A New Breed of Sustainable Development - uMfolozi Big Five Reserve

Mantis is proud to announce their association with the creation of the uMfolozi Big Five Reserve, a 6000-hectare tract of tribal land, currently being incorporated into the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu Natal. Opening in September 2018, the uMfolozi Big Five Reserve represents a future of forward-thinking sustainability as it blends past and present conservation models.

Named the uMfolozi Big Five Reserve as a tender nod to the early conservation pioneers who used to call the area uMfolozi, and also differentiate it from the main reserve. It is in these valleys where King Shaka of the Zulus, unbeknownst to the world, pioneered a culture of conservation before the concept was coined by European settlers, by proclaiming this area his royal hunting ground. This reserve is also where the very first steps with Operation Rhino were taken almost seventy years ago under the guidance of revered global conservationist, the late Dr Ian Player.

After extensive consultation between the tribal chiefs, their communities, and Ezemvelo (the public authority responsible for Hluhluwe iMfolozi), the uMfolozi Big Five Reserve was established. This landmark agreement, whereby tribal land is incorporated into protected government land, will increase the protected area to over 100,000 hectares and provide much needed employment.

The uMfolozi Big 5 Reserve epitomises what Mantis stands for: “Man And Nature Together Is Sustainable”. It also brings full circle, the friendship Adrian Gardiner, Founder of Mantis and Chairman of the Wilderness Foundation Global, had with Dr Ian Player. Dr Player was instrumental in saving the white rhino from extinction in the late 1950’s, at the very same reserve to which the uMfolozi Reserve has now been added.

In the words of Adrian “Mantis is honoured to have the opportunity to invest in and continue with conservation in the area where the monumental work of my friend and mentor, Dr Ian Player, began”

Currently, it is underutilized land plagued by unemployment in the indigenous communities. In its new format, more land will be protected for animals to roam free in and the surrounding communities will benefit economically through either direct employment at the lodges, or outsourced services such as the growing of vegetables and laundry to name only a few.

Game drives and walks on the 6000 hectares uMfolozi Big 5 Reserve will be exclusively for guests staying on the reserve. uMofolozi guests will also have the added benefit of game drives and walking safaris within the main reserve.

Two luxurious lodges (25 minutes from each other) are being built for the Mantis Collection. Named after the local chiefs who contributed their land, Mthembu Lodge will open its doors in September 2018 and Biyela Lodge will be ready to welcome guests from October 2018.

Biyela Lodge, nestled on a spectacular bend on the White iMfolozi River, will have 12 luxurious 1-bedroom Private Villas (100sqm in size) each with private pool, and two 2-bedroom Family Villas (155sqm in size), sleeping 32 guests in total. Spa and Gym facilities will also be on offer.

Mthembu Lodge, with panoramic views of the water and thickets, will comprise of 7 luxurious 1-bedroom Private Villas (112sqm in size) and two 2-bedroom Family Villas (155sqm in size), sleeping a total of 22 guests. Children aged 6 years and older will be allowed on game drives, with children 13 years and older being able to join on walking safaris.

The Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed protected Game Reserve area in South Africa, dating back to 1895. Stretching over 96,000 hectares, it is located approximately 190km (2.5 hours) north of Durban, in central Zululand, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The reserve is known for its rich wildlife and conservation efforts. The uMfolozi Big Five Reserve will be on the southwestern border of the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, overlooking the wilderness area.

We encourage travelling to uMfolozi by transfer which can be arranged with reservations in order to allow guests to enjoy the scenic route dotted with important battlefields and prominent grave sites. The reserve is a 2.5-hour drive from King Shaka International Airport and 1.5 hours from Richards Bay.


Whether small and intimate or vast and complex, on a sweeping African plain, bustling city, private tropical island or frozen snowscape, each is an exceptional place for guests to find themselves. While uniquely different in the experiences they offer, all are linked through a collective obsession to be extraordinary, to be rare in a world that mass-produces sameness. Mantis constantly curates, collects and discovers destinations and experiences that stir the soul, defy expectation and live in the heart forever. We will do anything in our power to advance the cause of sustainability and to promote further appreciation of the land, its creatures and our communities. We believe that the truly rare needs to be looked after and protected for future generations, and are wholly committed to legacy creation.

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