A spectacular rugged reserve comprising 8 825 ha proclaimed in 1991, is located in the heartland of Zulu history, at the north-eastern end of the Valley of the Kings (eMakhosini). Ophathe falls within the immediate catchment of the White Umfolozi River, with diverse topography as a result of altitudinal variations. The reserve varies in altitude from 987 m in the south-west to 270 m in the eastern section along the White Umfolozi River. The vegetation varies from bushveld dominated by acacia species, to mistbelt and highveld, including many spectacular krantzes with orchid and cycad colonies.
A wide variety of bushveld bird species can be observed in the reserve. Raptors such as Verreaux’s, Martial, Wahlberg’s and Tawny Eagles, are often seen overhead and White-backed Vultures originating from Umfolozi Game Reserve are also often seen.
The area around the reception is good for Kurrichane and Ground-scraper Thrush, Black-crowned and Brown-crowned Tchagra, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Puffback, Crested Francolin, Emerald-spotted Dove and White-crested Helmet-Shrike. Cape Rock Thrush, Familiar Chat and Jackal Buzzard can be seen in the rockier areas.
The thicker riverine bush provides habitat for Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Crowned Hornbill, White-throated Robin-Chat, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Paradise Flycatcher.
Off the main tar road linking Melmoth and Vryheid (the R68 which becomes the R34), take the R66 to Ulundi. The main entrance to the reserve is on the right hand side of the road approximately 1 km before crossing the White Umfolozi River to Ulundi.
Accommodation at Mars cottage, located on an isolated peninsula of the White Umfolozi River is only accessible to 4X4 enthusiasts. There are plans to develop visitor facilities within the reserve which will be accessible from the R66 to Ulundi. Bird and game viewing opportunities by two wheel drive vehicle from the main entrance to the reserve is good.