Deep in an area of sand forests, pans and wetlands in northern Tongaland, on the border between KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and Mozambique lies Tembe Elephant Park. This remote game park was established in 1983 to protect elephants which used to migrate between Maputaland and southern Mozambique.
As a result of the civil war in Mozambique these elephants were severely traumatised by poaching. In response this nature conservation area was developed by Tembe Tribal Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, but only opened to the public in 1991.
Tembe Elephant Park is currently home to around 250 elephants, with some of the world’s most spectacularly large tuskers amongst them. During the late 19th century, when elephants freely roamed the land, the ones with huge tusks became known as “hundred pounders” due to the size and weight of their tusks. Unfortunately, this also placed them at high risk for their ivory, and they were hunted and poached to near extinction. This danger still exists.
Apart from elephants, Tembe is also home to an incredible variety of animals and more than 350 bird species.
Game viewing in Tembe Elephant Park is a challenge, which places an excursion into the park in the realm of adventure tourism. Only ten vehicles, strictly 4X4s, are allowed into the park on a daily basis, because a road network of sand tracks must be negotiated. There is a hiking trail closed off from large animals by an electric fence. A viewing tower on Gowanini also offers a panoramic view over the reserve.