The Songimvelo Game Reserve is located south of Barberton in the south-eastern part of the Mpumalanga Province on the South African-Swaziland border. The Reserve is approximately 49 000 ha in size, making it the largest provincial reserve in South Africa. The broken landscape, several waterfalls and spectacular gorges of the Komati, Msoli and Lomati rivers makes this reserve one of the most diverse and aesthetically attractive wilderness areas in the country.
Since it was proclaimed in 1983, more than 20 species of large herbivores have been re-introduced to Songimvelo. The reserve provides an extensive habitat for Elephant, White Rhino and the largest population of Buffalo in provincial hands. Other species currently found in the reserve are: Aardwolf, African Wildcat, African Civet, Blesbuck, Blue Wildebeest, Brown Hyena, Bushbuck, Common Reedbuck, Eland, Elephant, Giraffe, Grey Duiker, Grey Rheebuck, Hippo, Honey Badger, Impala, Klipspringer, Kudu, Leopard, Mountain Reedbuck, Oribi, Ostrich, Red Hartebeest, Red Duiker, Sable, Serval, Somango Monkey, Thick-tailed Bushbaby, Tsessebe, Warthog, Waterbuck and Zebra.
In addition to the above, 23 fish species, 50 reptile and amphibians and 330 bird species have been recorded in the reserve. Some of the more important bird species include the White Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, Bald Ibis, Bat Hawk, Martial Eagle, African Finfoot, Stanley’s Bustard and Blue Swallow.
Songimvelo Game Reserve is considered to be the area with the highest recorded plant diversity in Mpumulanga with more than 1440 species already identified. Since 1991 at least four species new to science have been collected from the reserve. In addition, 15 rare and endangered plant species have been found, including the occurrence of the only remaining wild population of the Woolly Cycad.
The Archaeological, historical and cultural value of Songimvelo Game Reserve enjoys international acclaim amongst scientists. The preservation of some rock exposures in the reserve yield key information on the origin and evolution of the earth’s crust, the nature of early life as well as the character and development of the Ancient Ocean and atmosphere. The geology includes the best preserved truly ancient rocks on earth. Despite the rock being 3.5 billion years old, they are so well preserved that their fossils record the earliest life forms on the planet. It is therefore not surprising that this region is referred to as the “Genesis of Life”.
This feature, together with the Early Stone Age artefacts dating back to 1 million years which have been found on the reserve, attracts world-wide attention to Songimvelo. Of further great archaeological importance are the numerous walled, village-type ruins which are considered to date back more than 1000 years and indicate the presence of earlier inhabitants. These vary from San paintings to the theories on temples of Dravidian and Phoenician merchants and even Egyptian slave traders.