Ithala - Ntshondwe View
Ithala - Ntshondwe Restaurant View
Ithala - Ntshondwe Camp View
Ithala - River Scenic Landscape
Ithala - Mhlangeni Bush Lodge
Ithala - Ntshondwe

History of Ithala


Ithala Game Reserve has a rich history of human habitation as evidenced by archaeological sites which date from as far back as the middle stone age. The reserve provided iron ore and wild olive wood which was used in local iron smelting operations. San hunter-gatherers, sometimes known as Bushmen, also used the area, leaving their precious rock art in a shelter in the eastern part of the reserve.

The Zulu wars and the reign of Shaka saw many people seeking refuge in the caves found along the cliff faces of Ithala. Traces of this early refugee occupation in some of these caves can still be found. Prior to the area becoming a game reserve, Ithala had been under the ownership of farmers since 1884.

In that year the Zulu king, Dinizulu, in recognition of the fighting services of 115 volunteers, granted 800 boers more than 1.1 million ha of land in northern KwaZulu-Natal. This area became known as the Nieuwe Republiek. Prior to the arrival of the settlers, game was abundant.

Intense hunting by the settlers, coupled with the rinderpest epidemic of 1896, severely depleted the game populations in the area. Under white ownership, most of the land in the Ithala area continued to be occupied by Zulus as labour or tenant farms with only five dwellings being built by whites.

These white occupied farms were Doornkraal, Doornpan, Potwe Halt, Langverwacht and Craig Adam. Gold was discovered in the area in the early 1900s and was mined at the Wonder and Ngotshe mines, both of which are now totally abandoned.

By the time the then Natal Parks Board, now known as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, took control of Ithala in 1973, soil erosion and overgrazing by livestock were widespread. Very little game existed, with 25 mammal species being extinct locally. An extensive programme of land reclamation was initiated with signs of former habitation being removed where possible. The original 8 000 ha reserve has been enlarged to nearly 30 000 ha.

Traces of old fields and homesteads still remain in some parts of the reserve. Since 1973 some 20 mammal species have been re-introduced into the reserve. These include buffalo, white rhino, black rhino, kudu, tsessebe, red hartebeest, eland, giraffe, and brown hyaena. A small herd of young elephants was introduced to the reserve in 1990 and have become a well established breeding herd.

Ithala Gallery