Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park
South Africa

One of South Africa's top national parks. 

personal experience

I have visited this area twice, both in 2018. The first time was for a day with a group tour, the second time was for the weekend by myself. 

the park

This large protected area is Africa's oldest nature reserve, proclaimed in 1895. It was orginally a Royal hunting area in the Zulu Kingdom. It consists of low hilly terrain, and covers some 960 square kilometres. It is known as being a place where all of the 'big five' can be found. It is thought to have the highest population of White Rhino in the world, an animal that was very close to extinction last century. There are 300 kilometres of roads through the park, including many sealed roads. These roads are well signposted. There is a variety of camp grounds, picnic spots, and viewpoints.

wildlife

As typical of a southern African park, there is plenty wildlife to be seen. Most tours do a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon. But there is still wildlife to be seen in the middle of the day if you are independent and have the energy to look all day. 

mammals

The park is well known as a good place to see large mammals, such as Wildebeest. 

Wildebeest, or Gnu, as they used to be known.

the tallest animal in the world....

Giraffe

This includes the 'big five', including Elephant, Rhino (both species), Buffalo, Lion and Leopard. 

Cape Buffalo

One of the 'big five' includes rhino. Both the rare Black Rhino and the slightly less rare White Rhino can be found in this reserve. The White Rhino has the reputation of being placid, but having a group of them not let me pass in my car, I can assure you they can get quite grumpy.

A cranky White Rhino from the perspective of a too small rental car (image by Damon Ramsey).
If you have a pool, don't let the African Elephants near it, they will drink it all..

But of course there are the smaller animals that are just as interesting. There are many species of smaller mammals to be seen, including the cheeky Vervet Monkeys. When I left my car window open for a few minutes in the carpark, they climbed in and ate all my bananas.

Vervet Monkey Troop

invertebrates

It is always so bizarrely funny to see a round ball of dung rolling across the road seemingly by itself...

the Flattened Giant Dung Beetle

Most people presume there is just one type of 'Dung Beetle', but there are many in different parts of the world, including several visible species in Africa. The above is (I think) the 'Flattened Giant Dung Beetle' Pachylomerus femoralis. It is a relatively large species distinguished by the large toothed front legs. 

birds

And there are of course lots of bird to be seen...

Red-billed Quelea, (image by Damon Ramsey).
Golden-tailed Woodpecker
Weaver
Green-spotted Wood Dove
White-winged Widowmaker
Natal Spurfowl

and my favourite birds of the reserve...

the stunning Violet-backed Starling, (image by Damon Ramsey).
Purple-crested Turaco (image by Damon Ramsey)

reptiles

a cute Hinged Tortoise crosses the road in a hurry...

If you check the tiolet and laundy blocks at night, you might spot the large Wahlberg's Velvet Gecko.... 

Whenever I hear the name Wahlberg I think: "What...? No...!" from the Happening.

If you walk the forest trail, watch out for the large Black Mamba!

The Black Mamba is not very black, and seems to have a big smile on it's face (image by Damon Ramsey).

plants

While there are many exotics in the reserve, it is mostly dominated by native forest and savanna flora, the former more in the drier south and the latter in the north.

Ammocharis coranica 'Ground Lily'
If you wondered where all that Agapanthus you see in gardens around the world came from...it's here!
flower of Hibiscus

accommodation

There is lots of accommodation throughout the park. The most convenient is the Hilltop Camp, which has a restaurant, shop, and various types of accommodation. Hilltop also has a walk that goes throug the forest. This is worth doing, as when I did it, I saw monkey, antelope and a rather large Black Mamba.

access

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is easy to drive to from Richards Bay, or Durban. From both cities you follow signposted and major highways. (warning: do not use google maps! It will take you through dirt roads and small towns and to gates and roads that are no longer used). From Durban it takes about three hours.

If you see this monkey, tell her I want my bananas back!