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Not Just Elephants at Tembe Elephant Reserve

By Scott Ramsay | Book Accommodation


Tembe isn’t only about elephants. In fact, you can see the entire spectrum of African wildlife here…including lion, wild dogs, buffalo, hippo, crocs and leopards. The lions were reintroduced a few years ago, and the original four have clearly enjoyed their time here, because today there are close to forty of them.


But spotting wildlife can be a bit challenging in the sandforest. There was a reason why the elephants came to these forests to hide from harassment…it would be ludicrous to attempt to track an animal through the thick vegetation. So if you come to Tembe, make sure you have a few days to absorb the spirit of the place. After a while, it’s magic works on you, and you start to notice the trees, the grasses, the smells, the birds…and without realising it, you’ve forgotten about the Big 5, and soon just being at Tembe feels like a privilege.

Be sure to explore the eastern side of the reserve, where the Muzi swamps begin, extending all the way into Mozambique. Here, the landscape is more open, and you’re bound to see buffalo and elephant, and perhaps lion too.


On several of our drives with guide Patrick Mthethwa at Tembe Lodge on the back of the Landcruisers, we were treated to sightings of lion and buffalo, as well as hundreds of nyala, which thrive in the sandforests.



The private Tembe Lodge is co-managed by the tribe, and it is the only place to stay at Tembe. The tents are comfortable, and the entire camp is set under huge mahogany trees which give welcome shade from the intense sun. Rates are certainly more affordable than most other private lodges I’ve been to, and for me, Tembe is a destination in its own right.

Tembe tribe

The local Tembe tribe own the lodge, and the reserve, and their staff give a great singing performance around the camp fire

Tents at Tembe

Inside the tents at Tembe...


The resident bush babies in camp come out at dinner time to see if they can find some scraps


Eye to Eye

Eye to Eye




 Isilo...the largest tusker in South Africa