This last weekend my friends and i headed for the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Park in Northern Kwa Zulu Natal.
The reason for our stay was for the annual mountain bike challenge which my boyfriend and his friends do every year. It is limited to 300 riders and is a very special, not only for its unique location but for its cause. Its main object is to raise funds and awareness for the wild dog population in the park. Since its inception the population has gone from 35 to 90 dogs in just a few years. This year around R25000 was raised for the wild dogs in particular and around R300 000 for nature conservation for the park. From what the riders say its one of the better rides and with its setting certainly one of the most special. What made this year even more special was that on the way to the start on the race, the bus that was carrying some of the riders saw the largest pack of wild dog on the reserve, which is around 20. Hluhluwe Imfolozi has the largest population of wild dog in the world and what people don;t know is that it is one of the most highly endangered animals on the planet. We camped in a specially set up and secured area which is only done for this race, but there are many other places to stay on the reserve.
Hluhluwe Imfolozi is the oldest game reserve in Africa and it is the place where King Dingiswayo and Shaka hunted and implemented the first conservation laws. It was established in 1895 and has seen many successful projects throughout its years. One of the most successful was the white rhino conservation project in the 1950's and this ensures that good rhinos sightings are guaranteed. The Park covers some 96 000 ha and contains an immense diversity of fauna and flora. For a detailed history and other information of the park you can visit their website on the link below. It has good articles and is well worth the visit.
They offer plentiful accommodation options from self catering to a fully catered hotel. We normally stay in the Mpila camp. which is on the Imfolozi side. For rates and other options visit the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife website here. They offer guided walks in the morning and the late afternoon and game drives in the evenings as well as 5 day guided walks. These options are extra but well worth it as i feel you miss so much when in the car. The guides are phenomenal and are all well experienced, with many of them growing up in the area.
Our group were very fortunate to see Leopard, Cheetah, Lion, Wild Dog, Hyena, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo as well as Impala Nyala and a Terrapin. Although this is a great list, it is not always the case, which is what i appreciate so much about this park, you are never know what you will see, you could go a whole day without seeing anything besides the odd Impala and Warthog, i feel it makes you treasure your sightings that much more.
The one thing to remember is it is not a zoo, these animals are wild and you are in their territory. Two big rules are: Don't get out of your car while in between designated areas (accommodation/picnic sites etc). It is dangerous! And secondly, to keep on the roads and never leave the the paths. There are other rules to keep to too, you will be advised of these as you enter the park.
You could do this trip is a day, it took us around 2 and a half hours to get there, however, best viewing times are morning and afternoon, especially in Summer as the animals tend to keep to shady areas and aren't very active during the heat of mid-day. There is a great picnic site on the Sontuli Loop which has braai/BBQ facilities. The sontuli loop is always very rewarding in terms of game viewing potential, especially Rhino. I also find making friends with the rangers is also very rewarding as they are always happy to share a bit of information with you as the where abouts of the animals.
Hluhluwe Imfolozi has a very special place in my heart, I just find it so peaceful, perfect for recharging batteries and putting things into perspective.