationships between plants, animals and the environment and how early settlers and traditional tribal people depended on various plants and animals parts for food, traditional medicine, implements and cultural rituals.
During the days there will no doubt be those special moments where you might creep up on a wallowing rhino or group of lazy warthogs enjoying a siesta. However the emphasis on this trail is not to tick off all the charismatic and big animals but to encounter the environment in a more intimate way that brings out the finer detail of how, in nature, all life co-exists in perfect order; where the strength of the system is based on the incredible diversity of plant and animal life that is interwoven into a fabric that is incredibly resilient and self-sustaining.
On the final night, you return back to our base camp where we enjoy a hot shower and wash away the trail dust. The following morning, after a hearty breakfast, you are transported back to your vehicles.
Trail camps are carefully selected for their exclusivity, scenic beauty and diverse plant and animal life and although comfortable are managed according to low impact protocols. The Rhino Trail includes the first and last nights at a base camp supplied with tents, toilets and hot water showers. For the two middle nights there are two options:
Free Camping Trail: This option is unsupported backpacking and free camping. Participants supply their backpacks and carry all the provided equipment and food for the two nights. At the end of each day, the guide will choose a camp site and participants will assist with preparing camp, collecting firewood, cooking and cleaning up. This option is only recommended in the dry season (May – August).
Supported Trek: On this option participants only carry a day pack (provided) and their needs for the day including a portion of lunch and the day’s snacks. At the end of each day, you will arrive at a satellite camp supplied with tents and bucket shower (no toilet). Main luggage and supplies will be portaged to the satellite camp. A camp cook will provide delicious meals prepared on the open fire.